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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.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.

Report: The new collective bargaining agreement reduces players’ meal money

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.

Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.

Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.

EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.