Ryan Braun’s Apology

Everyone has an opinion on PEDs. Some say legalize, some say harsher penalties, still others say they’re sick of hearing about them. If you’re sick of hearing about them, this is the last warning sign on the dirt path up to the creepy, PED castle to turn back.

Ryan Braun, suspended by MLB on July 22nd for the remainder of the season, released a statement Thursday in which he attempted to explain and apologize for his behavior dating back to when his initial suspension was overturned. That came in February of 2012 when Braun, in accordance with the faultiness of MLB’s chain-of-custody rules, had his 50-game suspension overturned. In retrospect, his reaction to his successful appeal speaks loudly for his character.

Everyone has something to say about his full-apology, including myself.

The first line, “Now that the initial MLB investigation is over, I want to apologize for my actions and provide a more specific account of what I did and why I deserved to be suspended” reeks. Absolutely reeks. It was exactly a month after Braun was suspended and 17 days since MLB handed down their suspension to the other Biogenesis users. Braun certainly took his time in announcing simply that he was sorry. Really? No kidding. He was sorry he got caught.

Also, the fact that he did his apology through a released statement (where his lawyers and publicists could have combed over it for those 17 days) is cowardly. He should have sat down with someone. And I don’t mean with Oprah, who’s hosted enough cry-sessions lately. He needed to sit down with someone who would ask real questions – bring back Morley Safer! Then, and only then, could his apology establish any legitimacy.

In the second paragraph, which concludes with, “For a long time, I was in denial and convinced myself that I had not done anything wrong” he attempts to perversely justify his actions. Those first two paragraphs are very ho-hum, typical PED apologies, which is to say saying the right thing, but the credibility isn’t there. He attempts to create sympathy for himself because Ryan Braun had seemingly lost control of his ego. He sets his ego up like Grendel, making it an uncontrollable monster that symbolized everything he did wrong.

However, he turns it around with “It is important that people understand that I did not share details of what happened with anyone until recently. My family, my teammates, the Brewers organization, my friends, agents and advisors had no knowledge of these facts” where he can be believed. Keeping it from even his inner circle was a smart move for Braun, who couldn’t believe that he himself was cheating. Therefore, how could he tell others his secret if he couldn’t believe the secret was true? The warped path that Braun travelled retains some traction. As it has been well documented that normal people who obtain small bits of power become megalomaniacs, the integrity of Braun’s statement rises.

Then, he goes too far. In paragraph three he cites his steroid use as a byproduct of an injury from his 2011, MVP-award season. He blames it on the injury. As every PED user does. Just two paragraphs after claiming the blame all rested with him. That doesn’t translate.

Then this part gets to me. It bothers me. He claims to have used “a cream” and “a lozenge” which of course doesn’t sound nearly as blunt or awful or cheater-ish as “Yeah, I stabbed myself in the backside with a needle that contained performance-enhancing serum.” Braun painted a pretty picture where the cream was merely rubbed in and the lozenge went under the tongue, all rather than the stark reality of ‘roids where a substance gets transferred to the bloodstream via syringe in the butt.

That’s where Braun slips into partial-admittances and half-truths. He admits he used steroids, he comes out, arms up, surrendering. But wait! He didn’t do it like the other guys. Yeah he did the same thing, but not really, he just took lozenges and applied creams. He claims those things because his publicist told him to. It would seem a little less guilty. He also alleges it was for but, “a short time.” To which all the kids at home go “Hmmm…maybe Braun isn’t so bad. Maybe he made one mistake. I make mistakes, maybe he’s like me.”

But if one mistake was all Braun made, then why have PEDs dogged him his entire career? At the University of Miami where he played college ball, he knew a man named Ralph Sasson. Sasson, 29, put in a lawsuit on August 16th that Braun used steroids in college. Braun’s lawyers argued the case had “no merit” but doesn’t it? Cesar Carrillo, his college roommate and Detroit Tigers pitcher, was suspended August 5th for PED use. Back in 2006 in Brevard County the Manatees, a High-Class A team for the Milwaukee Brewers, had two of their top picks room together. Their 2004 first-rounder, Mark Rogers, and their 2005 first-rounder, Ryan Braun were buddies while road-tripping on their team bus. Both were 5th overall picks in their MLB drafts. Back in 2011, Rogers tested positive for PED use and accepted MLB’s suspension of 25 games. Now Braun had teammates in college and pro-ball get suspended for steroids as well as a former friend accuse him AND he recently admitted to using…how can he possibly make the public believe he used for “a short time.”

I know up to this point I have done nothing but attack Braun and his statements, but this paragraph humanized him:

“I deeply regret many of the things I said at the press conference after the arbitrator’s decision in February 2012. At that time, I still didn’t want to believe that I had used a banned substance. I think a combination of feeling self righteous and having a lot of unjustified anger led me to react the way I did. 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.”

Braun seems to get it. Of any statement in the entire announcement, this one shines through. It’s credible that the fame monster, the one that reared its ugly head when the crowd rose from their seats, could’ve consumed him. The deafening adulation that was heaped upon Braun could’ve swallowed him up. He’s also correct at the end of the paragraph when he says there is no excuse. He’s right; there isn’t a single one that could justify his actions. But, this paragraph explains an insight as to why he kept using, why he couldn’t quit. The impetus to start (the injury) seems bologna, but here Braun appears to go introspective. An act of catharsis and a guilty conscience consummated in this paragraph, seemingly untouched by the many hands that helped shape his statement.

I also take issue with a snide caveat later on. “Braun” writes, “I came to the realization that it was time to come to grips with the truth. I was never presented with baseball’s evidence against me, but I didn’t need to be, because I knew what I had done.” When he says he was never presented with baseball’s evidence, he insinuates Bud Selig was not forthcoming. He implies that he was being the hero by owning up to his actions even before baseball acknowledged their case against him. He draws sympathy to himself.

Then, in passing, he catches trouble again. In the midst of the paragraph where he’s listing of apologies like calling numbers at Bingo, he mentions, “I sincerely apologize to everybody involved in the arbitration process, including the collector, Dino Laurenzi, Jr.” Laurenzi Jr. was the sample collector whom he had fired. The guy lost his job because Braun alleged then that he had done nothing wrong. That’s Lance Armstrong material! Braun sought to push others in the way of his ego locomotive barreling down the steroids track. Dino should get his own paragraph for the way that Braun affected his life. Laurenzi’s main offense was keeping the cup which contained Braun’s sample in his fridge for two extra days over a weekend. Braun got off on a technicality. But seriously, is it believable that Laurenzi would have tampered with Braun’s sample? As it was Braun had a 20-to-1 ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, which is significantly higher than a “positive” test result of 4-to-1.

Braun notes, also, that he hopes to work “very, very hard” to build up trust and respect against. But those two things fall under the category of difficult to gather, but easy to lose.

Lastly, Ryan Braun says he, “support[s] baseball’s Joint Drug Treatment and Prevention Program and the importance of cleaning up the game.” Here, there is a vital building block for baseball. Peter Keating correctly pointed out in last month’s issue of ESPN the Magazine that baseball really doesn’t know how much PEDs actually affect play. Does it help you hit five more homeruns, fifteen, or fifty? The benefits aren’t really known. If Braun really wanted to help MLB and their pursuit to eradicate cheaters from the game he’d list of what substances he took, when, and their effects on his body. He wouldn’t just talk about it, he’d do it.

Until Braun begins doing some meaningful help to MLB and their task force, his words can’t be credible.

It took Braun a month to get from the on-deck circle to the plate, what will he do now that he’s there?

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