NEW YORK — Protective no more, baseball players are downright disgusted these days with doping.
Now they are demanding even stiffer suspensions for those caught cheating.
“It’s a new generation of athletes that are standing up,” Travis Tygart, chief executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said Tuesday. “The culture’s been flipped on its head.”
When Ryan Braun accepted a season-ending 65-game suspension Monday rather than fight Major League Baseball over evidence he used performance-enhancing drugs, fellow players appeared tired of those who cast shadows on the sport.
“They’re lying to the fans,” Los Angeles Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson said. “They’re lying to their teammates. They’re lying to their GMs, their owners, and they’re going to get caught.”
Skip Schumaker of the Los Angeles Dodgers said Braun, the 2011 NL MVP for the Milwaukee Brewers, let him down.
“Watching him talk right now makes me sick,” Schumaker said. “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.”
Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who finished second to Braun in the 2011 MVP vote, said the Milwaukee slugger should be stripped of the honor.
“We had conversations, and I considered him a friend,” Kemp said. “I don’t think anybody likes to be lied to, and I feel like a lot of people have felt betrayed.”
Braun tested positive for elevated testosterone in October 2011 but successfully overturned a 50-game penalty when an arbitrator ruled the outfielder’s urine sample was handled improperly. Braun loudly proclaimed his innocence then.
“I thought this whole thing has been despicable on his part,” Detroit pitcher Max Scherzer said. “When he did get caught, he never came clean. He tried to question the ability of the collector when he was caught red-handed. So that’s why the whole Braun situation, there is so much player outrage toward him.”
Arizona pitcher Brad Ziegler remembered back to the 2011 NL division series, when the Brewers beat the Diamondbacks 3-2 in a best-of-five playoff as Braun went 9 for 18 with a home run and four RBIs.
“Obviously it affected the series, because that’s right when the positive test occurred. That’s when it was highest in his system, and he torched us that series,” Ziegler said. “We can’t put it all on that. Looking back on it, we walked away from that series knowing we should have won it before we heard he tested positive. At least he didn’t get away with it now.”
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Braun was guilty.
“You don’t accept a deal unless you’re guilty,” he said.
“It’s another black eye for our game. I know this game is very resilient, and there’s been a lot of scandals over the years, but you get tired of it,” Girardi added.
He may soon face his own problem with a star slugger.
More than a dozen players have been targeted by MLB in its probe of the closed anti-aging clinic Biogenesis of America, including three-time AL MVP Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees.
The next step will be for MLB to inform the union of additional players it intends to penalize, which could happen as early as a meeting on Thursday, a person familiar with the investigation said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.
New York expects A-Rod could face a much harsher penalty than the one Braun agreed to, a second person familiar with the case said, also speaking on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.
The Yankees anticipate Rodriguez could be accused of using PEDs over multiple seasons, of recruiting other athletes for the clinic, of attempting to obstruct MLB’s investigation, and of not being truthful with MLB in the past when he discussed his relationship with Dr. Anthony Galea, who pleaded guilty two years ago to a U.S. federal charge of bringing unapproved drugs from Canada into the United States.
Players have the right to have an arbitrator decide whether discipline meets the “just cause” standard in baseball’s drug agreement. Braun’s decision not to fight led others to conclude a grievance would have been futile.
“Obviously the evidence was overwhelming, and it must have been a mountain of it,” Tygart said.
“I think it speaks volumes for the generation of athletes today who don’t want to be forced to make the same mistakes of the past generation who felt compelled in order to compete to use these dangerous drugs,” he said. “I think absolutely that’s a huge sign that the culture has turned in a huge direction from where it was in the late ’90s and early 2000s.”
In the wake of Braun’s suspension, a chain of 300 convenience stores in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa cut ties with him. Gary Gonczy, director of marketing and advertising for Kwik Trip, Inc., said in an email Tuesday that the company will no longer use Braun as a spokesman.
Despite Braun’s ban, Kemp has no shot at claiming the MVP trophy. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America has said repeatedly that it will not revisit any of its award votes.
“The decision was already made. He won it,” said Jack O’Connell, the BBWAA’s secretary-treasurer.
Commissioner Bud Selig said in March he wants even stiffer drug penalties, and union head Michael Weiner said players will consider toughened rules for 2014.
While Braun’s 65-game penalty is 15 games longer than the current standard for a first offense, Scherzer thinks it’s insufficient.
“The Brewers are unlikely to make the playoffs. He misses 2013, and they are set for 2014,” he said. “For someone that cheated the game as badly as he did, it just doesn’t seem right.”