Friday, August 23, 2013
More questions for Braun
By Buster Olney
Against the backdrop of his statement, there's still much we can't see about Ryan Braun.
About 10 minutes before the start of a "Sunday Night Baseball" game in Baltimore on June 30, Chris Davis finished his pregame routine and stopped alongside the photo well, where I was sitting. Davis had something on his mind.
Earlier in the day, he said, he answered a question posed to him on Twitter: Are you on PEDs?
He had responded no, and he talked about the responses to his response. A lot of folks didn’t believe him.
A problem that he and other ballplayers have, I said to him, is the generation of lies that fans have heard from professional athletes -- from Marion Jones angrily proclaiming her innocence to Rafael Palmeiro jabbing his finger at congressmen in proclaiming his innocence, to Lance Armstrong attacking accusers the way he went after the Tour de France.
It’s largely because of that history of bold-faced, relentless, unrepentant untruths that other athletes -- clean athletes, in a lot of cases -- are no longer given the benefit of the doubt. That is the legacy of the liars.
There is something else that the liars have had in common: They haven’t admitted anything until they were caught.
There was no crisis of conscience that brought them forward, an internal gnawing that had to be addressed. None have come forward on his or her own and offered to give their money back, out of a belief that they had gained the dollars based on fraud or deception. Most have surrendered and admitted guilt and apologized after being caught. When the choice is between being completely honest or protecting dollars, the primary motive is to not do the right thing, but to hold onto the loot.
Like a shoplifter who got caught with a toaster, he surrendered. He has been sentenced and he’s currently serving his time, through the rest of this season. After initially issuing a statement stunningly void of accountability on the day he was suspended, he issued another statement Thursday evening.
He did not step in front of cameras, as he did in his verbal victory lap after winning his appeal in February 2012. He did not answer questions Thursday evening, either in person or in writing.
Braun’s initial statement back in July included these words: “I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love."
Sorry, but it’s not going to be that easy. He isn’t just going to wish it all away, after months and months of lies. He isn’t going to make it right by issuing a couple of statements and going back to the batting cage. The crafted and polished words issued in his name left a lot of unanswered questions, and if he’s not willing to address those -- openly, with his only motive being the telling of truth -- then the statements just become part of the bigger lie.
Questions such as:
1. Your statement of Thursday night addresses PED use from 2011. Why, then, was your name in Biogenesis documents from the spring of 2012?
2. Explain the process that you got PEDS in the summer of 2011. What “products” did you use?
3. You say in your statement that you used PEDs in 2011 for “a short period of time.” Are you saying that you have never used performance-enhancing drugs other than that short period of time, whether in college or as a minor leaguer or while in the big leagues?
4. You have a line of apology to Dino Laurenzi Jr., the sample collector; what are you apologizing for? What did you say and do in reference to him that wronged him?
Braun can never make it all better, of course, because he can’t undo the past. The Diamondbacks will never know if they would have played in the World Series if Braun hadn’t wrecked them in the postseason of 2011, when he was playing on PEDs. He can’t change the scrutiny that fell on Laurenzi after Braun and his team went after the collector while making a defense.
But Braun does have a choice, again, of being completely open, completely honest, and answering all questions, regardless of how uncomfortable they are or whether it means he’ll have to write a check in recompense.
If he’s unwilling to do that, to go beyond the statements of half-truths, then his words are worthless.
Braun helped to build sport’s legacy of liars, the Big Lie, that now casts a shadow on all athletes, particularly the ones performing well. And now he needs to do all he can to tear it down.
• The Nationals have an opportunity to dump $2.5 million in salary obligation if they just allow the Rays to take David DeJesus today -- and they really don’t have a lot to gain by keeping him, in 2014, because they’re just about out of contention. Tampa Bay is looking to add DeJesus and Delmon Young for depth, for lineup alternatives. Young has been thinking about a return, he tells Marc Topkin.
The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw has been untouchable in the second half.
• Clayton Kershaw struggled with his command early in his start against the Marlins Thursday, especially with his fastball, and had to work through two Miami rallies. And yet, by the fourth inning, everything had come together. He needed only 49 pitches in his last five innings, and by the time the day was over, Kershaw’s second-half ERA had dropped to 1.02; he has a second-half WHIP of 0.72.
From the Elias Sports Bureau: Kershaw lowered his ERA to 1.72 in 27 starts. The only other Dodgers pitcher in the live ball era (since 1920) to have an ERA under 1.75 at least 25 starts into a season was Sandy Koufax in 1964 and 1966. Kershaw also has the fourth-lowest ERA through 27 starts of any pitcher over the past 40 seasons.
A. Hitters were just 2-for-14 and whiffed 15 times on his offspeed pitches. The 15 swing-and-misses are tied for his most in any start since 2009.
B. He recorded 32 strikes out of 42 offspeed pitches thrown. His strike rate of 76.2 percent was his third best in any start since 2009.
C. He recorded all six strikeouts with offspeed pitches. This season Kershaw has 126 K's with those pitches, third in MLB behind Yu Darvish (144) and R.A. Dickey (129).
D) Thursday marked only the fourth time this season that Kershaw did not record a single strikeout with his fastball.
• Justin Havens of ESPN Stats & Information dug through some schedule data, going forward. These numbers are based on remaining games going into Thursday’s play -- and I’ll say it again: I think the Indians are going to have a heck of an opportunity to make the playoffs, based on the relative weakness of their schedule.
Orioles: 26 of final 36 games against divisional opponents, including 20 straight to end the season.
Red Sox: From Sept. 2-19, the Red Sox play the Tigers, Yankees, Rays, Yankees and Orioles in consecutive series.
Reds: Two more series against Cardinals (on road Aug. 26-28, at home Sept. 2-5) and two more series against Pirates (on road Sept. 20-22, at home Sept. 27-29). The Pirates and Reds play in Cincinnati in the final series of the season.
Indians: Starting September 6, 17 of the Indians final 23 games are against the combination of the Mets, White Sox, Astros and Twins.
Tigers: The Tigers' final 13 games of the season come against the Mariners, White Sox, Twins and Marlins.
Rays: 11 of the Rays' final 14 games come against the Rangers, Orioles and Yankees.
Rangers: The Rangers have six games left against the A’s (AL West implications) and four left against the Rays (wild-card implications).
Athletics: The A’s remaining schedule splits up pretty clear -- hard and then easy. The final 13 games of the season all come against teams under .500.
Royals: From Sept. 6 through 22, the Royals play consecutive series against the Tigers, Indians, Tigers again, Indians again and Rangers.
Yankees: From Aug. 23 to Sept. 19, 23 of the Yankees' 26 games are against AL East opponents.
Dodgers: Each of the Dodgers' final 20 games this season come against divisional opponents.
Pirates: Six of the Pirates' final nine games come against the Reds, including the final three in Cincinnati.
Cardinals: St. Louis plays a four-game series with Atlanta starting Thursday, then goes for 13 straight against the Pirates and Reds. Then, starting Sept. 10, the team does not play a team over .500 for the rest of the season (19 straight).
Diamondbacks: 29 of final 36 games against teams under .500.
Braves: By opponents' winning percentage, no team has an easier schedule from here on out than the Braves. The Braves' seven games left against .500-plus competition are the fewest in baseball and they also happen to be the Braves' next seven games.
Next Level: One of the reasons for Verlander's struggles this season is his decreased fastball velocity. Of the 64 fastballs he threw Thursday, only 10 reached at least 95 mph. Overall only 28 percent of his fastballs have reached 95 mph this season.
Percentage of Verlander fastballs to reach 95 mph the past five seasons: