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If you have been reading my Fantasy Fix column lately, you already know I was surprised Major League Baseball had the balls to suspend recent MVP Ryan Braun during the season over his connection to performance-enhancing drugs.
I guessed that MLB would table this whole Biogenesis issue until the off-season, when it wouldn't be able to tarnish the regular season and the league's hallowed October session. I'm also surprised Braun was suspended for more than 50 games, considering he never has been officially proven to be a drug cheat before.
Of course, a lot of the timing for the 65-game (rest of the season) suspension for Braun had a lot to do with Braun's willingness to submit, rather than continue his campaign of denial and/or ignorance. He issued a lengthy apology to the league, fans and his team this week, so that is worth something, right? Maybe 10 or 20 games? It's also likely that Braun and MLB both took a look at the standings, realizing that Milwaukee will get nowhere near the postseason this year (They are worse than the Cubs, if you can believe it.)
So, all in all, this was the fairest way to go about punishing Braun, and both Braun and MLB should be applauded for working things out.
Wait a minute - why are we talking about fairness? Braun broke the rules. He actually broke them twice, and got off on a technicality the first time - you know, the time he famously said he "had nothing to hide." (He is alleged to have begun his relationship with the Biogenesis Clinic in 2011, the year he won the MVP award.)
He should have been banned for at least 100 games, extending into next season, if not the whole 2014 season. In reality, since he lied about his drug affiliations once already, there is a valid argument to ban him for life (If there are three strikes in the Joint Drug Agreement, lying should be worth at least two.)
Suspending the best player on a bad team, one who was having injury problems this year anyway, doesn't mean as much as it would if he was healthy and his team at the starting line next year with the same record as every other team. It doesn't mean as much as it would to future potential PED users if he were banned for life.
Also, Braun's lengthy apology was standard PR rhetoric. What did he apologize for specifically? What did he admit to doing? Nothing.
Wait, he did admit to not being perfect, so there's that - he is not any better than the rest of us.
The 65-game suspension appears to reflect that Braun complied with MLB's efforts, but that compliance apparently did not extend to saying anything meaningful whatsoever, or anything anyone else would learn from. Apparently, Braun has a better lawyer than the league does.
Will MLB be tough on any of the other players who have been connected to Biogenesis? Players like Bartolo Colon (who is having the season of his life, by the way) and Nelson Cruz are on teams in the thick of the playoff hunt, which means a 50-game suspension, whether it extends into the playoffs or comes soon enough (like this week or next) that it doesn't, could have a major impact on their teams. MLB needs to act on their fates soon, because if they get through the rest of this season and whatever postseason their teams enjoy without being punished, their eventual punishments will turn out looking a lot like Braun's - a punishment of convenience.
Who wins in all this? The cold-blooded fantasy baseball team owner. If you own Braun, you were already suffering through his worst season - just nine HRs, 38 RBIs, four SBs and about a month of playing time lost to injury before the suspension. He has been parked on the fantasy team bench quite a bit this year, and I doubt his absence will really affect anyone's fantasy prospects.
And the good news if you own him in a keeper league: You might as well keep him, since it has been established that he will start the 2014 season with his punishment completely behind him.
The cold-blooded fantasy team owner only cares about the numbers, so if you're not in a keeper league, feel free to draft Braun in the first round next year. It turns out this is a convenient punishment for fantasy baseball as well. We can all go into 2014 with clear minds and a clean slate. Why should you give another thought to the dirty business behind the humble, home-baked, patriotic image of baseball? Braun is getting off easy, and baseball is getting off easy, too. Why shouldn't you?
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.
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