It has been just over one week since Major League Baseball and Milwaukee Brewers' star left fielder Ryan Braun came to an agreement that would see him suspended for the remainder of the 2013 season. This dated back to his positive test from October of 2011 and ended with the findings from the investigation of the now-defunct Biogenesis clinic.
While most thought the case had reached its inevitable conclusion, there were others who felt blindsided by their hero, a man who was so adamant before and after his successful appeal.
Bloggers, journalists, and fans alike all took to their respective forms of social media. Writers across the country were quite proud of the result, which in their minds and in the minds of most had proven what they believed to know all along: Braun was, and is, a liar.
Most feelings were fair and justified; some inevitably went over the top. Braun acted in a despicable and embarrassing manner, nobody is disputing that. He got off on a technicality because protocol was not followed to the letter, but he acted as if he were the victim that day, stating, “We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.”
It is because of that quote, along with the entirety of his press conference in February of 2012 that have led many to associate Braun with a man who needs no introduction. It is because of Braun's 'woe is me' defense and arrogant nature throughout the last 18 months that have enabled the laziest of knee-jerk reactions: that Ryan Braun is the Lance Armstrong of baseball.
But, is this really an accurate accusation? Buster Olney seems to think so, and many fans across the country find themselves in agreement with ESPN's senior baseball writer. They fail to see very clear differences, however.
Rather than reporting in a dignified way, they go for shock value. You can despise Braun for what he did as much as the next person; it's understandable, to an extent. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be intelligent about it, though.
First, the similarities between the two athletes. Armstrong cheated, Braun cheated. Armstrong lied about cheating, Braun also lied about cheating. Armstrong was quite aggressive while attempting to maintain his innocence, as was Braun.
One could argue that Braun acted just as every other athlete would have when faced with such allegations. Lie first, then the lies catch up with you, and then finally entangle you until you are forced to come clean. Any further attempts in trying to connect these two beyond those basic similarities stop here.
How so, you ask? Well, this timeline of Lance Armstrong's demise from January of this year does a fine job of suggesting what should be considered as more than a shred of difference between the two. Within it, statements such as “The allegations came to a fever pitch when Armstrong's former teammates — some of whom claimed to be bullied — came out against him.”
Another comparison to Armstrong that many are making of Braun is his bullying nature. The subject of bullying coincides with another person of interest in Braun's case: sample collector Dino Laurenzi, Jr. While SB Nation argues that Braun “doesn't owe Dino Laurenzi, Jr. a damn thing” for what he said that fateful February day, more than a couple of columnists disagree.
Michael Rosenberg's viewpoint published shortly after Braun's successful appeal asked for a clarification of his statement, which reads, “There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened.”
Josh Levin, contributor to Slate, is a bit more damning. Published on the night of Braun's suspension, Levin references the same quote, and his sentiment is echoed by writers and fans alike: Ryan Braun smeared this man's image, ruined his life, flipped his life upside down, and so on.
Braun issued a vague statement about a man who didn't do his job to the best of his abilities. According to the independent arbitrator who ruled in Braun's favor, Shyam Das, Laurenzi did not perform his job to the best of his abilities. It's as simple as that.
Does Braun owe Laurenzi an apology for the way he conducted himself after winning his appeal? Sure, that seems reasonable. On the other hand, did Braun “ruin the man's life” for issuing a vague statement about the process in which his sample was collected and stored? Not even close.
For one, Laurenzi still has a job to this day and is in fact making a living for himself. Now, I cannot be certain what everyone's definition of the word “ruin” is, but having a job and maintaining a living don't exactly seem to match such a description. There's no need to be dramatic about it, which brings me back to the comparison to Lance Armstrong.
Lance Armstrong lied for 13 years, during which he sued “multiple journalists, friends, and colleagues who accused him of doping.” There are two major differences between him and Braun here. First, the gap between 18 months and 13 years. Second, Braun did not and has not sued a single person who accused him of cheating.
But perhaps the greatest difference of them all comes from the same timeline, stating “The USADA releases a mountain of evidence against Armstrong, claiming he was the driving force behind the most sophisticated doping conspiracy ever.” This information was released in October of 2012.
If cheating and lying about it is enough to draw comparisons to the most sophisticated doper in the history of athletics, then we might have to start using the Lance Armstrong analogy more sparingly. After all, where do we go from here? As for whoever faces MLB's next suspension, and inevitable suspensions that will follow years down the road: who do they become?
Frankly, those questions probably do not matter. Exaggerated comparisons will be made and agreed upon; this is the way the world works. Ryan Braun is not a saint by any stretch. He acted arrogantly and unprofessionally while remaining unwavering in his own defense.
And sure, he deserves most of the ridicule he has coming his way. After all, he upset the entire baseball world with his actions and lies. Most importantly, he upset the fans of the Milwaukee Brewers, particularly the ones who believed in him and were as unwavering in their defense of their star player as he was of himself.
Braun is not the hero Milwaukee thought they needed, and these fans certainly deserve better. But, is he Lance Armstrong?
No, not even on his worst day.
By: Shaun Ranft