LOS ANGELES – Ryan Braun has apologized. He may have contained the speculation, at least temporarily. He pushed the rumors and fabrications and bullying into a neat pile, from this very date to that very date, from this cream to that lozenge (singular). Then he literally put a #30# on it, journalese for "end of story."
It was a damned good apology, too. Mentioned the commissioner and one of his men, the union chief and the test collector. His pals. His Milwaukee Brewers teammates. Fellow players.
there in Maryvale, Ariz., that day two Februaries ago you absolutely had to read in his voice, Braun proved that he was nearly as good at contrition as he was at condescension. And he did condescension exceptionally well.By the end of those 10 paragraphs, that were you
He apologized for that, too.
I'm sure he's already started on the personal apology tour, as well. He almost certainly believes he owes more than a faceless, two-dimensional statement to plenty of folks, no matter how revealing he allowed himself to be.
So there's that, the long trudge across the double-crossed and manipulated and disgusted. Most would forgive him – if that's what he wants – for buying and using illegal substances. Most would forgive him for lying about it. Braun chose to push farther, into that area where people wonder in hindsight how they could be such fools.
(Say what you will about Alex Rodriguez, but when he comes clean – assuming he does – no one will feel much like a fool. Alex, perhaps, least of all.)
As Zack Greinke, Braun's teammate for a good part of two seasons, said a while back, "Just the fact that he was willing to use anyone that got in his path. The closer you were to him, the more he would use you. It's just disappointing that a human being could be like that."
It's a wonderful and damning sentiment, except Braun at the time probably viewed it as the cost of doing business. You want me in the lineup tomorrow or not?
We have a tendency to overwork these things, diligently separating good from evil so our piles can be neat, too. So Braun fits in the evil pile because a former employee of a small-time operation in Miami didn't get his $4,000 back. And some other guy is good because he was smarter about where he got his stuff, and didn't pay with a check, and didn't hang out texting the fake doctor.
That said, catching the cheaters is better than not, and punishing them is necessary. As it relates to Biogenesis and Braun, however, let's not pretend MLB investigators found the only wellness clinic that services big-league players, and let's not assume that the first and only time Braun dropped a high-test lozenge he was caught. Both would be incredible (if possible) coincidences, particularly given that none of the other players suspended in the past month actually tested positive.
We're to believe Braun was simply really bad at cheating, far worse than he was at lying. Remember, then, that a long-time friend of Braun's is suing him over a $5,000 debt gone bad (Note to ballplayers: You're millionaires, cut a check for four or five grand), and alleges Braun had been using steroids as far back as college. This is the moment when you ask yourself who to believe – the lackey you've never heard of or the confirmed liar, a young man who insists he began to believe a tale about himself in spite of hard scientific evidence otherwise.
Braun will be lauded for coming clean, and he'll be castigated for playing everyone for chumps again, and then he'll bat those big eyes and show up next April and play ball. Some will forgive him, if that's what he wants. Some won't. And some will re-read those 10 paragraphs from Thursday and wonder if we've really learned anything from them.
One day, he'd have to be sorry. One day, he'd have to pull back the pretty falsehoods and reveal a little filth. He'd have to promise to be part of the solution. Check, check and check.
The next part won't be as simple. He'll have to walk out into the world, clear his throat and, just as he did that day in Maryvale, become believable. I wonder how many of those teammates who shuffled along the warning track that day in silent support will be willing to do it again. I wonder how many will be convinced that this time he's not using them. And of those who shuffle back, I wonder how many will do it because they still believe that the game is bigger than all of them, even Ryan Braun, and that this is a way back.
Braun apologized Thursday and it was fine and we're to believe him now. There was only a single flaw, and that was found at the bottom of the second page.
End of story?
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