Ryan Braun wins the appeal of his drug suspension

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Huge news:  As first reported by Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Ryan Braun has won the appeal of his 50-game suspension for taking a banned substance.  The MLBPA has confirmed.  Braun is the first player to successfully appeal a drug suspension.

Immediately after this news broke, Major League Baseball released a statement, printed in full below, saying that while they “vehemently disagree” with the arbitrator’s decision, it will respect the process.

To which I say: How freaking noble of you to respect the process, Major League Baseball.  And to all of the writers who, in the wake of the leak of Braun’s positive test, demanded that he either give up his MVP award or have it put up to a re-vote, I suppose you should probably revisit that view in light of the appeal.  You know, now that the process has actually run its course and there is a determination you can assess rather than an unauthorized leak to which you can react.

As for Braun and the Brewers: nothing but good news here.  From staring a 50-game suspension in the face to reporting to camp tomorrow as if nothing had happened.  Which, if the integrity of the testing and the appeal process had been respected like it had been in all other cases, would have been totally unremarkable.

Here’s Major League Baseball’s statement:

“Major League Baseball considers the obligations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program essential to the integrity of our game, our Clubs and all of the players who take the field.  It has always been Major League Baseball’s position that no matter who tests positive, we will exhaust all avenues in pursuit of the appropriate discipline.  We have been true to that position in every instance, because baseball fans deserve nothing less.

“As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute.  While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.”

We have more coverage of the Braun decision:

See why Braun won his appeal. Hint: it involves a urine sample, a closed Kinko’s and some guy’s refrigerator; and

For anyone who thinks Braun got off on a technicality, well, they have another thing coming.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.