Ryan Braun has become the first player to overturn a positive drug test. Thursday, he was informed that a third-party arbitrator had ruled that he is, indeed, innocent and will not be suspended 50 games. To my knowledge, it is because something went wrong with the test, which sound a lot like the news I broke last week.
Braun released the below statement following the news of the successful appeal.
“I am very pleased and relieved by today’s decision.
“It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.
“We provided complete cooperation throughout, despite the highly unusual circumstances.
“I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide. I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year.
“I would like to thank my family and friends, my teammates, the Brewers organization led by Mark Attanasio, Doug Melvin, Gord Ash and Ron Roenicke, and other players around the league who have expressed their support and our great fans in Milwaukee and around the country who stuck by me and did not rush to judgment.
“I’d also like to offer special thanks to Michael Weiner and the Players Association for believing in me since day one and to my attorneys.
“I’d like to thank my agent Nez Balelo and Terry Prince of CAA Sports and Matthew Hiltzik of Hiltzik Strategies for all of their help and counsel through the process.
“This is not just about one person, but about all current and future players, and thankfully, today the process worked.
“Despite the challenges of this adversarial process, I do appreciate the professionalism demonstrated by the Panel Chair and the Office of the Commissioner.
“As I said before, I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball.
“Everything I’ve done in my career has been with that respect and appreciation in mind.
“I look forward to finally being able to speak to the fans and the media on Friday and then returning the focus to baseball and working with my Brewers teammates on defending our National League Central title.”
For the sake of my inability to type words at the moment, I’m just going to cut straight to the chase. It saves you the obligatory feeling of having to read my opening morceau and restrains me from writing some sixth grade level jibberish. So let’s just cut to the chase, you and I.
With Opening Day now a mere 46 days away, there remains large speculation as to which players will fill out the 25-man roster. To spare you the agony of predicting which guys will begin the season in a Brewers jersey, I stepped up to the plate. Heroically, I know.
Short enough of an intro? Good.
Quick key: *=starter, (1)=batting order slot, +=Opening Day pitcher
LF*- (2) Nyjer Morgan– Plush will platoon with Carlos Gomez in center with Ryan Braun in the lineup, but will get the majority of starts in left to begin the year, assuming the MLB hands out a 50 game suspension to Braun.
CF*- (7) Carlos Gomez– To me, the defensive whiz’s key to keeping a regular role in the Brewers outfield rotation is, simply, to hit over .220. For most players, offensive numbers like Gomez’s would find them a spot on the bench, but the 26-year-old’s prowess in center field saves enough runs to put up with his offensive struggles. A place towards the bottom of the order would place much less of an emphasis straining to draw walks, Gomez’s primary struggle, and more toward driving in clutch runs and stealing bases.
RF*- (1) Corey Hart– Not the league-accepted ideal leadoff hitter, the 6’6″ Hart filled the role well for Ron Roenicke in 2011. He posted a .301 average with 15 homers and 36 RBI in his last 62 starts, all coming as the leadoff hitter. Expect him to keep the spot atop the Brewers lineup until Roenicke has to play his hand because of any struggles from Hart.
Norichika Aoki– The off-season transfer from Japan has yet to prove what he can do at a Major League level, but beats out any other competition from youngsters Caleb Gindl and Brock Kjelgaard. Once again, the Brewers won’t have any shortage of left handed bats on the bench.
Logan Schafer– Based on a whopping five plate appearances in 2011, Schafer appears to be the leading candidate to take the fifth outfield spot. He provides speed off the bench (swiped 16 bases in the Minors last season) and could find a spot on the Big League club even with Braun’s return if he outplays Aoki. It wouldn’t be surprising, however, to see the Brewers go with only four outfielders and leave Schafer off the roster to add a right handed bat.
**Each of these outfield predictions is assuming Braun is suspended for the first 50 games.
3B* – (4) Aramis Ramirez– It’s going to take a good month or so to get used to it, but let’s face it: Aramis Ramirez is a Brewer. All I ask in order to forgive him for being a Cub is 100 RBI. Nothing much.
SS*- (6) Alex Gonzalez– Another offseason acquisition by Doug Melvin, Gonzalez is an obvious upgrade at shortstop, both offensively and defensively. He may not possess the pop of Yuniesky Betancourt, but his glove and patience at the plate make up for it. Maybe he can make Brewers fans not cringe as much anymore when JJ Hardy goes yard in Baltimore.
2B*- (5) Rickie Weeks– Coming off back-to-back productive seasons, including an All Star Game start in 2011, Weeks needs to produce even more with RISP in 2012. With no Fielder and, most likely for the first 50 games, Braun, teams will find ways to work around Ramirez in the cleanup spot if Weeks and Gamel don’t produce. Just as he is the pivot man on a double play, Rickie is the pivotal hitter for Milwaukee this year.
1B*- (3) Mat Gamel– Young man, it’s your time. I mean, it’s not like you’re taking over for a three-time All Star, Home Run Derby champ, All Star Game MVP, the youngest player to hit 50 homers in a season, career .282 hitter with 230 homers in six seasons. No pressure.
UTIL- Taylor Green– The youngster impressed in 20 games in 2011, batting .270 and making the Postseason roster. I like him. You like him. Ron Roenicke likes him. This kid better be on the Opening Day roster.
UTIL- Cesar Izturis– He was invited to camp as a non-roster invitee, but Izturis’ experience and glove will be beneficial off the bench. Brooks Conrad, a notorious pinch hitter, could pose a challenge for this spot. Conrad has a career 14 home runs while in Atlanta, most of which came off the bench. Izturis, a Gold Glove winner in 2004, provides a more reliable option to back up Gonzalez, Ramirez, or Weeks and is a much better contact hitter (averages one strikeout per 10 at-bats over 11 seasons).
C*- (8) Jonathan Lucroy– With yet another year of experience behind the plate, Lucroy enters 2012 uncontested for the starting catcher role. Pitchers love his improving abilities behind the plate. He’s no slouch at the plate, either. He hit .265 with 12 dingers and 59 RBI in front of the pitcher throughout 2011.
C- George Kottaras– Randy Wolf’s personal catcher was solid as a backup in his second season as a Brewer. He set career highs in average, OBP, SLG, and OPS in 2011. There’s no reason to think he won’t improve both behind and at the plate this year.
1- + Yovani Gallardo
2- Zack Greinke
4- Randy Wolf
5- Chris Narveson
Expect nothing less than a great season from the intact staff from 2011 that was one of the National League’s best. Greinke, barring any setbacks and pick-up basketball games, will have a full season under his belt after striking out over 200 in 28 starts in 2011. Randy Wolf’s ability to pick up the dreaded stat of quality starts and Chris Narveson’s first couple innings are focal points for the season. We know what to expect out of the three studs at the top, but will Wolf and Narveson be as productive as they were last year?
John Axford (closer)
Francisco Rodriguez (set up man)
As much as I would love to see a guy like Wily Peralta or Santo Manzanilla or last year’s extra inning hero in Philadelphia, Brandon Kintzler, make the Opening Day roster, there isn’t the space to fit in all the options. I don’t see Roenicke and Melvin sending Parra down again and, essentially, ending his chances with the Brewers. With a lack of southpaw options for the ‘pen, his job will primarily be to retire possibly multiple left handed hitters in an inning. The Dillard selection, however, can be attributed more to an educated guess. With Estrada and Parra, Roenicke doesn’t need any more inning eaters and The Tim Dillard Experience has a repertoire much more suited to retire one or two batters than Brandon Kintzler. Just ask the Marlins.
* Predicting the Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day Roster is the “fifth inning” in a series of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game. Read each of the first four posts here.
An anonymous source has reported to Plushdamentals that Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun’s drug test that tested positive for increased levels of synthetic testosterone was mishandled, thus likely altering the results of the test. The report exclusively reached Plushdamentals through a source familiar with a former college teammate of Braun’s at the University of Miami and reportedly has knowledge of the situation.
The 2011 National League MVP is facing a 50 game suspension if the results of the test hold true and Braun does not win his court hearing, which, to the knowledge of the public, is currently still in process. A second, independent test taken by Braun after the season came back with no evidence of performance-enhancing drugs. The court process, however, is in a prolonged state. Events and findings have been undisclosed to the public, but the initial source on this story may have an inside track, as he is still familiar with Braun.
According to sources, the results were not immediately sent to Major League Baseball as they should have been. Instead, the test samples were brought back to the collector’s residence in Kenosha, Wisconsin. There they remained, refrigerated, overnight until they were mailed in the next morning. While it is not assured that there is sufficient information to show that the test was mishandled, it supports Braun’s case.
Additionally, there is reportedly no STD involved in Braun’s case, contrary to reports that the 28-year-old’s herpes medicine he was taking triggered historically high results.
The confidential test was, according to the source, missing for a period of time from Point A (Milwaukee) to Point B (Major League Baseball). This opens up a wide potential of possible happenings between the time it was taken and time it was sent, both of which are supposed to occur within the same day, per the MLB drug policy. Braun’s college teammate and friend reported the story to an anonymous source who works out with him, after which word reached Plushdamentals.
“The story seems unlikely, but who knows? It may hold to be true,” the source said of the situation.
A verdict on the Braun case is likely to be reached and made public before Spring Training games begin.
The indelible image from a magical 2011 is that of the regularly exuberant Nyjer Morgan, separating from the post NLDS Game 5 celebration, and submerging himself in the splendor, magnitude, and sheer joy of the moment. Following his game-winning hit and the least surprising F-bomb in television history, he took the cross-legged and grinning pose of a joyous kindergartner in a corner of the clubhouse. The celebration, meanwhile, ensued, much like the Brewers season as they advanced to their first NLCS in franchise history.
A bittersweet taste, however, still lingers in the mouths of Brewers players and fans. Sure, the team won a franchise-record 96 games. Yes, they won the division and beat the Diamondbacks in the NLDS. And, of course, it was a seven month long party in Milwaukee. But to get so close and to not taste the full effects of winning it all hurts. Add to this the idea that the St. Louis Cardinals, whom the Brewers were a better team than for the entire year minus one roughly mistimed series in October, ended up hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy, and you have yourself a recipe for “what if….?” thoughts.
But, as they say, time heals all wounds (unless you tend to hold grudges), and, soon enough, 2011 will bring forth only positive memories from Brewers fans, of which there is a plethora to choose from.
There was the 4 hour 35 minute marathon in May that ended royally with a Prince Fielder walk off blast to right field. Or the 4-6-3-2 triple play turned by the Crew against the Dodgers. There were all the hilarious post-game antics of Morgan-err…. Tony Plush. Braun’s game-winning home run vs. the Marlins as the Brewers clinched the division on September 23. And the vivaciously unforgettable “Beast Mode” celebration that enthralled the entire city of Milwaukee.
Deftly put, 2011 was one incredible dream for all Brewers fans alike. After being confined to futility and mediocrity for 29 years, with a brief 2008 Playoff stint thrown in for kicks, Milwaukee baseball finally returned to prominence.
Ryan Braun brought home the Brewers’ first Most Valuable Player award since Robin Yount won it in 1989. Braun out-slugged the competition, beating out Matt Kemp and teammate Prince Fielder for baseball’s most coveted award. He led the league in slugging and in OPS in addition to batting .332, second to only that of New York’s Jose Reyes, and hit 33 homers while driving in 111 RBI. Braun also led the team with 33 stolen bases while only getting thrown out six times and hit .500 with 4 RBI in the NLDS. Ignore the drama for the time being surrounding the Brewers four-time All Star and Silver Slugger; Milwaukee has found itself a star.
The loss of Prince Fielder to free agency will undoubtedly affect the team’s performance offensively. Without the dynamic 1-2 punch of
Braun and Fielder, the 2011 season would have had a significantly different outcome. Fielder’s .415 OBP, 38 home runs, and 120 RBI provided protection to Braun in the 3-hole in the lineup and provided an elite power bat.
It was not all Fielder and Braun, however. All Star Game starter Rickie Weeks was on pace to have a career year until an injury in July set him back. Corey Hart filled in nicely for Weeks at the leadoff spot, finishing the season hitting .285 with 26 homers. He finished the season hitting .301 as the leadoff batter for the Brewers. Morgan proved to be more than all talk, batting .304 with countless clutch hits and stellar defensive play. Jerry Hairston filled in nicely for the injured Weeks before replacing a struggling Casey McGehee come Playoff time. The team produced more than enough offense to back their stellar starting rotation.
GM Doug Melvin’s off-season acquisitions of Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke payed off, with Marcum’s rotation-leading ERA. Greinkem, despite missing 7 starts to begin the season, struck out 201 batters and posted a 16-6 record. Yovani Gallardo proved to be the team’s ace time and time again, and Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson went a combined 24-18 to round out the rotation.
We could go on for days about the key parts to the 2011 Brewers. I just spent four paragraphs discussing the players and didn’t even touch John Axford or Francisco Rodriguez or Jonathan Lucroy or Takashi Saito. This speaks volumes about the depth that the Brewers possessed.
The turnstiles of Miller Park were rushed all year long as the team set a franchise record for attendance with over 3,071,000 million fans. Nothing was magical at all about this influx of Brewers fans to Miller Park. Mix together a great baseball team with a great baseball city and the result is party rockin’ in the house every night. Miller Park was a living nightmare for opposing teams, as the Crew won a franchise-record 57 home games in their friendly confines (Shut up, La Russa, it wasn’t the lighting). Braun, Fielder, Plush & Co. made damn well sure that DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” would be blasted after every game from the same speakers that once chimed “Hell’s Bells” for Trevor Hoffman.
As was Miller Park, homes around Milwaukee were rockin’ on a nightly basis. 96 wins. NL Central champions. National League Championship Series appearance. National League MVP. 3 All Stars. Franchise attendance record. A Prince that blossomed into a King. Nightly lessons of Plushdamentals from T. Plush. Axford’s mustache and saves. Beast mode.
*2011: A Healthy Brew of Magic is the “first inning” of a set of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game.
Stay posted on the series. and “Follow” Plushdamentals, the #1 Brewers fan blog.
With his two home runs on Friday night, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun became only the second player in franchise history, joining Tommy Harper, to join the 30-30 club (for stolen bases and home runs).
After homering to right field in the eighth inning to give the Brewers a 6-1 lead–they would win 6-3–Braun solidified his case for National League MVP. He is the second player in the MLB this season to reach the 30-30 club, and the 57th player all-time to do so. Among NL leaders, he is second in batting average, fourth in OBP, first in slugging, first in OPS, fifth in RBI, eighth in home runs, first in runs, and seventh in stolen bases. And his walk-off home run on Tuesday night kept the Brewers division lead at 6 1/2 games.
Put those numbers together and it would be a crime to give the National League MVP award to anyone else.
By Curt Hogg
Because nobody really wants to read paragraph after paragraph besides, well, me, headlines surrounding the Milwaukee Brewers are posted here in the new “Brewers Musings” section along with just a little opinion spiced in by yours truly. Excited!?! Probably not, but I am. So open up those commodious brains to get the Brewers headlines.
Rickie Weeks Injury Update
Manager Ron Roenicke indicated that Weeks will be activated for the weekend series against the Phillies and will be available for limited pinch hit duties. Weeks ran bases Wednesday, a huge step forward after being placed on the DL July 28 after hurting his ankle over first base.
“If we activate him, it’s not activating him so he can play second base,” Roenicke said. “It’s activating him so he can bat, and if we get in a game where we’re up a lot or down a lot, maybe we can put him at second base for a couple innings. Something to ease him in.”
If I had to put on my Roenicke Cap and guess when Weeks will be back fully, my best shot would be for Saturday or Sunday in Cincinnati. One thing well known around the MLB is that the Brewers will be extra cautious with Weeks, wanting him back for the Playoffs.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Ryan Braun (.333) is only two percentage points behind Mets shortstop Jose Reyes for the batting title. Braun isn’t the kind of guy to let this chase get to his head.
“Certain people are motivated by stuff like that, and I think he’s one of them,” Dale Sveum said. “I don’t think it hurts. Sometimes it can hurt guys, but those kinds of achievements motivate Brauny. Just like last year.”
Not only is Braun in the chase for the batting title after a red-hot August in which he batted .369, but the Brewers All Star outfielder is one of the leading candidates for the National League MVP along with Matt Kemp, and teammate Prince Fielder. Braun could not have responded to his long-term contract any better than he has, posting career-best numbers.
As for the last time Braun hit under .300, you would have to back to may, when his scuffles at the plate were evidenced by his completely abysmal .299 average that only lasted one day. Terrible, right?
Plushdamentals In Full Swing
Nothing, not even the legendary Vin Scully’s words, could match Plush. Nothing.
Saturday night in Houston made Brewers and baseball fans alike strike the question of “Who needs Prince and Braun when you have George Kottaras?”
After his ground-rule double to Tal’s Hill in center field at Minute Maid Park sealed the cycle, the first in the MLB this season, the entire Brewers dugout erupted, with Kottaras responding with a Beast Mode celebration. I’m sure that wasn’t the only place clad with Brewers hats and jerseys that erupted, as nobody expected the Brewers backup catcher to accomplish this feat.
To put it in perspective, this season three no-hitters have been thrown, one of them by a legitimate MVP candidate. Only one player has hit for the cycle, and it came from the unassuming backup catcher for the Brewers. Milwaukee must just have a thing with backup catchers hitting for the cycle.
As has been said by too many people to quote simply one, sometimes you have to expect the unexpected. Just don’t expect George Kottaras to hit for the cycle, really.
The Brewers starter allowed one run over eight innings, replicating his eight inning-one run performance in St. Louis in August, to lead the Milwaukee Brewers to a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday.
Milwaukee won their fourth straight to move 10 1/2 games ahead of St. Louis in the NL Central, tying their largest lead of the season.
Wolf gave up four hits and struck out five to improve to 12-9, and 6-1 in his last eight starts. He contributed at the plate, as well, with two infield hits, one of which led to a two-out rally producing run in the second.
Ryan Braun and Nyjer Morgan both homered for the Crew, who won their fourth straight and extended their division lead to 10 1/2 games. Braun’s 27th blast went to center field and put the Brewers up 2-0, while Morgan’s career-high fourth homer, aided by shouts of “GET OUT!” from T.Plush, gave the Brewers a 4-1 lead.
Yuniesky Betancourt’s RBI single in the sixth gave Milwaukee a 3-1 lead.
John Axford closed the game for Milwaukee for his 41st save of the season, 38th consecutive with a three-up, three-down bottom of the ninth.