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?