There is an old axiom of the law that says when the facts are against you argue the law, and when the law is against you argue the facts. When they’re both against you, says Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, pound the table.
That was about the only option left for Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun this week. A year and a half ago he argued the law, won, and then pounded the table; Monday he pled no contest, made a checked swing of an apology and disappeared into PED purgatory.
No one should feign surprise or outrage because they’ve long since been exhausted. No one should have much believed Braun’s denials, either, because they made no more sense than storing urine samples in your fridge for the weekend (Packers quarterback and friend Aaron Rodgers said in 2012 Braun would be exonerated; here’s hoping his passes next year are more accurate than his predictions).
Barry Bonds. Alex Rodriguez. Manny Ramirez. Mark McGwire. Sammy Sosa. Rafael Palmeiro. Ken Caminiti. And now Braun. If my math is right, that’s 4,175 home runs, and none of us know how many were PED aided.
Matt Kemp said Braun should be stripped of the 2011 NL MVP Braun narrowly won. Kemp is biased, and wrong (of course, the voting was wrong, too; Kemp should have won it originally). But if MLB starts stripping awards and statistical leaders, its history books are going to look as vacant as the 1994 World Series champion listing.
This year Braun wasn’t even the Brewers’ MVP, which may be why he didn’t mount much more of a defense against the charges than he does fly balls in left field. That and because the $3.4 million he forfeited in salary will be even more in 2014 when his $1.5 million raise kicks in.
Braun in 2013 is a diminished player on a diminished team. He has a bad thumb and just nine home runs (his previous career low was 25); the Brewers have 58 losses and a shot at 100. Perhaps a fitting punishment would have been to make Braun play for these Brewers. Next time Bernie Brewer comes down the slide after a home run, someone check to make sure it’s not head first.
The people most disappointed by the news were Brewers’ executives and Brewers’ fans (not to mention Braun fantasy league owners; one in our league went on an All-Star rant that I would have thought was steroid-induced if I didn’t know better).
The latter disrespected Barry Bonds for making the chemical commitment to break Henry Aaron’s all-time home run record. Turns out they were cheering for someone more like Bonds than Aaron.
If there’s hypocrisy there, Brewers fans won’t see it, nor should they. Righteousness goes no farther than the front of the home team’s jersey. If Brewers fans remain angry at Braun it won’t last past the first home run he hits next year. Which makes Brewers fans no different than any other team’s.
But what of the team they root for? In the spring of 2011, the Brewers had two stars: Braun and Prince Fielder. They extended the former’s contract by five years and $100 million, which basically told Fielder he was the other woman because financially they couldn’t keep both. Fielder hit 38 homers, then packed up and left as a free agent after the year.
It was hard to blame the Brewers. Braun once partially disrobed in exultation on his way around the bases, revealing a perfectly toned body. We now know how.
Were Fielder ever to lift his shirt, and here’s hoping he doesn’t, he’d reveal a body toned by potato chips.
The Brewers made what seemed like the obvious choice.
Yet 15 months later, it’s been revealed Fielder still has one thing Braun is lacking — integrity. Good luck to Braun getting his back.