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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Innocent Bystanders Want to Know

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Sure, it wasn't great that the Brewers lost their opening series to the team that ended their 2011 season. But a year ago they began with three losses in Cincinnati and ended two wins from the World Series.

No, it was another Brewers-related topic that got the Observers going.


Frank
: A pair of six-run losses to the Cardinals, but also a six-run win and great pitching by Zack Greinke.

Artie
: Every game is important, but it's early. Nothing like two clichés that neutralize each other, ain'a?

Frank
: I was at the ballyard Sunday, and although this young Redbird, Lance Lynn, pitched well, he also had some luck. Ryan Braun missed two homers to dead center by about 10 feet combined.

Artie
: He did homer in the ninth and had another hit, putting him at .333 for the weekend. It doesn't seem like the winter's drug-test furor is bothering him on the field.

Frank
: But here's something that's bothering me: Braun's recent comments about the drama.

Artie
: As in?

Frank
: First, remember where we stand in terms of public knowledge. It was leaked to the press in December that Braun's Oct. 1 urine sample had a very high testosterone ratio. Facing a 50-game suspension, Braun appealed and became the first player to win his case. From what we've been told, arbitrator Shyam Das based his ruling on a "chain of custody" irregularity involving the handling of the sample—how and when it was shipped to the testing lab in Montreal. We also were told that Braun's legal team based its case on those grounds.

Artie
: In other words, they didn't try to prove the sample was tainted or switched, but that a flaw in the handling-shipping procedure could have let that happen.

Frank
: On Feb. 24, the day after he won the appeal, Braun gave a very forceful defense in which he said he never took a banned substance and charged that the handling of the testing program was "absolutely fatally flawed." The clear message was that the man in charge of that procedure, Dino Laurenzi Jr., was at fault for keeping Braun's sample over a weekend and not shipping it for almost three days.

Artie
: But Laurenzi maintained that he followed Major League Baseball guidelines that he had used many times before and that no one else had access to Braun's sample.

Frank
: Which is where it's stood for almost two months. But recently Braun said something that disturbed me.

Artie
: It was after that exhibition game against the Dodgers, right?

Frank
: Yup. On March 30, after getting booed by Dodgers fans, Braun said this to Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel:

"I don't sit here and analyze what people think, have to say or the opinions they've based on a lack of information. ... It's unfortunate and disappointing that people would make judgments and form an opinion without knowing what actually happened."


Artie
: Which implies that Braun does know what actually happened. And makes the obvious response, "So tell us."

Frank
: And Haudricourt did, asking if it would be better for Braun if people knew more details. Braun replied:

"Would it be? Potentially, but then it just makes it a bigger story again. It's not good for anybody if that occurs; it's really not.


"I've already been exonerated. Nobody else's opinion is relevant to me... The people that are close to me—my friends, my family—know the truth. Beyond that, people are always going to have an opinion.


"Tempted (to tell more)? Of course, but beyond that, like I said, it really wouldn't do anybody any good."


Artie
: I think it would do Braun some good, especially before he gets out to L.A. at the end of May. Boy, is he gonna get it when he's at bat and Matt Kemp is out in center field. They would pack the place just to boo him for getting the MVP over Kemp, but add this in?

Frank
: More than that, though. Knowing more about "what actually happened" would do me and every other fan some good. We're helping pay Braun his millions, and we want to believe him. So don't suggest there are more details and then not give them.

Artie
: That's what doesn't do anybody any good.

Frank
: I keep flashing on Lucy Ricardo burning Ricky's toast, and when he asks what's wrong, she says, "Well, if you don't know, I'm certainly not going to tell you!"

Artie
: Like Ricky always tells Lucy, if Braun talks about "what actually happened," he's got some 'splaining to do.

Frank
: He could have said, "All I can tell the doubters is that I know I didn't deliberately take a banned substance. Beyond that, I don't know what might have happened to my sample and none of us may ever know." But what he said was specific and, frankly, confrontational toward any doubters.

Artie
: It didn't win 'em over, I'll bet.

Frank
: We also need Das' report to MLB to be made public.

Artie
: That's supposed to be confidential, like the whole testing process.

Frank
: True enough, but the fact is that this case did leak. And what's the expression? You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Artie
: Sure, it would have been better for Braun and MLB if the whole thing stayed secret. But it got out, and it always will be out.

Frank
: And therefore all of it should be out. The fans who support this multi-billion-dollar industry have an interest in knowing what Das found improper; otherwise it looks like MLB is trying to cover up some flaw in the system.

Artie
: But I'll bet Bud Selig twiddles his thumbs and hopes it all goes away.

Frank
: Last week Selig told WTMJ radio, "We administered, I believe it was, 4,890 tests last year. We had no other problems. Zero. This was one of those things that happened, but I'm proud of where we are."

Artie
: One out of 4,890, so what? Why not tell everyone the extraordinary circumstances, unless they weren't so extraordinary and you've got something to hide?

Frank
: There was another puzzling statement last month about some secret back story, and from an unlikely source: Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

Artie
: What's he got to do with this?

Frank
: Tyler Kepner of The New York Times wrote a column about Braun on March 16. Braun wouldn't talk with Kepner, but Lucroy did, saying Braun had given teammates a fuller explanation of the case. The Journal Sentinel's Bob Wolfley reprinted this Lucroy quote: "I'm not going to get into the details, but if you knew what we knew, people would be like, 'Wow.'"

Artie
: Then why not wow us?

Frank
: Here's Lucroy's answer, as it appeared in Wolfley's column:

"It's up to him; it's his choice. And, honestly, if some of the things came out, it would be a lot more negative than positive. There are reasons."


Artie
: What the hell is that supposed to mean? Negative? Negative for whom—MLB, Laurenzi, Braun himself?

Frank
: I have a final quibble with Braun's words. In a Channel 12 interview last week, he said he had been "exonerated" and found "innocent." But I would argue that, legally and technically, he is neither—at least right now. The definition of "exonerate" is "to clear, as of an accusation, free from guilt or blame; exculpate." And "innocent" is defined as "free from legal or specific wrong; guiltless."

Artie
: But Das' ruling apparently said nothing about what was in the sample, or whether it was tainted or switched or messed up in the lab.

Frank
: Braun is not guilty and not suspended, but those are different from innocent and exonerated.

Artie
: To a lot of people outside Wisconsin, anyway.

Frank
: Maybe we'll never know just what happened to the sample. And if that's the case, Braun will always be believed by some and doubted by others. But the closer we can all come to the facts, the better.