Ryan Braun has gotten off to a decent start this year – not an MVP start, but a decent start. He’s hitting .271 with three home runs and 10 RBIs entering play April 15.
And Major League Baseball couldn’t be happier.
“I think that’s Bud Selig’s choice – that he performs well (and) doesn’t fail another test,” CBS Sports Radio host and Fox Sports 1 MLB analyst C.J. Nitkowski said on The Damon Amendolara Show. “Because God forbid this guy goes and hits .210 and hits eight home runs over 650 at-bats or plate appearances. That would look really, really bad for our sport.
“As much as I didn’t like what he did, I don’t like the way he handled it. I mean, listen, every guy makes that decision. I don’t judge guys on that part. I get it. But what you do after the fact, I will judge you on. And I thought he handled himself unbelievably poorly. Really disrespectful to his teammates, friends of his, the test sampler – all those guys. It was pretty awful the way he handled the entire thing, to be quite honest with you. So from that standpoint, I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for this guy. But it is good for baseball that he’s doing well.”
DA found it interesting that Nitkowski doesn’t judge players who use performance-enhancing drugs.
“I faced the decision and ultimately decided not to do it, but I’ve seen guys struggle,” Nitkowski said. “I’ve seen guys struggle to keep their jobs. And when they see another guy doing it and they know that guy’s doing it and that guy’s getting the big-league job and they’re headed back to Triple-A for not nearly the money they can make and their careers at stake, part of me sympathizes with them.
“I’m not saying it was okay. I’m not saying they should have done it. But I get it. I know what it’s like. This is a very competitive game. It’s like any professional sport. You do what you got to do a lot of times to be able to keep your job and be competitive. So I understand the plight. That’s why I don’t judge guys.”
Nitkowski’s big-league career spanned 1995 to 2005. In other words, the height of the Steroid Era.
“I knew guys were doing it, and I understood it,” he said. “It never bothered me. It probably should have, but for whatever reason, it didn’t. I just said, ‘It’s something I got to deal with. Life’s not fair. You got to deal with it.’ I made the decision to not cheat. I’ve got to go against a bunch of cheaters. I know a bunch of cheaters that have hit home runs off me now. I don’t know. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t bother me.”
Nitkowski, 41, actually trained with Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Brian McNamee for seven offseasons and said he had no idea what was going on. He said he approached McNamee about taking PEDs, and McNamee talked him out of it, saying he was good enough naturally to not have to cheat.
Nitkowski admits he was also dissuaded by the fear of getting caught.
He finished his career with an 18-32 record and a 5.37 ERA.
“I didn’t have a great career,” Nitkowski said, “but I hung in there.”