Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ryan Braun angers his baseball colleagues

Whatever joy Ryan Braun felt over avoiding a 50-game suspension is probably long gone by now.

Although Braun succeeded in convincing an arbitrator to throw out his positive test for a banned substance, his reputation has taken a major hit. He has to deal with the widespread perception that he got off on a technicality. But that perception is not only held by people like me in the general public and the media who think he may have gotten away with cheating. According to this Buster Olney blog post, many of Braun’s fellow baseball players are livid that he won by challenging the process rather than the actual test result.

Although none of the players would dare go on the record, the piece makes it pretty clear that they are disgusted by Braun’s selfishness and willingness to take down the whole system just to clear his own name, which he did not even really accomplish. Braun would have had the support of his fellow players if he proved that he was clean rather than showing that the process was flawed. But the only thing these players see is the destruction of a system that took years to develop, one that was going to prove once and for all that Major League Baseball players were not the cheats that their predecessors were.

The Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder also has to contend with the notion that he is a bully. Not content with his “victory,” Braun went out of his way to imply that his test result had been tampered with. But when the collector dared to fire back to clear his own name, Braun’s team called his comments “inappropriate.” So it was OK for Braun to cowardly imply wrongdoing without offering evidence, but the collector was wrong to defend himself? Yeah, right.

Who is telling the truth: Braun or the collector? We may never know, but I hope some reporter takes the time to investigate the claims on both sides, particularly with regard to whether some FedEx office could have shipped the samples that night. In this day and age where people demand 24-hour service, I do find it difficult to believe that there was not one nearby office that could have handled the shipment. That is what led me to say that the collector should be fired. But it turns out that he seems to have followed the procedures correctly, which direct the collectors to store the samples in a cool place. I think that protocol is flawed as there is no way that the sample should have been kept unsupervised in someone’s home for that amount of time. I don’t believe that proves Braun’s implications that the sample was tampered with, but it does raise legitimate questions about the process.

But many baseball players apparently do not care about something that until Braun’s successful challenge would have seemed like a simple design flaw to be corrected. They just care that Braun avoided punishment and people are again questioning whether the sport will ever truly be clean.

Braun may feel like he was vindicated, but his baseball colleagues mostly beg to differ. 

Thanks to Steve Paluch via Wikimedia Commons for the photo. 

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