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.

Danny Farquhar to throw out first pitch at June 1 White Sox game

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Last month Chicago White Sox reliever Danny Farquhar suffered a brain hemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm, causing him to collapse while in the dugout during a Sox game. He underwent emergency surgery and spent over two weeks in the hospital recovering from the ordeal.

While Farquhar will not pitch at all in 2018 per his doctor’s instructions, he will be back on the field at a White Sox game next week, with Scott Merkin of MLB.com reporting that Farquhar will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before next Friday night’s game against the Brewers at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Farquhar’s wife, children and the doctors, nurses and staff from the RUSH University Hospital medical team which treated him will also be in attendance for the first pitch on what should be a very special night in Chicago.