It all makes sense now.
I would count myself among the defenders of Ryan Braun since word leaked in December 2011 that he’d failed a drug test and was appealing a 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball.
At every step, it appeared he had a case. Not necessarily that he was 100 percent innocent, but that he wasn’t being given the measure of due process owed to him by the Joint Drug Agreement.
But I didn’t think he could beat Bud Selig, Rob Manfred and the MLB. They don’t get beat. They aren’t in the business of getting beat. They have a legal monopoly for Pete’s sake.
After his suspension was overturned by an arbitrator, I was flabbergasted. I could not believe he’d won. And similarly, I could not believe MLB had gone out of its way to tarnish the reputation of one of its biggest stars for seemingly, ultimately, nothing.
When MLB issued a biting statement about how they “vehemently” disagreed with the ruling, it appeared like sour grapes and nothing else.
Then Braun got up in front of the Arizona microphone and proclaimed his innocence, decried the haters, swore he’d never done anything to result in a positive test, denounced a system that showed its flaws and, of all things, trashed the tester he blamed for thwarting the process and possibly tampering with his urine.
So why had MLB done this? Why did MLB go to such great lengths to go after Braun? And why, when his name popped up in a relatively tangential fashion in the Biogenesis case, did they seem hellbent on making Braun fall?
It all makes sense now.
Because Braun was a cheat, and, worse so, a liar, who made MLB look like fools. MLB knew who Braun really was. They weren’t going to lose this time.
I found myself, over this last year and a half, always feeling like Braun had been seriously wronged by MLB. In some ways, that is still true.
His argument about how Dino Laurenzi may have mishandled his sample clearly had some merit, especially if it was convincing enough to lead an arbitrator to overrule his suspension.
In addition, someone from MLB obviously leaked that initial information regarding Braun’s 2011 positive test and suspension to ESPN, which is and always has been a violation of the testing program. It would make no sense for anyone in Braun’s camp to leak that information.
The Players Association has to take such breaches seriously. This is especially true after someone leaked names of players with positive tests on the 2003 survey that led to mandatory testing.
It was collectively bargained, between the union and the league, that no one would ever learn the identities of those who tested positive. Someone broke that contract, hence breaking the law. As far as I know, no one was ever held accountable for that.
MLBPA even has a case this time, since virtually all the names of players in the Biogenesis case are out there and details of the investigation have been widely reported.
Someone has a big mouth over at MLB, and it’s not because steroids made their head too big. It’s something that needs to be fixed.
I always hated it when people said Braun “got off on a technicality.” MLB’s drug testing system, like the U.S. criminal justice system, is based on a series of rules, regulations and procedures to ensure fairness to all involved.
If those procedures are broken in any fashion, the accused cannot get a fair hearing. They can’t. To me, that’s a little bigger than a technicality. That’s the way these systems have to work.
So perhaps Braun deserved his initial reprieve from discipline. Apparently this time, however, with no chain of custody issues at hand, Braun had to cut a deal. All things considered, maybe he got off a little easy this time, missing the rest of a lost season for the Brewers.
When this first broke, my initial feeling was Braun’s reputation in Milwaukee would survive, and maybe it will. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if that will be the case.
See, it’s not so much that he cheated. Over the last dozen years I’ve accepted that cheating is part of sports, after so many people lauded as heroes have come crashing back to Earth as disappointments. I don’t get let down when this happens because I don’t let myself get let down anymore.
It’s that he lied. And was so damn convincing at it, too.
Could Braun have come right out in 2012 spring training and said, “I was on the juice but my due process was breached”? Of course not.
But his outright, steadfast denials? His righteous indignation? His defiance of the entire episode? The fact he lied to his own teammates, who were reportedly furious Monday? That’s where Braun enters into a different category.
None of them lied like Braun, nor did any of them go out of their way to publicly disparage a participant in the process like Braun did with Laurenzi.
If I were a Brewers fan, I could handle rooting for a cheater. Hell, David Ortiz was supposedly on the 2003 list, and it doesn’t stop me from cheering every time he comes to the plate. But someone who did what Braun did? That’s a tougher sell.
Time will be the determining factor here.
I have more thoughts about the turning tide in baseball among the players, the ones who feel wronged by the cheaters and liars. They are clean, but they can’t be above suspicion, because of jerks like Braun and A-Rod. And they no longer want the likes of Braun and A-Rod to be protected by their union. They are pissed off and they should be.
I’ll offer those the next time a star gets suspended. Which you can guarantee will be soon.