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Last Saturday night, the news broke that National League MVP Ryan Braun failed a performance-enhancing drug test in October. This dramatic truth revealed is devastating for MLB, which seemed to be beginning truly moving past the “Steroids Era” that began in the early 90’s.
Braun is an established superstar of the game, arguably the very best hitter around, but he now faces a 50-game suspension at the start of next season. Braun is an critical part of the Milwaukee Brewers team, which will already likely lose slugger Prince Fielder this offseason in free agency, and the loss of Braun for a third of the year will be a tough blow even after the acquisition of third baseman Aramis Ramirez. But more damaging in this story is the disappointment of one of the most gifted young players in the game.
Braun joins a long list of players throughout the history of baseball to have failed a drug test and been put through the public humiliation that follows. However, the list of MVPs is much shorter, putting him in exclusive company. Alex Rodriguez, Jose Canseco, and Ken Caminiti all admitted to performance-enhancing drug usage after winning an MVP award. Considering the MVP voting recently finished, there has been a slight uproar that Braun’s MVP should be taken away from him if his appeal against the allegations are denied. While it may sound like the right thing to do, there is no basis to work with that would allow for MLB to simply make that decision. Braun won the award and he has a right to keep it despite this surprising development.
Never in the history of baseball has the issue of PED use resulted in the loss of an award. Despite his possible actions and the proximity of their revelation to the announcement of his MVP award, there has never been a previous situation in which a player was forced to return his MVP. If Braun did so, it would lead to questions in the future with regards to how MVP winners later revealed to have cheated would handle their awards. It would be brutally difficult to come up with a system other than simply allowing players to keep their awards.
Hand in hand with the first problem is the handling of identifying the MVP winner after a returned award. If Braun did return the MVP there can’t simply be another vote for a new winner, nor could the runner up simply be declared a winner, obviously votes that Braun received would have been distributed beyond the runner up in the final vote count, and obviously his removal from the running would greatly impact the positioning of first place, second place, and third place votes which weigh the winner and the results.
The most significant reason why Braun can’t be stripped of his MVP is because the entire story regarding his positive test has been overblown. He has received so much negative attention towards his entire career after the release of this news that ignorance is clouding the truth of what happened. Braun failed a test in late October, and upon hearing of the test himself Braun immediately demanded a second test. He passed this one, enough so that his representatives are reported to believe that it can explain the first test that he failed.
Regardless, the failed test should result in a 50-game suspension next season, but the reality is that there is a lot more to be uncovered with this developing story and Braun should be viewed as the MVP he deservingly became last year.