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.

The Red Sox start is ridiculous

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The red-hot Red Sox completed a sweep of the previously red-hot Angels last night, outscoring them 27-3 in their three-game series. Last night’s game was, relatively speaking, a close one, with the Sox winning “only” by six runs. They did manage to strike out Shohei Ohtani three times, though, so some style points help make up for the “squeaker.” Also worth noting that they held Mike Trout of all people to a 3-for-11 line in their three-game series. He did not score a single time and drove in no runs.

That series win puts the Sox at 16-2 on the year. They dropped their Opening Day game to the Rays, but then won their next six games against Tampa Bay, which I’d say makes up for it. In between those two series they swept a two-game series from the Marlins and afterwards they took two of three from the Yankees and three in a row from the Orioles. The only thing that even threatened to slow this juggernaut down is the weather, resulting in a postponement of Monday morning’s Patriot’s Day game. Somewhere in here we should notice that they’re doing this with their starting shortstop and starting second baseman on the disabled list.

As we’ve noted many times, their 16-2 record is the best start in the Red Sox’ 118-year history. It’s also the best start for any team since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers began 17-1 (let us just forget, for the time being, that those Brewers lost 18 of 20 in May of that year). They are the fourth team since 1961 to win 16 of its first 18 games.

The Sox aren’t simply getting lucky here. They’ve scored 116 runs and have allowed only 50, which is a Pythagorean record of 15-3. They lead all of baseball in offense, scoring 6.44 runs a game, leading individually in average, on-base percentage and slugging. They are only three one hundredths of a run behind the Astros from leading all of baseball in pitching, allowing only 2.78 runs a game. They’re winning all of these games because, in the early going, they’ve simply been that dang much better than everyone they’ve played.

No, the Sox are not going to go 144-18, as they are currently on pace to do. Yes, they are going to find a lot more trouble in their schedule once they play the Orioles, Rays and Marlins less, play a healthier Yankees team more and face off against the Astros, the Blue Jays, the Indians, the Twins and some tougher interleague opponents. This is baseball, obviously, and no one makes it through a season without rough patches, long, short and numerous.

Still: this has been one whale of a start for Boston. Those wins are in the bank. It’s been quite the thing to see.