It sure sounds like Ryan Braun is losing in the court of public opinion.
The Brewers' slugger and current National League MVP had his 50-game suspension for testing positive for elevated testosterone overturned and he spoke very passionately in presenting his defense publicly on Friday.
Yet this is an era where we have come to expect anyone in the public eye that gets disgraced in some way to spin the matter to put themselves in the best possible light. It's a time where sports fans are more cynical than ever and many sure seem cynical about this result.
They seem to feel Braun did cheat and got away with it on a technicality.
"I truly believe in my heart and would bet my life that the substance never entered my body at any point," Braun said Friday.
Here is my take: I believe him. I thought his words were spoken with great conviction and that he made a strong case for himself on Friday. Braun said he hasn't gained a pound of muscle or gotten even a tick faster or stronger over the last several years. Braun said he had been tested and passed 25 times in his career. No one had ever even hinted, before this, that he would cheat and he seemed to be a player beyond reproach and held in high regard by teammates, fans and media alike.
But after that one test last October, his testosterone levels are off the charts to a degree that rated worse than anyone else had ever tested in baseball? Something here doesn't add up.
Here is a part of a statement by major league baseball:
"Major League Baseball runs the highest quality drug testing program of any professional sports organization in the world. It is a joint program, administered by an independent program administrator selected by the Commissioner's Office and the MLBPA. The extremely experienced collector in Mr. Braun's case acted in a professional and appropriate manner."
I find it hard to believe they said that. If it is truly appropriate for the collector to have a urine sample in his private home for two days then someone needs to rewrite that rule book. Was it behind the ketchup or near the salad? This seems completely wrong to me but maybe it's an area that I just don't understand because I sure don't understand that.
This all could have been avoided if someone had not improperly leaked information of the failed test in the first place to ESPN. Now, it seems, everyone involved in this is saying it didn't come from us. Well, it came from someone who was close enough to the situation to be right.
MLB has done a good job to clean up its act in regards to cheating and steriods. It has overcome the so called "steriod era" to continue to produce sellouts and record revenue. The financial health of the sport seems pretty sound. The owners pay Bud Selig more than any commissioner in any sport.
Braun may be off the hook for a suspension here, but he'll never totally regain a clean image with the fans I don't expect. After this, some will forever brand him a cheater and be skeptical of his career accomplishments. In a sense, even if he is truly innocent here, he is a victim of an era where fans cheered every homer only to find out later they were performance-enhanced homers.
I think the game is much cleaner now than it was when Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds were mashing tape-measure homers. I think it would be naive, though, to think there is no cheating at all and I am sure there are likely at least a few that still beat the system. But with all the testing now - and if the National League MVP can get caught anyone can - I think someone would have to be really brazen to try and that alone has cut down on the cheaters in the sport.
The "steroid era" is long since over, but whether Braun is guilty or not, another slugger is suspected of cheating and baseball moved front and center in the last few days again for the wrong reasons.
By the way: As an aside to this case, in strolling down my own memory lane, I saw Braun play college baseball at the University of Miami when I was the radio broadcaster at Florida State in 2005 and 2006. Here is a boxscore from a 2005 FSU-Miami game in Coral Gables. If you note that Miami lineup, their middle of the order of Braun, Jon Jay and Danny Valencia are all playing now in the majors along with their closer then, Chris Perez. The top two hitters in that lineup, twins Danny and Paco Figueroa, I would get to know well later when they played in the minors for the Orioles.
Those Seminoles, as far as I can tell, had four on the field that day that are still in pro ball in the minors in Shane Robinson, Tony Thomas, Jack Rye and Bryan Henry.
I also saw two players in the Atlantic Coast Conference that you know pretty well in Clemson pitcher Jason Berken and Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters. I once called a game where Wieters tormented FSU pitching from both sides of the plate and then took off the gear and pitched the ninth getting the save with 95 mph heat.
I digress, but some fun memories.