By Tim Muma on March 28, 2014
When Ryan Braun was forced to admit to PED use and take a suspension, I was "hurt" by his actions, mainly due to the message it sent to my children and other kids around the country. As time has gone on, having been in countless discussions about Braun, it really is time to move forward.
I am in no way condoning cheating. Let's make that clear. However, all things considered, there are 10 major reasons we should all accept Ryan Braun back.
There are far more egregious acts taking place among professional athletes that affect the lives of others. While cheating is wrong, at least those players are trying to help their team win and PEDs only affect the user. On Braun’s own team, Yovani Gallardo (DUI) and Francisco Rodriguez (assault, domestic abuse) have been charged with actions that can seriously hurt other people. Sometimes our perspectives need to be tilted.
The holier-than-thou franchise known for its self-appointed status as the rulers of baseball etiquette signed a PED user this offseason to a four-year, million deal. Jhonny Peralta served a 50-game suspension in 2013, but the Cardinals felt their desire to win was more important than a moral standing against PED use. So be it. If it’s fine for the Cardinals, it’s fine for the Brewers and Braun.
We all make mistakes, both intentional and accidental, and for the most part we’re given a second chance. Braun had his mulligan and now he must fight an uphill battle to reclaim the adoration and respect he once earned. Should he continue to play well without a hint of PED rumor or evidence, it’s more than reasonable to chalk it up to a foolish decision, whether it was for greed, success or both. However, if he does it again, then it’s fair to say goodbye.
I’m not saying these are the same as certain PEDs, but they certainly are utilized by many players to enhance performance. Technologically improving eyesight to track balls better at the plate and eliminating pain from an ankle to perform at a normal level are enhancements, but they’re legal. So where does one draw the line and how is it determined what's allowed and what isn't?
Maybe it’s a stretch, but many fans feel like a part of the team, sharing in the emotional highs and lows of your sports family. Imagine Braun is your brother and he committed an illegal act or something you deem wrong. If you truly care about your brother you'd want him to acknowledge his mistake, apologize and be fairly punished. Then you would support him as he moved forward to be a better person. The same applies here.
While there’s a romanticism to baseball, the game has always lent itself toward blurred lines of competition and cheating to gain an edge. Rubbing foreign substances on a ball, corking bats and hardening or watering down dirt are all ways to cheat the game. Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry was known for throwing spitballs, and even the beloved Derek Jeter has faked getting hit by a pitch to reach base.
Like people in your neighborhood or at work, professional baseball players run the gamut of characters. Some guys are terrific people who seem to do and say everything right while others are awful individuals you don’t like to be around. However, most people -- including Braun and probably yourself -- fall somewhere in the middle as a mix of mainly good thoughts, words and actions, with some occasionally bad behavior.
Giambi is embraced by players, media and fans as a wise, respected individual. However, in 2005, he said he let everyone down but never said what he was sorry for exactly. Sound familiar? This was after his grand jury testimony came out where he admitted to steroid use. Like Braun, he said he wouldn’t discuss specifics due to legal matters, yet now he’s lauded by the same hypocritical people persecuting Braun. You can't have it both ways.
Braun was punished based on the agreement between the Players’ Union and the owners, and he did his time. Some players continue to chirp about it not being harsh enough; well, then they should have held themselves more accountable before everything got out of hand. Now there’s talk of increasing penalties, which is great in my mind. As far as Braun goes, he fulfilled his requirement, like Peralta, Nelson Cruz and Bartolo Colon.
The only person who was truly affected by the Braun fiasco was sample collector Dino Laurenzi, who Braun threw under the bus. Considering he hasn't spoken up to rip Braun or sue him for any wrongdoing, it appears he holds no ill will and has moved on. The two even had dinner together and, according to Braun, “made amends.” If Laurenzi has put it all behind him, there’s no reason anyone else shouldn’t. It didn't actually hurt you or me.
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