Saturday, February 25, 2012

Braun Braun Braun

I wrote a few weeks ago in my farewell to the Prince that it's a rough time to be a Brewers fan. In the span of a few weeks, the Brewers lost Prince Fielder, their beloved franchise anchor (he definitely has the mass), and a test showing highly elevated testosterone for MVP Ryan Braun was leaked to the press. Since baseball's appeals process is essentially guilty until proven innocent, it was assumed that Braun would miss the first 50 games of the season and his reputation would be tarnished. Now, Braun is back and everything is somehow more confusing.

Baseball won't tell us the full details because technically the proceedings at these arbitration hearings are confidential, but it appears that Braun got off purely on a technicality. Someone screwed up in the transfer of his urine, and baseball didn't follow the draconian doping procedures of its own making. Braun did what any smart guy in America would do when accused; he hired a great legal team and attacked the process. 'If the glove don't fit, you must acquit... or move to the outfield' (seriously, Braun was the worst third basemen of the liveball era. He made errors on more than 10% of his chances).

It's possible that Braun's testosterone was elevated for some reason other than PEDs, but by baseball's rules whatever reason for it would be irrelevant, so as far as we know he chose not to address that at all. Here's where baseball's adherence to confidentiality is to its detriment, though. We never should have known of the positive test in the first place, because they are nominally confidential, but because the initial results had been leaked, baseball chose to release a statement about Braun's ruling. And now we have a ton of speculation, but no hard facts about whether or not Braun was guilty. We simply don't have enough of the details to make more than an educated guess about whether or not Braun doped. Ultimately, the arbitrators ruled 2-1 for Braun, presumably on a pure technicality, and now Braun gets to shout about his innocence and claim he was exonerated.

To an extent he was. He won't miss 50 games, but what we don't know is a big problem.

Now I bleed Brewers blue (note: this may be the first time that phrase has ever been written. Also that Brewers blue definitely has a high BAC) and I'm not in denial. I would bet you that there's a greater than 90% chance that Braun was doping. I love the guy and love how hard he plays and that he seems to genuinely be frightened of Nyjer Morgan, so I will admit that this puts me in a tough position. Whether aided by PEDs or not, he still put up an MVP season last year (full disclosure: I would have voted for him because I'm a Brewers fan, but Matt Kemp should have won). What do you do when your best player is almost certainly a cheater?

Basically, now I get to root for Steroid O.J. If he gets off to a slow start, people are going to immediately assume that all of his success was steroid-aided. That's absurd, as Braun is a freakish athlete with incredible hand-eye coordination no matter what, but it will definitely be the perception. If he does well, people can just claim he's still doping. Braun's gonna get booed everywhere he goes and there will be a level of vitriol usually reserved for A-Rod and Bonds or certain South Beach residents. There will be nasty signs (yes, I have been thinking about this and my favorite is Braun's head superimposed on top of the Brawny paper-towel man. My favorite counter-sign would be Braun's head on top of Mr. Clean, but that guy's a little too buff). It's not gonna be easy is what I'm saying.

And the thing is, I'm going to root for him. He's almost certainly a doper, and whether or not steroids help much they're still against the rules, but I'm going to root for him. More than anything, I want my team to win. He gives us by far the best chance, and I fully expect the Brewers to be able to compete in the NL Central. They've vastly upgraded the left side of their infield, their pitching is still above average, and even Mat Gamel, Fielder's replacement, is expected to hit. Now they have Braun back, and they could be legitimate contenders once again. That trumps whatever notions of morality I may have clung to. Who decided that sports had to impart morality as well? Ray Lewis may have killed a guy and he's a universally-beloved legend, so I'm just saying that our priorities may be a little out of whack. Regardless, I turn to sports for escapism, not to learn lessons about fairness. I totally get why San Francisco fans were so passionately behind Bonds. As a fan, you want your team to win. Who cares about the rest of that stuff? So yeah, I'm just gonna have to take all the nastiness that comes with it, and so is Braun.

Also, I know he denied it, but Braun's got the herp. It's funny to have to deny things like that because you allowed rampant speculation about the cause of your own elevated testosterone, and I think he just didn't want the ladies of Milwaukee to completely turn away from him. Still, the once silver slugger is now... well I'm not even gonna go there. There's a Hebrew Hammer joke there too, but I'm classier than that. I'm rooting for him, and I'm rooting for the Brewers, and I don't particularly care what position that puts me in.


  1. For all we know, Judah Maccabee drained a few mugs of Mogen David before every battle -- and only the Seleucids complained.

  2. I don't know that I agree with the conclusion that Braun somehow got away with something. While I would agree that it would appear that a technicality set him free, I certainly don't put him in the same mental category as A-Rod, McGwire, Clemmons, or even to a lesser extend Bonds.

    OJ almost certainly killed two people and escaped without punishment. We as a public were presented with the same case that jurors were, and, free of the need to take things like tampering or proper procedure into account, the court of public opinion found him guilty on the evidence that was presented.

    Conversely, the public information on Ryan Braun essentially boils down to this: on one side of the issue, we had a positive test, which no one, to public knowledge, has ever successfully appealed. On the other side is Ryan Braun, who did not grow noticeably, who's numbers did not shift dramatically upward, and who demanded a second test immediately upon hearing of his positive result.

    I certainly am not saying that any of that equals definitive proof of his innocence, but I do believe that the decision of an independent third party that has never granted an appeal before at least gives Braun a relatively resounding win in the court of public opinion.

    In the world that I work in, the education of youth, even a whisper of improper conduct can end your career in an instant. It is a terrifying tightrope to walk while doing your job to the best of your ability, constantly monitoring your own behavior for what could be perceived as negative behavior. While I don't believe the decision vindicated Braun, it certainly gives me some amount of faith in the concept that you are innocent until proven guilty.