Braun Wins Appeal While Baseball Loses Invaluable Credibility

By now, I'm sure that everyone has heard the news that Ryan Braun won his appeal of a 50 game suspension yesterday, becoming the first player in MLB history to win such an appeal.  As mentioned in this previous post, Braun hired high-profile defense attorney David Cornwell to represent him through this appeal process.  In these arbitration cases, there are three arbitrators; one appointed by the Players Union (that almost always sides with the players), one appointed by Major League Baseball (almost always sides with the office of Major League Baseball) and an independent arbitrator, agreed upon by the office of Major League Baseball and the Players Union, who is supposed to evaluate the facts and circumstances of the case, inevitably casting the deciding unbiased vote.  Because this case has been such a hot topic of discussion, some of the details concerning the case have been made public, an anomaly in and of itself.  Typically, the results and facts are to be kept private, as agreed upon contractually by the both sides (player's union and the office of MLB) but the magnitude of this decision, levied in favor of the reigning MVP was just too great to keep private.  The independent arbitrator, a man by the name of Shyam Das, who has been MLB's independent arbitrator since 2000, looked at the facts and circumstances surrounding the mishandling of Braun's urine sample and determined that the proper judgment was to rule in favor of the player.  Unless other facts become available, Braun seemingly won his appeal on a technicality (the FedEx center closest to the collector was closed on the Saturday the results were collected, so the collector held the samples at his house for two days, which was construed as improper).  Braun's victory comes at the expense of the credibility of MLB's drug testing program.  I'm happy that Braun has been exonerated because he is a great player and a tremendous person, by all accounts, but his victory has shed serious doubts on baseball's ability to test effectively and that truth is tough to swallow considering how long it has taken baseball to turn the page on an ugly era of steroid and performance enchaning drug use.  The office of major league baseball has made a statement vehemently disagreeing with Das' decision, something they had to do to save face.  What they will do from here remains to be seen

At this point, I don't see how there aren't enough facts and circumstances publicly available to form an opinion in this case.  Just because Braun won his appeal doesn't mean he has to be exonerated in the court of public opinion.  If he was taking something that he shouldn't have been taking, he's still a cheater, regardless whether he's playing the first fifty games of the season.  If the results were mishandled, tainted or falsified, someone needs to be held accountable and a serious investigation needs to occur.  The likelihood that a malicious collusion exists is slim but, at this point, nothing can be ruled out.  If an honest mistake occurred, that is something we all can live with (at the expense of the credibility of the MLB testing program) but I'm not willing to assume anything and I'm still not sure that clears Braun of wrongdoing.

There are three conclusions that one could arrive at.  Three different scenarios with three different parties.  upon where the blame offically rests and without further details it's impossible to make an informed decision.  Here are the possible scenarios that I see and where I feel the blame would rest:

1. Braun took something but won because his urine sample was mishandled - Braun is guilty because he cheated, the handler is guilty because he didn't do his job and major league baseball is guilty because it happened under their guidance
2. Braun did not take anything and the urine sample was tainted - Braun is not guilty, the handler is guilty and major league baseball is guilty. Whoever may have been a part of the coercion is certainly guilty (if there was another party that influenced the tainting of the sampling).

3. Braun took something but won his appeal because of external forces in the appeal process - I'm going to apologize in advance for this one.  I apologize to the Brewers fans for what may seem like a conspiracy theory but as a fan of baseball, it's impossible to overlook the obvious appearance of a potential conflict of interest here.  As an investment advisor, I have had the privilege of working closely with a number of attorneys and one thing that I've learned is that, in many cases, the appearance of a conflict of interest is enough to be found guilty in the court of law.  That is, if a relationship exists that could lend itself to a potential conflict of interest, there is a serious risk to all parties involved (these types of relationships are highly discouraged).  In this case, Selig being an ex-owner of the Brewers... a statue bearing his likeness currently standing outside of Miller Park... likely has some input on whether or not the arbitrator keeps his job (a job which he had kept for 11 years).  The water gets muddier when you consider that many fans believe Selig still has strong influence in Brewers franchise matters.  The scary part about this scenario is that it doesn't need to be completely accurate or true to be detrimental.  The problem here is that this relationship actually exists.  The problem is that this is just one of many situations that could come up (and has come up) where Bud Selig's relationship to the Brewers could be construed as a conflict of interest to his duties as league commissioner.


  1. Really? Wendy Selig-Preibe owns the Brewers? Did we time travel back to 2005? Mark Attanasio is owner of the Brewers and has been for a while now. You need to correct the "facts" in your article.

  2. Error on my part... but it doesn't really change the overwhelming feeling from outside of Milwaukee that Selig may have had some influence on this decision. Like it or not, it's the first reaction of many casual baseball fans.

  3. Selig is still a Milwaukee guy and you can't help but think he had some influence in the decision. What's the old saying about? "if it smells like crap"?


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