braun getty

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


“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.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.