Ryan Braun Steroid Suspension: It's Just Business, and He'll Keep His Money

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Ryan Braun Steroid Suspension: It's Just Business, and He'll Keep His Money
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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 me, things aren’t looking that bad either.

Let's be honest, folks: as Buster Olney asked during an ESPN interview yesterday, does crime pay? Sure it 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 50-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 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 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.”

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“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-90s 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 gets caught, he doesn’t have to give anything back. He might miss out on two months' pay, but if that’s after the contract is signed, will he even feel it?

Fifty 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 recommending that players use steroids. I’m saying I understand why guys do it. Because the teeth to really punish players aren't there, and they never will be.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

If you can get over making yourself an outcast and a villain, what do you really lose? Your reputation? A Hall of Fame bid?

 

An agreement between the players union and the MLB that lets teams go after a player's wallet for a positive test won't happen. And I doubt you’re going to be able to strip him of awards either.

Suspend him for some play, tarnish his reputation, but in the end, guys who 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 long-term status. In the meantime, there is money to be made.”

Besides, lots of players don’t make it into the Hall of Fame—lots of rich players. Keep the plaque; I’ll take the island.

And after all this weeping and gnashing of teeth comes to its conclusion, if the player apologizes properly, gets clean and goes on to have a solid career, all his 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 who 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 for which our beliefs can be bought.

 

Dirk Hayhurst is a pitcher most recently in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Bullpen Gospels. His new book, Out of My League, is available for pre-order now. Visit his website at DirkHayhurst.com.

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