I’m sorry Ryan Braun, but no player who has appealed a positive test has ever had their case overturned. Things aren’t looking good for you, your reputation, and, depending on what and how much you took, the size of your testicles. I’m not saying you did it, but just getting accused is bad enough. The fall from grace is a hard one, do what you can to secure a soft landing before you hit terminal velocity.
But, hey, on the bright side, just between you and I, things aren’t looking that bad either.
Lets be honest folks, as Buster Olney asked on an ESPN interview yesterday, does crime pay? It sure does. If it didn’t people would be less inclined to commit it. When there are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake for guys who can get the job done, what’s a fifty game suspension?
As a player, this is a tough thing to admit, but after you get into pro-ball, specifically the minors where you have nothing, and see guys above you with everything, you start to rationalize the use of the stuff. “I’m not going to be a legend, I just want to get paid once. Make me a monster, I don’t care, as long as I get that contract.” It’s this mixture of knowing you’ll only get one shot at a huge payout in the sport before your body fails and your window of opportunity shuts that leads most guys to swallow, stab, or rub in a little cheat code.
The game has always been a gamble, one where you bet health and time. Furthermore, it’s a gamble most of us will go bust in. But, what if you could play with loaded dice? And, what if, when you got caught, you didn’t get taken into the back room for a thumb breaking, but got a 50 day vacation and a news conference where you could warble out an apology, saying you did it so you could be the best, because you didn’t want to let the fans down, because “It was just a moment of weakness. I’m ashamed of myself, I let all my admirers down. I have sinned against the game of baseball. Forgive me oh Divine Mustache in the sky.”
“But, yeah, I’m still going to keep the money. My bad.”
I’ve been in the roid conversations about to use or not to use. I got into the game when doing the stuff was still rampant, just when the old needle junkies were getting busted like the MLB hired the Untouchables. Back then, a cycle of Juice got you a 15 day vacation. A veritable slap on the wrist! I remember when, then fellow Padre Clay Hensley, popped for roids, took his time off, then took his mid nineties fastball and went to the Show to get paid. Jealous? You bet I was. Not just because he got to the big leagues, but because he was transformed into a superior athlete and I had to compete against him. It’s tough to be a normal guy fighting to get to the top against super serum soldiers.
The financial upside is just so damn tempting, and if a player get’s caught, he doesn’t have to give anything back. He might miss out on a two months pay, but if that’s after the contract is signed, will he even feel it? 50 games, 100 games, a whole season. If you’re set for life then the ends justify the means. After all, what’s a little social outrage when compared to the power of compounding interest?
No, I’m not saying to do steroids. I’m saying I understand why guys do it. Because the teeth to really punish players isn’t there, and it never will be. If you can get over making yourself an outcast and a villain, what do you really lose? Your reputation? A HOF bid? An agreement with the players union and the MLB that lets teams go after a players wallet for a positive test wont happen.And I doubt you’re not going to be able to strip him of awards either. Suspend him for some play, tarnish his reputation, but in the end, guys that do steroids aren’t worried about that kind of thing. If they were, they wouldn’t take the risk in doing them in the first place. Steroid use is a financial decision nearly every time. It’s a player saying, “I want to be the best so I can capitalize on being the best—now. If I don’t get caught, then I’ll worry about my longterm status. In the meantime, there is money to be made.”
Besides, lots of players don’t make it into the HOF— lots of rich players. Keep the plaque, I’ll take the Island. And after all this weeping and gnashing of teeth comes to it’s conclusion, if the player apologizes properly, gets clean, and goes on to have a solid career, all their sins are washed away anyway. Production covers over a multitude of sins. We’ve seen it before a million times, haven’t we? Guys do something wrong. They take a drug. They have an affair. They fight some dogs. Then, after a tremendous season, people forget. The offenders keep their money, fans are happy again. Public opinion is easy to buy, especially if you’re winning.
That might be the worst part of the whole system when you think about it: the folks that are devastated now will go on to not care if the right numbers are achieved by their beloved athletes. Maybe we all have a price at which our beliefs can be bought away?