* BRAINS VERSUS BRAUN? No, Ryan Braun (or, at least, his attorney) certainly didn’t help his own cause by trying to throw sample collector Dino Laurenzi, Jr. under the proverbial bus. Yes, Braun has every right to defend his integrity, even if it’s going to take awhile to sort out just what did or didn’t transpire, or who is or isn’t cleared. No, baseball government didn’t do itself any major favours by slamming arbitrator Shayam Das’s overthrow of Braun’s likely suspension. And, yes, Hall of Fame writer Murray Chass is dead right in chastising the bulk of the sports media who all but beat the tympani for the “guilty until proven one way or the other” school of thought on actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances yet lingering in baseball. All of which means that the only thing we still seem to know is that we don’t know much of anything just yet. Which isn’t going to stop those who don’t know from preening as though they know, anyway.
* THE BOUNTY HUNTERS The hoopla over NFL defencive coordinator Gregg Williams, said to have run bounty programs for the defencive units of the New Orleans Saints and the Washington Redskins during his tenures there (tenures that included the Saints’ feel-good Super Bowl triumph), is certainly justified. This goes above and beyond mere motivation to the intent to maim. (The bounty hunters are said to have ended Kurt Warner’s NFL career and possibly to have caused the seed of Peyton Manning’s recent neck and back trouble, among other things.) Especially since it seems nobody on those defencive units or those teams’s staffs who knew of the bounty systems did a thing to stop them. (And anyone who thinks they were the only ones, says a former Redskin who played under Williams, is probably full of it.) But I’m reminded for some reason of the early 1990s Pittsburgh Pirates, some of whose players were said to have been offering opposing pitchers steak dinners with all the trimmings to any of those marksmen willing to knock Barry Bonds on his butt. I did mention that those Pirate players were looking to get their own teammate drilled? That’s how disgusted only too many Pirates had become with Bonds’s act long enough before he went to the San Francisco Giants and turned their clubhouse into a terror zone. The fact that they might have gotten him killed or maimed never quite seemed to enter their minds.
* FROM BUST TO BUSTED Remember Brien Taylor? Thought of as the nation’s number two baseball prospect in 1991 behind Chipper Jones. Picked first in that draft by the Yankees, who were beginning to pick themselves up and dust themselves off from the beyond-insanity of their 1980s. Big lefthander. Couldn’t miss. Stuff to burn. Signed to a $1.55 million bonus offered because the Yankees didn’t want to lose the kid to college ball. Struck out 10.4 batters every nine innings in A ball with a 2.57 ERA. Fastball you couldn’t see on radar. Faltered a tad in AA ball the next season but still looked like a comer. Still couldn’t miss. Still had a radar-proof fastball. Got into a fistfight near home in the offseason, standing up for his brother after the latter had been battered in such a fight. Suffered a shoulder dislocation that ended up dislocating his baseball career. Out of baseball without throwing a major league pitch by 2000; went home to work partially with his father in the brickyard where he’d done likewise as a teenager and partly as a beer distributor. Now, under arrest for dealing cocaine, held on six-figure bond. Baseball is only too well littered with the sad stories of can’t-miss prospects who miss well enough and then can’t re-horse themselves once they’ve faced the fact that they can’t play the game before they got a chance to show what they could have done on the big stage.