In a saga where fans and the media have made a number of players villains, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun might be the worst of the lot as far as the Biogenesis-PED situation is concerned.
Braun, speaking for the first time since he was suspended in July for the remaining 65 games of the season, issued a statement in which he did admit to using a substance near the end of his MVP season in 2011.
Here is what happened. During the latter part of the 2011 season, I was dealing with a nagging injury and I turned to products for a short period of time that I shouldn’t have used. The products were a cream and a lozenge which I was told could help expedite my rehabilitation. It was a huge mistake for which I am deeply ashamed and I compounded the situation by not admitting my mistakes immediately.
It is a long, detailed and drawn-out statement in which Braun did finally take some responsibility for his actions, though we will probably never know how much of what he said—or, more specifically, what he did—is true, but at least this is something.
It was a surreal moment for a player who used to be one of the most popular in the National League—he led all NL players in All-Star voting two years ago—but it was also the last, desperate move for Braun.
And unfortunately for him, there really is nothing that he can say to anyone that is going to change the perception of him or his eventual legacy as a Major League Baseball player.
There was a time when Braun could have gotten back in the good graces of the people. In fact, he was nearly there as recently as 2012, when he beat a positive drug test to avoid a suspension (albeit on a technicality), finished second in the MVP voting and had shed the "cheater" label attached to him.
Now here we are in 2013, and Braun has hit rock bottom. His name will forever headline the Biogenesis scandal, and he's lost nearly $3 million in salary as a result of the suspension—not to mention major endorsement deals.
On top of that, Braun, almost certainly for legal reasons, had to walk out of Miller Park the day his suspension was announced without saying a word to the public. There were t-shirts and jerseys in the stands at Brewers games with his No. 8 and the word "Fraud" in place of "Braun."
Yet that was just the beginning of what would turn out to be the worst summer of Braun's life. Buster Olney of ESPN reported that Braun lobbied for player support during the appeals process for his original 50-game suspension in 2012 by questioning the objectivity and beliefs of the sample collector:
In the calls -- confirmed by three sources -- Braun told other players that in the preparation for his appeal, some information had become known about the collector of his urine sample, Dino Laurenzi Jr., including that he was a Cubs fan -- with the implication he might work against Braun, who played for a division rival of the Cubs.
Braun, who is Jewish, also told the players that he had been told the collector was an anti-Semite.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports later wrote that a source close to Laurenzi denied Braun's anti-Semite claim.
Not only did Braun weasel his way out of his suspension two years ago, but the way he did it was to completely discredit and disparage a man who appears to have been good at his job and is far more credible than Braun ever was.
No one argues Braun's right to challenge a positive drug test, but to thoroughly denigrate, by all accounts, an innocent man doing his job to the best of his ability shows how low Braun really has sunk.
By the way, according to reports, there was no evidence whatsoever that Laurenzi actually tampered with the sample.
Braun had a lot of apologizing to do in order to make things right, but at some point, you have to stop listening to the words that come out of a person's mouth and look at their actions, correct?
And this isn't exactly the best apology. Braun did say that he was sorry, but it comes months after he was implicated in Biogenesis and nearly two full years after failing a drug test.
The more that comes out about Braun, the more we begin to peel away the layers and see what kind of man he really is. Nothing about him feels genuine anymore, no matter how much he might want to repair broken relationships.
He was willing to sell out another human being, as well as let teammates and friends defend him in public, by fabricating lies to drum up support for himself.
By hiding in the shadows until he had no choice but to try to save face, Braun has been unable to defend himself or offer any sort of explanation. And even then, he didn't actually come out to speak; instead hiding behind a lot of lawyer jargon that reads well but still doesn't feel like it's coming from Braun, because we can't hear the remorse in his voice.
Braun is still going to be paid what the Brewers owe him for the next several years. Nothing can be done about that. He will return to play baseball in 2014 and very likely do it at a high level. But the idea of him carving out a positive legacy that will be worth remembering has long since dissipated.
There is nothing left for Braun. He got what he wanted out of this whole situation, even if it cost him a handful of baseball games and $3 million of the $100-plus million he is owed. Hopefully he enjoys the money, because the respect and trust of fans, teammates and so many others that took years to build is gone, just like that.
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