Braun should have quit while ahead

Turns out, The Collector has a name. And a reputation. And a story.

The PR battle Ryan Braun lamented is raging anew. For this, he has himself to blame.

I don’t know if Braun knowingly used the synthetic testosterone that showed up in his October urine test. But he is guilty of a blatant refusal to quit while he was ahead.

In the news conference that followed his successful appeal of a 50-game suspension, Braun all but accused “The Collector” — whom he very carefully didn’t name — of actively or passively tampering with his urine sample.

“There were a lot of things we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way the entire thing worked that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened,” Braun said Friday.

Major League Baseball subsequently released a statement that said neither Braun nor the players’ union argued in the grievance that the sample had been tampered with. Instead, sources say Braun’s appeal was successful because arbitrator Shyam Das ruled The Collector didn’t take the package to FedEx immediately after leaving Miller Park.

At the hearing, Braun’s lawyers argued The Collector didn’t comply with the letter of the law. In public, Braun all but accused him of contaminating the sample. (Multiple sources have said the original seal on Braun’s sample was intact when it arrived at the lab in Montreal for testing.)

Predictably, this created considerable public fascination about the identity of The Collector. It didn’t take long for reporters to learn his name. And given the times in which we live, Dino Laurenzi Jr. had little choice but to tell his side of the story or risk becoming the doping version of Steve Bartman.

So, on Tuesday, he issued a statement through attorney Boyd Johnson. Laurenzi said he followed the procedures of his employer, Comprehensive Drug Testing, in obtaining and processing Braun’s sample. He said he stored the FedEx Clinic Pack in a Rubbermaid container in his basement office, per CDT regulations, until a day when the package could be shipped out.

“The FedEx Clinic Pack containing Mr. Braun’s samples never left my custody,” Laurenzi said. He added: “At no point did I tamper in any way with the samples. It is my understanding that the samples were received at the laboratory with all tamper-resistant seals intact.”

Clearly, Braun and Laurenzi have different versions of the truth. I don’t know which is correct. I do know Braun amplified a side of the story that might have gone untold without his hyper-aggressive public stance.

It wasn’t necessary for Braun to incriminate Laurenzi — whether he erred or not. If Laurenzi’s alleged malfeasance wasn’t a necessary component of Braun’s innocence in the hearing room, it didn’t need to be part of his statement to the public.

Braun could have said that he’s never used steroids, that the appeal process proved him right, that an unexplained error was to blame, and that he hopes baseball can make adjustments to the testing program going forward. To fans in Milwaukee — the people he counts on to cheer for the Brewers and eat at Ryan Braun’s Graffito — that would have been more than sufficient.

But he didn’t stop there. Braun, who signed a $105 million contract last year, questioned the honesty of a former teacher and athletic trainer from Kenosha, Wis., without presenting concrete evidence of wrongdoing.

Braun made a point of closing his Friday statement by saying that he’s considering his legal options. Why would he need to do that? He won. He side was proved right by the arbitrator. Does Braun need to text Matt Kemp a photo of the MVP trophy to prove that he won it?

Whom would Braun want to sue? Laurenzi? CDT? What would that accomplish, other than giving longer legs to an unflattering story?

Any settlement or judgment would change the minds of few baseball fans, because the people who are going to believe Braun already do. And any remittance he would receive would surely pale in comparison to his on-field earnings.

Braun is a superb baseball player, one of the best in the game today. But his pride — normally a favorable attribute — ensnared him in a lamentable squabble with top baseball officials. Laurenzi gave his side of the story only after Braun put him on the defensive.

Not long ago, it was Ryan Braun who said, “This is my livelihood, my integrity, my character — everything I’ve worked for in my life being called into question.” Dino Laurenzi Jr. can empathize.