In the end, Ryan Braun cut himself a pretty good deal.
So he's tainted now, as a baseball player who used performance-enhancing substances? He's been tainted for two years. Nothing new there.
His thumb is injured. He's getting married in the fall. His team is done for the year.
Now, so is he. On Monday, Braun accepted a 65-game suspension for multiple violations of baseball's drug policy. He can enjoy his honeymoon without worrying about an appeal hearing. He can start fresh next spring, and so can his Milwaukee Brewers. He saved himself a few hundred thousand bucks — his salary goes up next year, so the per-game cost of a suspension would have gone up too.
He even got Major League Baseball to suspend him without saying why. The two-sentence announcement of his suspension cites "violations" but does not say what they are. The words "performance-enhancing substances" are nowhere to be found, let alone the names of any of those substances.
Why did Bud Selig and his lieutenants agree to the deal? They got Braun — they had been gunning for him since he successfully appealed a PED-related suspension last year — and they got him for more than 50 games.
It was the Braun people, not the Selig people, who engineered this deal. MLB had revealed its evidence to Braun but had yet to propose the length of a suspension. Braun's people had to hurry, because the concept of accepting a suspension for the balance of the season would become less attractive to MLB with each passing day.
The standard punishment for first-time offenders is 50 games. Selig believed the evidence warranted more. He was determined to exact more.
If the Braun people waited for a notice of charges from MLB, the season might not have had 50 games left, or not many more than 50. At that point, broaching the notion of banning Braun for the balance of the season — with no punishment extending into next season — would have been a nonstarter for Selig.
But here is what MLB really got out of this deal: a warning shot fired at the other players — more than a dozen, probably — implicated in the Biogenesis scandal. Braun took on MLB and won last year, then spit in the face of the league. If Braun and his people saw any way to beat MLB this time, you can bet they would have tried.
Selig and his people had Braun nailed on failing to disclose his interactions with Biogenesis chief Tony Bosch, then lying about them. They also had Braun nailed on using performance-enhancing substances — not just based on one disputed urine sample, but on receipts, records and all the evidence money could buy. Not the most pure of prosecutions, perhaps, but demonstrably effective to the Braun camp.
That should tell Alex Rodriguez something, and that is not "deny and fight." In January, when Miami New Times broke the story of Bosch and Biogenesis, the newspaper reported at least 16 references to Rodriguez in clinic records now essentially validated by the Braun camp.
Selig probably would not be satisfied with 65 games for Rodriguez. But Rodriguez ought to consider taking a suspension split between the end of this season and the start of next one, so he could more fully rehabilitate his injuries and return to the New York Yankees' lineup by Memorial Day. If not, he could end up losing most of this season and most of next season too. The Yankees might want that, but Rodriguez does not have to play along.
Braun told so many lies along the way, not just declaring his innocence but assassinating the character of a urine collector and proclaiming the MLB drug protocol "fatally flawed," that the instant analysis Wednesday trended along the lines of how he will be forever shamed and scarred.
Nonsense. Mark McGwire works for the Dodgers. Manny Ramirez is one step away from a return to the major leagues. Braun won't be getting into Cooperstown — not that he was any kind of lock anyway — but he won't be asked to give back the 2011 National League MVP award, or give it to runner-up Matt Kemp of the Dodgers. And Braun will be getting a guaranteed $127 million from the Brewers through 2020. Even Richard Nixon rehabilitated his image in seven years.
It would be nice if Braun apologized, in person and not in a statement crafted for him, in words not as embarrassingly passive as the "apologize to anyone I may have offended" phrase included in Monday's announcement.
But it was Braun who said five months ago he had "nothing to hide," and now it is Braun who can take the rest of the season and do nothing but hide.
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