Ryan Braun stood up and admitted he was wrong. I mean, OK, he didn't actually admit he was wrong, and I can't be sure he even stood up, since this was just an official statement released on his behalf. But Braun said he has "made some mistakes," even though he didn't say what any of those mistakes were, and he said his "situation" has "taken a toll" on ... well, on himself, but then he mentioned a few other people ... I mean, he did not mention them by name, but he acknowledged that there are people, lots of people, and those people know other people, and those people probably have made "mistakes" and had "situations" of their own, so Braun would love to play baseball again. In front of people.
Sure, Braun didn't do any of this until Major League Baseball had him against the wall with his hands on his head for his role in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal. And he has spent most of the last two years acting like some heroic combination of Jimmy Stewart, Stan Musial and that doctor from "The Fugitive". He trashed anybody who dared suggest that he failed a drug test in 2011 because he had taken drugs, or that his name was connected to Biogenesis because he had used Biogenesis products.
Anyway, Braun said he is sorry. I mean, he didn't actually use the word "sorry," but ... OH HELL, NEVER MIND.
My point here is this:
As lousy as Ryan Braun looks ... he still looks better than Alex Rodriguez.
The walls just closed in a little closer to A-Rod. He is also connected to Biogenesis. He is also staring at a lengthy suspension, according to various reports. (Braun got 65 games). He has also been nailed for using steroids in the past, though he was never suspended. A-Rod took steroids before there were penalties, in what he has called a "loosey-goosey" era in baseball, when nobody paid much attention when you injected something in your loosey-goosey.
The New York Daily News reported in April that A-Rod bought Biogenesis documents, and it's possible he did that just to remember how he signs his name on checks, but in any event, it's not good. You don't buy and hide documents that prove your innocence.
A-Rod looks guilty. Really guilty. This Braun suspension should silence anybody who thinks this investigation is a P.R. game by Major League Baseball. Braun, who fought to clear his name for two years, just folded his cards. MLB had him nailed. Do you really believe it's different for Rodriguez?
If A-Rod fights his suspension now, he will look even more delusional and self-absorbed. If he accepts his suspension without appealing, then so what? Even Ryan Braun did that! And Braun did it first.
Have you ever seen such a sad and unfulfilling end to a spectacular career? What does A-Rod have to show for his two decades in pro ball? Money, obviously, but what else? His fame has morphed into infamy. His numbers are at least partially fraudulent. His Hall of Fame chances are tiny, at least for now. His MVP awards feel hollow.
He has his 2009 World Series ring, but does anybody want to see it? Baseball fans actively dislike him. Incredibly, they dislike him most intensely if he played for their team. Seattle fans boo him. Rangers fans don't like him. Yankees fans would rather move to Boston than cheer for him. You never hear a teammate make an impassioned plea that Alex is just misunderstood. The closer you get to A-Rod, the more he repels you. He is 225 pounds of bad breath.
At least Barry Bonds gets cheered in San Francisco. And at least Bonds is what he is. It isn't usually charming, but it's human.
This is the problem with A-Rod. It's not that he's a terrible person. It's that he is inauthentic. He is the last man in America who believes the image he has tried to craft. His recent tweets are straight out of a G-rated movie: "Simulated game yesterday - nice to see real game pitching action!" And: "Felt good to put on my helmet and metal cleats."
Alex, listen to me: Nobody is buying the "Oh gosh, I just love the game" act anymore. You have to drop that if you want a genuine relationship with fans.
Not long ago, A-Rod tweeted an update on his injury rehab, leading Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to tell ESPN that Rodriguez "should just shut the (bleep) up," which was a sad and fitting summation of how America feels.
I think A-Rod was so naturally talented that even if he had never taken a performance-enhancing drug, he probably would have made the Hall of Fame. But we will never know, and neither will he. He is a pinata on the American sports scene. He has sunk so low, yet still not low enough to engender sympathy. I hope it really did feel good to put on his helmet and metal cleats. Sometimes, that seems like all he has. And pretty soon, he won't even have that.