Ryan Braun latest All-Star to get long suspension for PEDs
The 65-game suspension of former National League Most Valuable Player and five-time All-Star Ryan Braun sent shockwaves through the baseball world Monday night. While Braun is arguably the best player ever to be dealt a suspension of such length, and certainly the first to receive one while in his prime, the suspension of such a pivotal player is not unprecedented. In fact, Braun is the sixth former All-Star to be suspended. Here are the other five along with a potential All-Star who was expected to emerge as a player of that caliber this season.
Manny Ramirez, Dodgers, 2009
Before Ramirez was suspended for 50-games in early May of 2009 he appeared to be putting a stirring coda on a Hall of Fame career. An All-Star every year from 1998 to 2008, Ramirez nonetheless saw his production start to sag in his final two years with the Red Sox, but after being traded to the Dodgers at the 2008 deadline, he caught fire, hitting .396/.489/.743 down the stretch with 17 home runs in 53 games and leading L.A. to its first National League Championship Series since 1988. He was nearly as hot in early 2009, but he had tested positive for a female fertility drug associated with steroid use in spring training and thus became the first major league All-Star to be handed a 50-game suspension.
Near the end of his suspension, the New York Times reported that Ramirez had tested positive in 2003 during MLB’s supposedly anonymous survey testing, and in April 2011 he tested positive again, triggering a 100-day suspension. Ramirez opted to retire rather than serve out the latter suspension at the age of 39. He has since attempted comebacks with the A’s and Rangers, and is currently hitting .271/.352/.458 as a designated hitter with Texas’ Triple-A affiliate, but has not played a major league game since April 2011.
Edinson Volquez, Reds, 2010
Traded by the Rangers for Josh Hamilton in December 2007, Volquez had a break-out season for the Reds in 2008, going 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA (137 ERA+) and 206 strikeouts, making the All-Star team and finishing fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting despite the fact that he was no longer a rookie (he threw 80 innings across three seasons for the Rangers). However, he only made it nine starts into his follow-up season before going under the knife for Tommy John surgery in August 2009. The following April, Major League Baseball handed Volquez a 50-game suspension after he tested positive for a banned male fertility drug that boosts testosterone. Volquez claimed he was using the drug with a doctor’s prescription for its intended use, to help him start a family. He was allowed to serve out his suspension while still on the disabled list and returned to action in mid-July as he would have without the suspsension.
Marlon Byrd, fee agent, 2012
A highly-regarded Phillies prospect a decade ago, Byrd didn’t really find his legs in the majors until he joined the Rangers in 2007. He hit .295/.352/.468 (113 OPS+) across three seasons with Texas, then signed a three-year deal with the Cubs and made the All-Star team after a hot-start in 2010 (.317/.365/.480, 9 HR, 40 RBIs).
Byrd was a disappointment thereafter. Off to a brutal start in 2012, he was dumped on the Red Sox that April then released in mid-June, after which MLB announced he had tested positive for Tamoxifen, an estrogen suppressor associated with steroid use, triggering a 50-game suspension. Byrd cited medical reasons for his having taken the drug and served out his suspension as a free agent before landing a job as the Mets rightfielder this spring and enjoying a power surge.
Melky Cabrera, Giants, 2012
Cabrera had a breakout season for the Royals in 2011 at the age of 26, after which he was traded to the Giants for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez and proceeded to have an even better season, making his first All-Star team, winning the game’s MVP award and hitting .346/.390/.516 with 11 homers and 13 stolen bases through mid-August. It was then that Baseball slapped him with a 50-game suspension in for testing positive for excessive testosterone, a suspension Cabrera unsuccessfully attempted to avert by creating a fake website from which he claimed to have purchased a tainted supplement.
Remarkably, the Giants caught fire without Cabrera and went on to win the World Series, while Cabrera set a troubling precedent by requesting to be taken out of consideration for the batting title, which he would have won had the rules governing the league leaders been strictly followed.
Bartolo Colon, A’s, 2012
Colon’s suspension was announced just a week after Cabrera’s in what we can now see was the beginning of the Biogenesis scandal (Cabrera, Colon, Braun and Padres rookie Yasmani Grandall, all of whom tested positive for excessive testosterone, though Braun’s positive was overturned, were all clients). Colon won the American League Cy Young award in 2005, but was unable to stay healthy thereafter and was out of the game entirely in 2010. He staged a comeback with the Yankees in 2011 after undergoing a controversial stem-cell treatment at a different clinic in Boca Raton the previous April.
Colon was a valuable member of the A’s rotation when his 50-game suspension came down and has been even more important since returning from that suspension this April, making the All-Star team this season for the first time since his Cy Young year.
Yasmani Grandal, Padres, 2012
Grandal is the one man on this list who has never made an All-Star team, but he was a top prospect who had an immediate impact, hitting .297/.394/.469 with 8 homers and 36 RBIs as the Padres’ catcher over the final three months of the 2012 season (minus a brief disabled list stay). Grandal’s 50-game suspension for excessive testosterone was announced in November and cost him the first 50 games of the 2013 season. He played just 28 games after his return before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Ryan Braun, Brewers, 2013
News of Braun’s positive test for excessive testosterone broke in December 2011 and was one of the dominant stories of that offseason, but Braun managed to get the test overturned by proving that the chain-of-custody procedures for his sample were not properly followed. Those events look very different in light of his accepting a 65-game suspension covering the remainder of the 2013 season. Braun admitted in a statement Monday night that he has “made some mistakes” and issued an apology for his actions. It’s clear that Braun realized he couldn’t fight the case the commissioner’s office had built against him, but exactly what he’s guilty of and how much of that he is willing to publicly admit remains to be seen.