Ryan Braun: Sorta smart and highly normal

Norm Hall

So it took a couple of years, but Ryan Braun seems to have finally admitted that, yeah, he did cheat. And it's going to cost him the remainder of this season, along with a pretty fair chunk of change. From MLB.com's story (which covers the history of the whole sordid affair), here's Braun's statement:

As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization. I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country.

Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed - all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love.

This is good, except for that first sentence. Here's me when I was eight years old:

/ No, I'm not perfect. But I absolutely did not eat the last nine cookies. Eric did it.*

* Eric was my little brother.

/ Oh. Eric was with you the whole time. Okay, yeah I ate the cookies. But I told you I'm not perfect.

You say you're not perfect when you get busted. You know, just in case someone still thought you were perfect. But that works less well if you said it before.

That works out to $3.4 million, which is one hell of a fine. On the other hand, Braun's already set for life: After this season, the Brewers owe him $127 million.*

* Question for the theorists out there: If the Brewers could void Braun's contract today, would they?

Also, let's notice just how many good reasons Braun has for "settling" now.

We may presume that his 65-game suspension would have been longer, had he not settled. Let's assume it would have been 100 games on the nose. If he'd gone through the appeals process, with the ultimate resolution a loss in the off-season, he would have lost $6.2 million next season. Considering how hard Braun fought the last time Commissioner Bud had the goods on him, we might assume his chances weren't real hot this time. So he might well have saved himself $2.8 million by accepting a 65-game suspension now in lieu of a 100-gamer next season.

Again, $2.8 million isn't a lot, relative to that forthcoming $127 million. But every little bit helps...

We may also presume that Braun wants to play in October again someday. Well, it's not happening this season. The Brewers are dead. But maybe they won't be dead next season, and I'm sure Braun would like to be around to find out. Or as a friend points out:

Exactly. Just as if I was an agent with a player linked to BioGenesis and I was looking at a 65-game suspension now or a 100-game suspension later, I'd be pushing very hard for the same deal. Braun had many reasons to take the deal, and none to fight ... unless he could make a good case for his innocence. Which now seems unlikely.

What does this do for his reputation? I suspect that most of his fans in Milwaukee will remain his fans. Elsewhere, the Rick Reillys and Dan Shaughnessys of the world will have a field day ... but of course they were already doing that. Meanwhile, the rest of us will simply add Braun to the list of people we know who routinely take advantage of the system whenever it's particularly convenient.

I mean, let's be honest ... You've had maybe a couple of extra drinks, and you get pulled over by the local constable. Once you're out of the clink, do you call a lawyer? Yeah, probably. Do you pay him to see if maybe there's some loophole you can squeeze through? Yeah, probably. If he finds that loophole, do you plead innocent even though you know damned well you were drunk? Yeah, probably. And if you do escape justice, do you walk about telling your family and friends that you were drunk, and are proud to have gotten away with it?

Probably not.

What bothers people about Ryan Braun -- what bothers me about Ryan Braun -- isn't that he cheated, or that he did his best to escape justice. It's that afterward, he stood up in front of a lot of people and proclaimed his innocence, while blaming others for his failed drug test. Really, it's that last part that bothers me the most.

WARNING MOVIE SPOILER AHEAD

In Flight, Denzel Washington plays a great pilot who's also a drug addict. Alcohol and cocaine, mostly. Due to a freak accident, he's forced to perform aerial acrobatics before a crash-landing that kills a number of passengers; absent the acrobatics, though, everyone would have died. He's a hero, and ultimately he's about to come through the official crash investigation without a professional scratch, even though he'd failed the post-crash drug test.

Ah, but there's a hitch; there's physical evidence that someone was drinking. One of the dead stewardesses, maybe? That's the smart play for our man. Ah, but no; at the last possible moment, Denzel saves her reputation and admits that he'd been the only one drinking. And so off he goes to jail for a few years, but with God on his side.

That's what happens in the movies. In the real world, our hero lets the dead girl take the blame for the booze, heads back up in the air, and is probably back on the booze and the coke within a few weeks. In the real world, our hero games the system for as long as he can, and covers his tracks with as many lies as the media requires.

Sometimes the lies catch up with them, though. Just ask Ryan Braun. And maybe someday you'll even believe him.

For more about Braun and the Brewers, please visit SB Nation's Brew Crew Ball.

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