Regardless of whether you believe him or not, this is the second-straight year in which Ryan Braun's spring will be full of talks surrounding needles, injections, performance-enhancing drugs, and explanations. It's the second-straight year in which Braun will first be asked about scandal, then if anyone is still interested, he might be asked about baseball-related topics. And Scott Miller of CBS Sports suggests Braun owes us all a little more.
Miller isn't alone in his logic. We watch these players, pay money to see them play, and often we feel cheated when the possibility arises that such entertainment was tainted. Many fans agree with Miller that players like Braun owe us more. More of an explanation. More candid answers. But that's not something we can demand or expect.
Alex Rodriguez wowed us all with his natural gifts. His ability to hit a baseball into the stratosphere, his ability to get balls deep in the hole at shortstop, and his raw speed made us wonder. Was he the best ever? Would he one day break Hank Aaron's home run record? He was entertainment personified. Even as players like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds were linked to PEDs, we still had Rodriguez, right? Wrong.
Even after Rodriguez's name was listed in the Mitchell Report and he subsequently admitted to using drugs during the 2003 season, A-Rod was still a great show. His home runs still dazzled and he stole bases unlike any power hitter we'd seen in recent memory. And that's the point. There was still suspicion (or at least there should have been) surrounding Rodriguez, but his on-field production continued to impress us all. There was drama off the field, A-Rod made sure his personality pushed everyone away, and yet the Yankees drew a ton of fans. They cashed in on their TV deals. Rodriguez was still that same entertainment personified.
So, back to Braun. His All-American talent and boy next door charm (Miller called him a choir boy) captured the attention of fans from Milwaukee to Los Angeles. What could this MVP do going forward? Then suddenly, the scam was revealed, or so it seems. Braun tested positive for PEDs, got off on a technicality (a solid one, but a technicality nonetheless), and is once again in the news for all the wrong reasons. But to ask him to be more candid with us is beyond our rights as fan. It's beyond our rights as sports writers too.
This will not be the first time this is written, and it won't be the last; baseball is entertainment. The games, the players, the competition all compete against other forms of entertainment. The hardcore baseball fan in us all would say there is no competition, but in reality there is. If it's not a competition between a night at the movies verse a night at the ballpark, it's a competition between which player to root for, which team to support. This is why Braun owes us nothing more.
His job, no matter how seriously he may take it (and some would argue that those who take PEDs take the job too seriously), is to provide entertainment. He's done just that. If we as fans and writers and analysts and armchair psychologists feel that entertainment was poisoned by the illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs, it is incumbent upon us to search out new entertainment. Do you give an actor a chance to defend a movie you found completely terrible. No, you simply move on to another movie and maybe avoid that actor's films for a while. If you have a bad dish at a restaurant, you may complain, but you'll still probably seek out another destination for your night on the town. We don't stand up and demand further explanations as to what goes on in the kitchens of our restaurants, on the sets of movies, and in the minds of all those who provide us entertainment, so really, we have no right to demand that of baseball players.
It's fair to be disappointed. It's normal to be hurt. The game is a treasured piece of history for so many of us, that records falling to cheaters, and beloved heroes being cut down by scandal is almost too much to bear. Yet, we still have choices. Move past Rodriguez and Braun. Forget about McGwire and Bonds. Take your entertainment dollars and spend them on other players and other teams. Don't demand explanations, let the explanations come as these players seek to recoup what they have lost - your fanhood.
Scott Miller speaks for so many fans out there when he suggests Braun should give us more. But in reality, we are the ones who perpetuate the type of behavior we claim to despise. Investing your time, money, and energy in players that have angered you or disappointed you is a mistake. Just move on. Go get your entertainment elsewhere. There are plenty of choices available.