Taking a few swings at Braun, Cubs and White Sox

BraunLiesThis weekend’s Wisch List column from The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

As the calendar winds down on July, Major League Baseball finds itself standing at a PED crossroads – yet again – following the season-ending suspension of Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun and the ongoing Biogenesis investigation.

The Cubs and White Sox, meanwhile, are at a crossroads too – although, thankfully, that has nothing to do with illegal drugs. And with baseball weighing heavily on my summertime mind, I wanted to weigh in all three topics and see where the road leads us.

Brains over Braun

Four summers ago, Bud Selig actually – and ironically – invoked Ryan Braun’s name as a poster boy for the baseball’s testing policy.

“Our minor league testing program is in its ninth year, and that means all the great young players in baseball, from Ryan Howard to Ryan Braun, have all been tested for nine years,” the MLB commissioner preached. “There’s a system in place, and it’s working. We know we have the toughest testing program in major league sports.”

Selig now knows better. And we should too about Braun, who was asked during that same 2009 season by if he was surprised that Alex Rodriguez had been exposed for having used steroids in 2003.

“I don’t know if I would say I was surprised,” Braun said. “I feel like it was so rampant, so prevalent, in baseball during that time period that not much surprises me anymore. If anything, I was surprised he got caught, that it came out this long after he supposedly did it.

“The best thing he can do is come out, admit to everything and be completely honest. The situation will die a lot faster if he tells the whole truth. It’s never something that I sought … I would never do it because if I took steroids, I would hit 60 or 70 home runs.”

Yeah, or get hit with a 65-game suspension.

Considering Braun’s lies and arrogance surrounding this whole sorry saga, I actually wish his suspension lasted forever.

Wrigleyville construction

The Cubs’ renovation plan for Wrigley Field was approved this week by the Chicago City Council. I’m still waiting to sign off on the team’s rebuilding plan, however.

By trading pitcher Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers, the Cubs this week hauled in a package of prospects headlined by third baseman Mike Olt and Class A pitcher C.J. Edwards.

They both sound like promising players, although with top draft pick Kris Bryant – also a third baseman – already in the fold, Olt is a redundant piece. And the 21-year-old Edwards’ potential is at least as much of a question – and probably more – than the 29-year-old Garza’s long-term health.

I like the positional prospects that the Cubs have acquired and have for some time. But until I see the franchise actually produce – or keep – clear-cut championship-caliber arms (such as Garza), I’ll remain a healthy skeptic about “The Plan.”

Knocking Ventura’s Sox off

In 2012, Sports Illustrated projected the Chicago White Sox to lose 95 games in Robin Ventura’s first season managing the team.

They won 85 instead.

Perhaps SI actually meant 2013, since Ventura’s team is currently on pace to drop 90-plus this season, putting him in an undesirable spot in the annals of White Sox history.

Since 1945, the Sox have had 16 rookie skippers and eight of them produced a winning season in their first year at the helm – including Ventura. Among those eight, only one, Terry Bevington, failed to also produce a winning record in his second season as well.

And Bevington’s winning percentage in 1997 was still .497, just one victory shy of .500 with an 80-81 record. Ventura needs a winning streak.

For about a month.