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Ryan Braun can serve his time, but he'll never escape this

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider

Ryan Braun kept saying he wished he could tell us "the entire story."

We don't need it now.

We don't need all the details. We don't need any more apologies, or any more vows to get back to playing "the game I love."

No, Ryan, your flimsy statement Monday will do. The words don't even matter. Your willingness to accept a suspension without a fight tells us more than enough.

Go away and serve your time, but understand that you're never going to escape this. You'll always be the guy who stood there in the Arizona desert, smugly believing you could play us all for fools.

"The truth is always relevant," you told us that day in the spring of 2012, in perhaps the only true words you spoke in those six minutes that will remain as a stain on your record.

Braun can serve his time, accepting a 65-game ban that costs him about $3.5 million and frees him from taking part in the dreary final two months of an ugly Brewers season. He can come back next year and tell us that he wants to "have this matter behind me once and for all," as he said in that statement Monday.

Forget it. It's not going away, and we're far past the point that Braun can even make it go away.

He's the first player to be taken down by baseball's Biogenesis investigation, and he won't be the last. As Jon Heyman reported earlier Monday, Alex Rodriguez is facing a long suspension, very possibly longer than the one Braun meekly accepted.

A-Rod has in many ways become the poster boy of the Biogenesis mess, and the coming suspension will rip away what little remains of his reputation. But some people in the game have always considered Braun to be more offensive because his denials and his lies were so public and so over the top, and because, even more than A-Rod, he was seen as having gotten away with something.

Braun's successful appeal of a positive drug test 17 months ago was a bigger challenge to the integrity of the program than anything A-Rod has done, bigger than anything any player has done. His suspension Monday should help restore some faith in that program, but some damage will always remain.

Baseball officials were no doubt thrilled that Braun was willing to go down with so little fight this time. His quick acceptance of a long suspension can be seen as bolstering the credibility of Anthony Bosch, the Biogenesis founder who agreed to cooperate with the MLB investigation. MLB will no doubt hope that Braun's agreement will help push other players to do the same, avoiding a lengthy appeals process and the possibility of any suspensions being overturned.

Perhaps they will. MLB officials have been suggesting all along that they were confident in their case and in their evidence, and perhaps many of the players (and their lawyers, and the union) will believe that there's little to gain in fighting it.

But let's not commend Braun or any player for accepting the penalty without a long fight. The long-held pattern of the drug cheaters has been to wait to see what can be proven, and then admit the minimum.

Braun barely even did that. His statement acknowledged only that he had "made some mistakes," although his acceptance of the suspension makes it clear that those mistakes involved taking drugs in an effort to cheat the game.

Presumably as part of his plea deal with MLB, there's no detailed explanation of what he did, no listing even of what drugs he took.

But really, do you care? Does it even matter at this point?

We already suspected enough of the "entire story" about Ryan Braun. We already believed that all that "honor, integrity, class, dignity and professionalism" he talked about on that day in the spring of 2012 was worth a whole lot less than that forever-tainted MVP award he won in 2011.

"The truth is on my side," Braun said that day, with what felt then and definitely feels now like over-the-top smugness.

The truth is on our side now, and the truth is that Ryan Braun is never going to gain back our trust and respect. The truth is that Ryan Braun badly harmed the game he claims to love so dearly, first by trying to cheat to get ahead and then with the loud and obnoxious denials.

Baseball does care about cleaning up the game. The players union cares, too, because many of its members now care.

It's not an easy task, and for months Braun didn't make it any easier.

"At the end of the day, the truth prevailed," he said all those months ago in Arizona.

At the end of that day, it didn't. At the end of this day, it has.

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