By DREW OLSON
After 2 1/2 agonizing months marked by stomach-churning speculation, vicious innuendo and unprecedented uncertainty, leftfielder Ryan Braun, the Brewers and their nervous fan base received a jolt of favorable news Thursday.
Major League Baseball arbitrator Shyam Das upheld Braun’s appeal of a 50-game suspension for a banned substance. Braun, the reigning National League MVP, will be eligible for the season opener against St. Louis April 6 at Miller Park.
The announcement, which ignited an explosion on Twitter and sparked spirited celebrations throughout Brewer Nation, brought a feeling of finality to a story virtually devoid of developments in the past month.
Closure and clarity, however, will have to wait. While Das’s decision answered the biggest question surrounding Braun and the Brewers, there is plenty left unanswered:
As you can see, the questions abound. Braun might provide a few answers at a press conference Friday morning at Maryvale Baseball Park.
Then again, he might not.
Other than a couple “It’s B.S.” texts to reporters when the story went public, Braun showed incredible restraint during this ordeal. The natural impulse now might be to claim victory and depart the field, but Braun and his handlers have to realize that the cloud has only partially lifted. Many fans -- and even some baseball insiders like GMs, players and managers -- may consider Braun’s victory to be hollow.
Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio would likely disagree.
"Since joining our organization in 2005, Ryan Braun has been a model citizen and a person of character and integrity,” Attanasio said in a statement.
“Knowing Ryan as I do, I always believed he would succeed in his appeal. It is unfortunate that the confidentiality of the program was compromised, and we thank our fans and everyone who supported Ryan and did not rush to judgment."
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the first non-family member Braun contacted after winning the MVP award, also showed support for his buddy.
"MLB and cable sports tried to sully the reputation of an innocent man," Rodgers said on Twitter. "Picked the wrong guy to mess with. Truth will set u free #exonerated."
Rodgers later hinted on Twitter that Braun would have something to say on Friday:
“I'll let my buddy take it from here. All u idiots talking about technicality open up for some crow too. See if Espn gets pressured not to....let the people hear the truth. Should get interesting. #exonerated #shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
The final report by Das is due in a few weeks. Until that time, Braun may be the only person willing to shed light on the situation.
Here is hoping that he does.
Right now, public sentiment seems to be divided into distinct camps:
Braun supporters think their hero is innocent, was wrongly painted as a cheater and is owed an apology. Braun detractors believe he cheated, the process was rigged and that the entire system is corrupt. Major League Baseball and the drug testing community feel as though they found a man standing over a corpse with a smoking gun, then watched him walk free because he wasn't read his Miranda rights.
People on all sides can present plausible cases. Those of us in the middle are trying to figure out whether the system is broken or it worked.
Until we get more information, it’s almost impossible to figure that one out.
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