There are three schools of thought on Ryan Braun at this point. There are those people who absolutely know he is guilty. There are people who absolutely know he is innocent. And then there are those people who have no idea what happened, but just have to sit back and shake their head at the whole circus.
I fall into the third category. Jeff Passan pretty clearly falls in the first.
In his latest piece slamming Braun, Passan takes the young slugger to task for proclaiming, "I have nothing to hide," and then refusing to answer questions MLB put to him regarding Biogenesis. Labeling Braun "Mr. Fifth Amendment," Passan argues that if the truth really were that important to Braun, he would just tell everyone he's guilty or explain how synthetic testosterone ended up in his urine. But Braun hasn't done either, and that doesn't sit well with Passan. He doesn't come right out and say it (how's that for hiding?), but the clear inference from Passan's writing is that MLB is fully justified in its pursuit of Braun, because it is really a pursuit for the truth.
"Nonsense" just doesn't seem like it's quite strong enough a word for that notion.
MLB, and Passan, aren't interested in the truth, because they already know it. Passan says as much in his column. MLB believes it had a valid sample - chain of custody be damned! - and "believes Braun is guilty of the same things as A-Rod - using PEDs and lying about it." That's a direct quote from Passan.
If there was any doubt about what MLB and Passan consider "the truth," Passan then argues the better course would be for Braun to just admit to doping. This, he suggests, would ultimately help Braun's career. As evidence he cites two admitted PED users who are still playing in their 40s. I'm sure Braun appreciates the career advice, but it would probably be more persuasive if it wasn't coming from a guy playing the good cop. "Be like them, Ryan. Just tell us the truth, and this can end and the whole thing will blow over."
To be sure, Passan is right about one thing. Braun has hardly been an open book, and I've criticized Braun for that in the past. He hasn't explained his firing away at the urine collector's character in his "victory speech" in spring training, nor has he explained his vague statements about the truth having yet to be revealed. Most importantly, he hasn't explained how synthetic testosterone wound up in his urine. But it's a long leap to interpret Braun's refusal to answer questions, particularly to an organization that has declared him public enemy number one, as proof of guilt.
There's no room for ambiguity in Passan's world, though. Those of us who decline to take a position on whether Braun is a cheater are "Braun truthers" who are more concerned with MLB's vendetta or Bosch's credibility. These matters Passan labels "peripheral aspects" of the case. If being concerned with motive and evidence is a "peripheral aspect" of player discipline, then we can be pretty certain MLB and the Player's Association got it completely wrong in the JDA. Just think about this: a national writer has just called the evidence against an accused player irrelevant. What century is this?
What's ironic about Passan is that he has little tolerance for a rule-breaker like Ryan Braun, but would cast nary a batted eye at MLB exacting its own sort of vigilante justice. Paid informants, envelopes stuffed with cash, sham lawsuits, personal security for drug dealers; Passan doesn't care about any of this, as long as it leads to "the truth" that he and MLB have already settled upon.
And this is how it is for some people. Braun is a cheater, and MLB is fully justified in however it chooses to pursue them, rules and process be damned. It's a look into a world of black and white, when I'm here standing in a world of gray.