It was a good idea in theory. Major League Baseball gave the players involved in the Biogenesis scandal some pretty impressive suspensions, likely in a bid to show they were serious about how they handled cheating, and to show other players that the use of performance enhancing drugs wouldn’t be worth it when they were caught. However, it’s what is happening after the suspension that is speaking volumes, in terms of what baseball fans will tolerate, and what teams will overlook in order to have a superstar player on board. In baseball, it’s looking like while the punishment fits the crime, once that punishment has been fulfilled, many are willing to forgive and . . . forget.
In the news lately are three of the Biogenesis players: Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, and Alex Rodriguez. Most know by now that Rodriguez dropped his final lawsuit in order to be able to finish his contract out with the New York Yankees without it hanging over his head. And if he’s able to resume playing with at least most of his full potential, it’s easy to assume players, commentators, and the fans will welcome him back. At the very least, he’ll be a player many will love to hate. Ryan Braun was slated to keep playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, thanks to an open admission to wrongdoing and a public plea for forgiveness . . . but his season has been plagued by injuries, including his most recent, a bout with back spasms that forced him out of the game this past weekend. And Nelson Cruz was plowing through his one-year, $8 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles in grand style, with an impressive 26 home runs.
Other players who were dealing with the ghosts of PED’s past may also find their futures are looking brighter. Manny Ramirez, former MLB superstar, World Series Champion (and All Star) whose teams included the Boston Red Sox, the White Sox, the Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians, is still involved in the sport despite a 50 game suspension in 2009 for taking a PED, hCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, a substance often taken with steroids to boost testosterone. He is currently serving as a player and coach for the Triple A Iowa cubs, mentoring aspiring major league players on playing the game! While the San Fransisco Giants player Barry Bonds is perhaps one of the most famous names to be mentioned in relation to performance enhancing drugs, after his conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice in 2007 for lying to a grand jury. Even he is getting a reprieve of sorts, because a group of judges is reconsidering his conviction.
Not everything is looking up for these players who have been branded liars, cheaters, or a disgrace in the name of baseball (depending on who you ask). Often former or current teammates are hardest on players who cheat, as evidenced by the words of Nelson Cruz’s Red Sox teammate John Lackey, who recently went with the age old adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” when asked about his teammate after the game. Also, many baseball fans don’t forget about players bad behavior, as evidenced by the boos that follow the names of certain players. However, there are just as many fans who seem happy to see punished players back on the field.
So, the question remains, are proven PED users actually rewarded? If you consider taking money to play the sport of baseball and having the support of teammates and fans, despite convictions or suspensions, then it would seem as though the answer is yes – the rewards are the same for cheaters as they are for players who have never done performance enhancing drugs.