Day: February 23, 2012

braun wide getty

Ryan Braun won his appeal because the evidence collector took his urine sample home with him


Lots of people are saying that Ryan Braun got off on a “technicality.”  Before I get in to the odiousness of that particular phrase, let’s all get up to speed on what that technicality was.  This is from

Braun didn’t argue evidence of tampering, didn’t argue anything about science being wrong but argued protocol had not been followed. A second source confirmed to ESPN investigative reporter Mark Fainaru-Wada that Braun did not dispute the science but rather questioned chain of custody/collection procedure.

According to one of the sources, the collector, after getting Braun’s sample, was supposed to take the sample to FedEx/Kinkos for shipping but thought it was closed because it was late on a Saturday. As has occurred in some other instances, the collector took the sample home and kept it refrigerated. Policy states that the sample is supposed to get to FedEx as soon as possible.

Preliminary takeaways:

  • Kinkos still exists? Cool!  Of course, back when people used to use them, they were always open 24 hours, so I’m not sure what this urine collector was thinking. Guess he never had to print out a term paper back in 1992 like the rest of us.
  • If you’re friends with this particular collector, by all means, ASK before grabbing anything out of his fridge. You may think you’re drinking some exotic chilled shot when, in reality, you’re taking a little part of Vicente Padilla home with you.

I’ll have a more significant takeaway in a later post coming up shortly. That takeaway:  I am not going to have a lot of patience for those who say that Braun’s appeal, based on these facts, was him taking advantage of a “loophole” or getting off on a “technicality.”  Because it’s a totally bogus and meaningless argument.

Come back shortly to hear why.

Running down the rosters: Washington Nationals

Michael Morse, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman

The Nationals may have disappointed some by failing to make a big run at the top three free agents, but a vastly improved rotation could make them surprise contenders in the NL East.

Gio Gonzalez – L
Edwin Jackson – R
Jordan Zimmermann – R
John Lannan – L
Stephen Strasburg – R

Drew Storen – R
Tyler Clippard – R
Sean Burnett – L
Henry Rodriguez – R
Brad Lidge – R
Tom Gorzelanny – L
Ross Detwiler – L

Disabled list: Chien-Ming Wang (R)
SP next in line: Detwiler, Craig Stammen (R), Yunesky Maya (R), Chad Durbin (R)
RP next in line: Ryan Perry (R), Stammen (R), Jeff Fulchino (R), Ryan Mattheus (R)

The additions of Gonzalez and Jackson give the Nationals arguably the game’s deepest rotation. Now they just have to figure out how to make it work. That Detwiler is out of options complicates things; the Nationals aren’t going to try sending him down. A Lannan trade remains a real possibility. The Nationals also have the option of sending Lannan down to Triple-A, though that wouldn’t go over very well. As for me, I’m stashing Wang on the disabled list to help with the logjam. He’s already experiencing some shoulder soreness this spring anyway.

The bullpen should be very strong at the end of games and still pretty good before that. I don’t think the Lidge addition was necessary, but the price was right. A Gorzelanny trade to open up a spot for Perry wouldn’t come as a surprise.

SS Ian Desmond – R
RF Jayson Werth – R
3B Ryan Zimmerman – R
LF Michael Morse – R
1B Adam LaRoche – L
2B Danny Espinosa – S
C Wilson Ramos – R
CF Rick Ankiel – L

C Jesus Flores – R
INF Steve Lombardozzi – S
INF-OF Mark DeRosa – R
OF Roger Bernadina – L
OF Brett Carroll – R

Disabled list: 1B Chris Marrero (R)
Next in line: C Carlos Maldonado (R), 1B-3B Chad Tracy (L), INF Andres Blanco (S), INF Jarrett Hoffpauir (R), INF Carlos Rivero (R), 3B-OF Mark Teahen (L), OF Bryce Harper (L), OF Jason Michaels (R), OF Xavier Paul (L)

While the pitching looks very strong, the lineup is still something of a mess. Werth and Zimmerman should be better this year, but there aren’t any traditional No. 1 or No. 2 hitters to put ahead of them. The team badly needs Desmond to step up.

I decided not to include Harper, even though I had him in my original projected lineup last month. It makes so much more financial sense to send him down for at least a month to start the season, and as good as Harper is likely to be someday, he’s hardly guaranteed to be an upgrade on Ankiel and Bernadina right away this year.

So, I’m sticking Ankiel in center field for now. The Nationals just lost their best stopgap option when Mike Cameron retired. I favor Ankiel over Bernadina, but Davey Johnson will probably just play the hot hand of the two. By July 1 at the latest, I think we’ll see Werth in center field and Harper in right.

My guess is that while the pitching will be strong, the Nationals won’t score enough runs to win 90 games this year. This is a better team, one that’s going to be more enjoyable to watch than anything else the Nationals have put on the field in their brief history. But it’s probably a year away.

Ryan Braun’s return puts Brewers on good footing in NL Central

Milwaukee Brewers Ryan Braun slaps hands with teammate Rickie Weeks after hitting a two-run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning of Game 1 of the MLB National League Championship Series baseball playoff game in Milwaukee

In doing the Brewers’ edition of running down the rosters earlier this month, I presented two lineups: one with Ryan Braun and one without him for the 50 games he appeared likely to miss pending the appeal of his PED suspension.

Needless to say, the one with the exonerated 2011 NL MVP looked a whole lot better:

2B Rickie Weeks -R
CF Nyjer Morgan – L
LF Ryan Braun – R
3B Aramis Ramirez – R
RF Corey Hart – R
1B Mat Gamel – L
C Jonathan Lucroy – R
SS Alex Gonzalez – R

Sure, Prince Fielder to Ramirez is quite a downgrade in the cleanup spot, but Ramirez did hit .306/.361/.510 for the Cubs last year, showing he’s still viable there. If Mat Gamel hits, that’s a pretty solid group. And if he doesn’t, there are usually first basemen available cheap as the summer goes on.

Without Braun, the Brewers looked like the NL Central’s third-best team in paper. Sure, the Cardinals lost an even better player than Fielder in Albert Pujols, but they also gained Adam Wainwright and Carlos Beltran. The Reds finished 17 games behind the Brewers last season, but they have the better offense and a pitching staff that should be much improved with Mat Latos in the rotation and Sean Marshall and Ryan Madson finishing games.

Now the NL Central race looks pretty even again. Advanced statistics will say that losing Braun for 50 games shouldn’t have meant more than two or maybe three extra losses in the first two months. However, sometimes there’s just no digging out of that early hole, and with the Brewers already over-budget, there probably aren’t going to be any big summer acquisitions if the team finds itself hovering around .500.

Yadier Molina likely to become one of the highest-paid catchers ever

Yadier Molina

Just three catchers in big-league history have signed contracts worth in excess of $10 million per season. That’s about to change.

Yadier Molina heads a class of four free-agent-to-be catchers, all of whom could find themselves in eight-figure territory with big 2012 seasons. Molina is probably the one sure thing in the bunch to draw that much money, but Miguel Montero, Mike Napoli and Russell Martin are candidates as well.

Brian McCann, a free agent after 2013, is also likely to join that club if the Braves want to sign him to an extension before then.

Molina, 29, rates the highest of the class of free agents mostly because of defense, but he also had his best season offensively last year, coming in at .305/.349/.465 in 475 at-bats. He nearly doubled his previous career high in homers by hitting 14. Durability also weighs in his favor. While he battled injuries earlier in his career, he’s now topped 130 games three straight seasons (he failed to do so in any of his first four years).

The Cardinals have been trying to lock Molina up with little success so far. His last deal was a huge bargain for the team, as he’ll have earned a modest $21.25 million for what would have been his three arbitration years and first two free agency years. He clearly wants to make up for that this time around.

And the Cardinals can’t claim poverty in this case, not with Albert Pujols’ salary off the books. They’ll free up another $32 million as the contracts of Lance Berkman, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook expire after the season.

Molina may never again hit as well as he did in 2011, but he’s a top-five catcher anyway. Baseball-reference WAR and Fangraphs WAR agree that he ranks fourth among catchers over the last three years, trailing Joe Mauer, McCann and Napoli (though B-ref WAR has him tied with Carlos Ruiz).

And that would seem to be worth $11 million-$12 million per year, given that Molina is still in his prime. For as often as they get dinged up, catchers don’t age too badly, generally. If the Cards can sign him for $44 million over four years, they should do so now.

Oh, and in case you wondering, here’s that list of biggest contracts for catchers:

Joe Mauer (Twins) – 8 yrs, $184 mil – $23 mil per year
Mike Piazza (Mets) – 7 yrs, $91 mil – $13 mil
Jason Kendall (Pirates) – 6 yrs, $60 mil – $10 mil
Jorge Posada (Yankees) – 4 yrs, $52.3 mil – $13.1 mil
Ivan Rodriguez (Rangers) – 5 yrs, $42.5 mil – $8.5 mil
Ivan Rodriguez (Tigers) – 4 yrs, $40 mil – $10 mil
Jason Varitek (Red S0x) – 4 yrs, $40 mil – $10 mil
Joe Mauer (Twins) – 4 yrs, $34 mil – $8.5 mil

Nationals and Ryan Zimmerman are “close to a resolution” on contract extension

zimmerman bats

UPDATE: Apparently general manager Mike Rizzo wasn’t kidding about “working extremely hard” on an extension with Zimmerman, because Bill Ladson of reports that the two sides are “close to a resolution.”


Ryan Zimmerman has said that he won’t negotiate a long-term contract extension once spring training is over, so the Nationals are making a strong push to get something done before then.

General manager Mike Rizzo told Mark Zuckerman of that “we’re working extremely hard at it, and both teams want something and are working at it.”

Rizzo added that he’s “hopeful” about an agreement being reached, although with Zimmerman under team control for 2012 and 2013 at a total cost of $27 million the Opening Day deadline doesn’t carry quite as much weight as it would if he were 162 games away from free agency.

If they can’t reach a deal now the Nationals can always give it another try next winter, although if Zimmerman stays healthy and has a big season the leverage and price tags might be very different.