I agree with Ryan Braun.
Who wouldn't? When he held his victory press conference a few days ago, after winning his appeal of his 50-game drug suspension, Braun said, "This is my livelihood, this is my integrity, this is my character, this is everything I've worked for in my life being called into question. We need to make sure that we get it right."
He was eloquent, impassioned and absolutely correct. This is why I consider him innocent. In the eyes of the system, he was not guilty, even though the people who run the system are livid about it.
If we're talking about impugning a man's livelihood, his integrity, his character, we need something solid, right?
And this is why Braun needs to clarify his remarks now. He needs to explain what he meant when he took a shot at test-sample collector Dino Laurenzi Jr.'s livelihood, his integrity, his character -- and didn't provide a shred of evidence, except that Laurenzi took some extra time to send in Braun's sample.
"There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked," Braun said, "that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened."
A lot of things, huh? Wow. Let's hear 10. OK, five. Three?
Hello? Ryan? Do you realize what you have done here?
Laurenzi told several media outlets that Braun's comments have caused "great emotional distress for me and my family." Well, of course they have. Imagine living in Wisconsin, doing your job the best you can, and all of a sudden one of the most popular people in the state accuses you of trying to destroy his career.
If Laurenzi did nothing wrong, then what he is going through is worse than what happened to Braun this winter. At least Braun had years of positive press stored in the public's memory bank. He had thousands of fans who believed him. Of course having people think that he cheated was miserable. But at least
Who is on Laurenzi's side? Who knows anything about him, except that Ryan Braun implied that he is a scoundrel?
Braun didn't mention Laurenzi by name, but come on. This is 2012. We all have access to that marvelous Internet thing, and there were probably 50 reporters chasing the story. As soon as Braun said "the collector," it was inevitable that Laurenzi's name would surface.
A cynic would say that Braun just tried to deflect attention from the fact that he escaped on a technicality. I am not that cynic -- at least, not today. Major League Baseball and its players association agreed on a system to test for performance-enhancing drugs. An arbitrator ruled that this system was not properly applied in this case. That is good enough for me.
Unless somebody comes forward with more evidence, I will view Braun as I do every other player who has passed all his drug tests. I can't vouch that any of them are clean. But I view them as they are.
The reality is that Braun can recover most of his reputation fairly easily. He just needs to pass his drug tests and play the way that he formerly has. He is 27 and in the prime of his career. In a year or two, most fans will forget the circumstances that led to Braun's successful appeal, and simply remember that he won. They will look at his career stats and see that he was never suspended. If he builds a Hall of Fame resume, he will probably be judged on the merits of his play, not his near-suspension. This is how it should be.
But Braun owes Laurenzi a public statement. If Braun has a legitimate reason to question Laurenzi's actions or motives, he should share it. If he doesn't, he should say he misspoke, that he was wrong and that he doesn't have any specific claims to make about Laurenzi. It would be hard, but it would be the right thing to do.
A man deserves to know the evidence against him before the public decides that he is guilty. This is the lesson of Ryan Braun's case. Let's see if he learned it.