Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
In early December of 2011, it was leaked that the National League's Most Valuable Player, Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, had tested positive for a performance enhancing substance. His urine sample, according to "unnamed sources", showed an unusually high level of testosterone, which is generally associated with the use of anabolic steroids or some other supplement. Such supplements are banned for use by Major League Baseball. Major League Baseball tests players regularly to ensure that these substances are not being used.
Ryan Braun appealed the suspension. At the time, this is what Braun said of the test result: "It's B.S."
At the time, a spokesman for Braun said, "There are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan's complete innocence and demonstrate there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program."
At the time, Major League Baseball sought results from a secondary source, the World Anti-Doping Agency. They tested the sample and confirmed the original test results. Furthermore, they concluded that the testosterone was synthetic. Whatever was in that sample was not naturally produced.
The penalty for first-time violators of the drug policy is a 50-game suspension.
Major League Baseball is an organization, they have a Commissioner in charge with plenty of executives and a healthy support staff. They franchise teams and the owners of those franchises - who have paid a fee for the privilege - vote on most aspects of how MLB is run. MLB is tightly controlled, and not subject to federal antitrust laws, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1922, something about interstate commerce. Imagine that. Some 90 years ago, because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Major League Baseball is not interstate commerce, MLB has the right and the privilege to be a coercive monopoly.
It means that Major League Baseball is the only game in town, so to speak.
The current Commissioner of Baseball is Bud Selig. Bud Selig has been the Commissioner of Major League Baseball for 20 years now, at least acting Commissioner. Selig became the Commissioner when he led the ousting of Fay Vincent, who resigned under pressure.
Prior to that, he owned the Milwaukee Brewers. Selig purchased the short-lived Seattle Pilots franchise out of bankruptcy, moved them to Milwaukee, and renamed the franchise after a minor league team that once played there. This left Seattle without a Major League Baseball team. During Selig's ownership of the Brewers, he and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf were involved in collusion, for attempting to control baseball players salaries by urging other owners to limit free agency signings.
It cost MLB owners $280 million dollars.
Prior to owning the Brewers, Selig was a minority owner in the Milwaukee Braves, who eventually moved to Atlanta in order to take advantage of a larger market. The majority owners were from Chicago, and saw a great opportunity in Atlanta. Selig sued. The grounds of the lawsuit involved the fact that in what is generally considered as the modern era of baseball, no team had ever been permitted to relocate to another city unless the city of origin had another team.
Selig failed to keep the Braves in Milwaukee, leaving Milwaukee without a team.
In 1994, two years after Bud Selig became acting Commissioner of Major League Baseball, John Moores purchased the Padres from Tom Werner. In 2009, Moores then agreed to sell the team to an investment group headed up by former agent Jeff Moorad. During Moores' tenure as the Padres owner, he was well-liked in the ownership circle, and became close to Selig, supporting him often. Moores sold the team during a divorce, and allowed the Moorad investment group to make payments until the year 2014.
During the MLB owner's meeting in Scottsdale in January of this year, Moores and Moorad went in with the expectation that final approval would be reached on the deal to sell the Padres to Moorad early. The amount owed to Moores was in escrow (and apparently still is), and both pitched the plan for a vote. The vote was tabled. Why? Reinsdorf. Sure, the reasons given were financial concerns, but Moorad's investment group is worth well over a billion dollars.
Reinsdorf does not like Moorad, going back to when Moorad was a players agent. Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick also has it out for Moorad from Moorad's days as minority owner of the Diamondbacks, but Reinsdorf is a driving force in MLB ownership. There was a very heated discussion, and Reinsdorf with Moores were a part of it. That discussion has yet to be revealed.
Selig runs a tight ship. Votes by ownership concerning issues on anything affecting Major League Baseball are almost always unanimous. This is not by accident, it is a statement. Dissension is not not encouraged, unity sends a clear message.
So later, when the vote came up to extend Bud Selig's contract by two years, the first vote came back 29-1. The dissenting vote? Moores. He wasn't happy. A second vote produced the same exact vote. The final vote, the official one happened days later, by the way.
Friday, the results of Ryan Braun's appeal came down. The appeal is finalized by a panel of three representatives. One representative is from the MLB Player's Association, one is from Major League Baseball, and the other is a neutral arbitrator. The vote was 2-1, in favor of Braun.
The dissenting vote? Major League Baseball - Bud Selig, Commissioner. Some tight ship. First, the results of the test were leaked. Then, the vote wasn't unanimous.
The reason that the impending suspension was overturned? The person responsible for administering the test did so on a Friday afternoon. Rather than to get the samples to Fed-Ex that same day, as is stated in the policy, he instead stored them at his home and sent them off on Monday. Draw your own conclusions about that, but that was why Braun was not penalized.
Instead, he was exonerated. Or perhaps not. The damage to his reputation is complete. Major League Baseball does not believe that he is innocent. And only Braun knows if he is or he isn't.
Braun issued a very long dynamic and convincing statement during a press conference. It had nothing to do with the original statement made last December about absolutely no intentional violation of the program, but instead on Friday called out the exact number of Fed-Ex locations in the area and what time they all closed the day of the test. It was compelling when disconnected from the original December statement.
Braun is owed well over $100 million dollars on a very long-term contract, he will retire with the Brewers, regardless. Selig will likely make over $30 million dollars in the next two years, regardless. Moores will ultimately sell the Padres for far more than what he paid for the team, regardless. What we are left to figure out is who, exactly, is lying to whom?
The game of baseball is wonderful; the business of baseball is the liar's club.
Every spring training player (roster and non-roster invitees) is in camp now except for one player, minor league second baseman Jonathan Galvez. Galvez was tagged for a DNA test to ensure he is who he says he is, now common practice in his native Dominican Republic, as recent incidents have revealed irregularities. Galvez passed the test and is currently awaiting his visa. Galvez is expected in camp shortly.
Position players arrived and mostly got settled in on Friday, so Saturday their training routine will begin in earnest. There will be a solid week of drills before the Cactus League begins. Saturday will mark the first day of real training, and beginning on Sunday, regular instruction will begin. Temperatures in Peoria should play out around 80 degrees. Enjoy the relative cool while you can.
More like this:
- Backroom Politics of Baseball Ownership — March 23, 2012
- Okay, Now Jeff Moorad Steps Down As CEO — March 22, 2012
- Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain — March 10, 2012
- Moorad to Withdraw Application — March 9, 2012
- Will the Real Owner of the Padres Please Stand Up? — March 1, 2012