Matt Kemp

Brains > Braun

Before I go any further, I wanted to state up front that I happen to be a big Ryan Braun fan.  When Jose Reyes was in the thick of a batting race with him, I wouldn’t have minded if he lost to Braun.  That’s how crazy I am about him.

That’s something you have to know about me.  Though I am a Mets fan true and through, there are some players that get to me that I have to follow since my love for baseball transcends my team sometimes.  I’ll root for the name on the front of the jersey first and foremost.  But there are guys that I tend to watch because of their names on the back of the jersey.  Ripken.  Lincecum.  Now Braun.

I’ll still continue to watch him, if only to feed my own curiosity as to how he responds to this whole drug testing drama.

I guess in real life, I happen to be a little more on the optimistic side of realist.  In my optimism, I tend to want to see the best in people, and believe in the best side of people.  However, I’d be silly to not acknowledge that Braun was looking out for the best interests of himself in this process, under the guise of what’s best for baseball and what he found to be an incredibly flawed analysis of drug testing.

I’m just as much against performance-enhancers as the rest of us, but let’s be fair.  When Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were smacking the crap out of the ball in 1998, when they both looked like the Incredible Hulk, didn’t we all just turn a blind eye and watched for the love of the game, despite what the naysayers said?  When Jose Canseco came out with his Juiced book a few years back, I actually turned up my nose.  I felt that what went on in the clubhouse should have stayed in the clubhouse.  It’s one thing if he wanted to come out and say, “I fuckin’ did steroids.”  To throw his teammates under the bus just wasn’t cool to me.

Yet, it doesn’t mean I think those years he players should be considered tarnished.  There’s a lot going on behind the scenes in baseball that we aren’t privy to.

Here’s my take on a few of the themes in the Braun case.

Many prominent MLB players back his side of the story, even those who aren’t on his team.  Matt Kemp, a runner-up in the MVP balloting that Braun actually won in 2011, was happy that Braun won his appeal, and even went so far to say he wouldn’t want the MVP title if Braun had to forfeit it for any reason.  Remember when Mike Greenwell said that he felt that he should have won MVP when Canseco won it admitting he did steroids to enhance his numbers?   Kemp wouldn’t have wanted a tainted MVP win any more than Braun, I suppose.  Many other players not named Corey Hart (a teammate of Braun’s) have come out in support too, such as Mark DeRosa on the Nationals.

I guess it’s two-fold.  At the end of the day, players are “union brothers,” so this is sort of a win for the player’s union.  Anyone who doesn’t back another player is just a scab, I suppose.

Then there’s the MLB side, the only side who are really bashing the system…you know, the system they put in place.  And of course, beat writers and fans with a soapbox (especially those in the NL Central, rightfully so to question it, of course) who all know better than the players.

This isn’t some kind of blind-eye fan girl optimism.

Okay, maybe it is.

This might be an unpopular view, but after reading some of the articles today (especially the New York Times), I happen to think that Braun has exposed a huge hole in the testing policy in MLB.  I mean, it’s bad enough it took them forever to acknowledge that, hey, this actually IS a problem, it seems like they’re using some antiquated methods in handling the specimens that could effect the process.  At the end of the day, these players have livelihoods and families to support and all that jazz.  Do we really want a Homer Simpson-like courier to handle the specimen of a high profile player who could easily be taken down because there’s a flaw in the process?

I’m not saying that’s happened…but Braun did bring up a technicality that could impact the testing system.

I hear some people say that Braun should just give a test sample to clear his name anyway.  That’s also flawed for many reasons.  I used to be in a Union, and there are things that a member can do that the Union will not support.  The Union doesn’t have to support, for example, taking a lie detector test, and I’m guessing along those lines that if a player doesn’t have to submit a DNA test to clear his name, why would they support him if he wanted to do that?  In a way, his name has been cleared, albeit on a technicality.

At the end of the day, this was a news story that should have not even been a story in the first place.  We’re raised with the idea that we’re all innocent until proven guilty, except in the era of PED-testing where you just might as well hang up your cleats and call it a career the second your name gets anywhere near tainted.  Yet, at the same time, in the instant-gratification of journalism, we still go with the old adage if it bleeds, it leads.  What better to spice up a pretty dead winter with “OOOOH the reigning MVP might be taking PEDs.  FILM AT 11!!”

I’m not saying he took them, didn’t take them, whatever.  All I’m saying is that there are no winners, no losers in this drama.

So Ryan Braun got off on a technicality.  What can we do?  MLB will have to make their process more bulletproof.  Players will have to still monitor what they put in their bodies.  (They should do that anyway.  Idiots).

I still happen to like Ryan Braun a lot and wish him well in the upcoming season.  He’s gonna need it with the extra scrutiny and lack of a big power bat missing in his lineup now that Prince Fielder is gone.

The Myth of the Franchise Player

Synonymous with Mets is Tom Seaver.  “Tom Terrific” is known as “The Franchise,” the player who was singularly responsible for making the Mets relevant.  Adding him to the pitching staff with the likes of Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan, and coupling him with players like Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee, caused the Mets to win their first championship in 1969.

Legend has it that the Mets were never quite the same after Dr. Evil himself, M. Donald Grant, traded away the Franchise, literally and figuratively, for some spare parts. It was true, in a way, but then again, so was the dynamic changing in baseball. Indirectly relating to the trade of Tom Seaver was the underlying notion that he wanted to be paid up, suckas.  Grant didn’t think Seaver was above the Mets name, and subsequently got rid of him by planting some unfavorable quotes in the NYC sports “tabloids,” if you will.

But the dynamic was also changing because of the era of free agency.  And to that, I ask, is the “franchise player” still relevant?

You know who that is: the guy who is known for playing for one team; who made his mark with one team; who may have played for another team, but was never quite the player he was with that synonymous team.  I think the closest we might have today is Albert Pujols. That, however, may change this offseason due to his contentious situation with being the best player in baseball (well, maybe Alex Rodriguez takes umbrage with that) and being a free agent.  I think his brand with the Cardinals is significant, but as my friend Bill Ivie has said, the Cardinals were a great franchise before Pujols, they’ll still be a great franchise without him.  Time will tell.

But then look at Carlos Beltran.  Perhaps one of the most divisive Mets in recent memory, his injuries may prevent him from ever making the Hall of Fame.  Yet, I had a Twitversation the other day with some other Mets fans about him playing a few more years, uninjured. I think if it walks and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck, and Beltran cannot stay healthy.  I said, the harsh reality is he could be another Moises Alou, a great player whose injury-marred seasons keep him from getting his call to the Hall.  However, someone said, if he DID come around with great numbers and played into his 40s without as many injuries, it would be hard pressed to have him go in as a Met, even though he did play seven years with them.

I guess I am raising these questions because of the Mets’ own “Franchise Players” and “Faces of the Franchise,” David Wright and Jose Reyes.

The Mets and those of us who live, breathe and eat any information surrounding the team have a contentious situation on their hands, especially regarding Reyes’ status as a free agent after the 2011 season.  Couple that with David Wright, which is another contentious situation in and of itself.  While not a free agent, he has an option that he can decline if he gets traded (which makes him a less attractive trading candidate), but then he’s had a noticeable drop off, but on the flip side he’s had one of his first injury-plagued seasons in recent memory (he’s been relatively healthy, considering all the injuries this stupid team has had in the last three years).

It gives me pause because they are still young and productive, yet I wonder if perhaps we all need a change of scenery.  Meaning we, as fans, with the same “cornerstone” players, and the players themselves.  M. Donald Grant may have been a Douchecanoe Deluxe, but perhaps he was prophetic in trying to set with us, that a player isn’t above the Franchise.  Well, he was wrong in the case of Seaver, but the dynamic of the game has changed since then.

Look at the Dodgers.  Their two franchise players, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, are essentially the equivalent of our Reyes and Wright.  They even have an A+ starter in Clayton Kershaw.  And they STILL can’t fucking win or make money!

Look, the Mets situation is precarious, and perhaps I am too close to it.  I was discussing on Twitter (and if you aren’t following me you SHOULD!! @Coopz22) the other with my friends over at the Daily Stache about the Reyes situation.  Basically, I feel like the issue is now that the Mets are mailing it in (something that Terry Collins is NOT happy about), we are going on our third straight losing season, our legs and asses are cramped up from wanting to jump for joy but we can’t because there is nothing making us do that, and now the prospect of losing guys we feel should be in Mets uniforms forever is something we are nonchalant about.  “Whatever,” has been my philosophy at this point.

I know things will change once the postseason is over, and who knows, maybe the Mets and Reyes will come to an agreement and we’ll be happy.  But I think what will make us happier is WINNING.  Reyes and Wright certainly has not been enough.  The onus is on the personnel to seriously evaluate the team and not attend to what the fans want.  Yes, I know Reyes makes us a lot of us happy.  And his injuries are a cause for concern, especially since they basically have said his running game (what makes Jose Jose) has been halted because of his hamstring issues this year.

I know I would hold onto Reyes simply for emotional reasons because I love him and want him to be a Met forever.  The other more rational side of me says that the time is not now. This team is a few years away from winning, and would it make a huge difference to lose with him or without him.