Nobody envies Ryan Braun anymore.
He led the league in slugging percentage (.597), OPS (.994) and extra-base hits (77), while finishing second in batting average and runs. Braun also hit .351 with runners in scoring position.
His wins above replacement was 7.7, the second-highest WAR in the National League.
Braun was a beast throughout the entire 2011 season, and played a huge role in the Milwaukee Brewers’ NL Central title and run to the NLCS.
No disrespect to Prince Fielder, but it's safe to say that without Ryan Braun sitting in the heart of the order, the Milwaukee Brewers would not have won the National League's Central Division.
He was named to yet another All-Star team and won another Silver Slugger award, and he was named the 2011 National League MVP.
So if he played so great and won the MVP, why wouldn’t anyone envy him?
Simple. He tested positive for taking a performance-enhancing drug, and will now have to serve a 50-game suspension if the test is correct.
Braun has stated over and over again that he didn’t do anything wrong. While that may in fact be true, let’s just think about it for a second: How many people actually confess during the heat of the moment?
There are rumors that medication for a personal condition created the positive result, but no one knows for sure.
So now, Braun is left in a lose-lose position. No matter what happens, there is a stain left on his legacy.
And if he’s proven guilty of cheating, Braun will go down as a fraud, having robbed the Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp of the award—when Kemp was arguably the better candidate.
Don’t believe me about Kemp? Just take a look at the numbers.
Kemp hit .324—third in the NL—and led the National League in runs (115), home runs (39) and RBIs (126). He also stole 40 bases and led the National League with a 10.0 WAR.
Kemp was in contention to join the 40-40 club all the way to the wire, and he had a shot to win the Triple Crown up until the final days of the season. Kemp had a better overall season than Braun but didn’t win, presumably because the Dodgers didn’t make it to they playoffs, while the Brewers did.
So for Braun to win the MVP by cheating—and take it away from another very worthy candidate in Matt Kemp—just isn’t right.
If proven guilty, Braun has to give the award back. There’s no other option.
If he wants to try and get rid of that stain on his legacy, he needs to give it back. It’s the only way to rebuild his image.
The Baseball Writers Association of America votes on the MVP each and every season with a ballot that reads:
There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.
The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:
1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
2. Number of games played.
3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
4. Former winners are eligible.
5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.
You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.
Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.
If Braun did in fact take steroids or any other performance-enhancing drugs, he would be in direct violation of the first and third rules. Yes, his actual value to the Brewers was immense, but that all came with the help of illegal substances.
And you’re telling me that someone with good character, disposition, loyalty and effect would go and take steroids? Maybe I’m the outlier, but to me, those qualities and that action don’t seem to go hand-in-hand.
The committee doesn’t have to take the award away from him, and based on their previous actions, it’s unlikely they will. They allowed both Ken Caminiti to keep his 1996 NL MVP award and Alex Rodriguez to keep his 2003 AL MVP award, after both later came clean about taking performance-enhancing drugs.
So despite failing those two stipulations, Braun would get to keep the award. That makes no sense.
If this were the NCAA, his entire season would be wiped from the record books, just like the University of Memphis’ 2007-08 men’s basketball season. And because of that, it’s up to Braun to police himself.
During tomorrow night’s Baseball Writers Association of America’s 89th annual banquet at the Manhattan Hilton, Ryan Braun will be honored as the Most Valuable Player.
He needs to be a bigger man; he needs to take the first step toward rebuilding his image.
Braun needs to decline the award.