Spring Training is now upon us and with pitchers and catchers reporting for duty it is time to discuss some baseball. I really wanted to take a week to gather my thoughts on the issue that has taken the baseball world by storm. NL MVP Ryan Braun who had tested positive for PED's has players, media types, and fans deciding for themselves whether or not to believe or disbelieve the results from his urine test. When this first surfaced he was instantly chastised and people were upset with yet another superstar player potentially using PED's. The list was seemingly growing longer and longer even with Major League Baseball instituting better testing, harsher penalties, and a willingness to clean up the sport. This test couldn't possibly be anything other than the truth. Fast forward to just a week ago and the unthinkable happened. After Braun did clearly deny having taken any PED's and even going so far as to ask for a DNA test to prove the urine wasn't his, he amazingly won his appeal. MLB was beside itself. No more 50 games suspension. A precedent was set. It is possible to test positive for a foreign substance and still win your appeal. The problem though lies with how he won the appeal. The collector of the sample who has been doing this for years was found to have not followed proper procedure. The test was not tampered with but having not followed proper procedure he was "getting off" with a technicality. Now what does this mean. It means MLB potentially has future problems with their testing and now must reevaluate the complete process. As For Ryan Braun it depends on the court of public opinion. I really feel this is a bad year for this to happen to Braun. Prince Fielder is now gone to Detroit to follow in his dad's footsteps and this leaves Braun without the protection of his massive bat to hit in front of. This was a big reason he was so successful as he saw good pitches the same as "insert player name here" has with Albert Pujols over his career. This will most likely lead to lower numbers for the season and can have fans and the media making the assumption that due to the testing issue he now "really" isn't on PED's and the season numbers are a result. He will be guilty either way. If he really used them he is a cheater and if he didn't really use them and has a bad year it is because he probably used them before. He really is in a horrible situation. I am not here to judge Ryan Braun or the other players in the past who have used or have been thought to have used PED's. I just know that in all sports players want to get an edge over the next player and when you are relatively young and inexperienced that you will do just about anything to be the best. It happens in football, basketball, cycling, and obviously baseball. It just seems different when baseball is concerned because baseball is so numbers driven. I can name stats from my favorite players and have been handed down numbers from my grandfather when we talked baseball as a kid. 61 was a number that meant something sacred. We thought 70 that magical year in 1998 meant something as well. Then Barry Bonds blasted 74 a few years later and the mystique of baseball just was lost. It just isn't the same anymore and it has really tainted the spirit of the game. Again I don't know if Ryan Braun used PED's or if he is just naturally gifted. What I do know is that he will never be the same player in my mind and other people's minds. We will always wonder what is real and what is not. And that is sad. In a sport that is there to help take away for a moment the stress and heartache of our daily lives it is ultimately adding more to that distress.
The magic that is Major League Baseball is revealing itself as just an illusion.
And I really want to believe in magic.