It's hard to rationalize why Ryan Braun should be allowed to keep the National League MVP trophy. Braun was found to have taken performance-enhancing drugs, an act that he has since denied, but one that will nonetheless cost him $1.87 million of his $6 million salary and keep him out of work for 50 games. But... he's somehow allowed to keep the MVP. Guffaw??? This would be like if you counted cards at a casino, won a poker tournament that netted you a Coupe de Ville, got busted, went to jail, and had to pay a fine... but you still got to keep the Coupe de Ville. Kinda seems like an oversight, huh?
And what's especially weird is that this has become common for Major League Baseball, a league that used to be millitant in its preservation of statistical canonology. It was baseball, after all, that put an asterisk on Roger Maris' record-breaking 61-home run season. It was baseball that lowered the mound when they thought the pitcher was getting too much of an advantage, baseball that briefly banned Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle for working at a casino and having even a tangential connection to gambling, and it was baseball that initiated a rule to keep ineligible players like Pete Rose off the Hall of Fame ballot and to keep the Hall as pure as possible.
Baseball was so steadfast in its ideology that when it was discovered that one of Ty Cobb's box scores had erroneously been counted twice, and that his hit total should have been reduced from 4,191 to 4,189, baseball simply ignored it because changing one stat would in a sense indict them all. To this day, the number of hits MLB.com says Ty Cobb has is two more than what Baseball Reference says he has, a contradiction that is absurd. Some might call this stubbornness or even close-mindedness, but to the people running Major League Baseball, the preservation of statistics was so sacrosanct that to disrupt them even rightfully wasn't even a consideration.
Now, things have changed. Baseball seems content to let the steroid-users trample the records they had worked so hard to institutionalize. In a way, it seems like baseball doesn't know how to a handle a cheating epidemic of such scale and popularity, nor do they have much of a reference point to help them out. The founding baseball fathers did a great job establishing the rules of the game a hundred years ago, but even they couldn't have imagined the day where a butt-cheek-inserted syringe could transform a middling player into a perennial All-Star. The sport appears so overwhelmed by the rampant cheating, and so unclear on what to do with the stats, that not a thing has been done to challenge the validity of the steroid era's biggest offenders, from Barry Bonds to Sammy Sosa to Mark McGwire. All the home run records still stand. All the MVP's still stand. All the players found to have used illegal substances are still eligible for the Hall of Fame. And there isn't a single veto in sight.
It's debatable whether or not baseball should retroactively displace the numbers of the steroids era with an asterisk or by putting them in their own category, or "wing" if you will. With Braun though, there's all the reason in the world to claim that his MVP is invalid, and all the reason in the world for his prize to be revoked, asterisked, or put up for a new vote altogether. If he's able to walk away with the trophy, it lends little assurance to me that the steroids era really is over. After all, Ryan Braun played so well last year that he got a $104 million extension. If a 50-game suspension and a loss of $1.87 million allowed him to earn a nine-figure contract AND keep the MVP award, then unfortunately, the end still justifies the mean. And if baseball really wants to eliminate cheating, that's the part they're going to have to work on.