Ryan Braun: Is it enough to be talented and rich?

He is a phenomenal ball player who is having (for him) a down year along with the rest of the Milwaukee Brewers team. As I sit here and write this blog, the Brewers are about to get beat by the Braves, reassuring everyone in the good City of Milwaukee that their last place standing in the NL Central is for real.

Ryan BraunIronically, as I start this blog and watch the game-cast, Ryan Braun, Brewers outfielder and superstar just lined out. His lackluster performance so far this season (.294) keep the Braun trade rumors alive and well.

Wait a minute, you might say. Just below .300 isn’t the worst batting average ever put together by a superstar weeks before an All-Star break. I agree, but I also know he is now – and may be forever under a different kind microscope. He is no longer “just” a player having a down year.

Remember Dino Laurenzi, Jr?

Dino Laurenzi, Jr is one of those people, who in life crosses paths with a superstar or megastar, and causes their downfall. Numerous examples of these people come to mind from Watergate co-conspirators to murdered waiters returning something to a customer to a nurse at the VA blowing the whistle on secret waiting lists. I’m sure you can think of many more examples.

To know Dino Laurenzi is to know Ryan Braun.

When Ryan Braun burst on the baseball scene in 2005, he had all of the makings of the next of the generational ball players. By 2006 he was voted the Minor League Player of the Year and by 2007, as a Milwaukee Brewer, he was absolutely golden – as was his mega-contract. Braun is a $10 million a year man, and his contract guarantees him that for many years to come.

There was even talk in Milwaukee that finally a player like Braun could catapult them to winning the World Series. The team had not come close since 1982 when Paul Molitor and the then AL Milwaukee Brewers (yes, they have played in both leagues) lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

Admittedly, the Brewers have been mostly better with Braun than without him, but everything changed in 2011 when Braun tested positive for PEDs and testosterone. In fact, the test was over the top positive. The man responsible for transporting the sample for testing was just a common, everyday Joe named Dino Laurenzi. The problem was that when Laurenzi received Braun’s sample it was too late to ship it off by FEDEX. Following official procedure, he placed the sample in a sealed container and kept it refrigerated all weekend. After the weekend, he shipped it off for testing.

That is the bare bones minimum of the story except that the $10 million a year man lawyered up. He and his team of lawyers first challenged the chain of possession and then they went after Laurenzi’s “heart.” They intimated he went after the Brewers because he is a Cubs fan; they intimated that he is an anti-Semite (Braun is Jewish), and then Braun and his lawyers tried to enlist others in MLB to attack his integrity. Not surprisingly, this one time MLB lost and Braun’s legal team proved the broken chain of possession; he won on legal technicality.

However in 2012, in connection with the infamous Biogenesis investigation, Braun’s name and records were indeed directly linked to the designer drug company. Braun was suspended without pay in 2013.

Braun came back. He made his apologies. I saw no apology to Laurenzi however. Big shots never apologize to Common Joe’s. Braun swore he was clean of drugs. I believe him; honestly, but something shifted.

Big Fast Forward

This morning, watching a sports show, the on-air guys started talking Ryan Braun and trade rumors. They mused a good market for him might be the Yankees – then they stopped and laughed. The Yankees are already dealing with another ex-Biogenesis graduate; two of them might prove to be too much.

One “on-air” suggested that with Braun’s salary, why would Braun care whether the Yankee organization would catch him taking PED’s again or not?

Then it hit me; the Sports Ethics spotlight that I believe in had come around once again.

Ryan Braun made bad choices and they led to bad consequences. I have written blogs about Little League parental and coach behavior and mediocre collegiate baseball players who made bad choices and the same set of principles are always in effect. It is a rock-solid truth.

Despite the fact that Braun’s blood may show him to be clean as a whistle; despite his wealth and undisputed talent, he is still under suspicion. In some circles, Braun is thought of as a guy who got off on a technicality and a person who threw a “Common Joe” under the bus to cover for his own PED mistakes.

He has lost his reputation and that factor is now weighed in every aspect of his career. I help athletes avoid these mistakes by relating first my own story, and then the more than 25 years of experience I have had with teaching good ethical behavior.

My goal is to sit down with athletes and teams to show them beforehand that poor choices can lead to catastrophic outcomes. It is so difficult to change perception. A reputation is how a man or woman is regarded long after they leave the game. I want everyone I work with to proudly stand on their reputation as well as their records.

What will be Braun’s true legacy? I don’t know. I do know he could have avoided many problems before they occurred. In my opinion it is not enough to be talented and rich; there are intangibles that far outlast the game.




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