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Column: Believe Ryan Braun at your own risk

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(Eds: With AP Photos.)By TIM DAHLBERGAP Sports Columnist

He's sorry, though you might have guessed that already. No real surprise here, because they're always sorry once the lies crumble and the fraud is exposed.

Ryan Braun wants you to know he's ashamed of what he did. Has no one to blame but himself. Loves the game of baseball so much.

We knew this was coming, because this is the way it always works. A contrite statement now, perhaps some tears on Oprah later, and the next thing you know Braun will be standing in left field in Arizona next spring as if the whole thing was just a giant misunderstanding that a simple ballplayer couldn't avoid.

Might be better than the way he started spring training last year. There, as you might remember, he defiantly proclaimed his innocence while questioning the integrity of a sample collector whose biggest mistake was not knowing which FedEx office was open on weekends.

''If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I'd be the first one to step up and say, `I did it.,''' Braun said then. ''By no means am I perfect, but if I've ever made any mistakes in my life I've taken responsibility for my actions. I truly believe in my heart, and I would bet my life, that this substance never entered my body at any point.''

It was, of course, utter hogwash, and Braun knew it. But he didn't stop there.

''I've always stood up for what is right,'' he said. ''Today is about everybody who's been wrongly accused, and everybody who's ever had to stand up for what is actually right.''

Fast forward to Thursday night when Braun released a statement signaling his rehabilitation campaign is well under way. Well written for a guy who makes his living hitting baseballs, it covered most bases. The talking points were there, even if Braun wasn't actually talking.

Believe it at your own risk.

''I understand it's a blessing and a tremendous honor to play this game at the Major League level,'' Braun said. ''I also understand the intensity of the disappointment from teammates, fans, and other players. When it comes to both my actions and my words, I made some very serious mistakes and I can only ask for the forgiveness of everyone I let down. I will never make the same errors again and I intend to share the lessons I learned with others so they don't repeat my mistakes.''

There's more, of course, but you get the point. No questions, please, about that cream and lozenge that Braun conveniently says were used only to heal an injury and only for a short time.

Those will all be handled by Oprah. Besides, all seems forgiven in the clubhouse already.

''It certainly was enough for me,'' Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. ''I think it's enough for his teammates.''

It's not enough for the fans Braun cheated and lied to along the way, though. It shouldn't be enough for Matt Kemp, who lost an MVP title to a juicer.

And it certainly isn't enough for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who might have been on their way to a World Series in 2011 had they not run into a hitter they couldn't seem to get out in the playoffs.

Instead of listening to Braun, listen to Arizona manager Kirk Gibson, who saw this coming even before Braun's statement.

''I said this a long time ago: I think that people should have an opportunity to ask him some questions and have him answer them unrehearsed,'' Gibson said last week. ''Something tells me he's getting really prepared for just about anything that they could throw at him.''

Forgive Gibson if he's a bit suspicious. He was in the dugout for the Diamondbacks on Oct. 1, 2011, when Braun went 3 for 4 and scored two runs as the Milwaukee Brewers opened the playoffs with a 4-1 win over Arizona. It was after that game that a specimen collector named Dino Laurenzi Jr. came into the locker room and asked Braun for the urine sample that would later test positive for vastly increased levels of testosterone.

The playoff series was so close that it took until the 10th inning of Game 5 for the Brewers to pull it out. Braun went 9 for 18 in the series, juiced on testosterone and batting in the center of the Brewers lineup.

Performance enhancing drugs may just sound like a concept. But in Braun's case they may have altered the course of the playoffs, and stolen a season from a team.

Braun didn't apologize for that in his statement. Didn't mention it at all. It's not in the script most surely carefully prepared by his public relations people and lawyers to get him back in the good graces of Brewers fans again.

Well, here's a script Braun should follow if he really wants us to buy his story:

- Hold a press conference immediately and answer all questions. Don't hide behind lawyers or claim there are some things that can't be discussed. They can, and they must.

- Give the 2011 MVP trophy to Kemp, the runner-up. It was won fraudulently, and Braun has no right to keep it.

- Apologize to Diamondback fans and players for robbing them of their moment.

- Stay away from Oprah. We've heard enough sob stories already.

The path to redemption is there. The only question is whether Braun has the courage to take it.

----

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

Tagged: Brewers, Ryan Braun

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