When I was a kid, my favorite baseball player was Barry Bonds. My fandom was mostly due to the fact that he was the best player on the planet and he played for my favorite team. I even attended the game during which he passed Babe Ruth by hitting his 715th home run. Bonds eventually went on to hit 47 more, passing Hank Aaron’s record and finishing his career with 762 home runs.
Despite owning the records for home runs in a career, home runs in a season and Most Valuable Player awards won, Bonds will never be able to lose the dreaded asterisk that hangs next to his name in the record books. Throughout his career, Bonds’ name has been synonymous with steroid usage due to his involvement with BALCO and trainer Greg Anderson. Bonds’ career was just like the movie “Catch Me if You Can” – the more he achieved, the more suspicious he seemed.
Now, Bonds is retired with one of the most impressive resumes in the MLB and waiting for the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame voting to begin. Even though Bonds cheated, he’s still a seven-time MVP and the best slugger in baseball history.
The MLB has always been reluctant to change what has already happened. The NCAA has stripped players of Heisman trophies, the NFL has allowed re-votes for awards and the NBA has vetoed trades it has deemed to be unfair, but the MLB is so firm that the league was unwilling to overturn Jim Joyce’s blown call and give Armando Galarraga his perfect game.
The MLB’s reluctance to alter the past simply rewards cheaters, and their teams often reap the benefits as well.
As a Giants fan, I know all about Melky Cabrera’s season last year. In the Giants’ first 117 games Cabrera had a league-leading .346 batting average and also won the All-Star Game MVP. The Giants went 64-53 and Cabrera’s All-Star Game heroics helped clinch home-field advantage for the National League in the World Series.
However on Aug. 15, 2012, Cabrera was busted for using a banned performance-enhancing drug (PED) and was suspended for 50 games. Cabrera never played for the Giants again but the team continued their hot streak, winning the NL West and eventually the World Series.
Since we don’t live in the Matrix, there’s no way to peek into an alternate reality in which Cabrera didn’t take PEDs and see how much of an effect he ultimately had on the Giants’ World Series run. The same is true with Bonds.
Bonds might have still had a Hall of Fame career even if he wasn’t affiliated with BALCO, but we will never know. Bonds allegedly began receiving PEDs from Anderson in 1998, but Bonds was already a member of the 40-40 club, had won three MVPs and had been a seven-time All-Star.
Obviously, this all brings me toward the big news story of this week: Ryan Braun was suspended for the rest of the 2013 season due to his links with Biogenesis. Initially, Braun tested positive for PEDs following his 2011 MVP season, but he won an appeal of that decision because the evidence was mishandled.
Of course Braun, who was already one of the most hated players in baseball among his peers, will again come under heavy scrutiny and his reputation will be ruined. But for now, Braun gets to take a two-month vacation from one of the worst teams in baseball, keep his 2011 MVP and return to his multimillion dollar contract next April. Look, it’s difficult for me to call anyone associated with the Milwaukee Brewers a winner, but Ryan Braun may be the sole exception.
And he obviously isn’t the only one. Since players are allowed to return to their contracts after serving their suspensions, the MLB’s penalties are less effective than putting a kid in timeout. The league can chide PED users as much as it wants, but the MLB’s actions aren’t quite reflective of that mantra.
When it comes to PEDs, the MLB really has two options: allow players to take PEDs, or enforce stricter punishments against PED users. I’m a strong supporter of terminating the contracts of first-time offenders. Second-time offenders should receive the speculated punishment for Alex Rodriguez: a lifetime ban.
However, I am an even stronger supporter of simply allowing players to take PEDs. At the end of the day, we watch sports for entertainment. And it’s much more entertaining to watch a player chase after a record than simply labeling the task as impossible.
But I may be a bit biased when it comes to PED usage. I am a Giants fan, after all.
Nathan Desai may or may not have used the performance-enhancing qualities of caffeine on his quest to become a Daily writer. Ask him about his experiences skirting caffeine tests at thegreatnate97 ‘at’ gmail.com.