When the news broke that Ryan Braun would be suspended for the remainder of the 2013 season for breaking MLB’s joint drug agreement, it was news that brought about mixed feelings for me. As a Pirates fan, I was ecstatic that a division rival (even one as irrelevant as Milwaukee this year) would be without their best player for a large chunk of the season. As a baseball fan, I was disappointed. Disappointed to see another superstar in the world’s greatest baseball league fall. Disappointed that a player as talented as Braun already was would feel the need to take PEDs to become even better. Disappointed that a season as good as Braun’s 2011 is now discounted (although deservedly so) due to his cheating.
Ever since I can remember as a baseball fan, PEDs have been a problem in the game. The Sosa/McGwire home run battle was tainted. Rafael Palmeiro, a man with over 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, has a career legacy not just as a great player, but as a liar, and a cheat. Barry Bonds (a guy who by most reports could have broken records without the use of steroids) seems to be less well known for his single season record of seventy-three home runs, or his all-time home run record, but rather he’s known for being the poster boy for PED use, during the height of the PED era. There hasn’t been a hall of fame quality player that hasn’t come into question for using the juice that comes to mind any time recently, at least since the turn of the millenium.
The problem with all this steroid use is not that is besmirches the names of those who have been caught cheating, that’s well deserved. The problem is that it keeps people from being able to appreciate genuinely great seasons by players who have never before come under suspicion of cheating. Type “Miguel Cabrera” into Google’s search engine, and before you finish one of the top suggestions will be “Miguel Cabrera steroids”. Read what people are saying about the season Chris Davis is having in Baltimore, and 90% of them are automatically assuming he’s using some form of PED to help him put up the incredibly gaudy numbers he has to this point in the season. You can’t go two clicks on the internet without finding somebody either talking about Sharknado, or accusing a player of steroid use. The worst part is, that’s totally understandable. You can’t blame people for suspecting a player is on steroids if he has a great year these days, because odds are, somebody’s doing it.
It’s unfortunate that cheating in professional baseball is so rampant that we can’t appreciate great talents the way we ought to. It’s unfortunate that we have to miss getting to watch great players like Ryan Braun play baseball because they lack the integrity to play the game the right way. It’s sad and disappointing that a guy like Chris Davis who’s dominated this season would automatically come under suspicion, for doing nothing more than playing well. But it’s the way things are in Major League Baseball right now, and we’re just going to have to deal with it for now. It’s good that MLB is taking steps to slow down rampant PED use in the game, PED use that rivals only the Olympic Games and cycling, but we’re not anywhere near out of the woods yet.
Even the supposedly innocent Braun has been found out. Let’s hope that MLB continues to do the right thing and combat PED use, but this problem is still here, and not going away soon, like it or not. So as a Pirates fan, I’m happy that Braun has been suspended. As a fan who wants a clean game, and justice to be served, I’m happy that he was suspended. But as a fan of seeing great baseball players do great things, without cheating and putting their lives in danger, I’m disappointed to find that Braun is a dirty player, just like I’ve been disappointed with every other player who’s been caught.