Though some have been critical of Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun’s decision to release a statement of apology instead of coming clean in front of a camera, members of the organization are pleased with what they read.
“I thought it was a good first step on the road to redemption, I guess you could say,” Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said before Milwaukee’s game Friday at Cincinnati. “Of course you’re going to have lot of critics of it but for me personally it’s a hard situation for him to deal with, and I can’t really imagine everything that he’s gone through.”
Expanding on his thoughts of this being a first step, Lucroy expects Braun to eventually come forward and answer questions in the future.
“I think he’s going to do a press conference,” Lucroy said. “I think he will do one eventually. I don’t know when, but he will do one, and I think that will help him out for sure to answer some questions and answer some direct questions. Kind of get it all out there.”
The contents of the statement were enough for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, something he made clear before the game.
“I think he explained himself,” Roenicke said. “It certainly was enough for me. I think it’s enough for his teammates . . . I think no matter what he says there’s going to be some negative from a lot of people still. He didn’t say enough (or) he didn’t explain himself enough. I think he did.
“And I also think there are some things he probably still can’t say. As I read into how he said it, I think there are some things that probably he can’t bring up. That’s OK with me. Everybody knows he’s admitted that he’s made some mistakes and he’s sorry about it, which I have no doubt in talking to him and what he said by the statement. I have no doubt that he feels sorry about what’s happened for his teammates, for the people in the front office, for baseball — for everybody. For the fans.
“This is a nice man. He is. This is a nice young man that messed up. That’s what it is. And he’s got a long road ahead of him. I’m sure he’ll be yelled at, at all of the stadiums he’ll go to next year. He’s going to have things continually written about him but it’s a first step in, I think, trying to get through this, probably trying to heal up some relationships, whether it’s the fans, whether it’s his good friends, whether it’s his teammates. I think this is a nice step towards that.”
As far as eventually holding a press conference and answering questions, Roenicke feels that decision is up to Braun.
“I know and I’ve heard that some other people wish he would have come out and had a basic press conference, answered questions, and I know and understand why they want that to happen,” Roenicke said. “If he wants to at some time, fine. I don’t think it’s necessary. I think he needs to move on. I think we need to move on as a team. He’s going to be with us next year and, hopefully, we get that same player back that’s very important to this club and who fits in well with the team.”
Braun recently placed phone calls to personally apologize to Roenicke and some of his longtime teammates. It was Braun’s first attempt to reach out since accepting his suspension, a gesture appreciated by all.
“He was very regretful, very sorry,” Lucroy said. “He acknowledged his mistakes to me and admitted guilt. It’s something he’s going to have to overcome and, I think, hopefully time will heal it.”
Brewers reliever John Axford, who also serves as the team’s Players Association representative, also got a phone call and came away pleased with the back-and-forth conversation.
“Ryan talked to us before, so obviously the statement is more inclusive of other groups outside of his teammates that he’s already talked things over with,” Axford said. “For me, with the conversations I’ve had with Ryan and reading that, I think that is good for me. Knowing Ryan and understanding Ryan, I’m going to be able to move forward and I hope other people will be able too.”
Though he had already heard and conversed with Braun, Axford said the statement still meant something to him, too.
“He touches on a whole lot of things, not just his teammates,” Axford said. “When you read the statement, you realize all the other people that were affected in this also. So I think understanding that, Ryan came from a personal side and talked to us as teammates. When you see the statement, he goes outside of that a little bit and discusses a few things outside of baseball itself. I think it means a little bit more to me, as well.”
Braun is eligible to work out with the Brewers during his suspension as long as he leaves the playing field before the gates open, but he is unlikely to come around. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke feels having a suspended player being around, especially one of Braun’s stature, would be nothing but a distraction.
As far as moving forward, Lucroy doesn’t feel it will be difficult for Braun to find redemption in Milwaukee’s clubhouse when he returns next spring training.
“I think the outside, of course, is going to be harder to deal with,” Lucroy said. “Within the clubhouse, I don’t think so. If he comes back and is a good teammate and performs and contributes to the team winning, I don’t see why he won’t be welcomed back with open arms. I’m sure he will because he’s very talented.
“I know he misses it, not being here, not helping and not playing. We’re all baseball players. It’s what we do for a living. That’s all any of us really know, the game of baseball, the game we’ve been playing since we were seven years old, most of us. I’m sure he misses it. I know that the biggest part about this for him is lying to us as teammates. I think that’s been the most painful part for him. And the people closest to him.”
Braun also released a letter to Milwaukee’s fans, apologizing for letting them down and calling the opportunity to play in front of them “an honor.”
“Ryan’s always been thoughtful in that sense,” Axford said. “He cares immensely for the Brewers, for the fans, for the city of Milwaukee. He’s done a lot in the city. I think he took the care to do that because that’s how he feels. He genuinely appreciates the fans and the city of Milwaukee, and I think he wanted them to know that as well and wanted to apologize to them directly.”
Now that Braun has come clean and admitted to taking — though he never mentions it by name — performance-enhancing drugs and continually lying, Axford hopes the Brewers can begin to move on. The players are hopeful they can play the final month of the season without the distraction looming over them and that this can provide closure.
“For Ryan to be able to step up and say exactly what happened, I think that’s huge not only for himself but for everyone involved, especially his teammates, his family, his friends, his supporters and people outside the game that are questioning it,” Axford said. ” . . . You can be upset, you can be angry, but in the clubhouse here we’re close, we’re friends, we’re family, and you have to have faith and belief in trust in your family.
“Here in this clubhouse, that’s what it’s all about. If you want to move past it, you have to be able to forgive, and that’s where I’m at. I’m in the position where I want to be able to forgive and move past this and talk to Ryan like our friends and family are.
Lucroy feels the situation has been behind the Brewers for over a month now.
“We’re not really worried about it,” Lucroy said. “Obviously he’s our teammate and we’re having to deal with the repercussions of everything today, especially because he came out with everything yesterday. Hopefully we can just focus on baseball and kind of get all of this stuff behind us. This is just a distraction. I don’t think anybody is really letting it bother them too much.”
Quotes for this story provided by FOX Sports Ohio’s Kevin Goheen