Buster Olney posed an interesting question on Twitter and then in his column this morning:
If Ryan Braun is suspended for his positive drug test, will writers never again consider Braun for any award during his playing career? In other words, if he’s suspended 50 games this year, then passes all subsequent tests and hits 60 homers in 2015, would they leave him off their MVP ballot because of what transpired in 2011/2012?
To be clear: Olney has come out staunchly against the BBWAA reconsidering Braun’s award and is on record opposed to Hall of Fame voters turning themselves into the morality police. So in this I take that Olney would be decidedly against anyone treating Braun differently in the future for awards purposes.
But would they do such a thing?
My gut on this is no, Braun would not face some sort of defacto discipline from awards voters as a result of what looks like it will be a 50-game drug suspension in 2012. The biggest reason: the different voting pools for the Hall of Fame and the postseason awards.
Awards voters are active, working baseball writers. Primarily beat reporters who skew younger, smarter and more open-minded than the Hall of Fame electorate as a whole. As I’ve said before, I wish these men and women had the Hall of Fame vote to themselves too, but alas they don’t. Maybe I’m wrong about that. The awards electorate does not strike me as a body that would mete out some sort of moralistic justice against Braun. If he put up another MVP-worthy season I presume, absent any future PED questions, he’d get his plaque just like he did this year.
Bonus Braun stuff: There have been rumors floating around about what may have caused Braun’s positive test. It has been said by some that got a false-positive caused by a treatment he’s receiving for a “private medical issue.” A rumor has started to spread about what the private medical issue is. I don’t like to get into fanning the flames on such rumors, but if there is some scientific or medical fact that we can throw into the mix to at least make such rumors more informed, that can’t be a bad thing.
To that end, I direct you to a blog post by long, long long-time reader Paul Sax — who is a doctor and who is the Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital — in which he talks about what could have led to Braun’s positive test and what it means for those rumors that are floating around. Upshot: if the rumors are right, Braun has a right to be pretty mad at his doctor.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.