Jason Bay watched it on television, just like everyone else. Ryan Braun read that defiant statement out in Phoenix last year and insisted he was innocent.
Then on Monday, the Milwaukee Brewers slugger accepted a 65-game suspension for unspecified “violations” of baseball’s drug program and labor contract.
“I think for me what makes me mad,” said Bay, a Seattle Mariners outfielder, “they played his apology from spring training that year when he did the whole thing and it was very heartfelt _ and basically it just kills all the credibility of anybody.”
Reaction poured in from around the majors after Major League Baseball banned Braun without pay for the rest of the season and the postseason, the beginning of sanctions involving players reportedly tied to a Florida clinic accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs.
Braun, the 2011 NL MVP, dodged a 50-game penalty last year when an arbitrator overturned his positive test for elevated testosterone because the urine sample had been improperly handled.
“I think everybody’s frustrated, especially the players. I think we all feel a little bit cheated,” Mariners pitcher Joe Saunders said.
Los Angeles Dodgers utility man Skip Schumaker thinks Braun should hand over his MVP award to Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who finished second in the 2011 balloting.
“Watching him talk right now makes me sick,” Schumaker said. “I can’t stand it. It needs to be eliminated from the game. I have an autographed Braun jersey in my baseball room that I’ll be taking down. I don’t want my son identifying what I’ve worked so hard to get to and work so hard to have, I don’t want him comparing Braun to me.
“In my opinion, he should be suspended _ lifetime ban. One strike, you’re out. It’s enough. It’s ridiculous,” Schumaker added. “He lied to a lot of people. I was convinced, after that MVP, that he didn’t do it.”
Braun, struggling through an injury-plagued season, will miss Milwaukee’s final 65 games, costing him about $3 million of his $8.5 million salary. But his punishment probably won’t affect the Brewers’ playoff chances much _ they were last in the NL Central at 41-56, already far out of wild-card contention.
“I talked to a lot of the guys and we think the penalties aren’t harsh enough,” Saunders said. “They should step up the penalties even more. That will really set the tell-tale sign that if you cheat and do get caught, you’re going to lose a lot of money.
“I think it should have been a year’s suspension, at least. Just my take on it. I don’t get why guys have to do that stuff.”
Braun issued a statement Monday saying he’s not perfect and realizes now that he has made some mistakes. He apologized “to anyone I may have disappointed” and said he was happy to have the matter behind him “once and for all.”
But that doesn’t mean there’s no fallout for others in the game.
“It’s a sad day,” Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We went through some dark times in baseball when PEDs became very, very prevalent, and obviously they’re still being used _ hopefully to a lesser degree. But there’s no place for them. It’s a black eye when something like this happens.”
Bay thinks Braun could have handled his situation differently.
“If you look at the guys who have done stuff and just come out and admit it, a lot of guys don’t remember who those guys were,” Bay said. “But the guys who run up and down and say, `No, no,’ and then it gets drug through the mud 10 times worse, it makes it tougher on themselves and the rest of us.”
It appears more penalties are coming, too.
Braun was one of a dozen players targeted by MLB, including injured New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, following a report by Miami New Times in January that they had been connected with Biogenesis of America, a now-closed anti-aging clinic.
“The guys that are cheating or whatever are taking something away from the other players. They’re lying to the fans, they’re lying to their teammates, they’re lying to their GMs, their owners, and they’re going to get caught,” Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson said.
San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy thinks MLB is “doing a great job” of attempting to clean up the sport.
“I think it’s important for the integrity of the game. With the kids who are coming up to play baseball, it’s an important message to them, the fans, and also the players that do it right,” he said.
Still, others can’t understand why PEDs remain an issue.
“For these guys still to be involved with this stuff just baffles me. The education’s there and everybody knows what you can and can’t take,” Miami Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “It baffles me that this continues to be a black cloud over the game. I know Major League Baseball’s done a great job of cleaning up the game and the testing policy and all that. And it’s working. But at the same time, too, it seems like we’ll go through a lull and then, bam, here comes another guy that gets suspended. It’s got to stop.”
AP Sports Writers Tim Booth and Ronald Blum, AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley, and AP freelance writers Mike Kelly and Jack Etkin in Denver contributed to this report.
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