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.

Aaron Judge set a new postseason strikeout record

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For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:

The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).

It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: