ADDITIONAL NOTE: 7:38 p.m.: A couple of you have written to ask about whether the fact Braun tested during the playoffs — technically after all BBWAA voting was done at end of regular season — should matter. Not to me. First, it would be incredibly naive to believe a player would take drugs for the first time (and risk experiencing side effects on his body) during that one-or-two-week period after the regular season and with his team playing its biggest series of the year. Second, this award is for the 2011 season and folks will remember the playoffs as much as they remember anything from that year or any other season. The BBWAA should not have to be embarassed by announcing an award symbolic of that season when MLB officials knew ahead of time the player tested positive. I’m not about to let a guilty player skate on the flimsiest of technicalities. I’ll let others do that, if that’s the best case they can make.
Stunning news today that Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun failed a test for performance enhancing drugs weeks before he was named National League Most Valuable Player.
Nothing had been made public yet because Braun has appealed the findings. His representatives say there are highly unusual circumstances surrounding the case but that will be up to them to prove.
It’s worth noting here that no player has ever successfully appealed a positive test result. There’s a first time for everything, I suppose. And Braun seems pretty convinced he’ll be exonerated. We’ll see.
But what concerns me is that members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) were allowed to vote Braun in as MVP while Major League Baseball officials kept everyone in the dark. Now, I can understand why those officials would want to keep quiet and protect Braun’s right to an appeal.
But in fairness, I’d hope they also also understand that BBWAA members should — if the appeal does not succeed — be given a chance to re-cast their votes for MVP.
Photo Credit: AP
Frankly, this whole voting and PED use thing has become a massive yearly headache for the BBWAA when it comes to the Hall of Fame. I think the voting members have done a great job trying to establish their own parameters for fairness when it comes to voting on players who have been tainted by drug use and linked to positive tests.
The real tough part comes with players long suspected of drug use but with no positive tests to support the theory.
With no firm rules on how to handle that issue, there have been passionate debates for inclusion and exclusion both within the BBWAA and from outside. The Hall of Fame, through president Jeff Idelson, has made it clear that it supports the way BBWAA members have handled the delicate drug issue.
It’s worth remembering: the BBWAA did not create baseball’s drug problem. It was baseball players who created the problem by taking drugs and owners and coaches and general managers who enabled them by looking the other way and rewarding them with millions of dollars.
The usual suspects will try to muddy the waters and cast blame elsewhere, citing the fans who supported the home run chases of the late 1990s and the reporters who covered them. Sure, they helped glorify some of the cheaters, no doubt. Those media members shouldn’t win any investigative journalism awards for the job they did. But they didn’t put the needles in players’ hands and tell them to shoot up.
In the end, the people who did the deed and those who helped them to do it have to bear the most severe consequences. And in the end, the adult player who takes the PED is the one most responsible for his own actions.
Now, instead of the Hall of Fame voting, we’ve got a PED problem — if Braun’s test is upheld — involving an award handed to an active player.
This isn’t the first time an active player linked to performance enhancing drugs has been given an award by the BBWAA — as former MVP Alex Rodriguez can attest.
But this is the first time baseball officials were aware of a positive test before writers were asked to vote on the player suspected (well, at least before the results of that vote had a chance to be announced).
I’m all for due process and Braun’s right to appeal.
But that doesn’t change the fact that he should not be allowed to keep his award without a re-vote if he fails — as has every player so far — to successfully appeal. Because let’s be honest; we all know there’s no way on earth Braun would have won that vote over Matt Kemp of the Dodgers had writers known of the failed test beforehand.
Ask Mark McGwire about that one.
Writers have not been kind to drug cheats so far. I wouldn’t put money on Braun keeping his award if put to the test.
Again, nobody is blaming baseball for keeping quiet until the appeal was heard. But MLB is in charge of policing its own sport, not the BBWAA. And now, MLB will have to live with the consequences of what happens if one of its biggest stars was found to have cheated.
It’s not my problem. And it shouldn’t be the BBWAA’s problem. I don’t mind the healthy debates that occur every year when somebody disagrees with a BBWAA choice on a particular award. But I have a big problem with the fact baseball officials knew ahead of time that one of the biggest BBWAA awards given out each year was going to a guy who was — in all likelihood, barring a landmark successful appeal — going to be exposed as a cheat.
So, an easy solution.
Conduct a re-vote. Create a precendent for this kind of thing. If a guy tests positive before results are announced, make it clear that he will not be allowed to keep any award without it being put back in the hands of voters.
This isn’t revolutionary thinking. In the Olympics, medal winners are stripped of their medal awards all the time if they test positive. Sometimes, it takes years to do the retroactive thing.
If it creates a headache for MLB, too bad. If it embarrasses the player, well, maybe they’ll think twice the next time before going down that road.
Hey, if this could in any way serve as a deterrent to players taking PEDs, then MLB and the union should be all for it. It’s not really their call anyway. The BBWAA will be the one deciding the rules for its own awards.
Again, if Braun wins on appeal, he can keep the MVP award.
But even if he does win, the BBWAA should immediately inform baseball officials that this will be the rule going forward. Anyone who tests positive before voting results are announced will be subjected to a re-vote.
It’s bad enough voters are being asked to judge the Hall of Fame legacies of long-retired players suspected of boosting their performance outside the rules. They shouldn’t have to become defacto conspirators with Major League Baseball in giving awards out to current players that top officials knew ahead of time were about to be taken down by scandal.