Before Lance Armstrong finally admitted to Oprah that he used performance-enhancing drugs, he called some of the people he had attacked directly or hurt through many years of lying to offer some form of apology.
Ryan Braun needs to do the same thing, if he hasn’t already started. Because he is the Lance Armstrong of baseball.
His first call must go to Dino Laurenzi Jr., the collector whose character and work he called into question when he made his now infamous statement in February of 2012, after he won his appeal.
He needs to offer apologies to his teammates. As Braun made that statement, he was accompanied by teammates, whom he almost certainly deceived.
He needs to apologize to the Arizona Diamondbacks franchise. Braun tested positive for PEDs in the fall of 2011, in the midst of the playoffs, and against Arizona that fall, he batted .500, with nine hits in 18 at-bats, as the Brewers edged the Diamondbacks, three games to two. Braun’s performance, aided by performance-enhancing drugs, may have directly cost the Diamondbacks’ players money and a chance to advance to the World Series.
The players’ union has gone through a tremendous evolution in its attitude toward those who violate the terms of the drug-testing system, and in the aftermath of Braun’s test, there were members of the Arizona organization who were enraged. The players voted over and over to implement and then repeatedly strengthen the drug-testing program, to ensure the level playing field, because they didn’t want some players to have an advantage over other players in trying to win jobs and earn money.
Braun cheated all of them, and in the fall of 2011, nobody was affected more directly than the Diamondbacks.
He owes an apology to the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization. They gave him a big contract, and then signed him to a massive extension, worth about $150 million. They are a small-market franchise and they signed him to be their Cal Ripken, their leader, the centerpiece of their organization -- and now he is no longer that, and can no longer be that, because his professional reputation and marketability are destroyed. He is not only a cheater, he is a cheater who lied about it, then attacked to protect the lie. This is a crushing blow for the Brewers’ franchise.
He needs to apologize to the fans, all of those who supported him because they believed his lies. He misled them, and they bought his jerseys and went to his restaurant and bought tickets to see him play, because he is theirs.
A lot of those apologies need to take place in private, but a lot needs to take place in public, and with more teeth than the words released by Major League Baseball in a statement -- which was shocking in itself, in how the No. 2 person in the sport, Rob Manfred, was quoted as complimenting Braun as it suspended him:
"We commend Ryan Braun for taking responsibility for his past actions. We all agree that it is in the best interests of the game to resolve this matter. When Ryan returns, we look forward to him making positive contributions to Major League Baseball, both on and off the field."
Are you kidding? In light of all of the money spent by MLB in dealing with Braun’s first appeal, in how much damage has been done to the sport, in how much of a pall Braun’s situation has cast over other players -- Braun is commended?
No. The only person who should be talking now is Braun, who should be apologizing to all those he hurt, while embracing the full range of embarrassment with all necessary humility and honesty.
He earned it.