MLB responds to Ryan Braun, asserts that testing program is not “fatally flawed”

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Ryan Braun held a press conference earlier this afternoon, during which he said that “the system as it was applied to me in this case was fatally flawed.”

Not surprisingly, MLB wasn’t too thrilled with how Braun characterized the program.

Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive VP of labor relations, released the following statement late this afternoon, saying that the collector handled Braun’s urine sample in “professional and appropriate manner” and that the current testing program is not “fatally flawed.” He also denied that the leak of Braun’s positive drug test came from the commissioner’s office.

“Major League Baseball runs the highest quality drug testing program of any professional sports organization in the world.  It is a joint program, administered by an independent program administrator selected by the Commissioner’s Office and the MLBPA.

“With regards to the breach of confidentiality regarding this case, both the Commissioner’s Office and the MLBPA have investigated the original leak of Ryan Braun’s test, and we are convinced that the leak did not come from the Commissioner’s Office.

“The extremely experienced collector in Mr. Braun’s case acted in a professional and appropriate manner.  He handled Mr. Braun’s sample consistent with instructions issued by our jointly retained collection agency. The Arbitrator found that those instructions were not consistent with certain language in our program, even though the instructions were identical to those used by many other drug programs – including the other professional sports and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

“Our program is not ‘fatally flawed.’  Changes will be made promptly to clarify the instructions provided to collectors regarding when samples should be delivered to FedEx based on the arbitrator’s decision.  Neither Mr. Braun nor the MLBPA contended in the grievance that his sample had been tampered with or produced any evidence of tampering.”

And here’s a statement from MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner, also in response to Braun’s comments:

“Our Joint Drug Program stands as strong, as accurate and as reliable as any in sport, both before and after the Braun decision. The breach of confidentiality associated with this matter is unfortunate but, after investigation, we are confident that it was not caused by the Commissioner’s Office, the MLBPA or anyone associated in any way with the Program. In all other respects, the appeals process worked as designed; the matter was vigorously contested and the independent and neutral arbitrator issued a decision deserving of respect by both bargaining parties.

“As has happened several times before with other matters, this case has focused the parties’ attention on an aspect of our Program that can be improved. After discussions with the Commissioner’s Office, we are confident that all collections going forward will follow the parties’ agreed-upon rules.”

And we’re already getting some word on what one of those changes might look like. Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports is hearing that the MLB and the MLBPA have decided that collectors will now drop specimens at Fed-Ex locations, even when shipping hours have expired. See, everything’s cool now. Nothing left to talk about.

Matt Shepard to be the Tigers new full-time play-by-play guy

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Fox Sports Detroit has named Matt Shepard their new full-time play-by-play guy for Tigers games. Shepard will work with analysts Jack Morris and Kirk Gibson, who will split time.

This is the move in response to former longtime announcers Mario Impemba and Rod Allen getting suspended and later fired following an in-booth altercation in Chicago last September. The two of them, who weren’t exactly friends, reportedly fought over a chair, with conflicting reports of how serious the fight was. An anonymous witness said Allen put Impemba in a choke hold. Allen recently gave an interview in which he denied that and said it was only some pushing and shoving. Either way, it ended their 16-year team-up for Tigers games.

Shepard has worked for Fox Sports Detroit for nearly 20 years, doing fill-in play-by-play for the Tigers — he replaced Impemba for the last few weeks of last season — and for Detroit Pistons games. Gibson has been a part time analyst for the network for the past couple of seasons, splitting time with Allen. Morris has done Tigers, Blue Jays and Twins games over the years, sometimes even splitting time between the Twins and Tigers, which is rather unusual.

Shepard is pretty good at his job. While Tigers fans liked and were familiar with Impemba, there won’t be a falloff in quality. Gibson makes some good analytical points and has a surprisingly sharp and biting sense of humor about him, but his gruff and monotone delivery is not everyone’s cup of tea. You get used to it. Morris is not my cup of tea — he tends to do a lot of the “back in my day” stuff former players often do — but I’m pretty sure he could recite the dictionary on TV in Detroit and a lot of Tigers fans would tune in. Such is life.