Sad truth is Braun misled everyone
Ryan Braun's suspension hurts the Milwaukee Brewers and their fans more than anybody else.
But those of us who have publicly given Braun the benefit of the doubt aren't looking particularly swell, either.
We were guilty of being naïve, guilty of having what turned out to be a hopelessly pristine view of Braun's character, and by the time the bottom line was reached, we were guilty of being wrong.
Braun, the Brewers' left fielder and the National League MVP in 2011, was suspended for the remainder of the season (65 games, plus the postseason if Milwaukee makes it) by Major League Baseball on Monday for violating baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Braun, rather than appealing the penalty, has accepted the penalty. This inescapably means that he was caught either buying or using performance-enhancing drugs.
What I thought about Braun in this context was exactly what some of his teammates have said about him: "He's too intelligent to get involved with something like that [PEDs]."
Braun, you will recall, became the first player to successfully appeal a positive drug test under MLB's current drug-testing program. His positive test was overturned by an arbitration panel because of irregularities in the chain of custody of his test sample.
After his successful appeal, Braun delivered a stirring speech, proclaiming his innocence in forceful and eloquent terms. Looking back, on that impassioned address now, one has to place an asterisk next to the entire performance. Some of it, perhaps all of it, can now be seen as outside the boundaries of truth.
That episode ended during Spring Training 2012. More recently, Braun was caught up in the scandal surrounding Biogenesis, the South Florida anti-aging clinic that is alleged to have sold PEDs to Major League Baseball players.
In Biogenesis documents, Braun was alleged to have owed the clinic money. Braun said in response to these charges that his attorneys had used the clinic's operator, Anthony Bosch, as a consultant during Braun's appeal of the positive drug test and that there was disagreement over Bosch's fee.
This was where even some of Braun's staunchest supporters began to see holes in his argument. The idea that Braun's high-powered legal team would use a widely discredited individual as a consultant seemed neither believable nor sensible.
Braun continued to publicly maintain his absolute innocence, recently using the phrase "the truth is still the truth," to describe his continuing innocence.
With the suspension, and Braun's acceptance of the suspension, it is apparent that the truth does not favor Braun's earlier versions of the story. The obvious truth now is that Braun wasn't telling the truth on the PEDs issue for a considerable length of time.
In a statement issued Monday, Braun said, "I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions."
The obvious truth now is that Braun apparently wasn't telling the truth on the PEDs issue for a considerable length of time.
But the people who are most damaged by the Braun suspension, apart from Braun himself, are the Brewers and their fans.
The Brewers have made him the face of the franchise. He is under contract through 2020 with a mutual option for '21. At the time Braun's contract was extended, the Milwaukee organization was widely applauded for locking up a player who would continue to be a unique talent and an ideal spokesman for the franchise.
The people who have supported this franchise, with three seasons of 3 million or more in attendance in the smallest media market in the Majors, also have a right to feel disappointed.
The Milwaukee team will play the rest of this season without its best player. And what the Brewers will be getting when Braun returns next year is by now an open question. Braun was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2007 and an All-Star in the next five consecutive seasons. He led the NL in home runs, OPS and total bases in 2012. He was a star from front to back. After moving from third base to the outfield in his second Major League season, his athleticism and aptitude allowed him to become outstanding in that defensive role as well.
This suspension was not the result of MLB mounting a vendetta against Braun because he beat a positive drug test. As Commissioner Bud Selig has said, if baseball is going to have the toughest anti-drug program in American professional sports, then it needs to have enforcement that is just as tough.
That is the good news. The bad news is that Braun is not quite the person many of us believed he was.