Braun news threatens to overshadow Sands’ Carlos Perez story

Ryan Braun won the appeal of his drug suspension. I’ll let the reaction of Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra stand in for mine.

In almost all cases, the people who say that someone “got off on a technicality” or took advantage of a “loophole” really mean “I think the SOB was guilty and because of that I don’t care if the proper safeguards and protocols were followed!”  It’s a ridiculous stance.

Ridiculous because procedures such as chain of custody and the proper handling of samples — which were not followed in Braun’s case — exist for a reason. That reason is not, contrary to popular grunting, to make it harder for decent prosecutors or authorities to do their jobs. It’s to ensure the integrity of the system. And, in this case, the integrity of the sample. Every detail that is not adhered to presents another opportunity for a sample to be tainted, lost or otherwise compromised. When that happens the test itself is, by definition, unreliable and any reference to what it may or may not have shown is utterly beside the point. …

There’s more in Calcaterra’s post, one I urge you to read in its entirety. Between this chain-of-custody failure and the missing staple that was key to the McCourt divorce case, baseball appears to be ripping off Law and Order plot devices.

I’d like to think this will end the talk that there should be a re-vote of the National League Most Valuable Player award, but perhaps that’s still too optimistic.

* * *

Jerry Sands provided a lot of good copy for Dodger beat writers today, as these stories from Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A and Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com show.

The bulk of it consisted of fun anecdotes about Sands working as a substitute teacher over the winter, but my favorite part was this, from Stephen:

… Sands got married on November 19, then spent a month in the Dominican Republic, hitting .250/.325/.375 in 20 games with the Tigres de Licey in winter league ball, where he was teammates with 40-year old former Dodgers pitcher and water cooler destroyer Carlos Perez.

Sands said Perez was in something like his 20th year in the Dominican Winter League, and joked that management said of the pitcher, “We keep telling him not to come back, but every year he keeps showing up in the clubhouse.” …

* * *

The Dodgers had a few roster moves today.

They claimed 26-year-old outfielder Matt Angle off waivers from Baltimore. Angle had a .599 OPS in 95 plate appearances for the Orioles in 2011 and a .692 OPS in Triple-A, his skills mainly being incredible basestealing ability (38 for 42 at the two levels combined) and defense. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness has more on Angle, who is on the 40-man roster but will begin the season in the minors.

Rubby De La Rosa was placed on the 60-day disabled list to make room for Angle.

Also, righty reliever Jose Ascanio failed his physical and won’t participate in Spring Training for the Dodgers. has left Dodger camp after failing his physical on Tuesday. From the Dodger Thoughts 2012 Spring Training Primer:

The 26-year-old allowed five runs on 12 baserunners in 6 1/3 innings for Pittsburgh last year and has a career 5.28 ERA in 46 MLB innings. However, he did strike out 50 in 44 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis in his first significant action since recovering from late-2009 shoulder surgery. So he sounds qualified for an Albuquerque stint.

* * *

  • Arizona offered Hiroki Kuroda $13 million for 2012, $3 million more than the contract he signed with the Yankees, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
  • Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven posted a bevy of vintage Dodger photos available at Legendary Auctions.
  • EAS Sports Nutrition has a contest that will provide the winner and a friend airfare to Phoenix, hotel, rental car and tickets for two Spring Training games over the March 16-18 weekend.
  • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

    I am happy for Braun, though it is unfortunate that it all comes down to a chain of custody argument. I agree it deserves to be thrown out on those grounds, but we’ll never know if he would have failed the test regardless. Anyways Matty ended the “NL MVP Re-vote” talk this week himself. Even before Braun’s successful appeal he wanted nothing to do with an award that wasn’t given to him in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    One of the most surprising results in a Dodgers game I attended in this person was this game from 2000 when Carlos Perez got the win over Greg Maddux.
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/LAN/LAN200005030.shtml 

    • Anonymous

      I had forgotten that Bonilla spent time with the Braves.

  • Anonymous

    I completely disagree with Craig’s post.  As an attorney, I’m very sensitive to chain of custody issues, and if this were a sample in a murder case then of course the evidence would have to be thrown out.  But that says nothing about a criminal defendant’s innocence, and it says nothing about Braun’s innocence- it is, in fact, a technicality.  There was no degradation in the sample, and there is no explanation why synthetic testosterone would have appeared in the sample simply because it was being held in some guy’s refrigerator instead of being held at a FedexOffice.  I’m fine with the 50 game ban being lifted, but let’s not mistake that as confirmation that he was innocent.  The only thing this proves is that MLB is incompetant.

    • Anonymous

      Amen

      • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

         Package, regarding your comment in the last thread that this was fixed, is it your contention that Bud Selig influenced the independent arbitrator to rule against MLB, or that Bud Selig caused the person who handled the sample to mess up? How do you think the fix was done?

        • Anonymous

          Yes, I think the arbitrator was influenced but only after the panel was installed as Bud knew from the start he did not want Braun found guilty.  He just installed the panel to take the heat off him.  Then he comes out with a statement that MLB disagrees with the findings.  This is just my feeling.  Doesn’t it seem strange to you that this is the first case overturned?  As far as how it was done, when you are the commish, you can get it done.

          • Jon Weisman

            He didn’t install the panel to take the heat off him. The panel, which is one MlB rep, one MLBPA rep and the independent arbitrator, is an established part of the appeal procedure. The outcome is not strange at all to me and certainly not as strange as the notion of all these people conspiring in a cover-up.

          • Anonymous

            OK, you can explain it all away if you want but I might have been born at  night but not last night.  It looks exactly like distancing yourself without distancing yourself. Braun used drugs.  No one tampered with the sample.

          • Chad Moriyama

            It’s actually not the first case overturned. It’s the first case overturned that has been made public.

        • Anonymous

          Jon said Package. (Bevis + Butthead laughter)

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

       Why do you think it’s okay for the agreed-upon procedures to be violated? Who are you to say that the sample was not affected?

      You seem to have missed the point of Craig’s post somehow.  It’s not that there’s confirmation that he was innocent. As Craig says, we don’t know.  But it is reason enough not to suspend a player. There’s doubt.  With millions of dollars and a reputation at stake for the accused, it’s up to the MLB testing program to be careful, top to bottom.  They blew it, they lose.

      • Anonymous

        Jon, with all due respect, I think you seem to have missed the point of my post as well.  I’m not saying it’s ok that the procedures were violated, and I said that I’m fine (and to clarify, I agree!) with the ban being lifted.  I just think it’s funny that you think he didn’t get off on a technicality, albeit an important technicality.  He did.  As for me saying that the sample wasn’t affected, I suppose in some insane situation some person could have broken into this collector’s house, raided his fridge for beer and blood samples, and laced Braun’s sample with testosterone.  But let’s be real here.  He’s still a cheater in my eyes, and I find it offensive that Craig thinks that’s “ridiculous.”

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

           OK, I see better where you’re coming from, although I think the point is, as exaggerated as your scenario is concerning what might have happened – well, that’s the possibility you have to acknowledge – just as before we were forced to acknowledge the seemingly remote possibility that Braun could pass 25+ tests but fail one at the oddest time.

          • Anonymous

            The US puts more people in prison than any other country and so it would seem we like to find reasons to incarcerate more than we like to find more of a win win solution.  

            I would love to know if Braun was systematically taking performance enhancement drugs or just rubbed a steroid on a bruised muscle after completing a grueling season, to be ready for the playoffs.

            Sometimes it takes a technicality to get a win win outcome instead of a reasonable explanation or whatever it is that I am looking for and can’t figure out how to say it without thinking about more.   

      • Anonymous

        and just one more thing…I do believe this is the first time I’ve ever disagreed with anything you’ve written in over 3 years!  this is going in my calendar.  please keep up the great work!

        • Jon Weisman

          LOL – thanks.

    • http://twitter.com/ChadMoriyama Chad Moriyama

      The only way to actually beat the suspension is a technicality, so I’m not seeing the point.

      If the burden of proof is that the accused has to show he’s not guilty (which he did) and THEN prove he’s innocent on top of that, it’s an impossible standard, which is exactly why it’s not imposed here or in criminal court.

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    Well at least Hiroki did us a solid [did I really say "did us a solid"? Eek] and bypassed signing with a division rival. I’m honestly not being flip here but I also wondered if his bad memories of the AZ ballpark factored in to his decision? Or he just wanted to try playing in NY, which is (no offense to Phoenix) a more interesting place. 

    (PS: Jon, teeny tiny thing but the MSTI link is broken….   I found it via his twitter feed though. Good to get the angle on Angle.)

    • Anonymous

      Hmm, on the one hand, I could be pitching for the most storied franchise in all of baseball and spending the summer in one of the greatest cities in the world.  Or on the other hand, I could be in Phoenix in July and August.  Tough choice. 

      • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

        Yep.  

        Of course the Dbacks have a stadium that they can close up during heatwaves, so I doubt that was as much an issue. Plus hitters aren’t as fierce in the NL West (or NL in general). Plus AZ is closer to Japan. That said, yes, I am sure he went, as I said, with the far more interesting place. Giving it a go since it’s only 1 season.

      • Anonymous

        Summer in New York?  No thanks.  Winter in NY?  No thanks.

        • Anonymous

          Compared to summer in AZ, the months of April through October in NY are lovely. You don’t have to spend the winter there.  

          And sure, Chase Field is air-conditioned, but players only spend six hours a day there.   

  • Anonymous

     I’m certainly willing to give Braun more than benefit of the doubt – the procedures are there for a reason. Compared with Bonds, convicted of a felony on a steroids-related issue, I would cut no such slack; compared with him, Manny’s case is ambiguous, to say the least.

  • Anonymous

    I guess I’m with Jon (and Craig) on the importance of the technicality.  Timocaba is surely correct that this does not prove Braun’s innocence.  Indeed, since there’s probably a non-zero chance of a false negative in a test as well as a false positive, frankly nothing at all could categorically “prove” innocence.  Lucky for him and all of us, the burden of proof is on the other side.

    But the “technicalities” are not just there to make the process seem fair and transparent.  They also matter because, presumably, a violation of the chain of custody could allow for a tainting of the sample.  If the rules were just there for appearances, and we could know for sure that the sample was untainted even though it spent some time in the wrong fridge (if, for example, there were an unbroken seal still intact, such that the technical violation could be judged “no harm, no foul,” that’d be one thing, and I’d lean more toward timocaba’s point of view.  But since there’s no way to know if the sample was tampered with, but the rule violation made it possible, then I think the evidentiary value of the sample is now zero.  Not just legally, but logically.

    That said, I’m feeling package206 here too.  My first reaction when the news came down was not to believe the news was accurate (because I would never have suspected Braun, but we all know how valuable that sort of judgment is).  My second was that there was no way the newly crowned (and never suspected) MVP was going down for this.  Either he’s truly innocent or it will become impossible to prove him guilty for one reason or another.  I still believe Braun was innocent.  But I’m not sure it ever mattered.

  • Anonymous

    For some reason the words “If it doesn’t fit you must acquit” echo in my mind. Sadly, there are many guilty people on the streets (and now apparently baseball fields) today who got off on a “technicality.” Oh well – time to move on.

  • Anonymous

    This whole thing started because Selig even let this guy purchase the club… McCourt is just being McCourt…

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Why did MLB case vs. Braun fall apart?
    http://on-msn.com/wnHS8B
     

    • Anonymous

      Interesting. I wonder why the collector (Is that the proper term?) didn’t take another sample on Monday, explaining to the player and, presumably his agent, what had happened? That said, I’m sure there’s some rule in the CBA about taking one sample per X number of days. 

      • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

         I don’t think taking another sample two days later is a solution.

        • Anonymous

          I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know if illegal substances of that ilk are cleaned out of the system that quickly.

          • Anonymous

            Either way, I don’t care enough about this to get sucked in. It’s such a non-issue, because while I don’t believe there was a conspiracy here, it’s another example………….. Grrrrr, I’m about to break a rule. I don’t want to start the season that way.

        • Anonymous

          Further, I think one of the most damning statements came from USADA CEO Travis Tygart, quoted in the story at Hardball Talk, that what the collector did was commonplace. 

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Was there really a violation of chain of custody protocol in Ryan Braun’s PED case?
    http://bit.ly/zhTW4A
     

    • Anonymous

      Ah ha, the plot thickens!

      • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

        Some of the comments on that thread are worth reading.

        • Anonymous

          Yes, quite lively.

    • Chad Moriyama

      If we believe Will Carroll it’s about to get interesting.

  • Andrew Shimmin

    There’s another variable here, though. How difficult would it be to frame Braun? If I remember (not a good bet), Braun’s epitestosterone to testosterone ratio was relatively close to normal, though over the line of suspicion. Presumably, one could make a sample dirty just be adding the artificial hormone to the sample, but I don’t know that–that there’s no metabolization required. Also, though, I would expect the amount one would need to add to a tiny blood sample, in order not to make the test come out fantastically out of whack, would have to be very small. I don’t know how small, though, whether it would be practicable without special equipment.

    Did any of you lot take a biochem class?

    Chain of custody (as is each of the rest of the rules of evidence) is important. I have no quarrel with Braun’s exoneration, but the actual math on the likelihood of his having juiced (intentionally or not; another probabilistic mine field, given the metric tons of horsefeather supplements, of which, quality control is not an obvious hallmark, pro ballplayers take) is still incomplete. For people who didn’t take biochem, at least.

    • Anonymous

      I guess I did take biochem; I take your point & tampering the sample seems to be very improbable! The motive is also inexplicable – barring a crazy plot by fans of Matt Kemp or haters of baseball players. 

      Maybe saying handling altered other factors that influence the outcome is also unlikely.That said, I don’t think tampering the sample is impossible or even that hard, if you’ve taken biochem. There seemed to be a lot of missing samples and very very shoddy handling and chain of custody in some of the Lance Armstrong accusations. In those cases, I do consider the people controlling the samples to have both the means and the motive to alter the samples or the test results. In that case, the only protection for someone is the chain of custody & the rules, as we all agree.Handling failure it a technicality, sure. And I acknowledge you understand its importance. However, not aiming it at you, I want to take the opportunity to say people in this business (testing) need to learn their business the way I have to learn mine and follow procedure.

  • Andrew Shimmin

    Also, after following Jon’s link, I now realize I’m glad that my job doesn’t, under any circumstances, require that I store somebody else’s urine in my refrigerator. Never considered that before.

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    Fie upon you, EAS. “excluding Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and all
    other U.S. territories.” I went to the trouble of registering only to see that phrase in the rules after the fact.

  • Andrew Shimmin

    One thing that gets me: but for the laws against being a drug dealer, Braun’s (if he has one) would have sold his story to the Enquirer, by now.

  • http://twitter.com/Derek_TC Derek TC

    Somebody needs to find Dr. Drew ASAP so we can get to the bottom of this.

  • Anonymous

    Jon, I’m disappointed to see you referencing the frequently sardonic Calcatetra. I have no use for such dour tone in my baseball readings. Your interest in his writing probably means I’m not long for your writing, I’m afraid. I’ve found that fans of tone like Calcaterra’s share that trait.

    One parting point, though. ESPN’s coverage of the Braun chain of command story noted experts stating that it was an impossibility for that synthetic substance to “appear” in that sample, and since the seal on it was undisturbed, there’s no logic for concluding as steadfastly as you and Craig have about anyone thinking differently from you guys as being “ridiculous”.

    BTW – Is no one seeing this as an MLB concoction to save face and avoid a PR disaster? I smell conspiracy!

    • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

      No offense, but why do you keep returning to comment a blog you keep threatening to leave? If all baseball blogs are too dour in tone for you, why not start one of your own?   By the way, only tangential but this reminds me of something… As a screenwriter yourself, I’m sure you’ll remember the advice I think Richard Walter gave in one of his screenwriting books, “No one wants to see a movie called ‘Village of the Happy Nice People.’ They want to see a movie called ‘Village of the Damned.’” ;)    At any rate, there’s plenty in Jon’s writing over the course of the season that is cheerful and up, when the situation calls for it. 

      • Anonymous

        I think I keep returning, keep replying, out of a desire to like Jon’s blog. I read him a few times over at ESPN and liked what I read. But the reason I sought him out here was to replace the undesirable tone of the Rob Neyer/SB Nation and Craig Calcaterra/Hard Ball times slash NBC Hardball Talk blogs.

        I’ll stick with Jon a bit longer here, giving him time to grow on me. Hopefully…

  • Anonymous

    So much for coming up with my blog written in the style of H.L. Mencken.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Hitchcock/1676059435 Jim Hitchcock

    Link,
    Got my tickets for Camelback. How do I get to your email on your site agan?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Pruett/1707390003 Terry Pruett

    In terms of the entire testing program, there was a lot more wrong with it than chain of custody issues. The secrecy and the privacy of the process has been shattered. So…from the 40,000 foot view, I’m glad the case turned out this way, in order that the entire program can be spotlighted and either fixed or discarded. By the letter of the law, by principles held sacred by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Braun is innocent until proven guilty. HOWEVER…none of this changes the fact that he had a massive portion of synthetic testosterone in his test, and that there is only one way this can get there. To insist that Braun is completely exonerated, and that in the public mind he should be viewed as a pure paragon of virtue, is naive at best and pure BS at worst. The bottom line is that Braun HAS been damaged in the court of public opinion, and he will now be viewed with a jaundiced eye. And…there’s absolutely positively NOTHING wrong with that.

    • Anonymous

      And yet I can buy a Brian Cushing jersey for $70. 

      • Anonymous

        That’s basically what it comes down to.  The only people who care when football players get caught using steroids are their fantasy owners.  But in baseball, you might as well have eaten a baby on national TV (and a cute baby at that).  We care about what we care about.  We’ve had this discussion before, but I maintain that juicing is not something I care about as a fan of the game. 

    • Anonymous

      As our court system as proven time and time again, there is a big difference between being not guilty and not having committed the offense.

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    Good article on Dodger trainer Stan Conte, on ESPN.  Have to give him credit at least for admitting that he blew the Schmidt situation and has wanted to use that mistake to learn from and improve. 
    http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/7603159/dodgers-injury-guru-stan-conte-wants-end-dl-espn-magazine

    I do wish the Dodgers eventually find someone who is more state of the art though, someone like Luke Richesson:
    http://www.itsalloverfatman.com/broncos/entry/training-with-luke-richesson

  • Anonymous

    I heard on ESPN this morning that there are steroids that cannot be detected in a urine test after about 48 hours and that is why they test on weekends rather than just when FedEx is open.  If they only tested on weekdays you could take something on Friday night and know that by Monday afternoon at the ballpark you would test clean.  But if they test 7 days a week, as they do, and they have to use Fedex which closes for the weekend on Friday evening or Saturday at noon that means the testers have been storing samples somewhere until Monday since this all began.  I wonder if every player who tested positive on a weekend test is not going to appeal their suspensions.  I think they need some new procedures.

    • KT

      Good point We (UPS) also close @ 1400 on Saturdays and not open on Sundays but we have Saturday deliveries and everything moves over the weekend… So Maybe MLB should shift to us because of the extra 2 hours :<)

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT