Milwaukee Brewer slugger Ryan Braun's suspension won't be the last, fans say
By ALLEN LESSELS New Hampshire Union Leader
Fisher Cats fan Christopher Simard of Barrington talks about the suspension of Major League Baseball star Ryan Braun. Simard was at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium Tuesday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
"Braun is only the beginning, absolutely,” said Jeff Roach, a fan from Henniker who attended Tuesday night's Fisher Cats game at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
Baseball's drug penalties
Steroids tests: The first time a player fails a test for steroids, he gets an automatic 50-game suspension without pay. A second positive test carries a 100-game ban. A third results in a lifetime ban, though the player may apply for reinstatement after two years.
Possession: Players convicted in court of possessing illegal steroids are subject to criminal penalties plus a suspension of 60 to 80 games for the first offense, up to a one-year suspension for the second, and a lifetime ban for the third.
Distribution: Beyond criminal penalties, players guilty of distributing steroids earn an automatic 80-to-100-game ban for the first offense and a lifetime ban the second.
Stimulants: Players who test positive for amphetamines and other banned stimulants receive a warning and mandatory follow-up testing. A second offense results in a 25-game suspension; a third offense results in 80 games. For a fourth offense, the commissioner can impose harsher penalties, including a lifetime ban.
MANCHESTER -- Last Wednesday, exactly one month into his first professional baseball season, Michael Fransoso of Portsmouth faced his first test as a Jamestown Jammer.
His first drug test, that is. Right there in the clubhouse of the Jammers in Jamestown, N.Y.
"It was unannounced," Fransoso said by phone on Tuesday afternoon. "The guys from Drug Free Sport showed up and caught us by surprise. We got drug-tested before we went on the field. Everyone was drinking water and trying to pee in cups and they were right there watching us do it. I had never seen a process like that before."
He will no doubt see it again. Such is life in professional baseball these days.
Drug-testing and performance-enhancing drugs were the talk of the baseball world on Tuesday, coming on the heels of Monday's announcement that Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun, the National League's Most Valuable Player in 2011, has been suspended for the rest of the season, covering 65 games.
"It's not good for baseball," said Christopher Simard, a longtime New Hampshire Fisher Cats fan from Barrington, as he waited for the start of Tuesday night's game against Harrisburg at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. "It's not good for all the little kids. They see it. It's not good for them."
Braun was sanctioned for violation of the MLB's basic agreement and its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. He has been one of the highest-profile players — New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez is another — at the center of Major League Baseball's investigation of Biogenesis, a clinic in Florida accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs.
"Braun is only the beginning, absolutely," said Jeff Roach, a fan from Henniker.
Roach and Simard and folks representing the Fisher Cats and Tuesday night's opponent, the Harrisburg Senators, think there's good news in the Braun announcement, too.
"I think it's a good sign that they're getting him," Roach said. "They're enforcing the rules. You have to do that."
Maybe, just maybe, Simard said, the sanctions will have an effect on others.
"Maybe now some players will think again about it," he said. "But it's been, what, 20 years, of pills and injections. They're not going to stop. The money's too good."
Baseball is taking a lead in working against performance-enhancing products, said Fisher Cats President and General Manager Rick Brenner and Harrisburg Senators catcher Brian Jeroloman, who played parts of four seasons in New Hampshire.
"I don't think PEDs belong in any sport at any level," Brenner said. "And it's great that baseball has taken acts to catch, treat and discipline anyone who goes against the policy ... I really think as an industry it's gone from the back of the pack to the front of the pack in terms of handling it."
Jeroloman said he respects that Braun has stepped up.
"He took responsibility for what he supposedly did, and I respect that," Jeroloman said. "I guarantee that if they did as much testing as they do in baseball in other sports, everything from baseball to golf to tennis, they would find similar circumstances. Maybe not with the same kind of stuff, but everyone is looking for an edge."
Fisher Cats Manager Gary Allenson agreed.
"Look at the dollars involved," he said. "Apparently it's worth the gamble for some people if you can make yourself a better player or at least stay healthy on the field ... And baseball is a lot more diligent about it than other sports right now."
There is drug testing in both Major League Baseball and the minor leagues, and there are some differences between the two.
There are side-by-side posters — one in Spanish, the other in English — in at least a couple of spots in the Fisher Cats clubhouse describing Major League Baseball's Minor League Drug and Prevention Program.
"Understand the Program," reads the headline on one section of the poster.