Milwaukee's Ryan Braun batted .500 with five extra-base hits against Arizona in the NL playoffs. (AP)
After baseball writers call his name and ask Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun to accept the NL MVP Award at a banquet Saturday night, the only thing he should say is "No, thank you."
Though he hasn't said much since news leaked that he failed a drug test, Braun has insisted upon his innocence, saying he was flagged for testosterone because the test is flawed and it misinterpreted medication he's been taking. Come this Saturday, a spokesman says, Braun will be on hand to collect his trophy and give a short speech.
The only way that speech will have meaning is if Braun says he's dropping his appeal, accepting a 50-game penalty and — most importantly — declining the award. Not because he wants to, or even because it's the right thing. It's simply the only way for him to save his reputation.
Perhaps to ratchet up the drama, Braun could do a Marlon Brando and send Bernie Brewer or a Racing Sausage to the podium with a note politely declining the honor. No matter how, he should not accept the trophy. It is not his to win. Following Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, another leading authority has come and said so.
Joe Saunders allowed three runs and five hits with two walks against Milwaukee in the NLDS. (AP)
In an interview with Burns and Gambo on AZ Sports 620-AM in Phoenix, Saunders wouldn't expressly admit that Braun's alleged cheating bothers him. But it plainly does:
"You know, he has to deal with that. If that's true, he's got to live with that. And if it is true, he's going to tarnish great players. Hopefully it doesn't happen. Hopefully it was a mistake [in testing]. But if it is[n't], shame on him. What are you going to do?"
Well, you could give the MVP to someone else, like the runner-up. Here we go again with that:
"I'm not sure about the rules on that but, definitely, if it comes true and it was proven that he did use it, I don't know why Kemp shouldn't get it. Because I thought Kemp should have got it in the first place. He had stupid numbers all year."
I'm not sure Saunders isn't still bitter about the stupid numbers Braun and the Brewers laid on the D-backs in the NL playoffs. Maybe he's really a champion for all that is pure in sport, or maybe he's still smarting from getting his behind beat.
As I've written before, I don't think much of the anti-PED crusade Major League Baseball has undertaken the past few seasons. I doubt steroids can give a major leaguer anything he doesn't have already. I'm certainly not sure whatever it is, that it's "bad." Braun shouldn't be ashamed of anything, but that's not realistic in the hysteria of post-BALCO baseball.
I'm in a minority, however. Look at what happened to Jeff Bagwell's reputation simply from a vague inference of wrongdoing. He is being kept out of the Hall of Fame as a result. If Braun cops to having taken testosterone in a moment of weakness to gain an advantage (even if it was to overcome chronic back problems, for example), and also declines the MVP, it will make many around MLB happy. And it will make Braun look like a stand-up guy in the eyes of Mattingly, Saunders and anyone else who thinks associating with performance-enhancing drugs makes baseball dirty.
Braun is only 28. He could win himself another MVP someday, one that won't be tainted or asterisked or footnoted or questioned. But the only way to ensure that happens is for him to give this one back.
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