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Friday, August 2, 2013

Ryan Braun, Baseball, and MLB's Problem

So, Ryan Braun was suspended for... something. Something bad. The evidence hasn't been released, but baseball assures us it was bad.

The story is that they gave Braun two choices: Take a longer suspension with a possibility of appealing it, or accept the shorter suspension with no appeal. Most everyone assumes that Braun was presented with hefty evidence that he was guilty, so he took the shorter suspension with no appeal.

What's absolutely amazing is that everyone is clearly accepting the league's story on this. The whole way through the Biogenesis investigation, baseball has bullied players and leaked information to the media. For example, suspensions haven't even been announced yet, and we already know that Jhonny Peralta of the Tigers will probably be suspended and A-Rod will probably be suspended, either for life or a year.

How do we know that information? The league leaked it. Why would they leak this information? Because that way the narrative starts, and it's a narrative that's favorable to the league office. "Baseball is keeping cheaters out! They're keeping the game clean! 'A-Roid' and Braun are part of the problem!"

Baseball, however, is guilty of something else: Overcorrection and a lack of transparency.

MLB usually overcorrects. For example, after the Black Sox scandal, baseball cracked down on gambling. Pete Rose paid the price. By all accounts, Rose should be in the Hall. He's one of the best players of his generation. Shoeless Joe Jackson was more than likely innocent of his involvement in the Black Sox scandal. He should be in the Hall too. Yet, neither of these players will ever, ever be in the Hall because baseball overcorrected.

Baseball is overcorrecting on PED use as well. Yes, McGwire took PEDs. Yes, Bonds and Clemens took PEDs. There were a lot of players who did, but the best players still outperformed the lower players. Singling out McGwire, Sosa, Bonds and Clemens isn't fair. They deserve to be in the Hall. Bonds and Clemens deserved it on the first ballot. They were positively among the best players of their generation.

Because MLB was fooled once on PED use, they're determined not to get fooled again. That's why they're hammering Alex Rodriguez as hard as they can, and that's why they suspended Braun. It's an overcorrection.

The problem with Braun: He doesn't have a positive test they can point to. A lot of people feel that Braun got off on a technicality last time around, but there's a reason that there's a chain of custody for drug tests. If you get a positive drug test and the chain of custody is shown to be broken, that test is thrown out from a practical and legal standpoint. If the chain of custody is broken, the test isn't valid.

Yet, who leaked the information about the positive test to the media? The league offices.

Remember, if the league office wouldn't have leaked the information, the test and the subsequent appeal would have gone unnoticed by the public. Yet, baseball leaked it, and then found themselves with egg on their face when the test methodology had problems.

Why would the league go through all that trouble? Because they want people to know they're "doing something" about PED use. Whether or not it's right, they want to be seen as doing something.

So, now we're seeing baseball cracking down again on players who were associated with the Biogenesis clinic. They got the clinic's owner to "cooperate" with the league in exchange for not suing him into oblivion. They have evidence on players, but they're not releasing that evidence. There are, to our knowledge, no positive tests. All the information that we have has been leaked by the league office.

What if this were a court case? Let's say that the prosecution leaked important details about the trial to the press, thus tainting the jury pool. Then, they don't allow the case to be a matter of public record, they don't release the evidence, they get someone who'll testify against the plaintiff or else, and to top it all off the judge and the prosecution are working together.

Would anyone consider that a fair court case? Not at all. That's a kangaroo court.

That's precisely what we're seeing now. A-Rod, Braun, Peralta and others are being tried in MLB's kangaroo court, which brands players as cheaters and tosses them in front of an angry crowd who's all too willing to tear the players apart. Does that sound fair to you?

There's another problem: During the "Steroid Era", certain players were viewed as being clean without a doubt. For example, Ken Griffey Jr. Yet, think of Griffey's career: Great young player, injury problems, then all of a sudden starts putting together consistent seasons and playing great ball at an older age. If we weren't talking about Griffey, one of the most revered players of his time, suspicion wouldn't be unreasonable.

What about Chris Davis of the Orioles? He's hit 39 home runs, and we're barely past the halfway point of the season. Is he above suspicion? He's never hit this many home runs before.

What about Bryce Harper? Mike Trout? Yasiel Puig? Any number of young players who have burst onto the scene in recent years?

Baseball's got a problem, and it has nothing to do with PEDs. It's all their doing. By their overzealousness in tracking down PED users, they act as if every player is suspect, reducing rather than reinforcing confidence in their sport. They make young, marketable players kryptonite to advertisers, as the advertisers are afraid that their investment will turn sour.

Will baseball lay off PEDs anytime soon? Not a chance. They have to protect the "integrity of the game." Well, guess what? In order to preserve something's integrity, it has to exist. If the league isn't careful, they'll destroy their sport in order to save it.