Think Braun is still dirty? Fine, but then at least admit you don’t care about drug testing

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After a night’s sleep and a couple hundred angry comments and emails, I think I’ve figured a couple of things out about the Ryan Braun reaction and people’s overall feelings about MLB’s drug testing program. Mostly, though, I’m just dumbfounded at the cynicism and intellectual dishonesty of so many who wish to ignore the arbitrator’s ruling and cast Braun as a PED-using villain regardless.

For years, people argued for Major League Baseball to adopt a rigorous testing regime. Why? To end the speculation. To stop the “is he using or isn’t he” parlor games.  Read every single column written about Jeff Bagwell’s Hall of Fame candidacy and you’ll find some variation of “but for so long there was no testing, so we just can’t know, and that uncertainty is horrible …” sentiment.

Now we have a testing program. And it’s amazing to me just how quickly the end product of that testing program — no suspension for Ryan Braun — is diminished or outright dismissed when results aren’t what people wanted.

I’m talking about those who don’t care that the procedures weren’t followed and say that they still don’t think Braun is clean, his name not cleared.  Sure, you’re allowed to think that if you want, but just understand that if you do — if “we still don’t think he’s clean” or “questions still remain” holds — then there is no purpose whatsoever to have a testing program in the first place. Because even with one in place, people will just assume what they want to assume regardless of the end product, and that’s no different than where we were in 1998.

The reason? Because no scientific protocol has legitimacy if only some parts of it are adhered to and others aren’t. When you go with testing, you go with everything. You can’t say that the preliminary test results matter and the chain of custody protocols don’t. It’s all of a piece.  It’s the entire process that lends drug testing its legitimacy, not just part of it.

But hey, if you still want to crap on Braun — if you still want to say “but his testosterone levels were high, so he’s suspect” or “MLB has egg on its face because the testing failed” — fine. Do so. It’s a free country.  But if you do so, admit that you do it because you simply don’t like the results here. And spare me any whining about the past, and about how Major League Baseball was so lax in testing for so many years before now.  Because as is evidenced by your Ryan Braun reactions, you wouldn’t have cared regardless.

The 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.