Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Braun decision, bad for baseball, but not a disaster

As you all probably have heard, Ryan Braun's 50 game suspension was overturned today.  A ton of data is coming about about what happen and from what we can basically tell, the arbitrator overturned the suspension on a technicality...the sample was not handled properly.

This is the first time a suspension for a violation of MLB's drug policy was overturned since testing began, and sadly, the fact this was overturned on a technicality opens the door to similar arguments being used in future cases, even when guilt is obvious.

There are a number of conspiracy theories out there about Bud Selig having orchestrated this reversal as if he some biased interest still in the Brewers. While I believe Selig does have some bias toward the Brewers, I just don't see any justification here to say that this whole thing was rigged.

From what I understand, Major League Baseball, and the Players Association had to initially hear the appeal by Braun and if there was a split in the between these two bodies on how to rule, a third party came in to decide on it...which is what happened here.  We know that Major League Baseball, of course, wanted to uphold the initial decision.  The Players Association wanted the suspension overturned.  If Major League Baseball, and Bud Selig, wanted this ruling overturned, a third party would never have been involved...a third party they would have no control over.

It appears Major League Baseball and the commissioner's office are furious over this decision and they should.  Their system, which had a perfect record to this point, is now fallible.

At the same time, we should keep things in perspective here.  This was a single ruling made by an arbitrator who will likely never have to rule on another baseball drug suspension again.  Would a different arbitrator have ruled to uphold the suspension?  Possibly.  It's hard to say without some more information.

Baseball has an opportunity now to try to correct the problem, though.  The Braun sample that tested positive was handled improperly.  Did that affect the results?  It's doubtful.  The important thing is for baseball to ensure that these samples are handled properly in the future.  If another test is to be challenged, this argument should not be able to be made again to overturn it.  If it does happen again and another suspension is overturned because of the improper handling of the sample, then it is Major League Baseball's fault and Bud Selig along with others in the executive office for baseball should be put to blame.

Let's face it, people have been cheating the system since it was implemented, and over time, the system has improved to make it harder to cheat it.  It's an evolving process and now because of this ruling, it must evolve again.

Could the ruling open the door to having more players using PEDs?  Possibly, but if the system continues to evolve and correct the problems it has, the rise in use will be short lived as a couple more high profile players get caught and suspended.

Look, this is undoubtedly a black eye for baseball.  Braun, the league MVP, most likely took a banned substance.

But this isn't the disaster the some people would have you believe.