It might have helped if he’d rented a hotel ballroom, invited every reporter and TV network in America, stood in front of a microphone and spoke to the people — the fans, the baseball industry, the human mechanism that generates the remaining $127 million still owed him — he so farcically has let down.
But I doubt it.
If Ryan Braun couldn’t explain in 943 written words what we needed to hear, then he wouldn’t have had the guts to muster the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in a news conference, where his “apology” should have happened, where we could have looked him in the eyeballs and decided if he was contrite and genuine or simply, as I suspect, full of b.s.
Oh, he tried hard to make good with his family, his friends, his teammates, the Milwaukee Brewers franchise, the fans, his agents and advisors. “I have disappointed the people closest to me — the ones who fought for me because they truly believed me all along. I kept the truth from everyone. For a long time, I was in denial and convinced myself that I had not done anything wrong,” he wrote in his public letter, which we’ve impatiently awaited since he accepted his 65-game suspension from Major League Baseball. “Those who put their necks out for me have been embarrassed by my behavior. I don’t have the words to express how sorry I am for that.”
And sure, he tried to look like he was beating himself up. As if sitting on an analyst’s couch, he described himself as “self-righteous” and having “a lot of unjustified anger” two years ago while lying — in an unforgivable scheme — that he never used performance-enhancing drugs. He wrote that he loves “the great game of baseball;” said he’s “very sorry for any damage done to the game;” acknowledged he has privately apologized to commissioner Bud Selig, the Players Association and Dino Laurenzi Jr., the urine colliector whose reputation he tried to ruin. He wrote that he supports MLB’s ramped-up drug policy, will contribute in the sport’s fight against PED use and admitted that his supposed crime — using an anti-inflammatory cream and unspecified lozenge “for a short period of time” to help “expedite my rehabilitation” from a “nagging injury” — was “a huge mistake.”
“I’m deeply ashamed,” Ryan Braun said.
Too bad he isn’t deeply forthcoming.
Cowardly as it is to hide behind an agency-crafted news release somewhere in southern California, Braun’s biggest strategic error was failing to provide specifics. If the five basic questions of what remains of journalism are who, what, when, where and why, I’m not certain he has answered any. Was this merely about the short-term use of a cream and lozenge? Or is that, too, a lie? If that’s his only wrongdoing, it wouldn’t seem to have warranted a major coverup attempt that has led to a defamation lawsuit against Braun by a former friend; the smearing of a urine collector who also might want to consider legal action; and a relationship with the now-defunct, forever-infamous Biogenesis of America anti-aging clinic, based just outside Miami, or 1,500 miles from his Wisconsin workplace. Remember: When Braun was chosen for a random test during a 2011 National League division series, his testosterone level was staggeringly high — his testosterone/Epitestosterone ratio was 20:1 when 4:1 is enough to detect a dirty test. The words “cream” and “lozenge” soften what anti-PED experts would describe as power and confidence, especially when presented with Braun’s numbers down the stretch that season: a .350 batting average with 12 homers and 40 RBIs in the final two months, and a .405 average with two homers and 10 RBIs in the postseason. He won the MVP award and was hailed as one of the great hitters in the game, a future Hall of Famer, blessed with business acumen, good looks, considerable popularity and a power stroke that belied a slender build.
Belied, as in lie.
What we require from Braun now is an explanation. What were the precise names of the banned substances? How did he come upon Biogenesis and why didn’t he mention the clinic in his statement? Was he aware at the time that Biogenesis was a well-known marketplace for PEDs, with 13 players suspended after MLB’s massive investigation of the clinic and founder Tony Bosch? Who gave him the substances? Why would he stand there and lie at spring training last year, assailing MLB’s testing system as “absolutely fatally flawed” when he was the one with the fatal flaw? “I truly believe in my heart, and I would bet my life,” he said that day, “that this substance never entered my body at any point.”
Well, obviously, it had. And he knew then that it had. Which leads to the biggest and most baffling mystery: Why would a gifted and accomplished multi-millionaire risk it all to smear some creme on a sore spot and swallow a lozenge? Forgive me for thinking we’re only reading bits and pieces of the truth, not the entirety.
Based on the language in his statement, Braun is trying to warm-and-fuzzy us. No one is in the mood to read it anymore, not after 15 years of lies and coverups and continued PED use that has sent baseball free-falling in popularity, saved only by TV networks that will pay big rights fees because advertisers crave uninterrupted sports content in the DVR age. Nowhere in his statement does Braun address the most damning claims about him — that he asked his longtime friend, Ralph Sasson, to investigate and smear Laurenzi Jr. and participate in a prank against two ESPN reporters investigating Braun’s failed test. Nor does he address what most angers many of his major-league peers, that he openly lobbied for their public-relations support while he was successfully, albeit temporarily, wiggling out of the positive drug test because of a now-bogus technicality. According to ESPN, Braun, who is Jewish, went so far to spread word that Laurenzi Jr. was anti-Semitic.
All Braun did in the statement was scrape the surface on those issues. “I sincerely apologize to everybody involved in the arbitration process, including the collector, Dino Laurenzi, Jr.,” wrote Braun, who should have devoted more words to Dino. “I feel terrible that I put my teammates in a position where they were asked some very difficult and uncomfortable questions. One of my primary goals is to make amends with them.”
As we’ve seen with Alex Rodriguez in his continuing lone-wolf fight against MLB (not to mention his very superiors with the Yankees), teammates still will rally around a PED-troubled player if he produces on the field. If Braun rakes, the Brewers will take him back, even if Milwaukee fans are disgusted. But everywhere else in the sport, he’ll be a pariah. Said Detroit pitcher Max Scherzer, per the Associated Press: “I thought this whole thing has been despicable on his part. When he did get caught, he never came clean. He tried to question the ability of the collector when he was caught red-handed. So that’s why the whole Braun situation, there is so much player outrage toward him.”
His failure to apologize in an open forum isn’t being received well among his brethren. Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson, whose team was victimized by Braun’s juice in that 2011 division series, spoke for many when he attacked Braun’s character the other day. “If I get a chance to see Braun, I’ve got a question for him right to his face, you know?” Gibson said. “Is he about rehearsed (enough) by now, you think? About ready to come out? He’s probably practicing at the theater school somewhere. Just look at how things like that can influence people’s opportunities and an opportunity to do something like (win a playoff series).”
We should have known in Braun’s previous statement, after he won a reprieve from the positive test, that he protested a bit too vigorously to be believed. This is what he wrote then about what he claimed was a sabotage attempt by Laurenzi, which looks particularly pathetic now:
“When FedEx received the samples, it then creates a chain of custody at the FedEx location where he eventually brought my sample to. It would have been stored in a temperature-controlled environment, and FedEx is used to handling clinical packaging. But most importantly, you then would become a number and no longer a name. So when we provide our samples, there is a number and no longer a name associated with the sample. That way there can’t be any bias — whether it’s with FedEx, while it’s traveling, at the lab in Montreal, in any way — based on somebody’s race, religion, ethnicity, what team they play for, whatever the case may be. As players, the confidentiality of this process is extremely important. It’s always been extremely important, because the only way for the process to succeed is for the confidentiality and the chain of custody to work.
“Why he didn’t bring it in, I don’t know. On the day that he did finally bring it in, FedEx opened at 7:30. Why didn’t he bring it in until 1:30? I can’t answer that question. Why was there zero documentation? What could have possibly happened to it during that 44-hour period? There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened.”
Including his claim that Laurenzi Jr. supposedly is a Cubs fan, which Braun also used in trying to woo Brewers teammates to his side. You might have to go back to Richard Nixon to find a public figure who finagled and stretched like Lyin’ Ryan.
“At that time, I still didn’t want to believe that I had used a banned substance,” Braun tried to explain in his statement. “I think a combination of feeling self-righteous and having a lot of unjustified anger led me to react the way I did. I felt wronged and attacked, but looking back now, I was the one who was wrong. I am beyond embarrassed that I said what I thought I needed to say to defend my clouded vision of reality. I am just starting the process of trying to understand why I responded the way I did, which I continue to regret. There is no excuse for any of this.”
He is trying to be the anti-A-Rod, the ‘rowdier who fesses up and apologizes. But all he has done with this statement, I’m afraid, is make me think a 65-game ban wasn’t tough enough. It seems Lyin’ Ryan Braun copped a plea from the commissioner so he can return and collect his $127 million.
When he does show his face next spring, his nose might be longer than his bat.