What Ryan Braun Has to Do to Get Back in Fans' Good Books

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What Ryan Braun Has to Do to Get Back in Fans' Good Books
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Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun has dug himself into an all-time low.

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is digging a deeper hole for himself following his recent apology acknowledging his use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

Braun issued a statement Thursday—the full text of which can be found here—apologizing for his use of PEDs and further explaining his actions.  Yet his apology may be too little and too late. 

Braun, and his clouded reputation, shall forever be stained by this incident.  However, there are things the 2011 National League MVP can do to at least return his image to something respectable.

For starters, Braun should speak with the media.

The nature of that potential conversation shall be described shortly; yet how did Braun get to this point in the first place?

Braun is no stranger to allegations of PED use. 

In his 2011 MVP season, Braun had tested positive for PEDs, yet was able to successfully appeal a 50-game suspension; he became baseball's first player to win such an appeal.

Despite the success of the appeal, one might think that Braun had learned his lesson.  His reputation, albeit tainted, was still intact and he had escaped suspension and the scrutiny that would have accompanied it.  It should have been a foregone conclusion that Braun would stay clean having come so close to ruining his character.

Braun did not take the wiser of the two courses.  In the wake of the second accusation of PED use, Braun may now seem more foolish than ever before. 

Despite not being directly linked to any specific PED from the hands of the Miami-based Biogenesis clinic, Braun's involvement and subsequent actions certainly did not put him on the right path.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Allegations of PED use have already hurt Braun's image.

When Major League Baseball announced that they would seek Braun's suspension, Braun's statements and actions were anything but adequate. 

In a February 5 article written by Tim Brown and Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, Braun stated that he had nothing to hide and never had any relationship with the clinic's operator, Anthony Bosch.

Braun further elaborated:

During the course of preparing for my successful appeal last year, my attorneys, who were previously familiar with Bosch, used him as a consultant.  More specifically, he answered questions about [testosterone-to-epitestosterone] ratio and possibilities of tampering with samples.

Braun's first explanation seems about as hollow as his most recent one.  The only difference is that Braun has now acknowledged PED use instead of denying it. 

Yet as previously mentioned, why would Braun even bother dealing with Bosch and his reputation within the Biogenesis clinic?

To make matters worse, Braun was then alleged to have gone after Dino Laurenzi Jr., the Comprehensive Drug Testing employee who had handled his 2011 urine sample.

Regardless, Braun's interactions and subsequent denials further drove a wedge between him and the fans, as well as the media.

Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sums up the aftermath perfectly when he wrote:

Fans don't take kindly to PED cheats and certainly not to someone who lied about it publicly for so long.  In other words, Braun's reputation is trashed, his integrity non-existent and his achievements forever tarnished.  Think about that when you suggest he got off lightly because it "only" cost him $3 million or so in salary while suspended.

Before this scandal ever took place, Braun's popularity was something to be commended.  Now, it seems as if Braun has little chance to rectify the situation and make things right with the fans and MLB.

In the wake of Braun's most recent attempt to apologize and clear his name, his reputation may be worse off than before.

ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian elaborated via an article published by Bill Chappell of NPR by saying:

While Braun used a lot of the right words, we need more specifics than this.  And I really thought that after this, he would get in front of a microphone, maybe even take some questions.  But from all indications, this might be it until spring training, or whenever.

That would be the first step in correcting a series of poor decisions on Braun's part. 

At this point, fans are becoming numb to Braun's denial and subsequent apologetic comments.  At best, they seem hollow and still lack the credibility necessary for Braun to once again earn the respect within the game.

Major League players are also disgusted with Braun's decision-making as well as how he has handled things up to this point.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer stated via an ESPN article:

I thought this whole thing has been despicable on his part.  When he did get caught, he never came clean.  He tried to question the ability of the collector when he was caught red-handed.  So that's why the whole Braun situation, there is so much player outrage toward him.

Rather than make a statement reiterating only the words Braun wants to speak, he needs to step forward in front of a microphone, as Kurkjian said. 

Braun will need to face the facts, admit them and begin the healing process necessary in the aftermath of this scandal.

Former MLB pitcher, and current broadcaster, Mike Krukow also stated in an interview with the San Francisco-based radio station KNBR that Braun's most recent attempt did not help his character at all.  Instead Krukow reiterated what others have already said: Braun needs to stand in front of a microphone and answer every question—tough questions—truthfully and honestly.

Instead, we are left with a hollow apology.

CBS Sports senior baseball columnist Scott Miller summed up how many are feeling about this recent apology.  He writes:

Far as I can tell, Braun's apology doesn't even come close to covering the ground he needs to cover.  Starting with his urine collector.  Are you kidding me?  Braun demonizes the poor guy who collected his polluted piss while the stained slugger desperately worked to wiggle out of a suspension two winters ago.  He is positively Nixonian in telling one brazen, unadulterated lie after another.

Instead, Braun should be doing much more than issuing hollow statements filled with discredit.  He also should be issuing a huge apology to Laurenzi Jr., as San Francisco Chronicle writer John Shea tweets above.

While his current apology to Laurenzi is a start, the fact that Braun referred to him as an anti-Semite deserves more than just a few words.

If Braun does nothing more to repair his image, his character will remain in shambles.  If this is a start of more action on his part, he could regain some credibility.

Fortunately for Braun, if there is any good fortune, there is still time to do this.

Braun can benefit from the fact that baseball and the media are growing tired of steroids in the game.  He can also benefit from the fact that society tends to be forgiving if it receives a heartfelt apology and time is allowed to heal the wounds.

Remember when Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte were linked to PED use? 

They both made apologies that were seen as adequate and both were able to move on and have successful careers without the scrutiny that Braun has brought upon himself.

The road ahead for Braun will not be as easy.  He has already tarnished his reputation as a player and his actions following this scandal have certainly not helped.

Even if Braun does right from here on out, he may never again be seen as the likable Milwaukee slugger who was once viewed as a perennial MVP candidate.  Yet he could better his situation and hopefully put himself back on track to earning the respect of both players and fans.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Braun has a long way to go if he ever hopes to regain the respect of the fans.

Braun could still turn this negative into a positive. 

It is an obvious conclusion that he needs to stay clean from this point forward.  He could be a spokesperson for continued testing in the hopes that his experience may actually provide some benefit to baseball years down the road.

This, in turn, would show that Braun is a human being who has dealt with struggles in the past and has concerns about how PEDs could affect baseball in the future.  Fans would like to see that.

What did you think of Braun's apology?

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If anything, Braun needs to step in front of the media and answer questions as both Krukow and Kurkjian suggested.  He needs to answer each and every question with integrity and honesty.  Braun also needs to make a deeper apology instead of the flat statement he issued on August 22.

Braun needs to apologize to his teammates.  He needs to apologize to each of the players that faced him up to this point.  He needs to apologize to his coaches.  Most importantly, he needs to apologize to the fans. 

After all, fans are the sole reason baseball exists.

 

Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.  Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.

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