Shane Victorino and Ryan Braun played for Team USA in two World Baseball Classics.
Victorino called Braun a player he knows “on a personal level.”
When Braun was first accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs, Victorino supported the Brewers slugger.
“Now looking back on it, it’s kind of like, well . . . ” Victorino said after Monday night’s 3-0 loss to the Rays at Fenway Park.
“It’s a cloud for the game, especially for one of the elite players in the game,’’ added the Red Sox right fielder. “People are going to say, ‘Well that’s why he’s elite because he cheated.’ He’s still a good player, no matter what. But it’s very unfortunate.”
On Monday, Major League Baseball suspended Braun without pay for the remainder of the season, citing multiple violations of baseball’s drug program and labor contract.
Braun, 29, will lose $3.25 million and miss the final 65 games of the season — plus any postseason games.
“It’s individuals that have to take care of the situation and understand the consequences that come with that when they do things like that,” Victorino said.
Braun was the 2011 National League MVP.
Baseball’s biggest story broke just as batting practice wrapped up at Fenway Park.
Over the next five hours, MLB issued a statement, Braun accepted the penalty, and the Rays beat the Sox, creeping within a half-game of the AL East lead.
By last pitch, the damning, drug-related suspension became impossible to ignore — even for two teams not involved.
“Obviously, it’s the right thing to do,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “And if more of that happens, based on good evidence, I’m all for it.”
Because of the announcement’s timing, many players heard the news, but didn’t yet know details.
Rays starting pitcher Matt Moore saw the headline flash on a television right before warm-ups. He was wearing headphones.
“It was kind of one of those moments where I’m not trying to think about what Ryan Braun of Milwaukee is doing,” Moore said. “I’m trying to get my head right and get in the zone.”
Moore, Tampa Bay’s player representative, wanted to gather information before commenting further.
In the Tampa Bay clubhouse after the game, ESPN was broadcasting on a large flat screen television. When analysts discussed Braun’s suspension, several players watched the TV with blank stares.
Rays pitcher David Price, walking toward the exit, paused when he heard Braun’s name. He stopped and listened to the commentary.
“Obviously, you listen to the rumors so we knew he was in the news,” Victorino said. “But rumors are rumors. I’m not Major League Baseball so I don’t know what’s coming next.”
MLB investigated Braun for ties to Biogenesis, a now-defunct anti-aging clinic in Miami. Anthony Bosch, the director, allegedly provided performance-enhancing drugs to athletes.
More than a dozen other players are reportedly linked, including Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
Braun tested positive for elevated testosterone levels in 2012. He successfully appealed a 50-game suspension.
“[Braun] stood up for it today, he took the brunt of it,” Victorino said. “Is there more? Who knows?”
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia has been vocal about steroids in baseball. In March, Pedroia told reporters he supported harsher penalties for cheaters.
“I’m all for the most possible,” Pedroia said at the time. “I understand the reasoning why, because we have so much information. There shouldn’t be any slip-ups unless people are trying to get an advantage and that’s not fair.”
Victorino continuously referred to the suspension as “a very unfortunate situation.”
“I don’t sit and worry about what’s going on there,” Victorino said. “I have to worry about myself and worry about what the Red Sox are doing.”
Still, Victorino said it was tough to see someone he knows well be connected to a scandal.
“But he obviously got caught,” Victorino said. “He’ll face the consequences. But the game of baseball will still go on.”Emily Kaplan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @emilymkaplan.