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CBSSports.com Senior Baseball Columnist

Letting Braun keep MVP doesn't condone alleged cheating

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We can't change history.

And we shouldn't change the National League MVP vote, no matter how worked up Gregg Doyel has gotten over it.

What, Gregg, should we replay the 2011 season too? Or should we just take away all those Brewers wins that Ryan Braun contributed to, and restart the playoffs with the Cardinals as the NL Central champion and the Braves in the playoffs as the wild card?

Or maybe we just go back to the beginning of the playoffs, since Braun's failed drug test (which he is still contesting, by the way) came sometime during October, and not during the regular season?

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Braun went 9-for-18 in the division series against the Diamondbacks. He scored a run in the decisive Game 5, which the Brewers won 3-2 in 10 innings.

So maybe we just guess that with Braun out of the lineup -- or with Braun in the lineup but not cheating (if he indeed cheated) -- the Diamondbacks would have won. And then we go ahead and replay the NLCS, with the Cardinals playing Arizona.

But wait, that's wrong, because if Braun was cheating during the playoffs, then for sure he had to be cheating during the regular season too, so we've got to replay that.

And besides, if he wasn't cheating during the regular season, then it doesn't affect the MVP vote, anyway, since the award is based only on the regular season. The vote was taken before the playoffs began, at a point when Braun still hadn't failed any test (contested or uncontested).

Yes, this is getting ridiculous.

Almost as ridiculous as the idea of rerunning the MVP race.

I had an NL MVP vote this year, and it was one of the tougher votes I've ever cast. The race between Braun and Matt Kemp was so close that I took every day available -- right up until the day after the regular season ended -- before settling on Braun.

Kemp's many supporters ripped me and my fellow Braun voters then, and again when the voting was announced last month. Now the cry is even louder, that Kemp not only was robbed, but that he was robbed to give the award to a cheater.

I'm sure there are those out there saying that the Baseball Writers Association of America is again looking the other way, again celebrating a steroid cheat and enabling all steroid cheats the way we supposedly did in the past.

Wrong.

Leaving the MVP vote as is doesn't condone what Braun did (if, in fact, he did it), let alone celebrate it. All it does is acknowledge that as the game was played in 2011, he was the Most Valuable Player in the National League.

If Braun doesn't succeed in overturning his pending 50-game suspension (and he's facing a seriously uphill battle), every story the rest of his career and beyond will mention the suspension in conjunction with the award.

If he can't prove his innocence (and the burden is on him), he'll serve his punishment, as he should. His MVP award would always be tainted.

And that's as far as this should go.

The MVP is not the same as the Hall of Fame, which is why I can feel comfortable having voted for Braun in a year where I will again eliminate all probable steroid users from my Hall ballot.

The Hall celebrates baseball's best, and is the sport's highest honor. The MVP acknowledges what happened on the field in any one season.

A vote for the Hall is for all time, and leaving a questionable player out for now leaves open the possibility of voting him in should more information become available later. An MVP vote is for a single season.

The connection is that steroids have entered both debates, and left us in an uncomfortable position.

And yes, it is uncomfortable to have our MVP outed as a possible cheater, not even a month after we announce him as the winner. Just as it's got to be uncomfortable for the Brewers to see Braun's accomplishments and character thrown into doubt, so soon after they extended his contract through 2020 and promoted him as the face of their franchise.

Yes, the natural first reaction is that if he cheated to win, he shouldn't win at all. The natural first reaction is that there's got to be something we can do about it.

There isn't, and there shouldn't be.

Steroid cheats have won the MVP before, and the Cy Young Award too. Whether Braun is exonerated, I feel safe in saying that someone will cheat to win one again.

Were we to strip Braun of the award now, we wouldn't be sending a message, or doing what's right. We would simply be trying to rewrite history, trying to change something that already happened.

Doyel, I'm sure, feels like he can do that.

I don't.

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