Posted on 25 February 2012.
On Thursday, Ryan Braun won his appeal after testing positive for a banned substance.
On Friday, his new ordeal began.
Brauns offseason was awkward, to say the very least: He was named the National Leagues Most Valuable Player but couldnt enjoy it while he waited for an arbitrator to decide whether he would serve a 50-game suspension.
But Braun was shielded from the public eye over the past several months, avoiding media interviews and team events while the case was pending. He cant use that as an excuse anymore — even if Major League Baseball is reportedly considering an appeal of arbitrator Shyam Das ruling.
Braun arrived at the Milwaukee Brewers spring headquarters this morning with a smile and addressed teammates in a players-only meeting.
They needed to hear it, manager Ron Roenicke said. With the outcome of it, I dont think he needed to explain anything. But he wanted to. The players probably appreciated that he did. I thought it was great.
The general public will be a more skeptical audience. Braun painted a plausible scenario in a late-morning news conference today, hinting strongly that his urine sample was tampered with before being shipped to a Montreal laboratory for analysis. But the unvarnished truth remained elusive, as Braun declined to answer specific questions about the collector who was in possession of his sample for nearly 48 hours.
Braun maintained his innocence, saying, If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I would be the first to step up and say I did it … I would bet my life this substance never entered my body at any point.
Braun didnt mention the substance by name, but ESPN previously reported that it was synthetic testosterone.
Braun was believable … but probably not convincing to the most ardent skeptics. He will begin the 2012 season with much to prove: He must continue performing at an MVP level, or else critics will argue he was juicing after all. And he needs to do it without the feared Prince Fielder hitting behind him.
In that sense, Brauns reputation along with his teams fate will be at stake every time he steps to the plate.
He has a unique ability to separate things thats what makes him so good, Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said this morning, before a larger-than-usual group of reporters in the Milwaukee clubhouse.
He doesnt let outside distractions come into his head and mess with him. Hes able to block everything out, no matter whats going on. Hes one of the very few guys who can do that. Thats why hes so good. I think hell be just fine. I dont worry about him at all.
Brewers left-hander Manny Parra, a teammate of Braun’s since 2007, said Braun puts so much pressure on himself, anyway that it may be no different this year.
In a still-murky situation, about the only thing we know for sure is that the Brewers are happy. For months, it seemed likely that they would lose Fielder and Braun at the same time, at least to begin the season.
Now that Braun can be counted on for the Opening Day lineup likely protected by new third baseman Aramis Ramirez a repeat NL Central championship doesnt seem so farfetched.
Everybodys happy and positive a lot of people smiling today, Lucroy said. Whenever you have such a big piece of the ballclub in jeopardy, then all of a sudden he gets thrown back in, its like hitting the lottery.
Other than Brauns legal team, the Brewers may have been the only clear winner in Das ruling. Braun didnt win, because plenty of people still believe he used performance-enhancing drugs. MLB certainly didnt win, because a chain-of-custody issue with Brauns sample was the reason the suspension was overturned, thus exposing a loophole in a policy celebrated by baseball officials as being the toughest in North American professional sports.
MLB, in fact, issued a statement saying it vehemently disagrees with Das decision.
I was disappointed in that, Lucroy said of MLBs reaction. It was almost like a sore-loser move. It was a low blow. I dont think it was right to do that. This is the process both sides agreed to. The process worked in favor one time for an MLB player. To say something like that, I dont think thats right.
Parra said hes disappointed that a players privacy was not respected at all. Everybody has a right to privacy, to a certain extent. Thats what bothered me. … ”
“This is justice. He went through the process. You have these rights, and you have them for a reason. I respect the way it went. Im extremely happy that hes going to be with us.