Let’s get a grip here. Ryan Braun is a wealthy man. Wealthy men hire good expensive lawyers. Who know how to defend and spin. You are being spun, hard. Braun’s on a script, and he thinks he can — like Clinton, Nixon – buffalo us. We are the species which clamors to be lied to…..
Because one thing Ryan Braun is not is….NOT guilty. All we know is that one of three arbitrators on a three-man panel decided that there was some breach in the drug-testing process as defined by the Major League baseball collective bargaining agreement.
Let’s look at a couple of very valuable things: 1) Highly subjective speculation by a long-distance bystander (me); and 2) First Principles for Analysis:
To Start, My Speculation: Ask any lawyer. They’ll say that arbitrators come no where close to judges where objectivity and rationality is concerned. They can be completely off the wall. Their #1 concern is whether they are going to be re-hired later for more arbitrations. Because arbitration pays really well. So don’t get too goosy about how this was a really competent, thorough and independent analysis. Particularly when you haven’t seen the beauty that this guy Das is going to roll out for a written decision.
First Principles for Analysis:
1. Things might change when we get the written “Das” decision. They say within 30 days. We’re all speculating at least a tad., ’til then.
2. Major League Baseball owners made mountains of money off the efforts of “juicers” who prevailed in the game in the ’90’s. Steroids fueled Sosa and McGuire to staggering home run numbers, and also fueled staggering profits for the owners. Those profits didn’t go unnoticed. Remember what somebody said, maybe Twain, or Capone, or maybe Don Corleone: when you don’t understand a situation — look first to the financial motive.
3. “C of C’s”: This recent spate of publicity is driven by a double C&C: A phony Crisis of Confidence about a Chain of Custody.
Now Chain of custody is not an unusual legal issue; it’s daily tossed about in courtrooms thousands of times, above our fruited custodial plains. And, despite what’s been whispered by Braun’s lawyers, the chain does not have to be perfect. It has to be…..solid And supported by credible testimony from the custodian(s), which shows compliance with the rules.
Here’s the rule, according to the MLB contract: the courier “shall take” the specimen to a Fed Ex collection spot for shipment. If it’s not possible to immediately prepare and ship it, it must be then “appropriately safeguarded.”
This does not mean that the courier has to blind-fold himself and hop to only one pre-defined FedEx box down by the river. He need only take reasonable steps to fulfill his mission. Which sometimes requires holding the specimen over a weekend. That’s reasonable, folks, no matter what Braun lawyers whisper. Because FedEx is either not available, or not reasonably available. Which then require our courier to “appropriately safeguard” the specimen. And remember, this specimen has three separate seals on it, all of which will most likely show not minor, but major, glaring evidence of any tamper upon presentation to the lab. If there’s real question about any chain of custody, call the custodian in for sworn testimony, or get an affidavit, which allows the fact-finder to assess whether the chain was solid. Unless the courier in Milwaukee that night was a Brewers’ zealot, or being paid by someone on the Brewers to subvert the process, what is the liklihood of some real defect?
And the world-class, state-of-the-art testing facility in Toronto received that FedEx’d specimen, we all can agree. And everyone also agrees that the specimen (and its’ three seals) showed no evidence of tampering or disturbance. And all apparently agree that the specimen also showed – upon testing by the world’s best lab — no evidence of adulteration or degradation. Remember that. I’ll repeat it: no evidence of adulteration or degradation. That’s expert opinion which outweighs any of the sotto voce whispers spread by Braun’s lawyers about how the wicked, nay, probably drunken, courier ruined it all. The experts in Canada apparently saw nothing about the specimen which suggested tampering.
Now I’ll go to Second Principles of Analysis:
1. Donald Fehr, the former Executive Director of Major League Baseball Player’s Association, is not just brilliant. He’s fuckin’ brilliant. He is the Bill Belichek of the entire sports collective bargaining tableau over the last 50 years, with the exception, perhaps, of Marvin Miller. And he plays the piano beautifully. What he’s played even more skillfully is the MLB owners over the last two decades: no one wins when they tangle with him. Fehr’s brilliance was a major factor in the MLB steroid scandal of the late ’90’s, because he had so expertly negotiated a collective bargaining agreement which forbade the owners from engaging in any drug-testing. Public opinion was the only factor which, in the end, overcame Fehr’s brilliance, and the current CBA got hammered into place because of the perceived public resistance to steroid “cheating.” But the current scene is still fueled by Fehr’s genius, and the CBA’s terms regarding the handling and testing of urine specimens are still Fehr’s legacy. Those terms are “joint” terms: both sides own and define and implement those specimen handling and testing procedures. So the players association agreed to the process as it was unfolded last fall in the handling of the Braun specimen. The players should not be heard, in these circumstances, to object. But they do. And Braun does. Because it’s all he can do. Braun has no other complaint on the substance, can only complain about nit-picked procedural problems, and has no plausible or even straight-face explanation for his skyrocketed testosterone findings. Tanya Harding did it.
2. Ryan Braun works for the Milwaukee Brewers.
3. Ryan Braun is the Great Bright Young Hope of the Milwaukee Brewers.
4. The Commissioner of Baseball used to own the Milwaukee Brewers, and has some affection or fealty to the “underdog” outfit.
5. Major League Baseball owners are riven by a split down the middle between Small-Market, and Big-Market Teams. The tension ruins relations. The Small teams – like the Brewers – are poor. Can’t pay top talent. The Big teams – like the Yanks – are rich. Can buy top talent, and top teams.
6. Ryan Braun is the Great Bright Hope of the entire Small-market group of owners.
Why set out these principles? To allow us to lay the foundation for the following conclusions:
1. I’m a turnip, but I’m still on the turnip truck.
When Tricky Dick’s lawyers whispered to the press that the Watergate tapes had a mysterious 18-minute hole in them because Dick’s long-time personal secretary Rosemary Woods “hit the wrong re-play” button, I frowned.
When Bill Clinton said he “didn’t have sex with that woman”, I scowled.
And when Ryan Braun’s lawyers now spin us hard to suggest we should believe that some Tanya Harding came in and knocked-hard the knees of Ryan Braun to illegally prevent him from being able to skate in the 2012 competition, I am spitting on the ground in disgust. Ryan: don’t kid a kidder. Testosterone-glowing urine is what you had.
2. There’s a whole lot of winking going on.
The integrity of the process – and the public – are being twisted to meet the interests of small-market owners and the interests of MLB players.
But, you say, isn’t everyone all elbows, saying, whoa, just watch, MLB owners are furious! They’re gonna appeal, they’re gonna show the players!
Nah. Sit down. This is good for both sides. Bad for the public. But good for both sides. Still have a system, which now, yes, needs to be “tweaked.” “Tightened-up.” You’ll see some changes – and both sides will agree on changes. But they won’t matter. The big shots in the players’ union, and the big-shot owners know that this drug-testing process is built for show, not substance. This testing’s a sham. What MLB owners and players have agreed upon in their CBA is that the public will be given the semblance of a vigorous testing system. Besides, juice builds OBP, batting averages, home runs — and ticket sales. That semblance of a drug-testing framework will get a tinker. Braun will make millions for himself, the Brewers, and owners across the league. But the system’s not getting rid of juicing.
I did not have sex with that woman. Tanya Harding did it. Rosemary Woods did it…