It’s been more than eight years since Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and the rest of the original ‘Roid Pack marched in front of Congress and said, in order: (a) I just want to move forward, (b) I don’t understand English and (c) I’ve never taken anything (insert finger wag here) during some of the most uncomfortable programming in C-SPAN history.
But the first group of superstar cheaters — all of whom were proved to be cheaters and currently have as much chance as I do to enter the Hall of Fame — proved to be amateur cheaters when you compare them with the new crowd, which is dragging the game through the mud once more this summer.
The latest members of the persona non grata crowd have learned at the feet of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens: Protest your innocence from the mountain tops, attempt to destroy anyone who says anything to the contrary and, once cornered with overwhelming evidence, negotiate, negotiate and then negotiate some more.
Like Bonds and Clemens, Ryan Braun is disgraced forever. He’s lost some endorsement deals. He’s made Green Bay quarterback and buddy Aaron Rodgers look foolish for backing him. But given his transgressions, and his now comical, over-the-top claims of how he was wronged by the system, he got a smoking deal from MLB:
• The Brewers are hopelessly out of the playoffs chase. Braun had already missed nearly one-third of the season with injuries and and only played 61 games. Season tickets are already sold in Milwaukee so the Brewers treat the suspension as a season-ending injury.
• So now Braun sits out the rest of the year, with a chance to get 100 percent healthy. He has the next nine months to figure out how to hit home runs on Flintstone vitamins and Red Bull. He loses $3 million in salary, but the big money in his contract — more than $100 million — still sits in front of him and is guaranteed.
• The Brewers are stuck. Braun is untradeable, unmarketable and destined to be the highest-paid player on the team for as long as he can stand the booing. He can call another press conference, but who is going to believe or sympathize with him now? And Milwaukee won’t get any help from MLB — the league has already commended Braun for his decision to come clean, serve his suspension and take nine figures of Milwaukee’s money until 2020 for what could be severely reduced production.
So who is the real loser here?
Then, of course, we have Alex Rodriguez. I know Jose Canseco literally wrote the book on cheating, but figuratively, you’ve got to credit A-Rod. It’s been four years since he admitted to everyone what drug tests had already proven — that he had used steroids as far back as 2001. Whether he had already moved on to bigger, better drugs with the folks at Biogenesis or he waited a few months or a few years isn’t clear, but one thing is for certain — he’s the first player who admitted to cheating, and then almost immediately set about finding a different way to cheat.
Will A-Rod get back on the field before he negotiates his suspension deal with MLB? The Yankees are trying to hold him off, but there are only so many quad strains and rehab assignments before they run out of options.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like the Yankees are keeping Rodriguez off the field for the betterment of the game.
The Steinbrenner family was only too happy to have Andy Pettitte, Jason Giambi and Clemens — two admitted juicers and one (Clemens) whose Hall of Fame resumé is forever clouded — cash their checks.
If the Bay Area was where steroid use was born, Yankee Stadium was one of the places where it thrived.
More names are coming. More players will be suspended.
Bud Selig, who presided over the steroid era and will watch the Hall of Fame induct zero modern-day players — because there isn’t a viable, untarnished star to vote in — will continue to trumpet how he’s really cleaning up the game.
At least until the next whistleblower steps up.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.