In case you missed it, baseball's latest super villain Ryan Braun issued a prepared statement Thursday evening in response to his 65 game suspension. You can read the entire statement here. Braun came clean, admitting his use of performance-enhancing drugs during his MVP season in 2011, and apologized for how he responded to his overturned suspension in 2012.
Taking a page out of Andy Pettitte's book, Braun invoked the 'I was battling injuries and wanted to help my team win' excuse. You know, the classic defense. It's not a bad strategy, as it worked perfectly for Pettitte. The majority of fans were willing to forgive and forget when he confessed and everyone moved on. Facing completely different circumstances, it is simply too little, too late for Ryan Braun.
Braun's situation is a unique and fascinating one. He knowingly cheated and failed a drug test, but was able to beat the system on a technicality and escape punishment. A year later, it finally caught up to him and he was faced again with a suspension. What many hold against Braun is how he handled his successful appeal last season. Knowing he was wrong and knowing he was essentially given a free pass, he chose to paint himself as the victim and publicly slandered the sample collector, Dino Laurenzi. Knowing that Laurenzi did not tamper with Braun's urine sample. Braun's decisions cost an innocent man his job and put his fans, friends, and teammates in an unfair position, as they publicly defended him and spoke out against his accusers. Most notably among them was his good friend and business partner Aaron Rodgers, who bet a year of his salary that Braun was clean. Now that the truth is out there, it makes Braun look much worse than just a simple steroid user.
His conduct may make him a bad person, but did he deserve an extra 15 game suspension because of that? MLB's Joint Drug Treatment and Prevention Program has a simple system for violations; first time offenders get a 50 game suspension, second time offenders receive a 100 game suspension, and third time offenders face a lifetime ban. So why didn't Braun get a 50 game suspension like the rest of the first time offenders associated with the Biogenesis Clinic? I'm sure he doesn't mind disappearing from the public eye until next spring, but if you are punishing him for last season's mess, does 15 additional games fit the crime? Especially when you factor in Alex Rodriguez getting 211 games total as a first time penalty, it's hard to draw a comparison between the length of their suspensions. Did Rodriguez's actions warrant 146 more games than Braun? Did Braun deserve 15 more games than Nelson Cruz? It's very confusing dealing with such random numbers. Maybe Braun should have received more games, or perhaps the Rodriguez suspension was too harsh. It's hard to follow Bud Selig's line of logic here, assuming he is applying any type of logic to his decisions. Why start now, right Bud?
Whatever the reasoning, 65 games was the punishment given, and Braun accepted it without an appeal. He didn't go the Barry Bonds route, and insist that he didn't realize what he was taking was a banned substance. Outside of giving Matt Kemp the 2011 National League MVP award, he pretty much did all that could be expected of him at this point. He admitted that he was wrong, accepted full responsibility for it, and apologized to everyone that deserved an apology from him. Yes, at this point he almost had no choice, but that's just it; he DID have a choice, and he finally made the correct one. He still deserves credit for not continuing down the denial path that the previously mentioned Bonds has taken, and Alex Rodriguez is currently venturing down.
It's terrible to say, but I think baseball fans are starting to become numb to steroid news. Despite tougher penalties and increased testing, players continue to be suspended year after year. This doesn't include the hundreds, possibly thousands that are cheating and beating the system. In addition to Braun and Rodriguez, twelve lesser names received suspensions in connection with Biogenesis. Not one of these players failed a drug test, and were only caught because of the documents obtained by MLB linking them to the clinic. If it is that easy to pass a test while taking PEDs, it makes you wonder just how many players are taking advantage of that knowledge. Nobody bats an eye when players like Francisco Cervelli and Sergio Escalona are suspended, but when you are dealing with MVP caliber players, obviously its a much bigger deal, and fans react accordingly.
Ryan Braun admitting what most of us already knew might not be considered news by some fans. Unfortunately, steroids have become as much a part of baseball as the double switch and the designated hitter (Cheap plug. Check it out if you missed it!). With the Alex Rodriguez saga looking like it won't be resolved anytime soon, PEDs will continue to be in the news for a long, long time. If you aren't sick of hearing about them yet, you soon will be. It's important to take a minute to say thank you, Ryan Braun, for letting us put at least one ugly mess behind us, and not forcing us to deal with another drawn-out, A-Rod-like drama. Because no matter how you feel about Ryan Braun, I think there is one thing we can all agree on; one drawn-out A-Rod drama is more than enough.