Normally Saturday nights are placid when it comes to off-field news in the sports world, but the regularly scheduled calm was interrupted in a big way when ESPN, among several other outlets, reported that Milwaukee Brewers OF Ryan Braun had tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. The slugger is coming off a season that saw him hit 33 HR’s and drive in 111 RBI en route to an NL MVP Award, as well as leading Milwaukee to their first division title since 1982. The positive test, if upheld, would mean that Braun would be suspended for the first 50 games of the 2012 season.
Obviously, Braun’s reputation will be damaged in a big way if the positive test is upheld (and no appeal of a test result has ever been successful in the time that MLB has had their current steroid policy), but the bigger question being raised by baseball fans and pundits alike is whether or not a positive test should cost Braun his MVP award. There really is no precedent for this type of occurrence in the baseball world, so the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (BBWAA) will have a true dilemma on their hands.
Truthfully, there is only one right answer for the BBWAA to consider, and that is to hold a re-vote on the award. If the test result is upheld, there is no reason that Braun should get to hold on to the trophy without having to re-earn it in the eyes of voters with these latest developments. It would also be inappropriate for the Association to simply give the trophy to the second place finisher, who happened to be Los Angeles Dodgers OF Matt Kemp.
Kemp, who according to various observers should have won the award in the first place, had a better statistical season than Braun, hitting 39 HR, driving in 126 RBI, and batting .324, which were all in the top three in the National League. These numbers all make him a viable candidate, but even still, a re-vote would be the correct way to go.
Even though there is no precedent in baseball for this type of thing, the NFL did have a similar situation occur in 2010, when Houston Texans LB Brian Cushing violated the league’s substance abuse policy. As in Braun’s case, Cushing had won a major award for his play in the previous campaign, winning the AP’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award. In his situation, the AP re-voted, and Cushing was given back the award. His status as a second-team All-Pro was rescinded, however.
A similar fate should await Braun, but would he maintain his MVP Award in a re-vote? The answer to that question is likely no. With the taint of steroids still hanging like a cloud over the game, the BBWAA isn’t going to take a positive test like this sitting down, so they will probably flock in droves over to the candidacy of Kemp. The slugger nearly won the Triple Crown for the Dodgers, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in baseball since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967, so that should be argument enough for him to win a re-vote.
Buster Olney of the Worldwide Leader said it best in his piece on the subject when he talked about the renaissance that has occurred in baseball in recent months. With labor strife averted and a great finish to the regular season, things really have been looking up for MLB, but Braun’s PED bust has the potential to put a huge damper on things. If this test is upheld, the story will be a defining moment for a league that thought it had shed its steroid image once and for all.
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