Ryan Braun’s MVP is Suddenly Not Kosher

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Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, AKA the Hebrew Hammer, saw the Kosher status of his Most Valuable Player award called into question when it was revealed that he tested positive for a banned substance.

Braun may not be the Chosen One of 2011 for much longer.

You can read the details here from the New York Times.

Braun is proclaiming his innocence, but that matters little in the world of rapid judgments and suggested punishments before an allegation has been proven to be accurate.

As long as the case is hovering over Braun, it diminishes the MVP award in terms of perception; but we don’t know what the other players were using—nor what Braun used to test positive. It might’ve been an over-the-counter supplement that had an ingredient that he wasn’t aware was banned.

Like the “war on drugs”, it’s pure cherry-picking of what’s okay and what’s not. MLB players can’t use amphetamines anymore, but until the new collective bargaining agreement, there wasn’t an attempt to test players for human growth hormone so players switched from anabolic steroids to HGH.

Chemists and performance specialists have little interest in the rules and regulations of a sport when it comes to drugs; their mandate is to help their clients play better; they do this by formulating the substances based on what works and how best to mask them to prevent a positive test. With the new testing procedures, these same chemists are trying (and presumably succeeding) in coming up with something new to stickhandle their way around the tests.

Some are saying that once his appeal is denied, Braun should be stripped of the MVP award.

Much like the instantaneous reaction to the Armando Galarraga perfect/imperfect game where, in the aftermath of umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call, there was consideration given to an overturn and awarding Galarraga an after-the-fact perfect game, there are other factors to gauge.

Since there was video evidence as to the gaffe, giving Galarraga a perfect game wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world, but where would it end?

If there was a call in a game that was judged to be wrong and it cost a team a victory, how would that be handled? Would the win be taken away from one team and given to another? Would they replay the game from the time of the mistake?

And what about the gamblers who were already paid upon the game’s result? (That’s the big one whether baseball admits it or not.)

People bet on the MVP as well. Would the winnings for those who selected Braun be demanded back? Would anyone give it back? I wouldn’t. Would the new winner—presumably the player who came in second, Matt Kemp—be tested and scrutinized as well?

These things have to be considered before automatically saying, “take away his MVP”.

Braun’s production wasn’t appreciably better in 2011 than it had been in previous seasons—he didn’t hit 73 home runs after a career-high of 49 as Barry Bonds did in 2001 at an age where players decline, not set records; he wasn’t injury-prone and possibly facing the end of his career as Mark McGwire was. There’s no glaring statistical anomaly to say Braun just started using whatever it was he’s said to have used that may or may not have helped him along.

Of course, he might’ve been using various substances throughout his playing career.

We don’t and won’t know.

He also might be innocent.

The fallout from this will be more scarring than the Hebrew ritual of circumcision; more annoying than performing a Bar Mitzvah like a moderately house-trained monkey in front of a group of people one doesn’t know, singing songs in a language he doesn’t understand.

Those things pass into memory.

If Braun is found guilty and stripped of his MVP, that will endure forever.

And there won’t be a catered affair in celebration of his downfall.

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MLB CBA Analysis: HGH Testing

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

The clearest and easiest to understand explanation of the multi-pronged new labor agreement between MLB and the Players Association is found here at Baseball Nation.

I’m separating my take on the new deal into segments.

First the HGH test; below is the clip from the above-linked piece on HGH:

Testing for Human Growth Hormone
The players and owners agreed to limited blood testing for human growth hormone. During 2012 spring training, players will have blood drawn and will be monitored for their physical reaction to the blood test. The blood samples will be tested for HGH and will then be destroyed. (Recall, however, that when urine tests for steroids were first introduced, the urine samples were supposed to be destroyed. They were not, and the FBI then seized the urine samples during its investigation of BALCO Labs.)

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Anyone who’s followed performance enhancers in bodybuilding and sports knows that the chemists are forever trying to come up with something new, undetectable and relatively safe.

Laymen and the self-righteous don’t want to hear that steroids and HGH are not dangerous if used in the proper dosages and administered by a qualified medical/sports supplement professional.

But that’s a different argument.

The average fan wants to know that the records they’re seeing set are “real” without any common denominator definition of what “real” is and no assigned blame to MLB’s overlords and team owners who cast a blind eye out of convenience to what they knew was going on; to what they tacitly encouraged.

Be that as it may, this will put forth the pretense of “cleanliness”.

Bear in mind that the players will find something else to give them a boost.

They always do.

Regarding said players, it will be an interesting case study in reactions and handling of pressure and scrutiny.

For those whose careers took wondrous and unexpected leaps from nothingness to stardom, an immediate suspicion will permeate the baseball world; if they get off to slow starts or have a noticeable body change early in 2012, the whispers will begin immediately.

Was Jose Bautista a late-bloomer?

Did John Axford‘s rising velocity result from a mechanical tweak?

Was Kevin Long’s alteration of Curtis Granderson‘s swing responsible for his burst of power?

Why was Jacoby Ellsbury suddenly able to hit home runs and stay healthy?

These are not accusations. They’re just questions. They’re going to be asked and it’s not unreasonable to ask them.

If there is a marked difference in the way a player looks or performs, first it will be whispered; then it will be said; then it will be accused.

And barring a series of leaks like the 2003 tests, we won’t know who passed and who failed. If the players are smart, they’ll make sure—under threat of legal action against MLB—that those samples are destroyed as they’re supposed to be.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the names won’t come out somehow.

This isn’t good for the game or bad for the game; it just is.

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