Despite Winning Appeal, Ryan Braun Still Guilty

Ryan Braun can cover his heart all he wants: he's still a cheater until he explains how his body produced large quantities of synthetic testosterone. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Ryan Braun is still a cheater. Whatever independent arbitrator Shyam Das might say, nothing will change Braun’s urine testing positive for synthetic testosterone, and a lot of it at that. And until someone conclusively accounts for that, Braun will remain a steroid-user, his name forever smeared with the b.s. he’s spoon-fed the media since his acquittal.

Where Did the Testosterone Come From?

Major League Baseball and Braun can argue endlessly over possibly closed FedEx stores, STD medication and whatever else each side cooks up, but that testosterone still remains. And while experts admit improper storage can affect testosterone-epitestosterone concentrations, none say it can make naturally produced testosterone look like it came from somewhere else.

Somehow a large (though not unbelievably large, it turns out) amount of testosterone got into a sample that, while perhaps a little warmer than it should have been when it arrived at the Olympic anti-doping lab in Montreal, showed no signs of tampering. It was in Braun’s body. It was in his sample.

Testimony can call into question many steps in the doping process, but it can’t refute science. The testosterone that Braun peed into a cup was not naturally produced. He took steroids. He cheated.

Braun himself has never refuted the testing result – a curiosity considering how willingly he’s refuted everything else, including a herpes rumor that can’t be killed by Braun’s words, only time. Instead, he’s focused on the time it took the sample to get to the lab, the storage and custody issues.

These arguments may have validity in court. But the MLB is not a court: it’s a private organization that’s come under heavy fire and scrutiny for its apparent complicity in baseball’s steroid-fueled 1990s. In response to that charge, baseball has set up a system wherein a player can do everything wrong and still get off scot-free. “Justice” replaces “right,” and the sport suffers all the more for it.

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Steroid Use Should Cost Ryan Braun MVP

Because of steroid use, Milwaukee's Ryan Braun should lose his MVP award, and Los Angeles' Matt Kemp should get it. (http://www.thesportsbank.net)

When you get caught cheating, you’re supposed to be punished. Copy your friend’s homework? Zero on the assignment. Run a red light to save a couple minutes? Ticket. Carry on an elicit affair? Divorce, and probably half your stuff.

Milwaukee Brewer Ryan Braun got caught cheating: he failed a drug test. While a 50-game suspension next season is a sizable penalty, it’s not a punishment.

Braun should lose his MVP award. That’s the punishment. Sorry, Grandma!

Some have argued that because previous MVPs who later tested positive for steroids – Ken Caminiti, Alex Rodriguez – didn’t lost their awards, and because Braun passed a subsequent drug test, he should keep his MVP.

The truth about Caminiti and Rodriguez came out years after they’d won their awards. Braun’s situation is immediate – he won the award and tested positive for steroids within a month – and it demands an immediate answer.

By allowing Braun to keep his MVP, the MLB does nothing to dispel the widely held belief that the rich and famous live by a different set of rules than the fans. The Occupy movement proves how quickly that disparity can turn to outrage, with millions of Americans summarily rejecting the federal government in favor of blind protest. A private industry such as the MLB can’t afford a similar rejection.

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MLB Playoff Predictions: Championship Series

Justin Verlander should pitch the Tigers into the World Series, possibly winning ALCS MVP honors in the process.(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

I was a rainstorm and a Chris Carpenter three-hitter away from sweeping the opening round of the MLB playoffs. Instead, another .500 showing, with my pick for the World Series – the Philadelphia Phillies – not among the winners. Oh well, always move forward. Here are my picks for the ALCS and NLCS (home-field team second).

ALCS: Detroit Tigers vs. Texas Rangers

Tigers coach Jim Leyland rolled the dice in Game 5 of the ALDS by keeping out Justin Verlander. The gambit paid off, because now the Tigers start the best pitcher in the majors in Game 1. Verlander is 6-2 lifetime against the Rangers, and he’s never lost in Arlington (3-0, 1.29 ERA). C.J. Wilson is a great pitcher, but Verlander is just better. Tigers take Game 1 on the road.

Not helping matters is the Rangers’ offense. More specifically: there lack thereof. The Rangers are the weakest-hitting team left in the playoffs. They hit the worst, they get on base the least, and they drive the ball the least often. They’ve hit as many home runs as any remaining team, but that’s where the offense stops. And while Doug Holland may beat Max Scherzer at Rangers Ballpark – a hitter’s park – in Game 2, that lack of offense is sure to influence Games 3 through 5 at Detroit’s cavernous Comerica Park.

The Rangers sport a mediocre .278 combined average against Doug Fister, who will start game 3 for the Tigers. Fister will still be amped from his ALDS Game 5 win over the Yankees, and that’s bad news for a Rangers team with such paltry on-base (.303) and slugging (.406) against him. If Fister can stay on top of Nelson Cruz (.500 avg, 1.390 OPS, home run), he should hold the Rangers in check long enough for the Tigers to get the better of Colby Lewis. The Tigers bat a combined .356 against Lewis, and everyone but backups Brandon Inge and Omir Santos has driven in at least one run.

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MLB Playoff Predictions: Divisional Series Pitching Matchups

After a final two weeks of baseball so wild and crazy Nickelodeon would want to make a game show out of it, we’re finally down to eight teams. Structurally flawed teams like the Red Sox and Braves petered out, while teams built around strong starting pitching and consistent offense have survived. Starting Friday, four best-of-five divisional series will begin. On the line: the chance for an AL or NL pennant. Who’s moving on and who’s moving home? Here’s my take (home-field team first).

New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers

Justin Verlander will win the Cy Young and has won the AL’s pitching triple crown, but he won’t be starting at home: he’ll be starting at Yankee Stadium, where he’s 0-2 with a 4.00 ERA in three starts. Verlander’s never really dominated the Yankees. CC Sabathia, meanwhile, will make both his starts at home, where he’s 26-7. Sabathia beats Verlander in Game 1 in front of a fired-up Yankees stadium.

Sabathia will start Game 4 on short rest while Verlander would start Game 5 on regular rest. Sabathia can probably beat Rick Porcello – a B+ pitcher (14-9, 4.75 ERA) at best – in Game 4. The Yankees are a statistically stronger and much faster lineup (almost 100 more stolen bases than the Tigers). Combined with the better bullpen, the Yankees have the edge in close games.

With the Yankees’ three-man rotation, rookie Ivan Nova will have to pitch twice, including once on the road. Nova has proven he’s the real deal this season, but there’s no way Verlander loses twice. Which means that to beat the Yankees, the Tigers need Doug Fister (11-13, 2.58 ERA) to beat Nova in Game 2 at Yankee Stadium. I don’t see it happening. Fister has a 6.00 ERA against the Yankees, and he’s never won at Yankee Stadium.

Max Scherzer could very easily beat slow-throwing, 34-year old Freddy Garcia in Game 3 at Comerica Park, but it’s won’t be enough. Verlander might be the best pitcher in the majors, but the Yankees’ rotation runs much deeper. Prediction: Yankees in 4.

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