Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Milwaukee Brewers 2013 Woes Continue — Ryan Braun Accepts 65-Game Suspension, Out for the Year

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Folks, when it rains, it pours.

While I was working on my previous update, I had written this about my favorite team, which are of course the Milwaukee Brewers.  They are currently on a four-game winning streak, and I thought it worthy of celebration.  So here’s what I said, moments before the news about Ryan Braun broke in Milwaukee:

The Milwaukee Brewers are on a post All-Star break roll, sweeping the Florida Marlins out of Milwaukee yesterday and winning all three low-scoring games due to excellent pitching (Friday’s starting pitcher was Kyle Lohse, Saturday’s was Yovani Gallardo, and Sunday’s was the rapidly improving Wily Peralta) by both starters and bullpen.

Let’s see how well they do against San Diego tonight, though I do think they should have an excellent chance as the Padres have won only two more games than the Brewers and are exactly the same in the loss column.

(Granted, it seems odd to quote myself.)

I wrote this prior to the knowledge that Braun had accepted a 65-game suspension and will consequently be out the rest of the 2013 season, forfeiting over $3 million of his 2013 salary.  (Please see this link from Yahoo Sports for further details.)  Which is why I pulled it out of the previous post, quoted it here, and now will have to discard all of that as the much bigger story is Braun’s upcoming absence for the remainder of the 2013 season.

Oh, brother.

Look.  I’m someone who fully believed that Braun was innocent of using any performance-enhancing drug (or PED, for short).  Mistakes can happen when it comes to drug testing; they’re rare, sure, but they still can happen, and it seemed plausible to me that a man whose physique had never changed, whose lifetime numbers (batting average, on-base-percentage, slugging percentage, etc.) had never changed, either, and who vehemently declared his innocence was worthy of defending.

It has also seemed to me, for quite some time, that Major League Baseball has a grudge against Ryan Braun.  They are annoyed that he managed to win his arbitration case in 2012, and that he was never suspended at that time for PEDs.  And they have continued to go after him since then, doing their best to vilify his reputation in the process.

So, what am I to think of this statement from Braun, then?

As quoted from the Yahoo Sports article by Jeff Passan:

“As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect,” Braun said. “I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization. I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country. Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed – all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love.”

This statement doesn’t really say anything, does it?  Other than that Braun accepted punishment for unnamed “mistakes,” apologized for the “distraction” afterward, and wants to play baseball again, there’s nothing here for a fan of the Brewers to really hang her hat on.

This article by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel baseball beat writer Tom Haudricourt clearly states this about the Ryan Braun suspension:

Major League Baseball has suspended Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun without pay for the remainder of the 2013 season and he has accepted the penalty, meaning he was caught red-handed either buying and/or using performance-enhancing drugs.

The suspension takes place immediately, so Braun will be suspended for the final 65 games of the season, beginning with the Brewers’ game Monday night at Miller Park against San Diego. The sanction came as a result of MLB’s investigation into the infamous Biogenesis clinic, which was exposed as having sold PEDs to players after documents were released to various news agencies earlier this year.

The suspension also exposed Braun as a liar because he has stated many times that he never used PEDs and never wavered from that stance.

So it appears that Tom Haudricourt isn’t too thrilled with what happened here, either.

Again — as a writer, I am trained to spot inconsistencies.  Braun’s story, as Tom H. clearly said, never wavered.  Braun loudly proclaimed his innocence at every turn.  Braun blamed the guy who collected the urine test for the reason it came up positive, and was able to make that stick, and doing so made it appear to me that Braun really was telling the truth.  Especially as Braun hadn’t failed any other drug tests before, or since.

But there are other ways to cheat the system.  Baseball itself knows that better than anyone, and fans — even good ones, like myself, who are aware of steroids and other PEDs and know something of their effects on the body — aren’t really able to fully grasp why someone like Ryan Braun, who seemingly has the world at his feet and has no reason to skirt the rules whatsoever, has now admitted to doing so.

Even if his admission has all the oomph of a non-admission, mostly because he hasn’t said exactly what he’s been accused of doing.

Baseball fans will forgive almost any player if he tells the truth about what he’s done.  Andy Pettitte said he used HGH — human growth hormone — in an effort to heal from injury faster, and wasn’t suspended.  Alex Rodriguez admitted to using unspecified PEDs a few years ago, and wasn’t suspended (though he may be now due to apparently using them again via Biogenesis).  Fernando Vina admitted to using steroids when he was with the Brewers long after the fact — he was a broadcaster, by then — and no one has ever vilified him.

But when someone doesn’t admit it and apparently did use them — whether it’s Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, or Rafael Palmeiro — fans get upset.  And then the player in question faces consequences, including shunning, booing, boorish behavior by the fans, or worst of all, exclusion from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

My attitude regarding PED use remains much the same as it’s always been.  I think if you’re trying to stay healthy to play baseball, that’s a lot different than trying to cheat the system, which is why McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Bonds (if he really did use them) should be given a pass, as all of them had well-known health problems that steroids/PEDs may have alleviated.  And if you’re willing to accept all sorts of adverse effects on your body, as seen by Lyle Alzado’s tragic death after his brilliant NFL career not so long ago, have at.

My particular problem with Braun isn’t that he used (or maybe didn’t use) PEDs.  It’s that he still hasn’t come clean regarding that use.

I believe very strongly in redemption and second chances.  But one of the things most people need to do before they can fully proceed with either is to be honest.  With themselves.  With the other important people in their lives.

So far, Ryan Braun hasn’t done this.

Like it or not, Braun is a public figure by the dint of his baseball stardom.  That’s why whatever happened must be explained to those who’ve supported him from the beginning — some specific explanations, not today’s weasel-worded non-denial denial — the fans of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Until he does, he’ll probably face all sorts of unintended consequences of today’s admission.  And he’ll keep on facing them until he’s finally, fully and freely explained just what happened here that’s bad enough for him to accept an unpaid suspension for the rest of the 2013 season.

6 Responses

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  1. As you say, he hasn’t said what he was suspended for…I wonder if it is something embarrassing in a weird way, and he would rather take the hit now, when his income is lower, and let people speculate, than admit what he was doing with that clinic? Because that place is known for all sorts of treatments. He’s only 29. What if someone convinced him that certain treatments could prolong his years playing at this level? What if he’s a smoker, and one of the men whose fertility or worse is affected by smoking?

    I’m sorry–I know you wanted to give him every doubt on this. But either he fell into the “everyone is doing it” trap, or he’s hiding something he would rather die (metaphorically) than reveal. Sad. All that talent sidelined during his best years.

    Cat Kimbriel

    July 23, 2013 at 9:27 am

    • KK, I agree . . . there’s something strange going on here. (And thank you for reading my blog. :-D)

      There were many rumors in Milwaukee (and its surroundings, natch) that Braun’s highly elevated testosterone level in 2011 was due, perhaps, to treatment for herpes or another sexually-transmitted disease. Braun’s GF was alleged to have this, and while it’s never been proven this was actually true, it’s also never been disproven, either. And some treatments for herpes can raise your t-levels, I guess — I actually looked up some of the things alleged to see if they were plausible, albeit far-fetched, and most of them were. (For example, some men now use a roll-on to raise their t-levels — these are usually men in their forties on up, who are having trouble with what’s so delicately named “erectile dysfunction”) — and that definitely would cause a sharp spike in t-levels that’s otherwise unexplainable.)

      And if any of that is true, that might be why the arbitrator sided with Braun and the MLBPA at the time; the records were sealed, so no one knows for sure exactly what happened. (At the time, Braun proclaimed his innocence, and I was pleased. Wrote several blogs on the subject, in fact.)

      Manny Ramirez took an odd substance from that same clinic, ostensibly to raise his estrogen levels. (It’s known as a masking agent if you’re using other banned substances, so while it isn’t a PED _per se_, it’s still banned without a really good reason from a doctor and MLB’s prior approval of same.) Manny R. has several children, but it was alleged at the time by some that maybe Manny wanted to have more children, as that particular drug is known for raising fertility (usually in women, but perhaps in men also as it’s not that rare to have a man actually be prescribed something like that; not common, but not freakish). He got a suspension for this back in 2009, I think . . . it was really big news at the time . . . but most people haven’t realized that it’s the same clinic that Ramirez was treated at then and Braun apparently was treated at back in 2011.

      So if any of this is true — that Braun’s GF has a STD, or had one, or Braun has naturally low T-levels and wants children, but didn’t want to admit that’s what was going on so took a potentially banned substance (again, if MLB knows you’re having trouble and you want kids, MLB makes an exception I’ve heard for some things that otherwise would be considered illegal, providing you have a legitimate prescription by a medical provider) — I guess I can see why Braun would want to keep everything quiet.

      The main thing that’s happening at the local level is this: Brewers fans mostly feel upset, cheated, or even personally betrayed. (I don’t feel the last two, but I’m certainly upset over it.) We’re a small-market team, and we root very hard thereby . . . we care about the players in a different way than a bigger market would, and we see them more as people. (For example, we don’t usually expect players to be perfect around here. Several former Brewers have had problems with alcohol in the past, including DUIs, and it’s known — they get treatment, they move on, they’re popular because they have admitted to their failings and goodness knows, we all have ’em. Though most of us don’t have _that_, thank goodness — we don’t drive drunk, IOW. And current Brewers reliever Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez has had not one but two problems with anger control and violence, apparently slapping his GF in both NY, when he was a member of the Mets, and again last year when he was a member of the Brewers. In the off-season, K-Rod apparently got religion, went to counseling, and cleaned up his act, and has so far had no repetition of those appalling incidents. And, of course, Brewers RHP Yovani Gallardo was busted for driving drunk earlier this year, paying a rather large fine as he was a first offender and thankfully was pulled over before he hit anyone else while weaving all over the road at 3 a.m.)

      At the national level, I’m seeing things like Jeff Passan’s nationally-known column at Yahoo Sports, where Braun has been called a “cockroach” and “a supreme narcissist,” someone Passan alleges cares only about himself and not about his team, the Brewers. Passan’s column thus far is the most vituperative, but I’m sure more opprobrium is on the way until/unless someone else gets suspended today or soon. (And as there are 19 or so other players on the hook for this, including the biggest fish of them all, Alex Rodriguez, more suspensions and for lengthier periods of time than that about to be served by Braun are not just likely — they’re almost certain.)

      Anyway, thanks for your comment, KK. 🙂 ‘Tis appreciated.

      Barb Caffrey

      July 23, 2013 at 1:36 pm

      • And failing to keep his “name on a list at that clinic” out of the news? I can see a macho MLB player taking the hit rather than admit he was being treated for fertility problems.

        I hope the possibility occurs to some people, and this dies down. Water under the bridge.

        “So if any of this is true — that Braun’s GF has a STD, or had one, or Braun has naturally low T-levels and wants children, but didn’t want to admit that’s what was going on so took a potentially banned substance (again, if MLB knows you’re having trouble and you want kids, MLB makes an exception I’ve heard for some things that otherwise would be considered illegal, providing you have a legitimate prescription by a medical provider) — I guess I can see why Braun would want to keep everything quiet.”

        Cat Kimbriel

        July 23, 2013 at 6:30 pm

  2. […] makes zero difference.   I agree.   While my anger over Braun’s deception has cooled (see my previous blog on the subject), much of what I actually believe is the same.  From my earlier blog:   My […]

  3. […] Brewers LF Ryan Braun was the biggest, baddest low point of the entire 2013 season.  (See my blogs here, here and here for further details.)  Braun is the best player the Brewers have; he’s a […]

  4. […] Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez get to a 74-88 record, the season was marred because of slugger Ryan Braun’s 65-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. And the constantly rotating cast of characters over at first base due to Corey Hart’s […]

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