Is race and personality affecting coverage of the Ryan Braun story?

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Ray Ratto of CSNBayArea.com wants to know why people are inclined to give Ryan Braun the benefit of the doubt at the moment when they weren’t so willing to do so with Barry Bonds:

So why, then, is there such an eagerness to find Braun’s seemingly implausible story so believable, or at least defensible by so many people who dove face-first into Bonds?  The options are two: Race, or personality. Neither is appealing.

I don’t know Ray personally, but I’ve chatted with him enough on Twitter to suspect that he very much enjoyed throwing that grenade into the bunker. It’s kind of why I like him so much.

Not that he’s throwing it for no reason. For my part I’m giving Braun the benefit of the doubt for now simply because we are getting a rare mid-testing-and-appeals-process look here and that makes this weird, but Ratto is right that there has always been some weird character test on top of the drug tests.

I don’t know that race is as up front as the personality part, however.  Witness David Ortiz who never ever seems to get much PED stuff thrown at him even though he tested just as positive as anyone. Why? I don’t know. Because he’s cuddly. And Ryan Braun is handsome and isn’t muscle bound I guess. Whatever the criteria, however, to suggest that there isn’t some psychological overlay to PED stories is to deny reality. Personality always enters into it. If Derek Jeter or Michael Young tested positive tomorrow we’d be introduced to a whole new, player-sympathetic PED lexicon, I’m sure.

Ratto goes on to make an even better point, however: media covering these kinds of stores — and the labor disputes and any other off-the-field thing — very often take on the role of defenders of the institutions they cover rather than unaffiliated reporters or commentators.  It’s not a very flattering stance for anyone and ultimately does both the media and the institution a disservice.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.