MLB Leadership Still Striking Out
Major League Baseball is angry. Its “tough” stance on performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) took another hit the yesterday with the overturning of the 50 game suspension of National League MVP Ryan Braun. In the
recent past, MLB’s record has come under fire with claims that the drug testing has identified players who were either minor role players in the league, former Detroit Tiger Neifi Perez for example or aging over the hill veterans like then Los Angeles Dodger Manny Ramirez who don’t have the skills or the impact on the game that they once had. Here in Milwaukee Brewer Ryan Braun, they had the opportunity to validate their own polices and commitment to eliminating PED’s in baseball and they whiffed.
Major League Baseball executive vice president Rob Manfred issued a statement saying that the league “vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyan Das.” The trouble is that in this case, they don’t have anyone to be upset with except for themselves.
While not all of the details for the overturning of the suspension have been released to this point, one of the major reasons that has been cited is the MLB did not comply with the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in dealing with the sample collected from Ryan Braun. In other words, they broke their own rules and to make matters worse, they didn’t have a snowball’s chance in Southtown of ever complying with the rules in this instance and they should have known so.
The rule that MLB allegedly ran afoul of is one that states that “Absent unusual circumstances, the specimens should be sent by FedEx to the Laboratory on the same day they are collected.” It had been in the CBA the entire season and yet Braun’s specimen wasn’t sent via FedEx until two days after it was collected. As I mentioned before MLB should have known that there was no chance to get the collected specimen shipped out on time from the beginning.
The sample in question was collected on Saturday October 1st after the Milwaukee Brewers playoff game with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The game finished around 5:30pmMilwaukee time so let’s assume that things get done quickly, the representative would have been ready to leaveMillerPark around 6:00pm. A quick check of the FedEx shipment locations aroundMillerPark shows that the latest that anything can be shipped on a Saturday is 5:00pm. Now granted, the location is only about 10 minutes fromMillerPark but even taking that into account, the game would have had to have concluded around 4:15pm for MLB to have any chance of getting the sample shipped out in time. This means around a 2 hour game. It’s not unheard of for games to be this short but in today’s game, it is highly unlikely.
MLB, if they are doing their due diligence should know every bit of information above. There weren’t unusual circumstances like a car broke down delivering the specimen or a sudden blizzard stranded the control officer so he couldn’t deliver the specimen in time. It should have been obvious to MLB from the beginning that with a game starting at around 2:00pm there was no way possible that a post game sample would be able to be shipped via FedEx that day.
In the grand scheme of things does this overturning of Ryan Braun’s suspension mean that he wasn’t using PED’s? No, not really. In fact according to Travis Tygart, the CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which drug tests American athletes in Olympic sports, “synthetic drugs don’t magically appear in urine because it took 48 hours versus 20 minutes to get to the laboratory.” This means that unless someone tampered with the sample, which the testing laboratory says didn’t happen, then the PED was in Ryan Braun’s specimen when it left his body and he is deserving of his 50 game suspension.
What it does show however is that the same leadership that canceled the World Series, allowed the “Summer of Love” with Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa to proceed without any question about PED’s, and a host of other poor decisions through the years, has still doesn’t know how to manage the game or even follow their own rules.