Ryan Braun faced the media Wednesday on a frigid day in Milwaukee, his first public media conference since he was suspended for 65 games last summer. He was there in the shadows of Miller Park to help accept food donations, doing a good deed for the community. Wonder if they accepted only all-natural food products, with no added hormones, steroids or antibiotics.
First, I have to give Braun credit. It was about 15 degrees and windy and he wasn't even wearing a hat. You'd think he actually grew up in Wisconsin and not California. Good move to win over the locals.
Aside from that, his question-and-answer session was fairly weak (here's the full transcript from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel), with a generic, "I made a mistake -- a huge mistake" apology that wasn't really an apology. He just wants to "move on" and "move forward."
He said he now regrets his press conference in Arizona in February 2012 in which he accused Dino Laurenzi Jr., the person who handled his drug test for Major League Baseball, of possibly tainting his sample. But he still seems more apologetic for the aftermath of his case -- getting nailed in the Biogenesis fallout, agreeing to the suspension, being exposed as a liar and a cheat -- than for actually using PEDs. In other words, he seems sorry only that he got caught, not that he used.
Even his statement in August, when he said he used an unapproved cream and lozenge to help with a nagging injury, didn't exactly offer a direct apology for using PEDs: "I deeply regret many of the things I said at the press conference after the arbitrator's decision in February 2012. At that time, I still didn't want to believe that I had used a banned substance. I think a combination of feeling self-righteous and having a lot of unjustified anger led me to react the way I did. I felt wronged and attacked, but looking back now, I was the one who was wrong."
In deflecting questions on Wednesday, Braun simply reminded us all that baseball players aren't paid to be reflective or to self-analyze. Maybe he is reflective and just doesn't wish to be overtly public about it; that's understandable. It's also understandable that he really does just want to move forward -- that's how players are trained on the field. Today's game is over, nothing you can do about it, time to think about tomorrow's game. Wallowing in an 0-for-5 will only create more problems.
In that context, Braun's answers weren't evasive but expected. Yes, we'd all love the details of everything he did, how much and how often. But that's in the past. For Braun, he's focused on 2014.
Braun certainly has a lot to prove this upcoming season. Along with the suspension, he missed 22 games in 2013 because of an inflamed nerve in his right hand that caused pain while swinging. After leading the National League in home runs and runs scored in 2012 while batting .319 AVG/.391 OBP/.595 SLG (nearly identical totals to his 2011 MVP season), he fell to .298/.372/.498, the worst statistical rates of his career.
He just turned 30, so he is still in the prime of his career. If we take him at his word that he used a banned substance only at the end of the 2011 season to help with the injury, there's no reason to assume he can't return to his MVP-level of play. But he has to prove that by moving forward and showing us the numbers.