Well, that's the easy one out of the way. That's the belt-high fastball drilled deep. Ryan Braun's admission of wrongdoing Monday and his resulting suspension for the rest of the season and postseason for involvement in the Biogenesis scandal serves everybody's purposes: Commissioner Bud Selig finally has on paper a successful prosecution of Braun for using performance-enhancing substances, and Braun will miss the rest of a season in which the Milwaukee Brewers have no chance of making the playoffs.
Braun successfully challenged a 50-game suspension for elevated levels of synthetic testosterone in the spring of 2012 when an arbitrator sided with Braun after Braun's lawyer argued there were issues with chain of evidence. This time, Braun will lose $3.5-million (U.S.) the rest of the season.
But he still has two years and $25-million on his contract and has a signed an extension worth $105-million over five years that kicks in in 2016, and includes a mutual option for 2021. Unless there's something in the works that negates that contract – and you'd have to think for the Major League Baseball Players Association to be this compliant, there was some guarantee of the sanctity of signed contracts – Braun and the Brewers get a fresh start in 2014.
"As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect," Braun said in a statement released by MLB. "I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization. I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country. Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed – all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love."
How will Braun be treated by fans? He's already heard boos and cat-calls for two seasons. Baseball fans have forgiven players who have expressed remorse in the past – Andy Pettitte, for example – but whether Braun's first instinct to fight instead of show contrition costs him down the road remains to be seen.
At any rate, Selig has taken a huge step toward erasing what he considered to be a blight on his reign and on baseball's drug-testing plan; he landed the one that got away.
Thing is, there are many more names connected to the anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables, Fla., that allegedly became a source for performance-enhancing drugs. And not all of the names have been made public.
Also found on documents in a Miami New Times investigation of Biogenesis was the name of the Toronto Blue Jays' Melky Cabrera, who missed the last half of the 2012 season while under suspension. Alex Rodriguez is the sexiest name in play right now (ESPN's Outside The Lines says MLB's evidence on Rodriguez surpasses that on Braun), but his health has deteriorated so much the New York Yankees long ago prepared for life without A-Rod in 2013.
The question is, how compliant will players be if they are on teams competing for a postseason spot? For example, the Texas Rangers' Nelson Cruz has been connected to the clinic, and he faces something of a double whammy as a free agent at the end of the 2013 season. If baseball has the goods on Cruz, does he take a knee? He'll get another contract from somebody next season (just like Cabrera), but he might have to settle for less (just like Cabrera) even though he's a much better hitter.
The Brewers went into Monday's game in last place in the National League Central Division, 18 1/2 games out of the division lead and a Blue Jays-esque 13 1/2 out of the final wild-card spot. Forget the morality of the issue. Braun did the appropriate, logical, cost-effective thing for himself and his team.