Dec 15, 2011, 05:49AM

Is the Ryan Braun Controversy Good For Baseball?

This year's MVP gets a 50-game suspension after recent drug testing, but why?

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When I first heard of Ryan Braun's looming 50-game suspension for PED use my reaction was "Damn, he was a keeper on my fantasy team."  No worries, just like the Brewers the Whistle Pigs will survive. Braun's reputation is another story.

The thought of this year’s National League Most Valuable Player being suspended for the first 50 games of the 2012 season initially struck me as another black eye for baseball. Just what the game needs; the Hebrew Hammer labeled a drug cheat, and so soon after the new CBA included provisions for human growth hormone testing. As the story began to unfold my opinion did a 180 and now I think that a Braun suspension could be good for baseball.

The "Should he keep it or shouldn't he keep it" debate about the MVP award is another argument all together. Barry Bonds was voted the MVP on numerous occasions after his steroid abuse went from suspicion to allegation to foregone conclusion and no one ever asked for those trophies back. The BBWAA voted Braun as the NL MVP based on the information that was available to them at the time of the vote. If they had followed my suggestion and voted for Matt Kemp they could have avoided all of this tsouris. The positive test occurred during the postseason so anyone suggesting that Braun used PEDs during the regular season is just making assumptions. Perhaps the assumption is logical, but it's still an assumption. If you think Braun will return the award you're nuts. His camp has launched an aggressive spin campaign against the testing results and the chain of custody. Giving back the award would be an admission of guilt and Braun doesn't appear to be full of contrition.

Braun is the preeminent slugger on the hometown team of MLB commissioner Bud Selig. At one point Selig was the owner of the Brewers. Braun's a young star, the reigning MVP, and a clutch playoff performer for a team that hopes to compete for the foreseeable future. If Braun can be suspended under baseball's enhanced PED policies, then anyone can be suspended. Baseball seems to be so serious about making the game clean that they've turned their attention away from mop-up relievers and reserve catchers to All-Star sluggers.

I've never been a fan of Selig's. He turned a blind eye to the game's rampant steroid abuse for over a decade as the game's popularity and revenues soared. He's done a terrific job for the owners as revenues and team values have reached record highs during his tenure but he's done the fans a disservice. The cost for the record growth was the sanctity of the sport's most revered records and career achievements. No one should ever let Selig off the hook for his transgressions. At best he's a hypocrite with bad hair. At worst he's a lying hypocrite with bad hair. That aside, the inclusion of HGH testing in the new CBA and the likely Braun suspension give teeth to baseball's efforts to clean up the game.

Fans and players alike will deal with the reverberations of the "steroid era" for years to come. The Hall of Fame candidacy of players like Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas, etc. will spark heated debate each January for the better part of a decade. Every time a player like Jose Bautista goes from journeyman to feared slugger people will make accusations. Bud Selig willfully put his head in the sand as baseball's greatest records were smashed but perhaps his saving grace will be advancing the clean-up of the game he was supposed to be protecting all along.

  • I like Braun, and I don't even have him in a keeper league. What amazes me about Selig, his colleagues and sportswriters is that once the steroid furor died down, they thought baseball was in a "new era." Sure. As we speak, people in labs are coming up with new PEDs, the ramifications of which we'll only find out in a few years.

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  • It may be good for baseball, but it sure isn't good for the Brewers. They're going to start the season without the two players that led them to the Pennant last year. Aramis Ramirez will help, but it won't nearly be the same. The Cardinals and Reds are poised to take over the Brew Crew as NL Central champs.

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  • Good point Bill. There was never a definitive beginning or end date to the "steroid era". That was just a marketing term no doubt promoted by MLB.

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  • Well, it's not like the Cardinals haven't lost a big piece too. And the Reds were a sub-.500 team last year. Plus, they'll still have Braun for 112 games. Not sure the Brewers are as cooked as maybe it seems.

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  • But if the Cards sign Beltran/trade for another hitter, then they'll at least partly make up for the lost offense. Remember, Pujols wasn't amazing during the regular season last year. If the Reds can get a good starter, then I'm confident that they make the transition from sub .500 team to 1st place division winner. Without Braun and Fielder for the first 50 games, the Brewers could easily be in 4th or 5th place in June.

  • I hate the Cards and hope they finish in dead last. More importantly, I'm looking forward to a season of Albert in L.A. and the Halos making the playoffs again. Of course, if Albert gets popped like Braun, all bets are off.

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  • Of course Braun's immanent suspension is bad for baseball. Regardless if the steroid era is really over, the mass fan base thought it was, or at least it was ending. Now the NL MVP is caught using a banned substance, and we're back to the beginning. I used to like Braun, too. He's dead to me now.

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