Braun is currently in the midst of appealing this positive test, but the odds of him getting it overturned do not look great. (the rest of this article is written with the idea that his appeal will fail)
Because of this, many fans and experts are calling for Braun to lose his MVP award, either by refusing to accept it or by a re-vote. I, however, could not disagree more.
1. The voters awarded it to him because he had a great regular season.
First and foremost, Ryan Braun won this award because the voters recognized that he had a fantastic regular season. Braun led the NL with a .994 OPS, finished third with a 166 OPS+ and second with a 7.7 WAR while leading Milwaukee to the NL Central Division title. That much has not changed.
The BBWAA has already announced that they have no plans to re-vote on the award even after Braun’s positive PED test, largely because they have no interest in re-writing history like that. Another of the reasons for this is because…
2. His positive test came in the postseason.
This is very important to note, as the Most Valuable Player award is handed out to the player who had the best regular-season performance. The BBWAA voted on the MVP award right before the postseason began based on the information they had at the time—which included at least two negative PED tests during the regular season for Braun.
In fact, since Braun was only tested in October because Milwaukee made the postseason, it could be argued that we would not be having this debate had the Brewers stayed home for October.
A cynical person would probably state that Braun started using right after his last negative test…and to be fair, they could be right. However, isn’t it also equally plausible that he didn’t start using PEDs until the postseason began? After all, we have more evidence that he did not use during the regular season than that he did use.
3. He is already set to be punished.
A lot of fans seem to be under the impression that Braun will be getting off scot-free if he's allowed to keep his MVP award. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Braun is set to be suspended for the first 50 games of the 2012 season—without pay, I might add. This means that, not only will he likely be eliminated from award consideration next season, but he will also lose over 30 percent of his salary (about $1.85 million) in the process.
Nowhere in the collective bargaining agreement does it say that players are ineligible for awards because of a positive test, mainly because awards are handed out by an independent third party. But this brings me to my next point…
4. Cheating has never, ever made an MLB player retroactively ineligible for an award.
The easy argument here is from all the recent confirmed PED users—players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez have all kept the trophies they won even after admitted PED usage. Heck, considering the problem with PEDs in sports goes back as far as 1889, any number of awards could have been won by PED users over the decades.
Of course, it’s not really fair to punish players for rules that were not yet in place, so there’s no reason to take the awards from those players. But how about those who cheated by breaking long-established rules?
We never demanded that Gaylord Perry give back either of his Cy Young Awards, even though he made a living off the spitball (and was actually ejected for it). Same goes for Whitey Ford, Don Drysdale and Mike Scott, each of whom were masters of doctoring the ball.
Baseball has never retroactively punished players or removed awards/achievements; it has always punished by removing future opportunity. To suddenly start doing this because of steroids would be pure hypocrisy, which brings me to my final point…
Should Ryan Braun keep his MVP award?
5. Steroids (and other PEDs) do not have magic powers.
One of my biggest pet peeves about the entire PED issue is that countless fans are treating steroids as if they are the Super Soldier Serum that instantly turns scrawny, talentless weaklings into Captain America. I’m sorry, but that’s not the way it works.
Steroids (and other PEDs) are NOT what creates great athletes. Hard work, dedication and lots of practice are what do that. Can steroids help? Absolutely…but they are but one factor in a very complex equation.
Steroids can make you bigger, stronger and faster, but only if you work your tail off in a strength and conditioning program and adhere to a proper diet. And even if one does all of this, they will still not be a great (or even a good) baseball player without hours upon hours of practice at their craft.
To assume that an athlete is only great at hitting a ball because of steroids is a slap in the face to every professional baseball player, because it completely devalues the hard work that all players—PED users or not—put in to make it to the show.
This is why Ryan Braun should keep the MVP award: The fans need to realize that it was hard work (and not some PED) that made him a great baseball player.
By no means am I saying that Ryan Braun should not be punished; after all, he did break the agreed-upon rules between management and players. However, he's set to be punished with a 50-game suspension, and the punishment will be worse should he do it again. But this is the perfect opportunity for MLB fans to stop overreacting to the issue. What's done is done, and it’s time for baseball to move forward.
Besides, at least we know that MLB’s testing system is working and that nobody—even the freshly minted MVP—is bigger than the game.