Deadspin has a pretty controversial theory on the Braun decision

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Over at Deadspin, Tommy Craggs offers a potential theory of why Ryan Braun won his arbitration, even though many believe the case against him was so strong:

Over the weekend, however, I spoke with someone familiar with the arbitration process in general. He had another theory: Ryan Braun didn’t get off because of the merits of his case; he got off because the arbitrator who cast the decisive vote in Braun’s favor—the vote with which baseball “vehemently disagrees”—was thinking about his own future.

The upshot: arbitrator Shyam Das serves at the pleasure of both the union and the league. He has ruled against players an awful lot lately, especially on drug cases, and he used the Braun case as a means to balance the scales a bit so the union wouldn’t get fed up with him and fire him from his lucrative and high-profile gig. As Craggs puts it “If ever there were a case for Das to throw to the players, it was this one.”

Possible? Well, I suppose anything is possible. But saying that an arbitrator is placing his self interest ahead of the case in front of him is an extraordinarily serious charge. One which I’d feel a lot more comfortable entertaining if it was based on something more than a theory from “someone familiar with the arbitration process in general.”  Because really, this is not terribly different from saying that a judge threw a case because he was thinking about his reelection.

Less broadly, the theory has a major problem:  if the arbitrator was really throwing this thing — a case where it seems most people who are not Ryan Braun’s legal team think MLB should have won — it’s just as likely if not more so that Major League Baseball would get angry and fire Das.  At least it’s a risk, so what would Das have to gain here by being unethical?

What would not be as risky is if Das were to make a well-reasoned decision that explains why this case, and not any others, had this particular outcome. It would satisfy the union because it would be based in reason and would have an outcome with which they were happy. It would satisfy the league, eventually anyway, because it would be based in reason, would not present a scenario that would be replicable in future appeals and would provide a road map to the league about how to fix the problem.

We’re going to get Das’ reasoning, by the way, within a few weeks, so we’ll be able to judge that for ourselves.  Until then, I’m loathe to accuse this man of violating ethical considerations in reaching the decision he reached.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”