Braun indescretions hardly surprising

July 31, 2013 

There’s no defense for Ryan Braun, the 2011 MLB Most Valuable Player who last week was suspended for the rest of the 2013 season for use of performance enhancing drugs. Rules are rules and he broke them, then lied about it.

The resulting shock and outrage after his admission is over the top, however.

Less newsworthy, but equally as shocking, was the contract extension signed by Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox. The second baseman signed an 8-year deal worth $110 million -- all of guaranteed. That’s almost $14 million per year.

Pedroia is as good as they come at second base. He’s a four-time all star and a career .300 hitter with an OPS in the area of .825. (His post-season stats? Eh.)

Still, he’s a second-baseman. He’s a table-setter, not a slugger. And yet Pedroia -- who turns 30 in a few weeks -- will be paid $84,876.54 per game for what amounts to the rest of his career -- whether he plays or not. Put another way, in the five minutes it will take you to read this column, Pedroia will bank about $130.

Armed with those kinds of numbers, is it any wonder a guy like Braun would choose to roll the dice and use PEDs? Is it hard to grasp his reason for not coming clean?

Even then, however, the money misses the point as to why PEDs and human growth hormone have such appeal for those who use them. Bottom line, they want to play.

Signing the big contract is great but getting to “The Show” then staying there is of paramount importance.

We all understand that football is physically the most violent of team sports. But football players get a week between contests to nurse injuries and ratchet up emotion for game day. By comparison, baseball players are expected to perform day-in, day-out with any number of nagging physical issues. Fail, and one risks being “Wally Pipped,” replaced in the lineup by someone who may never again relinquish the spot, as Lou Gehrig did when he took headache-suffering Pipp’s spot in the Yankees order in June 1925.

(Granted, in the era of guaranteed contracts the ramifications of missing a start are considerably less financially significant than in Gehrig’s day.)

Which brings us to Tim Hudson and the gruesome injury he suffered in a July 24 game. The Braves’ ace pitcher broke his ankle and will miss the rest of the season. In fact, because Hudson is 38, it’s reasonable to speculate his career is over.

Competitor that he is, however, it’s hard to imagine Hudson won’t at least attempt a comeback. After all, his career was resurrected once before when he had Tommy John surgery. Would anyone fault Hudson for once again turning to medical science to speed his recovery?

Of note is the fact that Dr. Frank Jobe, “inventor” of the surgical procedure that extended the careers of Hudson, John Smoltz, Kris Medlen and so many others, was honored by baseball’s Hall of Fame over the weekend.

Jobe’s innovation was remarkable and merits the honor. But I have to wonder at the mind set of a guy like Tommy John, the first to have the procedure performed. To submit to a largely experimental surgery all for the purpose of extending one’s baseball career. Doing anything to stay in the game he loved and perform at a high level.

It all sounds vaguely familiar.

Contact Chris Deighan at cdeighan@cox.net.

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