PHOENIX — Naturally, word of Ryan Braun’s suspension brought the Arizona Diamondbacks back to the 2011 National League Division Series against Milwaukee, when Braun played a big role in the Brewers’ series victory.
It was all most D-backs could do to hold their tongues.
Some could not.
“It’s frustrating to know that maybe you were cheated on the other side of it a little bit,” D-backs infielder Willie Bloomquist said.
“Does it piss me off? Yeah. We busted our butt that series and left everything we had on the field and came up a little bit short. Who knows what might have happened? Maybe there is a different outcome? Maybe there is not?”
Braun hit .500 (9 for 18) in the five games with four doubles, a home run and and four RBI as Milwaukee won the series, 3 games to 2. Braun had three hits in each of the first two games, and he hit a two-run homer in Game 2, a 9-4 victory that gave the Brewers a 2-0 series lead.
That winter, Braun was suspended for 50 games for failed a drug test administered during the playoff series, reportedly for elevated testosterone levels, but the penalty was overturned the day before spring training opened in 2012. Braun’s appeal included an attack on the drug-testing lab employee who collected the sample, basically blaming him for the positive test.
“It’s frustrating that guys are still trying to beat the system. It’s also frustrating that he’s essentially accepting responsibility for it now, which essentially means that everything he said back in the beginning of 2012 was a lie. You never want to see that out of anybody, let alone a fellow ballplayer. The lying and the denials are more the issue for me, from a human being’s perspective,” Brad Ziegler said.
“Obviously it affected the series, because that’s right when the positive test occurred. That’s when it was highest in his system, and he torched us that series. We still had opportunities. We can’t put it all on that. Looking back on it, we walked away from that series knowing we should have won it before we heard he tested positive. At least he didn’t get away with it now.”
Braun’s season-long suspension was announced as the D-backs trickled into the clubhouse Monday afternoon.
Along with frustration, Braun’s admission of guilt was met with a degree of cynicism.
“Obviously, he couldn’t fight this one because it was too much,” D-backs catcher Miguel Montero said. “He got caught one time and he got away with it, and then he got caught (again). He’s like, ‘You know what, I’m screwed now. What am I going to say?’ “
“But we all make mistakes. He made a mistake. He has to pay for his mistake. He’s paying for the rest of the season. They are in last place. He’s not an MVP candidate. It is what it is. I can’t judge him. Whatever. He’s a grown man. He should know what he is doing.”
But Montero continued by saying it’s not fair to say Braun’s actions cheated the Diamondbacks out of anything.
“With juice or without juice, he would have beat us, anyway. He’s a great player, man,” Montero said.
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson has come out strongly against performance enhancing drugs in the past, and he said Monday that he believe players who test positive should not be in the Hall of Fame or allowed to play in the All-Star Game. He is in favor of more stringent fines and suspensions.
As far as the 2011 NLDS, he was non-committal.
“What’s happened in the past and how it might have affected us, we’ll never really know,” he said. “I’ve got a sour taste because we lost. For me to sit here and say we lost because of Ryan Braun . . . we don’t know that he did do it in that series, based upon what was announced today.
“We’re in a pennant race this year, and Ryan Braun has to live with Ryan Braun. We take care ourselves and try to do the right thing, do it the right way within good ethical codes.”
Bloomquist played with Braun on the US team in the World Baseball Classic in March, and Bloomquist called Braun “a good dude.
“It’s nothing personal. But from a competitor’s standpoint, it’s pissing guys off,” he said. “Guys are getting frustrated with the fact that why is he thinking he can still can cheat the system and get away with it? It cheats everybody else. It cheats the game. It cheats the fans, It cheats the players they are playing against.”