Who cares what Ryan Braun said yesterday?

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I touched on this some last night when I talked about how Ryan Braun doesn’t answer to anyone apart from his teammates, those he personally lied to and people he directly harmed as a result of his lying. Those are folks to whom he owes apologies, not anyone else. Certainly not the general public.

But I am fascinated this morning how hung up people are on the words he used in his public statement yesterday.  The height of this comes in Buster Olney’s column today in which he parses, line-by-line, Braun’s public statement to show us just how disingenuous and insufficient it is.

Why do we care?

We know for a fact that Ryan Braun lied last year. We know for a fact that he has cheated. We know, pretty clearly, that Braun is not a good person in a lot of ways and that we couldn’t trust him as far as we can throw him.  Now ask yourself: if you knew a person like that in your life, would you listen to him at all? Would you care about a thing he says? Or would you ignore it as the words of someone you already know everything you need to know about. Of course Ryan Braun is being self-serving. He’s been nothing but self-serving. This is a surprise now? This is where we should be outraged? People have spent the past year saying that the words which come out of Ryan Braun’s mouth are worthless. Why, now, do we expect anything else?

Players owe us nothing. We have come to think they do due to some romantic and childlike notion about what professional sports are all about, but they really and truly owe us nothing. They owe things to their teams and teammates and the people in their lives, but common fans who don’t know them from Adam really aren’t owed a thing.  At the same time, we do not owe them loyalty or our credulousness. We are free to call Ryan Braun a lowlife if he acts that way, but if we are feel betrayed by them we have no one to blame but ourselves for putting trust in them that they neither earned nor deserved.

Ryan Braun could have sung all four verses of the “Star Spangled Banner” yesterday, followed by an announcement of his allegiance to Lucifer. I wouldn’t care. People are what they do, not what they say. Especially people who have said garbage in the past. Why do we care about his words?

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.