8:25 PM CDT, July 22, 2013
Maybe Ryan Braun will turn over a new leaf now, like Mark McGwire suggested he would when he told that congressional subcommittee that he would talk to kids about steroids, even if he wouldn't admit using them. Until further notice, however, it's hard to get past the fact that Braun is a cheating creep, which a lot of people knew long before Monday.
He's also crazy smart, and that has been clear for some time too.
Both elements are in play in the plea bargain/suspension announced by Major League Baseball, one that suspends the 2011 NL Most Valuable Player without pay for the remaining 65 games of the season because of his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic in Miami.
The one thing that's hard to see is how Braun is going to show his face again in public, especially in Milwaukee, where the Brewers owe him $127 million through 2020, after the shameless display he made trumpeting his cleanliness and purity after good work by lawyers got him cleared after a positive test for a banned PED in the 2011 playoffs.
In his statement Monday, Braun noted that the Biogenesis investigation "has taken a toll on me and my entire family," but he should expect scorn, not sympathy.
Mark Mulder, the left-hander now with ESPN, couldn't believe Braun would talk about the emotional cost to him after disgracing his sport and crushing the innocence of kids who looked up to him. Said Mulder on Twitter: "Haha. Just loud laughed."
Curt Schilling, another former big leaguer now working for ESPN, took Braun's side in the previous episode and understandably feels betrayed.
"Apologies to anyone I offended while defending Ryan Braun," Schilling tweeted. "Especially the gentleman working for FedEx who had his life ruined."
That would be Dino Laurenzi Jr., employed by ML B and the players union to collect urine samples for PED tests. Braun attacked him during his successful appeal — won on a technicality, according to even Michael Weiner, the executive director of the players union — saying he had not followed procedure and insinuating that he could have deliberately tampered with the test.
Tom Haudricourt, who covers the Brewers for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, points out that Braun will benefit from taking this suspension now rather than appealing it into next year. He has been battling a bad thumb, his team stinks and, conveniently enough, he'll make more money next season ($10 million, up from $8.5 this year). The suspension will cost him $3.25 million in salary — only about 2.3 percent of what the Brewers are still obligated to pay him.
The Braun suspension is the first of an estimated 15 to 20 that will come down in the next month from the Biogenesis investigation. It shows that each case will be handled as its own plea arrangement, with players presented with the case against them (both testimony and documentation, such as phone records and delivery receipts) and given a choice between accepting a deal or risking more severe punishment by appealing the suspension.
These will be handled on a case-by-case basis but handed down at one time, not one by one. Don't expect many players to appeal. The fact that Braun didn't appeal suggests how strong these cases have been made by MLB's investigators, with Biogenesis proprietor Tony Bosch's cooperation.
Weiner pointed out last week that MLB's 50-100-lifetime schedule for PED suspensions doesn't apply to Biogenesis, which is built off "non-analytic positives" as opposed to test results. He said suspensions could range "from five to 500 games," and this demonstrates that.
The MLB release on Braun said he was being disciplined for "violations of the Basic Agreement," which means this will be his first and second offenses, the second apparently for lying to investigators. One more strike and he'll be gone.
Alex Rodriguez awaits his summons to New York, as do other players on contending teams — the Tigers' Jhonny Peralta, the Rangers' Nelson Cruz and the A's Bartolo Colon (who may be able to successfully argue this constitutes double jeopardy after testing positive and being suspended for 50 games last year).
I feel badly for fans in Milwaukee — including the bartender who almost cold-cocked me last year when I tried to explain why it was clear Braun should have been suspended in 2011 — and the Brewers' management team of Mark Attanasio and Doug Melvin. They made a big mistake extending Braun's contract after Prince Fielder fled for Detroit — he had five years left and they inexplicably gave him five more — and now it will badly hurt the franchise.
Braun might be a productive hitter in 2014, but he's not getting his reputation back. He shouldn't have acted like Snow White when he was up to his knees in mud.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC