Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for March 22nd, 2013

MLB: In Pursuit of Ryan Braun, Again?

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Folks, some stories seem like broken records.

Take the story broken by Yahoo Sports through its blog “Big League Stew.”  The headline reads, “MLB’s PED Vendetta Against Ryan Braun: Seeks Informants, Offers Immunity for Players Testimony.”

This article points out that Major League Baseball, in its infinite whatever, is using the Biogenesis Clinic information that has been leaked to the press as a way to go after Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun.  Braun is the only major leaguer known to have successfully appealed a positive drug test, and MLB apparently just cannot handle it at all.

Instead, they wish to punish Braun after the fact despite losing their case in arbitration against Braun in 2012 — legally binding arbitration, at that.

MLB is even willing, according to an article at USA Today by Bob Nightengale (which the Yahoo Sports blog references), to grant some players immunity even if they test positive for PEDs themselves.  Which seems extremely counterproductive if MLB’s interest here is in the cleanest sport possible . . . but more on that in a bit.

The reason MLB is upset is because their officials insist that Braun used performance-enhancing drugs due to a highly elevated level of testosterone in Braun’s urine sample back in 2011.  Braun won his appeal in 2012 (here’s my earlier blog post on the subject); at the time, MLB “vehemently disagreed” with the decision.  Later, MLB fired arbitrator Shyam Das, which looked terrible from a public relations standpoint — as apparently, the only arbitrators they want are the ones who rule in MLB’s favor.

As Ray Ratto pointed out in this column from February 23, 2012 (note that the lack of punctuation is also in the original column; the look of this has not been altered in any way save to cut out one link):

Rather than announce that Braun had won his appeal and had been found not guilty according to the procedures and protocols set up and approved BY Major League Baseball, it chose instead to swine-slap Das ruling, deciding that when they say guilty, they mean guilty.Now we dont know whether Braun hornswoggled the arbitrator, the system or nobody at all. We wont call him innocent or guilty. We will say, though, that he played by baseballs rules, he followed baseballs procedures, he went through baseballs process, and he was found not guilty.Thus, it is inconceivably bad form for baseball to scream about the result just because they wanted it to be something else.

Obviously, I agree with this assessment.

Ratto’s words, however, have proven prophetic in how MLB has behaved with regards to Braun.  Take a look at this (also from Ratto’s above-referenced column):

The process is supposed to be about finding the truth, not getting the desired result. The desired result IS the truth, and baseballs system says Braun didnt do what he was accused of doing.MLBs reaction, though, shows that for it, testing isnt about determining a players guilt or innocence, its about nailing guys.”As a part of our drug testing program, the commissioner’s office and the players’ association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute, a statement from Rob Manfred, managements representative on the three-man appeals panel, read. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.”Vehemently disagrees? Its your system, Robbo, the one your negotiators demanded. Is it only a good system when you win? (emphasis added by BC)

And if that’s the case, MLB is going to keep going after Braun in the same way Inspector Javert went after Jean Valjean in Les Miserables — even though it will do no good, much harm, and cause much strife for all concerned.

Look.  I’ve thought and thought about this, and I’ve come to the same conclusions as in my original blog post on the Braun/PED issue:

Braun has been an outstanding player from the time the Brewers brought him up.  He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2007.  His lifetime numbers are comparable to his MVP numbers; over his last five seasons, he’s averaged 36 HRs and 118 RBIs a season, and has hit over .300 every year except 2008 (when he “only” hit .285); his lifetime batting average, over five complete seasons, is .312.

So I don’t really see where Braun could’ve been taking anything that was of an enhancing nature, especially if he’s never tested positive before (and indeed, he hasn’t).

Jumping a few paragraphs, I said back in 2011:

. . . my view is that Braun’s statistical performance was well within his own normals.  So it’s very hard for me to believe that Braun actually did take anything illegal of the PED variety; because of that, and because of my admittedly laissez-faire attitude toward baseball players and legal drugs, I believe Braun should be considered innocent until and unless he is proven guilty.

And as we now all know, Braun was found not guilty.

Which makes me think that Braun had a point.  He wasn’t juicing then, isn’t juicing now, and that as much as anyone’s performance can be in these days of high-tech nutrition and personal trainers, he’s as clean as they come.

Since Braun has been proven to not have taken PEDs under binding arbitration, MLB should really let it go.  Because the longer they pursue this mindless vendetta, the more they look like Inspector Javert — and with far less reason than that fictional French bureaucrat of old.

My final take?  I suppose it’s MLB’s prerogative to look silly, spiteful and stupid when it comes to this apparent vendetta against Ryan Braun.

But speaking as a long-time baseball fan, I wish they’d knock it off.