Day: February 23, 2012

Matt Wieters, Adam Jones

Running down the rosters: Baltimore Orioles


After sitting out the chase for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, the Orioles are staring down a fifth straight last-place finish and a seventh consecutive 90-loss season. Such is life in the AL East.

Jason Hammel – R
Zach Britton – L
Jake Arrieta – R
Wei-Yin Chen – L
Tommy Hunter – R

Jim Johnson – R
Matt Lindstrom – R
Kevin Gregg – R
Luis Ayala – R
Tsuyoshi Wada – L
Pedro Strop – R
Alfredo Simon – R

SP next in line: Wada, Dana Eveland (L), Brad Bergesen (R), Brian Matusz (L), Chris Tillman (R), Armando Galarraga (R)
RP next in line: Troy Patton (L), Jason Berken (R), Darren O’Day (R), Willie Eyre (R), Pat Neshek (R), Dennys Reyes (L)

Dan Duquette shook up the pitching staff in his first offseason as Orioles GM, trading the team’s one reliable starter in Jeremy Guthrie for Hammel and Lindstrom and importing two Asian pitchers in Chen and Wada. His moves have given the Orioles a ton of pitching depth; in fact, their second five starting pitchers could go toe-to-toe with some of their starting rotations from the  mid-aughts. Still, whether the quality is there to go with the quantity is the big question. If Britton is healthy, if Chen recovers his stuff, if Matusz returns to 2010 form, if…

Unfortunately, many of the bullpen decisions will come down to option years: Strop, Simon and Patton are all out of options and thus may make the team over more deserving pitchers. The Orioles might end up just releasing Gregg if he fails to impress this spring, opening up a spot for someone like Patton or Berken. They could also put Wada in the rotation and send Hunter to Triple-A.

LF Nolan Reimold – R
SS J.J. Hardy – R
RF Nick Markakis – L
CF Adam Jones – R
C Matt Wieters – S
3B Mark Reynolds – R
DH Wilson Betemit – S
1B Chris Davis – L
2B Robert Andino – R

C Taylor Teagarden – R
INF Matt Antonelli – R
INF Ryan Flaherty – L
OF Endy Chavez – L

Disabled list: Brian Roberts (S)
Next in line: C Ronny Paulino, 1B Nick Johnson (L), 1B Joseph Mahoney (L), 2B Ryan Adams (R), INF Steven Tolleson (R), OF Jai Miller (R), OF Xavier Avery (L)

Obviously, the lineup sets up much, much better if Roberts can pull off a successful return from post-concussion syndrome. If Roberts is out, as most expect, then the Orioles will have to try to cobble together their leadoff situation. I prefer Reimold, but Hardy, Andino, Chavez and Antonelli could also see time there. Markakis actually might be the best option of the bunch. It’s not like he’s been hitting for much power lately anyway.

Power is what the lineup has going for it; besides the second baseman, everyone in the lineup is a candidate to hit 20 homers. That won’t make it an elite offense on its own, but if a couple of guys have career years, the team would be capable of surprising.

Then again, things never seem to break quite right for the Orioles. Since winning 98 games 15 years ago, the franchise has finished under .500 every year. At least the team is younger these days, and while the farm system isn’t exactly awash with prospects, the team’s last two first-round picks (SS Manny Machado and RHP Dylan Bundy) appear very, very promising. With Wieters as a foundation, there is reason to hope the Orioles will be in a better position to compete come 2013 or ’14.

Was there really a violation of chain of custody protocol in Ryan Braun’s PED case?

braun reuters

Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun had his 50-game performance-enhancing drug suspension overturned Thursday after independent arbitrator Shyam Das ruled that there were legitimate chain of custody issues with the urine sample that eventually tested positive for elevated levels of synthetic testosterone.

After a thorough review of the joint drug agreement between Major League Baseball and its Players Association — a document that is conveniently available in PDF form on — I’m not so sure that Das came to the right conclusion.

Braun’s argument during his January appeal in New York City was that the courier who collected his urine made a number of against-protocol moves after leaving the testing area. But were mistakes really made?

  • The courier did not immediately head to a FedEx Office after collecting Braun’s sample following an early-October game because it was late on a Saturday night and he figured the store would be closed. Braun (or, rather, his lawyers) argued in January that the courier’s action was against policy, but the MLB-MLBPA joint drug agreement states that “specimens cannot be placed in a FedEx Drop Box” and the five FedEx Office locations closest to Miller Park are all closed before 9 p.m. on Saturdays. In fact, the location closest to Miller Park — just 3.28 miles away — isn’t open at all on Saturdays.
  • Also, none of the FedEx Office locations in the Milwaukee area ship items out on Sundays. So instead of giving the sealed cup of urine to a FedEx Office employee at some point Sunday and hoping for proper handling, the courier followed the terms of the MLB-MLBPA joint drug agreement (see pages 37-39) by storing Braun’s urine sample in a secure refrigerator at his residence until Monday morning, when FedEx could finally get the shipment to the appropriate testing lab in Montreal.
  • The MLB-MLBPA joint drug agreement fully allows for temporary storage by couriers — people who are trained and paid to handle drug test samples, and do so as a profession — as long as the specimen can be “appropriately safeguarded,” kept in a “cool and secure location,” with “chain of custody intact.” A refrigerator in the private residence of a trained doping officer would seem to fit those guidelines.

So if the courier is allowed to temporarily store samples on his own, and he did so in his own residence, where exactly is the chain of custody issue? And why did Das rule to have the suspension overturned?

Furthermore, consider this series of tweets from Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports:

Passan also notes in his latest column that the courier testified in person at Braun’s January appeal hearing in Manhattan and assured those present that the urine sample was packaged into two tamper-resistant containers with security seals. Both seals were unbroken upon their arrival at the testing lab in Montreal.

Clayton Kershaw on tap for Friday bullpen session

kershaw reuters
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Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw skipped a scheduled bullpen session Wednesday after feeling stiffness in his back following his first spring workout.

As expected, the stiffness is no big deal.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Kershaw will throw that bullpen session on Friday and is expected to have no restrictions going forward related to the mild back ailment.

The 23-year-old left-hander has already been named the Dodgers’ Opening Day starter and will make his first Cactus League appearance on March 9. He posted a dominant 2.28 ERA, 248/54 K/BB ratio and 0.98 WHIP in 233 1/3 innings last season on his way to capturing the 2011 National League Cy Young Award.

Bryan LaHair named Cubs’ cleanup hitter after BSOHL claim

Bryan LaHair

A fitting reward, is it not?

Cubs manager Dale Sveum said today that while he’s still figuring out the rest of his lineup, he’s currently planning to use David DeJesus as a leadoff man and Bryan LaHair in the cleanup spot.

It’s quite a show of faith in LaHair, a 29-year-old who has hit .262/.335/.395 with five homers and 16 RBI in 195 major league at-bats.

Alfonso Soriano was the other candidate to bat fourth for the Cubs. He’ll probably follow LaHair in a lineup that could look like:

RF David DeJesus – L
SS Starlin Castro – R
CF Marlon Byrd – R
1B Bryan LaHair – L
LF Alfonso Soriano – R
C Geovany Soto – R
3B Ian Stewart – L
2B Darwin Barney – R

Alternatively, the Cubs could move Barney up to the two hole and go with Castro third and Byrd fifth. Barney, though, was pretty brutal offensively after a nice April last season. It’s better if he hits eighth.

Ryan Braun got off on a “technicality?” Bull!

ryan braun wide getty

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.

And while that, in this case, may work to Braun’s benefit, in the long run adherence to those procedures is critical to the integrity and efficacy of the drug testing process. And that’s far more important than whatever this means for one man’s drug test.

The response I expect to that is “well, just because procedures weren’t followed doesn’t mean that Braun didn’t take something!”  My response: you’re right.  We don’t know that. And we can’t know that, because the testing program is not nor can it reasonably be expected to be one that decides absolute guilt or absolute innocence.  In this it’s just like the criminal justice system which never determines actual innocence. It determines the lack of guilt. It does this because the burden is on the accuser and not the accused, same as with the drug testing procedure.

Except in the drug testing world the burden is way, way lower than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  All MLB has to do is take a sample and test it properly, while adhering to a relatively simple set of procedures.  If MLB, in this case, could not be bothered to do even that, then neither it nor anyone else has cause to label Ryan Braun a drug user.

Ryan Braun got off on a technicality?  Bull.  Major League Baseball half-assed it and failed to adhere to the standards it set up for itself.  In that case I have no problem considering Braun to be the less culpable party.  Anyone who says otherwise is more interested in assumptions and the casting of aspersions than they are in a rigorous and legitimate drug testing regime.

UPDATE: Here’s a copy of the drug agreement.  The term “chain of custody” appears in it 33 times. Beginning on page 38, there are detailed instructions to those who collect and handle samples.  In light of this, to suggest that the chain of custody issues are “minor” or “mere technicalities” is absurd. These procedures are a fundamental feature of the system, not some petty and annoying loophole.