Stop it: Ryan Braun is not Lance Armstrong

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I think I’ve been pretty clear in saying that Braun (a) is a liar; (b) is a cheater; and (c) should count himself lucky that he only got 65 games. On radio spots today I’ve opined that he’s probably some sort of sociopath who I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw. I won’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth for the rest of career. If he says he’s “making some adjustments at the plate” I’m going to assume he’s really selling heroin to school kids.

I don’t think that’s being a Braun “apologist” but then again I don’t think most things I do constitute being an apologist for PED guys even if everyone says I am. I just wanted to be very clear about my feelings about Ryan Braun here, because lots of folks seem to be misinterpreting it.

And they’ll misinterpret it here too, because I’m about to say something that is less than “Ryan Braun is Stalin.”  I’m led to say this after about the tenth column I’ve read today in which the columnist has said that Braun owes an apology to Dino Laurenzi, the man who collected the sample from Braun last year and around whose handling of the sample Braun based his ultimately successful appeal.

Fact: under MLB rules then in place, Laurenzi did mishandle the sample. He didn’t taint it or do anything sinister, but he did, technically speaking under the letter of the rules he was to follow, mishandle it. That gave Braun his opening and he and his lawyers took it. If you dispute that just stop reading because that’s simply a statement of fact. MLB even changed its rules after the fact in order to address it, so they acknowledged a problem too. And if you’re still in doubt about this, ask a former drug testing specimen collector who doesn’t exactly shed tears for Mr. Laurenzi’s plight.

Fact: Braun said a lot of things about how his sample was handled last year at a press conference and in public statements, either from his own mouth or through his handlers. These were gratuitous and unnecessary as he need not have made any public statements at all. They were also, given what we know now, low rent in that they suggested the possibility of contamination brought on by mishandling in such a way that many people construed it as Braun suggesting Laurenzi contaminated it himself. He stopped just short of that, but that was many people’s takeaway from it and Braun either knew better or was so careless about his comments that he shouldn’t have said a damn thing to begin with.

Opinion, but an informed one, and one which I’d be curious to know if anyone with legal training cares to dispute: What Braun said was not actually legally actionable slander. People are insulted all the time, but slander is a different beast and I do not believe that any court would actually entertain a defamation case from Laurenzi on this even if he chose to bring one. The comments were vague and not particularly pointed and related just as much to theoretical possibilities of contamination in general than they did to any malicious accusation of wrongdoing.

I feel like this is important, because I am seeing a race among columnists today to see how evil one can portray Braun’s comments last year. Buster Olney and others have compared Braun to Lance Armstrong. Gregg Doyel, while not going quite to the level of an Armstrong comparison — suggests that some form of reparations — money? college funds for Laurenzi’s kids — are in order. Many have portrayed Laurenzi’s life as a living hell after last year’s comments from Braun. I don’t know that we have any information on that, actually. I’ve called Laurenzi and haven’t heard back from him. I’d be curious to hear his take.

With my above disclaimer about my feelings for Braun in mind, I think the Armstrong comparisons and the increasingly extreme portrayals of what Braun has done to Laurenzi are a bit much.  Lance Armstrong sued people on false grounds in a concerted effort to silence them and run them out of the business. Actually recovered money from them too.  He built a multi-million dollar cancer-fighting empire based on a goodwill borne of statements and a persona millions of time more righteous than anything Braun ever attempted to portray. Armstrong literally harmed people and arguably destroyed people’s lives. Time will tell if he’s done a disservice to cancer patients who have come to rely on an edifice he helped create and which may or may not be harmed by Armstrong being exposed for what he is.

I’m sure Laurenzi had a bad few days last year. I’m sure he wished he was never involved in the Braun mess to begin with. And, as I said yesterday, Braun certainly owes him an apology.  But I feel like people are going out of control in an effort to paint Ryan Braun with a black brush while ignoring the very different orders of degree of his acts as opposed to those of Lance Armstrong.

Maybe that makes people feel better, but I don’t think it helps Dino Laurenzi or anyone else besides the one offering such statements at all.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Giants 2, Dodgers 1: The game is the game  — Alen Hanson singled in two runs for the Giants and all the Dodgers got was an RBI single from Manny Machado — but the big story here, obviously, was the benches-clearing brawl kicked off by a shoving match between Yasiel Puig and Nick Hundley.

Everyone is going to talk about the argument and the shoving — including Puig reaching over the guys holding him back to give an open-handed smack to Hundley’s mask-covered face, as you can see in the video below — but I’m more interested in what started it.

As the Giants announcers note, Hundley’s comments to Puig were no doubt some sort of smack talk about Puig being frustrated that he didn’t handle a pitch he thought he should’ve handled. In other words, Puig was mad at himself for not executing and Hundley decided that him being mad at himself is somehow “showing up” Giants pitcher Tony Watson.

What the hell is that about?

Why is it that pitchers can cuss and scream and yell at the sky when they don’t execute a pitch — and my God, do they, as they always have — but if a batter is mad at himself for not putting his best swing on a fat pitch, he’s somehow unsportsmanlike? Or is it just the Giants — who have raced to the top of the “play the game the right way or we’re gonna get a case of the red-ass” rankings over the years — who get mad at this? It’s certainly the case that they’ve made it their mission to police Yasiel Puig. Remember Madison Bumgarner going off on Puig simply for Puig looking at him? And for a bat flip? I’m filing this in that category. My God, they need to get over that guy.

Rockies 5, Astros 1: Justin Verlander was good (6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 11K) but German Marquez was better (7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 7K) and then the Rockies unloaded for three more runs against the Astros’ pen. Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story went deep and the Astros went down for the fifth straight game which, combined with the A’s win, reduced their AL West lead to a single game.

Athletics 3, Mariners 2: Mike Fiers won his first game as an Athletic — and the Athletics won their second game started by Mike Fiers — by allowing two runs over six. Marcus Semien and Jed Lowrie each went deep. The M’s hung in there pretty admirably considering they lost ace James Paxton in the first inning after he was hit by a comebacker on his pitching arm. Luckily for them Paxton only seems to have a contusion and is considered day-to-day. At the end of the day it was the A’s fourth straight win and, as noted, they are now a day’s work, and a little help from the Rockies, from moving into first place.

Cardinals 6, Nationals 4: On the bright side, the Nats’ bullpen didn’t blow this one. Heck, they only gave up one run in four innings of work. The Cards scored five off of Washington starter Gio Gonzalez, however, with Cardinals starter John Gant hitting a homer and Kolten Wong adding a bomb of his own. Gant likewise allowed only one run while pitching into the sixth and the Nats’ late attempt at a comeback, fueled by a two-run homer from Bryce Harper, fell short. The Cardinals have won nine of ten and climb to within four games of the Cubs in the Central and are only a game behind the Phillies in the Wild Card race. I guess firing Mike Matheny was the right move, huh? Washington, meanwhile, has lost six of eight and falls eight games back in the NL East. Turn out the lights, the party’s over.

Brewers 7, Cubs 0: Ryan Braun hit two homers and drove in four, Lorenzo Cain and Erik Kratz each went deep too and Jhoulys Chacin dominated the Cubs for seven innings, shutting them out and punching out 10. Not literally, of course. Apparently the high of Sunday night’s walkoff win didn’t carry over the off-day on Monday for Chicago. Indeed, the 2018 Cubs have been a case study in anti-momentum.

Orioles 6, Mets 3: The Mets held a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth but Adam Jones homered then, Chris Davis homered in the seventh and Tim Beckham homered in the eighth to help Baltimore push past ’em. That ends the Orioles’ five-game losing streak but fear not: today is a new day and a new losing streak is always likely to begin once again.

Yankees 4, Rays 1: J.A. Happ allowed only one hit over seven innings, continuing his strong run to begin the Yankees portion of his career. It was his third win in as many starts since being acquired. Austin Romine hit a two-run homers, Greg Bird knocked in a run on a double, Aaron Hicks singled in a run and Miguel Andujar doubled twice.

Red Sox 2, Phillies 1: The Yankees have won seven of nine since that ugly sweep at the hands of the Red Sox the weekend before last, but they’ve actually lost ground to Boston in the standings, which has won seven of eight in that time. They’re just a machine. Here it was Rick Porcello allowing only one run while striking out ten over seven innings, backed by just enough offense in the form of solo homers from Sandy Leon and Brock Holt. Holt’s was a pinch-hit number. Holt’s was the 168th homer hit by the Red Sox in 2018. They hit 168 bombs in the entire 2017 season.

White Sox 6, Tigers 3: It was 3-3 after the first inning and 3-0 from then on out. Two of the White Sox’ first inning runs came on a two-run sacrifice fly. Yes, you heard me:

There cannot be enough Pepto in the world for Ron Gardenhire after watching that play.

Indians 8, Reds 1: Corey Kluber allowed one run over seven. The Indians were nowhere nearly as impressed with Reds starter Sal Romano, who got tagged for six runs on seven hits in the first inning and two-thirds. The Indians only got three hits for the rest of the game after Romano left, but one of ’em was a two-run Jose Ramirez homer. He went 3-for-5 on the night. Yonder Alonso drove in three runs in the first two innings.

Braves 10, Marlins 6: The Ronald Acuña show continued as the Braves young rookie hit his third leadoff home run in as many games, added another bomb for his sixth homer in the past five games and his eighth homer in his last eight games. He’s also drove in four, giving him 15 RBI in his last eight games. He pushed his batting line up to .288/.346/.576 on the season. Guess those couple of weeks in the minors at the beginning of the year are what made him good. Freddie Freeman hit his 20th homer to tie the game in the sixth, and Dansby Swanson hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh as the Braves win for the 13th time in their last 17 games and take a two-game lead in the NL East over Philly.

Diamondbacks 6, Rangers 4: Patrick Corbin allowed three over seven Daniel Descalso drove in two runs and scored on a wild pitch in the first four innings which, along with a Paul Goldschmidt homer, put the Snakes up 4-0 early and they held on. Corbin hasn’t given up a homer in ten starts. That ties him with Chris Sale for the longest such streak going right now.

Twins 5, Pirates 2: Pittsburgh jumped out to an early 2-0 lead but that’s all they’d get. Miguel Sano hit a two-run homer, Jake Cave singled in a run and Jorge Polanco knocked in two with a single. That was actually the reverse order in which it happened. I put it that way because I’m receiving fat product placement money from the author Martin Amis in service of a viral marketing campaign for his 1991 novel, Time’s Arrow. Just felt like I should offer full disclosure there, as I know I have built up a lot of trust with y’all over the years.

Blue Jays 6, Royals 5: Kevin Pillar hit a two-run homer in the eighth to turn a 5-4 deficit into a 6-5 lead for Toronto and that lead would hold up. He had earlier singled in the Jays’ second run of the game. Danny Jansen went deep. Russell Martin got plunked once with the bases loaded to drive in a run the hard way. Adalberto Mondesi had four hits, including two doubles, stole three bases, drove in a run and scored a run for Kansas City but baseball is a team sport so none of that ultimately mattered.

Angels 7, Padres 3: Threes ruled for the Angels. Justin Upton had three hits, homered for the second straight game and drove in three, Taylor Ward made his big league debut, doubled in a run and reached base safely three times and Eric Young Jr. tripled — three bases! — and had two RBI for Los Angeles. Man, if he had only drove in three it would’ve been important. It would’ve meant something. *sculpts potatoes*