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August 23, 2013

What You Need to Know

Braun Comes Clean(er)

by Will Woods

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Thursday Takeaway
In what must have felt like a rehab assignment to a man of his powers, Clayton Kershaw traveled to Florida and eviscerated a bunch of—you know what? Kershaw is good. You know this. Let’s do something else…

Braun Comes Clean
Last night, disgraced Brewers slugger Ryan Braun released a statement admitting he’d taken performance-enhancing drugs and apologizing for having done so. It wasn’t the apology we’re used to—a vague, cryptic, “I’m sorry for things in my past,” like someone talking to his grandchildren from his deathbed—and it includes the uncomfortably identifiable psychological process wherein he convinces himself he’d done nothing wrong.

I deeply regret many of the things I said at the press conference after the arbitrator’s decision in February 2012. At that time, I still didn’t want to believe that I had used a banned substance. I think a combination of feeling self righteous and having a lot of unjustified anger led me to react the way I did. I felt wronged and attacked, but looking back now, I was the one who was wrong. I am beyond embarrassed that I said what I thought I needed to say to defend my clouded vision of reality. I am just starting the process of trying to understand why I responded the way I did, which I continue to regret. There is no excuse for any of this.

For too long during this process, I convinced myself that I had not done anything wrong. After my interview with MLB in late June of this year, I came to the realization that it was time to come to grips with the truth.

I’m not here to cast judgment, but I think we’ve all taken this journey on a smaller scale at one point or another. To me this does a lot of good for Braun, not because it recoups any of his reputation in the short term, but because it ends the story (or should). Deep down, I don’t think many people truly care about this—they don’t feel betrayed, or look at him differently for lying, or think Ryan Braun has a greater effect on their child’s moral compass than they do as parents. So he has nothing to gain in the near term; down the road, though, he can remember yesterday as the day we started to forget that he’s a cheater.

I look forward to sometime in mid-2015 when Ryan Braun comes to the plate and no one thinks about this. Because unless we’re going to bring it up every time Cesar Puello comes to bat, it will be forgotten.

Delmon Young Signs with the Rays
The Rays have given a minor-league deal to Delmon Young, who will return to the organization that drafted him first overall in 2003 an attempt to revitalize his career. Young was released by the Phillies last week after hitting not quite well enough to justify his inabilities in the outfield, and speculation of a return to Tampa had been rampant since.

Young is still just 27, which is shocking when you consider how long he’s been around, and even more shocking when you consider what he looks like. A return to the American League is the right move after Citizens Bank Park proved that, no, there isn’t an NL park that can hide him. Young can be an effective hitter against lefties, and with everyday right fielder Wil Myers typically DH-ing vs. southpaws, the Rays are versatile enough to benefit from Young’s one bona fide skill as they reach their playoff run.

And if it doesn’t work out, well, the Phillies are still paying him.

Matchup of the Day
Since his walk-off single against the Pirates last Thursday, Matt Holliday has had one hit against right-handed pitching. Tonight, in the opening game of a weekend series between two of the best teams in the NL, Holliday facse Kris Medlen, against whom he’s 0-for-5 with a walk and three K’s lifetime. Medlen’s plan is never a secret, especially against same-sided hitters: he’s throwing heat nearly two-thirds of the time, and as with many sinker-ballers, it’s difficult to parse individual matchup data because he’s just trying to execute the same pitch regardless of opponent. If anything, the lack of strategy spells trouble for Holliday—when you haven’t had success and you’ve always known what’s coming, it’s tough to change the game plan.

Because this column without a heat map would be rather déclassé, here’s Holliday’s frequency of groundballs against right-handed sinkers:

What to Watch for This Weekend

  • In an attempt at yet another reclamation project along the lines of R.A. Dickey, Chris Capuano, Miguel Batista, Chris Young and the entire borough of Queens, the New York Mets have signed Daisuke Matsuzaka. With season-ending injuries to Jeremy Hefner and Jenrry Mejia, Dice-K is headed straight to the big club and making his debut tonight against the Tigers. Everyone remembers the 8.28 ERA in his final season with Boston, but before being released by the Indians he actually posted some decent Triple-A numbers: ERA under 4.00, nearly a K per inning, with a decent walk rate. We’ll know more after tonight.

  • In a marquee interleague matchup—and isn’t interleague baseball that much fresher in late August!—John Lackey leads the Red Sox against Ricky Nolasco and the Dodgers. Since moving to the west coast, Nolasco has allowed fewer than two earned runs per start. On the other hand, Lackey tied an interesting career high in his last start, generating 17 ground balls out of 27 Yankees faced. He also got 17 grounders on August 11, 2007, against the Twins, over 31 plate appearances.

  • I hate to include another Mets item [ed. note: he does not hate this at all], but Max Scherzer is facing Matt Harvey in the national game on Saturday. We should all probably settle in and enjoy that one.

And finally, this would be the coolest thing ever.

Will Woods is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Will's other articles. You can contact Will by clicking here

Related Content:  New York Mets,  Ryan Braun,  Matt Holliday

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