So baseball suspended Ryan Braun for the rest of the season because he... well, because he did SOMETHING, gosh darnit. And this suspension was met with a collective roar of clucking approvals from Hot Sports Take providers all across our fair nation. Christine Brennan and her colleagues got their thirst for justice quenched (NOTE: Never read anything by anyone who, in 2013, is still willing to call an athlete or coach a "bum"), and baseball got... well, I'm not sure what it got, precisely.
I think we can all agree that baseball's steroid scandal is a TV series that should have been canceled ages ago. And the strange thing is that it's the officials of Major League Baseball who seem so remarkably determined not to let the issue just fucking DIE. At first, back in the early '90s, no one did anything about steroids. Then there were reporters like Tom Verducci and Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada who broke the scandal open and exposed baseball's apathy toward rampant drug use. And now, in a strange overcorrection, baseball has become its own Sam Gerard, doggedly chasing after itself when such vigilance seems, frankly, unnecessary.
Last year, MLB brought in over $7.5 billion in revenue, over THREE TIMES the amount of revenue they pulled down back in 1998, right at the height of the Steroid Era. The value of the average Major League franchise increased 16% last year alone. This is all happening at a time when the owners and players have instituted stricter drug testing that has helped bring power hitting stats back down to more acceptable, less "That guy is on fucking roids" levels. The credibility of the sport, not to mention its profitability, has seemingly been gloriously restored.
So I dunno why the sport is bending over backwards to continue its great Cheater Hunt, especially when that hunt strays out of the bounds of proper procedure. It's almost as if baseball has decided to serve people like Brennans and Bob Costas at the cost of everything else. They alone have continued to let the steroid thing engulf the actual playing of baseball, and it's hard to see how that helps them. Every Ryan Braun story becomes a referendum on the sport, a chance for your local sportswriter to drag out the parents of Taylor Hooton and scream WHAT IS BASEBALL DOING TO PROTECT OUR PRECIOUS YOUTH?
I'm not saying that baseball can now happily look the other way. I'm just saying that they have testing procedures in place now, and that they should just let them work, instead of doing extra credit and putting Braun on Double Secret Probation just to soothe the Jeff Passan types, or anyone else out there who just can't tolerate the thought of an athlete LYING to them. The fact that baseball remains so active in all this basically sends out a message to the world that OUR SPORT IS STILL IN A CRISIS.
And that's not true at all. If Braun had gotten off from being formally suspended because his piss sample was improperly handled, would baseball as a whole REALLY have suffered? No. Anyone who tells you otherwise is wishing for some magic rainbow baseball world where every player is squeaky clean and every home run is hit for a kid dying of cancer in a hospital bed somewhere. Because baseball people are so fanatical (and nauseating) about the purity and innocence of their golly-gee-whiz-what-a-game! sport, they've tricked its officials into foolishly pursuing the goal of a game that's 100% clean, which is both impossible and, frankly, dull.
Here is what's really true: steroids are easy to write about. They're a cheap way for sportswriters to generate emotional content, and they're a convenient excuse for them to bat around Braun for being a liar (which he is) or A-Rod for being A-Rod (which he is). It's fun to pursue A-Rod's steroid strictly because it's so much fun to shit all over A-Rod. But it doesn't help a sport that has already, Jeffrey Loria aside, solved most of its problems. Maybe it's time for Bud Selig to start ignoring the likes of Tom Verducci all over again.