PHOENIX – Ryan Braun’s image was all over the televisions inside Chase Field’s visiting clubhouse. As the MLB Network continued its wall-to-wall coverage, one player yelled out: “Cheater!”
That’s what another player privately thought in spring training while sitting at his locker, breaking down the National League Central and discounting the Milwaukee Brewers because he assumed Braun would get suspended.
Braun got popped on Monday, taken down by the Biogenesis scandal and suspended without pay for the rest of the season. It didn’t exactly send shockwaves through the Cubs clubhouse.
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“You shouldn’t be taking things you shouldn’t be taking,” pitcher Jeff Samardzija said, “or connected to people you shouldn’t be connected to. Nowadays, you can’t hide from anything.
“That’s what it tells you. Everything you’re doing is going to be found out and going to be talked about. So if there’s something you don’t like, then you shouldn’t be doing it.”
On any other day, the MLB Network talking heads would be breaking down the Matt Garza trade, handicapping the chances the Texas Rangers now have to win the World Series. But a former MVP cutting a deal and acknowledging he took performance-enhancing drugs had to be the lead story.
[WATCH: Players react to Braun suspension]
“I’m surprised with the talent he got,” outfielder Alfonso Soriano said. “I think sometimes people don’t realize how good they are and they want to go try something else extra.”
Cubs manager Dale Sveum, a former Brewers player and coach, had helped Braun develop into a five-time All-Star and the face of the franchise.
“I’m just glad it’s kind of finally over,” Sveum said. “He has to deal with it and now he’s come out and admitted it and come to the public and apologized. The best thing that can happen for Braun and the organization is he’s able to play Opening Day next year and everything’s behind him.
“(There’s) the players that he let down, (Brewers) owner Mark Attanasio, (GM) Doug Melvin, (the) fans that have supported him (over the years). Now at least it’s finished. It’s over and they can move on.”
Soriano made his big-league debut in 1999, the year after the Mark McGwire vs. Sammy Sosa Home Run Chase. He has watched attitudes evolve, with Major League Baseball and the players union developing a joint drug agreement. He knows his name and reputation are on the line.
“Everything’s changed from when I started,” Soriano said. “Now they have tests. People have to be careful, what they use, what they drink. Because it’s not the money. It’s not the suspension. For me personally, it’s the family, friends, fans, what you do to your teammates, all that kind of stuff.
“The money is not important. But how your family (views you), how people want to treat your family, that’s hard. That’s why I try to never do anything negative.”