MLB Will Need More Than Latest Links to PEDs to Win Ryan Braun Grudge Match

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MLB Will Need More Than Latest Links to PEDs to Win Ryan Braun Grudge Match

Major League Baseball has been given an excuse to revisit some unfinished business with Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun, but a renewed pursuit may not lead to the result the league wants.

By now, you've probably heard that Braun has been linked to the alleged PED-supplying wellness clinic profiled by the Miami New Times last week. Tim Brown and Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports discovered Braun's name in the clinic's records, meaning that he's now in the same boat as Alex Rodriguez.

The catch is that they're not on the same end of the boat.

Rodriguez is the central villain in the records of Anthony Bosch, the biochemist who ran the Biogenesis clinic. His name is repeatedly linked to various performance-enhancing drugs (including HGH and testosterone) purchased between 2009 and 2012, damning revelations for a guy who has already admitted to juicing in the early 2000s.

Braun's name, on the other hand, is not listed next to any PEDs in these new documents. One document merely shows his name in a list of players including A-Rod, Melky Cabrera and others. Another document references one of Braun's attorneys, and another refers to a "Braun advantage" in conjunction with a player who might be Cabrera.

Not too damning in the grand scheme of things, especially in light of the evidence against Rodriguez and others. It does look bad, though.

Braun has been lumped in with several players who have either admitted using (A-Rod) or tested positive for (Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Yasmany Grandal) PEDs. It also doesn't bode well for Braun that he is a former University of Miami star linked to a clinic that has ties to UM strength and conditioning coach Jimmy Goins and various Miami athletes.

The Brewers slugger is guilty by association. And for now, that's good enough for Major League Baseball. Brown and Passan say the league will investigate.

It was barely a year ago that the league had Braun busted for a positive testosterone test only to see him escape a 50-game suspension on a chain-of-custody technicality. Now, he is being named in the most high-profile PED scandal to come to light since, well, his.

According to Anthony Witrado of Sporting News, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig still isn't over the fact that Braun was able to beat the system:

But wait, there's more:

Revenge isn't exactly at hand, but it may be out there somewhere. Selig has leads. Now all he needs in order to exact his revenge on Braun is something that will stick.

Unfortunately for Selig, the references to Braun in the documents revealed by Yahoo! Sports aren't good enough. Some sort of indication that he actually purchased PEDs from Bosch is needed, and the new documents provide absolutely zero indication that he did.

In fact, there is only one mention of money in the documents containing references to Braun, as Bosch wrote "RB 20-30K" below a line containing Braun's name. That translates into "Ryan Braun, $20-$30 thousand," which is a huge amount of money compared to the dollar amounts listed next to the names of Rodriguez and others in the New Times documents.

Braun has a reasonable explanation for this. Via Adam McCalvy of MLB.com, here's what he said in a statement issued on Tuesday night:

During the course of preparing for my successful appeal last year, my attorneys, who were previously familiar with Tony Bosch, used him as a consultant. More specifically, he answered questions about T/E ratio and possibilities of tampering with samples.

There was a dispute over compensation for Bosch’s work, which is why my lawyer and I are listed under "moneys owed" and not on any other list.

I have nothing to hide and have never had any other relationship with Bosch.

I will fully cooperate with any inquiry into this matter.

It's fishy that Bosch was the best Braun and his attorneys could do for an expert on testosterone. There's no shortage of experts in that field. Why choose a guy running a shady wellness clinic in South Florida rather than, say, a Harvard biochemist?

MLB will surely ask Braun about that, but the reality that Braun's alibi is a good one is problematic. Furthermore, the fact that he's eager to cooperate with the league's inquiries indicates that he's either completely innocent or confident that MLB won't be able to dig up anything else.

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Bud Selig praying for the PED fairy to sprinkle some testosterone on a banana peel recently discarded by Ryan Braun.

If that's the case, then Braun and his people clearly know the rules. MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program only allows Selig to discipline players without a positive test if he determines he has "just cause" to issue a suspension, but he'll have to do better than these flimsy documents in order to claim that he has that. 

Possession would do the trick, but the documents at hand don't prove that, and Braun surely isn't about to confess to possessing PEDs if he has any. A prescription would also do the trick, as it did with Manny Ramirez in 2009, but Bosch doesn't appear to have dealt in prescriptions.

Anything less than proof of possession or a prescription isn't going to cut it, and Selig and his underlings should realize this. Braun has already beaten them in an appeal once. If they don't conjure up any hard evidence but go after him anyway, he'll be able to beat them again. 

It's possible that there are more documents that haven't come to light yet. MLB may be hoping so, as the league has asked the New Times for the documents that the paper obtained for its report. Dozens of documents were used, but many were redacted and others weren't used in the report.

But if this is MLB's best hope for further evidence on Braun, the league is likely out of luck. The fact that Braun's name wasn't in the New Times report is a clear indication that the paper couldn't find anything in the documents solid enough to charge him with obtaining PEDs from Bosch.

If the New Times couldn't find anything good enough for publication, why should MLB think it's going to find anything worthy of a punishment?

If the league wants to go on a hunt for a big, bad witch, that's fine. But it should prepare itself to end up on a wild goose chase instead.

 

If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter.

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