Thursday, January 19, 2012

4 comments Ryan Braun Should Not Be Stripped of His MVP Award

I'm all about some crime and punishment. Not the book. I found the book tedious and boring, though not as tedious and boring as the other selections my 11th grade teacher had chosen for the rest of the grade year. "Pride and Prejudice" is easily one of the worst, most tedious, unreadable novels I have ever (not) read. Yeah, I'm a loser. I read every single book I was assigned to read through my entire academic career, except "Pride and Prejudice." It was terrible. So...enough about me. Let's talk steroids and the stripping of postseason awards in regard to crime and punishment. I have fallen on the side of "don't take the postseason award away from a player testing positive for PEDs previously," and I will probably still be on that side of this issue. Doug Glanville thinks MLB should strip Ryan Braun of his MVP award. I tend to disagree.

I want to say, yet again, I love Doug Glanville's picture for Brilliant. Hand to his chin as if he were in mid-thought? Fantastic. I am thinking of taking a picture of myself and posting it beside my posts in the same pose. So nothing I say about Glanville or his position will change the way I feel about his picture for

After Ryan Braun's appeal of his positive test, if it is concluded that he broke the MLB's drug policy during the 2011 regular season, why can't we take back the MVP award?

Because then every winner of a postseason award would have to have their award taken back. At what point does this stop? Should we take away Jeff Bagwell's 1994 MVP award because he is suspected of using steroids? Some people won't vote for Bagwell for the Hall of Fame because this suspicion of steroid use. Should we take away Bagwell's 1994 MVP based simply on this suspicion? How is it consistent for some people wanting to take away Ryan Braun's MVP, but allow Bagwell to keep his MVP, when some people won't vote for Bagwell to be in the Hall of Fame due to suspected PED use? Isn't a hard line in how PED users or suspected PED users treated the entire point of a stripping Braun's trophy?

How about Jose Canseco's MVP award? Why not take it away? He's probably the most well-known and most admitted PED user. That's the problem with taking away awards, once you start doing this, you have to continue doing it. Life isn't fair, but it isn't right for Canseco to keep his MVP while Braun can't keep his when they are both proven steroid users.

His voters decided on an MVP with the information they had in front of them. That is all anyone can ask, but since they may be in the unprecedented position of being able to attribute Braun's season to a test that happened in the same season,

This isn't unprecedented at all. Alex Rodriguez admits to using steroids during a season where he won the AL MVP award. So the voters could easily take away his 2003 AL MVP award because they can attribute his performance to steroid use if they want. There is not only is a failed drug test, but there is an admittance by A-Rod of his steroid use. Sure, it has been eight years since A-Rod won the MVP, but is there supposed to be a statute of limitations on this? So taking away Braun's MVP because the test was failed during the season he won the award isn't unprecedented. A-Rod won the AL MVP and later admitted to taking PEDs that year. Take away Braun's MVP, then you need to take away A-Rod's MVP as well.

What would a player have to do to have an award stripped from him? Agree or disagree, it has happened in the Olympics, and it has happened in the Miss America pageant.

So we are using the Miss America pageant as precedent in this situation?

College football goes into time machines and changes its history (see Reggie Bush). This certainly should be able to happen in baseball, especially with the past 20 years of PED use still looming large over everything that happens today.

The problem, at least as how I see it, is this isn't a case of one MVP award needing to be taken away. Look at the history of MVP winners in both leagues. By my rough count there would be a good reason to strip 13 MVP awards since 1990. That's not including winners of the MVP who later won an MVP after the time we believe he was juicing or suspected of juicing. Once we start stripping, there is no going back, and there is going to be more than one player who gets stripped of the MVP award.

Sure, it would be tough to take away Cy Young awards from Roger Clemens or MVP awards from Barry Bonds.

Why is it easy to take away an award from Braun, but not easy to take an award away from Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds? Glanville has already used the 2005 Heisman as precedent it can be done. Going back to 2000-2004 isn't that great of a leap from going back to 2005 to strip the Heisman away from Reggie Bush.

They never tested positive for PEDs, playing most of their careers when there was no mandatory testing.

There's so much circumstantial evidence against these two players it wouldn't be a stretch to say they both may as well have tested positive for PEDs. We want clean awards don't we? Isn't that the point? To make sure postseason awards are clean? Bonds has multiple MVP awards that are tainted in the minds of many, regardless of whether he tested positive or not.

But in Braun's case, if he's guilty, this wouldn't be hard at all. Everything would be right in front of us, in plain view.

Then we should take away A-Rod's 2003 MVP award.

Slippery slopes only stop being slippery when you take a stand, when you take off your skis and put on some mountain-climbing boots.

So there is no slippery slope with taking away Ryan Braun's 2011 MVP award and it is fine to allow Jose Canseco to keep his MVP even though he has admitted he used steroids and it is fairly certain he won that MVP award with the help of PEDs? How about Jason Giambi's 2000 AL MVP? We know he used PEDs and only the most naive person would believe he wasn't using them when he won the MVP award.

I realize I sound like I am attempting to take the MVP award away from anyone suspected of PED use, but that's not my intention at all. Quite the opposite. My intention is to show the narrow definition that would allow an MVP award to be stripped is too narrow and would betray the intent of protecting the integrity of the MVP award. To say an award can be stripped if a player fails a drug test in the year he won an award, and this created an advantage for this player, only goes to show how ineffective MLB drug testing used to be. It doesn't protect the integrity of the MVP, because we know PED users won the award and still have their name on the award. Such a strict definition essentially rewards known PED users who won the MVP, but didn't test positive for PEDs, because there was no strict testing for PEDs.

So let's go against the grain with a precedent-breaking, unapologetic stand.

Fine, but the stand has to punish known steroid users who have won an MVP award. Are we really naive enough to believe in 2000 when Jason Giambi won the AL MVP he wasn't using PEDs? Should we believe when he admits to using PEDs, it doesn't include the year he won the AL MVP? How naive can we be? Why is a failed drug test required when there is an admission of guilt, even if it isn't necessarily an admission for that specific year?

I don't believe any player should have the award stripped, but I also don't believe taking a hard stand does anything but to protect the integrity of the award. Take away Braun's award because it is "tainted," but it isn't any less tainted than the video game numbers that won Sammy Sosa his 1998 NL MVP award.

It is not like we would be asking to void contracts and World Series titles (ideas welcome, however).

Voiding World Series title is out of the question. I would not be a fan of this idea. No team would deserve the World Series title since I would bet every team in the late 1990's had at least one player using PEDs.

I love baseball too and I hate that the records are tarnished. I hate thinking about the racism that Hank Aaron endured to be a home run champ, only to watch it get asterisked away.

But there's nothing we can do about that, right? We don't have a failed drug test! Barry Bonds you have vexed us once again!

Also, remember Greenies? I'm guessing a good portion of 1970's postseason award winners have some experience using Greenies. Baseball has experienced players who bend the rules or cheat, even just a little, for years. It would be nice if we could pretend baseball can get clean. It's just not realistic.

Today's players are no more or less morally sound than those of yesterday -- that is the stuff of wishful nostalgia -- but we can take another dramatic step in a no-tolerance drug culture, today.

PED users are still cheating. Don't get me wrong. I don't like the idea of PED users winning awards. The no-tolerance drug culture today is a reaction to the names on the MVP trophy failing drug tests in the past. The new no-tolerance drug culture has a no-tolerance policy because nearly every MVP winner in both leagues were later found to have ties to PEDs. I'm all about no-tolerance, but why would we tolerate Sammy Sosa's name on the NL MVP trophy, simply because he never failed a drug test in the same year he won the MVP award? I don't think any awards should be stripped from a player, not unless other PED users have their award stripped as well.

But it would be a big step in lining up with what a USADA task force says is "rewarding what we value." At least what we say we value: clean play.

But it wouldn't be rewarding clean play because there would still be proven PED users with their name on the trophy.

Braun should get his day to explain it, but should his explanation be insufficient, I think it is fair to reconvene the MVP voters to take a second vote.

It's over. I am not even sure there should be a second vote. When evaluating Ryan Braun and his career we can take the information he won the 2011 NL MVP with a failed drug test into account and evaluate his career from there.

maybe figure out where we all stand on the issue of PEDs in sports, because maybe we find out that sticking to our decisions, even if they were based on deception, is more important to us than moving forward with a new standard.

That's fine and it makes sense. This is not how an NL MVP vote would work though. Instead of an MVP vote, it would turn into a referendum on PEDs and how we feel about players who are accused of using PEDs. Yes, Braun is a cheater and he deserves to be lashed with a cane 100 times for tainting the MVP award. He deceived us all and won an MVP award that was tainted by his deception. The problem as I see it is that he isn't the first person to win the MVP award through deception.

One way or another we are going to have an opportunity to tighten the screws even more on what we decide is important to us about the game of baseball.

Unfortunately, this generation of baseball fans have grown up with PED users being a part of the game. A clean game is important, but not necessarily seen as a given. If there is a line in the sand to be drawn, it should have been done a few decades ago by MLB...but it wasn't. Many people involved in baseball are now talking about, "Let's take away the MVP trophy from PED users from here on out." This doesn't address the large number of names on MVP trophies in both leagues that benefited from a lax drug policy. I'm not saying we let PED users populate the sport, but I have a hard time stripping Braun of his MVP award or re-voting the award because information was found later that put the award in a negative light. There has been information found about previous MVP winners that puts the trophy in a negative light anyway.

Is the statute of limitations for a re-vote supposed to be one year and after one year we just say "screw it, you fooled us?" Let's say Braun didn't test positive in 2011. If he gets caught testing positive in 2013, Braun just ends up getting away with it because we don't have a positive test from 2011? Are we really to believe even though Braun didn't test positive in 2011 he wasn't using PEDs? I think that's naive. He's still a PED user whose name is on the MVP trophy. When some people see his name they will think "PED user." The exception in this situation is Braun's name can stay on the trophy because "we don't have proof he used PEDs in 2011," which is stupid to me. If Braun's name is associated with PEDs in any fashion, doesn't it make sense for any MVP award won tainted, even without a positive PED test? So why stop at Braun? Re-vote Giambi's 2000 AL MVP award. Re-vote Sosa's 1998 NL MVP award. After all he used a corked bat AND used PEDs. If the issue is the negative reflection of the name on the MVP trophy, the negative reflection is there regardless of when the positive PED test resulted.

but we can make a statement right now, and it doesn't matter whether Braun is cleared or not.

If the MVP is re-voted, let's make sure Braun is either cleared or not. That matters a lot. Otherwise there is a re-vote on the MVP based simply on a false positive drug test.

Maybe legally the ship has sailed for action now for Braun's MVP award in 2011, but that doesn't mean we can't get started to prevent the next time something like this happens.

Yeah, drug testing with the results leaked to the public before the MVP vote.

The game now has one of the toughest drug policies out there. We might as well try to get ahead of the curve and create some similarly tough rules for the spoils.

Fine, set up rules, take away Braun's MVP trophy. MVP winners with ties to PED use will still have their name on the trophy. I'm fine with this, but not fine with only Braun having his name removed from the trophy. If rules are set up to prevent this from happening, these names of past MVP winners with ties to PEDs would have to be removed as well.


rich said...

The issue I have is that back in the hey day of PED use, it was legal by baseball standards. Illegal to use by law, but there was nothing about outlawing them in baseball.

It's like Doc Gooden and his Cy Young. He did a lot of illegal drugs (cocaine), but that just makes him a flawed person, not a baseball "criminal."

Braun, if the allegations/test results hold, broke an actual baseball rule. A few years ago, it might have given players an edge, but in terms of baseball, it was okay. Braun broke the rule while baseball was actively punishing people for it.

Of course you can say that since it was illegal to use steroids, then it was an advantage years ago, but on the flip side, baseball basically encouraged its players to juice.

Essentially, the fact that Braun did something that gave him an advantage, while baseball is actively trying to stop the use of PEDs is a different animal than say Ken Caminiti's MVP.

Then again, I honestly can't tell you who won the MVP awards from two or three years ago, so other than contract bonuses, I don't really know why anyone would be so up in arms about it.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, I get what you are saying. Braun did break a rule, I just don't know if he should be stripped of the MVP. First off, I don't really care too much about postseason awards, that probably factors into my perceived non-chalance about him keeping the MVP.

So I do see your point and since he broke an actual rule about using PEDs. I would feel better if there was sort of language legislating this issue that says, "If a player gets caught using PEDs then he is stripped of X, Y, and Z honor."

Without that language, it seems the only real punishment would be a suspension. I guess what I am saying is without a rule on the books to govern this issue, I don't know if stripping away the MVP is justified. Of course, like you, I can't remember who won 3 years ago? (Pujols maybe?) These awards mean something and it seems he did have an advantage. I don't care enough probably to strip the award from Braun.

JimA said...

If there are no consequences, why bother having a rule against PEDs? Let the whole team load up and win one season, then take your 50 game vacations the next year. If you win it all, it was worth it, right?

Bengoodfella said...

JimA, that is true. The consequences are a 50 game suspension if players on the team got caught. A team could theoretically load up on PEDs and win the World Series. I don't think MLB would take the title away from that team though. A team could take PEDs win a title and then take their vacation the next year. So you are right. That's sort of separate from the MVP discussion, since the World Series is a team achievement. I guess that's part of my point is that they voting for MVP is over and if he gets stripped of the MVP then do we give it to Matt Kemp? Do we not have an MVP?

Another issue is why don't we strip Barry Bonds of his MVPs? Sure, it wasn't against the rules of MLB at the time, but he essentially loaded up on PEDs later in his career and then received MVP awards for doing so. My issue with stripping the MVP is how far back do we go? Do we go back to when drug testing was in effect in MLB? There is no specific rule stating the MVP will be stripped of a player testing positive, so MLB has set up that an MVP winner who has tested positive can keep the award. So we are going to go rogue and strip PED users, I think we should go further back.

Allowing previous MVP winners to keep the MVP when they have been found to use PEDs rewards the players who used PEDs when it wasn't illegal. It allows them to keep an award for doing the same thing Braun did. Since there is no rule saying Braun should lose the MVP, but we do it b/c he tested positive, why not do the same thing to Bonds/Sosa etc.? I am essentially arguing an "all or none" principle. Stripping Braun of the MVP is a punitive action taken b/c of the positive test, separate from the 50 game suspension and outside of MLB rules on how to govern this situation. So in theory, you could strip previous winners as well.

I get what you are saying, but I think if we start stripping MVPs as a punitive action for testing positive, we have to go back and strip those who tested positive before the new MLB drug policy.