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.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.