We're still over a week away from Spring Training games, but teams are all in camp now, so it suddenly feels very baseball-y. The latest from around MLB...
- You know the big story. Yesterday, a three-person arbitration panel (MLBPA Director Michael Weiner, MLB VP Rob Manfred, and independent arbitrator Shyam Das) voted 2-1 in favor of Ryan Braun's appeal of a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. The overturned suspension was the first in MLB history, and has been described as a decision based on a "technicality." The technicality? A courier, who was to deliver a urine sample to FedEx on a Saturday, instead took the sample home, thinking the FedEx center might be closed. He returned on Monday morning to have the sample shipped. That break in the chain of custody - the sample is supposed to be delivered as soon as possible - raised a sufficient question about the process, and Das cast the tie-breaking vote in Braun's favor.
- A number of reactions to the Braun decision, it seems to me, are fair (and you've been doing quite a bit of reacting in this Fanshot from last evening). It's fair to believe that Braun was innocent all along, and the process exonerated him. It's fair to believe that Braun indeed tested positive for a banned substance, and got lucky that a courier decided to chill on a Saturday night. It's probably not fair, however, to suspect some kind of conspiracy, no matter how convenient the decision might seem. MLB, for its part, is very upset, and "vehemently disagrees" with the Das decision. MLB Daily Dish collects a number of other reactions to the decision if you haven't had quite enough.
- Buster Olney says that the expectation within baseball is that the two additional Wild Cards will be added in time for the 2012 season. Recall, the plan is to have two Wild Cards in each league, bringing the total number of playoff teams to 10. The two Wild Card teams in each league will square off in a one-game playoff before the rest of the playoffs get underway. To me, the addition of two more Wild Cards is wonderful, both for the increased importance of winning your division, and the increased chance that your fan base will have something to cheer for deep into July/August/September. That said - and, yes, I understand the scheduling limitations - I really hate the idea of a one-game playoff. Can't we figure out a way to at least play three games? Even the best team in baseball, playing the worst team in baseball, is going to lose 30 to 35% of the time in a one-gamer.
- Players and the Players' Association are not too happy about the Miami Marlins' plan to continue paying all players with service time between zero and three years the Major League minimum salary, regardless of performance or service time. During that period in a player's career, a team has the right to "renew" his contract, and can pay him whatever salary they like. Out of conscience or courtesy (or, more likely, a desire to keep their players happy), teams do give nominal raises to players during those three years. Well, teams not named the Marlins, anyway.
- Bud Selig says an international draft is "inevitable."
- The Orioles are bringing a sports psychologist on board to help with their "mental toughness." So long as he can also help with the team's "bad roster" and "poor baseball ability," not to mention the "AL East is loaded" thing, I think they've got the right idea.