Friday, February 24, 2012

It's about their reputations

Associated Press photo
Ryan Braun plead his innocence today at Brewers camp in Phoenix.
VIERA, Fla. -- What's the No. 1 deterrent for major league baseball players not to take performance enhancing drugs? The risk of getting caught? Possible suspension? Dangerous side effects to their bodies?

No, it's none of the above. The No. 1 reason most players are scared to take steroids or HGH? Let Ryan Zimmerman explain...

"This is our livelihood," the Nationals third baseman said this morning. "That's the biggest thing that can be put on you that takes away your reputation and everything you've ever worked for. You get that once in your career, you're screwed for the rest of your life. Everyone's always going to remember that."

Which is why Ryan Braun, even in victory over MLB in his drug test arbitration case, will probably never be able to clear his name. Whether or not he actually took steroids or something else that caused his testosterone levels to skyrocket to numbers never before seen in professional sports, the world will forever remember he had a positive test linked to him.

Braun made as compelling a case for his innocence as you could imagine today at Brewers camp in Phoenix and surely won over plenty of support from fans, media and fellow players around the sport. But this issue will always hover over him, for the rest of his career and beyond, and there will always be questions about the validity of his argument or the arbitrator's stunning decision to side with a ballplayer contesting a drug charge for the first time in history.

That was the prevailing sentiment throughout the Nationals' clubhouse today as players sat glued to the TV watching Braun's news conference and the pervasive analysis that was offered before and after.

That, and an overwhelming sense of relief for a fellow major leaguer who at least earned some vindication.

"Hey, I know if I didn't do anything wrong and I tested positive, I would want an opportunity to appeal it and prove my side," veteran utilityman Mark DeRosa said.

The entire Braun saga has been an unmitigated disaster, from the initial leak of the news of his positive test, to the unnerving details of his urine sample sitting in a collector's refrigerator for two days instead of being FedEx'd to World Anti-Doping Agency headquarters in Montreal, to this evening's latest press release from MLB authorities whining about the end result of this process.

Nobody comes out of this in a particularly positive light, though Braun and the players' union certainly look better than MLB and the collection agency that botched protocols for transporting his sample last October.

Few would fault players for suddenly being skeptical of the entire drug testing process, and it's fair to wonder whether the strong relationship that has been established between MLB and the union over the last few years might fall apart over this issue.

Drew Storen, the Nationals' player representative, insisted today that shouldn't be the case.

"I don't think so," the closer said. "I don't really know the details of the story, so I think once the details come out, we'll have a better understanding. ... But I think one thing people don't necessarily realize: We are all working together toward a drug-free [sport]. Everybody wants a drug-free environment."

Veteran players insist they still have faith in the process, despite the obvious screw-ups in the Braun case.

"I've been in the league [since] the first drug testing was implemented, and you've seen how effective it's been," said DeRosa, who debuted in 1998 just as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were breaking Roger Maris' single-season home run record. "I really feel like it's done remarkable things to clean up the game."

To a man, players insist the sport is far cleaner now than it was during the late-90s and early 2000s. Sure, there will always be a handful of guys who think they can cheat the system, but there is legitimate fear from everyone about getting caught ... and the ramifications that come along with it.

It's become pretty well-established that anyone strongly linked to PEDs faces near-impossible odds of being voted into the Hall of Fame. (Full disclosure: I'm a Hall of Fame voter, and at this point I won't select any players who have either admitted taking PEDs or were otherwise proven to have taken them during their careers.)

Now, the vast majority of big leaguers will never be in the conversation for Cooperstown. But even the marginal players know even the slightest link to PEDs right now spells doom for their careers. That's simply not worth the risk, in most players' minds.

"I think the drug system has done a very good job," Zimmerman said. "There's literally no drugs in the game. If you're doing drugs, you're taking a huge risk and you're more than likely going to get caught. So I think the system has done it's job."

To an extent. Braun may have used the system in place to clear himself from suspension and perhaps the loss of his MVP award. But he may never be able to clear his reputation.

Which is why every player in the majors today was so consumed with the news coming out of Brewers camp.


Wally said...

I have been pretty disappointed by a majority of the general blogosphere reaction to the Braun appeal. 'Innocent until proven guilty' isn't a notion that you get to decide when to follow; you either follow it all the time or you go to an arbitrary system, one where people get to make decisions not on objective evidence and due process, but rather how they feel on a given day. I know the 'system' doesn't always work, but if you get to disregard the results that you don't like, it isn't much better than mob rule. Braun is innocent.

Plus, chain of custody isn't a technicality, it is an important element to know whether you can rely on a piece of evidence or not. If it is broken, you have no reason to believe in the evidence. None at all.

MicheleS said...

Well said Mark!

Let's hope that the players and MLB can work out any loopholes and close them.

Anonymous said...

Plus, chain of custody isn't a technicality, it is an important element to know whether you can rely on a piece of evidence or not. If it is broken, you have no reason to believe in the evidence. None at all.

And its hard to know if it wasn't politically motivated given that the guy was the 2011 MVP and considered a "good citizen". The doubt is there, in the entire system and the motivation now. Is it a system that is biased? It makes you wonder. If you read between the lines it may make Mark wonder and so the chances of Braun getting his vote for the HOF may be permanently damaged.

gonatsgo said...

I think it's scary that he really may have not put a single thing in his body and that the test was crazy off the charts. He didn't look different, play differently, wasn't coming off an injury like most of the users have been,has security and a long-term contract and was having a great year, during which he had been tested while he was performing well. There are many things about this case that are head-scratchers. He is obviously a very smart guy who apparently doesn't need any help with performance.He didn't need to beat the system. He doesn't strike me as a guy that tried to get an edge - he already had an edge. His righteous indignation seemed authentic. Again - there are many things about this case that are puzzling, including the "leak" of information. Was he targeted or set up? Conspiracy theory?

NatsJack in Florida said...

Since Braun has been exonerated, he wouldn't fall into either of the categories that would keep him from selecting him to the HOF.

Constant Reader said...

I was really struck by one thing Braun said in his press conference. He is 100% guilty until proven innocent. Once the test comes back positive, he is branded a cheater forever. That is an absolute fact. No matter how articulate he is in asserting that he didn't do it, if a lab said he's guilty, he's guilty.

His lawyers convinced a neutral arbitrator the chain of custody was flawed enough to overturn the pending suspension. Unless the collector or someone else confesses to tampering with his sample, how will he ever prove his innocence? It will NEVER happen.

Andrew said...

" skyrocket to numbers never before seen in professional sports"

Mark, this isn't the case.

"...Don Catlin, the former director for the Olympic lab at UCLA who is considered the father of performance-enhancing drug testing, said he has seen cases that exceeded 100-to-1. A 20-to-1 ratio, he and others said, is not unusual in a positive test."

NatsJack in Florida said...

That's exactly how an appeal process works. The original crime in the whole scenario was the breach of confidentiality. Had that been honored, no one would have ever known that this took place.

I heard a minor league player on MLB radio a couple of months ago explain how his appeal had been successful. Until he came forward, no one would have ever known. And he said the testing agency admitted to making a mistake but only after he had won his appeal.

Mark L said...

Mark, I think you're 100% right about the Hall of Fame.
How many players never made it out of the minors because they wouldn't juice up.

Wally said...

NatsJack - amen.

CR - the lab tested something. We don't know it was Braun's, and we don't know that it was tamper-free. You can choose to believe otherwise, of course, but you are also saying that you don't think due process is worth much. It should mean something that the rules to safeguard the samples were negotiated and agreed to ahead of time, and they weren't followed.

You are probably right, at least some part of the court of public opinion will deem him guilty. It is unfair to him, and many of those people would probably scream to the high heavens if it happened to them.

MicheleS said...

back to baseball on the field for a moment..

First off.. Mark Z.. PLEASE let Kelli know that I appreciate her interviews...

Second.. I love Davey! (from link above) A manager that has confidence in his team and believes in his team is so great!

HHover said...


"Innocent until proven guilty" doesn't apply in the court of public opinion. People can think whatever they want about Braun or anyone else, for any reason they want.

And of course, we're free to think some of those people are horses' asses.

JaneB said...

I am going with innocent until PROVEN guilty. The chain of custody allowed opportunity for someone to futz with the sample enough to make the t go sky hight. He wasn't proven guilty. Should be case closed.

I agree with MichelleS -- Kelli did a good job. They ought get rid of Debbie Taylor and install Kelli instead.

Unknown said...

Doesn't the fact that Braun was facing a 50 game suspension indicate that he tested positive in a prior test?

FS said...

I am also gonna stick with innocent until proven guilty. If not to believe in Braun, I want to believe the game is clean. I really appreciate Storen's sentiments.

sjm 308 said...

it's not breaking news, but deb is gone.
i have rsved about kelli forvthe pastvfew days but had to give her one more plug.
how exciting for her to be with a team on the rise instead of the deadskins

on Braun, natsjack nailed it once again. the initial leak is the major flaw, but keeping a sample for 44 hours is just ridiculous.

go nats

Mark'd said...

I didn't finish my thoughts in the other post. The anabolic players had one advantage in that their muscles recovered quicker. It still starts with hand eye coordination and then to bat speed and muscle fatigue.

Anonymous said...

I didn't finish my thoughts in the other post. The anabolic players had one advantage in that their muscles recovered quicker. It still starts with hand eye coordination and then to bat speed and muscle fatigue.

Then they would have hit better than Ted Williams ... which none of them did. Its mostly about rapid muscle recovery, and injuries do heal faster. But you can lift weights with less concern about rest in between sessions.

Anonymous said...

it's not breaking news, but deb is gone.

Probably end up with Amber Theoharris with some relation of Angelos getting the Orioles.

Gonat said...

This deserves its own piece is how excited McCatty is about Jordan Zimmerman and how the Nats will let him add his split-change back into his repitoire.

Has anyone reported this before? Have I missed this?

Gonat said...

Whoops, Jordan Zimmermann

sjm308 said...

Not that anyone cares but I was trying my spousal equivalent's new Ipad and that keyboard is the reason the spelling was so horrific. I can't spell to begin with but its much better back here on a keyboard. god forbid I ever get a cellphone and have to learn how to use that for texting or something. It will be a total disaster.

I am more concerned about the baseball but it did get old listening to DT during a game. I think the young lady from the Orioles would be a huge plus but I would just as soon have the announcers and leave it at that.

NatsNuts said...

How is this a team-friendly deal? This is $2 million more than the best 3rd baseman is being paid:

‏ @JonHeymanCBS Key to zimmerman deal, he didn't ask for "tulo money." Hearing it will come in around $18M per. #nats

NatsNuts said...

Gonat, this is from Federal Baseball:'s John Kruk said he talked to Nats' pitching coach Steve McCatty about the pitcher Kruk identified as his "X-factor" for the 2012 season, 25-year-old right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, and McCatty told the former major leaguer and ESPN analyst, "'Kruk-y, you're going to see something that we weren't allowing him to use last year and that's his split-changeup.' He said it's back in the arsenal and with the other stuff he has, he said [Zimmermann] has a chance to be one of the more-dominant pitchers in this division."

"I think he's a star," Kruk continued, "Ready to break out this year and I think he's going to have a big year for the Nationals." In an interview late last season after he'd been shut down for the year, Zimmermann, who'd thrown 161.1 IP in his first full-year back from Tommy John over which he had a 3.18 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 31 walks (1.73 BB/9) and 124 K's (6.92 K/9), talked about adding the change to his repertoire. "I hope I can figure it out come this offseason," Zimmermann said at the time, "I found a pretty good grip that I feel comfortable with the last month here, and I'm excited to start throwing all offseason."

"I was just monkeying around with the ball one day," Zimmermann explained when asked how he'd discovered the grip, "and it felt pretty good when I was throwing it." Asked why he felt he needed to add a change to his already-impressive arsenal, the former University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Pointers' right-hander said, "Every pitcher needs a changeup, I think, unless you're coming out of the bullpen, but every starter should have one and I was lucky enough to get away with not really having one this year."

Anonymous said...

The problem was the 2-1 vote. If it had been 3-0 the whole thing would probably go away more quickly. People will be itching to know why the 1 voter decided that way.

NatsNuts said...

Why are we talking about Ryan Braun when you have things up in the air with Ryan Zimmerman?

Its not my money but I don't like to be BS'd. Ryan Zimmerman does his talking but nobody is talking for the Nats. Ryan says he has offered them a TEAM FRIENDLY deal.

If Jon Heyman and Tim Kurjian are correct, this isn't a team friendly deal as a matter of fact, Zim would be the 2nd highest paid 3rd baseman ahead of Miguel Cabrera and only behind Alex Rodriguez. This assumes that Jon Heyman's $18 million is correct and Kurjian's source saying this deal buys out his remaining 2 years.

Zimmerman is making $12 million this year and $14 million next year. If you give him $18 million for the next 6 years you are giving him $10 million over what his contractual amount was to be for 2012 and 2013. Add that $10 million to $18 a year over 4 years and that is $20.5 million for what really is a 4 year extension.

I agree that $16 million for the Beltre deal was the standard.

I hope Heyman is wrong but if he's right, no wonder why this deal has gotten so complicated.

Grandstander said...

Full disclosure: I'm a Hall of Fame voter, and at this point I won't select any players who have either admitted taking PEDs or were otherwise proven to have taken them during their careers.

Does that mean if Mike Morse puts together a HoF worthy career you wouldn't vote for him?

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

NatsNuts said...
Why are we talking about Ryan Braun when you have things up in the air with Ryan Zimmerman?

Multi-tasking. We're a versatile, talented bunch here.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

The problem was the 2-1 vote. If it had been 3-0 the whole thing would probably go away more quickly. People will be itching to know why the 1 voter decided that way.

One management vote, one union vote, one arbitrator. They get a lot of 2-1 votes.

MicheleS said...

Gonat, we talked a little about the change up yesterday, Like holy moly, can't wait to see him use that pitch!

and NatsNut thanks for the Federal Baseball update. Hadn't gotten over their yet this morning...

MicheleS said...

I know this is going to sound crazy, but anything under $20M per year is probably team friendly. There are a few teams when RZ hit's free agency that would pay him more than $20m per to play for their teams(NYY, would be one, they were rumors last year that they want him)

HHover said...


You're awfully fixated on the AAV, but there are other things that would make it more or less team friendly--the duration of the contract, deferred payments, etc.

NatsNuts said...

HHover, I disagree. I think it was an underhanded tactic for Zim to make comments like he did. I have been in agreement that Team Friendly is anything below the Adrian Beltre deal who also gave the Rangers deferred dollars.

I think we have to be fair to both sides and assess the deal. I also agree anything below $16 million is team friendly and I disagree with MicheleS on $20 million.

The Yankees seem to be getting more fiscally responsible. Sure after 2009, Zim looked like an elite player. Things change after an injury season.

Mark'd said...

I'm reading the morning tweets and kind of disgusted this whole negotiation went public.

It is now a fight between 2 people and one won't defend themself as the other throws some jabs.

It's easy to make one sided claims of team friendly and set deadlines while the other side obviously doesn't agree.

It's easy to say you want to be here forever while asking to be paid like a superstar. THIS SOUNDS LIKE IT IS ALL ABOUT MONEY.

Anonymous said...

Asking to be the highest paid 3rd baseman behind ARod by pressuring ownership using the same tactics that Jeter did to the Yankees seems like something I didn't think Zimmerman was capable of doing.

Theophilus said...

Zimmerman is better than Beltre.

As to Braun, I dissent from the "innocent until proven guilty" mantra. Once the prosecution presents a positive test, the burden shifts to the defense. If this were a bona fide trial, not a loosey-goosey arbitration, a genuine "chain of custody" issue would have prevented the test from being admitted.

Even in an arbitration, I'm surprised that, once chain of custody emerged as the critical issue, there wasn't a more energetic debate about what it meant. I would have expected MLB to present multiple independent experts to testify that a two-day delay makes no difference in the outcome. (I think that is the preponderant view, even the Braun view -- his real contention is that the test was "tampered" with, which is really incredible. By whom? Why? No credible reason.)

My guess is that, MLB's protests notwithstanding, they really didn't want to win this appeal. Braun is a major star, viewed as a good guy, suspension would have thrown every other star under suspicion. I think MLB pulled their punches, punted.

Now, the real question is whether Braun, under scrutiny, will go .270/.315/.435 in 2012. Will he perform at or near career averages? (He never hit more than 22 HR in the minors.) If he falls short, the number of suspicious people will grow exponentially.

Gonat said...

If Zim really wants top dollar and renegotiate the 2 years he has left, there is no reason the Nats should give him an extension. You give an extension when it makes sense. It sounds to me like this is all about getting paid more than Jayson Werth instead of the value of 3rd baseman.

Just sounds like a greedy player to me.

natsfan1a said...

Re. Braun, I guess I'm a horse's a**, because I still have my doubts.

Re. Zim, I'm hoping to hear some good news today (and a new post would be kinda awesome, too).

Re. baseball, there may be 40 days until OD, but the first ST radio broadcast is one week from today. Yay, baseball!

Gonat said...

Theo, just saying Zim is better than Beltre is great but the last 2 years head to head wouldn't support that and Beltre signed his contract a year ago.

JaneB said...

Theo, I swear I'm not a conspiracy theorist. And Braun isn't a player I care about and would make up any excuse to defend (Livan is, for example, not that he needs any defending). But chain of custody is a real thing. Who knows who had access to the sample? For the results to be as sky high as they indicated, it's certainly possible someone tampered with it. Probable? Who knows. But POSSIBLE is the point. And the sloppy chain of custody situation leaves it open thatbit was POSSIBLE to mess withnyhe sample. Case closed. If he was really juicing, he will fall off this year of get caught.

I am really excited about JZimm.look forward to hearing first hand reports ifbthat change up

N. Cognito said...

MicheleS said...
"I know this is going to sound crazy, but anything under $20M per year is probably team friendly."

That's not crazy.
That's insane.

Theophilus said...

JaneB --

All due respect, because I love your posts, but it's also POSSIBLE that Nyjer Morgan will hit 15 HR this year. It's also POSSIBLE that somebody tampered w/ Braun's test but probably even less likely. (Exactly how? Someone held the envelope up to a bunsen burner and caused testosterone levels to rise like yeast?) And I don't agree that the chain of custody here was "sloppy." What is apparent is that there are procedural issues that were not resolved by the language of the CBA and leave loopholes large enough to drive a large truck through.

Like you, Jane, I await the "proof" of Braun's 2012 performance.

CoverageisLacking said...

Regarding "tampering," there are security protocols in place with this testing regimen that guard against tampering. If samples are tampered with, it is intended to be evident. And the lab director testified that she saw no signs of tampering of the samples.

Importantly, there was also no argument made by Braun that his samples had been tampered with. Nor was there any scientific evidence introduced that a 2-day wait to submit the samples would have caused the samples to break down, or cause an IRMS test that showed extraneous testosterone to be false or unreliable.

There has been a lot written about this topic over the past day--you all should take a look at some of it before engaging in uninformed speculation.

Anonymous said...

All that the presumption of innocence means is that the burden of proof is on the accuser to prove the accusation beyond a reasonable doubt. Not being found guilty is not an exoneration, it is a finding that the evidence was not sufficient to adequately carry the burden of proof. And even if the burden of proof is satisfied by the evidence, the finders can violate the integrity of the process by ignoring the evidence and nullifying the charge, as happened in the OJ Simpson case.

Let's see what the arbiter has to say in his report. The sample tested positive. That is beyond any doubt. Chain of custody is important, but there is no evidence that the sample was tampered with, either. None.

Braun's best argument, it seems to me, is that his head has not grown 2 sizes, like Barry Bond's pumpkin head, or Roger Clemens' basketball bean, nor has Braun's physique exploded like Canseco's, or McGuire's. His physical attributes, like speed and strength, which can be measured, have not improved. He looks normal, but so did Rafael Palmero.

I don't know what to think.

FS said...

have to agree with Cognito. 16-20 million per year is not exactly team-friendly unless it is distributed over certain number of years like Pujols' deal.

anyways, hoping to hear more about Harper vs SS showdown.

NatsNuts said...

"The ball has been in the Nationals' court for quite some time," said Zimmerman to reporters, including Ladson (Twitter links). "I'm waiting like the rest of you."

Ryan, keep waiting and sharpen your pencil and bring back a deal that has nothing to do with Jayson Werth. Basing your offer on Jayson Werth is stupid money. Team friendly is something commensurate with top 3rd baseman which is $16 million.

Avar said...

Theo and CIL nailed it. This guilty until proven innocent line is crap. He was innocent until he failed a drug test!! He still wasn't guilty though because he got a hearing. He could't be found guilty until the hearing which he won so he is not guilty. Not guilty is different than innocent.

As for the test, Theo and CIL are right and I feel like Mark was off on this point. From what I read, this sample was handled like dozens of others before it by being stored at a home over the weekend and shipped on Monday. What was new was that Braun challenged this. His lawyers contended that even though there was precedent for it, it violated the literal language of the CBA. Kudos to his lawyers.

But, let's be clear. He failed a test, didn't allege it was tampered with, all the seals were in place and the custody of evidence was handled as many others have been.

Since I'm a fan and not a judge, I get to use my own standard and in my book, Braun is a cheat. If I am a judge, I have to acquit but I'm not so I think he's a cheat.

The vague language in the CBA will be fixed and in the meantime, they just never test anyone late on Friday or the weekend.

I'm fascinated to see what Braun does this season and hopefully he is tested more than usual and no mistakes are made w/ the samples. If he puts up his normal numbers, then so be it, maybe I was wrong.

NatsLady said...

I'm with Avar on this one. If I'm the arbitrator, I have to acquit on the technicality, but I still got my opinion, and my opinion is, he did something.

But, they may still have to test on Friday nights, etc., because that's when the games are. Just fix the protocols, or get special messengers, or whatever. A lot of money is at stake.

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