For those baseball fans who have lived long enough to know when substance abuse in baseball was having one too many beers the night before, the sad Ryan Braun saga has to make them nostalgic.
Philadelphia Phillies fans can blame Ryan Howard’s diet for a habitual weight problem that might have contribution to a pair of bad knees, but no one can ever accuse Howard of using banned substances to put up some impressive numbers.
Howard might not be the only clean modern player, but the fact remains that he has never once tested positive for banned substances, his neck or arms never grew to twice their size and he has been a throwback at least in those respects.
Heck, the only thing Babe Ruth abused was hot dogs and alcohol, and the only thing Mickey Mantle abused was beer — and they managed to hit the ball a long way and often. Howard’s numbers, at least before he put on the extra pounds, have been nearly as impressive.
Consider his four-year run from 2006-2009 for example. In 2006, Howard’s MVP year, he hit 58 home runs with 149 RBIs and a .313 batting average. Phillies fans who remember those years also recall that Howard hit the ball to all fields back then, and shifts were rarely used against him. In 2007, Howard hit 47 HRs with 136 RBIs, followed by a 48-146 and a 45-149.
Howard hasn’t had a year like that since, but that’s due to a shift in defense against him and his stubborn refusal to going back to spraying the ball to all fields since 2006.
Phillies fans would like to see him come back from his knee injury in better mental and physical shape, but this latest Ryan Braun story makes them appreciate his clean four-year run all the more. There’s a lot to be said about a player who never has to say he is sorry.