Maybe it was just me, but when Ryan Braun won his appeal for a 50-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy, I believed him. I honestly thought that Braun, who’d won the 2011 NL MVP and who has long been one of the very best in the game, was clean.
Well, perhaps it was more my wanting to believe than actually believing it.
Baseball has been tarnished enough by these steroid scandals that to see one player fight a suspension and win was truly a moment to remember. It seemed like Braun would represent a new era in baseball, serving to be a voice for the innocent and living proof that a player can fight and win. When he won his appeal, he won his innocence because technicality or not, MLB could not prove him guilty.
Braun’s victory was a victory for all of baseball.
When the Biogenesis scandal first broke and implicated him, it would be fair to say that he got a little more benefit of the doubt than say, Alex Rodriguez. Again, Braun had won his appeal, proving (at least legally) that he was clean, so I had no reason to believe he was guilty this time either.
But then the evidence started to stack up and he stayed quiet. After all, it wasn’t his case to find the burden of proof, it was MLB’s. And while one could hope Braun was clean, the league found their proof less than a year later. For baseball, the star’s suspension is a severe indictment of where the game has been, where it is now and sadly, where it is heading.
Here was a player who could have represented something great and as it turns out, he’s been lying the whole time. And for anyone who believed him, this is just going to hurt his reputation even worse than if he’d come out and told the truth … or at the very least, not argue for an appeal when he always knew.
What about his Milwaukee Brewers teammates who threw support behind him from the beginning; or Aaron Rodgers, who tweeted in 2012 that: “MLB and cable sports tried to sully the reputation of an innocent man. Picked the wrong guy to mess with. Truth will set u free #exonerated.”
An innocent man?
Sorry Mr. Rodgers, but Braun made you feel like a fool, just like the rest of the world that believed his innocence. All that we are left with is his emphatic denial, in his own words: “I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body.”