Column: RICK SOLEM
Baseball has to be fixed.
Not the slow play. Not the ridiculous salaries. Not even the drug testing.
What needs to be fixed – along with those – are the consequences.
Ryan Braun is done for the season, suspended 65 games for overwhelming evidence of the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).
It’s about time, because, despite his swearing on his life he wasn’t using, it was obvious he was guilty when he tested positive in 2011 and got away on some technicality dealing with a FedEx courier … his urine in a refrigerator overnight … whatever. You know the story.
So he’s done. Does he care? Probably not. The Brewers are awful – I told you a few weeks ago Milwaukee should have traded him - and he can go live it up at his home in California.
He loses about $3 million. Wow, a lot of money. A lot, unless you just signed a $145 million contract through 2020 a few years ago and are guaranteed that money. Subtract $3 million for those 65 games and Braun is due about $127 million remaining on that contract.
Fans will forgive him. He’ll come back next year to some boos and slowly lose pace on his ridiculous statistics as his career continues. And nobody will ever know if it’s because of drugs or because he’ll turn 30 in November, a nice age to make the excuse that you’re just getting older and can’t keep a 30-home-run, 30-steals pace.
He’s a career .312 hitter in seven seasons. He hit .298 this year, .319 last year and .332 before that. Seems to be a downward trend … maybe one that comes when you’re off whatever he was on.
But the consequences for Braun are minimal. He gets a long, $3 million vacation and comes back next year, maybe a forgotten man with Alex Rodriguez and whoever else decides to get caught … not to mention other athletes going on trial for murder.
What baseball needs to do is hit these players in the wallet and see if they actually like playing baseball for “the love of the game” like they all say they do. Nobody has ever signed a free-agent deal and said it’s for the money.
This is what sports need to do with these cheaters. I’ll use Braun as an example.
1. He’s immediately stripped of his contract.
2. The team is still on the hook for the money owed, but that money now goes to charity – no, Braun does not get to write off $130 million for a charitable donation. Maybe the season ticket holders could divide that up.
3. Braun, now without a contract, must remain with the organization – if the team so chooses - for the duration of the contract signed, but the player is paid the league minimum. So, Milwaukee gets Braun through 2020.
4. He cannot be traded.
5. When he becomes a free agent, the team he played for can continue to re-sign him for one-year deals for as long as they want. If and when that team decides to get rid of him, he must clear waivers as if being cut – giving the teams last in the standings first crack at signing him – before he can play wherever he wants.
But, he must still play for the league minimum and only for one-year deals. Every year, he must clear waivers, so the player can never just go and sign with a team that looks like it’s a step away from a championship.
In other words, you make it completely miserable for the player, as it should be.
No suspension. Braun loses $130 million dollars. Continues to play, because, he’ll have some bills to pay and he, of course, really loves the game. Or he quits and does … what? Sells F-150s and Wranglers?
Would a player risk all his money and security?
Of course there are problems with the theory in that the players’ union wouldn’t allow it. It may also force owners to shorten up contracts, which seems the only real deterrent for players that are clean not going for it. But it certainly would keep a guy from cheating if he’s putting his millions, not games, on the line.
The only thing suspensions do are hurt the fans. They don’t get to see the “stars,” cheaters or not.
These players don’t care about being suspended. Did anyone ever cry when they were suspended from school? No, it was a mini-vacation of cartoons and potato chips.