Thank Them Later: MLB Takes The Lead, While Taking Its Lumps

The Ryan Braun suspension once again brings baseball into a negative light.

The headlines and TV sound bites surrounding Braun’s suspension for drug use (without pay and for the rest of the 2013 season) scream that MLB is in a crisis; the sky is falling.

Reportedly, Braun is just the first of more than possibly 20 players who could receive punishment for their involvement in the latest PED scandal, including New York Yankees star third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Baseball should be used to this by now. Not used to another scandal in the sport, no. MLB should now be accustomed to blazing a trail for the rest of the sports to follow.

It’s what baseball has always done.

The sport was first in integration. In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the majors. Three years later, Earl Lloyd became the NBA’s first black player with the Washington Capitols.

Baseball was ahead of the pack in player safety, forcing players to use batting helmets in 1940. It wasn’t until 1979 that the NHL made it mandatory for its players to wear helmets.

It took St. Louis Cardinals centerfielder Curt Flood’s lawsuit against baseball to start the ball rolling on free agency. All pro athletes now enjoy the fruits of the work by Flood in 1969.

Hence, this war on PEDs is no different. Baseball is the first willing to pull back the skin and see all its warts – in public, no less.

MLB is the only American sports league doing HGH testing. The NFL, NBA and NHL are all sitting on the sideline watching as baseball is raked over the coals for exposing its use in the sport.

And while it will look bad and not feel good at this moment, it’s the long run that matters most. Let’s face it, it’s not easy to lead. Time and time again, though, baseball has taken the lumps first. Same goes here.

If you think this is a baseball issue, you have your head in the sand.

This is a sports issue that far exceeds Baseball America. We’ve seen it in the Olympics, track and field, cycling, boxing, the NFL and the NBA.

Hello, have you forgotten Lance Armstrong already? It took him forever to come clean about the doping that helped him win all those Tour de Frances.

Plain and simple: You won’t find anything if you’re not looking for it.

Sure, the NFL has suspended more than 40 players since 2006 for PED use. But many believe more would be caught with advance testing for more substances.

The NFL and the players union recently met in an attempt to reach an agreement on HGH testing. Under this program, the league won’t suspend players if they test positive in 2013. Basically, the league wants to see how rampant HGH use is. Just a guess – very rampant, especially since speed, strength and injury recovery is so central to the sport.

For sure, leagues won’t be able to totally clean up the landscape. There’s always a new masking agent around the corner. And you can bet athletes – despite the warnings and penalties – will continue to try to get an edge, an advantage.

Just a quick question: How’s the war on drugs going? Not good, despite all the money and efforts thrown at the problem by the government in this country. Prisons are stuffed with people who abuse drugs.

Let’s be honest. Most of the fast-food restaurants would be closed down if workers had to take daily drug tests. The same holds true for executives at big companies. Many would be sent packing, as well.

It’s not a matter of trying to justify it; it’s more about the reality of the situation in America today. The country has nearly OD’d on illegal prescription drugs.

It’s almost funny. Some of those same fans yelling at baseball players for their PED use are probably using something to enhance their performance in the bedroom.

People will always look to perform better, almost at any cost.

Go ahead. Yell and scream at baseball. Tell your friends baseball is filled with ’Roid Heads. Just remember all that stuff you’re saying when the NFL and NBA start looking harder for illegal use of PEDs and find what baseball has.

You better just remember MLB took the lead – and the lumps – to clean up its game first.

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