Thursday, February 23, 2012

In This League Office

Major League Baseball has a serious problem. Over the last decade-plus this problem has sullied the names of some of the greatest men ever to play the game. Guaranteed Hall-of-Famers will be lucky to get enough votes to stay on the ballot from year to year. It's petty and disgusting and quite frankly I'm sick of hearing about it from everyone. This problem is not going away anytime soon though and the breaking news today about Ryan Braun's suspension being overturned shows just how important this issue is in the game today. The issue I'm speaking about of course is none other than the extreme breaches of confidentiality exhibited in recent years by the MLB, specifically with regards to performance enhancing drugs.

There is no doubt that the steroid era (which possibly isn't over) put a black mark on America's pastime, but the ignorance on the part of MLB management, the media, and the fans are as equally culpable for the results as the juiced up players. I think bygones should remain bygones and we should evaluate the era for what it was. There's no need to find out exactly what every player was on for every game he played and besides, if we start digging up skeletons from this era we should go back and deal with the spitballers, greenie junkies, and racial black-listers from past eras as well. Unfortunately there are some who feel that the players of the steroid era deserve to be dragged through the mud more than any others. Although I don't support that opinion I can understand how some would want to follow this path. What I do have a problem with though, is MLB leaking confidential information to aid in the witch hunt. It is completely inappropriate and unfair to the players involved and I'm surprised that no one has brought a lawsuit yet.

In 2003 the players agreed to a survey drug test under the condition that the results would remain anonymous. In this test 104 players tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. However that list has since been passed around or seized by BALCO, Quest Diagnostics, the MLBPA, and federal authorities. In doing so the names of stars such as Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Sammy Sosa among others have had their names leak off this supposedly confidential list. And although not a direct breach of confidentiality, MLB also commissioned the Mitchell Report knowing full well that they would not act on it in anyway. Its purpose was to indict a few more players who passed drugs around in "shady locker room dealings" and try to pass the MLB off as innocent and above the whole ordeal.

Now we have the Ryan Braun incident. To quote from Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention And Treatment Program:
The Commissioner’s Office, the Association, the Treatment Board, the IPA, the Medical Testing Officer, Club personnel, and all of their members, affiliates, agents, consultants and employees, are prohibited from publicly disclosing information about an individual Player’s test results or testing history, Initial Evaluation, diagnosis, Treatment Program (including whether a Player is on either the Clinical or Administrative Track), prognosis or compliance with a Treatment Program.
This was clearly violated. This test will hang over Braun now for the rest of his career regardless of his new-found innocence.  He will be accused of cheating in every road game he plays in until he retires and it probably won't stop there. Besides the damage to Braun, this is also completely embarrassing for the MLB. Accusing and suspending a player for performance enhancing drugs is a delicate matter, even more so when that player is the freshly minted MVP. The leak shows a complete lack of class and calls into question the entire MLB drug testing procedure. If Braun were to have failed the test and had it overturned on review without the leak the league would have held steady. Now people will be clamoring to know exactly how Braun "beat" the test. If he beat it on a technicality, how did such a careless mistake occur, or if he truly was clean or tested positive as the result of legal and prescribed medication, how was this not resolved immediately and discretely and are their possible flaws in the science?

I doubt that it was any high ranking official who has been responsible for these leaks but that's largely irrelevant. An atmosphere of distrust has been created and the MLB front office needs to seriously clean up their act, if not for the sheer dignity of it, then perhaps to avoid litigation in the future.

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