Tuesday, February 28, 2012

3 comments Mike Lupica Goes All Mike Lupica and Throws Out Baseless Accusations

We all know by now that Ryan Braun appealed his positive drug test and won based on arbitrators voting 2-1 in his favor. He won on a chain of custody issue. Not a very sexy ending to this story with it being decided by a chain of custody issue. Apparently the guy who tested Braun and collected the sample kept it in his refrigerator for two days before shipping it off. This broke the chain of custody and the arbitrators decided to overturn his positive drug test in a 2-1 decision. As it has been pointed out 100 times, this doesn't mean Braun is innocent and he still needs to explain his high levels of testosterone in his system at some point.

A few months ago Doug Glanville thought Braun should be stripped of his MVP award and some of you agreed. Braun still has some explaining to do, but at least we know MLB's drug testing system works. That's not enough for Mike Lupica though. He suspects foul play and is eager to lean forward in his chair, potentially interrupt others and describe in a loud voice what he believes happened.

(I know it is a written article, but I imagine Lupica leaning forward and yelling at us while typing this article)

Ryan Braun says he is innocent and that he is clean, that he never used synthetic testosterone. Braun says that even though when he had to defend himself in front of an arbitration panel, he didn’t question the science that had his testosterone level ring the bell the way it did,

The title of the article says Braun was "acquitted." He wasn't acquitted, his positive drug test was overturned. He didn't commit a crime, so an acquittal isn't really the appropriate language to use in this situation...at least I don't think so.

Also, Braun didn't need to question the science because he thought the chain of custody was broken. The fact Braun didn't question the science could be irrelevant because it never got to that point. He thought the chain of custody got broken and argued his case on merits of this argument.

he questioned language in baseball’s collective bargaining agreement about the chain of custody and baseball’s collection procedures for drug testing.

And he won because the chain of custody was broken. There was no questioning of the language in the agreement, but pointing out the rules laid out in the agreement and how they seem to be broken in this situation. He pointed out the chain of custody of his urine sample was broken and two out of three arbitrators agreed with him. MLB and the player's union wrote the rules for drug testing and rules were broken. So of course Braun isn't going to question the evidence on the merits of whether his sample was positive or negative when he believes the evidence gathered is faulty or possibly tainted. If we insist on comparing this to a criminal trial, this is what any defense attorney would do as well. A defense attorney would make sure the evidence to be presented wasn't tainted and then argue on the merits of the case after he is satisfied the evidence presented isn't tainted in some fashion.

If MLB didn't break the rules they had written, Braun very well could have not won his appeal. I'm all for Braun's positive drug test being upheld, but it is good to hear the system works.

In the end, it just means that Braun, MVP of the National League and darling of Brewers fans, one of the big young talents in the game, just beat the game here.

He didn't beat the game. The rules weren't followed so his positive drug test was overturned. That is the game and why MLB has an appeal system. I could not have more faith in the way baseball's drug policy is run at this point. It seems they are serious about testing players and holding fair appeals to where the testing and collection of urine is held to the standard set in the drug testing policy.

Understand something: The overturning of Braun’s 50-game suspension doesn’t mean Braun is clean, no matter what he says or how many times he says it or what he expects reasonable people to believe.

Sure, whatever you want to believe. The overturning of Braun's 50-game suspension also doesn't mean the cloud of "steroid user" can be cast above Braun to where he gets put in the "Jeff Bagwell" category when it comes time to discuss his candidacy for the Hall of Fame. The Jeff Bagwell category is for players who writers believe used steroids, but since there isn't proof his candidacy for the Hall of Fame is dismissed for some other vague reason that can't really be explained, but the real reason is Bagwell is suspected of using steroids.

So Braun of the Brewers becomes the first positive test to win this kind of appeal in baseball. So he goes on with his career now, and his huge contract, no suspension, because a triple-sealed sample, one that no one ever suggested had been tampered with, didn’t make the last FedEx shipment on a weekend, didn’t go out until Monday morning.

This is how it works. This is the testing system and policy set up by MLB and the player's union. They wrote the rules and then broke the rules. You can whine about it all you want, but the details in drug testing are very important. The details are what the public, the player's union, and MLB rely upon to know their drug testing policy is effective and legitimate. The arbitrators can't just say, "Fuck the details" when the chain of custody was broken at some point and uphold Braun's suspension.

If you want to think justice was served, have at it.

"Justice?" It is a drug testing involved with a sport. This isn't a conviction overturned that let a suspected murderer go free. Let's get a grasp on some perspective on the issue and save the word "justice" for issues that are really important and don't involve a drug testing policy in a sport.

Of course, there is Braun’s version of the truth — they always want to tell you about how many tests they passed with flying colors —and there is a baseball version of the truth, based on the science of what they believe was a process that wasn’t corrupted in any way because Braun’s sample went out on Monday instead of Saturday.

It sounds like nitpicking, but Braun never contested the result of the test. So Mike Lupica isn't even arguing this on the issues. He is basically saying MLB should ignore the drug testing guidelines they themselves laid out in order to uphold Braun's positive drug test. The rules weren't followed and the process was corrupted because the guidelines set out for testing were broken when the chain of custody was broken. The positive test and 50 game suspension can not be upheld in this case.

Do I believe Braun used some sort of PED? Probably, but I don't have any proof other than the positive drug test and a commenter on this blog who claimed Braun was using steroids in college at Miami. So I won't judge him as a steroid user until he tests positive and his appeal fails or some other evidence of his PED use comes to light.

(I apologize, but for the life of me I can not find the comment that said this. I've searched and just can't find it.)

Still, the chain of custody can't be broken. There is a reason there are rules. Mike Lupica is like a child stomping his feet that he can't get his way. So instead of continuing to stomp his feet, he starts making up conspiracy theories. It's pretty irresponsible and ridiculous for Lupica to make these allegations, but what's the point of having your own column if you can't make serious accusations with no factual backing?

And by the way? Nobody was looking to get Ryan Braun here from the start, get him good or pin a drug rap on him, or take down one of the sport’s golden boys.

So it was a conspiracy by Major League Baseball to undermine their own drug testing policy in order to prevent a MVP being tainted as a PED user? I'm not sure this logically makes sense for MLB to undermine their very own system.

Braun does play for the Milwaukee Brewers, a team once owned by the current commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, a commissioner who still has his office in Milwaukee and a statue outside Miller Park.

So Bud Selig had the arbitrator rule in favor of overturning the positive drug test? Is that what Mike Lupica is "sort of but not really because that would be a serious accusation which Mike Lupica has no proof of so he can't just come right out say it but he is definitely insinuating" saying? That's a pretty serious accusation.

I've always enjoyed the picture Bud Selig's critics paint of him. They paint him as a bumbling idiot who screws up everything, except for the times he is a mastermind behind baseball's conspiracies who ingeniously works behind the scenes on cover ups to make sure his dastardly plans succeed. It is as if some of Selig's critics portray him as someone who alternates between complete ineffectiveness at being commissioner and total control over all baseball-related issues, depending on the situation and when it is convenient for what they want to prove.

So that's all Mike Lupica says about Bud Selig. I like how Lupica leaves the theory out there to give the reader pause, but falls short of saying anything else since he has absolutely no evidence to back up his theory. Any good tabloid writer knows how to do this. Do just enough to where you can get your half-baked theory heard, but not enough to get hit with a lawsuit for libel.

He got tested in October, and the sample was sealed along with two others and the lab got it early the next week. He reportedly rang the bell, big-time. Now Braun says he was clean all along and will always be able to say that, whether baseball believes Ryan Braun was dirty or not.

Lupica can re-phrase his sentences that all say the same thing as many times as he would like, but my answer is still the same. The chain of custody was broken and baseball's drug testing policy worked. It may not have given us the result Mike Lupica wanted, but the drug testing policy isn't implemented to give us the result we necessarily want, it is to have a system where a player can appeal and have an honest shot at his case being heard fairly. This happened.

A three-man panel heard Braun’s appeal. Rob Manfred, baseball’s executive vice president was on that panel, so was Michael Weiner, head of the Major League Baseball Players Association. The third man was arbitrator Shyam Das, the tiebreaker who saved Braun the way Braun saves the Brewers with big hits in the late innings.

This last sentence was terrible and forced. I'm pretty sure a third grader can write a paper with a better sentence than "...saved Braun the way Braun saves the Brewers with big hits in the late innings." What makes the sentence even worse is Lupica is saying Das "saved" Braun, as if the appeal had already been decided before it even began. As if Braun somehow had Das on his side in this appeal. This speaks to the integrity of Das as an arbitrator...which we know Mike Lupica would never question since he just questioned the commissioner of baseball's integrity.

Want to know who Shyam Das is? It appears he is pretty decorated. What does this all mean to Mike Lupica? It means Das was in on the conspiracy as well. Just wait for it here in a minute. Again, Lupica doesn't say it, because those damn libel lawsuits are a pain in the ass.

And now here is the money quote from Manfred:

“While we have always respected the process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.”

Well of course MLB doesn't agree with the decision. The disagreement of MLB over Braun's positive drug test being overturned isn't shocking. Any time a case is heard by an arbitrator or in a court of law, those who "win" agree with the decision and those that "lose" disagree with the decision. MLB isn't going to come out with a statement saying,

"We respect the process and it appears the chain of custody was broken. You can no longer trust positive drug tests from players because the collectors tend to be pretty incompetent when it comes to keeping chain of custody intact. Major League Baseball vehemently agrees with the decision and frankly are embarrassed we took up Mr. Braun's time like we did. The positive news out of this turn of events is the conspiracy begun and put in motion by the Commissioner of MLB, Bud Selig, turned out to work perfectly. Bud Selig managed to undermine the very drug testing policy he helped to implement and worked tirelessly to have the player's union accept."

What Manfred is saying about one of the young stars of his game, the current MVP of the National League, is that Braun did exactly what the results of his drug test said he did, and that means he used a synthetic testosterone and got careless and got caught, the way a lot of other guys did before him.

Of course this is MLB's position. Why would their position be any different? The chain of custody outlined in the drug policy agreement was broken. That's a game-ending scenario and why Braun's positive drug test was overturned.

Maybe he can continue all the way to Cooperstown and say for the rest of a long and glorious career in Milwaukee that he was always clean, and that somehow the whole thing was a huge mistake.

Which Braun will probably do...assuming he doesn't test positive again and this drug test isn't overturned upon appeal.

Maybe it was.

Maybe. What we do now is the arbitration panel is serious about holding MLB to the drug policy the way it is laid out.

But you know what, however you weigh in on this? Floyd Landis probably wishes he could have found a legal loophole like this through which to ride his bike.

I don't know what Floyd Landis has to do with this. Also, this wasn't a legal loophole. The chain of custody was a part of the drug testing agreement between MLB and the player's union. The chain of custody is a part of the process. Missing a part of the process for drug testing is not a legal loophole.

Or found himself an arbitrator like Das.

I don't think I am reading too much into this, but it seems Lupica is hinting, yet again, that Das somehow was on Braun's side in this case. Sort of saying Das was on Braun's side from the get-go is a really wimpy thing to do. If Lupica has something he wants to say, then he should just fucking say it. If what he wants to say doesn't have any evidence, then he should shut the hell up about it. Either way, to suggest Bud Selig or one of the arbitrators was on Braun's side from the beginning is irresponsible. Of course, that's Mike Lupica for you.


Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with you on this - the sample was still sealed with Braun's signature. I think this is more like an "acquittal" when key evidence is thrown out of court because of an invalid search. Unless you are arguing that somebody tainted his sample with synthetic testosterone, a Pretty big stretch to me, it seems like Braun used PEDs. I agree that his suspension should be overturned, but put him in the same category as Sosa (allegedly tested positive in '03) rather than Bagwell, whose suspicion seems to have no solid evidence.

rich said...

There can only be an acquittal if he's found not guilty. This is more like a mistrial where you can't say if he's innocent or not.

The fact is that with the first sample invalidated, then there is no second "trial" since there is no second sample (which is a glaring oversight on MLB's part).

So there's no acquittal, the ruling was just overturned.

Anon, the issue with putting Sosa and Bagwell in different categories is that you say "allegedly" tested positive. If he's "allegedly" tested positive, then there's no solid evidence that he did PEDs otherwise he would have factually tested positive.

Semantics, yes, but in terms of the issue of PEDs vs. no PEDs, then you have to say "well he allegedly did them" is just as strong an argument as "I think he took them."

one that no one ever suggested had been tampered with, didn’t make the last FedEx shipment on a weekend, didn’t go out until Monday morning.

This is the biggest issue with Lupica and similar thoughts. Was the sample tampered with? Probably not, but if it says "sent out for delivery by day x" then it needs to be in the mail by day x.

What happens if you can't get to the post office on Saturday and your rent check is late? Do you get to go "well I clearly intended to mail it"?

There's a reason that the procedure was put on paper and to deviate from that in any way goes against what the players agreed to in the CBA. It's the same everywhere and I'd bet that any of us would point to improper evidence handling to avoid a punishment.

That said, logically, Braun's lawyers would go after the easiest to win argument. This is the easiest, can't debate that it happened point that gets Braun off. So there may have been other arguments, but we never heard them because they weren't needed.

It's like if you get pulled over for speeding by a cop who was in a different state. Your lawyer isn't going to spend time arguing that you, in fact, weren't speeding. They'd say "the cop wasn't in the state, so how could my client have been cited for speeding by him."

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, I'm not arguing the sample was tainted in any way. I don't believe the sample was messed with in any fashion. As I said in the post, this doesn't mean Braun is innocent and he still has to explain how his testosterone got to such high levels.

I think key evidence thrown out b/c of an invalid search would fit what I think here. That's about right.

I'm more arguing that baseball's drug testing system works because the conclusion that was reached was based upon the steps MLB and the union had chosen as the procedure for drug testing players. Mike Lupica has no room to make baseless accusations b/c the system worked. We may not like the conclusion, but the procedure wasn't followed and his suspension should be overturned in result.

I would put Braun in the category of Sosa, but Sosa also played with a corked bat, which was proven. So I think I would put Braun in between Bagwell and Sosa. I didn't mean to implicate Bagwell with any type of PED use.

I think it is a huge travesty his HoF candidacy has been dismissed by some ppl b/c of poor reasoning that Bagwell doesn't deserve the HoF on the merits of his numbers (see my Jon Heyman HoF ballot for an example). In fact, Bagwell is suspected and convicted of steroid use by these HoF voters with no proof at all. So maybe Braun shouldn't be in that category, you are right about that.

I think Braun used PEDs, but I also won't judge him based on my suspicion or hold this against him. I think he got away with it this time, but to me he's clean b/c the chain of custody was broken. I won't ever argue the sample was tainted though.

Rich, I thought we had more than suspicion Sosa tested positive?


I know it is just a report, but I thought we had found many of the leaks around that time to be accurate? Maybe I am misremembering.

That's (what you said a/b the sample and chain of custody) why I can't believe Lupica is saying there is a conspiracy to get Braun off for this. It's irresponsible. The procedure said "mail it by Day X" and if it isn't done by that date then the procedure wasn't followed. It makes me feel good to know the drug policy is being followed and even the smallest of missteps will be taken seriously.

Mike Lupica is trying to use the fact Braun didn't argue a/b a tainted sample as proof he was guilty. While this could be true, the issue was the chain of custody was broken. The sooner he realizes this, the sooner he can stop accusing an arbitrator of being involved with a conspiracy.