Brewers slugger Ryan Braun gets to play baseball on Opening Day after all. Against long odds, he appealed his 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs and won.
That positive PED test? An arbitrator rejected it, a decision that Major League Baseball angrily protested.
This ruling left media types scratching their heads. Here is a sampling of the national reaction:
Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports: “The program failed Bud Selig. It’s the program he insisted on and rubber-stamped. He believed it would save his sport and salvage his reputation. Put a stringent performance-enhancing drug policy in place – one that runs 18,175 words long and tries to cover every conceivable slice of conceivability – and Congress no longer would shame him and baseball like it did that day seven years ago. Ryan Braun beat the program Thursday. His lawyers never bothered arguing whether or not Braun had taken the synthetic testosterone that showed up in his urine during the 2011 playoffs. They argued about the urine that showed up in the cup, which Braun signed to affirm had been sealed and packaged correctly. And they argued about the cup that went into a box that was supposed to go to FedEx that Saturday night. And they argued that because the FedEx store was closed and the test collector took the sample home and put it in his refrigerator until Monday – the standard-operating procedure in every major doping program across the world but one not spelled out distinctly among Selig’s 18,175 words – that the sample did not follow the proper chain of custody and thus was invalid.”
Jayson Stark, ESPN.com: “So Ryan Braun is an innocent man. Or is he? So the MVP's successful appeal proves he's clean. Or does it? So a man who has always proclaimed that his positive test was ‘baloney’ (or a word that means something similar to baloney) can now resume his fabulous career and reclaim his golden-boy image. Or can he? It's amazing, isn't it, what we don't know, even in the wake of Thursday's stunning news that Braun's 50-game PED suspension had been overturned by baseball's long-time arbitrator, Shyam Das. This is a verdict that seems to tell us, if you just read the headlines, that Braun is as innocent as he has always claimed. It's a verdict that appears to suggest that the circumstances surrounding his positive test in October were as odd as his side has long contended they were. It's a ruling that theoretically proclaims that this was not a man who cheated his way to a most valuable player award, as his supporters desperately want to believe. But is that a proper reading of this decision, or isn't it? The sad part of this news is this: We may never know.”
Mike Lupica, New York Daily News: “Understand something: The overturning of Braun’s 50-game suspension doesn’t mean Braun is clean, no matter what he says or how many times he says it or what he expects reasonable people to believe. He wasn’t exonerated. He was acquitted. There’s a difference. So Braun of the Brewers becomes the first positive test to win this kind of appeal in baseball. So he goes on with his career now, and his huge contract, no suspension, because a triple-sealed sample, one that no one ever suggested had been tampered with, didn’t make the last FedEx shipment on a weekend, didn’t go out until Monday morning. If you want to think justice was served, have at it.”
Mike Lopresti, USAToday.com: “No doubt, they're cheering in Milwaukee. But should anyone else? In the matter of Ryan Braun, it would be nice to have some hard truths to hold onto. That's the National League MVP and a face on baseball's marquee they've been talking dirty about. Instead, there is still guesswork and speculation and conflicting emotion — a sense of vindication on one side, rage on the other. And in the no man's land between is the propriety of the sport. Whether baseball won or lost Thursday, only the arbitrator is paid to know. That'd be Shyam Das, suddenly the most popular man in Wisconsin, except for maybe Aaron Rodgers.”
Danny Knobler, CBSSports.com: “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.”
Richard Justice, MLB.com: “Ryan Braun is about to learn just how precious a good name is. When one is lost, it's usually lost forever. He now faces the monumental challenge of trying to get his back. Here's hoping he understands that he only gets one chance. When he discusses the matter publicly on Friday, he should tell the entire story, from beginning to end, warts and all. He only has to do it once, but he has to understand there aren't any do-overs. If he trots out one version on Friday and then tries another three days later and still another five days after that, he's finished. He's fighting for something way more important than a 50-game suspension. He also appears to be fighting an uphill battle.”
Ken Rosenthal, FoxSports.com: “It’s called due process, folks. You might not like or even trust the result. But the rules were collectively bargained. And management and the players’ union jointly appointed the independent arbitrator, Shyam Das. Don’t tell me that Braun got off because he is the National League MVP, because baseball is trying to protect his image, because he plays for commissioner Bud Selig’s former team. Some people will form those perceptions, and there is nothing baseball can do about it. But the better questions concern how the sport’s case fell apart, how Braun became the first of 13 major leaguers to win an appeal. The burden of proof no longer is on Braun, though some undoubtedly will view him skeptically for the rest of his career. No, the burden is on baseball to ensure that no player ever wins an appeal in such fashion again.”
MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE
Questions to ponder while wondering if Jaroslav Halak can build on his brilliant Thursday night performance:
How many daughters of NFL quarterbacks grow up to become quarterbacks?
Is it any surprise that Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin are striking up a long-distance friendship?
Will the Cardinals extend Yadier Molina's contract this spring? Or will this story remain in the headlines all season?
“I was fighting the blocks all day with my putter. The putter was going back a little bit shut, and subsequently I let it go and it goes left, and I block it right. I'm taking it shut going back. I need to make that toe move. And I need to feel the release of my stroke. And it's hard to release it when the blade is going under. It's shut. And hence I block it open.”
Tiger Woods, using some serious golf lingo to explain why he can’t make a simple putt to save himself.