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Ryan Braun does not owe you, or most anyone else, an apology

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“Ryan Braun should apologize so we can talk about how insincere and self-serving his apologies are.”

–everyone in the next 24 hours.

It’s starting already, of course. Buster Olney wrote something already in which he compared Ryan Braun to Lance Armstrong and listed all of the people to whom Braun should apologize.

It’s probably not going to happen. At least publicly. Braun, if he is a good and decent person in any way probably owes an apology to Dino Laurenzi, Jr., the collector in Braun’s positive drug test last year. Braun’s comments were not exactly libelous — he was noting, correctly, that a compromised sample could result in a positive test — but he did it in a very public and very ham-handed way which gave the clear implication that he thought Laurenzi could’ve tainted his sample. That was a bit much then — most people realized he was making a procedural, not a substantive defense — but now his comments are laid bare as gratuitous and low rent.

But beyond that? I’m sorry, I’m having a hard time getting worked up over the need for Braun to apologize to anyone for anything. At least those not close to him. He owes apologies to his teammates for not being there for them now. He owes apologies to people he’s personally and directly lied to. He owes apologies to his lawyers for putting them in an uncomfortable position back in January when he made them answer for his claim that they consulted with Bosch legally when that didn’t happen. His family, of course.

But Olney mentions Braun’s need to apologize to many more classes of people, and I’m just not seeing it.

The 2011 Diamondbacks are cited because Braun helped the Brewers beat them in the NLDS. I’m having a hard time getting on board with that. For one thing, who’s to say they didn’t have a PED user on their team? But even if they didn’t, we can’t play the “this would’ve happened if not for that” game in baseball, be it with PEDs or anything else. In that way lies madness. Should the 2004 Red Sox apologize? Where do we stop with this?

Apologies to the Brewers owners who gave Braun his big contract? What, they didn’t benefit from all of Braun’s exploits over the past few years? Of course they did. Exploits which are not solely PED-realized anyway, but even if they were, benefits all the same. They gave Braun his money with their eyes open and an awareness of the risks signing any power hitter presents. There is a drug testing and penalty system in place. All teams operate with the knowledge that they could lose any player for 50 games or more at any time. This is the cost of doing business. Business done by sophisticated parties.

But I know where you’re going next: Braun should apologize to the fans. To the kids out there who believed in him.  Well: bull.

Athletes don’t owe their personal integrity to the fans or the public at large. We have created a romantic fiction that fans “believe” in superstars, but they mostly don’t. They believe in athletic exploits and winning and the vicarious satisfaction they get when “their team” does well. Brewers fans rooted for the team before Braun played there and they will once he’s gone.  They rooted for Braun after last year’s appeal — they may be the only ones — and it’s not a rooting based on “belief” in any real sense. He’s their guy. They defend their guy because he helps their team win.

If there are those who truly believe in Braun — the “say it ain’t so” crowd — well, I’m sorry. They’re deluded. Kids included. Charles Barkley was right: athletes are not role models. They should not be. Parents shouldn’t encourage that. Athletes are like any other people: they’re flawed and often awful.

Maybe that seems harsh, but it’s the way it is. There is so much B.S. surrounding baseball because we can’t seem to let go 19th century modes of interaction with these highly-paid, supremely set-apart professional athletes. They are, for all practical purposes, total strangers to us. Let us not pretend they are not. Let us not pretend that they owe us anything more than that we are owed by other total strangers.

The Chicago Cubs: Spring training games, regular season prices

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Craig Calcaterra
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MESA, AZ — I’ve been covering spring training for eight years, and in just those eight years a lot has changed in the Cactus and Grapefruit League experiences. The parks are bigger and fancier and the vibe is far more akin to a regular season major league one than the intimate and laid back atmosphere most people think of when they picture February and March baseball.

Just imagine, however, how much has changed if you’ve been coming to Florida or Arizona for a really long time.

“When we first started coming, you could bring your own beer in,” says Don Harper, a lifelong Cubs fan from Kennewick, Washington who spends his winters in Arizona. “You couldn’t bring a cooler, but you could bring a case of beer and a bag of ice and you just set it down in between you and you just put the ice on it and keep it cold.”

I asked Don if the beer vendors complained.

“They didn’t sell beer,” he said.

That was three decades and two ballparks ago. They certainly sell beer at the Cubs’ gleaming new facility, Sloan Park. Cups of the stuff cost more than a couple of cases did back when Don first started coming to spring training.

The price of beer is not the only thing that has changed, of course. The price of tickets is not what it used to be either. Don told me that when he started coming to Cubs spring training games tickets ran about seven dollars. If that. It’s a bit pricer now. Face value for a single lawn ticket, where you’ll be sitting on a blanker on the outfield berm — can be as high as $47 depending on the day of the week and the opponent. Infield box seats run as high as $85.

The thing is, though, you’re not getting face value seats for Cubs spring training games. Half of the home games sold out within a week of tickets going on sale in January. Since then just about every other game has sold out or soon will. That will force you to get tickets on the secondary market. According to TickPick, the average — average! — Cubs spring training ticket on the secondary market is $106.30. For a single ticket. It’s easily the highest price for spring training tickets in all of baseball, and is $26 higher than secondary market tickets for the next highest team, the Red Sox:

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That may be shocking or even appalling to some, but as the automatic sellouts at Sloan Park and those high secondary market prices suggest, there are at least 15,000 people or so for each Cubs home game who don’t seem to mind. Supply meet demand meet the defending World Series champions.

I spoke with two younger Cubs fans, Corey Hayden and Eleanor Meloul, who traveled here from Salt Lake City. On Sunday they lucked out and got a couple of lawn seats for $28. On Saturday, however, they paid $100 a piece on StubHub to get some seats just beyond third base. I asked them if there is some price point that would keep them from coming.

“There isn’t one,” Hayden said. “I paid $4,500 for a World Series ticket, so . . .”

Don Harper wouldn’t do that, but he doesn’t really mind the higher prices he’s paying for his spring tickets. Of course, he’s a longtime season ticket holder so he gets access to the face value seats. I asked him whether his spring training habit would end if those prices got jacked up higher, as the market would seem to bear, or if he had to resort to the secondary market.

Don paused and sighed, suggesting it was a tough question. As he considered it, I put a hard number on it, asking him if he’d still go if he had to pay $50 per ticket. “Yeah, probably,” he said. “$75?” I asked. He paused again.

“As long as I got enough money.”

Don is a diehard who, one senses, will always find a way to make it work. Corey spent a wad of cash on that once-in-a-lifetime World Series ticket, but he and Eleanor seem content to bargain hunt for the most part and splurge strategically. If you’re a Cubs fan — and if you’re not rich — that’s what you’ll have to do. The ticket it just too hot.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.