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SPORTS

DIAMOND MUSINGS
Freelance sports journalist Jay B. Webster delivers some chin music from the world of Major League Baseball


Baseball's Dark Cloud
July 26, 2013


So baseball has a new poster boy for Performance Enhancing Drug cheaters. He's a young, photogenic Southern Californian All-Star named Ryan Braun. The 29-year-old outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers became the latest player to taint the game of baseball when he accepted a 65-game suspension for "violations of the Basic Agreement and its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program."

It's but the latest - and unfortunately not the last - chapter in a saga that has tainted the game of baseball over the past two decades. Like so many before him, it all started with overwhelming evidence and suspicion, followed by zealous denials, culminating in capitulation and apologies.

This time, for me personally, it hit a bit closer to home. The Brewers are my home-state team, the team I root for. I was a Ryan Braun fan who loved to watch him play. I wanted to believe he was telling the truth when he swore on his life that he hadnít taken anything when he failed a drug test at the end of the 2011 season and then got off on a technicality.

Then his name popped up when Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch agreed to spill the beans about his PED distribution ring that supplied illicit substances to Major League Baseball players. Again, I wanted to believe Braun,s denials and excuses. But now I am confronted not only with the slap in the face that he has accepted a season-ending suspension, but with his lame and pitiful apologies.

"I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed - all of the baseball fans especially, those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love."

MAY have disappointed? Put the matter behind you? You mean there are people out there who aren't disappointed and now we're all just supposed to forget about it and pretend it never happened? Please.

What does it matter if some ballplayer chooses to put some chemicals in his body to make himself a better baseball player? Well, it does matter. The whole performance-enhancing situation is a blight on the game of baseball. Using PEDs is an insult to all of the players who play the game the right way. It's an insult to the fans who watch them and root for them, and it's an insult to the game itself. It's cheating, it's dishonest and it's a spit in the eye to everyone who loves the game.

And it's not over. More suspensions are sure to come in the wake of MLB's Biogenesis investigation. It is a good thing that baseball is confronting the problem now, even if they should have been doing it 15 years ago. But when we move from one failed drug test to the next, it makes me wonder if the game will ever really truly be clean. A cloud hangs over the game of baseball now, and it has unfortunately forever changed the way we look at great performances on the field. There is always that nagging question in the back of our minds whenever some new milestone is reached or prodigious feat achieved. Was it pure unadulterated athletic ability, or was it chemically enhanced? It's a question no one had to ask when DiMaggio was hitting in 56 straight games or Pete Rose was chasing the all-time hits record.

But now this cloud is something that we as fans must struggle to deal with and comprehend. I guess the egos, the hubris, the entitlement, the money are all of such epic proportions now that the temptation dangled in front of mere mortals to gain an edge in sipping from the mighty fountain of sporting immortality is sometimes just too great to overcome.

In the end the game will go on. Heck, I'll probably even cheer when Braun gets his first big hit next season. I'll do it because I love the game of baseball and because I love rooting for my team. But I won't forget and I don't know if I'll really forgive. I just simply refuse to let one selfish, lying cheater take something that I love away from me.

Whether that's a good thing or not, I don't know. What if the game really does stink to high heaven now and all I'm doing is just enabling the rot to continue with my undying but misplaced devotion to the game? That's a hard question to answer, and one that I, and millions of other diehard fans, probably aren't really ready to answer yet.

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