Rarely can the Milwaukee Brewers franchise be called the epicenter of anything in the sporting world. Yet their two best players, outfielder Ryan Braun and pitcher Yovani Gallardo, currently lie on the opposite end of Major League Baseball's disciplinary ladder, but atop an embarrassing list of priorities for the sport.
Most fans are aware of Ryan Braun's failed drug test during his 2011 MVP season, subsequent suspension and victory in the appeal process. A year later, Braun's name appeared in the Biogenesis documents, which, connecting the dots to his collegiate days and ties to Miami, further implicated Braun as a "user" in the eyes of baseball.
Most fans may not be aware that Yovani Gallardo was arrested and cited on Tuesday morning for drunken driving. According to ESPN Wisconsin, Gallardo was pulled over at 2:10 a.m. for driving slowly and deviating lanes. Upon his arrest, the 27-year-old pitcher registered a blood-alcohol level of .22, almost three times the legal limit in the state of Wisconsin.
While common sense would lead you to believe that baseball should take the latter of the incidents in Milwaukee more seriously, the reality of the situation couldn't be further from the truth.
According to multiple baseball reporters, Major League Baseball is embarrassed by the Ryan Braun situation, and will do anything—including purchasing Biogenesis' documents—to take him down with a lengthy suspension. While Braun has represented the sport admirably off the field since debuting in 2007, baseball holds a grudge because his appeal was upheld, MVP Award kept without stain and in their eyes, the war on steroids set further back.
Meanwhile, Gallardo wasn't suspended, won't serve a day of jail time and was greeted as a hero on Thursday when he hit a Matt Cain offering for a home run, giving himself and Milwaukee a lead over San Francisco.
While baseball fans can easily rattle off the names in the Mitchell Report, cite the multiple transgressions with alleged performance enhancers that Alex Rodriguez has involved himself in and recall Barry Bonds' home run totals in the years before his usage reportedly began, few can identify what the following names have in common: Coco Crisp, Todd Helton, Mark Grace, Bobby Jenks, Miguel Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Sidney Ponson, Joba Chamberlain, Austin Kearns, Derek Lowe, Tony La Russa.
Former All-Star Game participants? Hardly. Former first-round picks? Guess again. Everyone of those names—along with 14 others—have been booked on DUI charges since 2004.
The group consists of future Hall of Famers (Cabrera, La Russa) to former stars (Grace) to veterans with long-term major league tenure (Helton, Lowe) to younger players at the time of incident (Chamberlain, Ponson).
Of course, the names A-Rod, Bonds, Clemens, Pettitte, Ortiz, Ramirez, and Gagne are much, much more recognizable. Not just for their star status in the game, but for cheating baseball by taking performance enhancing drugs.
At some point, everything the sport does to clean up it's image becomes noise when they choose to ignore actions that could potentially kill innocent people. When the focus is on preserving home run records and governing the sanctity of a museum in upstate New York, it's clear that the inner compass of baseball has been misplaced.
On Thursday afternoon, Gallardo dominated the San Francisco lineup over six innings, recording six strikeouts and leaving in position for his first victory of the season. His teammate, Ryan Braun, continues to wait for baseball to spend the time and resources necessary to suspend him for a portion of the 2013 season.
As with the origins of steroid use in the late-'80s and early-'90s, there is only one group to blame for these issues: Major League Baseball.
Fans flocked to the park to watch baseball players built like The Ultimate Warrior during the summer of '98. The idea that baseball had no idea what was happening is nonsensical. The culture was established because the people in charge didn't see fit to act before it became an epidemic.
With the number of DUI arrests climbing towards 30 over the last decade, you can make the case that drunk baseball players driving is becoming an epidemic as well. Just like last time, baseball is slow to act.
If you want to focus on how much of a cheater Ryan Braun is and was, feel free, but don't pretend it's a more important or more heinous act than getting behind the wheel of an automobile after drinking to excess.
The troubling part is that Major League Baseball seems to be pretending that exact thought.
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