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.

White Sox trying to trade Avasail Garcia

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A wise man once said that a wise mad said that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. The White Sox are not prepared to miss their shot: Mark Feinsand of MLB.com says they are “actively trying” to trade Avisail Garcia.

Which seems like a super difficult shot given that (a) Garcia had knee and hamstring injuries this past season; (b) hit just .236/.281/.438 when he did play; and (c) is arbitration eligible and stands to make more than the $6.7 million salary he made in 2018. You put those things together and you have a guy that the Sox are almost 100% going to non-tender rather than take to arbitration, thereby making him freely and cheaply available to anyone who wants him as long as they can wait until November 30, which is the tender/non-tender deadline.

Garcia, who somehow is still just 27 years-old, is one year removed from what many considered a breakout year, in which he hit .330/.380/.506 in 136 games, but I don’t think anyone is going to bite at him in a trade. Assuming he’s in decent shape and recovered from injuries, however, he could be a useful player in 2019.