Just call him Lyin’ Ryan.
In the pantheon of sports dirtbags, Ryan Braun goes down as one of the worst. He forever will be a baseball pariah.
Unfortunately that’s not enough. The disgraced Milwaukee Brewer got off easy. He deserved at least a one-year suspension. Probably more. I’d have been OK with a lifetime ban, which may be what’s coming for Alex Rodriguez.
What a time for baseball. Just when you think we are getting back to normal, another scandal erupts. Here we are 15 years after the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa fiasco (like Bob Kraft, we all were duped) . . . eight years after Rafael Palmeiro wagged his finger at Congress . . . the national pastime has a shiny new black eye.
Braun is the star character in “Despicable Me 3.’’ He is the guy who couldn’t leave things alone when he escaped on a technicality back in February 2012. He had to bombard us with righteous indignation. He had to say, “I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point . . . I have always taken tremendous pride in my image and my reputation in being a role model and handling myself the right way and doing things the right way.’’
Then he had to scold everybody and play the victim when he came to New York to pick up his bogus MVP Award.
Now major league baseball’s PED police have got him and there’s a chorus about Ryan Braun “coming clean.’’
Baloney. Braun has not come clean. His only confession is “I am not perfect.’’ He has agreed to sit out the final 65 games of Milwaukee’s moribund season. Big deal. He still hasn’t told us what he took. He hasn’t faced any of the folks he lied to. He hasn’t apologized to the sample collector he tried to ruin. He hasn’t apologized for the Lance Armstrong-esque defiance he demonstrated when he got his first positive test overturned on a loophole in 2012. He hasn’t returned his phony MVP Award. And by avoiding all these truths — and potential criminal charges he might face if he really came clean — Braun still stands to make at least another $110 million over the course of his contract.
“I look at it as progress,’’ Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Tuesday night’s game against Tampa Bay. “This shows that Major League Baseball is doing whatever possible to clean up the game and will go to every length to achieve that goal.’’
Dustin Pedroia echoed the manager’s stand, telling the Globe’s Pete Abraham, “It’s great for the game. I have two young kids. I don’t want my kids to be let down by anybody. Everybody that’s a role model for kids, they should do things the right way. Don’t lie to anybody in the media or anything like that. It’s unfortunate for the game because he’s such a great player and he’s done a lot of great things. But it’s sad day.
“If you go to Vegas, you don’t want to sit at a blackjack table if you know the dealer is crooked. You want everybody to be at the same level. You’re competing at the highest level and should do it fairly . . . If you do something you’re not supposed to be doing, you should be caught and you should be penalized severely. That’s all we’re looking for.”
Pedroia’s comments demonstrate the only true “progress” to come out of his episode. After decades of secrecy and evasiveness — treating any inquiry into PED use as a “witch hunt,’’ — ballplayers finally seem to understand that the scrutiny and sanctions are in their best interests. The decades-old intransigent union mentality only protected dirty players. Today, that seems to be changing. This is progress.
Braun did not contest the evidence in this case and the Players’ Association was not summoned for a customary appeal. This is probably because Braun knew they had the goods on him and that this could have been much worse for him. So there’s your progress.
Everything else about the Braun bust stinks. He has confessed to almost nothing, he isn’t paying much of a penalty, and it just reinforces the notion that everybody is cheating.
It’s only going to get worse. At this hour, the Red Sox are engaged in a playoff hunt that no doubt involves players who someday will serve suspensions for their involvement with Biogenesis. You can guess some of their names and some of them already have prior positive tests. It makes you think twice about the “action” unfolding from now through October.
It’s hard to make the emotional investment in competition these days. Cheaters always seem to be ahead of the testers. Can anyone come up with the name of an athlete who was suspected of being dirty who didn’t turn out to be dirty? Think about it. Sprinters? Swimmers? Cyclists? Sluggers? Who ever failed the eyeball test, then wound up being clean?
A lot of baseball fans and writers have simply given up. Abject acceptance slowly takes over. With each Braun-type revelation we inch closer to throwing up our hands and saying, “They’re all dirty. It’s just the era. Pay no attention to PEDs. This is just entertainment. It’s cheaters against cheaters. Who cares?’’
Lyin’ Ryan is merely the latest in a chorus line of cheaters. Soon we will turn the guns on A-Rod and this will really get ugly. But be careful how much glee you take in watching bogeyman Alex go down. Someday, you might be fooled by a player you love and trust. Just ask the folks crying in their beer at Miller Park in Milwaukee.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.