With the breaking news that the reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun's 50-game suspension has been overturned, he immediately becomes the favorite to win the MVP award again in 2012.
Braun's clearing is a sigh of relief for the Milwaukee Brewers, who lost Prince Fielder to the Detroit Tigers via free agency this offseason.
In order for the Brewers to repeat their success in 2011, they need No. 8 in the lineup playing MVP-caliber baseball this season.
Here are five reasons Ryan Braun will win the 2012 National League MVP Award.
Since October 2011, Braun has been under fire.
His Milwaukee Brewers were outed by the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2 in the NLCS, but Braun played well.
In 24 at-bats, Braun hit .333 with one home run and six RBIs, which was better than teammate Prince Fielder, who averaged .200 with two home runs and three RBIs.
And then came the news that Braun tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDS) and would face a 50-game suspension.
A spokesperson for Braun immediately refuted the claims, saying,
"There are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan's complete innocence and demonstrate there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program. While Ryan has impeccable character and no previous history, unfortunately, because of the process we have to maintain confidentiality and are not able to discuss it any further, but we are confident he will ultimately be exonerated."
On Thursday, Feb. 23, Braun's 50-game suspension was overturned, meaning Braun will be in the lineup on opening day.
After what he went through this offseason, Braun will be poised to prove his natural ability in his quest for another MVP-like season in 2012.
With Prince Fielder moving to the AL to play for the Detroit Tigers, Ryan Braun will no longer be in the shadow of Fielder.
Although Braun was the 2011 MVP, Fielder still drew tons of attention from the national spotlight, and he deserved it.
Fielder may have hit 33 points fewer than Braun, but he hit five more home runs, drove in nine more runs and posted an on-base percentage of 18 points higher than Braun.
As of Sep. 19, 2011, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com noted that Braun and Fielder homered in the same game 35 times in their five years on the Brewers.
McCalvy also cited that Braun and Fielder had combined for 355 home runs as teammates in Milwaukee, which is the most by two teammates in the MLB today.
It's no secret that Fielder will be missed by both Braun and the entire Brewers organization. He hit 230 home runs and drove in 656 runs as a member of the Brewers.
The Brewers obviously lost a big chunk of their offense when Fielder left, but the loss of Fielder will only highlight the performance of No. 8.
Less than two hours after learning that Ryan Braun had won the MVP award, Matt Kemp made a bold prediction for the 2012 season:
"I'm going to go 50-50 next year. I'm telling you, y'all created a monster. I'm about to get back in the weight room super tough so I can be as strong as I was last year. … Forty-forty is tough, so 50-50 will be even tougher, but anything can happen. I have to set my limits high so I can try to get to them as much as I can. I'm going to try for 50-50, which has never been done."
While Kemp's prediction seems too far of a reach, he also has to contend with the fact that Braun's Brewers are a better team than his Dodgers.
The Dodgers missed the playoffs in 2011, finished third in the NL West with an 82-79 record.
The Brewers won the NL Central with a 96-66 record and advanced all the way to the NLCS before being defeated by the eventual World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.
Milwaukee may have lost Fielder to Detroit, but they still boast a better squad than the Dodgers.
And there's the issue of L.A.'s ownership.
The front-runners to land ownership of the Dodgers, Joe Torre and Rick Caruso, recently withdrew their bid to buy the bankrupt franchise.
Braun was better than Kemp last season, and as long as he continues his dominance and leads the Brewers further than the Dodgers in 2012, he'll be the favorite to win the 2012 NL MVP Award.
As you know by now, Ryan Braun was the 2011 MVP as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.
He set career-highs across the board, hitting .332 along with 33 homers, 111 RBIs and 109 runs, all while posting a .397 OBP and .597 SLG.
He ranked second in the NL in batting average to Jose Reyes, second in runs to Matt Kemp, fourth in RBIs to Kemp, Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard, and led the NL in slugging percentage and OPS.
He's also concrete in the outfield, as he made just two errors (.996 fielding percentage) in 2011, which ranked No. 1 in the NL.
Given what Braun achieved in 2011, he'll be hungry to get back on the field and repeat what he did last season.
Now that Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols have moved on to the AL, Ryan Braun becomes an immediate front-runner for the 2012 NL MVP Award.
Fielder signed a nine-year, $214 million deal with the Detroit Tigers, while the Los Angeles Angels locked up Pujols for $254 million over 10 years.
Pujols finished fifth in the NL MVP voting, while Braun's teammate Fielder finished third, with 229 points and one first-place vote (Braun finished with 388 points and 20 first place votes).
Remove Fielder and Pujols, and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Matt Kemp and the Arizona Diamondbacks' Justin Upton are two players who could possibly give Braun a run at the title.
But Braun posted better overall numbers in 2011 than both Kemp and Upton.
Kemp finished second in MVP voting in 2011 with 10 first-place votes, while Upton finished fourth with 214 points.
With two big guns out of the way, the 2011 MVP immediately comes to mind as a favorite to win the award in 2012.