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Braun gone for Brewers
Before I get to my MLB betting free pick for the day, I have to wax poetic a bit about the news that Ryan Braun has once again been busted for steroids. The former National League MVP will now sit out the remainder of the 2013 season for his second PED violation and forfeit any of his remaining salary this year, which would have topped out at $9.9 million. More importantly, he becomes the poster boy for drug abuse in his sport in the modern era.

And that will come with many pitfalls.

Professional athletes don't like all the PED's that are floating around, especially since the vast majority of players in all sports are clean. The sports world has tried to take down it's best known cheaters, with Lance Armstrong being the most famous case for penalized offenders. But there are loads of violators that still go unpunished, and baseball failed itself by never bringing guys like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds to justice.

Bonds still holds the record for most career home runs, even though some sort of invisible asterisks hangs by that statistic. As for McGwire, the very man who "saved baseball" along with Sammy Sosa back in the 90's, he not only never admitted to abusing drugs, he's working in baseball again. Fans embraced him as their new batting coach when he returned to St. Louis and he now earns a paycheck for the Dodgers.

McGwire remains the guys who built an entire life based on drug abuse but never got caught. The fact that baseball welcomed him back across the board speaks volumes about how short term our memories are, and how poorly the system was at sniffing McGwire's transgressions out. Without evidence, we can't really nail a guy to the wall.

I felt the same way about Lance until he was caught and surrendered everything he had built in his life. "Show me the evidence or shut the hell up". Eventually it was shown and Lance was exiled from the world of cycling. That never happened to Bonds and the opposite happened with McGwire (as in he was welcomed back with open arms).

Setting an example is an important part of creating sanctions that work, and social punishment is sometimes a far greater deterrent. The $5,000 penalty the NBA has instituted for flopping is laughable compared to the average salary in the league, which hovers around $5.5 million. Baseball and football are the two sports that deal with PED violations most frequently, and their suspensions were laughable. Take a year off, don't get paid your entire salary but then come back and make all the millions that you thought you would eventually. That wasn't ever going to stop people from trying to cheat.

The backlash from Braun's scandal is creating something different. He lied to his family, his friends, his teammates, his fans, the sport and anyone tied to his endeavors, and he is now set to be cast in to the barren wasteland of no-man's land, forever labeled as a cheater. If he ever returns, Braun will be hard pressed to find a friend in the clubhouse let alone the league.

For years we have sat helplessly as fans, hoping that baseball and other sports would finally make some positive steps in winning the war on drugs. A notch like Braun is something that the league can be proud of because their investigatory measures are improving, and that in itself will create enough fear amongst players to deter them from swallowing that pill or injecting that needle.

We may never win the war on drugs, but we won this battle. And I'll take it.

San Diego Padres (44-56) vs. Milwaukee Brewers (41-57)
Tuesday, July 23rd --- Miller Park --- 8:10pm EST

MLB Betting Lines:
SD - Tyson Ross (R) +110 / +1.5 -190
MIL - Donovan Hand (R) -120 / -1.5 +165

Braun's departure means that Milwaukee has no chance of climbing out of the cellar in the NL Central. They're 19 games back of the first place Cardinals. Battling another last place team this week in the San Diego Padres, however, will give their fans something to cheer for. The Padres are bringing up the rear in the NL West, though by a much smaller margin.

Tyson Ross gets the start for the Padres and is MLB betting kryptonite. The righty has yet to secure a victory this entire season. He has a 3.60 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP, and is 0-4 SU this season while being used mostly as a reliever or set-up guy. It hasn't mattered when Ross appears in a game because the Padres are 1-9 SU in the last 10 games he's pitched in, and are 4-6 SU in their last 10 games overall.

Hand is also winless and toes the rubber for the Brewers tonight. With just three starts this season, Hand has never pitched in more than 5.0 innings in any one game because he's used as a utility pitcher. His stuff is much tighter than Ross's and he should be able to steer the Brewers to a much needed win.

While Milwaukee enjoys a victory on the field tonight, major league baseball can also bathe in the glory of taking down a cheater like Ryan Braun.

MLB Betting Pick: Brewers -120 ML

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