Braun's statement a start, but comes up short
The very kindest thing you could say about Ryan Braun at this point is that he's badly advised.
For all the damage that Braun has done -- to the Brewers organization, to Brewers fans and to the game of baseball -- much more than a prepared statement will be required.
That's what we all received on Thursday, though. It was apparently intended as an apology and a confession. It comes up short in both areas. As a citizen of the city of Milwaukee and a 20-game-package Brewers season-ticket holder, I find this statement to be inadequate on several levels. And I'm being polite when I say that.
I made the mistake of defending Braun earlier in the process that eventually led to his suspension. I wanted to believe him when he said he had never used performance-enhancing drugs. I thought he was fundamentally too intelligent to become involved with PEDs. On all the available evidence, no, he was not.
This statement from Braun, the erstwhile Brewers left fielder, is sorely lacking in specificity. What drug was he taking? He tested positive for drastically elevated levels of testosterone, so synthetic testosterone would be a reasonable estimate. But you won't find that in his statement.
Braun said he was recovering from a nagging injury when he took PEDs. But he doesn't say what injury. The basic questions go unanswered here.
But that is not the worst of it. What separates Braun from every other baseball player who has been caught using PEDs was his February 2012 news conference that came after he successfully appealed a positive drug test.
Braun was eloquent then. He was forceful in defending his innocence. He was indignant that his honor had been called into question. Unfortunately, as we now know, all of the pertinent information Braun provided about his case that day was untrue.
And Braun went further than that. He suggested that the individual in charge of collecting his urine sample, Dino Laurenzi Jr., could have been guilty of tampering with the sample.
Braun eventually was brought to justice by Major League Baseball's investigation into Biogenesis, a now-defunct south Florida anti-aging clinic that was providing PEDs to athletes. Braun accepted a 65-game suspension for his use of PEDs.
What should have happened immediately after Braun was suspended one month ago was another news conference. In this conference, Braun could have read the same prepared statement that we received Thursday. But at that news conference, there subsequently would have been an opportunity for the tough and necessary questions to be asked.
Braun has some truly high-powered advisors, at least by reputation, but they haven't done him any favors in this case. The one-month wait was a mistake. It simply provided more time for more negative allegations regarding Braun to appear. And at the end of the month, this statement produced more questions than answers.
The two questions everyone I know wants to ask Braun are: "How could you make any portion of that February 2012 statement knowing that you were guilty?" and "How could you impugn the integrity of the collector, when you knew that the positive test was a completely accurate test?"
Braun does address this topic in the prepared statement. "At that time, I still didn't want to believe that I had used a banned substance," Braun said. "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."
At another point in the statement, Braun said: "For a long time, I was in denial and convinced myself that I had not done anything wrong."
This is a facile and essentially circular explanation, which some people, myself included, will simply not find credible.
There are passages of apologies in this statement, and they may all be completely sincere.
Either way, there is tremendous significance attached to this case. This is a man admitting PED usage in 2011, the year he won the National League MVP Award and the year he led his team to the NL Championship Series.
This prepared statement is not enough. It could be viewed as a start of the rehabilitation of Braun's image, but even then it would not be seen as an impressive start. This statement is not going to solve any of his problems. On the confession front, Braun needs to try again and do better next time.