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Tag:NL Central
Posted on: February 24, 2012 3:01 pm
 

Victor Conte unimpressed with Ryan Braun

By Matt Snyder

Many were impressed by exhonorated Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun's press conference Friday. Victor Conte wasn't one of those people.

Conte founded the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative ("BALCO") and served time in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute steroids and money laundering charges back in 2005. And he's not buying what Braun is selling.

Ever since the appeal decision was reported Thursday afternoon, Conte's been firing off tweet after tweet (@VictorConte) in an attempt to make everyone believe that he knows Braun used a "fast-acting testosterone." Here are a few examples:

• "My opinion. Floyd Landis case like Braun case. A & B samples w/ elevated T/E ratio. CIR confirms 'synthetic' testosterone. Lots of smoke"

• "[CIR confirmation is] Carbon Isotope Ratio tests for synthetic vs natural testosterone. Nail in coffin."

• "I believe fast acting testosterone use is rampant in MLB. Even 4 to 1 T/E ratio is easy to beat. CIR screening is needed on all samples"

• [in reply to someone calling him a "joke"] "Maybe the truth about the Braun case is the joke"

• "My opinion. Braun's positive test for testosterone was not overturned. Simply a procedure error was made by MLB. Braun tested positive."

There's more, but I'd rather not continue to give this guy his due. I found the last one I listed especially funny, as he stated that "Braun tested positive" as if that was some sort of revelation. Of course Braun tested positive. That wasn't in question. Braun even discussed that his test came up as positive. The question was whether or not the sample was a legitimate, untainted sample. Conte seems to believe he has all the information here -- as if he was in the lab -- and when someone uninvolved with the process acts like the ultimate authority on the matter, that always feels a bit much for me. I'm not going to pretend I know exactly what happened, but I do know a third-party arbitrator saw all the evidence and sided with a player for the first time ever. Conte believes he knows better. 

Hey, to each his own. Feel free to give as much or as little credibility to Conte's tweets as you wish. We're simply passing them along.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 2:11 pm
 

CBS News legal analyst discusses Braun case

By Matt Snyder

Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun won his appeal of a positive drug test Thursday, and Friday Jack Ford, CBS News legal analyst, joined the Tim Brando Show to discuss the controversial outcome of the Ryan Braun PED appeal case.

Here is the clip.



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Posted on: February 24, 2012 1:35 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 5:26 pm
 

Braun comes out swinging, claims his innocence



By C. Trent Rosecrans


Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun came out swinging against the Major League Baseball drug testing process, the sample collector and the media in his first public statements since his positive drug test on October.

"I can only answer for myself," Braun said. "The program, as it applied to me, was fatally flawed. I've certainly been frustrated by the process. I've felt it's been unfair.

"Are there changes that should be made? I believe yes."

Major League Baseball executive vice president for labor relations Rob Manfred issued a statement disputing Braun's assertion.

“Our program is not ‘fatally flawed,’" Manfred said. "Changes will be made promptly to clarify the instructions provided to collectors regarding when samples should be delivered to FedEx based on the arbitrator’s decision. Neither Mr. Braun nor the MLBPA contended in the grievance that his sample had been tampered with or produced any evidence of tampering.”

Braun wins appeal
Braun did detail, however, not only when he was tested, but also casted doubt on the sample collector, noting there were 18 Federal Express offices were open until 9 p.m. in Milwaukee and even one 24-hour FedEx office. He said he was tested after a 1 p.m. game that ended at 4:15. Braun laid out his defense like a lawyer making his closing statement.

"At the end of the day the truth prevailed," he said. "I'm a victim of a process that completely broke down and failed in the way that it was applied to me in the case. As players, we're held to a standard of 100 percent perfection regarding the program, and everybody else associated with that program should be held to the same standard. We're a part of a process where you're 100 percent guilty until proven innocent. It's the opposite of the American judicial system.

In fact, Braun said he's considering legal action, citing possible legal action as a reason for not naming the sample collector.

He also shot down a rumor that he'd been treated for sexually transmitted disease, noting he'd never had an STD.

Braun came out swinging, said his performance had been measured -- that he didn't add a pound, he didn't become any faster. He also noted he already has a nine-year, guaranteed contract.

"I'd bet my life that this substance never entered my body," Braun said.

He also said he was unhappy that the test became public and that he has an idea how the news of his positive test leaked. ESPN reported his positive test -- which was supposed to remain confidential until the appeal was heard -- in December.

"I tried to handle the entire situation with honor, with integrity, with class, with dignity and with professionalism because that's who I am and that's how I've always lived my life," he said. "If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I'd be the first one to step up and I say I did it. By no means am I perfect, but if I've ever made any mistakes in my life, I've taken responsibility for my actions. I truly believe in my heart and I would bet my life that the substance never entered my body at any point."

MLB contends the leak didn't come from their end.

“With regards to the breach of confidentiality regarding this case, both the Commissioner’s Office and the MLBPA have investigated the original leak of Ryan Braun’s test, and we are convinced that the leak did not come from the Commissioner’s Office," Manfred said in a statement.

The MLB Players Association agrees.

“Our Joint Drug Program stands as strong, as accurate and as reliable as any in sport, both before and after the Braun decision," said MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner in a statement. "The breach of confidentiality associated with this matter is unfortunate but, after investigation, we are confident that it was not caused by the Commissioner’s Office, the MLBPA or anyone associated in any way with the Program. In all other respects, the appeals process worked as designed; the matter was vigorously contested and the independent and neutral arbitrator issued a decision deserving of respect by both bargaining parties."

Braun was asked about how his reputation would suffer, even after his successful appeal.

"I'm not dumb enough to pretend this is going to go away," Braun said. "I'm going to deal with this for a while. It's going to be a challenge."

"My name has been dragged through the mud as everything I've ever worked for in my life has been called into question."

Braun, who won the NL MVP after hitting .332/.397/.597 with 33 homers, 109 runs and 111 RBIs last year, is the first Major League Baseball player to have his suspension lifted by an arbitrator for a drug-related penalty. Arbitrator Shyam Das threw out Braun's ban on Thursday. Das, who has been baseball's independent arbitrator since 2000, informed the sides of his decision but did not give them a written opinion. He has 30 days to do so.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 7:10 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 11:34 am
 

Brewers back in NL Central mix ... on paper

By Matt Snyder

Every baseball fan has surely heard by now, considering our 24-hour Twitterverse of a news cycle, that Brewers' left fielder Ryan Braun won his appeal and will not face a 50-game suspension. There's plenty of discussion to be had on the matter from many different angles, but in this particular entry we'll focus on the 2012 NL Central race.

Had Braun been suspended, the Brewers could probably have been counted out in the NL Central. Replacing Prince Fielder and 50 games of Ryan Braun with Aramis Ramirez wasn't gonna cut it for a team that was largely dependent upon offense last season, en route to the Central division title. Replacing Fielder's production with some Ramirez and hoping for improvements in several other areas? Well, that actually sounds doable.

Then you look around the Central. On paper, we can count out the Pirates, Cubs and Astros. Obviously games aren't won on paper, otherwise the Diamondbacks would have finished last in the NL West as most expected last season. It's just that this is all we have to go on right now, and the Pirates, Cubs and Astros appear very overmatched by the Cardinals, Reds and now Brewers (again).

And right now, the Brewers have just as good a shot as any of the three. They went 96-66 last year and lost a major piece, for sure, in Fielder. But they did sign Ramirez to fill a gaping hole at third base. He can hit cleanup to protect Braun. There are other areas that can improve as well. All-Star second baseman Rickie Weeks only played 118 games last season, while Corey Hart was held to 130. If those guys can stay on the field a bit more, there's an offensive uptick. Alex Gonzalez represents a strong upgrade at shortstop over Yuniesky Betancourt (really, who wouldn't?).

Pitching-wise, the Brewers have the ability to be better as well. Improvements should be expected from Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in their second Milwaukee season. Yovani Gallardo has become a legitimate ace. The eighth and ninth innings should be dominant, with John Axford now having established himself as a lock-down closer and Francisco Rodriguez along for the full season as the eighth-inning guy.

Braun wins appeal
If the Brewers are looking outside and hoping for the optimistic spin, it's possible. Let's try it:

• The Cardinals lost the presence of Albert Pujols from the lineup. Can Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman stay healthy while also fighting off age regression? Speaking of age, how much longer does Chris Carpenter hold up? And Adam Wainwright is coming off Tommy John surgery.

• The Reds are stronger, for sure, but they're hardly a cinch to be a great team. You could make the argument there are question marks at catcher, shortstop, third base, center field and left field. Mat Latos was a good get, but how does he deal with a hitters' park instead of spacious Petco Park as his home field?

Obviously, we could spin things in favor of the Cardinals or Reds in a similar exercise, but it's the Brewers day with the Braun announcement.

The bottom line is I'm not sure who I'll be predicting in the NL Central, but it's between the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers. A few hours ago, it was just the Cardinals and Reds in the mix. In the time it takes to snap your fingers, the Brewers were thrust into the mix. Braun is that important.

We now wait for the actual games to see if everything plays out as expected, because what the "paper" says means nothing. Still, one cannot dispute that the Brewers already have their first big victory of the 2012 season.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 5:47 pm
 

Ryan Braun's statement about winning appeal

By Matt Snyder

Brewers star left fielder and reining NL MVP Ryan Braun won his appeal against a failed drug test Thursday. In the aftermath of the decision, Braun released a statement.

Here is the entire statement, in full (again, everything that follows is from Braun himself):

"I am very pleased and relieved by today’s decision.

It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.

We provided complete cooperation throughout, despite the highly unusual circumstances.

I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide. I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year.

I would like to thank my family and friends, my teammates, the Brewers organization led by Mark Attanasio, Doug Melvin, Gord Ash and Ron Roenicke, and other players around the league who have expressed their support and our great fans in Milwaukee and around the country who stuck by me and did not rush to judgment.

I'd also like to offer special thanks to Michael Weiner and the Players Association for believing in me since day one and to my attorneys.

I'd like to thank my agent Nez Balelo and Terry Prince of CAA Sports and Matthew Hiltzik of Hiltzik Strategies for all of their help and counsel through the process.

This is not just about one person, but about all current and future players, and thankfully, today the process worked.

Despite the challenges of this adversarial process, I do appreciate the professionalism demonstrated by the Panel Chair and the Office of the Commissioner. 

As I said before, I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball.

Everything I’ve done in my career has been with that respect and appreciation in mind.

I look forward to finally being able to speak to the fans and the media on Friday and then returning the focus to baseball and working with my Brewers teammates on defending our National League Central title."

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 5:12 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 9:44 pm
 

Braun wins appeal, won't be suspended



By Matt Snyder


Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun has won his appeal and will not serve a suspension for a positive drug test late last season, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman has confirmed. The news was first reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. This means arbitrator Shyam Das ruled Braun was not guilty in his failed test -- which showed elevated testosterone levels.

The appeal was held in front of Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and Das, a third-party arbitrator. The chain of custody of the sample is where Braun won the appeal. His side argued it was improperly handled and there must have been enough evidence to convince Das.

The sample in question was collected on Oct. 1, a Saturday and the day the Brewers opened the NL playoffs. The collector did not send the sample to the laboratory until Monday, thinking it would be more secure at home than at a Federal Express office during the weekend. Baseball's drug agreement states that "absent unusual circumstances, the specimens should be sent by FedEx to the laboratory on the same day they are collected."

Major League Baseball, for one, is not happy. Here's the statement released by MLB executive vice president for labor relations Rob Manfred:

Braun wins appeal
“Major League Baseball considers the obligations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program essential to the integrity of our game, our Clubs and all of the players who take the field. It has always been Major League Baseball’s position that no matter who tests positive, we will exhaust all avenues in pursuit of the appropriate discipline. We have been true to that position in every instance, because baseball fans deserve nothing less.

“As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.”

Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called the decision "a real gut-kick to clean athletes."

Das has been baseball's independent arbitrator since 2000 and this is the first successful drug test-related appeal.

Positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs have been relatively rare under the major league testing program, with just two others in 2011: Tampa Bay outfielder Manny Ramirez and Colorado Rockies catcher Eliezer Alfonzo. Ramirez at first retired rather than face a 100-game suspension for a second positive test. Now that he wants to play again and since he missed most of last year, he will only need to serve a 50-game penalty.

Braun has maintained his innocence since word of his positive test leaked after the Winter Meetings. Sources told CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler that when Braun found out he had tested positive for a banned substance he requested a second test, which came up negative. Braun then appealed the first failed test, and the results were supposed to stay confidential, but an ESPN report outed Braun's test on December 10 and the story has been lingering since then.

Braun, 28, won the NL MVP in 2011 when he hit .332/.397/.597 with 33 homers, 111 RBI and 109 runs for the NL Central-winning Brewers. He will join his teammates in Brewers camp Friday, as scheduled.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 2:19 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 4:07 pm
 

Oswalt pulls a Clemens, prepares for half-season



By Matt Snyder


Free agent starting pitcher Roy Oswalt has told major-league teams that he's aiming to join a club at some point during the season.

"After much thought and careful consideration, Roy has decided to continue to evaluate his options," said Oswalt's agent, Bob Garber in a statement. "He is great health and will continue to stay in shape, while throwing regularly off the mound. Roy has every intention of pitching for a contending club at some point this season.''

Spring Training Coverage
You might recall Roger Clemens did the midseason thing twice last decade. In May of 2006, he signed with the Astros and went 7-6 with a 2.30 ERA that season. In May of 2007, Clemens signed with the Yankees, going 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA. He made a postseason start, too, but was chased after just 2 1/3 innings.

Oswalt, 34, wasn't lacking for attention this offseason, as he turned down a one-year, $10 million from the Tigers and also declined to discuss terms with the Red Sox. Oswalt is said to want to be as close as possible to his home in Mississippi, specifically targeting the Cardinals and Rangers -- neither of whom were interested or met Oswalt's asking price. As CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler noted on Twitter, Garber didn't specify which "contending club" Oswalt wished to join, and it's believed he still only wants to pitch for the Rangers or Cardinals. So he's basically waiting on an injury or underperformance to open up a rotation spot on either team.

He was once one of the more durable pitchers in baseball. From 2002-2010, he only failed to make 30 starts one season while throwing at least 208 innings in seven of those nine campaigns. Last season, however, Oswalt was hampered by a back injury and made just 23 starts. He was 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 93 strikeouts in 139 innings. In his one postseason start, he took the loss, allowing six hits and five runs in six innings against the Cardinals.

Oswalt is 159-93 with a 3.21 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 1,759 strikeouts in his career. He's a three-time All-Star and finished in the top six of Cy Young voting six times, but never better than third. He's pitched in the playoffs four different seasons, two with the Astros and two with the Phillies, once making the World Series (2005 Astros) but never winning it.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 11:17 am
 

Report: Pirates president charged with DUI

By Matt Snyder

Pittsburgh Pirates president Frank Coonelly has been charged with four counts related to a DUI back on December 22, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Coonelly, 51, was reportedly driving the wrong way and had a blood alcohol content of over 0.16, which means he was more than twice the legal limit. This is Coonelly's first offense. He's currently with the Pirates for spring training in Bradenton, Fla. and has released the following statement, via Pittsburghlive.com:
"My actions that evening were irresponsible and wrong."

"I take full and sole responsibility for them. There is no excuse for ever driving under the influence of alcohol."

"My wife and I have preached to our children about the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol, not only for themselves but for the innocent drivers, passengers and pedestrians on the road," Coonelly said. "I am embarrassed that I failed to follow this advice myself on this occasion and extremely grateful no one was injured or adversely affected by this serious lapse of judgment."

"I have apologized to my wife and children, to Bob Nutting and to all of those at the Pirates organization who work so tirelessly for the club. I would also like to apologize to all of the fans and friends of the Pittsburgh Pirates. My conduct that night was uncharacteristic to my personally held values and not who I am. I will learn from this serious lapse of judgment."
Coonelly has a wife and four children. Prior to taking over as the Pirates' president in September of 2007, he was Major League Baseball's general counsel, where he advised on arbitration hearings, draft bonuses and the like. Before that, he was a lawyer in private practice in the Washington D.C. area.

His arraignment is scheduled for March 20.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com