This is just the kind of PR mess that commissioner Bud Selig and his cronies didn’t need this month.
The National League’s newly minted Most Valuable Player tested positive for enhanced testosterone levels during the postseason, and now Ryan Braun joins legends like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and Mark McGwire in being implicated for steroid usage.
Through his own PR guy, Braun maintained his innocence, and there’s a chance his name will be cleared on appeal. Still, the steroid taint never goes away entirely.
It’s a real shame, in part because Braun seemed a bit more human than some of the league’s recent heroes. At 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, he looks normal enough, yet he hits some of the hardest balls of anyone in the league. Braun also has a rep as a good guy, and he committed himself to spending the bulk of his career with the small-market Brewers when he signed a $105 million extension through 2020 in April.
So, if a guy like Braun, who has next to nothing left to gain financially by roiding, is cheating anyway, it suggests baseball’s steroid problem isn’t even close to being wiped out. That baseball gets the bulk of the attention in this department even though steroids have certainly been more prevalent during the NFL’s history isn’t fair, but it’s the game’s burden anyway.
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?