Ryan Braun: Poor guy just can't seem to catch a break

Norm Hall

Just when you thought it was safe to lionize Ryan Braun again, this has to happen?

Yahoo! published images of two records from Biogenesis that include Braun's name, including one list titled "baseball" on which Braun appears with Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Cesar Carrillo, Francisco Cervelli and Danny Valencia.

--snip--

In another instance, Braun's name appears on one line, with "RB 20-30K" on the next. Bosch listed the amount of money owed by other players in similar notation, though the numbers were usually lower, according to Yahoo.

In the third instance, Braun's name appears in what Yahoo! said appears to be a letter from Bosch to Juan Nunez, who has been linked to the agency that represents Cabrera and two other players linked to the clinic, Nelson Cruz and Gio Gonzalez. The undated letter references "the 'Braun' advantage."

Is any of this "evidence" exculpatory? Hardly. Actually, what's the opposite of exculpatory? Because that's what this seems like to me. When you see a list of baseball players, don't you expect them to have something in common? I mean, aside from being baseball players? In the second instance, doesn't "20-30K" seem like a lot of money for a bit of advice, as Braun now claims, about "about T/E [testosterone to epitestosterone] ratio and possibilities of tampering with samples"?

Of course, Braun is claiming that it was a lot of money; so much money, in fact, that Braun -- who earned only $8.5 million last season -- supposedly got into a "dispute over compensation" with Bosch, and that is why Braun's name appears in the notebook.

Which doesn't explain that letter referencing "the 'Braun' advantage", about which we can imagine all sorts of things, but without evidence it could mean anything: lifting weights while listening to Mötley Crüe and sobbing, for example. What seems more likely is that Bosch was saying, "You saw what my special potion did for Ryan Braun; it'll do the same thing for your guys!"

It's natural to wonder why so many brilliantly talented (and in some cases, brilliantly wealthy) athletes would get involved with a low-level con artist like Anthony Bosch. The answer isn't complicated: It was easy. It probably started with one guy, who told a couple of his pals, who told a couple of their pals, etc. It's not coincidental that three of the guys involved -- Braun, Danny Valencia, and minor-league pitcher Cesar Carillo -- were University of Miami teammates. It's not a coincidence that Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, and Gio Gonzalez shared professional representation. If you're cheating and you think it's working, you tell your friends they should cheat. If you're thinking about cheating, you find a friend who's cheating and can recommend a supplier.

Of course, guilt by association is hardly fair. As always, I'm keeping an open mind. But you see a guy's name in the wrong place enough times, and you do start to wonder.

Yeah, more wondering. Speaking of which, it's pretty well accepted in baseball circles that Ryan Braun escaped a suspension last year because of a technicality; that is, while we might not know which drug he was using, we're generally confident that he did fail a drug test. Players have been kept out of the Hall of Fame on less evidence than Major League Baseball had on Ryan Braun a year ago.

A few months ago, Ryan Braun finished second in the National League Most Valuable Player balloting.

I am so confused.

Then again, I don't believe the MVP ballots mention integrity or sportsmanship or any of that.

Perhaps Braun is completely innocent. Anything's possible. But this is the second winter in a row that he's embarrassed the Brewers, who might now be regretting, just a little, Braun's contract that runs through 2020.

Or maybe this is just another blip, like the one last year. Nobody seemed to hold anything against him then, so why now? There's something to be said for being handsome and white and articulate, maybe.

Meanwhile, there are all those other names, and still more details to come. Should be an interesting few weeks, especially if you're a fan of the Brewers, Rangers, Nationals, or Yankees. I know everybody's sick of these stories, but we have to do something while we're waiting for spring training. Why not engage in endless speculation for a few weeks?

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