Brewers Slugger Ryan Braun is greeted by teammates Yuniesky Betancourt and Jean Segura after hitting a home run in a recent game. (Yvonne Kemp)
by Troy Sparks
Earlier in the 2013 season, the focus was on the Milwaukee Brewers capitalizing on all the offseason moves to compliment the players remaining from last year’s team.
This was supposed to be the year that the Crew prove many people wrong and play better than their predicted fourth place finish in the National League Central division.
Guess what? That might not happen this year. So with the fans being impatient and expecting more than what they’re getting, the consensus is that the season is a lost cause. And the last thing that the Brewers want to be right now is in last place behind the Chicago Cubs.
Let’s see. Last place and nowhere to go in the playoff race is what our money buys us every time we come to Miller Park and see a ball game. We can’t bring back that magical season from 2011 when the team was a step closer to the World Series.
But all that losing isn’t the issue that’s front and center. The drama that circulated around the team last year is coming back full circle. And caught up in the middle of it again is left fielder Ryan Braun. He beat the rap on using performance enhancing drugs.
The guy that took Braun’s urine sample kept it longer than he should have, leaving us to believe that the evidence was tampered. As a result, the penalty that Major League Baseball wanted to give Braun at that time didn’t happen.
And now Tony Bosch, the ringleader behind admitting that he supplied the PEDs to Braun and other MLB players, made a deal with MLB to provide proof (if he still has it) that those players he named bought drugs from his now-closed clinic in Miami.
Last year, Braun got away with it. He read his statement in spring training in 2012, pleading his innocence and basically threw the urine sample collector under the bus after the arbitrator ruled in Braun’s favor.
After that, he ignored the booing on the road and had another stellar season.
MLB thinks they have the upper hand on Braun now because Bosch agreed to cooperate with them. The league wants to throw the book at Braun and the other alleged perpetrators, former and active. If this Bosch character is credible and everything adds up, who do you think will have the leverage? What does that mean for Brewer fans, teammates and the organization and Braun’s image in general?
It depends on if and when the hammer will fall.
For the fans, they love Braun. One man said he has at least $15,000 invested in Braun memorabilia, which include autographed jerseys, bats, photos, baseballs and some other stuff. Someone on the team will have to play left field if Braun gets a 100-game non-paid vacation.
The organization is so well-stocked with prospects in their minor league system that the cupboard is barely empty.
If Braun is guilty, his endorsements will dry up. At least he will have his two restaurants. Will people stop coming if they know that he lied about using drugs?
If Braun is suspended, there’s a strong belief that the MLB Players Union will appeal. The Brewers will lose him for the remainder of this season and some of next season.
The club has a lot of money invested in Braun long term. The outfielder’s personal and professional ego will suffer. He knows that and will stick to his original story of denying that he used PEDs.
The Brewers’ media relations department didn’t mention a recent public signing appearance that Braun made.
One local TV station was invited, but when organizers got cold feet, they asked them to leave. Asking Braun about the rumor that he would be suspended could have been a reason that the autograph session in the Milwaukee suburb of Mequon was off limits to the media.
Some people just wish that the issue would go away if there’s nothing on Braun. The big picture is whether the Brewers will be sellers and trade some of their veteran players away to other clubs before the trade deadline or let them go down with the ship.
Will the captain go down with the ship? Perhaps he will. Somebody has to take the blame and it will be manager Ron Roenicke.
No matter how much of a conversation general manager Doug Melvin and principal owner Mark Attanasio have with the skipper, at the end of the day, it’s win or else.
What the Brewers should do is follow the protocol of the St. Louis Cardinals organization. They draft players and develop them through their minor league system so when they’re ready for the big leagues they will know how to play winning baseball. This rent-a-free agent garbage to try to make it to the postseason isn’t going to work for the Crew.
Fire Roenicke, bring up younger players from the minors and play them and let the chips fall where they may will do absolutely nothing but disappoint the fan base and bring down the attendance.
And then it will be about 20 more years before the Brewers make any kind of playoff run.
By then, Braun will be long gone and will either be forever labeled a great player and a good guy or a drug cheat and a liar who betrayed his fan base.
If the Brewers get a rally going and win a bunch of games this summer and Braun’s case still isn’t settled, then the headline won’t be the resurgence of the team but instead on No. 8 for the Brewers.