Braun news could have big effect on baseball

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Braun news could have big effect on baseball

Saturday's news that NL MVP Ryan Braun's performance-enhancing drug test came up positive has turned the baseball world upside down. Very much like when Alex Rodriguez ultimately admitted to steroid usage back in 2009.

I won't sit here and say Braun is for sure guilty, because he's not. Innocent until proven guilty. That's how America works, right?

But either way, Braun's name and good image are being dragged through the mud. He may not have been for baseball what Tim Tebow has been for the NFL, but he was pretty darn close. The Brewers have utilized their outfielder's popularity to help promote the team and the city while the league has been quick to have the reigning MVP help pump up the game's image.

Justifiably so, I might add. Up until about 24 hours ago, Braun seemed like one of the best people in baseball.

Now that this news has come out, however, it could change the entire game. Baseball was supposed to be the cleanest professional sport and the new CBAs were supposed to do more to get the game even cleaner. The league has been doing its best to try to rid the sport of all performance-enhancing drugs.

And then the MVP gets busted. That doesn't look good. At this point, maybe the only person that could help make the game look worse than Braun just has is Albert Pujols, what, after his quarter-of-a-billion-dollar contract and all the attention he received after leading the Cardinals on the most improbable of improbable playoff runs that culminated into a World Series win in St. Louis.

Al Yellon over at SBNation has a great column examining the impact Braun's test has had -- and could have -- on the game.

My question is, how did it even get here? How was Braun so careless as to even find himself in this position? Professional athletes -- especially baseball players -- should never put anything into their body without checking and double-checking with the team's training staff that it won't make them test positive in PEDs.

It's either carelessness or ignorance on Braun's part that he even tested positive, whether he is actually guilty or not. Either way, he makes himself and the game look bad.

This saga isn't over and likely won't be anytime soon. But it's important to watch closely as both Cubs fans and baseball fans. Whichever way it goes, the ruling will have a big effect on the game and the Brewers. If Milwaukee is without their best player and Prince Fielder does indeed leave town like all are assuming, it will be an awfully wide-open NL Central that will already be without Albert Pujols.

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs drafted and developed Ian Happ with the idea of turning him into a Ben Zobrist-type player who would move quickly through the farm system and surface as a versatile big-league contributor and/or legitimate trade chip.

With Zobrist sidelined because of a sore left wrist, the Cubs got their first look at Happ playing second base in The Show during Saturday’s 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium. That kind of depth – plugging in a 2015 first-round pick while a World Series MVP rests – should ultimately propel the Cubs over the course of a 162-game season.

Even as the Cubs stutter-step through a 25-23 start, there are enough choices for the best defensive second baseman on the team and a National League Championship Series co-MVP (Javier Baez) to sit on the bench.

“We know that the talent’s there,” Zobrist said. “It’s not like having any one or two guys out of the lineup is a big drop-off for us because of the talent that’s there. And we know that just because we have a lot of young players doesn’t mean that they’re not extremely capable of doing the job as well.”

Zobrist – who’s reached base in 23 straight games and emerged as a new leadoff option with Kyle Schwarber struggling – felt something on an awkward swing in the first inning of Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Dodgers. Zobrist played through it that night and called it a “day-to-day thing” that didn’t require an MRI.

[MORE: Is Joe Maddon turning Kyle Schwarber into a platoon player?

Facing Clayton Kershaw on Sunday after back-to-back shutouts will be a game-time decision.

“It’s tough,” Zobrist said. “We just haven’t strung together enough quality at-bats to score runs the last two games. It’s not just because of us. They’ve pitched well. Their pitchers are pretty hot right now. They’ve spotted up. They’ve gotten early strikes where they needed to and then gone to work pretty well on us.

“The task doesn’t get any easier tomorrow with Kershaw. We just got to keep trying to chip away.”

Preview: Cubs look to avoid getting swept by Dodgers today on CSN

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Preview: Cubs look to avoid getting swept by Dodgers today on CSN

The Cubs take on the Los Angeles Dodgers today, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Ryan Dempster. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (3-2, 3.19 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (7-2, 2.01 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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