I was shocked when the news came out last year that Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers' superstar outfielder and National League Most Valuable Player had tested positive for a substance banned by Major League Baseball.
Details were sketchy, probably because the tip came from an anonymous source which the media had no trouble using, despite the fact that such results are supposed to be confidential.
Braun faced a mandatory 50-game suspension, the penalty for such an infraction.
Naturally, Jewish baseball fans were shocked and dismayed. Braun -- along with Ian Kinsler, Kevin Youkilis, and, of late, Ike Davis -- are the corps of some of the best players of any religion in the game today. He never denied that he had taken medication that accounted for the red-light on his test, but he constantly maintained his innocence, claiming (and reiterated in a heartfelt speech when he accepted his MVP award at the Baseball Writers dinner last month), that once all the facts were known, he would be vindicated and his appeal to overturn the suspension would be successful.
Yesterday a three-arbiter committee agreed in a 2-1 ruling.
But wait, yelped many sports and news pundits, who rushed to interpret the decision about as quickly as they had rushed to judgment when the confidential results were leaked in the first place. Braun was not technically declared innocent, they said; rather the appeal was upheld because the sample was improperly handled. (How many times have we seen TV legal procedurals in which cases were thrown out of court on such a technicality?) Were there other factors at play, they pondered? After all, the Brewers had already lost Prince Fielder, their star first-baseman, who escaped to the American League as a free agent, as did future Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols, who abandoned the St. Louis Cardinals, also a member of the NL Central Division. Could that have had any affect on the panel's thought processes?
According to Phil Sheridan on Philly.com, "There are exactly two possibilities here: Either Braun got away with cheating his way to an MVP award because MLB made a mistake with the mechanics of his urine test, or Braun's reputation was tarnished because someone at MLB violated the confidentiality clause that is vital to the testing program."
I'm glad we'll be able to see Braun take the field on Opening Day, but I'm still not 100 percent satisfied. Nor should he be. A person's good name might be his only possession and Braun should want it cleared beyond a shadow of a doubt.
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