MLB Drops Alfonzo’s Existing PED Suspension

According to a baseball source, Major League Baseball has dropped the 100-game suspension levied against Eliezer Alfonzo last season due to the same procedural issues that surfaced during the Ryan Braun case over the offseason.

The specific procedural issues were yet again not specifically outlined in this report, but the important aspect to note is that this was not an appeal case that Alfonzo and his team won. This suspension was not brought before an arbitrator. Instead, Major League Baseball re-examined the procedural facts of the sample collection and simply dropped the suspension.

Alfonzo is a fringe major league player with only 624 plate appearances over six big league seasons. He owns a career .273 wOBA and has recorded a negative WAR in three of his six stints in the majors. The overall impact of this decision on the legacy of Eliezer Alfonzo is minuscule. The 33-year-old catcher may never see another inning with a big league club, especially since the Colorado Rockies already have their wily, veteran catcher in 35-year-old Ramon Hernandez.

This decision to drop Alfonzo’s suspension, however, affects the legitimacy of the appeal won by Ryan Braun over the winter. The procedural deficiencies that were identified during the Braun appeal have clearly been deemed important enough to affect current suspensions without any hearing whatsoever. Thus, the notion that these procedural issues can be written off as a mere technicality and ignored in the public consciousness seems to be more misguided now than ever before.

A little more than 20% into the 2012 season, we see no evidence that Ryan Braun’s numbers from 2011 were abnormal, even if one clings to his purported performance-enhancing drug usage. His wOBA during his MVP campaign in 2011 was .433. His wOBA through 32 games in 2012 is .433. Not to mention, his current .331 ISO is the highest of his six-year career.

Braun continues to endure a chorus of boos in every stadium to which the Brewers travel this year. He is largely seen as a glistening example of a guilty celebrity who got off on a technicality due to shrewd lawyering. The dropping of the Alfonzo suspension suggests, though, that the procedural errors were not insignificant. In fact, they were grounds to retroactively nullify an existing suspension.

This, of course, does not mean that Ryan Braun is innocent. He very well could have taken performance-enhancing drugs. This development with Eliezer Alfonzo, however, continues to highlight the fact that we do not know if Braun used performance-enhancing drugs. Legitimate issues with the testing existed. That should not even be a point of contention any longer. An existing suspension would not have been dropped if the procedural issues were not significant.

And at this point, arguing against the procedural issues and trumpeting the unequivocal guilt of Ryan Braun (and now Eliezer Alfonzo) seems unnecessarily hard-headed.



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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).


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Mark
Guest
Mark

I’m not sure that MLB’s decision to drop the decision means anything more than its recognition that it would lose the appeal. Assuming the Alfonzo and Braun cases are similar, it’s improbable that an arbitrator would issue a different decision in a subsequent case. The rule of decision–even if mistaken–has already been created. The arbitrator wouldn’t just arbitrarily reverse course, even if MLB has a good argument, absent very unusual circumstances.

Litigants generally don’t like fighting battles they can’t win. MLB’s decision reflects no more than that.

Evan
Guest
Evan

It reflects a need in the MLB to tighten chain of custody of their drug testing samples so they aren’t likely to lose another appeal.

Skob
Guest

Yeah, I agree. The author makes a point to state this was not an appeal case verdict, but who cares? The appeal was filed and MLB knew they were screwed if this went to an arbitrator. Seems pretty basic.

If MLB lifted the ban without Alfonzo even filing an appeal, that would be a story!

walt526
Member
walt526

J.P., for the first PED offense (i.e., a 50 game suspension) the suspension doesn’t start until the player has exhausted the appeal process. For a second offense (i.e., a 100 game suspension), the player must start serving the suspension immediately and the appeal process procedes concurrent with the suspension. Many of the press reports a few weeks ago on Guillermo Mota highlighted this fact.

Nitram Odarp
Guest
Nitram Odarp

He’s only “reporting” on the story and throwing out his opinion (as a Brewers’ fan) of what it means. How dare you insinuate that he should have done some actual research into the process before publishing a piece on Fangraphs?

chuckb
Member
Member
chuckb

It may also be an outcome they chose out of fairness. It’s difficult to morally justify punishing Alfonzo and not Braun when the circumstances are so similar. The point is, I don’t think anyone really knows why Alfonzo’s suspension was dropped. It might be that MLB recognizes that their chain of custody issues are substantial and legitimate or it might be that they knew they would lose the appeal and wanted it to disappear quietly. Or it might be they just decided to act fairly with regard to Alfonzo and fix their problems and start over.

Tim
Guest
Tim

I don’t buy this argument. Even if the chances of getting a ruling in conflict with the Braun precedent are remote, the benefit for MLB would be huge. They desperately want to not have to live with that precedent forever, and it’s not like the legal fees are a significant expense for them. To me this decision says that there’s so much legitimate evidentiary reason to drop the Alonzo case that bringing it before a different arbitrator has essentially no chance of success.

Nitram Odarp
Guest
Nitram Odarp

The benefit wouldn’t be that huge because MLB and the MLBPA are in the process or rewriting the relevant part of the drug testing agreement in order to tighten up the language. As soon as that happens, any precedent based on the previous language is irrelevant.

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