Nearly two years after failing a drug test during his MVP-winning season, Brewers star slugger Ryan Braun has finally been punished.
Major League Baseball on Monday handed down the first punishment in the Biogenesis doping case, suspending Braun without pay for the remainder of the season and the playoffs. Braun issued an apologetic statement in which he admitted, without confirming exactly what he had done over what period of time, to using performance-enhancing drugs.
"As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect," he said. "I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions."
The league had reportedly been eyeing up to 100-game suspensions for Braun and others linked to a Florida "health" clinic that allegedly peddled performance-enhancing drugs to ballplayers. While Braun was the first to go down, he almost certainly won't be the last.
The league is expected to suspend up to 15 players in all, possibly within weeks, according to CBS's Jon Heyman. With Braun punished, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is now the biggest name left on that list, and he will likely be the next to fall.
Braun was the league's prime target in the investigation. Ever since he got off on a technicality after his failed 2011 drug test — he successfully appealed a suspension by arguing that his urine sample had been mishandled — the league has had it in for him. As the Biogenesis case unfolded, the league asked Braun to finally come clean and, in exchange, offered him less than the maximum 100-game sentence: 50 games for violating the drug policy, plus 15 for lying about it to MLB investigators earlier this year.
Like Braun, Rodriguez also reportedly refused to comply with investigators. Rodriguez, who has missed the entire season while recovering from a nagging hip injury, also reportedly sought to buy up Biogenesis' records to prevent MLB from obtaining them, further irritating the league.
"I don't think he's going to beat the suspension back to the field," one person familiar with the case told CBS.
Though he initially refused to cooperate, Braun ultimately caved and agreed to strike a deal that will cost him about $3.25 million in lost salary. That he gave himself up so easily is revealing. Braun brazenly taunted the league with his 2011 appeal, yet he opted not to fight this time around even though he had not failed another test. The paper trail Biogenesis' former head Tony Bosch turned over to MLB was enough to convince Braun he had no hope of escaping punishment this time.
Rodriguez could appeal any punishment and try to play the rest of the year or, like Braun, he could take a plea deal and accept whatever the league offers him. The same is true of the other players who could be hit with long suspensions, including the Rangers' Nelson Cruz, the Athletics' Bartolo Colon, and the Tigers' Jhonny Peralta, all of whom play integral roles on contending clubs.
Any player who opts to fight the league likely would not have an appeal heard until September, which would push a looming suspension into 2014.
Rodriguez is rumored to be looking at the plea-deal option, according to ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews, who added that the league's evidence against Rodriguez went "far beyond" what it had on Braun. Seemingly all that's left now is to wait and see when the league announces a punishment, and how strict it is.