This feels like deja vu, like I've already written about this nearly two years ago. Ryan Braun is, once again, suspended. This time, of course, it's official--no appeals. He got more games as a punishment than he would have the first time, but at a more convenient time. I gave some of my feelings yesterday when the news broke, but I want to expand upon that.
I'll be honest with you: When I first saw that Ryan Braun had been suspended for the remainder of the 2013 season, I felt more impassive than anything. A year-and-a-half ago I was a lot more shocked. This time around, not so much.
The whole thing just doesn't feel very unexpected. With how fiercely MLB was pursuing Braun and others, it was only a matter of time before a suspension occurred. When Braun's name first appeared on the Biogenesis papers as reported by ESPN, there was still some hope that he was innocent. His explanation that his lawyer's used Anthony Bosch as a consultant in his original appeals case made so much sense. The Miami New Times knew about Braun's name being in the papers, but did not publish because they did not think it was proof against him.
Things looked like they remained in Braun's favor at the time, but it planted just another seed of doubt. That seed grew and grew and eventually became an MLB Oak. Each passing week it looked more and more likely that Braun would eventually have to be suspended. The MLB wanted it. Most national writers were calling for it. It was bound to happen, and it became a matter of when, not if.
So, yeah, when the news broke yesterday it was hard to really muster up much shock. I certainly was hit with a dry mouth and blank mind for a bit. It was hard
There's still something weird about the whole thing. Neither Braun nor MLB specifically stated what he was suspended for, outside of "violating the league's Joint Drug Agreement". The Miami New Times never wanted to publish Braun's name because the evidence wasn't strong enough. Braun's testosterone levels when tested were still at absurd levels.
I'm not saying Braun is innocent. Occam's Razor says that the simplest explanation is often the correct one, and that likely holds true here as well. I don't think he is innocent. I just think that this whole thing has been very odd, from the start to the finish, if this even is ultimately the finish.
I've said on Twitter that I really hope some world-class reporter takes the opportunity to write an in-depth book about Biogenesis, because unless that happens I'm not sure we're ever going to hear the full story about everything. We don't need the full story to know the result, but I really want to satiate my curiosity about everything that happened in the past year and a half.
People are upset at Braun, Brewers fans and non-Brewers fans alike. Not for using PEDs so much as for trying to escape punishment. Me? I can't blame the guy. I probably would have done the same thing. I think a lot of people would have. You can be a big person and say that you never would have lied, but then put yourself in a position where you decided to use in the first place and think what you would say. You already decided to do something expressly against the rules. Maybe you or others really would have come clean and kudos to you if you think that's true. I would like to think the same about myself, but the truth is probably otherwise, especially if I think I have a good shot at winning.
Mostly, I think this whole "if only he admitted to it" thing is a crock. If he admits to it after getting caught, that makes him better? I can see that argument if he admits to it out of guilt for using, but not after getting caught and facing punishment anyway. "Oh crap, you caught me? Uhhh...sorry everyone! Cool now?" No, I would probably try to get out of the suspension, too.
Furthermore, Braun's appeal was never even supposed to be known. It is a confidential process that was leaked to the press and became a huge story. What if he went through the appeals process, lost, then the news broke he was suspended and he apologized? Is he a better person then, despite doing the exact same thing? You would never have known about the appeal. What if he won, and we never knew about his original positive test at all? How would you have felt about him yesterday? Would his apology have rang more true? Would he be as villified? Would he be seen as such a liar as he is now? What if word came out that Andy Pettitte had appealed his positive test? Would he be as forgiven?
People say Braun was supposed to be a role model. To that, I say that no he wasn't. Baseball players and athletes aren't inherently role models. They can rise to that level, sure, if they do a bunch of make-a-wish things or whatever. But how many ballplayers are real true role models? They play a ballgame and otherwise live their lives. They aren't saving anybody, they aren't the moral compasses of society. They're athletes. You're living in some weird 1950's glorifying the past state of mind if you think a ball player has to be a role model.
While it sucks that the sample collector was fired from his job, he did his job wrong in a way that could effect results from the sample. That's a pretty egregious error. If he had done his job right, this whole thing would have been over a year and a half ago. There were other locations where he could have shipped the urine. Instead, he chose to keep it around for a couple days.
As Deadspin points out, Braun's worst statement about the sample collector wasn't even anything close to as bad as national media are making it out to be, anyway.
If people around the nation believe that Dino Laurenzi, Jr. deserves to have a public apology from Ryan Braun, they should be calling even more for an apology to and rehiring of Shyam Das. And not by Braun, either. By Major League Baseball. Das was the independent arbitrator hired by MLB in Braun's appeals case. He ruled in Braun's favor, so he was fired. Seems fair. But certainly Laurenzi, the one who did his job wrong, was the one who deserves the apology.
A lot of people are angry right now. Whether their reasons are valid or not, the reactions are mostly understandable. I think people will cool off in the next few days, and Brewers fans will still cheer for Braun. Maybe some won't anymore, but I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority will be back to whooping and hollering midway through 2014.
Steroids exist in baseball. Players lie about it. I think the worst thing about steroids is the health concerns they come with. Some agree with that, most don't. Braun was second in the 2012 MVP race, the season after his positive test came out. I find it hard to believe he would be using just months after a very public positive test. The fact that he was still one of the best players in the league tells me he doesn't need steroids to be an MVP player.
I'm still going to cheer Ryan Braun. I'm just glad this whole year-and-a-half long mess is over. As a Brewers fan, I'm glad the suspension is only for the rest of a lost season.
Mostly, I'm glad that we can hopefully move on.