(Image: Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Although Ryan Braun has accepted his suspension, it would be premature to say our long national nightmare is over. For the foreseeable future, Braun will be subject to a great deal of criticism from earnest baseball fans, professional pundits, and assorted outrage hobbyists. There are plenty of folks who are disappointed in Braun right now, and it’s hard to argue they have no right to be.
There are also plenty of folks who are sanctimonious about l’affaire Braun, and I would suggest their position is less tenable. One popular line of Braun criticism is exemplified by JSOnline’s Michael Hunt, whose column yesterday was headlined “Ryan Braun owes fans public apology.” I imagine many (if not most) Brewers fans feel an apology is in order.
Not me. As someone who grew up in the Charles Barkley “I am not a role model” era, I like to think my expectations of professional athletes are pretty realistic. Braun didn’t do anything to harm me. As long as he contributes to the team I support, my expectations are satisfied – and since the 2013 Brewers aren’t in contention for the playoffs, his suspension doesn’t impact my rooting interests at all (although I can imagine I might feel differently if the Brewers were in a pennant race right now).
It seems like Braun owes an apology to his employer (who has accepted it), and his professional peers. He might even owe an exceptionally groveling act of contrition to members of the 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks. He doesn’t owe me anything. I agree with the sentiments expressed by HardballTalk’s Craig Calcaterra: “[Professional athletes] are, for all practical purposes, total strangers to us. Let us not pretend they are not. Let us not pretend that they owe us anything more than that we are owed by other total strangers.”
Still. It would be delicious to know some of the lurid details that aren’t currently public knowledge. The carefully worded statement that Braun issued conspicuously did not admit to PED usage. (It did include a public apology. Maybe Hunt didn’t see it?) It said, “I realize now that I have made some mistakes.” Say what? As of this writing, Braun’s argument that he only consulted with Biogenesis has not been withdrawn. It’s not a stretch to think Braun meant consulting with a firm linked to PEDs was a “mistake” because of the appearance it created. The fact that Braun’s first comments after accepting his suspension did not acknowledge using PEDs is pretty significant.
Furthermore, the accompanying statement by MLB official Rob Manfred said, “We commend Ryan Braun for taking responsibility for his past actions.” Given the lengths MLB has gone to suspend Braun, why did they use the vague term “past actions?” Is there some avoidance of legal liability going here? It would be nice if Braun and/or MLB provided some specifics on what they mean by mistakes and actions. I’ve previously written that MLB needs to disclose its evidence against the players it has targeted. Now that Braun’s reputation is ruined, what more damage could possibly be done? Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt says he believes the evidence may have consisted of text or email correspondence. Let’s see it.
If Braun does unequivocally admit to using PEDs, it would be interesting to know what his motivation was. Considering many undistinguished baseball players have been linked to PEDs, the advantages of using them are far from obvious.
But again, while I hope Braun reveals the specifics of decisions he now regrets, I don’t think he is obligated to do anything more than serve his suspension and help the Brewers contend in 2014. He certainly doesn’t owe me an apology. In fact, when I consider that Braun apparently risked his reputation and career to help the Brewers win their division in 2011, I arguably owe him some gratitude. Seeing as how he already apologized to me and all baseball fans in his statement when he didn’t have to, I think we’re square.