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Ryan Braun, Biogenesis, and the suggestion of an MLB vendetta

Does MLB have it out for Ryan Braun? And if so, why? (Besides the steroids.)

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There are a lot of baseball-related quotes that make me uncomfortable. For example, "The Angels are looking to move Vernon Wells" or "Jose Valverde is coming into the game" or "Yeah, she was just here, but I saw her leaving with Pat Burrell and a jar of pickled okra." But here's the most uncomfortable quote of the year so far, and it comes from Bob Nightengale of the USA Today:

They want (Ryan) Braun — badly. They have been relentless in their pursuit, trying to make life as miserable as possible for him.

"They" is Major League Baseball. And now I'm picturing Bud Selig as Principal Rooney, climbing over fences and trespassing to prove that Ryan Braun is cutting class. I get it. Braun made MLB look bad last year, escaping punishment on a technicality. The last thing that baseball needed after the Mitchell Report was to look like a bunch of Keystone Cops, and a chain-of-custody slip-up did just that. The human response is for payback, comeuppance, and revenge.

But while payback, comeuppance, and revenge is a natural response, it's not exactly a mature response. Surely a collection of grown men and women working for one of the richest sports in the world can see that, right? So it has to be something else. There has to be some functional reason for investigating Braun more thoroughly than the average player under suspicion, which is what the Nightengale story implies. So let's explore that reason by inventing a hypothetical scenario in which MLB gets exactly what they supposedly want.

In this hypothetical scenario, Braun is a confirmed cheater. His name is on verified documents from a disgraced clinic like Biogenesis, and when MLB pops a surprise test on him the next day, they find HGH, amphetamines, beef hormones, and airplane glue in his system. When reporters go to his locker for quotes, he's literally injecting drugs into his own ass. It's over. The jig is up. MLB holds a press conference, and Braun is suspended. Behind closed doors, there are high-fives and congratulations all around. Ferris Bueller has been expelled.

The response from the public and the media: There goes baseball again. Always gonna be dirtied up with those steroids. Dirty, dirty sport.

Now try on another hypothetical scenario. In this one, Braun continues to evade discipline. Reports surface, but nothing is proven. Every time a clinic like Biogenesis gets popped, there's always a Post-It note with Ryan Braun's number on it, but he always has an excuse ready. Vial after vial fill with Braun's blood and urine over the next decade, but nothing is ever found.

The response from the public and the media: There goes baseball again. Always gonna be dirtied up with those steroids. Dirty, dirty sport.

That isn't to say that baseball shouldn't investigate Braun, or Alex Rodriguez, or anyone involved with the Biogeneses of today and tomorrow. That's ridiculous. The public is overwhelmingly in favor of regulations against performance-enhancing drugs, and a laissez-faire attitude from MLB would probably be the single worst public-relations strategy they could try out. So by all means, look for the players who are still juicing. There has to be some measure of vigilance shown.

But MLB shouldn't look at Ryan Braun as some kind of 12-point buck, ready to shoot, stuff, and hang on the wall because they want to show it off. In those two hypothetical scenarios up there, I'd wager that baseball suffers more in the former, with Braun proven guilty. That would set off a spate of articles decrying the legitimacy of Braun's MVP season. His next MVP season would be automatically linked with something unsavory from the start, and the focus wouldn't be on baseball at all. And in 15 years, we'd all get to do it again when the Hall of Fame question comes up.

Maybe the quote "make life as miserable as possible for him" in the Nightengale article is something that MLB could describe as "we're doing our standard due diligence, and if that happens to make him miserable, tough." It's tough to get too judgmental based on an anonymous source. Hopefully, that's what's really going on -- Ryan Braun's definition of "persecution" is a synonym for MLB's "standard, thorough investigation."

Because if it isn't, if MLB really wants to get Braun and pull off his mask like the end of a Scooby-Doo episode, I'm not sure if I see the point. If there's something for MLB to gain in that scenario, it's the adrenaline. That will wear off quickly, with everyone looking around and saying, "Now what?" It's the same no-win situation that baseball has been in for the last decade-plus, and it isn't going to change.

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