Milwaukee Brewers v St Louis Cardinals - Game Five

Nothing beats a good, old fashioned, witch hunt. According to Bob Nightengale of the USA Today, MLB’s PED posse pursues Ryan Braun with dogged determination, eager to tie the former National League MVP to a PED conviction that will stick. Nightengale uses plenty of inflammatory statements meant to demonstrate how “badly” they “want” Braun after his positive test was overturned due to improper handling of the sample in early 2012.

At first blush it is sort of embarrassing that the league or the investigators would fixate on one player simply because he escaped their clutches through a loophole a year ago. But then again, maybe shouldn’t chasing down cheats be the exact reason this task force exists?

If MLB is seriously attempting to clean up the game, they should do whatever it takes – follow leads, investigate the evidence, leave no stone unturned. The USA Today report makes it seem as though MLB is doing more than just diligient investigation: they are bound and determined to find something — anything — on Braun and won’t rest until they do.

They are talking to his friends. They are talking to his peers. They are talking to his associates. They are scouring through paperwork. They keep digging.

Not only are they talking to his friends, they are reportedly talking to anyone who might be able to dish some dirt on Braun, floating sweet deals in exchange for worthwhile information.

In some cases, according to two officials who spoke to USA TODAY Sports but were unauthorized to speak publicly, some players will be granted immunity even if they admit guilt to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. They would have to fully disclose their arrangement with Tony Bosch, former director of the now-shuttered Biogenesis clinic, including any possible involvement by their agents or knowledge of other players who received performance-enhancing drugs from him.

Some of the more lawyerly members of the greater baseball media world have it exactly right when they wonder if letting some players off the hook in order to land the big fish works counter to the reason for chasing Braun down in the first place.

Again: cleaning up the game is good. Punishing one of the game’s most recognizable stars for “getting away with” using is another, more insidious thing. It comes back to questioning the motives of the pursuit. But the “recognizable stars” proviso just might be the bigger problem.

Ryan Braun is not a villain to most baseball fans. Surely some fans of the Cardinals or Cubs would disagree, but to most Ryan Braun is just a really good baseball player who probably helped them win a fantasy pool or two over the years. The decision to make him the focus of the investigation rather than Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds or a faceless minor league pitcher from the island nation of your choosing changes the framing of this investigation.

Are we fans mad at MLB because Braun is Braun? Protesting MLB’s strongarm tactics on a “Not this guy, we like him!” basis helps nobody if a cleaner, safer game is the realistic goal.

For multiple reasons, I hope the MLB investigators dig and dig and come up with nothing and this goes away. I hope that happens because it means they aren’t trying to bury Ryan Braun just because he’s “public enemy number 1″ and it also means the chances Braun was actually “dirty” are much lower.

This is a pie-in-the-sky best case scenario but the one which benefits everyone involved, I believe. An innocent man goes free and a the forces determined to clean up their game know they took their investigation as far as the evidence warranted.

If they find something on Braun and he goes down, well, it better send the desired message loudly and clearly – DO NOT CHEAT OR WE WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND EXPOSE YOU. If the aftermath is a slew of other busts and players no longer endangering their health or competing on an uneven playing field, great. Mission accomplished, Bud.

Otherwise they look like petty lunatics desperate to make an example out of the man who escaped from Alcatraz. Which couldn’t possibly be true. The league and its owners act in the best interests of baseball and the fans at every tu…oh. Right.

Comments (15)

  1. “Ryan Braun is not a villain to most baseball fans”

    I would disagree with this, went to a game at PNC park last summer and Braun was the only player the entire crowd booed at every at bat.

  2. Christ a lot of negative posts the last few days, can’t wait till the season starts for Dickey gifs and Stanton bombs.

  3. While to some extent I agree this is maybe going too far, Braun is not a poster boy. As far as I am concerned, and to many others he was more than likely a cheat who was able to get off on the proverbial technicality. Him winning the MVP at the same time leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Does the the fact that “the faceless minor league pitcher” as you put it not have a hope in hell of defending himself to the extent that Braun did say anything about it either? Braun’s very polished defence was, not to maintain innocence but to go after the test–its BS

    • I think the point about the quality of defense is a good one, though I don’t fault Braun for defending himself to the full extent of his capabilities.

      • Has your position changed on Braun and his possible malfeasance? In your various podcast vignettes on the subject you belittled opinions that characterized him as “getting off on a technacality”. And voiced the stronger opinion that due to MLBs failure to handle his sample within procedural guidelines he was somehow innocent or at best not guilty. Despite the generally held view that there was no reasonable explanation for the amount testosterone in his system and despite delays the sample seal had not been breached. Just wondering if your view has evolved (devolved)?

        • I would say much of my “outrage” stemmed from the… disappointment that he got off on a technicality. His side argued that the sample was mistreated and they won. My view, pollyanna as it might be, is the same. The protocol was not followed so the sample is tainted. Period. Drawing any sweeping conclusions from the test is folly, though one I’m probably guilty of taking the “other” side too strongly.

    • I know this is going to come off as contrarian, but why fight an uphill battle?

      If the test was mishandled to the point where it couldn’t hold up in a hearing, why wouldn’t you use that as your case? Saying “I didn’t do it” is a very weak claim to perch on, especially compared to “the test wasn’t handled properly and is therefore of questionable quality.”

      • I completely agree. Just because he got off on a technicality, does not mean he was guilty.

        It is possible he was guilty. It is just as possible that his lawyer told him he had a 80% chance to beat the charge on the technicality and a 30% chance to beat the charge by arguing innocence.

  4. Why is it treated like a forgone conclusion that Braun was guilty of taking PEDs and got off on a technicality? Honestly why is it always presented that way? The reason his appeal was successful and he was declared innocent is because it was reasonable to believe the results had been tampered with.

    If you live in a world where you assume a multi millionaire will do anything and everything possible to avoid being discredited, why is it not even considered that someone may want to discredit a professional athlete that badly for any number of reasons?

    Can it at least be presented that he was innocent – since you know, he was found innocent – or are we just giving a complete fuck you to due process?

    • I agree with you 100%. I feel like I presented it as such in the piece. I have bristled in the past at the assertion at the use of “technicality.”

      • You definitely presented it a manner that was respectful to the court of appeal in which Braun was cleared of his charges. I’m sorry if it seemed like I was criticizing your position instead of that of the commenter(s) above me.

        You could be taken to task for a few things, Drew, but your position on delicate issues is certainly not one of them. One of the things, however, is reading your copy one damn time before hitting submit. You leave in a lot of words that you meant to edit out or revise.

    • In these peoples’ minds, he wasn’t found “innocent”, but rather “not guilty”. There’s a difference.

  5. The PED Police are acting exactly like the Feds, and thinking big picture, but not in terms of “integrity of the game” but of money. If they let 10 guys off who make $1 million each to land 1 guy who makes $100 million, that is in the best interests of the owners, and thus commissioner. And if the fans can believe that it has anything to do with their feelings? All the better, but not essential.

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