One more for the Braun-over-brains file

I’m pretty sure we’ve reached the pinnacle of incredibly hysterical things that can be said/written about doping in baseball today and, wouldn’t you know it, it was Mike Lupica who took us there. There are so many terrible things about today’s column, and that is to be expected, that it’s almost worth gliding right over, but, like comparing a union defending guaranteed salary benefits to “gun nuts,” much of it goes past the point of inanity and into the realm of the offensive.

For example, his attack on Shyam Das, the longtime MLB arbitrator who heard Ryan Braun appeal, is something even for Lupica:

The appeal Braun is talking about came after he tested positive a year or so ago for testosterone, with record-breaking numbers still discussed around baseball the way tape-measure home runs are. He was given a suspension for 50 games and appealed and won the appeal, apparently because the arbitrator decided that because Braun’s samples were kept over the weekend at the collector’s house, the guy having missed the last weekend pickup for FedEx, they had somehow been compromised.

I say apparently because to this day we never saw the written decision from the arbitrator, Shyam Das, probably because Major League Baseball is embarrassed it ever let Das near this case in the first place.

I can’t say that I know what the reasoning behind not releasing a written decision was (my guess is that MLB and MLBPA didn’t want a flaw in the system to be put out for everyone to see), but if they were “embarrassed” by Das they certainly had a funny way of showing it. Das had been the arbitrator since 1999, hearing CBA grievances, salary arbitration cases, drug testing appeals, etc. During that time, MLB could have dismissed him at any point, and indeed they did remove him after this case, so it stands to reason that they were perfectly fine with him up until they got egg on their face last winter. Oh, and if they truly thought Das’ decision was without merit, they could have at least tried to appeal in federal court, which they didn’t.

That attack on a professional infinitely more knowledgeable than Lupica is bad enough on its own terms, but then we get this curveball:

Braun talked and talked about the “truth” coming out after the arbitrator threw out his suspension. But here’s another question: What truth? The only relevant truth is that Das blew the decision like a tomato can of a closer blowing a save, and let Braun walk.

So four paragraphs up, Lupica’s problem is that Das didn’t release a decision, so we don’t know what was argued, what Das’ reasoning was, etc. 100 words or so later, the pretense is gone, and Lupica just asserts with no ambiguity that Das got it wrong full stop because he sided with Braun. Well at least he never has to worry about jury duty ever again.

But, as always, the biggest howler is saved for the big finish:

There is only one way for Major League Baseball and for the rest of us to get the answers we need on Bosch the “biochemist” and Braun and A-Rod and all the other misunderstood ballplayers who have made the PED version of the Dean’s List, known as Bosch’s List: Get everybody in front of a grand jury and make them tell their stories under oath, not to their PR men.

I’ve heard a lot of silly arguments about how sweeping the commissioner’s powers are under the “best interests of baseball” clause, but I have to tell you: filing criminal charges in actual court and forcing people to testify under oath, all without a single piece of evidence, is very much a new one.

I know this is a bold statement, but this column may well be the worst thing Mike Lupica has ever written.

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

8 thoughts on “One more for the Braun-over-brains file

  1. Lupica has been writing/whoring for whatever rag would publish his drivel since the '70's & he may actually have managed the remarkable feat of becoming more unpopular than Dick Young; at least you can have some respect for Young for actually being a newspaper reporter!
    Lupica has been so wrong, so many times you'd think he would have been forced to retire by now: Do you remember his famous "clubbed fingers" column when Bart Giamatti died, Dr. Lupica diagnosed the late baseball commissioner with heart disease based on the photo of Mr. Giamatti's "clubbed fingers"? Only one problem was Dr. Lupica was examining someone else's "clubbed fingers."
    I'm still waiting for Dr. Lupica's retraction…he is a perfect example of why baseball writers have become an anachronism!
    Say goodnight Mike!

  2. Yeah… I don't understand slamming Das at all. He's ruled against MLB (and MLBPA) many times and they go back, so obviously well-respected (even if having to pick from a short-list) and has been involved in many, many high-profile arbitration cases so respected outside of baseball too.

    Further, wasn't the decision that — while the collector followed an agreed-procedure with his hiring company — the procedure wasn't compliant with the terms as laid out in the CBA? That's… a pretty clear reason, isn't it?

    • Well … all we know for certain about the Das decision is that he decided for Braun. I've looked at the original ESPN story on the decision. The decision was announced by the player's union, and that announcement did not disclose the reasoning behind the decision. The only official statement from MLB at the time expressed vehement disagreement with the decision, without discussing the grounds for the decision.

      Moreover, it's not clear that Das ever issued a written opinion explaining his decision — ESPN reported last April that MLB and the player's union asked Das to hold off issuing an opinion, and the thinking then was that both sides would reach a settlement providing for clarification of the drug testing rules and for the Braun decision to stand without explanation. Das was fired by MLB a few weeks later.

      Sure, we have plenty of reports from purportedly reliable sources stating how the case was decided, but these reports do not agree in all respects. What I've seen reported most often is that the Das decision was based on a "failure to follow protocol", which doesn't tell us much. If I'm going to trust one of these reports, the report I'd trust is Will Carroll's, which I've discussed many times before. In essence, Carroll's report is that the decision was based on science. Carroll has been emphatic that this case was not decided on a technicality. As Carroll actually understands the science, I think he's the ultimate "reliable source".

      My understanding is that the Braun case is MLB's sole defeat in a PED case.

  3. Lupica is the far left's answer to Ann Coulter and that's clearly all he wants to be.His sports columns have gotten progressively worse and non objective since he added his political column.I'm not saying this because of his politics,that's irrelevant other than that he seems to be carrying the strident "my opinion is the only right one" writing style/voice into his sports work.He comes off now like the proverbial old man yelling,"get off my lawn!"

  4. He is the ultimate hypocrite. He was writing articles (read: Making Money) extolling the home runs of Sosa, McGwire and all the other power hitters of the 90's and early 2000's and now acts surprised that these men who clearly resembled nothing even close to the physical appearance they had as rookies, just might have been doing more than hitting the gym as they crushed what had been considered untouchable records. His articles on the subject border on the manic and he acts like this is some huge revelation that the government should get involved in. Next thing you know he is going to ask for a grand jury inquiry into whether professional cycling has a drug problem.

  5. A grand jury should be looking into what drugs Lupica is taking.

    It really is sad. He once was a very good, thoughtful sports columnist. I do wonder whether he became unhinged after McGwire and Sosa were named as PED users because he'd written a hagiography for them and the Greatness That Was the 1998 Season. It's like he feels personally cheated. His work has been weak for years, but I agree with you, Brien, this may be the worst piece he's ever written.

    "[I]f they truly thought Das’ decision was without merit, they could have at least tried to appeal in federal court." Actually that would be next to impossible. Courts are enormously deferential to arbitrators' decisions, even if they look flat wrong on their faces. There has to be something like lack of jurisdiction or proof of actual bias. Even plain errors of fact or law are not reviewable by the courts.