Braun suspended for remainder of season
MILWAUKEE -- After declaring his innocence for a year and a half, Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun came clean Monday and accepted a suspension through the remainder of 2013 for violations of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
His suspension is without pay and effective immediately, covering the Brewers' final 65 regular-season games and any potential postseason games.
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"As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect," Braun said in a statement. "I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization. I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country.
"Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed -- all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love."
MLB's statement announcing the suspension referenced multiple violations, but it did not detail Braun's specific infractions or mention Biogenesis, the defunct South Florida "wellness clinic" under investigation for allegedly supplying players with banned substances. Under the terms of baseball's Basic Agreement, Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig has the power to suspend players for "just cause" in the absence of a failed drug test, one reason that Braun's suspension did not follow the usual 50-100-lifetime ban formula spelled out in the league's Joint Drug Agreement.
"We commend Ryan Braun for taking responsibility for his past actions," said MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred. "We all agree that it is in the best interests of the game to resolve this matter. When Ryan returns, we look forward to him making positive contributions to Major League Baseball, both on and off the field."
Said MLB Players Association executive director Michael Weiner: "I am deeply gratified to see Ryan taking this bold step. It vindicates the rights of all players under the Joint Drug Program. It is good for the game that Ryan will return soon to continue his great work both on and off the field."
Late Monday afternoon, Braun informed Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, manager Ron Roenicke and other club officials that he had accepted a suspension. He then addressed teammates, but did not specifically admit taking performance-enhancing drugs.
That meeting took place before batting practice and lasted 5-10 minutes. Second baseman Rickie Weeks characterized the mood as "somber" and said Braun appeared embarrassed. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, one of Braun's staunchest allies, characterized Braun's mood as "depressed."
"He was in a tough situation and obviously made some bad decisions, and now he has to pay for them," Lucroy said. "It's part of life, man. We all do things we have to learn from. We all make mistakes. Every single one of us."
A five-time All-Star who won the 2007 National League Rookie of the Year Award and the 2011 NL MVP Award, Braun is in the middle of a club-record contract that runs through 2020. He is earning $8.5 million this season and will forfeit nearly $3.5 million during his suspension.
Braun still has seven years and more than $120 million remaining on his contract. He will earn $10 million in 2014 and $12 million in '15 before a five-year, $105 million contract extension kicks in. It runs through at least 2020.
"We are disappointed with the news today of the suspension of Ryan Braun and his admitted mistakes," Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said in a statement. "It's clear that Ryan used bad judgment, but we accept his apology and believe that he should be given the opportunity to redeem himself.
"We have always been and continue to remain strong supporters of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Testing Program, an initiative that strives to ensure the integrity of the game."
Melvin declined to talk about the content of his afternoon discussion with Braun, but he spoke of closure for the club.
"Every year is challenging, but this has always been a cloud over the ballclub, not knowing what's going to happen," Melvin said. "There was a lot of speculation out there; you read about it, you hear about it. I didn't have any idea what was going on. I only knew what I read in the paper the next day. So you move forward and you play each day as it comes.
"I am glad, and I think as an organization we are happy that Ryan, the union and the Commissioner's Office have all put their heads together and made a wise decision for baseball and for us, the organization."
Braun's PED saga began Oct. 19, 2011, when he was informed that a urine sample submitted after Game 1 of the Brewers' NL Division Series against the D-backs had tested positive for an elevated level of synthetic testosterone. The Brewers went on to defeat Arizona in five games, with Braun batting .500 (9-for-18) with one homer, four RBIs, five runs scored, three walks and a stolen base. That December, ESPN's "Outside the Lines" broke the story, and Braun, facing a 50-game ban, spent the winter with his lawyers planning what would prove to be a successful appeal.
On Feb. 23, 2012, just as the Brewers were beginning Spring Training, Braun became the first Major Leaguer to have a suspension overturned by an arbitration panel. His legal team won by questioning the chain of custody of Braun's sample, which was not immediately shipped to the approved lab via FedEx.
The next day, with teammates in attendance, a defiant and emotional Braun emphatically asserted his innocence in prepared remarks, providing a step-by-step account of his defense and declared himself "the victim of a process that completely broke down and failed."
"The simple truth," Braun said, "is that I'm innocent."
He added: "If I had done this intentionally, or unintentionally, I would be the first one to step up and say, 'I did it.' By no means am I perfect, but if I've ever made any mistakes in my life, I've taken responsibilities for my actions. I truly believe in my heart, and I would bet my life, that this substance never entered my body at any point."
Manfred, in his own statement, expressed support for the process but made clear that MLB "vehemently disagrees" with the decision rendered by arbitrator Shyam Das.
Three months later, in May 2012, Das was dismissed by MLB and replaced by Fredric Horowitz, 63, who will preside over any Biogenesis cases that reach appeal. In June 2012, MLB and the MLBPA amended the Joint Drug Agreement to, among other things, more clearly specify when collectors must deliver specimens to the courier, as well as how specimens should be stored prior to delivery.
Meanwhile, Braun put together another solid season in 2012, overcoming early-season boos to bat .319 while leading the NL with 41 home runs, 108 runs scored, 356 total bases and a .987 OPS while playing 154 of the Brewers' 162 games. He finished second in the NL MVP balloting to the Giants' Buster Posey and ranked no lower than third on any voter's ballot.
The Biogenesis story broke in late January, when the Miami New Times published excerpts of clinic boss Anthony Bosch's notebook that implicated Major Leaguers, including the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, the Blue Jays' Melky Cabrera and the Rangers' Nelson Cruz. The New Times decided at the time against publishing references to Braun, because they did not clearly link Braun to any banned substances.
But on Feb. 5, Yahoo! Sports published excerpts that included three mentions of Braun. In one, Braun's name appears on one line, with "RB 20-30K" on the next. According to Yahoo!, Bosch listed the amount of money owed by other players in similar notation, though the numbers were usually lower.
In another instance, Braun's name is listed in what Yahoo! said appears to be a letter from Bosch to Juan Nunez, who worked for the agency that represented Cabrera and Cruz. The undated letter references "the 'Braun' advantage."
Hours later, Braun offered an explanation, saying his lawyers had merely used Bosch as a consultant during Braun's appeal.
"There was a dispute over compensation for Bosch's work, which is why my lawyer and I are listed under 'moneys owed' and not on any other list," said Braun, 29. "I have nothing to hide and have never had any other relationship with Bosch. I will fully cooperate with any inquiry into this matter."
But when Braun met with MLB investigators on June 29, as the Brewers played the Pirates in Pittsburgh, he did not cooperate, according to reports. The New York Daily News reported that more than 10 other players connected to Biogenesis also opted not to answer investigators' questions.
Bosch, however, did cooperate with the league's investigation, as did a former Biogenesis associate, Porter Fischer, the man who had supplied the Miami New Times with the documents that broke the story. And it was in that June 29 meeting with MLB investigators, according to an ESPN report on Monday, that Braun realized the seriousness of the evidence against him. He reportedly requested another meeting with MLB officials to begin talks that led to Monday's suspension.
On the field, 2013 has been an injury-riddled season for Braun, who missed time early in the year with a stiff neck and has been plagued throughout the summer months by an inflamed nerve near his right thumb. He was on the disabled list from June 9-July 9, then missed the Brewers' final four games prior to the All-Star break when a family medical emergency took him home to Los Angeles.
With the suspension official, "We can move forward starting tonight," Melvin said.