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Sunday, March 9, 2014

To Be Specific...

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Ryan Braun says he is done talking about his use of performance-enhancing drugs that drew a 65-game suspension last season, and his lying about it. Braun says he's provided sufficient details and answering further questions would serve no purpose.

He sounds a lot like another important person in Wisconsin who has been deflecting a yes-or-no question about something in the past that might affect his future.

The Brewers are surveying their season-ticket holders about their attitudes toward Braun. Here's what the Observers think.

 

Frank: Braun says a written apology last August, a couple of Brewers-sponsored appearances and some general remarks at spring training have fulfilled his duty to account for his actions.

Artie: Of course. He's got to stick to his story; if he said more he might be on a slippery slope. Major League Baseball might lay down more penalties if they decided he did something else.

F: "Slippery slope." Gee, the very phrase Scott Walker used last week in telling the Journal Sentinel why he wouldn't answer questions about the secret e-mail system his staff created when he was the county executive.

A: To help them work for his 2010 campaign for governor on county time. The Guv seems offended to be asked—even on Fox News, for cryin' out loud— the most basic question: Did he know about that secret system when it was in operation?

F: Yes or no; it doesn't get any simpler. As for Braun, of course he wants to "move forward," and I don't necessarily think he has more to hide. But it wouldn't surprise me; what can we truly believe from him anymore?

A: After he won the appeal of his failed drug test he had an excellent 2012 and must have passed other tests. Then again, Barry Bonds never failed one.

F: I think at the very least Braun needs a dictionary. After he bested MLB in the arbitrator's ruling, he talked about being "vindicated" when in reality he had dodged a suspension on a technicality. And last week in Arizona he said he'd addressed his PED use "a couple times already in multiple press conferences, and I got pretty specific with exactly what happened and when it happened."

A: You have problems with that wording?

F: First, I would argue that there has been no “press conference,” certainly nothing like what Braun himself staged two years ago in Arizona after he won his appeal. He was only too happy to take extended questioning when he was, as we now know, lying.

A: And he never got his Oscar.

F: But my biggest problem is with that word "specific." Here's a key section of Braun's written apology last summer:

 

"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."

 

A: And you have specific issues.

F: Here's a definition of "specific" by Merriam-Webster: "Clearly and exactly presented or stated; precise or exact." That hardly applies to phrases like "a nagging injury... the latter part... for a short period of time... a cream and a lozenge."

A: I remember that Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel offered quite a few specific questions that Braun's apology did not address.

F: Among them: Was the "nagging injury" the calf problem that made Braun miss the 2011 All-Star Game? And if so, why did he fail a drug test in October, after that injury presumably had passed?

A: And another: Did he actually take steroids the day of that playoff game against Arizona, because the test that followed the game showed a super-high ratio of synthetic testosterone.

F: Haudricourt also noted that Braun did not specifically say that 2011 was the only time he used PEDs, and I note that he's never given details about his relationship with Tony Bosch, the Biogenesis clinic operator. For instance, how far back did his dealings with Bosch go?

A: Bosch had connections to people in the University of Miami baseball program, and Braun played for the Hurricanes from 2003-'05.

F: Haudricourt also cited vague statements Braun made concerning that 2012 press conference. Things like, "At that time I still didn't want to believe I had used a banned substance... I felt wronged and attacked..."

A: What the hell was that supposed to mean?

F: And I have a big issue with something Braun said last week, again referring to 2012: "Certainly I wish I hadn't done the press conference. I wish that I had known then what I know now. If I had, certainly I wouldn't have done it at all.”

A: What the hell is that supposed to mean?

F: Known then what he knows now? He was the only person at that time who did know that he was lying! The message I get is, “If I'd known I'd be found out, I wouldn't have lied.”

A: Yup. He's only sorry he got caught.

F: So what awaits Braun this season?

 

OUR CHEATERS, THEIR CHEATERS

F: I don't care one way or another about Braun, and I'm not a Brewers fan. But I think he's shown a lack of understanding, or a lack of concern, for just how thoroughly he played people for saps.

A: A lot of people in this state believed his lies and defended him. And now it's not just his MVP award for 2011 that's tainted; it's the Brewers' best season since they went to the World Series in '82.

F: Even as the Bosch angle was becoming clear last season, Braun had this calm, almost amused demeanor, even saying, "The truth has not changed."

A: Indeed it hadn't, but his coverup eventually came apart thanks to the Biogenesis revelations.

F: Of course Braun doesn't have to say anything more to satisfy Ron Roenicke because all the manager cares about is that he stay on the field and help win games. Same with his teammates.

A: But how about the folks who have been helping pay his salary and will continue to pay it for years to come?

F: In that regard, I'm surprised that Mark Attanasio apparently hasn't compelled Braun to be more forthcoming. Last August he said Braun's acceptance of his suspension was "the first step, and it's a baby step." I'd say there have been only baby steps since then, but apparently that's enough for the team.

A: I guess that's why the team is surveying the season-ticket holders with questions like, "What is your opinion of Ryan Braun?" It might give Mr. Attanasio an idea how his star's status might affect the bottom line.

F: What Braun has done so far might well be enough for most fans.

A: Especially if he gets off to a hot start on the field.

F: Because really, although fans usually say they detest the use of PEDs, I suspect that mostly applies to cheating by players on other teams.

A: My team's drug cheater deserves forgiveness and a second chance. Some other team's? Well, that's different...

F: So Braun may well be welcomed with nothing but cheers at Miller Park, because he's wearing the right uniform. But it'll be different for Jhonny Peralta, another Biogenesis client whose 50-game suspension was followed by a four-year, $53 million deal to play shortstop for St. Louis.

A: And Nelson Cruz, who'll be visiting with the Orioles this season.

F: But Braun will be the one getting boos everywhere else because then he'll be the cheater who might beat the home team.

A: The key will be the kind of reception Braun gets the first time he goes to San Francisco. After all, they were quite accepting of someone who's assumed to be one of the biggest cheaters, if not THE biggest, ever.

F: Nobody there was booing Bonds or staying away from the games when he was setting his HR records.

A: And same with St. Louis.

F: Right, with Mark McGwire, who eventually admitted to using steroids for help with injuries, just like Braun's story.

A: Actually, I was thinking in terms of Albert Pujols.

F: Oh right, I should have known you'd bring that name up.

A: You're telling me Albert didn't take anything?

F: Well, so far there's nothing specific...

 

Frank Clines covered sports for The Milwaukee Journal and the Journal Sentinel. Art Kumbalek owns an excellent dictionary.