Amid storm, Braun finds sanctuary in clubhouse
All-Star left fielder remains mum regarding connection to Biogenesis clinic
This is the eighth of a series of stories that will take you Around the Horn with the 2013 Milwaukee Brewers and has already covered the rotation, the bullpen and catcher, first base, second base, third base and shortstop. Up next: Left field.
PHOENIX -- Outside the clubhouse at Maryvale Baseball Park on Wednesday, a storm brewed and yet the Brewers went about their work. Seems it's been that way for a while now.
But the storm clouds can't get inside the clubhouse, where, for the past year, left fielder Ryan Braun has enjoyed his oasis. For all of the questions he faces on the outside, he is safe on the inside to go about his business.
One of his oldest teammates makes it sound as if nothing would change that.
"Last year, he jumped through every hoop they put in front of him," said Corey Hart, Milwaukee's longest-tenured player and a teammate since the day Braun arrived in the big leagues in 2007.
"And he's still saying, 'I'll do whatever you want me to do,'" Hart said. "He's one of those guys you just believe. He's such a genuine guy, and I've got nothing but trust in the guy."
In case that left any doubt at all, catcher Jonathan Lucroy said, "I believe him."
Hart and Lucroy believe Braun is innocent of allegations that began with a drug test during the 2011 National League Division Series, when a sample attributed to Braun tested positive for high levels of elevated testosterone. Braun appealed a 50-game suspension and won, but a year later finds himself at the center of another Major League Baseball investigation, this one into the South Florida clinic known as Biogenesis, which stands accused of supplying baseball players with banned substances.
Braun has denied wrongdoing, saying his attorneys merely consulted with the clinic's founder, Tony Bosch, during Braun's 2011-12 appeal. A dispute over Bosch's fee, Braun said, explains why Braun's name would appear in excerpts of Bosch's logbooks that have been leaked, one by one, to the Miami New Times, Yahoo! Sports and ESPN.com.
The latest excerpt was obtained by ESPN and published on the same day Braun reported to Maryvale Baseball Park, showing his name on a list with the figure "1500" next to it. A source told ESPN it was a list of players who had received performance-enhancing drugs, though no records had emerged as of Thursday morning linking Braun to a specific substance.
MLB is investigating.
The Brewers are waiting.
Braun isn't talking.
At least, Braun is not talking about Biogenesis. He has made it clear to the reporters who regularly cover the team that he is available to discuss anything else, and his daily interactions with teammates are the same as ever. Braun arrives early each morning for a long workout, laughs with teammates over breakfast, then takes the field for the usual rounds of batting practice and drills.
"None of that other stuff even comes up," Lucroy said. "It's all baseball."
It is the same routine that last season led Braun to a National League-best .987 OPS and the 11th 40-homer, 30-stolen base season in Major League history. Braun's 41 homers led the league, and he finished second to the Giants' Buster Posey in National League Most Valuable Player Award balloting.
"[Braun] is the type of guy who goes out to prove people wrong," Lucroy said. "I try to do the same thing. We all deal with our hardships in life, and Brauny's just happens to be out there in front of a national audience. I feel sorry for him, because I don't feel it's deserving."
And why have the latest allegations not shaken teammates' faith in Braun?
Partly, Hart said, because of his performance last season under such a harsh spotlight.
"It's like a high school basketball game and Michael Jordan is on the floor," Hart said. "You go, 'That guy is way better than everybody here.'
"That's Brauny in everything. He's better playing, speaking. He's the smartest guy in the room, I guarantee it. And he's naturally confident, never flustered, or at least he will never let you see it. He might go home and beat up a wall of something, but he probably won't because he's not that guy. He has total control of his emotions and total belief in processes, which means he doesn't let anything affect him.
"Which is amazing, because if one guy says, 'You stink!' I go, 'I stink? Really?' Brauny doesn't let himself think that way."
Braun has declined to offer his own insight into what he thinks about the latest controversy. He issued a statement on Feb. 5, the night Yahoo! Sports first connected him to Biogenesis, which he said explained his link to Bosch, and has said that statement would stand as his only comment on the matter.
When Braun reported to camp 10 days later and met reporters, he made it clear he would field only baseball questions. That left some tough questions unanswered, including why his world-class attorneys would consult in the first place with Bosch, who is not a doctor?
Among the topics Braun did cover that day was the World Baseball Classic; Braun will be Team USA's starting left fielder. He also spoke of overcoming adversity, a skill that could serve him well for the second straight season.
"It's not easy," Braun said. "I've always said that in baseball, you deal with a lot of adversity. In life, you deal with a lot of adversity. And the goal is to try to be the same person. I've always been extremely positive and optimistic, and I never allow outside distractions to influence that or affect that."