Tag:Ryan Braun
Posted on: February 24, 2012 5:53 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 5:54 pm
 

Is baseball's drug program still credible?

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If Ryan Braun has work to do rebuilding his image, so does Major League Baseball.

If you don't believe that, then listen to what Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said Friday when I asked him if he worries about the integrity of baseball's drug program.

"I do now," Jones said.

That's a problem.

If the fallout of the Braun case is that players don't trust the drug program to be fair, then the program itself loses all the credibility it needs.

Baseball and the players union obviously understand that, and it was no surprise that both the commissioner's office and the union issued statements late Friday afternoon defending the program.

"Our program is not 'fatally flawed,'" MLB said in its statement, countering a charge that Braun made in his press conference earlier Friday in Arizona.

"Our Joint Drug Program stands as strong, as accurate and as reliable as any in sport, both before and after the Braun decision," the union said.

The union couldn't resist taking a shot at management, saying that the arbitrator's decision in Braun's favor was "deserving of respect by both bargaining parties."

But the bigger issue here isn't who liked the decision or who didn't. The bigger issue isn't whether the decision hinged on a "technicality."

It's whether players still trust the system.

Braun is a part of it, because of the respect players around the game have for him. Support for him seemed to be near-universal in the Braves clubhouse on Friday, and the belief seemed to be that at least in this case, the system had holes.

"It's fishy," catcher Brian McCann said. "The guy who [collected the sample] doesn't need to be doing it anymore. It's terrible.

"It should never ever, ever happen."

Jones and other Braves players suggested that they would have been more comfortable if the urine sample had been held by someone who didn't know which player it came from, eliminating any chance that a collector with a grudge against one player could try to take action.

But most of all, they expressed strong support for Braun.

"I believe Ryan, because I know him," Jones said. "I believe him. He's not a guy you look at and say he's on something. I sincerely believe he didn't take anything."

But Jones also understands the uphill battle that Braun now faces to save his reputation.

"Yes, there's always going to be doubt, and that's what's unfair," he said. "Once your name is associated [with steroids], you might as well wear a scarlet letter."

The problem for baseball is that its drug program is now associated with the Ryan Braun case.

And even if this really is "the highest quality drug testing program of any professional sports organization in the world," as MLB claimed in its Friday statement, it's a program that is now very much on the stand, and very much on the defensive.

MLB defended the sample collector, calling him "extremely experienced" and saying he "acted in a professional and appropriate manner."

The players aren't convinced, and that's a problem that baseball needs to address.

No drug program is of any use if it lacks credibility. Right now, the credibility of this program is at stake.

Posted on: February 24, 2012 9:09 am
 

Prince on Braun: 'It's great news'

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Prince Fielder's reaction to the Ryan Braun decision?

"It's great," Fielder said Friday morning at the Tigers' spring training camp. "It's great news."

Fielder and Braun were teammates for the last five years with the Brewers, but they're not close friends. Still, Fielder retains strong feelings for the Brewers, saying Thursday that he would like to see them go to the World Series, "and then lose to us."

Fielder said he hadn't spoken to Braun this winter, and hadn't closely followed the case.

"I have a life, too," he said. "I was trying to get a job there, for a while."

As to the question of whether Thursday's ruling should be enough to clear Braun's name, Fielder offered no real opinion.

"I don't know," he said. "Obviously, it says he's not guilty. He says he was innocent, so that's what it was."

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 23, 2012 6:31 pm
 

Don't believe Braun now? Sorry, can't help you

So you still don't believe Ryan Braun?

Sorry, I can't help you.

So you're now claiming that the process is rigged, or that baseball didn't really want Braun suspended?

Sorry, can't help you.

Go ahead and tell me that it's "corrupt," as one Twitter follower wrote after Thursday's decision was announced in Braun's favor. Go ahead and call him a "coward," as another tweeter said.

Sorry, can't help you, because in that case you're not interested in justice.

And as for the idea that one not-guilty verdict taints other positive tests, seriously? When one criminal trial ends with not-guilty, do we empty the jails because every other conviction must be wrong, too?

If baseball or any other sport is going to have a drug-testing system, there needs to be a way for a player to appeal a positive test. If there's going to be an appeal process, it needs to be fair enough that if the player makes a legitimate case that the test was flawed, he gets off.

Ryan Braun's people made that case, and an independent arbitrator agreed with them, with his vote swinging a 2-to-1 decision on a three-man panel that also included a representative from the commissioner's office and one from the players' union.

That's an independent arbitrator, independent enough that MLB quickly issued a statement saying it "vehemently disagrees" with the decision.

Braun's people made the case that the chain of custody was a problem, that the sample wasn't sent for 48 hours after Braun took the test. They made the case with the help, no doubt, from an abnormally-spiked testosterone level in the test in question, and in a clean test that Braun took after the first result came back positive.

It's a tough case to prove, and that's why when the news of Braun's failed test first surfaced in December, the strong assumption was that his appeal had little chance of success. No one had ever successfully overturned a suspension before.

But if there never was going to be a first one to succeed, why have the appeal process at all? And if you're not going to have an appeal process, well, you explain to me how that's fair.

What's unfair right now is that news of the Braun positive test got out in the first place, and that it unfairly taints his reputation. You see now why the players insisted on confidentiality, with a suspension only announced after the appeal process was complete.

In all cases before this one, the news never did get out before the appeal.

So how should we look at Ryan Braun now?

With sympathy, I'd say. A flawed test is useless as proof of anything, so unless he fails a test where there is no question about the method or the chain of custody, he's as innocent as any other player in the game today.

Does this mean that MLB is clean? No. Does it mean that MLB won't take on its biggest stars? Definitely not.

Does it mean that Ryan Braun is absolutely clean? There's absolutely no way to know that, just as there's no way to know it with certainty about any player.

But with this verdict, he gets as much the benefit of the doubt as anyone else.

So what does this mean, then?

It means that the system works.

If you can't accept an independent arbitrator ruling in Braun's favor, then what exactly would you accept?

If the answer is nothing, then I go back to the start.

Sorry, can't help you.

Category: MLB
Posted on: December 12, 2011 4:15 pm
 

Aramis isn't Prince, but he should help Brewers

Aramis Ramirez isn't Prince Fielder.

No one's saying he is.

But if you begin with the assumption that keeping Prince Fielder was always going to be a huge longshot, then Aramis Ramirez isn't bad.

The Brewers completed the rebuilding of the left side of their infield Monday, signing Ramirez to a three-year contract that will pay him about $36 mill, according to sources. With Ramirez at third and Alex Gonzalez (signed last week) at shortstop, they should be improved defensively.

And with Ramirez sliding into Fielder's spot in the middle of the batting order, they should be competitive offensively, too.

Ramirez becomes even more important to the Brewers with Ryan Braun's status in doubt. Braun faces a 50-game suspension for a failed drug test, with his appeal scheduled to go before an arbitrator sometime next month.

But Braun will be back. Fielder, barring what would now be an incredible turn of events, will not. The Brewers were faced with replacing 38 home runs, 120 RBI and a .981 OPS out of the cleanup spot.

Ramirez has a career .842 OPS. He has six career 100-RBI seasons, and he drove in 93 runs for a bad Cubs team last year.

He's not Prince, but he is a solid middle-of-the order bat.

With the Ramirez signing, the Brewers could be done with their major winter shopping. The plan has been to try young (and cheap) Mat Gamel at first base, and with Francisco Rodriguez accepting salary arbitration, the Brewers wouldn't have much money to spend on another first baseman, anyway.

They could still trade K-Rod to a team looking for a closer. They could consider dealing starting pitcher Randy Wolf or even Shaun Marcum if they wanted to use the money elsewhere.

But other than adding some depth, the Brewers now don't need to do anything else. Without Prince, and likely without Braun for the first 50 games, they still have a team that should compete again in the National League Central.

The Brewers won the division in 2011. The Cardinals, their closest contender, lost a manager (Tony La Russa) and a superstar (Albert Pujols). The Reds, who won in 2010, have yet to find a deal for the top starting pitcher they have long sought.

The Cubs, even if they sign Fielder, are likely a year or two away from true contention. The Pirates are improving, but not scary. The Astros are just starting on a long rebuilding process.

The Brewers may not be as good without Fielder. But with Ramirez, in this division, they could be good enough.


Posted on: December 11, 2011 6:09 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2011 6:12 pm
 

Braun needs to convince an arbitrator -- and you

Ryan Braun hopes to convince an arbitrator that he doesn't deserve a 50-game suspension for his failed drug test.

He also hopes to convince you that he's not just another baseball drug cheat.

History is against him on both counts. And it doesn't help him at all that he is faced with fighting both battles at the same time.

Braun isn't the first player to fail a drug test, and he's not the first player to proclaim his innocence after testing positive.

He is, however, the first player whose failed test became public knowledge before his appeal was heard. Baseball's policy is to hold off on any announcements until an appeal is denied and a suspension is certain, precisely because news of a failed test can be extremely damaging to a player's image, even if he is later exonerated.

Of course, no player has ever been exonerated through the arbitration system.

Could Braun be the first?

His people say he could be. The suggestion is that they have evidence that they believe will play well in front of the arbitrator. And while it might help them in the court of public opinion to make that evidence public immediately, lawyers tend to want to hold on to it until it is presented in court (or in this case, in arbitration).

The two pieces of information that came out Sunday, both told to CBSSports.com by a source familiar with the case, are that Braun's test was not for a performance-enhancing drug (he didn't fail a steroid test), and that Braun asked for and passed a second test after the first, failed test.

While either of those things may help Braun in the public's eye, neither is of great significance.

Whatever drug Braun tested positive for, there's no dispute on either side that it was a banned substance under baseball's drug rules. Drugs make that list because they are associated or otherwise linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Also, while Braun's request for a second test is nice, it's hardly definitive. Many of the drugs tested for by baseball pass through your system quickly.

Ultimately, the best way for Braun to defend his image would be to succeed before the arbitrator, but chance isn't expected to come until sometime next month.

The problem Braun faces now is to keep public opinion from turning completely against him before an arbitrator even hears the case. The problem he'll face later is that whether or not he succeeds before the arbitrator, he has a hard time not being remembered as a guy who failed a test.



Category: MLB
Posted on: November 22, 2011 4:19 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2011 4:23 pm
 

Kemp shoots for 2012 MVP ... and 50-50

Matt Kemp fell one home run short of 40-40, and he fell just short of winning the Most Valuable Player award in the National League.

His solution?

"50-50," Kemp said on a conference call Tuesday. "I'm going to go 50-50. You all created a monster."

No player in baseball history has ever had 50 home runs and 50 steals in the same season. Alex Rodriguez came the closest, with 42 home runs and 46 steals with the Mariners in 1998. Only three other players have had a 40-40 season: Jose Canseco with the 1988 A's, Barry Bonds with the 1996 Giants and Alfonso Soriano with the 2006 Nationals.

"Anything can happen," Kemp said. "I'm going to set my limits high. Yes, I'm serious. I know you're thinking I'm crazy, but I'm going to take it to another level."

Kemp said finishing second in the MVP vote would serve as motivation, but he didn't criticize voters for selecting Braun, and said that he felt Braun was a deserving winner. Braun received 20 of the 32 first-place votes, with Kemp getting 10 and Prince Fielder and Justin Upton splitting the other two.

"I'm happy for Braun," Kemp said. "He's one of my favorite players. He's a great player."

Then, referring to his new eight-year, $160 million contract with the Dodgers, Kemp added: "I've got eight more years in LA to try to win one."

Kemp led the National League in home runs and RBI, and finished third in the batting race behind Jose Reyes and Braun. But Kemp's Dodgers were a non-factor in the pennant race, at 82-79, while Braun's Brewers won the NL Central.

"I respect the decision," Kemp said. "I just have to have an even better season next year, and make the playoffs, so I can make the decision easier for them."

And 50-50 wouldn't hurt.



Category: MLB
Posted on: November 22, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2011 3:40 pm
 

On the final day, Braun got my vote

As I wrote on the final Sunday of the regular season, the National League MVP race was so close that I wouldn't decide until the season was over.

When it was, I picked Ryan Braun over Matt Kemp.

So did the majority of the voters, which is why Braun is this year's NL MVP.

Kemp had an outstanding season. So did Braun.

Braun had a huge impact on the pennant race. Kemp, basically through no fault of his own, did not.

The MVP is an individual award, but baseball is a team game. Everything you do is affected by your teammates.

And in my mind, it's hard (but not impossible) to be the MVP when your teammates aren't good enough to help you contend for a championship.

Would my vote have been different had Kemp won the Triple Crown, as he had a chance to do in the final weeks of the season?

It's possible it would have been. You'll never know, because I'll never know. I never had to make that decision.

I had to decide based on what did happen, and what happened was that Braun's great season helped his team to a championship, while Kemp's great season kept his team from losing more games than it won.

My ballot:

1. Braun.

2. Kemp.

3. Prince Fielder. For the first part of the season, he was even better than Braun. For the whole year, Braun got the edge.

4. Albert Pujols. He started slow (for him), and then he was hurt. But he came back strong, and so did his team.

5. Lance Berkman. Without him, the Cardinals would have been buried early.

6. Roy Halladay. The Phillies were the dominant team in the regular season, and their starting pitching was the reason. The problem was that it was hard to separate out one starter.

7. Justin Upton. Great year, great story, but his home-road split (1.033 OPS at home, .767 on road) held him down.

8. Cliff Lee. Based on June (5-0, 0.21) and August (5-0, 0.45), he was the MVP. For the full season, he just makes the ballot.

9. Joey Votto. Didn't repeat his 2010 season, so he won't repeat as MVP.

10. Carlos Ruiz. His numbers are nowhere near MVP-worthy. I gave him a 10th-place vote because of the impact he has on the Phillies pitching, which was so good that if I could have voted for the rotation as a whole, they would have been the MVP.


Posted on: October 29, 2011 6:47 pm
 

Best game ever? How about best month ever?

The Yankees don't think it was such a great month. The Phillies are sure it wasn't a great month.

Oh, and the Red Sox? No, the last 31 days weren't exactly pleasant for them.

But it sure was great for the rest of us, the best month of baseball most of us have seen, or will see, in our lifetimes.

If it gets better than this, I won't complain. But I'm not planning on it.

We had the best single regular-season night ever, on the final night of the regular season, and maybe the best game ever, on the next-to-last night of the World Series.

We had so many great games that the best individual offensive performance in World Series history barely makes the list. So many that Chris Carpenter's three-hit 1-0 shutout in a winner-take-all Game 5 wasn't even his most important performance of the month.

This is the third year now that I've written a postseason recap, and it's the first time that the best game of the month wasn't the first game I saw. Nothing against Tigers-Twins (Game 163 in 2009) or Roy Halladay's no-hitter (Division Series 2010), but it's a better month when the drama builds.

This month, we saw Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, Chris Carpenter, Nelson Cruz and David Freese. We saw squirrels. We saw Na-po-li. We saw history.

We saw Game 6.

What a month.

Here's a look back:

Best game: Some people are insisting that Game 6 of the World Series can't be called great, because there were physical errors early and possible managerial errors late. Sorry, but that's ridiculous. So it wasn't the best-played game ever. Fine. It had thrills, it had drama, it had plenty to second-guess, it had great performances and gritty performances. You go ahead and say it wasn't perfect. I'm going to say it was the best game I've ever seen.

Best moment: The flashbulbs going off when Albert Pujols batted in the seventh inning of Game 7 were great. Yes, it could have been his final Cardinals at-bat. But the best moment of the postseason -- Pujols' best moment -- was when he called time out to allow the Miller Park crowd to honor Prince Fielder, who very, very likely was stepping to the plate for his final Brewers at-bat.

Best chant: In the end, maybe this wasn't the Year of the Napoli, after all. But it sure was the month of the "Na!-Po!-Li!" at Rangers Ballpark. Mike Napoli became such an instant hero that I saw a Rangers fan who had altered his year-old Cliff Lee jersey, adding "Na-po" above the "Lee."

Best crowd: It was incredibly loud all month in Texas. It was louder than ever in St. Louis for the final outs of Game 7. But everyone who was at Miller Park this month came back raving about the atmosphere and the Brewers' fans (and everyone who was at Chase Field said there was barely any atmosphere for the Diamondbacks' two home games).

Best player: Tough call. Freese was a revelation, and not just in the World Series. Cabrera was outstanding. So was Ryan Braun. But Pujols was the guy I'll remember most, from his great defensive play against the Phillies to his historic three-homer game against the Rangers.

Best movie review: Moneyball took a beating every time Cardinals manager Tony La Russa took to the podium. La Russa went to see the movie the night Game 6 was rained out, and the next night he said that it "strains the credibility a little bit." La Russa, like others, complained about the portrayal of scouts, and about the lack of mentions of Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson. "That club was carried by those guys that were signed, developed the old-fashioned way," La Russa said. "That part wasn't enjoyable, because it's a nice story but it is not accurate enough."

Most disappointing team: The Red Sox. The Phillies didn't make it out of the first round. Neither did the Yankees, who then apologized to their fans for their "failure." But Boston's collapse was so bad that it led to the departure of the manager and general manager who broke the curse. The Red Sox will recover, but they'll never be the same.

Best prediction: It's well established by now that I can't pick winners. But when the postseason began, I jokingly wrote that every series would go the distance. Turned out I was almost right, as 38 of a possible 41 games were required. Three of the four Division Series went the distance (and none were sweeps). Both League Championship Series went six games. And the World Series went seven, for the first time in nine years. Oh, and I even picked the World Series winner, Cardinals in 7, even if I did it because Rangers officials demanded that I pick against them.

Five who helped themselves: 1. Pujols. I'm not saying it makes a difference in his final free-agent price, but a great postseason reminded all of us how good he really is.

2. John Mozeliak. You think Cardinals fans will finally admit that it was a good idea to trade Colby Rasmus to help this team win now?

3. Mike Napoli. The Angels traded this guy for Vernon Wells. The Blue Jays then traded this guy for Frank Francisco. The Rangers will not be trading him.

4. Ryan Braun. MVP voting includes only the regular season, and not the postseason. But anyone who chose Braun over Matt Kemp in the National League race had to be happy to see him hit .405 with a 1.182 OPS in October.

5. David Freese. He was the best story of the month, the hometown kid who quit baseball after high school, and came back to become the World Series MVP. Now everyone knows him.

Five who hurt themselves: 1. C.J. Wilson. He's still going to get overpaid on the free-agent market, but imagine how much he might have gotten if he'd had a good October, instead of a lousy one.

2. CC Sabathia. He's still going to get a great new contract, too, but imagine how much he might have gotten if his postseason ERA was 1.23, instead of 6.23 (and if his waist size didn't expand just as fast).

3. Cliff Lee. The team he left went to the World Series without him. And the team he couldn't beat in Game 2, after his teammates gave him a 4-0 lead, went on to win the World Series.

4. Alex Rodriguez. Two years ago, he had a nice October and shed the label of postseason choker. This year, he went 2-for-18 against the Tigers and appeared on the back page of the New York Post as one of the Three Stooges (along with Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira).

5. Tony La Russa (for about 48 hours). I'm guessing Cardinals fans will now totally forgive him for the phone/noise/bullpen mess from Game 5. He's now the guy who has won two World Series in St. Louis, to go with the one he won in Oakland. Still one of the very best managers in the game -- in the history of the game, that is.


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com