Baseball Tuesday: Braun suspension kicks off Biogenesis fallout
Why Ryan Braun's lack of appeal signals a much less messy Biogenesis fallout than expected.
Milwaukee Brewer outfielder and former NL MVP Ryan Braun was suspended without pay for the rest of the season, and he agreed to the punishment without appeal – an indication my dour fears for the Biogenesis scandal will not come to pass. Actually, that indication first came when the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, Michael Weiner, commented during the All Star game that the organization would not pursue appeals if the evidence were strong enough, and that he'd recommend players plea in exchange for lesser sentences.
That certainly seemed to be the case with Braun. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
...a baseball source said the evidence was "so overwhelming" that the 2011 National League most valuable player had no choice but to accept the 65-game penalty or face a much longer suspension. ESPN reported the evidence showed Braun used "a sophisticated doping regimen" for an extended period of time.
Braun's incentives for taking the punishment were likely many. A 65-game suspension is much shorter than the punishments MLB commissioner had been threatening for players involved with the Miami clinic. Also, the Brewers are far out of contention, and Braun had been battling injuries all year.
Braun accepting the punishment also indicates that the evidence against the players is strong. You have to think it extends far beyond testimony from Biogenesis clinic owner Tony Bosch.
This is just the beginning, of course. The biggest target of MLB's investigation is still at large. That player, of course, is Yankee third baseman, Alex Rodriguez. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman has an in-depth analysis of the case and possible punishments waiting for A-Rod, but it's very possible – and maybe deliberate – that the Biogenesis might mean the end of Rodriguez' playing time in baseball. A miserable end to a once brilliant career.
Other players named in Biogenesis documents present a more tricky problem to baseball. Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers and Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers, for example, are integral parts of contending teams. A major suspension now might negatively impact their teams' chances in September. It's possible those and other players will pursue appeals to delay their suspensions until next season.
In any case, it'll be fascinating to see how it all plays out over the summer. And maybe – just maybe – the Biogenesis scandal might be what the sport needs to keep itself largely clean.
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So there was an All Star game this week, I understand. I didn't watch it. I haven't watched an All Star game in – what? – ten years? More? Not that I think it's a bad idea. When I was a kid, it was a marquee game. I remember staying up late to watch the first couple of innings. That wasn't bad. The most exciting part was watching the player introductions and counting how many Boston Red Sox were on the team compared to the New York Yankees.
But I'm not into it. Worse, I count down the days until real baseball starts.
It could just be me, but I don't think so. I think the almost constant availability of the game through MLB.tv, through MLB.com's radio package, the availability of instant scores and highlights and analysis on the 'Net has stolen the All Star game's appeal. Back then, in the 1970s and -80s the All Star game was often the only chance to see players on live television. Now, not so much.
I say get rid of it. Just name an All Star team that doesn't actually play. It'd be kind of like getting named an All-American in college sports. Or better yet, have the players do some sporting event totally unrelated to baseball, like run an obstacle course like they did on that old Superstars show.
I'd totally watch that.
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Last week, the Erie SeaWolves were out of town; this week is full of home games. Starting last night, the SeaWolves kick off an eight-game homestand against the Richmond Flying Squirrels and the Bowie Baysox.
The Flying Squirrels have appeared in this column before: they're the AA affiliate for the San Francisco Giants, who have a relatively bare system. The top-ranked prospect for this team is Joe Panik, a scrappy-type middle infielder whose ceiling is as an everyday, average major-league regular, but who might more realistically end up as a utilityman. Keep an eye out for Kyle Crick, however. That's the Giants top prospect, a power rightie tearing up high-A ball, who was recently ranked the 49th overall best prospect by Baseball America in its midseason rankings. It's only a matter of time before he appears in AA ball.
The Baltimore Orioles have a better system than the Giants, but the franchise's most exciting prospects – pitchers Dylan Bundy and Keven Gausman – are already past the AA level. Still, the Bowie Baysox bring some decent prospects to town.
There's lefty pitcher, Eduardo Rodriguez, who was Baltimore's fifth-ranked prospect heading into the season according to Baseball America. Rodriguez' best picth is his fastball, which he throws in the mid- to low-90s. According to Baseball Prospectus (subscription req'd), he's a savvy pitcher who'll likely round out the back of a big-league rotation. Rodriguez' ERA is in the low 5s in AA so far, but he's struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings pitched.
There's also Mike Wright, who took home the Most Valuable Player honors from the recent Eastern League All Star game, in which he pitched a scoreless first and was the winning pitcher for the West division. Wright's 8-2 with a 3.61 ERA and an impressive 2.84 strikeout-to-walk ratio in AA play this year. Baseball America ranked him as the O's eighth-best prospect in its preseason rankings. Baseball Prospectus said he "isn't a flashy prospect," but "a long-limbed pitcher that can pound the strike zone...", and projects him as a number four starter.
I've given up predicting who'll start in these series, but it's almost assured one of these two will start for the Baysox during their stopover in Erie.