Mike Lupica seems to think the Braun arbitration was rigged

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Mike Lupica has a pretty Mike Lupica column up about the Ryan Braun arbitration today.  The upshot: who cares what some arbitrator says, we all know Braun is dirty and blah, blah, blah.  Lots of people are actually writing that column today, of course. I’m sure it makes them feel good.

But more notable to me is that Lupica has two passages in his piece — as well as the sub-headline to the story that someone else likely wrote — which suggest that he thinks this is more than a lucky ballplayer gaming the system. Rather, it suggests that he thinks the system was rigged to begin with.

The sub-headline reads: “Commissioner’s connection to Brewers raises questions.”  Which is interesting, because the only people I’ve seen raising that as a question are conspiracy theorists on message boards. MLB’s official statement, which comes from the Commissioner’s Office, is very clear in voicing the league’s and thus Bud Selig’s dissatisfaction with the ruling, and if you’re going to take that at less than face value you should probably offer some evidence up to substantiate what is a very serious charge.

But here’s Lupica:

And by the way? Nobody was looking to get Ryan Braun here from the start, get him good or pin a drug rap on him, or take down one of the sport’s golden boys. Braun does play for the Milwaukee Brewers, a team once owned by the current commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, a commissioner who still has his office in Milwaukee and a statue outside Miller Park.  You better believe Braun has been part of a wonderful baseball resurgence in Milwaukee, one that had the Brewers in the playoffs last October against the Cardinals, eventual World Series champs.

So Selig is apparently in on the fix.  As is, it seems, the arbitrator:

A three-man panel heard Braun’s appeal. Rob Manfred, baseball’s executive vice president was on that panel, so was Michael Weiner, head of the Major League Baseball Players Association. The third man was arbitrator Shyam Das, the tiebreaker who saved Braun the way Braun saves the Brewers with big hits in the late innings … But you know what, however you weigh in on this? Floyd Landis probably wishes he could have found a legal loophole like this through which to ride his bike. Or found himself an arbitrator like Das.

That suggests to me that Lupica thinks that Das was in the bag for Braun somehow and that no other arbitrator — like the one Floyd Landis got — would have ruled the same way.  I’d love to see Lupica’s reasoning for this and whether it extends beyond “I didn’t like the outcome, so the arbitrator must have been out to save Braun’s bacon.”

Das, of course, is a well-respected arbitrator with decades of experience who was chosen by and serves at the pleasure of Major League Baseball and the MLBPA. Jointly.  If MLB thought Das was somehow less-than-qualified and able to handle baseball arbitration cases fairly, he wouldn’t be handling baseball arbitration cases. Someone else would.

Lupica can dislike the ruling here. He’s probably in the majority in that regard.  But his suggestion that Selig’s history with the Brewers or Das’ ruling meant that the deck was somehow stacked in Braun’s favor is preposterous and irresponsible.

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.