Ryan Braun has served his punishment. He's spoken to his teammates. He's apologized, maybe not with the words we wanted and details of drugs ingested or injected, but he has apologized. Reporting to camp on Thursday he met the media throng wearing a gray Brewers T-shirt and said, again, that "I made a mistake." What, you were expecting him to produce his personal diary? Sept. 4, 2011: Took the special red pill again tonight. Hit a home run off Wandy Rodriguez. Crushed it. Will maybe take the pill again tomorrow.
"I took responsibility for the mistake that I made and for me my focus is on this year and moving forward and learning a new position and getting ready for the season," Braun said (or deflected). "The best answer I can give you is I made a mistake," he said. "I've said multiple times that I wish I had the ability to go back and change things, do things differently. Unfortunately, I don't have that opportunity. I embrace the challenge that lies ahead. I know it won't be easy but I intend to do everything in my power to continue to be the best person and player I can be."
You know what? I'm fine with Braun not divulging anything else or wiping away tears in a heartfelt, emotional purging. Braun is under no obligation to spill all the details of what did and when he did it. Just because he's a public figure doesn't mean he's required to say what we want him to say.
So it's time to move on and let the guy do his job. Let him play baseball.
My prediction: Braun will again be one of the best players in the sport, the player who won the NL MVP Award in 2011 and finished second in the voting in 2012. Pencil in a .300 average, 30 home runs and a lot more runs scored for his Milwaukee Brewers.
Critics will point out that he hit just nine home runs in the 61 games he played last season, well below the rate of the 41 he hit in 2012 or 33 in 2011. But remember that he played through a thumb injury for several weeks before finally going on the disabled list in June. That injury was painful enough that he tweaked his swing to reduce the strain on his right hand. So, no, his lack of power wasn't because he was off the juice.
How much do the Brewers believe in Braun? He's still the face of the franchise and they've smartly included him in their local TV commercials. And why not? I expect Brewers fans have forgiven their All-Star outfielder -- Braun will move from left to right field this season -- and will have no issues spending their hard-earned cash to watch him play.
Yes, there will be pressure on Braun, to "prove" that he wasn't great because of PEDs, to perform to the levels the Brewers expect for the $10 million they're paying him this season and more than $100 million left on his contract.
He'll be fine. Once he steps between the lines there is no media firing questions at him. He just gets to play the game he's played since he was a kid.