I’m going to get this out of the way immediately. I think Ryan Braun is still guilty. I also think that he was lucky, and he and his representatives brilliantly found a way to argue that the chain of custody was broken when it came to the handling of his sample.
But most of all, I don’t even care. That’s right, I think Braun is guilty, but I also don’t even care. What I care about is the reactions to Braun’s appeal being upheld. There are many people out there that feel that Braun getting off this easily is a joke. There are also people that are upset that Manny Ramirez, twice found to have taken a banned substance, has a job while Johnny Damon is still looking for one (never mind that the two have completely different contract demands). There’s Jeff Bagwell, who has never been caught using steroids, but he’s suspected of using them and therefore cannot be a Hall of Famer. There’s Mark McGwire, who did admit to using steroids, but we’re still pissed at him.
But have you heard of Josh Lueke? Unless you’re a hardcore fan that’s out to know every single player in the major leagues, you probably don’t. Well, our buddy Lueke allegedly raped and sodomized a woman back in 2008 while he was in the Texas Rangers minor league system. Lueke eventually pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of false imprisonment with violence and was sentenced to 40 days in jail. The Rangers did suspend Lueke but eventually reinstated him, and he was then traded to the Seattle Mariners. Upon learning of his past, the Mariners attempted to return him back to the Rangers, but the two teams could not agree on an alternate player so Lueke stuck in Seattle. He was then traded this offseason to Tampa Bay for catcher John Jaso and will compete for a spot in the Rays’ bullpen this season.
This story is what I care about. Now, I’ll admit that Lueke is clearly a lesser-known player than Braun, and we’re pushing about 2 1/2 years since Lueke was first charged, but how is this fair? Both will live the rest of their careers with a cloud over their heads, but I’m willing to bet that Braun’s will be a bigger deal. I don’t know if it’s because TV shows have desensitized us to rape and assault, but this is wrong that Lueke broke a law and appears to have moved on, whereas it’s likely that Braun, should he ever be a possibility for the Hall of Fame, will have to fight this ruling for the rest of his life.
Let’s bring this a little closer to home. The Minnesota Vikings had two players this past season that had some significant issues. With the brief NFL lockout, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie failed to stay in shape and arrived to training camp approaching 400 lbs. During the season, cornerback Chris Cook was charged with felony domestic assault after attempting to strangle his girlfriend. McKinnie ended up getting cut from the team, while Cook was merely suspended for the season with pay. By the way, McKinnie ended up signing with the Baltimore Ravens, got in shape, and played in all 16 games for the Ravens last season, making it seem like the Vikings overreacted to his large waistline.
Show up overweight, you’ve failed your coach and your teammates and you’re sent packing. Attack another person, and you keep your job.
What I want is for sports to stop acting like using PEDs is the biggest crime you can possibly commit. When you do that, you’re really only harming yourself, and there’s not even substantial evidence that all steroids make you a better player. Yet if you have a DUI or are charged with a violent crime, you’re risking someone else’s life. That should be treated as being a much bigger deal, but it isn’t. Typically the sport lets the state judicial system handle the punishment, but they shouldn’t be afraid to step in themselves more often, even if the player’s union files a grievance. If a Twins player was caught driving drunk, I’d want him to be suspended to send a message to everyone else on the team, “This is not okay.” But that’s never going to happen, because that will never be as big of a travesty as doping, and that’s a damn shame.
Break MLB’s laws, and you’ve cheated the game. Break the nation’s laws, and once you’ve served your time, all is well again. Damn, that makes a ton of sense.