Sunday, February 26, 2012

Braun's "Truth Prevailed" Speech is "Fatally Flawed"

Let's face it.  Ryan Braun avoided the fifty game penalty he deserved for violating MLB's drug policy, on a technicality.  As we all know, in legal situations, the technicalities usually determine the outcome of the case. Of course, the technicality that Braun's skillful attorneys exploited had absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand - the indisputable fact that he failed the drug test.  Period.

During Braun's emotional press conference on Friday, the reigning NL MVP claimed to be "the victim of a process that was fatally flawed", making a big deal about the "timeliness" in getting his urine sample shipped off to the lab, while questioning the integrity of the guy who collected the sample.  We're supposed to believe this guy had something to do with that urine having all that synthetic testosterone in it?  Based on the fact that the sample arrived at the lab intact - with no evidence of tampering - we can rule out that conspiracy theory.

The irrefutable evidence which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Braun is guilty, involves the "type" of testosterone discovered in his urine sample:  SYNTHETIC - the kind that comes ONLY FROM PHARMACEUTICALS.  There is no other way, period; that's according to Dr Gary Walder, who is the World Anti-Doping Agency Chairman.  "Synthetic testosterone is not made in the human body", Walder confirmed on ESPN's "Outside the Lines".

Okay, we know beyond a shadow of doubt that Ryan Braun did indeed add a banned pharmaceutical to his breakfast of champions, prior to his October 1, 2011 drug test.  I have little doubt that this was his first violation, based on his consistent performance during his stellar five-year career.  Plus, he's passed numerous drug tests prior to this one.

What would motivate Braun to cheat this time around?  Simple.  He wanted to win a World Series, and he figured his best shot - maybe his only shot - would be to do it while Prince Fielder was still on the team.  Elementary, my dear Watson.

Aside from having all that testosterone in his system, there is compelling evidence that Braun's performance was indeed enhanced during the first round of the playoffs.  Here are the MVP's offensive stats in the 5 game 2011 NLDS:

BA - .500 (9 hits in 18 AB) - including 4 doubles and 1 home run
OBP - .571
SLG - .889
5 runs scored, 4 runs driven in, 1 stolen base, 3 bases on balls


291 HITS, 32 HOME RUNS, 130 DOUBLES, 162 RUNS, 130 RBIs, 32 STOLEN BASES,  96 BB

As the pharmaceuticals began wearing off, Braun's offensive production returned to more "normal" levels in the 6 game 2011 NLCS, hitting .333, with a .385 OBP, and .583 SLG.  Those are still great numbers, but clearly, Superman left the building without that coveted World Series ring.

While Braun plays the part of "victim" in this ordeal, he left us with this endearing sound bite:  "At the end of the day, the truth prevailed."

The truth is, Braun beat the system on a technicality.  That's the absolute truth, and he knows it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Braun Case Left With One Big Unanswered Question

Ryan Braun may have won his appeal, thanks to a brain-dead arbitration panel (well, only two out of the three panelists are brain-dead) who took "technicalities" to a whole new level of absurdity.  Maybe I'm missing something, so let's review the events:

STEP 1:  Braun provides a urine sample on a Saturday.  The guy who collects the sample doesn't ship it out until the following Monday - 44 hours later.  There is no evidence that the sample was tampered with.

STEP 2:  The sample is tested and extremely high levels of testosterone are discovered.  Record breaking levels of testosterone.  Ridiculously high levels of testosterone.

QUESTION:  How did those high levels of testosterone get into that urine?  Here are the possibilities:

A) High levels of testosterone magically sprout up in urine after a 44 hour waiting period.

B) Braun used some form of a banned substance - a performance enhancing drug - and high levels of testosterone are noticeable characteristic in this banned substance.

So far, no scientific evidence linking high levels of testosterone to two-day old urine have been discovered. I shudder to think of what might happen after some urine sits around in one of those little cups for a month or longer, if "Scenario A" is true.

Ryan Braun got off the hook and will not have to miss the first fifty games of the season now.  That's great news for Milwaukee Brewers fans who are more than likely not concerned with the question that still plagues me:  How did the urine get so much testosterone in it?

Unless that question is answered to conclusively clear up Ryan Braun's good name, I'm not buying his innocence.  This case may be closed, as far as Braun being cleared to play the full 162 game schedule goes.

But it's not closed for me, or anyone else who wants to know the absolute truth in this matter.  It's far from closed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Surprising Predictions for 2012

Baseball has a history of unpredictability.  Over the course of a 162 game schedule, anything can (and usually does) happen; injuries to key players can doom a team expected to play deep into the post season.  Last year's defending World Champion San Francisco Giants, for example, were knocked out of the box by the end of May when they lost catcher Buster Posey with a season-ending knee injury.  The fact that Posey got hurt was unfortunate and unpredictable; the fact that the Giants failed to reach the post season was not at all surprising, however.

On the other hand, when the St Louis Cardinals lost the ace of their pitching staff, Adam Wainwright, to season-ending Tommy John surgery before the 2011 season even began, the Redbirds were automatically counted out (by the "experts") for any realistic chance of post season play.  Winning the World Series seemed about as likely as winning the lottery.

The Philadelphia Phillies were considered the best team to come out of the National League, and with 102 regular season wins, they were indeed the class of the Senior Circuit.  However, we all know that anything can happen in the post season; including getting bounced after the first round.  Nobody expected the Phillies to lose that NLDS to the long-shot Cardinals.  Nobody.

And nobody expected the Boston Red Sox to fold up like a cheap tent last September, and not even reach the post season as the wild card.  They were widely considered to be the best team in the American League; the team most likely to beat Philadelphia in the World Series; or maybe Atlanta; or maybe San Francisco.

There were many other surprises in baseball last season.  Teams that looked good in the 2011 preseason (according to many "experts"), included such dismal failures as the Colorado Rockies, the San Diego Padres, the Cincinnati Reds, the Oakland A's, the Chicago White Sox, and the Minnesota Twins.  None of these teams even finished above .500, let alone competed for a division title.

Of course, there were pleasant surprises, too.  Aside from Kirk Gibson and his young team of over-achievers, nobody gave the Arizona Diamondbacks any chance of competing in the National League West last season; but, compete they did, easily winning the division title over defending World Series champion, San Francisco.

Even last year's runaway American League Central champion Detroit Tigers weren't expected to do what they did.  Now, they seem to be a "lock" to not only repeat as division champions; many expect them to win the next World Series, after adding the huge bat (and body) of Prince Fielder to their lineup.  We'll see.

I think 2012 will continue the trend of unpredictability; at least to a certain degree.  Here's what I foresee:

NO REPEAT DIVISION CHAMPIONS - That's right.  The American League East no longer belongs to the Yankees; same goes with the American League West, as Texas stumbles in 2012, still hung-over from their World Series disaster at the hands of St Louis.  Even the Tigers will take a step back in 2012; unable to fit the newly acquired Prince Fielder into the mix.  Moving Miguel Cabrera to third base will be the biggest disaster to hit Detroit since the Ford Pinto.

In the National League, five-time defending champion Philadelphia will find much more competition in the East; more than they can handle.  The Central champs - the Milwaukee Brewers, will fade into obscurity after losing Fielder to the Tigers; even with Ryan Braun winning his appeal and not facing that 50 game suspension; their pitching, which looked shaky in the '11 post season, will be even shakier in 2012.  Alas, in the West, the Diamondbacks will fail to repeat their 2011 magic, although they will put up a good fight until the very end.


AL - EAST:  Boston - Pitching will improve; offense still very good
AL - CENTRAL:  Cleveland - The magic will be back at Progressive Field
AL - WEST:  LA/Anaheim - Relaxed Pujols will have a monster year
WILD CARD:  Texas - Yu Darvish will solidify the pitching staff
WILD CARD #2:  Tampa Bay - Enough pitching and timely hitting to sneak in again

NL - EAST:  Atlanta - Healthy rotation and a great bullpen spells relief
NL - CENTRAL:  St Louis - Albert will be missed; but lineup will stay healthy and be productive
NL - WEST:  LA - Kershaw and Kemp will continue the momentum from last year
WILD CARD:  Washington - Strasburg emerges as baseball's new best pitcher
WILD CARD #2:  Arizona - Still good enough to sneak in

Who will win it all in 2012?  I'll let you know at the end of September.  However, if my prognostication is as accurate as the vast number of last year's experts, the ultimate World Series champion will no doubt come from the other twenty teams not included here...That's baseball; always giving us surprises every year!