Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’14 – #8 Ryan Braun

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We’re eight days from Opening Day. There’s not much point in a fun open here. Let’s get into it.

Ryan Braun.

RyanBraun

There’s also not much point in recapping the on-field results of 2013 season that were first blunted by injury and then truncated by suspension. It was a bad year on the field, and a worse year off it.

There have been many words typed on keyboards over the past 29 months, give or take, about Ryan Braun. Let’s not sugarcoat things. He’s been called everything from a cockroach to a douche bag to worse.

He gave an exclusive interview to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, ironically the first person I saw a tweet from in 2011 that indicated news was about to break that would shake baseball. That news ended up being that the recently named NL MVP had failed a test by way of elevated testosterone.

What followed was a lengthy cycle of denial, finger-pointing, “no comments”, and eventual admission. What you learn in Nightengale’s exclusive (which can and should be read by clicking here) is that part of Braun’s vehement denial stemmed from believing what he was taking was “perfectly legal.” So maybe he didn’t think that he was taking anything would pop positive on a test because it hadn’t in the three months (and only three months) prior in which he was taking it. Certainly not a crazy theory.

Some people want their “answers” and many more refuse to forgive because of some kind of holier than thou mystique applied to professional athletes and other popular public figures who are built up in our minds and then torn to shreds when they do something we deem unsavory.

Charles Barkley said it best when he reminded the world that he isn’t a role model. Not because some people didn’t view him that way but because he’s a human being with flaws like the rest of us. As a father, I want my kids to appreciate excellence and aptitude and the thrill of competition but at the end of the day it’s not about the individuals so much so as it is about the construct in which they perform their individual feats of accomplishment. No one player is going to be able to bring down the machine, nor should they be able to. The sport carries on and the thrill and exhiliration that can be garnered from the same carry on with it.

Ryan Braun broke the rules and was a bit of a dick in a press conference which he regrets. Off the field, he’s apologized to Dino Laurenzi who has, in turn, forgiven him. He’s made statements expressing his regret and feelings of remorse. He’s acknowledged that he lied. He’s acknowledged that he did things he knows now that he shouldn’t have done. Maybe that makes him a bad guy. I’m not going to cast my stone despite the fact that I would hardly be contributing the first.

But on the field? On the field he’s served his league-governed punishment. He’s forfeited the statistics he would have posted in the 65 games lost to suspension. His legacy is tarnished. But he’s also got an opportunity to do what, so far, few other “big” names involved in performance-enhancing drugs have had a chance to. He’s got time to write more chapters to his story.  Ryan Braun will be playing right field, hitting third, and introduced to the home crowd at Miller Park in just over a week. No doubt there will be some boos mixed in, but they will almost certainly be drowned out by the cheers of support, and yes, adulation.

He needn’t be discarded in the wasteland of the anabolic steroid users. He can rehabilitate his image. That of course starts with staying clean in the bathroom. And it might not matter to those who still harbor ill will for Braun. There are those who will never be able to forgive what their once and dishonored hero did to them. Because that’s really what’s at the core of so much of this. People feel wronged, lied to, fooled. People don’t like to feel that way. They want to be made to feel whole again and they don’t see a way for that to happen in this instance so it’s best to shut out the source instead of dealing with the feelings.

But I’m not here to wax philosophic, so I’ll leave this topic with this thought.

Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Gaylord Perry, Barry Bonds — as examples — are all men who broke the moral rules of baseball, rules down to the core the game.

Last time I checked, there’s a new season starting in eight days.

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” profiles to this point:

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