2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun May Have Beaten MLB, but He's No Curt Flood
Many view Ryan Braun's recent successful appeal as a landmark case, and a victory for a player against Major League Baseball. No player in the short history of MLB drug testing has been successful in any attempt to appeal a positive test. Like it or not, believe it or don't believe it, Braun is now a pioneer. The 2011 NL MVP was victorious against baseball, but he is not the first to get the best of MLB.
Perhaps the biggest victory for a player against Major League Baseball began in 1969, when Curt Flood refused to be traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies. Flood was an All-Star and Gold Glove outfielder who played for the Cincinnati Reds (1956-1957), St. Louis Cardinals (1958-1969), and the Washington Senators (1971).
Like many players, Curt Flood had an issue with how MLB operated concerning player contracts. Long before the days of free-agency, teams owned players for as long as they saw fit. The only way a player could leave his team was to be traded, released, bought by another team or to retire. Flood saw this as an unfair practice, particularly when faced with the possibility of playing for the lowly Phillies and in what was viewed as a substandard Connie Mack Stadium.
It was a long and arduous battle. Curt Flood sat out the entire 1970 season, and along with the players' union, fought Major Leagues Baseball all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, a case that was lost. But that was only a lost battle, Flood won the war. In 1970, Curt Flood's war with Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and MLB, resulted in what is now known as the "10/5 Rule (aka the "Curt Flood Rule").
The rule allows a player who has been in the league for ten years and with the same team for five years to veto any trade. It was Curt Flood's defiance that eventually lead to the implementation of free-agency in 1975. For better or for worse, the game was forever changed. Players are now free to play for whoever they want, and many ballplayers in today's game owe Flood for their large contacts.
So how is this victory different from Braun's? After all, Ryan Braun made history and beat Major League Baseball. The difference is that Braun's victory was his own. Did it change the game? Did it help other players or other people? Who knows—perhaps we will see players who tested positive for PED's come out of the woodwork and claim their own vindication.
At any moment, Rafael Palmeiro could hold a press conference, point and shake his finger at the cameras and say, "I told you so!" Maybe the test will now come under stricter guidelines, and that could be something positive to come out of this (no pun intended).
Who really knows if Braun is guilty or not, but this certainly feels like an "If the glove don't fit..." kind of moment. Because of the win by a technicality, and not by the proof of innocence, the players are not victorious and the people have lost.
There are many differences between Curt Flood and Ryan Braun. The biggest difference is that Flood's victory was for himself and for the players. Braun's "victory" was only a victory for himself.
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