Ryan “The Hebrew Hammer” Braun Wins by Split-Decision

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You’ll hear both sides debate the Ryan Braun drug test issue like the conservatives who think guilty is guilty regardless of how the evidence is gathered and liberals ranting and raving that the rights of the innocent are protected when the rights of the guilty are upheld.

Did Braun take a substance to help his performance or did he get caught using something else that wasn’t a PED, but was on the list?

It all goes back to the fine print of the rules and the clumsy, self-serving, stupid way this whole case was handled.

You can read it in detail here on NYTimes.com; briefly, here’s what it comes down to:

  • Braun took a urine test.
  • There was no nearby FedEx center open for the test administrator to drop the sample off, so he took it home and stored it in his fridge.
  • He shipped it on the next Monday.
  • There was no evidence of tampering on the sample, nor to the bag in which it had been placed.
  • Braun had elevated levels of testosterone and failed the test.
  • But then, the story was leaked.

The final bulletpoint is the key to the whole thing.

Braun had rights. Those rights were undermined. That fact has made this an important decision to stop the prevalent whispers that come out in what’s supposed to be a confidential process.

Baseball can proclaim that the revelation of the 2003 list of PED failures helped bring about a “cleaning up” of the game; that in the end, something good came out of the failure to adhere to the rights of the players who, in spite of their supposed guilt, shouldn’t have had their failed tests revealed in the first place.

The union should’ve destroyed the list and didn’t, so it’s their own fault.

But everyone—players, agents, union reps, front office people, owners and MLB executives—were either directly involved in the PED use or just let it go for their own ends.

Once the groundswell of protests at records being demolished and dwarfed, they reacted.

It’s pure marketing and pandering to customer desires: they wanted more scoring, they got more scoring; as people got angry at the overt manner of players bulking up and shattering records, baseball outlawed steroids and HGH and started testing for them.

It’s similar to the angry reactions to repeated stories on ESPN and other “sports news” outlets for continually talking about Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin regardless of whether the players warrant that level of coverage—it’s what the paying customers want.

Confronted with a public outcry and governmental intervention at activities that it both tacitly encouraged and turned a blind eye to, baseball enacted testing and levied harsh penalties for using a list of drugs that might or might not have been prototypical “performance enhancers”.

Is there a place for, “Well, he was guilty anyway so what’s the difference?”

In reality, yes, there is a place for that.

But in the legal system where Braun is part of a union and the union and regulating committee have entered into a binding agreement as to how it should be handled and Braun is vehemently voicing his innocence and won’t back down, there was no choice other than to exonerate him.

The rules of the treatment and testing program can be read here on a PDF file.

When would it end if innuendo, speculation and public response were the determinative factors in whether an individual saw his reputation and ability to make a living compromised by something that hadn’t been handled properly? If one link in the chain is corrupted, the whole thing has to be tossed out.

Braun and every player in the MLB Players Association have rights—rights that were negotiated and are legally binding.

He’s the reigning National League MVP and the validity and perception of his entire career up to now hinged on this decision. If there was any doubt as to its accuracy, he had to be found not guilty.

When the union agreed to the testing program in order to keep labor peace and “clean up” the game, there was no provision that a failed test would be out in the media five months in advance of his hearing so the player had to hide in his home and keep silent on an allegation that he denied.

Being innocent until proven guilty is relevant and if baseball is angry at someone, they should be angry at whomever decided it was a good idea to let the media know that Braun failed the test in the first place because since the other procedures—agreed to by the union—had been followed, the tipping point was that the public knew about Braun’s failed test before his appeal had been heard.

If it hadn’t been leaked, Braun would undoubtedly have lost his case.

It isn’t so much that Braun is “innocent”, it’s that people with knowledge need to keep their mouths shut. If there’s anyone to blame, it’s the person who leaked the story to begin with.

Don’t think that these dropped nuggets aren’t intentional and strategic in an attempt to preclude a player from winning a case such as this and it was the overthinking and attempts to be clever on the part of baseball that has again sabotaged their attempts to be aboveboard.

It was a circular circumstance that got Braun off.

It’s appropriate because there are few entities that are as adept at the circular firing squad as Major League Baseball.

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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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