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The Ryan Braun saga tells us something about the culture of baseball

Feb 27, 2012, 5:00 PM EST

Ryan Braun Getty new Getty Images

We’ve heard a lot since Thursday evening about how Ryan Braun was such a lucky dog for beating the system and all of that. We haven’t heard a ton, however, about that system itself.  But Grantland’s Charles Pierce has some pretty strong opinions.  Notably:

From its very beginnings, the “war” on performance-enhancing drugs in sports, and especially in baseball, has been legally questionable, morally incoherent, and recklessly dependent on collateral damage to make its point.

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

Pierce fires a lot of bullets at baseball and the drug testing system. Some hit, some miss.  But there’s an overarching truth to what he’s saying here that resonates with me, and that’s that Major League Baseball has always been a paternalistic and even authoritarian organization in many ways. Indeed, much of its history can be explained by people in charge making arbitrary, self-interested rules and then reacting poorly to it all when someone dares challenge them.

Much of the Ryan Braun reaction has been that way.  “Who cares that the rules weren’t followed?  It’s all fine, and how dare you say differently?  You’re upsetting a perfectly fine apple cart here, Mr. Litigious!”  It happened with segregation, free agency and collusion.  In some ways it’s happening with drug testing too:  this presumption that the authorities are correct and the one challenging the system is the troublemaker. Or worse.

No, this isn’t to make an equivalency between drug testing system and things like segregation and collusion.  Those latter things were awful and drug testing’s aims are noble.  But they are similar in terms of how someone challenging the system makes the establishment downright indignant. And I think that says something fairly revealing about the culture of baseball.

  1. frankvzappa - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    It definitely tells us something about American culture in general. The authorities are always correct, anyone who says differently be damned, constitutional rights notwithstanding. Well spoke, sir. I know you have to be careful working for NBC and all, but we smell what you’re smoking.

    And another thing as far as “drug testing’s aims [being] noble”…political correctness purports to be noble, but that doesn’t mean it won’t (as it is designed to do) turn us all into one (to paraphrase Tom Robbins) “sick, disgusting shade of brown.” Be very wary of anything the government says is good for you. And especially careful when they pretend to be serving the common good.

    • bigleagues - Feb 28, 2012 at 2:48 AM

      Once upon a time Charles Pierce was a sportswriter for the once-hallowed sportswriter nirvana known as The Boston Globe.

      When The Globe hired Tony Massarotti, they basically signaled that they had thrown in the towel on respectability in favor of predictable irreverence. Those who have read Mazz for any amount of time can see his angle coming like a flat fastball.

      Charles Pierce on the other hand always makes you think. You may not always like what he is saying, but that was never the reason why he wrote. Guys like Mazz write to for the casual fan. Pierce doesn’t.

      However Pierce also had this little blog at Esquire where he wrote primarily about politics. Now this is a guy who see’s the world like me: Sports & Politics and everything else is just filler.

      Except at the Esquire blog Pierce had a tendency to really air it out on subjects that got under his craw . . . enter Christine O’Donnell’s Delaware Senate campaign. I will excerpt this from commonwealthmag.org:


      A source familiar with the (Globe’s) grievance said it stems from a blog post Pierce wrote for Esquire following O’Donnell’s upset win in the Republican primary last year. In that piece, Pierce called O’Donnell “a sideshow freak,” “a crackpot,” and “a deadbeat” and insulted all those in Delaware who voted for her.

      “She no more belongs in the Senate of the United States today than she did the day she was born,” Pierce wrote. “That 30,000-odd primates in Delaware thinks [sic] she belongs there is their problem. If enough people in Delaware come to think so, then she becomes our problem.”

      At the end of the column, Pierce said: “Christine O’Donnell’s campaign is a successful exercise in angry, misfit masturbation, with as little to do with the deadly problems this country faces as some guy wanking in the balcony of a grindhouse has to do with Romeo and Juliet.”

      According to the source, Globe officials found the column to be “intemperate and intolerant.” The source said Globe policy forbids writers from making insulting personal comments about candidates, even in another publication.

      The Globe took exception to the Esquire piece and after disciplining him, and squabbling over the O’Donnell blog post for nearly a year, the Globe FIRED Pierce this past Fall – for a piece that he wrote for another publication.

      My patience and tolerance of Corporate censorship of individual voices expired a long time ago. I don’t care that he’s an employee, he was writing a for a separate publication on a separate subject. The Globe has become a company of spineless corporate weasels.

      What Pierce has to say about PED’s is something that needs to be said. That he is saying it at Grantland where people may actually read it is all the more better.

      The fact is the hue and outcry over PED’s is waaaaaaaaay overblown as is ANYTHING that Congress deems as a national crisis.

      Pro athletes are by and large not like you and me. They have freakish talent in one form or another.

      I am an average-bad baseball player. I don’t embarrass myself when I play, but I don’t usually impress anyone either. I was taught by a great HS coach how to pitch and throw with deadly accuracy and its a skill that has never waned after a modest warm up. However, such accuracy has virtually no meaning when my fastball topped out at 78 MPH – and my fingers were not long enough to effectively throw a knuckleball (fun fact: short fingers also take MPH off your fastball).

      Most, if not all, MLB players have what is referred to as ‘fast-twitch’ muscles, which is just a cool way of saying that the wiring between their synapses and outer limbs is better than 99.5 of the population. I thought that was all bullshit until I became part of Luis Sojo’s basketball posse one summer. Sojo, you will remember was not the model of physical fitness.

      That summer I was running 5-7 miles 5 days a week. I bawled all the time. I was quicker than 90% of the typical playground superstars you’d match up against on any given court.

      In fact, Luis Sojo could not beat me in a 40-yard dash, which is good because I was coming in at 6′ 198lbs and he was 5’10” and about 190lbs.

      Luis Sojo, however had the quickest 1st step I had ever seen on a fat guy. His hands moved faster and his mind made athletic decisions just a hair quicker than the rest of us.

      Luis Sojo could have taken PED’s until pulled a Caminiti . . . and Luis may have hit a few more home runs and had a few more hits drop in, but he was never gonna be a superstar – even if he had a custom BALCO elixir. And Luis Sojo – who disliked the PED culture – would tell you that to this day.

      If I on the other hand took PED’s, I may have added a few MPH to my fastball, and despite having Ted Williams eagle-eye vision, I did not have his hand/eye coordination, and thus probably still wouldn’t have been able to catch up to 95MPH fastballs with any consistent proficiency.

      In other words, PED’s enhance the skills and physical gifts that pro athletes already have, but the Luis Sojo’s of this world are not turning into superstars just because they cycled some designer PED.

      But, what’s WAY left out of this never ending debate, is the fact that some PED’s speed recovery and reduce the severity of injuries.

      And the way that the anti-PED crowd has hijacked the debate over the last decade, we may not see the yang to that ying for quite some time.

  2. cur68 - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    Pierce’s article was at least better thought out than Lupica’s. On a side note, I can’t wait till when we all finally have the facts of what went on with the MVPee. Never before has urine storage for 2 days been so variously reported. Oy.

    • stuckonwords - Feb 28, 2012 at 1:04 AM

      Could you provide a link to Lupica’s article?

      • cur68 - Feb 28, 2012 at 1:31 AM

        http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/milwaukee-brewers-ryan-braun-acquited-exonerated-testosterone-test-article-1.1027851

        I don’t recommend it as a piece of intelligent journalism, or even well thought out argument. However, it is the direction the flag flies for the conspiracy theorists, jump to conclusionists, and those easily swayed by someone who can bullshit. Lupica manages to sum up every bad argument as a serious position with this one. Remember, if you read it, Lupica’s words are in your brain forever.

      • stuckonwords - Feb 28, 2012 at 2:22 AM

        Cur68, I appreciate the link. Being completely upfront, however, I must say that I don’t need any prodding to decide how I feel about the article. I’m quite capable of deciding for myself what I think and feel for myself. I believe in input: take in the thoughts, facts, and opinions of others, and sort it out on my own. Lupica’s words are not “in [my] brain forever”…they’re added to the aggregate compilation of my thought process. I recognize and appreciate your opinion of the piece, but I will make my own determination. Again, I thank you for the link.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 28, 2012 at 7:59 AM

        I don’t recommend it as a piece of intelligent journalism, or even well thought out argument.

        That pretty much describes all of Lupica’s articles over the years…

      • cur68 - Feb 28, 2012 at 7:41 PM

        @Stuckonwords: All I’m trying to say is that Lupica will be with you always if you read it: I’m not trying to influence your opinion. The intent was humorous.

    • purnellmeagrejr - Feb 28, 2012 at 9:32 AM

      comparisons to Mike Lupica would seem to be neeedlessly lowering the bar.

  3. vivabear - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    If Ryan Braun felt he was so wronged by the MLB, he sure could quit his job. I bet there’s many other fields of work where he would easily be able to secure a $100M contract.

    • larryboodry - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:45 PM

      So, vivabear, you’re saying that because pro athletes make more than us average Joes, that they are not entitled to fair labor practices? And hey, next time your current employer pisses you off, you should take a hike, since that is what you advocate for Braun. Plus, with your obvious disdain for the players making so much, maybe watching pro sports ain’t for you.

      • vivabear - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:53 PM

        Obvious disdain? That’s jumping to a conclusion. It’s a free market, if he wants to pursue other avenues he should go ahead. I seriously doubt he’s going to get any offers for $100M over 8 yrs (or whatever his contract is).

        I also would have every right to quit my job if my employer instituted a policy I didn’t agree with. So thanks for pointing that out to me, when I already knew it….I guess.

        Fair labor practices? Not sure that’s accurate. The union agreed to the testing program as it is.

      • cur68 - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:15 PM

        The labour union NEVER agreed to drug testing results being aired publicly like this. MLB NEVER agreed to information being leaked like this. No one agreed to ANY of that. That’s what Braun’s quite rightly pissed about.

      • superpriebe - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:24 PM

        Braun agreed to a program that was confidential. That wasn’t followed (MLB’s history on this point is shameful and they will undoubtedly pay for their egregious leaking in this and other cases in future bargaining).

        Braun agreed to a program in which his samples were to be tested expediently after being taken. That wasn’t followed.

        Upon hearing that there was a negative result, Braun requested a follow-up test done, following proper procedures this time. That test was clean. People seem to be ignoring this in droves, which I don’t quite understand – seems to illustrate the importance of ‘chain of custody’ quite clearly, if you ask me.

        Did I miss that part of all of this that is fair?

      • vivabear - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:26 PM

        The leak of the info is kind of a separate matter. But yeah you’re right, as this played out – none of this should have ever been made public.

      • vivabear - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:32 PM

        Priebe – yeah Braun did his own test after the time elapsed of finding the results of MLBs detected synthetic testosterone. And he definitely knew that test was coming, and that test was well after whatever he used had cleared his system. Kinda defeats the purpose when the drug test isn’t administered at random.

      • lardin - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:34 PM

        They absolutely are entitled to fair labor practices. In fact, you can make a case that the MLBPA is the most powerful successful labor union in history. The drug testing program was collectively bargains, the owners sat down with the players and AGREED to the rules. In fact I would argue that the system worked. Braun tested positive, he appealed, and won. The only problem as I see it, was that Braun’s name was leaked. In the court of public opinion, that puts him up ships creek. IF I were him I would be pissed to.. But information has a way of getting out and unless you want to destroy the first ammendment, its always going to be like that. But, hes not suspened and hes not out millions of dollars.

    • ftbramwell - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:57 PM

      This may be the dumbest thing I have ever read. In the United States, we do not require workers to eat whatever shit sandwich their employer serves up. That’s why we have the panoply of labor and employment laws. (Or would you advocate that a woman who was given the choice between performing “favors” for her boss and finding another job choose the later option?)

      • vivabear - Feb 27, 2012 at 11:11 PM

        Now if you go back and read your own post, it’s gonna top everything else as the dumbest thing you’ve ever read. Braun’s own union agreed to the drug testing…that’s not eating whatever shit sandwich the MLB served up. Yeah the leak wasn’t part of said program, but no one is saying that it was. If it’s found who leaked the info, I guess that person should be dealt with properly for breaching confidentiality.

        I guess if a woman agreed to be paid for performing favors, that’s her choice – I believe they’re called prostitutes.

    • stuckonwords - Feb 28, 2012 at 1:11 AM

      A huge problem in society is the notion that money “makes it alright”. Are you in the top 2% of money earners? Then you’re not one of those who possesses 90% of the world’s wealth, right? So on this planet, where those 2% rule those 98%, when you argue “if you don’t want the money, go somewhere else”, you’re advocating that it’s a good system. Let the evil pervade, as long as you can get your mousy little nibble of the pie. And as you made clear, this man has no other way to earn the golden handcuffs of MLB pay. He either agrees to the evil, or he digs ditches.

    • bigleagues - Feb 28, 2012 at 3:17 AM

      Contrary to your point, corporations who require drug testing are limiting their talent pool, often to their own detriment.

      Any reasonable person will concede that there are certain professions/occupations where not only the employer should have some requirement regarding drug taking, but so would the customers. For example, bus drivers, train operators, pilots, industrial equipment operators, etc . . .

      But, in the name of lower insurance premiums and some misguided sense of corporate responsibility this notion of drug screening and random testing has spread into occupations where such intrusiveness is patently absurd (Walmart for example).

      Not everyone who uses a drug is an addict – in fact, most aren’t. But the hypocrisy reaches the level of insanity when one places alcohol alongside cannabis. Alcohol kills, maims, and retards. No one has ever OD’ed on Cannabis – its impossible. But more to the point, in an average day you will encounter someone stoned . . . and you’ll never know they were stoned. The same can never be said for alcohol. Yes, there are people who do not do stoned well. And no, no one should be operating heavy machinery or piloting airplanes while stoned . . . BUT a stoned Walmart person might just like their job a little better and not be such a dick.

      Bottom line, this country is currently incapable of having a SANE debate on so-called illicit drugs because knee-jerk squares, pious politicians and the religious right zealots have completely heisted the discussion by feeding the public a steady diet of propaganda and hysteria. Some would frame such transparent foolishness as ‘responsible drug policy’. I, on the other hand, view it as mind control.

      Call me a polemicist.

      • phillyphreak - Feb 28, 2012 at 8:30 AM

        Polemicist.

  4. narrabeen23 - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    Amen Charles and Craig. Bud Selig running around busting athletes for PEDs is like Popeye turning around and regulating national spinach consumption

  5. Ben - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    Did you really just compare question the process involved in Braun’s test results to segregation?

    • Ben - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:36 PM

      EditL questioning

    • feelingnoshame - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:44 PM

      Read the first sentence of the last paragraph and pull the tighty whities out of your crack

      • larryboodry - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:52 PM

        Don’t say crack…There are folks out there who will automatically think Braun smoked that, too.

      • Ben - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:58 PM

        Yeah, I read it. Why set up false equivalences if you’re just going to walk them back? It’s a rhetorical trick that makes it clear you’ve equivocating.

      • feelingnoshame - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:03 PM

        All he basically said was these events were following a similar path to those groundbreaking events. There is no comparison whatsoever.

      • phillyphreak - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:16 PM

        Second sentence of last paragraph is more relevant.

      • phillyphreak - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:17 PM

        Grrr….meant third. But second’s good too.

    • stuckonwords - Feb 28, 2012 at 1:15 AM

      Good Lord, Man. The job of a reader is to try to understand the content of the entire reading, not pick out certain words and look for ways to manipulate them to suit your own agenda. My history teacher always made clear that we were to “Read and understand” an assignment; it wasn’t nearly enough to simply read it. Try to follow along.

  6. larryboodry - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:36 PM

    Well-said, Craig…Regardless of what one thinks of Ryan Braun – and I think he was innocent all along, although not everyone will agree – your points on MLB’s arrogance are right on. Keep up your great posts!

  7. bearsstillsuck - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    Who cares anymore? Even if he didn’t do it (I think he did), other people are. It will always been a cat and mouse game, and a boring one to read about.

  8. florida76 - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    This Ryan Braun saga is just beginning, and I seriously doubt he will ever provide the answers to the tough questions.

    • vivabear - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:48 PM

      Somebody may leak some more info, that’s going to be about it. And you’re right, Braun will continue to pretend he’s innocent because he won his appeal and avoid any questions about the situation. His toughest decision will be whether or not he can continue to use PEDs. If he quits, his productions suffers – or he can gamble and try to continue to find undetectable PEDs.

      • phillyphreak - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:01 PM

        “His toughest decision will be whether or not he can continue to use PEDs”

        Go away.

      • vivabear - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:06 PM

        Does your post mean you believe he did not use PEDs? I happen to think otherwise.

      • phillyphreak - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:14 PM

        No. It means that not enough information has been released to let us make a decision one way or the other. Besides, he’s been a really good player (even before last year) and supposedly never tested positive before. So he very well could be “pretending” by telling the truth….

        Then there’s the issue if steroids even help performance (and, if so, by how much). Steroids don’t turn average people into perennial all-stars.

        But this is a huge digression- it’s all been hashed out on here for the past few months so….

      • vivabear - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:20 PM

        We’re never going to get definitive information here, not enough transparency. But the fact is there is synthetic testosterone in the A & B sample Braun gave. They arrived in Montreal intact, WADA said they had not degraded to a point they would be unusable for the tests.

        So you either believe someone along the way tainted the sample, and/or it was someone else’s piss somehow or the other side is that Braun did use synthetic testosterone. It showed up in his sample. And his suspension was not upheld b/c of improper procedures by the sample collector. I choose to believe he used and the likelihood of his sample being spiked or tainted very implausible.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:32 PM

        But the fact is there is synthetic testosterone in the A & B sample Braun gave

        No, that’s not how drug testing works. You pee in a cup, the collector takes the sample and splits it into two, Sample A, and Sample B. Sample A is tested for the testosterone:epitestosterone ratio and that’s it. If it’s greater than 4:1, Sample B is then sent for more in depth testing (the carbon isotope test).

        As mentioned in one of the other threads, please don’t use WADA’s comment(s) as a source of truth. They are a biased party in this whole mess.

      • vivabear - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:36 PM

        church – yeah thanks for the definition of A & B samples….they both arrived in Montreal sealed and un-tampered.

        So you think we shouldn’t take WASA’s word, but we can take Braun’s word as truth?

      • phillyphreak - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:14 PM

        ” And his suspension was not upheld b/c of improper procedures by the sample collector.”

        – So for some reason, people think that this is only reason that the suspension was overturned. I guess that it is because that it was reported this way, even by the ESPN people who first broke the story. (This may be a strange question but what if their sources are still the sources that leaked the info? Not really unbiased then eh?)

        – People should definitely be reading Will Carroll’s pieces- how Braun’s camp was able to reproduce the test results. That’s a critical piece of information, if true, that is inexplicably (and with bias) left out of some comments and articles.

        – My stance is not that he is innocent, just that I’m waiting for more information. But if you feel better by claiming he is a cheater then go right ahead. Just know that a) drugs/PEDs have been in baseball forever, and b) they’ll always be in baseball forever. Does it make it right? No. But I’m sure that just as many (if not more) journey-men baseball players were on PEDs as superstars.

      • phillyphreak - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:15 PM

        Also, my stance is not that he is guilty either. Needed to clarify.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:53 PM

        So you think we shouldn’t take WASA’s word, but we can take Braun’s word as truth?

        Actually that’s not my stance at all, so please don’t infer anything based on one comment. WADA, Dick Pound and IoC have made numerous comments over the years that MLB’s drug testing program is a joke, and if they really wanted to rid the sport of drugs they should adapt WADA’s drug testing program. This makes them a biased observer. They are going to say whatever they can to make themselves look good, and others bad.

      • vivabear - Feb 27, 2012 at 11:15 PM

        Church – semantics…my response to you saying WADA is biased, is that Ryan Braun in biased toward himself. He’s only going to tell the part of the story that makes him look innocent, and doesn’t lead to any more questions.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 27, 2012 at 11:53 PM

        It’s not semantics. The appeal to authority with WADA is clearly a biased opinion. If I was the type of person who wanted this country to be run with a religious undertone, I can’t turn around ask the Catholic Church what their opinion on this behavior would be, could I?

      • stuckonwords - Feb 28, 2012 at 1:25 AM

        Viva…yes, Braun’s comments would be biased toward whatever serves him best. But what if…just what if…he actually *was* innocent? Then all the “interpretations” of what he’s saying and why he’s saying it fall flat and go out the window. I’ve suspected from the beginning that he must’ve done something. But honestly, I’m not *sure* he did something. There *are* innocent men convicted. DNA tests, years later, are freeing innocent men from prison by the hundreds who were imprisoned “beyond reasonable doubt”. It not only happens, it happens a lot. I once lost a job myself for a failed drug test, and swear on my kids’ lives I had not been smoking pot or been around anyone who did. It *does* happen. So is it fair for me to lean towards the opinion that Braun did do it? Absolutely not. In the absence of knowing, one really must put some weight on the fact that the testing process was not only flawed, but badly flawed. If I could’ve contested the process of my “failed” drug test, I sure would have.

  9. ningenito78 - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:55 PM

    Tells us that American culture has transformed into the ‘authorities are always right and those who disagree be damned’. With all due respect, what culture are you watching? With all the 24 hour news channels and social networking and the like, the popularity of questioning authorities has never been higher. As for Craig, I didn’t see much of anybody saying the system should be ignored. What he said the day this all went down was that people were foolish for classifying it as Braun getting off by virtue of a ‘technicality’ which he out and out was. There still is absolutely no explanation, nor did Braun even dispute the fact of, as to why the hell there was a huge amount of synthetic testosterone in that sample. The people that want to say we should lay off now because he was found not guilty forget that just because somebody is found not guilty does NOT mean the person is INNOCENT.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:34 PM

      ‘authorities are always right and those who disagree be damned’

      “You’re either with us, or against us.”
      “If you speak against this bill, you aren’t American”
      “Why do you want to defend the terrorists?”

      Just some of the top of my head.

    • cur68 - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:09 PM

      Can we wait till the facts of the arbitration hearing are out before we go and say what Braun did or did not dispute and what evidence he may or may not have used? So far all we have is “unnamed sources”, “leaks” and innuendo.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:54 PM

        Are they ever coming out? Seems like this’ll be another opportunity for MLB and the MLBPA to keep this behind closed doors.

      • cur68 - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:07 PM

        Arbitrator’s report is suppose to be out within 30 days of the hearing’s decision. Rumor has it (ha ha) that he’ll be ready with it before then. Here’s hoping.

    • stuckonwords - Feb 28, 2012 at 1:33 AM

      Innocence is not a vote. Fact is not an opinion. Despite the fact that millions and millions of people have a say does not mean that 99.999% of them have any actual knowledge or understanding of the events or circumstances. Innocence is a fact; if someone is innocent, it doesn’t matter if you “agree” with it or not. He’s innocent. Fact is not an opinion; if it is a fact, it doesn’t matter if you “agree” with it or not. There are a handful of people who are privy to the facts, and we are not among them. Braun was acquitted. Despite your proclamation that he is not innocent, your opinion carries nothing which suggests you know any better than anyone else. It is what it is; an opinion.

      • cur68 - Feb 28, 2012 at 2:47 AM

        The people in possession of the facts voted 2-1 to acquit, too. So there’s that.

      • vivabear - Feb 28, 2012 at 9:56 AM

        cur – another way to say it would be that the vote was 1-0 to acquit. Since MLB & MLBPA each have a rep on the panel, they’re votes basically don’t count. That leaves the decision up to one person. Maybe they’ll take a look at whether or not they want to change this going forward too. That’s a lot of power to give to one arbitrator.

      • cur68 - Feb 28, 2012 at 2:11 PM

        Be that as it may, Viva, it doesn’t diminish that the people with the facts came to a certain conclusion. If the other 2 arbitrators cancel each other out due to bias, then the impartial voter is the best guage of the evidence. He saw Braun’s test as flawed. If anything, this strengthens Braun’s defence.

  10. bigharold - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:20 PM

    Lets see if I got this straight. Pierce’s argument is that MLB is incapable of competently administering a PED testing program, .. that the player’s health is not a strong enough consideration and that there really is no ethical reason not to take PEDs, using his horsepucky Sandy Koufax metaphor.

    How about because players should be forced to choose between competing on a level playing field and committing a felony to acquire illegal drugs? Because it is illegal in this country to acquire or use most steroids with a doctor’s prescription.

    How about they shouldn’t be put in the position that they have experiment with substances that can, if used incorrectly, cause significant and serious risk to players health. Because most of these guy aren’t going to Balco or some other semi-legal steroid provider for their meds they buying stuff that they have no intelligent understanding of or how to use them safely and correctly. Unless, Vinny from the gym hands out instruction too. And, that doesn’t begin to address what affect of a drug policy that sanctioned or was just indifferent towards PED use would have on kids playing the game. Where would the line in the sand be drawn, .. High school, little league tee ball? Players are not obligated to be role models for anybodies kids but their own but the idea that their actions don’t affect kids playing and watching is laughable.

    How about because baseball isn’t the WWF and the metaphor about Sandy Koufax doesn’t sound quite so idyllic if you substitute Hulk Hogan for Sandy Koufax.

    The bottom line is this argument of Pierce is more than lame it’s dangerous. And, I’m not ready for baseball to be turned into the WWF or some giant chemistry lab experiment.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:46 PM

      Inc long reply, apologies before hand:

      Pierce’s argument is that MLB is incapable of competently administering a PED testing program, .. that the player’s health is not a strong enough consideration and that there really is no ethical reason not to take PEDs, using his horsepucky Sandy Koufax metaphor.

      He has a ton of arguments laid out, but how is the Koufax one horsepucky? We have no issue whatsoever with athletes taking drugs/PEDs to get back onto the field, why is there an issue with those same athletes taking drugs to make themselves better once they are on the field? As someone on twitter mentioned, which drug do you think was more performance enhancing, the drugs given Rob Gronkowski so he could play in the Super Bowl, or the steroids that Barry Bonds took?

      Face it, we’re a nation of drug users who get very hypocritical over what drugs we use. We have a gov’t that spends billions with a capital B to fight marijuana crimes, but alcohol abuse is treated as a non-issue even though alcohol kills hundreds of thousands more than weed ever will. We have senators railing against birth control (please let’s not get religious/political, just using it as a point), but I can’t watch ten minutes of a football game without seeing some penis pill ad. What about depression (drug for that), anxiety (drug for that), insomnia (drug for that), etc.

      /soapbox

      How about because players should be forced to choose between competing on a level playing field and committing a felony to acquire illegal drugs? Because it is illegal in this country to acquire or use most steroids with a doctor’s prescription.

      Agreed on the first part. There should be a level playing field. But there are many of us [not saying you aren’t] that understand it isn’t a level playing field to begin with so why try to legislate a utopia that can never exist? In baseball money + TV contracts + history have a huge benefit for teams. In football/basketball it’s money + location. This isn’t even getting into the players themselves.

      How about they shouldn’t be put in the position that they have experiment with substances that can, if used incorrectly, cause significant and serious risk to players health

      It’s possible Steroids and other PEDs can cause significant harm, but what about alcohol? What about cigarettes? These are far worse to a players’ health than PEDs but we don’t see baseball/Congress legislating them? It disgusts me, but I’ll say it again. Leonard Little and Donte Stallworth both killed people while driving under the influence, and combined received less jail time than Michael Vick, in fact they received less jail time than Barry Bonds friend who refused to testify against him and his name is escaping me.

      How about because baseball isn’t the WWF and the metaphor about Sandy Koufax doesn’t sound quite so idyllic if you substitute Hulk Hogan for Sandy Koufax.

      There is a huge difference between what wrestlers do to their bodies and what other professional athletes do. Wrestlers try to get as big as possible, as fast as possible. If most other athletes didn’t cycle they’d tear tendons and rip muscle right off their bones. Not exactly conducive to a long playing career.

      • bigharold - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:42 PM

        “He has a ton of arguments laid out, but how is the Koufax one horsepucky?”

        Simple because Koufax’s situation was the result of injury. It was in no way similar to PED use because if you stop using the acronym it means performance enhancing drugs, i.e. taking ones natural ability and further extending them beyond ones normal capabilities as the result of drug use. It’s not even comparing apples to oranges it’s comparing apples to hamburger.

        “…which drug do you think was more performance enhancing, the drugs given Rob Gronkowski so he could play in the Super Bowl, or the steroids that Barry Bonds took?”

        Again a false analogy. One was temporary and the result of an injury that didn’t extent his natural ability AND was done in connection medical supervision while the other extended his ability , .. changed his entire performance dynamics and extended his career.

        “Face it, we’re a nation of drug users …”

        So? Exactly what does recreational drug use, whether it be drink, weed, cigarettes or the penile type have to do with a level playing field and honest competition MLB? And, only one of the “recreational” drugs you refer to actually enhances performance. The rest degrade performance. The same with your reference to DUI accidents that resulted in deaths, .. how does that have anything to do PEDs in baseball? Simple neither have anything to do with banning PEDs from baseball.

        Because certain types of behavior are tolerated or legal isn’t licence to look the other way on anything or turn baseball into the chemical equivalent of the wild west. I agree that there is certain behavior that is tolerated in our culture for no other reason than they were “grandfathered”, like cigarettes, .. or so ingrained that it’s impossible to reverse like booze and caffeine. I even agree that there are parts of the war on drugs, specifically weed, that we should just surrender on because like booze during Prohibition that horse has left the barn, … and I don’t smoke weed. But, that is not even a good argument to not ban all “recreational drugs” and is not licence to not make every effort to keep PEDs out of baseball.

        Also, steroids are illegal in this country, like it or not. Do you suggest that MLB ignore the fact that a significant portion of their players are clearly and regularly violating federal law? Aside from the negative impact to the image MLB tries so hard to maintain how long do you think it would be before the federal authorities started arresting baseball players for trafficking and using PEDs? How many top tier players do you think the FBI would lock up before the rest of the players got the message? Why do you think the MLBPA caved on drug testing in the first place? Congressional hearings with the clear message that either the players and the owners clean up their act or the government would do it for them.

        And, you didn’t bother to address what happens when kids see that the it’s not only common place for baseball players to use PEDs but it’s expected and is actually the best avenue to becoming a MLB player. How do you stop that? And, when do start to look the other way, .. once a kid, 18-19-20, signs a pro contract?

        If MLB tacitly approves of PED use it opens up a series of issues that cause more problems than they solve. It could well turn MLB into the WWF by undermining credibility. The correct answer is for MLB and MLPA to get together and do testing right. Since when is it a good idea to avoid doing not only the right thing but something that really needs to be done just because it’s not easy?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 28, 2012 at 12:31 AM

        Going to use italics to differentiate:

        “He has a ton of arguments laid out, but how is the Koufax one horsepucky?”

        Simple because Koufax’s situation was the result of injury. It was in no way similar to PED use because if you stop using the acronym it means performance enhancing drugs, i.e. taking ones natural ability and further extending them beyond ones normal capabilities as the result of drug use. It’s not even comparing apples to oranges it’s comparing apples to hamburger.

        I’m fully aware of what the acronym stands for. However, you don’t say why extending a person’s abilities beyond their natural boundaries is wrong. As Pierce said, if we had a drug that could make Koufax pitch beyond his age 30 season, what’s wrong with that?

        “…which drug do you think was more performance enhancing, the drugs given Rob Gronkowski so he could play in the Super Bowl, or the steroids that Barry Bonds took?”

        Again a false analogy. One was temporary and the result of an injury that didn’t extent his natural ability AND was done in connection medical supervision while the other extended his ability , .. changed his entire performance dynamics and extended his career.

        Umm, PEDs don’t do all that by themselves unlike the pain killers people receive(d). You have to actually do work in conjunction with taking the PEDs to get any benefit. Also, the effects are temporary, just longer than a painkiller.

        “Face it, we’re a nation of drug users …”

        So? Exactly what does recreational drug use, whether it be drink, weed, cigarettes or the penile type have to do with a level playing field and honest competition MLB? And, only one of the “recreational” drugs you refer to actually enhances performance. The rest degrade performance. The same with your reference to DUI accidents that resulted in deaths, .. how does that have anything to do PEDs in baseball? Simple neither have anything to do with banning PEDs from baseball.

        Because the moral outrage against PEDs in baseball isn’t because “OMG the players are better than they were before!” (which is asinine), it’s “OMG THEY ARE TAKING ILLEGAL DRUGS!!??!?!?!”. So why are some types of drugs, whether legal or not okay, but PEDs are a big NoNo?

        Because certain types of behavior are tolerated or legal isn’t licence to look the other way on anything or turn baseball into the chemical equivalent of the wild west. I agree that there is certain behavior that is tolerated in our culture for no other reason than they were “grandfathered”, like cigarettes, .. or so ingrained that it’s impossible to reverse like booze and caffeine. I even agree that there are parts of the war on drugs, specifically weed, that we should just surrender on because like booze during Prohibition that horse has left the barn, … and I don’t smoke weed. But, that is not even a good argument to not ban all “recreational drugs” and is not licence to not make every effort to keep PEDs out of baseball.

        Never said it was, and the just because this is tolerated doesn’t mean that should be is an argument I never made. In fact I’m saying the direct opposite, that it’s hypocritical to not care about one and care about the other. I’m just stating that if your position is you don’t care about A, why care about B?

        Also, steroids are illegal in this country, like it or not. Do you suggest that MLB ignore the fact that a significant portion of their players are clearly and regularly violating federal law? Aside from the negative impact to the image MLB tries so hard to maintain how long do you think it would be before the federal authorities started arresting baseball players for trafficking and using PEDs? How many top tier players do you think the FBI would lock up before the rest of the players got the message? Why do you think the MLBPA caved on drug testing in the first place? Congressional hearings with the clear message that either the players and the owners clean up their act or the government would do it for them.

        Greenies have always been illegal. Beating your wife is illegal. Drinking and driving is illegal. Which of these have involved players been persecuted nearly 1/10th the same as taking steroids?

        And, you didn’t bother to address what happens when kids see that the it’s not only common place for baseball players to use PEDs but it’s expected and is actually the best avenue to becoming a MLB player. How do you stop that? And, when do start to look the other way, .. once a kid, 18-19-20, signs a pro contract?

        Really, we’re going to play the kid angle? How about parents step up and be, I don’t know, f’ing parents? I played Division 1 sports, know why I never took anything performance enhancing? Not because it was immoral, plenty of immoral shit goes on in athletics, hell just look at the NCAA. I didn’t take anything because if I got caught, and embarrassed my parents, my father would beat the everloving piss out of me. Then force me to pay him back the $150K or so he spent on my college education. Then he’d probably beat me with the money.

      • bigharold - Feb 28, 2012 at 4:28 PM

        OK…

        “However, you don’t say why extending a person’s abilities beyond their natural boundaries is wrong.”

        Because unlike training harder, better, longer or more intelligently or maximizing potential through better nutrition, diet and lifestyle using drugs to make one unnaturally stronger or faster is considered cheating. Clearly you don’t see it that way but it is because as a culture, world wide, that is the way it is viewed. If for no other reason than it has the very real ability to turn sports into a competition not so much between athletes but chemist. Because, there is the very real harm of over use and abuse. And, because steroid use is illegal in this country as well as elsewhere. Pierce’s sanctimonious libertarian BS aside this is about logic and pragmatism.

        “Because the moral outrage against PEDs in baseball isn’t because “OMG the players are better than they were before!” (which is asinine), it’s “OMG THEY ARE TAKING ILLEGAL DRUGS!!??!?!?!”. So why are some types of drugs, whether legal or not okay, but PEDs are a big NoNo?”

        Because that is the LAW. As a society or culture we find certain things are permissible and certain things aren’t. And, not every member of that society will agree as id the nature of all cultures. For instance, in most cases driving is permissible, .. drinking is permissible, .. drinking and driving is not. While mot people would agree there are people that think that is too Intrusive. In general it’s a fallacy to say if one is and the other is why not the two together. Also pointing to certain legal drugs and questioning the wisdom of how other drugs are regulated or prohibited is a specious argument at best. Pointing to one allowable thing and saying it’s no worse than something else, which to a large degree is a matter of your opinion in this case, and using it as a justification to permit something else carries little weight. Moreover, you are not providing full context. The things you refer to like booze, cigarettes and caffeine were introduced into the culture hundreds of years before it was obvious the extent of the detrimental effects. They are intertwined to the point that it’s almost impossible prohibit them at this point as Prohibition showed.

        “Really, we’re going to play the kid angle?”

        Really, ..are you going to ignore it? I neither need nor do I want professional athletes or entertainers to be role models for my children. I’ve raised two children through college to their mid 20s and did just fine. I don’t abdicate my responsibility in any way and MOST parents will tell you the same. But, as a parent of two grown children and a 9 year old boy I not stupid or naive enough to dismiss the influence popular culture has either. More to the point, .. if you accept a system whereby PED use is not only accepted but the norm where do you cut it off? That’s a very real pertinent question that you ignore. At what point do you tell a kid you have to wait? And, how do you enforce it since you threw in the towel with supposedly intelligent grown men who were willing to risk their livelihood to game them system? How do you get teenagers to make reasonable choices?

        This is not, at least not from my point, about moral outrage. Nor should Pierce’s sanctimoniousness libertarian BS have any place. It’s about logic reason and pragmatism. And, the Sandy Koufax thing still has nothing to do with PEDs.

  11. saints97 - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    Once again, Craig reminds us that he has the moral high ground on this, and anyone who thinks differently is apparently a segregationist now. Of course, standard procedures and practices of the industry be damned – the standard is what Braun and Craig tell us it is.

    And anyone who thinks that he could be guilty of taking PEDs and still deserving of having his results thrown out if the handling procedures (as agreed to in the CBA) were not properly followed just don’t really believe in drug testing.

    I just wonder what the Braun apologists have to say about the blatant lies that have come out of Braun’s camp during this ordeal. His claim that his levels were the highest ever recorded is an amazingly laughable lie. Why do they claim it wasn’t his pee in the public, and yet do not dispute it at all during the hearing?

    Thank your lucky stars, Ryan Braun. Balking Bob Davidson just called a phantom balk on strike three to save your hide.

  12. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Feb 27, 2012 at 6:49 PM

    Look, procedures can be great. They can help protect a person’s civil liberties and protect common folk from abuse of power from those in authority. But we should not look at everything as perfectly black and white. In Braun’s case (leaving aside the breach of confidentiality) there was a departure from standard procedure that appears to be minor. Should that automatically and completely negate all else in the process? Could we allow for some common sense to be applied? For instance, if it can be shown that the departure from procedure directly impacted the validity of the testing results, those results should be discarded. However, can we all allow some room for common sense if it can be show that the departure from procedure had no material impact on the results?

    The same could stand to be applied in the real world. While I am completely supportive of an arrestee being read his Miranda rights, I think the consequences of not doing so can be excessive. If the arrestee was otherwise treated in a lawful manner and not asked to confess/not denied access to an attorney, why should a case be thrown out simply because procedure was not followed?

    Here is an interesting read about how the American judicial system differs from that in Canada and Australia in that regard.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2012/02/ryan_braun_suspension_overturned_is_it_right_for_the_baseball_star_to_get_off_on_a_technicality_.html

    • Jonny 5 - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:56 PM

      Exactly, in my line of work, if we wander outside of the parameters of a set procedure we either discard the result and start over, or if the results are too valuable we prove that this doesn’t change the end result enough to discard it. I’d say that if this result means that much to MLB and it’s drug testing program (which it probably should) they rightfully should have the opportunity to prove that whatever breach of protocol took place can not change the test result. Which is most likely the truth.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Feb 27, 2012 at 11:23 PM

        Why wouldn’t a clean Ryan Braun want this? I don’t know enough science to say if mishandling could have caused a false positive, but nobody from Braun’s camp seems to be saying any such thing. It is just frustrating that a mishandling in procedure (which is not a universally held opinion in this case) prevents the possibility of discovering the truth of the matter.

    • stuckonwords - Feb 28, 2012 at 1:47 AM

      If you can say for certain that the dismal abuse of the process left no possibility that the results were tainted, I would agree with you. You’re using the “eye” test. But the law *must* include a process that has to be followed if you believe that imprisoning 10 innocent men is okay if we imprison 90 guilty ones. That’s a huge argument, but America has the policy (albeit terribly abused) that one is “innocent until proven guilty” because it believes we must not ever, ever imprison someone who is guilty. We Americans wanted it that way. Does it happen? Absolutely not. As I mentioned earlier, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of men are being freed from prison on the basis of DNA tests that prove they were innocent, while they were imprisoned “beyond reasonable doubt”. That simply is not the kind of America I want to live in. We *must* uphold “innocent until proven guilty”, or we’re failing miserably.

      The process matters. If 900 out of 1000 times the person is guilty, I’d rather have the 100 go free. I guess that’s a matter of opinion.

    • gendisarray - Feb 28, 2012 at 10:38 AM

      “The same could stand to be applied in the real world. While I am completely supportive of an arrestee being read his Miranda rights, I think the consequences of not doing so can be excessive. If the arrestee was otherwise treated in a lawful manner and not asked to confess/not denied access to an attorney, why should a case be thrown out simply because procedure was not followed?”

      It doesn’t get thrown out – that’s not how Miranda warnings work. Failing to read Miranda warnings only impacts the prosecution’s ability to use self-incriminating statements made by a defendant against him at trial.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Feb 28, 2012 at 12:21 PM

        OK, my example was no analogous, but I think the fact remains that we throw the baby out with the bathwater far too often in cases like these. I think we judges and appeals courts and a supreme court for a reason…to apply some semblance of reason to instances similar to this. In MLB arbitration and US justice, we should at least allow for the possibility that a fractured procedure could still secure credible evidence without violating anyone’s civil rights.

  13. aceshigh11 - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:04 PM

    Charlie Pierce is an awesome writer…even on the off chance that I disagree with him, it’s a pleasure to read his words.

    • sdelmonte - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:16 PM

      I disagree with him a lot. Sometimes in the same instance I agree with him. But he is one of the reasons to visit Grantland often (the other being Jonah Keri).

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:57 PM

        I think Pierce is the only original writer I like reading on Grantland. Rany and Jonah are great for baseball, but Barnwell has taken a serious step back from his footballoutsider.com days, and the others are meh.

  14. rcali - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:47 PM

    MVCheat

  15. pastabelly - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:52 PM

    Braun passed several tests even ones just days after the tainted test. We are too accustomed to the presumption of guilt with drugs and baseball. But this one just has a different feel to it.

    • saints97 - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:39 PM

      I bet you didn’t know that it takes about 48 hours for synthetic testosterone to clear the system.

      It is not at all easy to catch someone using synthetic testosterone. And when you finally do, the results get thrown out because apparently “secure” means Fort Knox to some.

      Everyone who has ever failed a drug test in professional sports has passed many more than they failed.

  16. Francisco (FC) - Feb 28, 2012 at 8:01 AM

    If you were to tune in to NBC you would see a scratchy video feed, a bit muddled, but you would hear a pair of voices in the background:

    “Is it ready yet?”

    “Almost. You know Craig, NBC won’t be happy you’re taking over the signal.”

    “Everyone must be properly aware of this situation. It’s important for Baseball!”

    “Haven’t you been controversial enough with this topic?”

    “The truth is only controversial if you disagree with it!”

    The screen now changes to show a man wearing a bathrobe, smoking a bubble pipe. The background isn’t readily distinguishable.

    “You’re live Craig!”

    “Greetings viewers. I have interrupted this signal because the bickering has become intolerably long. It seems I have not written enough over the past week explaining to you why standard procedures must be followed in our country. They are our only guarantee that Authority can’t abuse its power. Simply put, we have rules in place that are followed to determine properly beyond any reasonable doubt the occurrence of an event. We here at HBT are serious in our craft and do not easily partake in rumor or innuendo.”

    The figure adjusts his collar one more time before finishing his speech:

    “So, for the last time: Chipper Jones is not in the Worst Shape of His Life! That photo was taken when the wind was blowing! He’d only be fat from one side if that were true!”

  17. jonirocit - Feb 28, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    I would be more inclined to believe mr Braun if he would have flat out challenged the test but he didn’t . He challenged the process and is trying to make us believe that someone is out to get him . Maybe it’s the government , free masons ? CIA ? Who framed Ryan Braun?

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