McAdam: Braun's act deserving of downfall

McAdam: Braun's act deserving of downfall
July 23, 2013, 11:45 am
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THREE THINGS WE LEARNED FROM BRAUN'S SUSPENSION

1) Major League Baseball has the goods on these guys. Braun didn't fight his suspension because he knew that the evidence presented to him was irrefutable. Having been through legal challenges and appeals before, MLB is making sure that there are no loopholes through which the players can skate this time. There are reports, too, that MLB  threatened to lengthen its suspension if Braun chose to appeal the original punsihment. This time, MLB means business. Secondarily, it's obvious that the usual 50-100-150 game sliding scale of punishment is out the window for some of these Biogenesis cases. Braun will miss 65 games, a somewhat arbitrary number. That doesn't bode well for players like Alex Rodriguez, who tested positive before. And commissioner Bud Selig is said to be livid that both Braun and Rodriguez repeatedly lied to him and investigators, increasing the punishment for both.

2) The Major League Baseball Players Association means what it says. Last week, MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner said the PA had no interest in protecting the guilty. This is a stark contrast to the past, when union leaders Donald Fehr and Eugene Orza would routinely grieve the fact that the sun was due to come up in the East tomorrow. This time, there was no statement from the P.A. about a player being wrongfully convicted or anything about due process. Sure, it was a little much to see the PA credit Braun for the "bold move'' of accepting his puniushment without appeal. But that rhetorical flourish can be excused if one looks at the big picture: The union no longer insults anyone's intelligence when a constituent of theirs is so obviously guilty.

3) Think it was a coincidence that the first player suspended in this whole mess came from Milwaukee? Maybe, but probably  not. In all likelihood, commissioner Bud Selig was making a statement that no favories would be played as he hands out discipline. So the first player to be ensnared in his net happens to play for the franchise he once owned, and plays in the city where Selig lives and works.

It was somehow fitting that Ryan Braun was the first domino to fall as baseball enters an era of tougher recrimination for PED use.
     
While Alex Rodriguez -- who surely is in line for an even harsher penalty than the one given to Braun Monday -- may be the biggest name on the list of players linked to the Biogenesis scandal, Braun's behavior was the most offensive.
     
When he escaped punishment in February of 2012 merely because of a technicality, Braun took the opportunity to strut and preen. In a way, his behavior then was far worse than Rafael Palmeiro's infamous finger-wag to Congress. At least Palmeiro had yet to be caught red-handed by then.
     
Braun couldn't have been more sanctimonious that day, taking a victory lap he knew he didn't deserve. He had skated on the thinnest of excuses, and yet he used the opportunity to puff out his chest and proudly proclaim not only his innocence, but his virtue.
     
Actually, what Braun did was far worse.
    
What allowed him to go unpunished was a simple processing error by the collector who was in charge of shipping out Braun's urine specimen to the lab.
     
Rather than find a 24-hour FedEx station on Saturday night, Dino Laurenzi Jr. stored the sample in his basement refrigerator and shipped the sample out Monday morning.
     
Because this was a violation of the letter-of-the-law in the drug testing agreement, Braun was allowed to walk.
     
But rather than be humbled by this close-call, Braun seized it as an opportunity to say "Told you so." And worse, he impugned Laurenzi's character, asking aloud what we really knew about this guy, and how do we know that he hadn't set Braun up?
     
This was disgraceful behavior on Braun's part, of course. Imagine a suspected criminal with a trunk full of stolen goods, who gets off because some of the evidence wasn't properly tagged before trial, then holding a press conference to suggest the police planted the stolen goods in the first place.
     
Wouldn't that be the height of arrogance?
     
No. That would be Ryan Braun. But same difference, I guess.
     
Even Monday, when Braun's luck ran out and he was banned for the rest of 2013, his apology was no apology at all.
     
He attempted some false humility by suggesting that "I am not perfect." He lamented the fact that the entire affair "has taken a toll on me and my entire family" and "has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization."
     
And who's responsible for all of that? Braun seems to be suggesting that he accepted the penalty to spare his family and teammates from further embarrassment -- as if he himself hadn't been the source and reason for that embarrassment in the first place.
     
Tellingly, there was no apology to Laurenzi, who long ago should have launched a defamation suit against Braun and seized some of the tens of millions that Braun has coming to him.
     
We know now that Braun didn't earn that contract. He cheated to obtain it. But he cheated others, too, like the Arizona Diamondbacks, against whom Braun -- and the rest of the Brewers -- competed and defeated in the 2011 NLDS. At the time, Braun was enjoying the benefits of his boosted testosterone -- and who knows what else.
     
It's telling, too, that there were none of the typical knee-jerk defenses from fellow players in response to Braun's suspension. Mostly, they expressed frustration that they had been cheated and lied to.
     
There's less and less tolerance for this kind of behavior in the game. Players -- and their union -- have gradually become less willing to look the other way, less willing to defend the indefensible.
     
Ryan Braun gets no soft landing spot. That sound you heard Monday was a thud, his career and legacy falling splat, with no one there to catch him.
     
There will be more, too.
     
But if anyone was to be the test case, the first to free-fall, it might as well have been Braun. He earned every bit of his own downfall.