Ryan Braun cheated. And like seemingly most people who are accused of something, he denied that he cheated.
Then came his announcement earlier this week that he was accepting responsibility for his actions (though he didn’t say what his “actions” were).
And that’s when you, the baseball journalists, chimed in. Jon Paul Morosi was one of the harshest critics, saying “Ryan Braun is all about Ryan Braun.” He even threw out this slap in the face: “Braun is one of the most cravenly selfish figures in American professional sports.”
That’s right, Braun did this for Braun.
It had absolutely nothing to do with anything else.
It had nothing to do with the fact that owners pay the most money to players who may hit .230 but crush 40 home runs a season.
It certainly has nothing to do with the media’s glorification of the longball.
And it definitely has nothing to do with the fans’ willingness to pay $60 a seat to watch a player hit a ball 450 feet.
Wait…it has everything to do with these things.
The home run is perhaps the most over-glorified feat in sports. I say that knowing that two nights ago, as Nelson Cruz parked a ball on Green’s Hill in the Ballpark in Arlington, I jumped in celebration on a run that, at that point in the game, proved to be meaningless. But that is what fan’s want to see.
Fans want to see it so badly that they will pay ridiculous amounts of money for seats at a baseball game. It isn’t uncommon for a family of four to drop $250 on tickets, hotdogs and drinks. They’ll buy t-shirts and hats of their favorite player (probably one of the team’s big bats) and do so happily.
Owners see this opportunity for profit and happily hemorrhage money to home run hitters. Don’t believe me? Then tell me why Alex Rodriguez has signed not one, but two contracts in excess of a quarter-billion dollars a piece? Why is Ryan Braun currently guaranteed more than $100 million? Why did David Ortiz, who couldn’t play defense to save his life at this point in his career, receive a two-year, $26 million deal just to swing a bat?
These guys aren’t getting paid that kind of money to hit doubles.
The media loves the home run, too. ESPN’s Baseball Tonight dedicates an entire segment to the home runs of the day. Chris Berman is known for his “back, back, back, back” call for home runs. Which leads us to the most useless event in American sports – the Home Run Derby.
For three hours, we all sit and watch as baseball’s biggest sluggers try to hit as many home runs as they can. Somebody lobs a ball to them and they crush it. (Because that takes skill – the balls might as well be on tees.) Fans “oohh” and “ahh” while baseball writers furiously scribble down notes on distance, form, etc.
So please, don’t come at me with your “holier than thou” mentality when you are part of the cycle promoting the home run ball. Players, fans, owners, journalists – we are all guilty in this.
Did Ryan Braun cheat? Absolutely.
Does he deserve to be punished? Absolutely.
Did he do it for selfish reasons? Perhaps. But we all patted him on the back and told him how wonderful he was when he was hitting those home runs, so why wouldn’t he do whatever it takes to continue?
As my grandmother always says – “Don’t ever point a finger, because there will always be three pointing right back at you.”