— A: If the accusation holds up, and Braun must serve a 50-day suspension, there's no doubting that will be big hit for he and MLB to absorb.
Just when the game is on a roll — with a captivating stretch run and postseason, plus a new labor deal that continues a period of peace — this happens. And by a superstar player who universally is liked and respected as a stand-up guy, diligent worker and leader.
We'll give Braun his day in court, as he reportedly passed a second test immediately after the bad test result came up. And, it's highly unfortunate that the failed drug test was leaked — when it should have remained private through the arbitration process.
But the fact remains, he failed a drug test. Which prompts a couple of thoughts: I'll give MLB credit for sticking to its ever-toughening standards, and reiterate my longstanding opinion that other major professional sports don't go to these lengths — which only makes MLB more exposed to disillusioned fans such as yourself, Brandon.
But I also see this as a warning that cheating still is going on — whether it's human growth hormone (which will be tested for under the new agreement), or some other method testing hasn't yet caught onto.
So that means strict policing must continue.
This also calls into question whether or not the penalties are tough enough. At the superstar level, with eight- and nine-figure contracts at stake, what's a 50-game suspension?
But if a player was banned for a season with the first offense, and banned for life for a second offense — with any guaranteed money voided — you'd see much less cheating, believe me.
As for Braun's 2011 NL MVP award, I believe it should be stripped if he is found guilty. Again, the penalty must fit the crime.
A: It's a bit laughable to use the phrase 'fiscal restraint' in the same sentence with 'Yankees', but I'm beginning to buy into the idea that general manager Brian Cashman won't be making any major long-term financial additions this offseason.
If so, they won't be in the Yu Darvish posting sweepstakes. But I still feel a deal is coming for a No. 2-3 type, with John Danks and Wandy Rodriguez as the leading possibilities. I believe the Yankees would deal one from among the trio of Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, plus lesser prospects. But I don't see them trading two of those three.
While I'm certainly not crazy about the Yankees' chances of winning a World Series with their current rotation, their need for pitching is a bit overstated. They won 97 games and finished fourth in the AL in ERA in 2011, just .16 behind the league-leading Angels, which when you factor in the home ballparks, is basically no difference at all.
Granted, the starters' ERA was too high at 4.03 (a half-run worse than league-leading Tampa's rotation). But if Phil Hughes is close to his 2010 version, and one of those younger arms emerges, things will improve even without a trade. But a deal that adds a salary in the $8-13-million range for a No. 2/3-type starter seems likely — if not this winter, than during the 2012 season if the need remains.
A: With Jose Reyes gone, and Wright left as the only remaining star, I just don't see the Mets trading him at this point in time. If this was Kansas City or Pittsburgh, yes, the argument to deal him certainly would be stronger. And maybe that's what the Mets eventually will come to think in their very-dire situation. But that's a much-tougher proposition to sell in Queens.
That puts Wright — at 28 and in his prime years — in an unenviable position, as the Mets are going to be hard-pressed to match their 2011 win total of 77 in 2012, and probably 2013. But Wright is young enough that whenever the Mets get out of this deep financial abyss they've fallen into, and a new ownership group can turn it back around, he still should have a few star-caliber seasons left.
The same can't be said for the club's other two remaining big-ticket items — 32-year-old Johan Santana ($55 million guaranteed remaining) and 33-year-old Jason Bay ($35 million guaranteed remaining).
Most likely, the Mets will be stuck with those two at least until the middle of the 2013 season, when perhaps they could be unloaded to a contender, as both would be in the last guaranteed years of their contracts.
Wright is owed $15 million this season plus a $1-million buyout if the Mets don't pick up a $16-million option for 2012. These days, that's not really a huge obligation. So I believe Wright will be an All-Star-caliber player stuck on a bad team for awhile.