Last year’s National League MVP was caught up in a failed drug test scandal only to have his 50-game suspension overturned because of a technicality. Drama.
And then there’s the clubhouse atmosphere at Fenway Park where Red Sox players have become accustomed to fried chicken parties, beer during games and video games. More drama.
What happened to the good old days of baseball where tobacco, Crackerjacks, an occasional amphetamine, and strong-headed pitchers with huge mustaches ruled the game? I don’t know what’s going on with baseball these days but I feel America’s pastime is becoming more of a made-for-TV reality show.
It seemed like baseball had turned the corner by stomping out banned substances with its harsh drug policy. It seemed like the days of the 70-plus homerun season for a single player had gone away and the game was back in the hands of pitchers. Baseball was back from the depths of the Steroid Era. It was back until last year’s NL MVP Ryan Braun was caught with high levels of testosterone in his urine. According to The Los Angeles Times, the pee sample taken from Braun last October reportedly showed the highest levels of testosterone baseball’s steroid cops have ever seen. For violating its drug policy, Braun, who had already received the MVP award, was suspended for the first 50 games of this season.
Of course, the sucker that I am, I somehow bought into what Braun and others were saying in his defense. Apparently he had some sort of medical condition and the high levels of testosterone were a result of medication he was taking. There was a suggestion that his condition was private and that somehow baseball would let him off the hook once they understood his condition. He seemed to be an innocent man. He was getting the raw end of baseball’s drug policy.
So when it came out last week that Braun’s suspension was overturned for the first time in baseball history, thanks to a three-member appeals panel, I wasn’t surprised. He’d made his case and they understood his so-called medical condition. As I read further into it though, he wasn’t let off the hook for a condition, he was simply let off the hook because of a technicality related to the handling of his piss.
Apparently, according to The Times, the urine sample was not delivered to the testing facility in a timely manner. Whoever was in charge of this (reportedly an official who’s done it many times) couldn’t get a Fed Ex office that would ship it immediately, so he took it home and waited a couple of days to send it.
Even though the seal on the sample was intact and the extra day or so didn’t change the sample, it was still enough of a technicality to get Braun off his 50-game suspension. There was no good reason for him to be let off the hook. No condition, no good excuse. After reading all of that, I decided I was no longer in Braun’s camp. I think he’s a doping scoundrel who got away with using performance-enhancing substances just as baseball was righting itself. He’s a fake. I no longer like him. For all of us waiting on a good reason for his high testosterone levels, this outcome was crap.
What’s worse, now that Braun found a way out of his suspension, he opens the door to both past and future substance abusers. You better believe there are young players looking at his case and thinking they too can get away with using. Frankly, it seemed too easy.
In a press conference, Braun told reporters he no longer wants to talk about the situation and won’t answer any questions about the specifics of just why he had so much testosterone in his system. He’s not holding any more press conferences until spring training games begin. This is a prologue to the upcoming trials of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Major League Baseball is apparently not out of the Steroid Era just yet.
Meanwhile, up in Boston, in a somewhat more humorous situation, things are changing for those who liked to party while playing for the Sox. Last week, Red Sox Manager Bobby Valentine announced a new policy that bans beer from the clubhouse and bans the consumption of beer on the last leg of road trips. At the end of last season, beer drinking by starting pitchers during games they weren’t pitching in became a hot issue because the team seemed to lack the desire to play well into the postseason.
“I think it’s a PR move,” said former Boston Manager Terry Francona, who allowed the beer drinking on his watch, on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning show. “I think if a guy wants a beer, he can probably get one. You know, its kind of an old rule…If your coach in football says no hard liquor on the plane – I mean, you serve beer and wine – somebody’s going to sneak liquor on the plane.”
To me, this is as good as it gets. Because of a terrible end-of-season performance last year, a bunch of grown men are being forbidden to drink a beer after a game. I’m no professional athlete and I never have been, but even I can tell you that the rule isn’t going to work. If a guy wants a beer after a long day on the field, he’s going to have a beer…and he should have a beer. Baseball can’t even effectively ban steroids and performance enhancing drugs. Do the Red Sox actually think they’ll be able to put an end to beer drinking?
What I want to know is what the Red Sox intend to do about all the fried chicken eating going on in the clubhouse. Consider a fried chicken ban? I would. Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz aren’t getting any skinnier.
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