Milwaukee Brewers outfielder and former University of Miami star Ryan Braun was suspended without pay for the rest of the season by Major League Baseball on Monday after acknowledging he broke baseball’s rules regarding its drug prevention program.
Braun, 29, who won the National League Most Valuable Player award in 2011, is the first player linked to Biogenesis — Tony Bosch’s Coral Gables-based anti-aging clinic that allegedly supplied PEDs to high-profile baseball players under investigation — to be suspended by baseball.
Three-time American League MVP and Miami native Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, whose name is on the baseball field at the University of Miami, is also among the list of 20 or so players also linked to Biogenesis.
“As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect,” Braun said in a statement released by MLB. “I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it is has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization.
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“I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country. Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed — all of the baseball fans, especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love.”
UM baseball coach Jim Morris, reached by phone after learning of the news, declined comment.
Last week at the All-Star Game in New York, union Executive Director Michael Weiner said he expected MLB — which has built its case on phone records, receipts and other information provided by Bosch — to present its findings to the players association “within the next month” and for disciplinary action and appeals to likely remain unresolved until the winter.
But Braun, who successfully appealed a 50-game suspension from baseball last season after a positive test for testosterone, apparently sped the process up after he met with MLB investigators recently and decided to admit he broke rules. He will miss the Brewers’ final 65 games this season without pay. Braun, who was scheduled to make $8.5 million this season, will lose $3.4 million. The Brewers are struggling this season with the second-worst record in the National League — only better than the Marlins.
“We commend Ryan Braun for taking responsibility for his past actions,” said Rob Manfred, Executive Vice President, Economics and League Affairs for Major League Baseball. “We all agree that it is in the best interests of the game to resolve this matter. When Ryan returns, we look forward to him making positive contributions to Major League Baseball, both on and off the field.”
When news of Braun’s suspension broke on the TV inside the Marlins’ clubhouse Monday afternoon in Colorado, players jumped to their feet, the stereo was turned off and everyone watched, silent but riveted.
A few minutes later, reporters were ushered out of the clubhouse for a players-only meeting.
“You know we’re clean. We haven’t scored a run in 37 innings,” Marlins first baseman Logan Morrison joked afterward. “I think there will be a domino effect for sure. You’ve got all those guys on that list, right?
“He probably knew about this for a while. I just thought he acted differently [during the just-completed Marlins series]. Something was weird. The way he was acting, he was different than he usually is.”
Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos is the last pitcher to face Braun before the suspension, striking him out in the 11th inning Sunday when Braun was sent in to pinch-hit.
“I was more happy to strike him out because the fans were cheering him on when he came in,” Ramos said. “They were like, ‘He’s going to win the game.’ So I kind of took a little offense to that. But, as far as all this stuff coming out now, it’s kind of a little more sweeter, I guess, knowing his last at bat was going against me.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said last week before the All-Star Game that MLB and the players association need to hash out harsher penalties for PED rule-breakers at the next collective bargaining meetings in December. Braun’s suspension clearly doesn’t follow the model of previous suspensions, which called for 50- and 100-game suspensions and a lifetime ban for three failed drug tests.
But there is a reason. Because players involved in the Biogenesis case did not fail tests and are being investigated for “non-analytical” reasons, Weiner said, “in theory, [the players] could be suspended for five games or 500 games, and we could then choose to challenge that.”
By admitting he broke rules, Braun could set a precedent for those who step forward and admit they broke rules to face penalties that are less harsh. Players that decide to appeal their cases could potentially face stiffer penalties.
“I am deeply gratified to see Ryan taking this bold step,” Weiner said in a statement released Monday. “It vindicates the rights of all players under the Joint Drug Program ”
Weiner said last week the union will push for all suspensions to remain confidential until the players’ appeals before arbitrator Fredric Horowitz are complete. Those aren’t expected to take place until the winter.
“It’s one thing to say you have a tough testing program, but if we don’t enforce the rules what’s the point,” Selig told the Baseball Writers Association of America last week. “We have left no stone unturned [in the Biogenesis investigation].”
Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, who grew up playing with Rodriguez, was one of several All-Stars in New York last week who said rule-breakers who get caught using PEDs or admit to breaking baseball’s rules should be suspended.
“There are people out there that are not innocent and if they’re guilty, they’re guilty,” Hunter said. “We have laws in the world. You go 60 [mph] in a 55 and get caught, that’s the way it works. Baseball is going to police itself, it’s going to get the job done. You can scrutinize the system — how long it takes — all you want. But it works.”
Hunter’s former Twins teammate, Marlins pitcher Kevin Slowey, echoed those sentiments Monday. “It’s good to know that the drug policy in Major League Baseball is working and guys who are choosing not to follow that policy are feeling the repercussions,” Slowey said.
“We’re all in support of a policy that would eliminate cheating from the game. We feel that it’s a hard enough game as it is.”