Wow, I’m gobsmacked. I really and truly thought that, after Ryan Braun’s apology last night, people would embrace him and say that he addressed every concern they had and now we could move on. Imagine my shock and horror this morning when I read multiple takes from the usual suspects about how Braun left questions unanswered and didn’t go far enough.
I mean, Buster Olney does have a good point here, right?
The crafted and polished words issued in his name left a lot of unanswered questions … Questions such as: Explain the process that you got PEDS in the summer of 2011. What “products” did you use?
Well, if you look right at his statement he says “The products were a cream and a lozenge which I was told could help expedite my rehabilitation.” Does Olney want a chemical breakdown of the substances? Does he think Braun even knows? Go read “Game of Shadows” and the BALCO grand jury testimony to see how naive and willfully ignorant ballplayers are about what they use. Braun probably doesn’t know. Heck, even if he does what difference would it make? Show me one instance where baseball writers have made meaningful distinctions between anabolic steroids, HGH, testosterone and other things. They all treat them like magic pills which bestow super powers, so Braun not breaking them down here makes zero difference.
This reaction from Olney and many reactions from others was wholly predictable. Indeed, I predicted it the other day. They want blood. But if blood were given it still wouldn’t be enough. There is literally nothing Braun could have said that would have had people go “wow, good job, Ryan. Now let’s move on.”
None of which is to say that Braun isn’t a liar and a cheater and a pretty miserable guy. He seems like he is. I’m just truly puzzled why, if that is the case, anyone expects him to say magic words to make it all better.
Here’s a crazy possibility: Braun isn’t, in reality, all that regretful about his PED use or anything else and he’s doing this simply to try to appease people because that’s what’s expected of him. In which case maybe we shouldn’t be judging this on the merits in the first place. Maybe we should just be content that he got caught and realize that sometimes bad people do bad things. And that sometimes the story doesn’t end with the bad person learning a lesson and a group hug.
The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.
In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.
On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.
Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.