What Ryan Braun is up against in his appeal

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We know that Ryan Braun is appealing his positive drug test in an effort to avoid a 50 game suspension. And we know that said appeals almost always fail. In today’s New York Times we learn why. Check out this standard:

Major League Baseball’s drug policy states that a player cannot simply deny that he intentionally used a prohibited substance, but that he “must provide objective evidence in support of his denial” … To that end, Braun’s defense team is in the midst of systematically gathering evidence of everything he ingested in the days leading up to his test before the playoffs began. The team is cataloging the contents of his locker and his medicine cabinet at home, anything provided by his trainers and so on.

This is almost prove-a-negative territory.  You could collect the entire contents of a Costco and say “see, no testosterone here,” and it still wouldn’t cut it.  It seems that to beat the standard, Braun’s team is going to have to attack the testing procedure itself, establishing that someone got their peanut butter in his chocolate. Or find out that, somehow, the Gatorade was spiked.  What are the odds of that? Not very good.

This isn’t a comment on what Ryan Braun did, whether he deserves punishment or anything like that because — even if there are some interesting possibilities here — we just don’t know anything right now.  Such a tough standard is simply what you get when you institute a drug testing regime. The nearly-automatic nature of it is required to make it effective.  Otherwise it’s just an invitation for constant litigation, appeals and what not.

Johnny Cueto expected to opt-out of his deal after the season

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Johnny Cueto signed a six-year $130 million deal with the Giants prior to the 2016 season. In his first season he went 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 219.2 innings, helping lead the Giants to the playoffs. This season has been rocky for Cueto — he’s got a a 4.42 ERA in 15 starts and has battled blisters — but they’ve been far rockier for the Giants overall, as they sit in last place in the NL West and have the second worst record in baseball.

Many suspect that the Giants will either rebuild or, at the very least, restructure some in response to this nightmare year. If so, they’re likely going to be doing it with Cueto, who Jon Heyman reports is going to opt-out of his deal:

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto is planning to opt out of his contract at the end of the year, but he would listen to any extension offer . . . Cueto has $84 million to go over four years. It would probably take an injury or major slump for Cueto not to opt out. But it makes sense that he will.

Heyman says the Giants are not inclined to give him an extension, so expect to see Cueto on the free agent market three days after the World Series ends, which is the deadline for him to exercise his opt-out rights.

The Dodgers are concerned about Julio Urias’ shoulder

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Things are going great for the Dodgers lately. They’ve won seven consecutive games and 13 of their last 14. They lead the National League in wins and are in first place in, arguably, the best division in baseball.

But there are a lot of moving parts on a baseball team, and even when some things are going great, other things can go not-so-great. Like this:

Urias has been diagnosed with shoulder inflammation and shut down indefinitely. An MRI last week showed no structural damage, but his shoulder is still bothering him. He has not pitched in the bigs since late May, when he allowed seven runs in less than three innings against the Miami Marlins. He was sent down after that and went 3-0 with a 3.12 ERA, six walks and 17 strikeouts in 17.1 innings pitched in three starts with Oklahoma City before being shelved.