For the sake of Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Ryan Braun ought to be stripped of baseball’s highest individual honor — the Most Valuable Player award — which he won in 2011.
Major League Baseball suspended the Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder on July 22 for the rest of the 2013 season without pay.
In announcing the suspension, MLB cited “violations of the Basic Agreement and its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.”
Braun issued a statement in which he said, "As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.”
Braun had previously denied allegations he was using performance-enhancing drugs.
If the MVP award, which is given to a player in each league, is not taken from Braun, it will be an insult to Landis, who was a federal judge when he became the first commissioner of baseball in 1920. In 1944, the MVP award officially became known as the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award.
Baseball may not have reached the popularity it enjoys today if not for Landis. He cleaned up the game after the Black Sox betting scandal involving eight members of the Chicago White Sox in the 1919 World Series.
Landis, who served until he died in 1944, used his power to restore confidence in baseball. Now baseball needs another dose of confidence.
In an article on Landis, Wikipedia cites "Blackball, the Black Sox, and the Babe: Baseball’s Crucial 1920 Season," written by Professor Robert C. Cottrell of California State University, Chico. Cottrell reports that in a speech at an Illinois church, Landis said:
“Now that I am in baseball, just watch the game I play. If I catch any crook in baseball, the rest of his life is going to be a pretty hot one. I'll go to any means and do anything possible to see that he gets a real penalty for his offense.”
Obviously, Braun doesn’t have to contend with Landis, but he has to deal with some fellow ballplayers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Skip Schumaker, who bluntly expressed anger being felt by some players, thinks Braun should lose the MVP award.
Schumaker’s teammate, Matt Kemp, who finished second to Braun for the National League honor, is among them. To Kemp’s credit, he did not say that he should receive the award.
If there are players who disagree with Schumaker and Kemp, I am not aware of any.
But at least one prominent sports journalist, Skip Bayless, thinks Braun should keep the award. Bayless, who is featured on an ESPN show, contends stripping Braun would open a Pandora’s Box. He argues that among the runners-up for awards, it isn’t known who was and wasn’t clean.
Steven A. Smith, another noted sports journalist who appears on the same ESPN show, disagrees. He thinks Pandora’s Box should be opened.
I agree with Smith. Sometimes you have to let the chips fall where they may. Braun’s situation is a case in point.
Some folks argue Braun’s suspension for 65 games, which reportedly will cost him about $3.3 million, is enough punishment.
That’s nothing compared to what happened to Pete Rose. In August 1989, Rose agreed to a permanent ban after being accused of gambling on games while he was manager of the Cincinnati Reds. He admitted to betting on games, but not against the Reds.
In 1991, the Baseball Hall of Fame voted to ban players on the “permanently ineligible” list from induction.
At least Rose can’t be stripped of his achievements. He can’t be excused for betting, either. But unlike Braun, Rose’s stats are legitimate. He was a solidly built guy who was known as “Charlie Hustle,” not Charles Atlas.
Rose has been suspended for almost 25 years. Imagine how much money he has lost.
Rose is the all-time MLB leader in hits with 4,256, games played with 3,562, and at-bats with 14,053. His lifetime batting average is .303. He won three batting titles, one MVP award, and two Gold Gloves while helping Cincinnati win three World Series.
So will the current baseball commissioner, Bud Selig, take action that will avoid insulting Kenesaw Mountain Landis?
It’s worth staying tuned.
Ray Moscowitz of Bloomington is a retired newspaper executive and former publisher of the Peru Tribune. Contact him at email@example.com.