It was the statement heard 'round the world. A shocking admission. A tender, heartfelt apology. Ryan Braun left it all out there in his statement.
Words words words words sorry words words words words carefully concocted scenario that half-heartedly explains context without denying anything words words words words words words words whatever
I think we'll all remember where we were when we heard it for the first time. The fall of a hero, put into perspective by the only person who could do it justice: himself. Or perhaps a team of people working for that one person. Whatever the case, it touched us all.
Okay, if you want the real statement, it's here. Here's a snippet:
During the latter part of the 2011 season, I was dealing with a nagging injury and I turned to products for a short period of time that I shouldn't have used. The products were a cream and a lozenge which I was told could help expedite my rehabilitation.
Sound familiar? Here's Nelson Cruz's statement after he was suspended:
From November, 2011 to January, 2012, I was seriously ill with a gastrointestinal infection, helicobacter pylori, which went undiagnosed for over a month. By the time I was properly diagnosed and treated, I had lost 40 pounds. Just weeks before I was to report to spring training in 2012, I was unsure whether I would be physically able to play. Faced with this situation, I made an error in judgment that I deeply regret, and I accept full responsibility for that error.
"I felt an obligation to get back to my team as soon as possible," Pettitte said. "For this reason, and only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone. Though it was not against baseball rules, I was not comfortable with what I was doing, so I stopped."
I'll just pre-write some snippets from other statements, free of charge. Don't thank me, agents. I live to give.
I was with my wife and several friends at a Black Crowes concert, and while I quickly realized what was happening -- that people around me were passing around dehydrochloromethyltestosterone, furazabol, and selective androgen receptor modulators -- and I should have spoken up, but failed to do so.
As such, some of the fumes or whatever got on my clothes, and I got all huge, and I regret my actions, and I'm deeply sorry for whatever harm I may have caused, and can I go to my room now?
And then this smartass kid was like, "I'll bet you don't know how many licks it takes to get to the center," and I'm like, "Oh, yeah?" So I start licking the lollipop, but it's *completely awesome*, so good, and it makes me bite down before I can even get to the fourth lick. And what's inside? Steroids. Just a bunch of steroids. And I'm all, "Great, just great, do you know what I do for a living?"
God's honest truth: I just put the tip of the needle in, I swear it. And then I panicked and got it out of there as quickly as possible. That's the legit truth, you have to believe me.
Again, those are free. Please, just take them.
There's something to the idea that some of these banned substances can absolutely help players recover from injury faster, and I don't think baseball gives a rip about evaluating risks and rewards for those substances. Ban first, don't ask questions later. And if any of those players really did use performance-enhancing drugs solely to recover from injury, I honestly do sympathize with them.
I don't buy that was the case for all three of Braun, Cruz, and Pettitte. And I won't buy it the next time it's offered as an explanation by the next guy. The injury-recovery excuse has dog-ate-my-homework connotations now.
Here, then, is the statement I want to read the next time someone is suspended. I'm not a crusader against steroids. I'm not mortally offended by them, and I don't worry about the sanctity of the game, or what the children will think. But once, just once, I want to read this:
I took steroids. I did it knowingly, and I did it to improve my performance. There was no ambiguity in my reasons to travel down that road. I wanted to get better.
Steroids made me better. They made me a lot better. It wasn't just that I was stronger and more powerful, either. I used to wake up the morning after a late game and feel like I drank 24 Keystones the night before. That feeling wasn't there when I was using PEDs. The interminable 162-game grind wasn't so bad. The aches and pains of August and September didn't seem so insurmountable.
And, yes, the part about getting stronger and faster helped, too. It helped my team win. It made people chant my name, and I was enormously popular. It was addicting, in a way.
I did it to improve as a baseball player. For my entire life, my whole self-worth was tethered to my success as a baseball player. I would do anything to keep that up. I did do anything. And I regret it because I got caught.
I fought for jobs with players who didn't use drugs, and I feel for them. I do. But I heard about all the scary side effects, and while I noticed a few changes, it wasn't all that bad. My testicles didn't shrink into nothingness. I didn't fly off into unexpected fits of rage. For the most part, all I noticed were the benefits. And I thought to myself, "It's their fault if they don't want to use this stuff. There's nothing wrong with this. It's like refusing aspirin and then complaining about a headache."
Looking at it like that, though, was too simple. Those players had the right not to take those risks. I see that now, and I apologize to those players. I'm deeply sorry.
To everyone else, I do not apologize. I did something most of you would have done. I took substances that made me a better baseball player, which made me a millionaire several times over. I do not feel like a lesser person or an evil human being. I feel like a human being. And while I'm excited to start the next, PED-free portion of my career, I have to warn you, I'm skeptical. I'm not sure I'll be the same player.
But I'll at least be free from the guilt and suspicion. I'm looking forward to it. Thank you, and good night.
Just once. I'd take just one of those sentiments, even. "I took steroids to get better. Here are the 1,394 different ways I benefit from getting better: Number one …"
Until then, though, all we get are explanations from players who apparently wanted to get healthy, not better. The next player who just wanted to improve his skills as a baseball player will be the first. And I'm waiting for that guy. Maybe a prospect named Godot is moving up the ranks right now. I'll be waiting right here with some hot takes.