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The politics behind the Ryan Braun decision

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When Ryan Braun tested positive for drug enhancement last year, the National League MVP stated right away that he would be vindicated, that the results (and his 50-game suspension) would be overturned.

This past week, that's precisely what happened.

Call me biased for saying so -- my favorite team has always been the Milwaukee Brewers, in good times and in bad -- but the decision to overturn the suspension was the right one to make. The circumstances surrounding Braun's testing were very circumspect, allowing for reasonable doubt over whether his urine sample had been tampered with (or otherwise affected by strange "travels").

Immediately following Braun's vindication, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin weighed in, commenting that the results were aided by the collective bargaining process:

There was a rush to judgement after the suspension was first announced, and Braun has said that this is just the beginning of him rehabilitating his good name.

Whatever the case, none of this would have been possible without collective bargaining protections won not through the goodness of the baseball owners' hearts, but because men that came before Braun stood in solidarity for something bigger than themselves.

And this is what Scott Walker can never understand.

...

As Braun's victory displays in dramatic fashion, collective bargaining is not merely about wages and benefits, it is the foundation for basic dignity in a workplace, and it radiates outward to all workplaces, whether it be a major league dugout or a welding shop, whether it's a police precinct or a classroom.

Over at Cognitive Dissidence, Chris Liebenthal (aka Capper) makes a similar point:

Braun was only able to take it to arbitration, and win the reprieve, because of an agreement between Major League Baseball and the Players Association. In other words, it was because of collective bargaining that Braun even had the opportunity to appeal, much less prevail over, the wrong decision and action taken by MLB.

But there were some that were skeptical of this position, feeling that it was a stretch to tie Gov. Walker and collective bargaining in general with the Brewers' star's recent arbitration.

From Freedom Eden, responding to Liebenthal:

Collective bargaining didn't overturn Braun's suspension. The FACTS of the case did.

The conservative-based Media Matters also commented on the DPW's assessments:

What is next? Was Gov. Walker somehow responsible for the Packers loss in the playoffs?

Given the governor's past year in office, can we really be so certain that he WASN'T??

Joking aside, these two conservative assessments disregard the overall picture. Yes, Braun won his case because the facts backed up his appeal. Without those facts, he probably wouldn't have had any recourse besides accepting the decision of Major League Baseball and serving out his suspension.

But the arbitration process itself is what matters here, at least in this debate. That the players are allowed to appeal the decision of the league is a significant part of this story, one that Freedom Eden and Media Matters overlooks:

Under the rules that govern drug testing arbitrations, MLB must prove that its workers followed every step of an intricate procedure designed to make sure that the sample tested is from the player tested and has not been mixed up along the way. The procedure is spelled out in excruciating detail in the collective bargaining agreement between owners and the players (Emphasis added).

That Ryan Braun's sample was handled in a terrible fashion definitely swayed the arbitrators' decision-making process. The facts of the case were of utmost importance in their conclusions. But that Braun had any opportunities at all to appeal the initial decision -- that of his unquestioning guilt, issued last year -- is wholly based upon an agreement between his union and the owners of MLB.

Collective bargaining played a role in vindicating Braun. Perhaps it wasn't a direct role, but without it being there we would have seen a different outcome with regard to the 50-game suspension and the legacy that Braun would have had.

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