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

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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.

Bob Costas wins the Ford C. Frick Award

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Bob Costas has been selected as the 2018 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Costas will be recognized during the Hall of Fame Awards Presentation on Saturday, July 28, as part of Hall of Fame Weekend. He’s the 42nd winner of the Frick Award.

Costas — who, by way of obvious disclosure, has worked for NBC for the past 37 years — began broadcasting baseball in 1982, when he was paired first with Sal Bando and then with Tony Kubek for NBC’s Game of the Week telecasts. He soon established himself as the top national broadcaster in the game throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. He worked play-by-play for NBC through 1993 and continued in that role for The Baseball Network, which was a short-lived joint venture between NBC and ABC for national broadcasting rights. During this time he was the pregame and postgame host for the All-Star Games and the World Series, with Vin Scully typically doing lead play-by-play.

Costas would move into doing play-by-play for these jewel events in the 1990s first for The Baseball Network and then, when The Baseball Network dissolved, for NBC, which had re-acquired baseball rights on its own. Costas called the World Series for NBC in 1997 and 1999, the 1998 and 2000 ALCS, the 1999 NLCS and the 2000 All-Star Game. After that Fox took over national broadcast rights which it still retains. Costas continues to appear on MLB Network, where he hosts a regular interview show titled MLB Network Studio 42 with Bob Costas and hosts other special programming. He likewise continues to work the booth for several games a year alongside color man Jim Katt, most recently in the 2017 postseason.

Those are the details, all of which are more than sufficient for a Frick Award winner’s resume. Costas, however, is far more deeply associated with baseball than the bare facts of his broadcasting assignments would suggest.

In many ways, Costas has served as baseball’s unofficial voice and conscience over the years. A lot of people write baseball books, but Costas’ 2000 book — Fair Ball: A Fan’s Case for Baseball — was a must-read given Costas’ stature and respect among the game’s most important figures, and it continues to be cited whenever people talk about potential changes to the game. Indeed, Costas himself was even suggested by some as a potential Commissioner of Baseball candidate around the time of its publication, based largely on its ideas.

In 1995 Costas delivered the eulogy at Mickey Mantle’s funeral. His words — especially the line describing Mantle as “a fragile hero to whom we had an emotional attachment so strong and lasting that it defied logic” — became instant history. He’d later be called on to deliver the eulogy at Stan Musial’s funeral as well. Given that Costas is a historian and fan of the game just as much as he is a broadcaster of it, he will no doubt continue to be called upon as an authority about the game and its place in 20th and 21st century society.

In more recent years Costas’ highest profile assignments have been hosting NBC’s Sunday Night Football coverage and anchoring its Olympic coverage. Given that neither NBC nor MLB Network have featured the League Championship Series or the World Series over the past decade and a half or so, it’s easy to forget — and understandable for younger people to not know — that Costas was, unquestionably, the national broadcast voice of Major League Baseball for two decades. For fans of a certain age — including this author’s age — Costas’ voice is synonymous with Major League Baseball.

The Frick Award is often awarded posthumously or after the broadcaster in question retires. It likewise often goes to people whose accomplishments are limited to their words in the broadcast booth. Costas, however, shows no signs of stopping and will likely continue to broadcast baseball games for several years. However long he continues to go, his impact and legacy in baseball is undeniable. He is, without question, a worthy recipient of the Frick Award.