The Monday Takeaway
Hitting three home runs in a game played at Petco Park is like acing three final exams after a night of heavy drinking. It can’t be done—unless you are Ryan Braun, that is.
The Brewers left fielder began his Monday evening with an inauspicious fly out to center in the first inning before going to work in the top of the fourth. First came this solo shot to the sandbox in right-center field, a place very few hitters are strong enough to reach at Petco. An inning later, Braun checked the Western Metal Supply Co. warehouse off his list of targets with a two-run blast. And in the seventh, Ernesto Frieri made the mistake of hanging a curveball to Braun, who deposited it just over the fence in left to complete the trifecta.
Boston's start to the season looks strangely familiar, and Yumania takes the spotlight tonight.
The Weekend Takeaway
Red Sox fans watched the 2011 season come to a close while singing a certain Green Day song, as their team suffered a historic collapse. Well, the calendar says April now, but after a weekend sweep at the hands of the Tigers, it’s as though September never ended.
Detroit walked off with a 3-2 win on Friday, routed Boston 10-0 on Saturday, and finally inflicted the deathblow on Sunday. A 10-7 Red Sox lead in the ninth inning went “poof!” with Miguel Cabrera’s three-run homer off interim closer Alfredo Aceves. A 12-10 Red Sox edge in the 11th inning turned into a 13-12 Tigers victory when Alex Avila deposited a pitch from Mark Melancon over the right-field wall.
Comics come to BP, as Indy tries to track down a lost sample containing testosterone levels high enough to upset the balance of power in baseball.
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Although he’s been exiled to Wisconsin, Jim Gardner continues to follow the Los Angeles Angels just as rabidly as he did while growing up in the shadows of Angels Stadium. Since joining the staff atHalos Heavenin 2008, Jim has spent his time blogging about the boys in red while creating the occasional "A Day at the Park" comic under the screen name "WiHaloFan." When he’s not doing something Angels-centric, he can be found in his backyard chasing away deer and cursing at the snow.
Let’s just cut to the chase and say, “We don’t know.” Of course, we’re talking about Ryan Braun’s PED case, which saw his 50-game suspension overturned this past week. There are just too many questions still unanswered, many of which may never be fully known. What we do know is there are two issues in the Braun case that are in direct conflict with each other: Braun tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone, and the manner in which Braun’s test specimen was handled was deemed to break the chain of custody protocol within baseball’s drug agreement. You can argue that Braun’s comments come into play as well, but at the heart of it, the matter is about a positive PED test and the manner in which the specimen that showed that Braun’s testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio was over the threshold for a positive test was handled improperly. That’s it.
Confidentiality was always an important part of the joint drug agreement, but enforcement hasn't always been up to snuff.
When the Major League Baseball Players' Association agreed in 2003 to a "survey" round of drug testing in order to gage how widespread the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs was, they did so with the assurances that the tests and the results would remain confidential. It was a good-faith effort on the players' part to show their openness to battling the steroid problem everyone (namely Congress) felt was ruining baseball.
The samples provided by the players were to remain coded, with a key to that code kept separate and away from the specimens (one in Long Beach and one in Las Vegas). Eventually, the two pieces were to be destroyed. Before that could be done, however, the specimens and the list were subpoenaed and seized by the U.S. Attorney's office. Players were upset. Not only had their confidence been betrayed, but the evidence hadn't been destroyed in the agreed-upon time frame, and now the players themselves could potentially be subpoenaed and compelled to speak to prosecutors.
Ryan Braun won't have to serve a suspension, but has he been served with something more difficult to deal with?
Ken Rosenthal called the reversal of Ryan Braun’s performance-enhancing drug suspension on Thursday “a triumph of due process.” Jeff Passan called it a “blow to Selig’s testing program.” It could be both, but what happened on December 12 made those two interpretations mutually exclusive.
Whether Braun was exonerated only because of an error by the test collector, or his lawyers simply found the technicality an easier case to argue, is irrelevant. Whether Major League Baseball agrees or—as its response by executive vice president for labor relations Rob Manfred stated—“vehemently disagrees” with the arbitrator’s decision does not matter, either.
Due process is a wonderful thing, even if the outcomes are sometimes a little hard to figure. Just ask Joe Jackson.
We have yet to hear much more about the rationale behind the Ryan Braun decision except rumors about irregularities in the handling of his urine sample, but if it is indeed the case that he was let off the hook because the chain of evidence was broken, his acquittal is a triumph for due process. Sorry, Baseball, but your minions screwed up, and therefore you did as well.
Our Constitution is an amazing living document that stretches and evolves with the times, surviving generations of politicians and Supreme Court justices who life to play taffy pull with its brittle old pages. As a result, sometimes we get a Constitution that’s very expansive in its grant of rights and at other times it’s a bit stingy. For a long time, due process was more about corporations than individuals—the Supreme Court spent decades saying you couldn’t have labor laws because they inhibited the free market, and any law that does that is messing with the right of due process.
The 1919 Black Sox had their case fall squarely during the period of time when due process was more concerned with protecting employers from labor than vice-versa. Had the case happened roughly 20 years later, Joe Jackson and friends might have kept on playing. In some cases (Jackson, Buck Weaver) that might have been a better outcome than what actually happened, whereas in others (Chick Gandil), the result would have been the continuance on the field of some players who were clearly guilty. Still, to the extent that “the verdict of juries,” as Commissioner Landis put it, is one of the keystone of our rights, the Sox clearly got a raw deal.
On Tuesday, Roenicke confirmed that he intends to have right fielder Corey Hart work out at first base this spring. If Hart is capable of handling occasional starts at Fielder’s old position, his newfound versatility would allow Roenicke to tweak the lineup from day to day, optimizing matchups both offensively and in the field.
Now that the regular season has wrapped up, here's a look at who BP staffers think should win the major awards.
Today we reveal the Baseball Prospectus staff choices for the major player awards (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year) in the American and National Leagues. Each staff member's predictions may be found later in the article. Here, we present a wisdom-of-the-crowds summary of the results.
For the MVP voting, we've slightly amended the traditional points system in place that has been used elsewhere, dropping fourth- and fifth-place votes to make it 10-7-5 for the MVP Award, and the regular 5-3-1 for the Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year Awards (that's 5 points for a first-place vote, 3 points for a second-place vote, etc.). Next to each of these selections we've listed the total number of ballots, followed by the total number of points, and then the number of first-place votes in parentheses, if any were received.
With All-Star selection around the corner, the BP staff fills out their ballots for who deserves to start in the Midsummer Classic.
It’s July, and that means another All-Star Game, one which—we might as well get this out of the way now—won’t be as exciting as those wonderful old All-Star Games when important things happened, like Ted Williams breaking his elbow and Dizzy Dean breaking a toe (Williams said he was never the same hitter; Dean destroyed his arm with altered mechanics) and Ray Fosse getting run over because damn it, Pete Rose just had to win an exhibition game.
(It is at times like these that I like to recall Mickey Mantle’s immortal words on the subject of Rose: “If I had played my career hitting singles like Pete, I’d wear a dress.”)