There’s just no way around it, this is bad. Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn of ESPN are reporting that National League MVP Ryan Braun tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. 

It’s hard to imagine this ending well. Actually, it’s impossible to imagine this ending well for Braun. Not that that bothers me, it shouldn’t end well for him.

He deserves to be suspended for 50 games. But even if he finds a way to avoid that suspension, this news is going to doom him in the court of public opinion. It’s going to hurt him in future MVP voting, and if it gets that far, will hurt him in Hall of Fame voting.

We’ve seen it with guys like Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire. There’s no way we’re not going to see the same thing happen when Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds become eligible for the Hall of Fame. It’s hard to imagine Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez not suffering when their careers end.

And in the case of every one of those guys, we should see it. They don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Neither does Braun. I don’t want to hear the typical excuses. I didn’t like hearing Barry Bonds say that he never “knowingly” took anything. If you’re a tested professional athlete and put something in your body without knowing what it is, that’s about as bad as knowingly cheating. You don’t deserve any sympathy when that happens.

According to the report, Braun has made that claim:

Since being informed of the results, Braun has been disputing his case. The outfielder has told those around him that he did not knowingly take any banned substances and hoped to prove that during the arbitration process, said one of the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case.

We’re going to need a lot more than that. False positives do happen, but they’re not common. Not in a company like Major League Baseball. Proof of that is that no player has ever had an appeal upheld after testing positive.

The worst thing about this is that this is an era that needs to be gone. All of the aforementioned players were from a bygone time.

I know that positive tests are going to happen. But those should not be from players of Braun’s caliber. Those tests should come from players that are struggling to find a spot on a team, or maybe earn a starting position.

That’s clearly not Braun. He’s the league’s MVP and has been one of the best hitters in the game since coming into the league in 2007. Frankly, he’s better than that, or I thought he was. 

When this happens, personal awards need to be stripped. I don’t care if the award then goes to the runner-up, or if it’s just declared vacant. But too many players have this cloud over their heads.

Too many of the game’s best awards are just tainted. Braun’s certainly not the only person that applies to, but this test shows that he’s no better than any of them. 

What Braun’s done before doesn’t matter. Who really cares if there’s proof that this was the only time. By extension, that would mean everything done before this was done clean. But it doesn’t matter. When you make the decision to cheat by using illegal performance enhancers, you ruin your entire career. 

This is a terrible day for baseball. Look at the players listed above. Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez.

Those are all great players of the “steroid era.” Ramirez and Rodriguez are still playing, but their careers had significant overlap into the steroid era.

The advantage of that era being over is that we as fans got to live in a state of bliss, even if it was naive. We now had the knowledge that the top players of this era and future eras are clean.

Today’s revelation shows that none of it’s true. No reasonable excuse is good enough for this one. This hurts Braun and it hurts the sport and its fans.

Yet another MVP award is tainted. It never gets easier to deal with.

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