On Monday, Ryan Braun became the first casualty of the Biogenesis scandal. The ban that commissioner Bud Selig had long been hinting at — and recently been all but promising — finally came down, and Braun was suspended without pay for the remainder of the 2013 season.
And honestly, this is the best-case scenario for the Brewers slugger.
Milwaukee is going nowhere this season. The team that won the National League Central just two years ago now sits in the division’s basement, 18 1/2 games back of the first-place Cardinals, with a 41-56 record that is fourth-worst in the majors.
Braun himself has been nagged by injuries, playing in just 61 games, and even when healthy, his play has been uninspired. His .298 average and .870 OPS are solid, but his totals of nine home runs and 38 RBIs were both on pace for career worsts.
So, what are the Brewers really losing? A last-place team with zero playoff ambitions will be without its struggling star for 65 largely meaningless games. Braun will take the time to get healthy, spend some time out of the spotlight and return in spring training to a promising young squad that features a pair of 2013 All-Stars in Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez.
The one argument that can be made is that Braun’s legacy is now forever tarnished. He will go down in history as the embodiment of baseball’s Biogenesis black eye (though Alex Rodriguez may be right there next to him, depending on how the next few weeks play out). The suspension may confirm that, but have the events of the past few hours really changed anyone’s opinion of the Brewers outfielder?
Ban or not, Braun has been labeled a cheater for years now. He may have avoided league penalty when a technicality nullified his positive test for performance-enhancing drugs back in 2011, but the court of public opinion had already made up its mind. Even if Braun went the rest of his successful major league career without seeing a single bit of league discipline, he would still forever be mentioned alongside the notorious juicers of baseball’s Steroid Era.
If anything, this suspension helps Braun’s image. He has already stated that he will not appeal the punishment. He released a statement admitting his wrongdoing and will sit out the remainder of the season without a fight. In the few short hours since the announcement, high-ranking officials have already come out in support of what now looks like Braun’s choice to turn himself in, rather than a last resort of a man with no escape route.
“I am deeply gratified to see Ryan taking this bold step,” Mike Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, told USA Today. “It vindicates the rights of all players under the Joint Drug Program. It is good for the game that Ryan will return soon to continue his great work both on and off the field.”
Sure, a representative of the MLBPA is expected to come out in support of a player, but praise has come from members of the league office, too, such as Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive vice president for economics and league affairs.
“We commend Ryan Braun for taking responsibility for his past actions,” Manfred said in a statement. “We all agree that it is in the best interests of the game to resolve this matter. When Ryan returns, we look forward to him making positive contributions to Major League Baseball, both on and off the field.”
Braun’s journey from pariah to heartwarming story of redemption has already begun, before he has served even one game of his suspension. A-Rod can hope he enjoys such good fortune.