What are we supposed to make of the Ryan Braun doping incident?
The give-a-dude-the-benefit-of-doubt and innocent-until-proven-guilty sides of me are happy that, if he really was innocent, he was exonerated.
The born cynic in me -- the one who is still mad at himself for letting down his guard and getting duped by Sammy Flintstone Vitamins and Mark McLiar -- can't help but shake the feeling that Braun got away with the juicing equivalent of manslaughter.
Mostly, I have questions ...
Given that some BBWAA voters didn't cast Hall of Fame ballots for Jeff Bagwell and Edgar Martinez on the mere suspicion of steroid use, will Braun be denied baseball's ultimate honor no matter how great his final numbers are?
Did an innocent Braun have to argue something that made him sound guilty -- a chain-of-custody screwup involving his urine sample -- because it really is impossible to prove one's innocence when one has been charged with doping?
Will his success at beating the charge embolden other ballplayers to try to cheat?
If Braun was guilty, why has he passed every other drug test he was given, including a follow-up test shortly after the one in question detected elevated levels of testosterone?
As with most issues, there are serious shades of gray. Opinions, however, are mostly black and white. Those who want to think Braun is guilty won't change their minds. Nor will those who want to think he's innocent.
Brewers fans will stick with him no matter what, the same way Giants and Cardinals fans who were deceived by Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire still cheer their heroes.
Braun has always seemed to be a decent guy. I want to believe him. It's not easy.