MLB mood hardens against drug cheats after Ryan Braun 'betrayal'
Players express disgust at betrayal by former MVP Ryan Braun, whose high-profile doping case has tarnished their beloved game
Protective no more, MLB players are downright disgusted these days with doping and the trashing of the game's image.
Now they are demanding even stiffer suspensions for those caught cheating.
"It's a new generation of athletes that are standing up," said Travis Tygart, chief executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency. "The culture's been flipped on its head."
When Ryan Braun accepted a season-ending 65-game suspension rather than fight the MLB over evidence he used performance-enhancing drugs, fellow players appeared tired of those who cast shadows on the sport.
"They're lying to the fans," Los Angeles Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson said. "They're lying to their teammates. They're lying to their GMs, their owners, and they're going to get caught."
Skip Schumaker of the LA Dodgers said Braun, the 2011 National League MVP for the Milwaukee Brewers, let him down.
"Watching him talk right now makes me sick," Schumaker said. "I have an autographed Braun jersey in my baseball room that I'll be taking down. What I've worked so hard to get to and work so hard to have - I don't want my son comparing Braun to me."
Fellow Dodger Matt Kemp, who finished second to Braun in the 2011 MVP vote, said the Milwaukee slugger should be stripped of the honour.
"We had conversations, and I considered him a friend," Kemp said. "I don't think anybody likes to be lied to, and I feel like a lot of people have felt - betrayed."
Braun tested positive for elevated testosterone in October 2011, but successfully overturned a 50-game penalty when an arbitrator ruled the outfielder's urine sample was handled improperly. Braun loudly proclaimed his innocence then.
"This whole thing has been despicable on his part," Detroit pitcher Max Scherzer said. "When he did get caught, he never came clean. He tried to question the ability of the collector when he was caught red-handed. So that's why the whole Braun situation, there is so much player outrage towards him."
Arizona pitcher Brad Ziegler remembered back to the 2011 NL division series, when the Brewers beat the Diamondbacks 3-2 in a best-of-five play-off as Braun went 9 for 18 with a home run and four RBIs.
"It affected the series because that's right when the positive test occurred. That's when it was highest in his system and he torched us that series," Ziegler said. "We can't put it all on that. Looking back on it, we walked away from that series knowing we should have won it before we heard he tested positive. At least he didn't get away with it now."
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Braun was guilty.
"You don't accept a deal unless you're guilty," he said. "It's another black eye for our game. I know this game is very resilient, and there's been a lot of scandals over the years, but you get tired of it," Girardi added.
He may soon face his own problem with a star slugger.
More than a dozen players have been targeted by the MLB investigation of the closed anti-ageing clinic Biogenesis of America, including three-time American League MVP Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees.
The next step will be for the MLB to inform the union of additional players it intends to penalise, which could happen as early as tomorrow, a person familiar with the investigation said.
New York expects A-Rod could face a much harsher penalty than the one Braun agreed to, a second person familiar with the case said.
The Yankees anticipate Rodriguez could be accused of using performance enhancing drugs over multiple seasons, of recruiting other athletes for the clinic, of attempting to obstruct the MLB's investigation, and of not being truthful with the MLB in the past when he discussed his relationship with Dr Anthony Galea, who pleaded guilty two years ago to a US federal charge of bringing unapproved drugs from Canada into the United States.
After Braun's suspension, a chain of 300 convenience stores in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa cut ties with him.
Gary Gonczy, director of marketing and advertising for Kwik Trip, said the company would no longer use Braun as its spokesman.
Despite Braun's ban, Kemp has no shot at claiming the MVP trophy. The Baseball Writers' Association of America has said repeatedly it will not revisit any of its award votes.
"The decision was already made. He won it," said Jack O'Connell, the BBWAA's secretary treasurer.
Commissioner Bud Selig said in March he wanted even stiffer drug penalties, and union head Michael Weiner said players would consider toughened rules for 2014.
While Braun's 65-game penalty is 15 games longer than the current standard for a first offence, Scherzer thinks it's insufficient. "The Brewers are unlikely to make the playoffs. He misses 2013, and they are set for 2014," he said. "For someone that cheated the game as badly as he did, it just doesn't seem right."