Ryan Braun is baseball’s biggest fraud


Ryan Braun played the victim when he initially tested positive for steroids after the 2011 season. In one regard, he was: that news never should have leaked out before the appeals process played out. In every other regard, he was obviously guilty as charged.

Just look at some of Braun’s quotes after he was “vindicated”  last February or, as is now even more painfully obvious, let off on a technicality because of chain of command issues with his urine sample:

  • “If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally I’d have been the first one to admit it. I truly believe this substance never entered my body.”
  • It hasn’t been easy. Lots of times I wanted to come out and tell the entire story, attack everybody like I’ve been attacked. My name was dragged through the mud. But at the end of the day I recognized what was best for the game of baseball.”
  • “Today is for anyone who has been wrongly accused and everyone who stood up for what’s right. It’s about future players and the game of baseball.”
  • “I will continue to take the high road. We won because the truth was on my side. I was a victim of a process that completely broke down and failed as it was applied to me in this case. Today’s about making sure this never happens to anyone else who plays this game.”
  • “We spoke to biochemists and scientists, and asked them how difficult it would be for someone to taint the sample. They said, if they were motivated, it would be extremely easy.”
  • “Ultimately, as I sit here today, the system worked because I was innocent and I was able to prove my innocence.”

That next to last one is especially disgusting, since Braun was all but accusing that man who collected his sample of intentionally tampering with it. At the end of his press conference, Braun said he was considering his legal options. You will notice, however, that no lawsuit followed.

Now we know for sure that Braun was guilty all along, though that seemed like a given after the Biogenesis news came out. The 2011 NL MVP accepted a rest-of-season suspension Monday that amounts to 65 games off. The Brewers will have to bring him back next year and hope for the best; they owe him a whopping $127 million through 2020. If it turns out that he’s not the player he was before he was caught cheating, it’d be a huge blow to the small-market franchise.

Guys like Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte have largely been let off the hook for their PED usage, but the guess here is that Braun’s transgressions will stay with him for the rest of his career, partly because of those quotes right there. The apologies will come, but their sincerity should be questioned.

Congress to pass bill depriving minor leaguers of minimum wage rights

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We saw this coming and wrote about it last weekend, but now it’s official: the new spending bill from Congress contains a gift for Major League and Minor League Baseball in the form of a provision classifying minor leaguers as seasonal workers, exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act. Practically speaking, this means that minor leaguers are not required to be paid minimum wage or have other basic protections to which even part-timers at fast food restaurants are entitled.

The relevant provision — buried on page 1,967 of the 2,232-page spending bill, which will get almost zero time to be read and processed by most people before it’s ultimately passed signed into law by tomorrow — is farcically entitled the “Save America’s Pastime Act.” It exempts from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 people who fit this description:

[A]ny employee employed to play baseball who is compensated pursuant to a contract that provides for a weekly salary for services performed during the league’s championship season (but not on spring training or the off season) at a rate that is not less than a weekly salary equal to the minimum wage under section 6(a) for a workweek of 40 hours, irrespective of the number of hours the employee devotes to baseball related activities.

It may be news to you that the multi-billion baseball industry, run by a few dozen billionaires and billion-dollar businesses, needed to be “saved” in such a fashion. Congress knew though. Maybe because Congress is so benevolent and wise. Or, maybe, because baseball’s lobbying operation spent millions plying Congressmen for this special law to keep it from having to pay workers a living wage.

Based on the response to our past writings on this topic, I suspect most of you won’t care all that much. You either believe that all or most of these players are wealthy via six or seven-figure signing bonuses or will make serious money in the big leagues one day. That’s not true, but many of you believe it. Or, alternatively, maybe you view minor leaguers as a bunch of kids farting around with a hobby until they start their “real life,” so why should they make a living wage?

To the extent you believe that and to the extent this does not bother you, I’d simply suggest that you ask how much money minor league and major league organizations make via the playing and marketing of minor league baseball and how much Major League Baseball benefits by having its training and development system costs legislatively controlled. Ask yourself whether the company that gave you your first entry-level position would’ve loved to have a law allowing it to pay you less than minimum wage and how you would’ve felt if that was the case in your situation. Ask yourself if anyone else would have cared all that much about the job you had when you were 22 and whether that would make a difference to you as you made the equivalent of $5 or $6 an hour for a multi-billion dollar business.

Maybe that still doesn’t sway you. But it doesn’t change the fact that this is a greedy cash grab by baseball which now, thanks to specially-requested government intervention, institutionalizes and legitimizes the exploitation of young men with very little power and even less money. That you may be OK with it doesn’t make it right. In fact, it’s very, very wrong.