Jim Caple is mad. He longs for the days when cheating wasn’t strictly illegal and therefore a gentlemanly pursuit. He doesn’t understand why anyone would cheer for Ryan Braun, let alone give him a standing ovation. The one thing we do know is that music has something to do with it, so let’s get to it. He’s in bold.
On Opening Day in Milwaukee, Ryan Braun returned from last season’s 65-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs and received a loud standing ovation from the hometown crowd. On Tuesday night, a fan ran onto the field to try to high-five him. For those two games, Braun earned roughly $124,000 of a contract that guarantees him at least $117 million in pay.
Let’s start by conceding that Ryan Braun is probably not a very good guy. He’s probably a bad guy. You know what? A lot of baseball players are bad guys. A lot of athletes are bad guys. We don’t cheer for them because they’re paragons of virtue, we cheer for them because they’re good at their jobs and help our teams win. That’s it. I might also point out that on Opening Day most fans show up promptly at 9:00 am when the parking lots open (followed by the people who believe the lie about the lots opening at 10), drink for four straight hours, go into the stadium, drink for another 2 hours, and then hopefully not drive home.* On Tuesday the guy who ran out onto the field probably wasn’t sober. Citing the actions and opinions of a bunch of super-drunk people as some kind of indictment of society is asinine.
*I might also mention that the starting pitcher in that game, Yovani Gallardo, was arrested for DUI in the offseason, a sin 1000x times worse than anything Braun has done. The person who closed the game, Francisco Rodriguez, has a nasty habit of beating women and their parents which is unfathomably worse.
So … that’ll really teach him not to do it again, huh?
That’s what the giant quasi-legal suspension was for.
At spring training, when Braun addressed the media about his use of PEDs, he said he made a “mistake.” That’s not accurate. Braun did not make a “mistake.” He cheated.
Look, I hate non-apologies. I hate the use of the passive voice in apologies. I sincerely doubt that Ryan Braun offered up anything that could be considered a “sincere” apology. BUT, this argument that past transgressions cannot be considered “mistakes” is simply wrong. Occasionally someone will actually learn a lesson and change their behavior, and in that instance it is not uncommon for that person to look back on their past actions as “mistakes.” Mistake can mean typing “they’re” instead of “there” but it can also mean past actions that one has come to regret. If you don’t believe Ryan Braun just say you think he’s an insincere asshole, you don’t have to make weak semantic arguments.
And I completely ignore the transgressions of Willie Mays and Hank Aaron and anyone who took any foreign substances before guys got huge and started hitting giant home runs. And I don’t care about Gaylord Perry throwing spitballs either.
That’s because when players of that era used or were accused of using, baseball had no hard and fast rules in place regarding PEDs. (It’s not cheating if it isn’t against the rules.) Milwaukee’s welcoming response for Braun angers me, though, because he was caught after PEDs were firmly and officially banned, not just frowned upon. And he’d already narrowly averted a previous ban due to a technicality.
1. Drunk people on opening day are THE BEST at making highly technical moral distinctions regarding baseball rules.
2. In the end he didn’t actually avert the ban. The incidents were connected.
If we — media, fans, players, the league and teams — truly want to rid the game of PEDs,
A lot of us don’t care. Like at all. I like watching games and being entertained.
then we must thoroughly punish players when they are caught breaking the rules. That means in addition to serving suspensions, players who are caught should not be placed on a team’s postseason roster, as the Tigers did with Jhonny Peralta last October.
The idea that the Tigers pulled some scam here…I mean, Peralta was done serving his time. He served his suspension and was allowed to rejoin the team. The team isn’t required to keep punishing a guy forever, that’s Bud Selig’s job, apparently.
Baseball addressed this last week by toughening the punishments for PED cheats, including banning them from playing in the postseason in a year in which they are suspended. Which is good, but we also should not then reward them with four-year, $52 million new contracts, as the Cardinals did with Peralta over the winter.
And we should not welcome them back by standing and applauding their return.
The story of how baseball players fought and eventually won free agency is a good one, and ultimately many people* will tell you that most of this steroid nonsense mostly serves to give ownership back a chunk of the power they’ve ceded over the years. Most of Caple’s “reforms” here mainly help management, hurt players, and condescend to fans. In short, I’ll cheer for whoever I damn well please, and in free agency teams will pay for players if they think the players will help them. St. Louis had a dumpster fire sitting out there at short last year. They probably were not willing to forego a 3-4 win upgrade to prove some obtuse moral point.
*Joe Sheehan, most loudly.
As long as players know that even if they’re suspended, they still will receive multimillion-dollar contracts and the adoration of their hometown fans, what is the incentive not to cheat?
Here’s a better question: Given this scenario, what is the incentive to punish cheaters?
Last week’s changes to MLB’s drug rules increased the initial suspension from 50 to 80 games and a second from 100 to 162 games. And that’s fine. But it still doesn’t address the larger problem: A suspension really accomplishes little beyond giving a player a couple of months off during the summer.
The idea that a suspension is not a punishment is laughable. Most of these guys want to win. If they are caught, they then have to be around a bunch of guys they let down. They don’t get paid. But yeah, I’m sure Braun cares much more about getting a standing ovation than losing a couple of million dollars.
I don’t believe first-time offenders should be banned for life, but I want them to truly get the message that PED use is not tolerated. Here’s how to send it:
I’ve been waiting for this part. This is the crazy part. Are you ready for the crazy part?
• Get caught cheating, and not only are you suspended without pay (as is currently the case), but your current contract should be voided.
There is zero chance that this could ever happen. It would have to be negotiated with the union and there are no circumstances under which they would ever agree to such a thing. But it gets so much worse…
• When you return from the suspension, you should also lose whatever negotiating leverage you’ve accrued. You should not reach free agency until at least one full year after you would otherwise be eligible.
When I read this the first time I assumed he meant by magic. Like everyone should forget how valuable the player is so they have no leverage. What I think he actually means is that you will go back to the equivalent of a first year of team control. If you were in your arbitration years you lose arbitration. If you’re about to become a free agent you lose that. Functionally what that means is that you’d make the minimum or sit out. Oh, but it gets crazier still…
• So that your team, which might have looked the other way at rumors of your PED use, does not benefit, it should not retain rights to your service beyond when it normally would. If that time frame expires before you are eligible for free agency, you should go into a “cheaters’ draft” in which each team, in reverse order of record, can pick you or not. Teams could only choose one cheat per winter. Hopefully, there never would be occasion for a second round of the cheaters’ draft.
CHEATERS DRAFT! It raises so many questions! If you have a 5-year contract what happens? Anything? Does this only apply to players in their first 6 years of service? So if say Jean Segura failed a drug test, when he reached his free agent year he could instead be drafted by the worst team in baseball and play for the minimum? What if it’s still the Brewers? It might still be the Brewers. Would opposing teams start spiking beverages? Would Jeff Luhnow sneak into the Angels’ locker room and pop a few steroid gummy bears in Mike Trout’s Gatorade?
And I’m sure we all know the true winners of the Cheaters draft. ESPN!* They’d televise the shit out of that. I assume it would be at Madison Square Garden and that all draftees would arrive in orange jump suits. Bud would greet them at the podium with a new cap and a urine collection kit.
*employer of JIM CAPLE.
It gets crazier.
As for the fan response? Fans are always happy to boo a returning PED cheat with an opposing team. (Just wait until those fun-loving Fenway fans get their crack at Braun this weekend.) But fans also will boo an opponent who wins the Triple Crown and donates his salary to Habitat for Humanity. It’s how they regard their own team’s players that is at issue.
Boston fans are totally in a great position to boo steroid users.
Obviously, fans can’t be forced to behave a certain way or instructed not to cheer.
“Dear University of Wisconsin Student Section. Please Stop doing the E@T Sh*T, F^CK Y0^ chant. – Chancellor X
Student Section – (Increases volume 800%)
But there are rules that could be enacted so that a returning cheat doesn’t feel as welcome as Braun and others have.
We can have RULES that STEER you to cheer PROPERLY, like the Bark Board at Bucks games. Everyone likes the Bark Board.
No walkup or entrance music for his at-bat or relief appearance.
That’ll learn him. How would Erig Gagne get fired up without Welcome To The Jungle?
In fact, no introduction whatsoever.*
This would definitely not lead to more standing ovations as a fanbase started to feel unjustly persecuted. They’d all totally stay silent during the intro.
*”Programs! Get your programs! You won’t know who the roiders are without a program! Because we’re not going to tell you!”
For at least one season, the player should have to take his position to official silence on the home team’s part.
“Attention Fans! Per Major League Rules we will be OFFICIALLY SILENT during Ryan Braun’s introductions. Please do not cheer wildly to fill the void as it would appear a bit gauche of television. Thank you for your cooperation.”
Let that silence be a reminder that he cheated.
“And now a moment of silence to remind us all of our sins.” – World’s worst baseball game.
If the fans still want to cheer him, so be it. But teams shouldn’t encourage an environment for applause.
Also, Braun should be forced to play in a hairshirt.
I would include a Hall of Fame ban, but any player who tests positive for PEDs isn’t going to get 75 percent of the BBWAA vote anyway.
Yeah, they don’t get elected to the hall, they just coach hitting for the Dodgers and present awards in Pittsburgh.
Sure, there are flaws in these suggested measures.
I agree with this 100%.
For one thing, there would need to be some ways to prevent teams from manipulating the rules just to get out of an expensive contract.
I’m sure no team would ever abuse these rules to not pay millions of dollars. If there’s one thing we know it’s that giant multi-million dollar corporations always act in the best interest of everyone.
But that and other issues could be ironed out. At least it’s a starting point for getting serious.
Let’s get serious. Ban music!
I’m all for giving a player a second chance after he makes “mistakes.” But to really discourage the use of PEDs, players must also know that when they come back, all will not be forgotten, all will not be forgiven, and life in baseball will not be the same.
Let’s just put a god damn scarlet A on his jersey.