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.

Video: Hanley Ramirez’s No. 250 career home run barely left the field

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Hanley Ramirez played a pivotal role during the Red Sox’ 9-4 win over the Angels on Friday night, crushing a two-run homer off of Alex Meyer to bring the Sox up to a four-run lead in the fourth inning.

Well, crushed might be the wrong word. The ball cleared the right field fence with a mere 350 feet, landing just beyond Pesky’s Pole to bring Ramirez’s career home run total to an even 250.

According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, Ramirez’s milestone blast wasn’t the shortest home run of the year — not by a long shot. That distinction currently belongs to Rays’ outfielder Corey Dickerson, who skimmed the left field fence at Rogers Centre with a 326-foot homer back in April.

Asdrubal Cabrera requests trade from Mets

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It’s shortstop or bust for Asdrubal Cabrera, who told reporters Friday that he will request a trade from the Mets after getting bumped to second base (via Newsday’s Marc Carig). Cabrera served as the club’s starting shortstop through the first few months of the 2017 season, but lost the role to Jose Reyes while serving a stint on the 10-day disabled list with a sprained left thumb. The switch was confirmed prior to the Mets’ series opener against the Giants on Friday, prompting Cabrera to announce his trade request before taking the field.

Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo:

Personally, I’m not really happy with that move,” Cabrera said. “If they have that plan, they should have told me before I came over here. I just told my agent about it. If they have that plan for me, I think it’s time to make a move. What I saw the last couple of weeks, I don’t think they have any plans for me. I told my agent, so we’re going to see what happens in the next couple weeks.

Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson appeared skeptical of Cabrera’s request, telling reporters that he wasn’t sure a trade was “something [Cabrera] really wishes” and saying the team would wait and see how the situation shakes out. That doesn’t mean the veteran infielder will see a return to short anytime soon, however, only that he might have a change of heart after settling into his new role.

This isn’t the first time Cabrera has balked at a position change. The Mets reportedly considered shifting him to third base earlier this season, but ultimately decided to keep him at short and denied his request to pick up his $8.5 million option for 2018, something Alderson said has little to no precedent. Further changes may be on the horizon when 21-year-old infield prospect Amed Rosario gets called up from Triple-A Las Vegas and second baseman Neil Walker returns from the disabled list, though the team has yet to address either situation.