I get some of it from the Cardinals side of things. After all, Braun did play for the Brewers and has been somewhat of a thorn in their side for the last couple of years. And there’s an element to his enjoyment of the game that tends to come across as arrogant if you are rooting for the other team. But……
I don’t get the sudden rush to judgment over the disclosure that he has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Unless somebody has transported me without my knowledge, this is still the land of “innocent until proven guilty”. So far, all we have is the one report, and that’s not a lot to go on.
At the very least, let’s table the “Matt Kemp for MVP” discussion until after Braun has had his appeal and the MLB League Office has ruled on the situation. Braun won the award and that did not go over well with many bloggers and sports writers, who thought Kemp had the better season. Those arguments have all been made and this changes none of them.
As far as cheating goes, it is a part of the game. In the sixties, amphetamines were the illegal substance of the day. It gave players an artificially stimulated metabolism that might have made the difference between getting to a ground or fly ball, or not. Perhaps it helped in beating out a throw or taking an extra base. It could have been the difference between hitting a Bob Gibson fastball or swinging hopelessly late when the ball was already in the catcher’s mitt. It happened, and half a century or more later, it has all but been forgotten. No talk of taking away MVP or batting titles, or putting asterisks next to home run totals.
In the 1980′s, cocaine was the new PED on the block. Like amphetamines, they gave a player a slightly improved tempo and the ability to do some things they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. Before Cardinals fans scream in righteous indignation over the Ryan Braun allegations, keep in mind that three prominent Cardinals were suspended as a result of the 1985 Pittsburgh Drug Trials. They were Lonnie Smith, Keith Hernandez and Joaquin Andujar. Another player involved, Lary Sorensen, played for St. Louis in 1981.
Fans also marveled at Mark McGwire moonshots, even though there were reports of borderline enhancements being used by the Cardinals slugger at the time. Even though Barry Bonds has now admitted to using performance enhancing substances, although he maintains that he did so unknowingly, there has been little done by the MLB League Offices to adjust his records or reassign any of his awards.
I’m not a Ryan Braun fan, not because I had some deep suspicion that there was anything other Ryan Braun doing those things on the field, but because he consistently did those things to a team that I adore. I don’t need a report from the MLB that Braun may have cheated to vindicate my opinion, because my dislike of the reigning NL MVP is totally irrational to begin with. I will be genuinely disappointed to learn that he did actually cheat while doing them, but until I learn more about it, I’m still giving him the benefit of the doubt. I can’t think of another player that has had a successful appeal following a report like this, but there is the chance that Braun could be the first. I’m willing to wait.