Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dissecting Ryan Braun's Statement

As an independent sports writer, it is very crucial to have your ducks in a row when it comes to what you report. It's also important to trust the words that come out of someone's mouth before you use them as facts. I've learned that the hard way a few times. So, when put into a position like many fans were in February 2012, we either had to believe the star of the Milwaukee Brewers after winning his appeal or we had to totally throw the arbitrator's decision out the window and not believe our face of the franchise and reigning MVP winner. You see? The only acceptable option at the time was to believe Braun. Because if we didn't, many would question things like dedication to the team, city, etc. Now, I know I can believe what I want regardless of popular decision, but as a writer it puts us in a tricky situation.

Well, we all should have taken the latter.

We stuck our necks out for Ryan Braun for a year and a half and it all turned out to be a lie. Ryan Braun's press conference was as phony as a three dollar bill.

Before I jump into depicting this statement apart, let me shed light on a few things.

  • Even if Ryan Braun's statement was a live press conference, he would still be accused of orchestrating it. Either way, he's in a bad situation. Media would destroy him either way.
  • This statement from him is about 950 words long, but it doesn't say much. There are a few key points I will touch on.

Ryan Braun's statement:
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.  I have no one to blame but myself. I know that over the last year and a half I made some serious mistakes, both in the information I failed to share during my arbitration hearing and the comments I made to the press afterwards. 
I have disappointed the people closest to me – the ones who fought for me because they truly believed me all along. I kept the truth from everyone.  For a long time, I was in denial and convinced myself that I had not done anything wrong. 
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, and no one should be blamed but me. Those who put their necks out for me have been embarrassed by my behavior. I don’t have the words to express how sorry I am for that.

I'll make my first remarks here. It's truly striking that Braun didn't tell anyone the truth from the get-go. Which raises the question: Who did he talk to when consulting about what PEDs to take and how much? Anthony Bosch is somebody. So he knew. But then again if you tell one person, sooner or later everyone will know. The only way to protect his lie is to not tell a soul. And obviously, Bosch wasn't going to spill the beans. Moving on.

Here is what happened.  During the latter part of the 2011 season, I was dealing with a nagging injury and I turned to products for a short period of time that I shouldn’t have used. The products were a cream and a lozenge which I was told could help expedite my rehabilitation.  It was a huge mistake for which I am deeply ashamed and I compounded the situation by not admitting my mistakes immediately.

Here's something interesting. As many suspected, he claims he took the PEDs to help nurse his calf injury during the 2011 season. What Braun doesn't mention is previous points of use, most specifically the alleged use at the University of Miami as well as turning up on documents from Biogenesis from March and April of 2012. Ryan Braun would be foolish to not tell the full truth after everything that has happened. He'd be even more foolish to lie about anything in this statement. I really can't give an educated opinion on either because I didn't see what Braun did at Miami and I can't confirm or deny Braun actually used Bosch as a consultant during his arbitration process. But, as the saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Hoping he isn't holding anything back that will turn up later.

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. 

For too long during this process, I convinced myself that I had not done anything wrong. After my interview with MLB in late June of this year, 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.  I realized the magnitude of my poor decisions and finally focused on dealing with the realities of-and the punishment for-my actions.

This is by far the strangest part of his statement. I find it very hard to believe that he just magically realized what he had done was wrong and decided to accept the suspension without MLB presenting evidence to him. I don't see any other way other than MLB sitting Braun down, giving him a power point presentation on everything they had against him, Braun coming to the realization there was no way out, and knew he had to accept the suspension.

I requested a second meeting with Baseball to acknowledge my violation of the drug policy and to engage in discussions about appropriate punishment for my actions. By coming forward when I did and waiving my right to appeal any sanctions that were going to be imposed, I knew I was making the correct decision and taking the first step in the right direction. It was important to me to begin my suspension immediately to minimize the burden on everyone I had so negatively affected- my teammates, the entire Brewers organization, the fans and all of MLB. There has been plenty of rumor and speculation about my situation, and I am aware that my admission may result in additional attacks and accusations from others. 

It's unfortunate it took Braun this long to "know he was making the correct decision". Also, little jab at media with "plenty of rumor and speculation" comment? Maybe.

I love the great game of baseball and I am very sorry for any damage done to the game. I have privately expressed my apologies to Commissioner Selig and Rob Manfred of MLB and to Michael Weiner and his staff at the Players’ Association. I’m very grateful for the support I’ve received from them. I sincerely apologize to everybody involved in the arbitration process, including the collector, Dino Laurenzi, Jr. I feel terrible that I put my teammates in a position where they were asked some very difficult and uncomfortable questions. One of my primary goals is to make amends with them.

I'm not sure how much "support" Braun has from Selig, but whatever. And, even though Braun took PEDs and his test was positive, Dino still didn't do his job right. It doesn't matter how much more wrong Ryan Braun was lying, Laurenzi still didn't follow protocol when handling the specimen.

I understand it’s a blessing and a tremendous honor to play this game at the Major League level. I also understand the intensity of the disappointment from teammates, fans, and other players.  When it comes to both my actions and my words, I made some very serious mistakes and I can only ask for the forgiveness of everyone I let down.  I will never make the same errors again and  I intend to share the lessons I learned with others so they don’t repeat my mistakes. Moving forward, I want to be part of the solution and no longer part of the problem.

If this is truly how he feels, then I do believe he is taking a step in the right direction. I suggested this in an article last week as one of the things he could do to start making amends.

I support baseball’s Joint Drug Treatment and Prevention Program and the importance of cleaning up the game.  What I did goes against everything I have always valued- achieving through hard work and dedication, and being honest both on and off the field.  I also understand that I will now have to work very, very hard to begin to earn back people’s trust and support. I am dedicated to making amends and to earning back the trust of my teammates, the fans, the entire Brewers’ organization, my sponsors, advisors and from MLB. I am hopeful that I can earn back the trust from those who I have disappointed and those who are willing to give me the opportunity.  I am deeply sorry for my actions, and I apologize to everyone who has been adversely affected by them.

Overall I think he said everything that he needed to say. I know a lot of people are disappointed that he didn't say everything they wanted him to say. I believe him. Like I said before, he'd be insane to lie again. And, if he truly only took performance enhancing drugs in the 2011 season to help heal an injury and for no other reason, then what's to say he's no different than Andy Pettitte, Everth Cabrera and Nelson Cruz? Pettitte denied it just like Braun, but then admitted it when he couldn't lie anymore.

This isn't the one and only time Braun will talk about this in the future I'm sure. We will all find out more as time goes on. But, there wasn't anything that Braun could have said in his statement that would have garnered him one-hundred percent forgiveness. Not even remotely close.

His decisions were extremely poor. But, if what he claims is true, he was basically trying his hardest to win the Brewers a World Series. Although it was selfish, he essentially did it to help the team. Sometimes you can care too much and it can get the best of you.

It did for Ryan Braun.

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

- Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

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