Senior Baseball Columnist

Let's ease up on MLB negativity based upon Braun, Pujols stories


Look, I got no sleep at the winter meetings in Dallas last week. Then a "colleague" started a question to baseball's newest $254 million man in Anaheim on Saturday by addressing him as "Mr. Pujols," doing everything but genuflecting at a civic rally disguised as a press conference. I swear, the Rally Monkey should have emceed.

So darn right I'm grumpy and agitated.

But ho, ho, ho, 'tis the season, and I sure would like to wind up on that "Nice" list.

Then the Ryan Braun blizzard moved through.

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And people, enough.

There is an intelligent debate to be had here. But so much of what I'm hearing since the Braun bombshell dropped on Saturday isn't it. It is just pure, unadulterated crap.

Those of you going off on ludicrous diatribes along the lines of "So much for the Steroid Era being over," just stop it.

Those ripping baseball because, on the same day, Albert Pujols fell into a Southern California bed of millions and Braun fell from grace, check yourselves. Did you suddenly forget about the soulless NBA and blood-sucking NFL?

And to the folks advancing conspiracy theories that Braun's appeal will be successful because commissioner Bud Selig will continue to take care of his beloved Milwaukee Brewers, go inhale more egg nog.

Promise, last thing I am is a baseball apologist. I do not vote for steroid guys on my Hall of Fame ballot. I tangled with Selig over the reprehensible contraction scheme way back when the Twins and Marlins were on Death Row. I'm not a big fan of interleague play or expanded playoffs.

There comes a time, though, to point out when something is right.

Even as it pertains to performance-enhancing drugs.

Braun's test is causing a good number of people to mock baseball's belief that the Steroid Era is over. Well, guess what? Sorry to poke holes in your predictable kick-baseball-when-it's-down arguments, but guys like Braun and Manny Ramirez getting nailed actually proves the opposite. That the Steroid Era is over. That the old Wild West Days of the open frontier are history.

Here is the important distinction: Declaring the Steroid Era over does not equate with a 100 percent clean game. Anyone who believed it would is more naïve than Mister Rogers. Sorry to pull you off of Santa's lap, bub, but even with testing, there always will be cheats.

Not only is the institution of PED testing in 2004 to baseball's credit -- yes, years too late, but finally -- but, in its new Collective Bargaining Agreement, baseball will become the first major professional sport to test for Human Growth Hormone. Yes, there are loopholes that still need to be closed. But HGH testing is way more than anyone else is doing.

Which brings me to those savaging the sport because a quarter of a billion Arte Moreno dollars pried Pujols out of St. Louis while the reigning NL MVP failed his drug test.

Really? The owners and players agree on a new deal that guarantees 21 consecutive years of play uninterrupted by strikes or lockouts, and now Pujols and Braun are what's wrong with baseball? Show me any business in the United States today that hasn't been corrupted by money and greed. Yes, Pujols belonged in St. Louis the way Cal Ripken belonged in Baltimore and Alan Trammell belonged in Detroit. I get it.

But the NFL spends the spring and summer gyrating through a labor dispute when the league prints money? The NBA cancels part of its season, and baseball has issues? Give me a break.

Plus, on the drug front, anybody who believes the NFL's PED testing is strict no doubt will be leaving cookies for Santa and carrots for his reindeer on kitchen tables one week from Saturday night. Like eating right and extra hours in the weight room can produce guys who are 6-foot-7 and run the 40 in three seconds flat. Mark McGwire's size at the height of his steroid use? That's a quarterback in the NFL.

I have no idea whether Braun is guilty. It does not sound good. It does not look good. But through a spokesman, he is doggedly defending himself. Who knows? Maybe this will be the one test that somehow was tainted.

That happens, baseball will hear it, too. Some folks believe that because it's the Brewers, Selig will fix it behind the scenes. Answer me this: If the Commish was hell-bent on protecting his Brewers, wouldn't he have made this go away long before Braun's Leak Heard 'Round the World was, um, leaked?

Feel free to present your argument for stripping Braun of his MVP award if his appeal is denied. The healthy debate I mentioned? This is one legitimate area to wage it.

But I'll say this, too: After the fact, the NCAA stripped USC of its 2004 football title, and erased the Michigan basketball team's appearances in the 1992 and 1993 title games. And? It's just stupid. Michigan and USC played in those games. I know. I watched them with my own eyes. You cannot erase history.

If Braun is guilty, he will pay in the long run. Short term? Mixed bag for baseball. It is an awful development both for the game and for one of its brightest young stars. But what random, positive tests do is show that the system is working and the sport is at least attempting to police itself. Isn't that the point?

And the Pujols bombshell? On a 1 to 10 scale of LeBron James Nauseating, it registered no more than a 5.

Baseball has been the easy target for years. I get that a certain segment of folks will continue to reflexively bag on baseball. Many of these people are stuck in the past, still listening to Air Supply.

As for the rest of you, it's tired. Get over it.


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