The Ryan Braun saga tells us something about the culture of baseball

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We’ve heard a lot since Thursday evening about how Ryan Braun was such a lucky dog for beating the system and all of that. We haven’t heard a ton, however, about that system itself.  But Grantland’s Charles Pierce has some pretty strong opinions.  Notably:

From its very beginnings, the “war” on performance-enhancing drugs in sports, and especially in baseball, has been legally questionable, morally incoherent, and recklessly dependent on collateral damage to make its point.

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

Pierce fires a lot of bullets at baseball and the drug testing system. Some hit, some miss.  But there’s an overarching truth to what he’s saying here that resonates with me, and that’s that Major League Baseball has always been a paternalistic and even authoritarian organization in many ways. Indeed, much of its history can be explained by people in charge making arbitrary, self-interested rules and then reacting poorly to it all when someone dares challenge them.

Much of the Ryan Braun reaction has been that way.  “Who cares that the rules weren’t followed?  It’s all fine, and how dare you say differently?  You’re upsetting a perfectly fine apple cart here, Mr. Litigious!”  It happened with segregation, free agency and collusion.  In some ways it’s happening with drug testing too:  this presumption that the authorities are correct and the one challenging the system is the troublemaker. Or worse.

No, this isn’t to make an equivalency between drug testing system and things like segregation and collusion.  Those latter things were awful and drug testing’s aims are noble.  But they are similar in terms of how someone challenging the system makes the establishment downright indignant. And I think that says something fairly revealing about the culture of baseball.

Miguel Sano suspended one game for altercation with Tigers

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Twins third baseman Miguel Sano has been suspended one game for his role in Saturday’s altercation with the Tigers, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Sano will appeal his suspension, so he’ll be eligible to play until that is resolved.

On Saturday, Tigers outfielder JaCoby Jones was hit in the face by Twins pitcher Justin Haley. The Tigers’ Matt Boyd threw behind Sano when he came to the plate in the fifth inning, seemingly exacting revenge. Sano took exception, catcher James McCann pushed his glove into Sano’s face, and the benches emptied. Both Boyd and Sano were ejected from the game.

Sano has hit well in the early going, batting .241/.413/.569 with four home runs and 14 RBI with an MLB-best 17 walks in 75 plate appearances. Losing Sano for only one game won’t be the biggest deal for the Twins. Eduardo Escobar would get the start at third base to fill in for Sano if he loses his appeal.

Boyd was fined an undisclosed amount and not suspended, per MLB.com’s Jason Beck.

Matt Barnes suspended four games for throwing at Manny Machado

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ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes has been suspended four games and fined an undisclosed amount for throwing at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado on Sunday. Barnes was exacting revenge for Machado’s slide which injured second baseman Dustin Pedroia on Friday, and was ejected immediately after throwing the pitch at Machado.

Barnes is appealing his suspension, so he will be able to participate in games until the issue is resolved. The 26-year-old right-hander has a 3.60 ERA and an 11/6 K/BB ratio in 10 innings so far this season.

The suspension is rather light considering Barnes’ intent. Barnes missed, thankfully, as he hit Machado’s bat rather than his helmet. Had he hit his intended target, though, baseball might’ve been out one superstar third baseman. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports wrote today that Major League Baseball needs to beef up its punishment for players attempting to injure other players. And he’s totally right about that. The punishment is neither enough to deter players from attempting to injure their peers, nor is it enough for teams to deter their own players from doing so.