As the Brewers spent most of the 2012 floundering as a result of atrocious relief pitching, it was easy for the mainstream sports media to ignore Ryan Braun’s performance. Quietly, Braun has been putting together another MVP candidate-caliber season.
Some will claim that Braun was a victim of the coastal bias in sports media coverage, and that with the Reds running away with the NL Central, Milwaukee’s 2012 was just not a compelling storyline. Perhaps, there’s some truth to that, but I think there’s another reason popular sports media figures have been relatively reticent to discuss Braun’s campaign. Simply put, Braun’s 2012 is incongruous with the publicly accepted narrative regarding performance enhancing drugs and Braun’s narrow offseason escape of PED penalties.
I’d assert that the following statements represent the dominant beliefs of the casual sports fan, as well as the general narrative espoused by mainstream baseball media.
- So-called “performance-enhancing drugs” actually do enhance a player’s performance.
- The system of testing for such drugs is generally working. (Some even claim “the steroid era” is over.)
- Braun evaded punishment for PED use on a technicality. He was guilty but was exonerated due to a procedural fumble.
If I had been pushing these points, I’d be hesitant to talk about Braun in 2012, as well. Any way you slice his season challenges one or more of the above assertions.
Braun is the same old Braun in 2012. So, it seems one or more of the following statements should be true.
- Braun was actually not using PEDs, and our collective self-righteous desire to tar and feather led the public and media to smear a clean player based on circumstantial evidence.
- Braun was using PEDs last year and he must be continuing to use them this year. This use has gone undetected. The system isn’t working as well as we think it is.
- PEDs don’t actually help players or, at the very least, their effects are individual. It’s possible to take PEDs one season and not take them the next while maintaining virtually indistinguishable levels of performance.
The Brewers have been making a late-season playoff push recently, thrusting Braun into the spotlight and MVP discussion. Somehow, I still doubt that we’ll see these questions addressed in any meaningful way.
Oh, and in an episode of more mundane egg on sports media’s collective face, Braun has already proven one of the offseason narratives regarding his expected performance wrong, as he clearly does not need Prince Fielder hitting behind him to be on the very short list of the game’s best hitters.