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Published: Sunday, 7/28/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Commentary

Milwaukee pays price for Braun’s fraud

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

A lady walked into Miller Park in Milwaukee the other day wearing a Brewers jersey that used to have BRAUN across the back. Only she had artfully replaced the B with an F and the N with a D.

That just about sums up Ryan Braun, does it not?

An aside: the fan was told by security she would either have to leave the stadium or turn the shirt inside out. She was violating the Brewers “fan code of conduct.”

How about the players’ code of conduct?

Truthfully, the vast majority of major league baseball players are sick of the taint on their game, want the sport cleaned up, the steroid and PED era eradicated, and the cheaters punished.

Max Scherzer, the Tigers’ pitcher and a union player rep, is on record as saying the Brewers should have “the ability to terminate Braun’s contract.”

It’s doubtful the players association will ever support lifetime bans and voiding contracts, but its members indeed favor harsher penalties, and support for cheaters will be tepid at best.

Braun is a cheater. We know that because he accepted, without appeal, a 65-game suspension to close out the 2013 season. He is the first shoe to drop in what is being called the Biogenesis scandal. Alex Rodriguez may very well be the next.

Braun’s legacy as a great player is beyond salvage. His credibility is shot, and nothing he does upon his return in 2014 and/or thereafter will change that.

But what is his actual penalty? He will miss 65 games and forfeit $3.2 million of a $145 million contract that is in force through the 2020 season.

That’s what makes the Braun situation a tad hard to stomach. That’s where Scherzer is coming from.

Braun got the rich contract extension in 2011, the same year he won the National League MVP award, the same year his postseason exploits helped eliminate Arizona from the playoffs, the same postseason that he was administered a urine test that registered “insanely high” levels of testosterone.

Braun fought the ensuing 50-game suspension, and a three-man arbitration board let him skate on what amounted to a technicality; the sample was not sent to the lab the same day the test was administered. A second test showed more normal levels.

Regardless, we know now that everything he accomplished and received in 2011 was fraudulent. The Brewers are stuck with it and with him.

What sane team would be willing to trade for Ryan Braun and, perhaps more importantly, his contract?

In 2011, Melky Cabrera hit 18 home runs and drove in 87 runs with Kansas City. San Francisco acquired him in a trade, and through 113 games in 2012 he hit .346 with 11 homers and 60 RBIs. He was an All-Star. And then he got a 50-game suspension for PED use.

Amazingly, Toronto not only signed Cabrera as a free agent before this season, but gave him a $2 million raise. Through 83 games, he had three home runs and was hitting .276.

There’s a reason some players juice up, folks. They’re different players with it than without it. Forget coincidence.

Braun is one of about a dozen major league players linked to the Biogenesis scandal named after a Florida clinic. Jhonny Peralta, the Tigers’ shortstop, is another name reportedly found in the clinic’s records. The 2013 All-Star, a free agent after this season, denies any involvement in PED use. Fine. Of course, we’ve heard that before. We’ll see how it plays out.

More immediately, everyone is waiting to see how baseball’s case against Alex Rodriguez, No. 5 on the all-time career home run list, plays out.

Because of injuries and a rehab regimen that has provided a truly comical back-and-forth between the player and the Yankees, A-Rod has not had a major league at-bat this season. This is the seventh time in six years he has been on the disabled list, and after a truly awful 2012 postseason, there’s little question he is physically breaking down.

The Yankees would prefer he was gone, but he has more than four seasons and nearly $100 million remaining on his contract.

Baseball may push for a lifetime ban in A-Rod’s case because it considers him to have been a multiple violator on separate occasions who perhaps recruited other athletes to Biogenesis and attempted to obstruct the MLB investigation.

He’ll get little support if the hammer falls that heavily. But he has one thing going for him.

It will be far more difficult to alter his jersey so that it reads FRAUD.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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