Published: July 23, 2013
DENVER - Hey, kids. Want to make millions playing sports?
Be like Braun.
Guaranteed contracts are funny this way. Broke the rules? You still get paid.
OK, not all of it. After a 65-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's drug code, Ryan Braun's wallet will be roughly $3.8 million lighter.
That's change under the family couch compared to what comes later.
Soon he'll get the rest: $100-plus million, thanks to a contract extension that runs through 2020.
Financially, there's really no disincentive to cheat. If it sounds terrible, that's because it is.
But if making the big bucks is the driving force behind an athlete's career, why not scour south Florida for a drug dispensary? Cheaters may not win, but cheaters sure get a sweet retirement fund.
This situation hurts Brewers owner Mark Attanasio far more than it hurts Braun. With the 2011 MVP on the bench, or a beach, his club is out of the playoff race and without one of the few players who could fill the seats at Miller Park.
Sure, there's the whole moral and ethics thing to consider. You know, sleeping at night. But that doesn't appear to be a top priority in this case.
Broke the rules? No worries. The Brink's truck is still coming.
"I guess this gives an example to the kids of what not to do," Reds manager Dusty Baker told reporters about Braun's suspension.
Seems to me like quite the opposite.
If signing a huge contract is their motivation for playing the game, it makes complete sense why athletes cheat the game by dabbling in performance-enhancing drugs.
This is not to pile on the Braun bashing. Milwaukee's best built himself into the most reviled man in sports ... at least until Alex Rodriguez gets caught again.
This is simply answering the question often posed when ballplayers are nailed for PEDs: Why?
It doesn't take a private investigator to determine the answer: Cha-ching.
It's wrong. But when you consider the stacks of generational money that comes with batting .320 or smashing 40 home runs, it's a surprise more players haven't been caught for using.
"I think Major League Baseball has gone a long way toward cleaning up the sport," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said Tuesday in the dugout at Coors Field. "Obviously it still lingers. But the policies in place have been effective."
Good for you, baseball. I think Braun should be gone. But baby steps to a cleaner game will have to do for now.
"It's going to be tough to slide under the radar anymore in this game," Weiss said.
I loved the outrage from some players, a fraternity that normally, and foolishly, sticks together through thick and thin.
(Psst, guys: The cheaters could be the ones beating you on the field.)
Players were downright mad another peer had been skating the rules. This is a change for the better.
"It makes me sick," the Dodgers' Skip Schumaker told reporters.
Is peer pressure finally kicking in?
"This is a career for us," Padres standout and Fountain-Fort Carson grad Chase Headley told me at spring training. "We are supporting our families through this career. You want it to be an even playing career. You want the guys that are cheating to get caught."
Know what's tougher than spelling androstenedione?
Deciding which star players from yesteryear deserve a bust in the Hall of Fame.
There won't be an induction ceremony with living players this year at Cooperstown. None were elected.
"That's a tough topic. Obviously with a lot of those guys from that steroid era coming up and being available, that is a touchy subject," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said Tuesday. "There's so much doubt and so much uncertainty on who did what. This guy maybe did, this guy maybe didn't. It's tough."
Know what's not tough? Figuring out why players do it.
"I have an autographed Braun jersey in my baseball room that I'll be taking down," Schumaker said. "I don't want my son identifying what I worked so hard to get to and work so hard to have ... I don't want him comparing Braun to me."
Check that, kids.
Don't be like Braun.
Be like Skip.