Saturday, February 25, 2012

Your Handy Ryan Braun Conspiracy Theory Guide

Conspiracy theories are dumb. They are predicated on the simultaneous notion that A)there are vast, powerful groups of people exerting their reach invisibly to alter the course of world events on a scale vast and unimaginable and B)they're doing so in such a way that every dude named Shecky with dialup access can find the clues they're leaving behind. I mean, sure, the idea that someone out there is planning all this has to be comforting on some level - more comforting than the notion that there's no one in charge and thus, no one to magically save the day should events warrant it - but as a dedicated reader of conspiracy theory material for writing-related purposes, I can safely say that one conspiracy theory is generally dumber than the next. Doctor Rich recommends taking two Michael Shermer books, chasing them with Jon Ronson's excellent treatise Them, and taking a nap.
That being said, the Braun verdict has produced any number of hare-brained analyses, ranging from the insulting to the deeply insulting. Here's a quick rundown.

Braun Got Off Because Bud Selig Used To Own The Brewers
The key term in all this, of course, is "used to". As in, "he sold the team". As in "Some other dude named Mark Attanasio owns it now." Sure, the conspiracy theorists say, but it was his team, and it's in his hometown, and they've got a statue of him out front of their park! Surely that's enough reason for Bud to ham-fistedly rig the appeals process!
Which, of course, conveniently dodges the fact that MLB - which Selig runs - is so visibly unhappy with the results of the Braun case that they're ready to run into the buzz saw of litigation to try to overturn it. Yeah, that totally makes sense if Bud's the one who rigged it in the first place.

Braun Got Off Because Selig's Incompetent and the Player's Union Beat Him Like A Rented Mule Again
First of all, the MLBPA didn't appeal. Braun did. Union head Michael Weiner was nicely gracious in the wake of MLB's tantrum over the results, but that's long-distance applause from after the fact. The appeal was handed down, not by the union, but by a panel comprised of one union rep, one MLB rep, and one independent arbitrator with a resume longer than a Robert Jordan novel. Predictably, the union guy on the panel voted one way, and the management guy voted the other, leaving the independent arbitrator - not the union, not Bud Selig - to cast the deciding vote.

Braun Got Off Because the Arbitration Was Rigged
This one's being championed by Mike Lupica, who, if he had a goatee, would probably be best described as the Mirror Universe Bob Costas. To imply that independent arbitrator Shyam Das, who has worked with baseball for decades, offered decisions that have been roughly split down the middle in terms of who's won, and whose case history is both impressive and wide-ranging, would be biased or corrupt is lazy, juvenile mudslinging at its worst. For a putatively professional journalist like Lupica to even imply this sort of thing is because he didn't get the result he wanted is the sort of tantrum-throwing nonsense that immediately dismisses its author as a crank. The fact that it's deeply insulting to a respected professional and a leader in his field just emphasizes how thoroughly wrong-headed Lupica is in all this.

Braun Got Off Because the Sample Delivery Was Rigged
This one, superficially, appears to maybe have some legs. I mean, surely the courier responsible for passing along Mr. Braun's pee could have checked a website or two to get the hours of the local FedExOfficeWeUsedToBeKinkos, and found one that would be open long enough to divest himself of the urine in question - unless he were tempted not to do so by a nefarious bribe!
Except, of course, the guy in question is a Cubs fan, and thus unlikely to be doing the Brewers and their best player a favor. His stated logic - he thought the sample would be safe with him than sitting in a Kinko's waiting for pickup - makes a lot more sense than "Braun got to him!"
Besides, if Braun were going to bribe this guy, why didn't Braun just bribe him to pee in the vial instead, and thus save all the agita? It fails the sniff test, not that you particularly want to be sniffing in this instance.

Braun Got Off Because He Had Super Duper Expensive Ninja Lawyers
All things considered, Ryan Braun is a very rich man. He can hire very good lawyers.
The guys on the other side from him on this appeal are from MLB. MLB is the parent organization of the team that writes checks to Mr. Braun, as well as 24 other players. No matter how expensive a lawyer Braun can hire, MLB can hire more expensive ones.

Braun Got Off Because He's Jewish
Of course. Because Steve Carlton's wackier purported fantasies are right, and it's Sandy Koufax, Brad Ausmus, and the ghost of Hank Greenberg sitting in a luxury cave in Barbados with the last of the Rothschilds, secretly controlling the destiny of all of baseball.
Now call me crazy, but if I were running the secret Jewish cabal that oversaw baseball and I found out that Ryan Braun, the Great Whitefish Hope, had tested positive for something not normally found in rugeleh, wouldn't it make more sense to squash this before the results get passed to Braun? Before the results get announced? Before the appeals process happens? Before there are months and months of fevered speculation on this topic that would make any kind of manipulation of the results look like the sort of ham-fisted (sorry, trayf) dabbling that any kind of conspiracy worth its (kosher) salt would do its utmost to avoid?

Of course not. Shecky's got dialup, after all, and the interwebs have spoken.
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