J.D. Thorne

Say It Ain’t So

Cheating, and the lying about it, have a long tradition in Baseball.  Think about the 1919 Chicago Black Sox team on which 7 of its members accepted money from gamblers to intentionally lose the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, which it did.  Think of the infallible umpire who says, “I never missed a call.”  How about Lew Burdette and the suspicions he threw an illegal pitch banned by baseball, the “Spit Ball?”

Johnny Logan, our great Milwaukee baseball hero, was starting shortstop on the 1957 World Champion Milwaukee Braves.  He once related a story about Lew Burdette.  He said, “people ask me from time-to-time, ‘Did Lew Burdette throw the spitter?’  I can’t say if he did or he didn’t.  But I can tell you about the time we were playing in Ebbets Field against the Dodgers in about 1955 or so.  We were winning 3 to 2.  It was the bottom of the 9th.  Two were out.  The Dodgers had pushed the tying run to second base.  Their MVP catcher, Roy Campanella was up with a full count on him.  A pitcher had to be careful with him. He was a tough out, especially in the clutch.”

“Now you know, the job of a runner on second is to score on a base hit.  It is not uncommon they try to cheat by taking a bigger lead off than they should.  I saw this and thought to myself, ‘What a great way to end a ball game with a pick-off at second base.’  I flash the pick-off sign to Lew.  We had the runner dead to rights.  Lew flashes me back the counter sign that he has the sign and the pick-off is on.  He goes into his stretch.  On the count of two I leave my position at short to cut behind the second base bag for the throw from Burdette.  Now this leaves the whole of the right side of the infield open for Campy to put through a hit to drive in the run.  But on the count of three, Burdette throws the ball to the plate.”

The ball broke hard.  It was a sharp break, down and away from the hitter on the lower outside corner of the plate.  Campanella swings and misses, striking out to end the game.  Braves win.  As I was running in from my position to the dugout I hustle to catch up with Burdette.  I say to him, ‘Hey Lew.  What happened?’  Lew turned to me and said, “Johnny, that ball was so loaded up I changed my mind after sending you the reply sign.  It occurred to me that if I threw it to you, you’d miss it.  So I decided to throw it home.’”

So Braun accepts the punishment of losing $4 million and essentially the rest of the season.  But there are no details released about why.  Was he really telling the truth in October of 2011 that he wasn’t on the juice?  Is that why he was so vehement?  Could it be? Is it possible the P.E.D. use was in an earlier season?  Certainly it is never good in the off-season to use the same trainer and training facility as a known doper like multi-millionaire Alex Rodriquez, which Braun did.  Remember, both Rodriquez and Braun are graduates of that citadel of “integrity” in college sports, Miami University of Miami, Florida.  Hence the adage, “you lie down with dogs, you get up with flees.”  It is guilt by association.  But there are no details as to when Braun’s “mistakes” took place or exactly what those mistakes were.  The public still doesn’t know exactly for what reason Ryan Braun is serving this costly, but potentially softer penalty than it could have been.

His real penalty is the loss of esteem to his character, not his ability.  But is it possible this sudden and swift reversal really not about his personal use when he tested positive, and beat it?  Was it just because he was surprised by the test that day and had not had time to administer the masking drug?  Or was the crime and punishment related some earlier use, and/or some subsequent cover-up for others or something else?  Do I need to know exactly what it is that caused Braun to cave?  To what extent may Braunie actually be being protected by MLB?

This makes me wonder if it is something he is so ashamed about that no one can know it?  This worries me the most.  His reputation now will be forever up to the curious who will want to know until something more is said, and will persist in investigating the story until the whole truth and nothing but the truth will be known.  As it is often said, the public does not know the “full story” yet.  The most shocking hit to the reputation of MLB players may be yet to come, and may make Braun’s behavior – whatever mistake it was – pale in comparison.

Look out below.

J. D. Thorne