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December 12, 2011

The BP First Take

Monday, December 12

by Daniel Rathman

When ESPN's T.J. Quinn and Mark Fainaru-Wada first reported that Ryan Braun had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, the reaction around the baseball world was shock and anger.

His NL MVP award should be taken away. His contract with the Brewers should be voided. The playoffs must be replayed. Even Senator John McCain joined in on Sunday.

Whether you agree or disagree with those opinions, they all constitute an unnecessary rush to judgment. If there's one thing that is clear about Braun's case, it's that the details are still emerging. ESPN's headline still insists that Braun's test was positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Yet, Ken Rosenthal has since learned that the substance Braun was caught using is not a PED. The reality is that we simply don't know yet.

It's easy to judge Braun because no player has yet been publicly cleared of performance-enhancing-drug allegations. It's easy to judge him because he's the sort of player whom, stereotypically, fans would not expect to use steroids. It's easy to judge him because he's the face of a franchise—one that will be increasingly reliant upon him if Prince Fielder leaves in free agency. Most of all, it's easy to judge him because he is the reigning NL MVP. Unfortunately, for all of those same reasons, it's crucial that all the details are revealed before the baseball world reaches its verdict.

If Braun's positive test results are confirmed, then he will be forced to serve his 50-game suspension, to explain himself to Brewers fans, and to hear the boos rain down every time he steps on the field. But that day has not yet come, and plenty of holes have been poked through what Quinn and Fainaru-Wada initially reported as an airtight case.

A week of hot stove talk at the Winter Meetings and of amazement at Albert Pujols' new contract ended with a disappointing story that virtually no one saw coming. The Winter Meetings are supposed to be the most media- and fan-friendly week of the long, arduous offseason. They were and it was—until Saturday evening came along.

No one wants to spend the next two months before spring training decrying a once rising star's free-fall, instead of looking ahead to the new year. So, why do it until we know we have to?

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

7 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Sharky

Nicely put. Agree 100%.

Dec 12, 2011 09:19 AM
rating: 2
 
John Collins
(110)

Braun is not the type stereotypically to use steroids? What is the steroids stereotype? Not trying to be snarky -- had no idea there was one. I thought it might be sluggers, and Braun is a slugger. Or is the stereotype that Latin American players predominate among the violators?

Dec 12, 2011 16:50 PM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

I was talking mostly about body type--kind of what was referenced in articles like this one: http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=ap-braun-positivedrugtest

Dec 12, 2011 19:17 PM
 
KaiserD2

Discussions of steroids and other PEDs in baseball have been very naive even after the testing program was put in place. Steroids have been a huge issue in track and field and other sports for nearly half a century. For the most part the athletes and their doctors have managed to keep one step ahead of the testers most of the time. (BALCO was an aberration--they were too blatant.) The stereotype that steroids always bulk you up was exposed decades ago in track--there are some that strengthen you without bulking you up. The Braun case, as reported, illustrates the huge loophole in the MLB program. A normal testosterone/epitestosterone ratio is 1 to 1. A 3 to 1 ratio is not treated as prima facie evidence of a violation by MLB--you have to have 4 to 1, which Braun reportedly did. A careful doctor and player could use a great deal of synthetic testosterone without ever being caught.

Dec 13, 2011 06:58 AM
rating: 2
 
Jack Thomas

I would think MLB is very embarassed about the leak of a very confidential process.
I agree on waiting for all the facts before pronuncing Braun guilty.

Dec 13, 2011 07:41 AM
rating: 0
 
Lloyd Cole

At this point I believe that the first priority is finding out who leaked this story and then making sure that they experience some negative consequences for that.

Dec 13, 2011 08:32 AM
rating: 0
 
KaiserD2

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=ti-brown_hardball_braun_conte_testosterone_testing_121211

In this link, an authority on performance-enhancing drugs says the same thing I did, in more detail.

Dec 13, 2011 10:31 AM
rating: 0
 
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