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Money (still) talks: Reward outweighs risk with PEDs

By Michael Grey

About a month and a half ago I wrote about the Biogenesis scandal in MLB and noted that the league needed to really decide whether or not it wanted to deal with performance-enhancing drugs.

In the wake of Brewers slugger Ryan Braun’s suspension, which could just as easily be labeled a surrender, can there be any doubt that the entire system is broken? The headlines will read that this is the most expensive suspension in MLB history, but is the $3.25 million that Braun stands to lose really as big a deal as it sounds when the Brewers will still owe on the balance of the $145 million deal they’re signed to through 2020?

Ryan Braun will still be a wealthy man even though he has been suspended without pay for the remainder of the season. (AP)

Obviously, the punishment for cheating still doesn’t get close to the financial benefits of breaking the rules long enough to get the big pay day. That is where the problem truly lies.

You can threaten players with suspensions and you can wag a finger about a young man’s reputation, but at the end of the day money talks and the MLB system rewards big numbers with big dollars. It doesn’t ask where those numbers come from. If the league finds out that you cheated after the fact you get a bit of unplanned time off and it will cost you some game checks, but with the dollars that a guy like Braun is hauling down it’s a fair bet that he won’t be clipping coupons to make ends meet in the meantime.

Worst of all, Braun isn’t even the wealthiest of the Biogenesis All Stars.

What about Alex Rodriguez? The man has been the highest paid player in MLB for years and is also on the honor roll with suspension rumors gaining steam by the minute. What will the Yankees do with the un-suspended parts of his $275 million contract that they signed him to after the 2007 season? In all likelihood they will have to eat it or whatever part of it isn’t forfeited during his time off (and in a year where he’s had nothing but time off).

This is a player that has already been caught cheating in his career and is currently making 89 cents per second to not play baseball. The way that A-Rod’s contract is written, there is a chance that he could actually guarantee the balance by retiring before being suspended. Who thinks that this is working?

It’s not just on MLB to get to this fixed; it also lies with the players association. Clean players say that they want this mess cleaned up and that they all suffer when good players lie. They’re right, and while it may be a minority of players that are on some kind of PED, it’s up to all of them to clean it up. Petition the union, put real penalties in the policy governing PEDs or face the fact that there is more money in cheating than in being a clean, middle-of-the-road player and that you’ll never change a culture when the money is that good.

Until then, fans and pundits alike are justified in arching an eyebrow at any player that puts up gaudy numbers at any point in his career. The days of a player getting the benefit of the doubt are over and MLB players can take a hard look in the mirror if they’d like to know whom to blame. No one is above suspicion.

MLB is the absolute best league in sports when it comes to saber rattling, but this latest black eye isn’t going away any time soon. If the league truly wants to show that it means business, it needs to look at changing the way business is done.