Column: Take away the incentives to end doping

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The woman wearing the Ryan Fraud jersey was only telling the truth when the Milwaukee Brewers threatened to toss her out of the ballpark the other day for exercising her freedom of expression.

Imagine what they would have done if there was enough room to add more words to the back of the jersey. Liar and cheat are two that certainly fit well for the exiled left fielder, who went from beloved superstar to baseball pariah in less time than it takes to mail off a decent urine sample.

Fans weren’t alone in expressing their disgust about Braun, if only because his earlier self-righteous claims that he was clean were so fresh in their ears. For the first time, players turned on one of their own, calling Braun out in a way they never did for players busted for steroids in the past.

It’s taken years, but the clubhouse code of silence has been cracked, if only a little. Players who are clean seem to finally be realizing that both their careers and their fat wallets are threatened by cheaters who post numbers and do things that they have no hope of matching.

Players like Skip Schumaker, the utility player for the Los Angeles Dodgers who has hit only 24 home runs in his nine year big league career. Schumaker believed Braun’s denials, bought into his story about the bumbling messenger who couldn’t get to the FedEx office on time. He even had a signed Braun jersey in his trophy room.

Now he, like many other players, has had enough.

“In my opinion, he should be suspended, lifetime ban. One strike you’re out,” Schumaker said. “It’s enough. It’s ridiculous.”

One strike and you’re out. Kind of has a nice ring to it, even in a sport where three strikes are what really matter.

Unfortunately, it has no chance of happening. While players are beginning to talk tough, the odds of that translating into any movement toward lifetime bans on the part of the players’ union are about as good as the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. Players had to be dragged kicking and screaming into testing to begin with, and they’re not going to agree to increased penalties without a fight.

It’s the owners, though, who share just as much blame for the mess baseball finds itself in. They’ve looked the other way for more than two decades now, content to allow the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the game as long as the big home run hitters were helping them sell tickets and build new stadiums.

And they keep giving millions to guys who have been caught cheating.

The Oakland A’s didn’t seem to mind that Bartolo Colon tested positive last year for testosterone and had to miss the team’s playoff run. Instead of punishing him for that, they gave him a $1 million raise and a new contract to be their ace this year.

Melky Cabrera also came out richer after testing positive for the same thing. The Toronto Blue Jays gave him a two-year contract for $16 million, more than he was making in San Francisco when he was caught.

“He’s still a good hitter, on the stuff or not,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said at the time.

Actually, he’s not. Cabrera has only three home runs and 30 RBIs this year, while his OPS has plummeted from .906 last year with the Giants to .676 this year. No matter, he’s got his money and it’s guaranteed.

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