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Gazzolo Column: To clean up baseball, take away the numbers that really matter

Last Modified: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 7:05 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

I remember all those long talks with my father about the difference between right and wrong.

Often they would finish with the worlds, crime doesn’t pay or cheaters never prosper.

My father has been gone for over a decade now, but I sometimes find myself chuckling when I remember some of those talks, especially when baseball comes to mind.

For him, baseball was the perfect sport, maybe the only sport.

He talked romantically about the old days, when men were men and players were players.

His generation must be wondering what they taught us, for when it comes to baseball, cheaters are doing pretty well.

Ryan Braun is the best example. He was caught once for using performance-enhancing drugs but beat the rap and kept his money.

His 50-game suspension was dropped and he even lashed out at those who questioned him.

Braun even ripped the poor guy who collected his sample, blaming him for any positive test.

Then the Milwaukee outfielder, whose positive test came the same year as his MVP award, got nailed again. This time there was too much evidence to fight and Braun slinked off into the sunset, cutting a deal with baseball officials. He will miss the final 65 games of this season.

The suspendion is without pay but that hardly matters. After winning the National League MVP in 2011, the amount Braun will lose is a lot to most, little to him. He will be fine financially.

Bruan is the first, but by week’s end is not expected to be the last, that baseball will punish in connection with the Biogenesis scandal. Alex Rodriguez, among some 20 others, are on the clock.

But let’s look at just what Braun lost.

He left a team that wasn’t about to win this year, cutting the deal now instead of later. He will lose close to $3.5 million, but that also means he made almost $7 million in 97 games, some of which he missed while injured.

As for his big deal, that will be untouched. Braun has a $120 million contract that runs through 2020. So now he gets only a total of $116.5 million. I think I could live on that very nicely.

One could argue that without the monster MVP season in 2011, which is clearly called into question now, Braun would not have such a big deal.

See dad, cheaters do prosper, you were wrong.

Braun is not the only one to benefit from this financially. The Brewers marketed their MVP and baseball played him up in commercials over the year.

And yes, Braun lost some endorsement money along the way, but he won’t be hurting.

Even better for him is he didn’t have to answer to anybody. Bruan has gone on his way, unseen and uninterviewed.

Many say he is ashamed, but after the way he lied to us in the past you have to believe he is laughing all the way to the bank.

This is baseball’s big dilemma when it comes to PEDs.

Young kids see what is happening and think, maybe it is worth it.

How do you tell a kid living with little more than a dime to his name that losing just over 1.5 percent of a contract worth $120 million isn’t worth the risk of taking steroids. They are not worried about being banned from the Hall of Fame, they are worried about where their next meal will come from.

That is why baseball, while doing the right thing by finally taking action, needs to send a clear message in the future. You get caught, you are done forever. Bruan might have to think twice if everything could be taken away from him with one bad test.

It will never come to this, unless the baseball players union wants it. They are the only ones who can clean up the game.

There does seem to be a trend toward this happening, but it is still hard to tell somebody it isn’t worth the risk with so much money on the line.

Don’t think so, look at Rodriguez. Before he was ever linked to PEDs he had all the money any man would ever need and that still wasn’t enough.

Barry Bonds was considered one of the two best players of his generation before he ever touched the stuff.

And the entire world embraced Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire in 1998 for helping save the game of baseball with their famous home run chase.

All those, and even future numbers, are now forever called into question. The game is tainted from now until it ends.

The only way to at least make it appear clean is to take away the only numbers that really matter to young players, those that are in their bank statements.

That would send a clear message that pops was right, cheaters don’t prosper.

Or at least not anymore.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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