Naturally, many fans and media nationwide always mention Ryan Braun‘s potential production in the upcoming season with a caveat, thanks to his admitted use of performance-enhancing drugs. Though Braun only admits to using them to quickly recover from a nagging injury in 2011, most wonder aloud how long he has actually used illegal substances to gain an edge.
Regardless of those arguments, it’d be extremely difficult to believe he was using again in 2012 after testing positive the year before. If he was still getting illegal, medicinal help months after barely avoiding an initial suspension, he would be rather stupid. And while he was foolish enough to take the stuff and get caught the first time, Braun simply is not that dumb.
With that in mind, the logical argument is that his numbers two seasons ago were legit. His 2012 stats were every bit as good as his MVP season, with some being even better. He posted a .595 slugging percentage, .987 OPS, 41 home runs, 108 runs, 112 RBI and 30 stolen bases. In the words of Chief Wiggum, “OK, folks. Show’s over. Nothing to see here…”
The Milwaukee Brewers are counting on him being the same .300 average, 30-plus home run, 100-plus RBI guy he’s always been. Barring injury, he will be just that.
The guy can flat out hit. He’s a true master at his craft and swings the stick as well as anyone in the league, both with consistency and power. Braun sprays the ball line-to-line, ripping sharp grounders, frozen ropes and epic blasts to every inch of the park. His talent for hitting a baseball with ease and grace will not be affected by any “supposed” loss of the extra help he had in 2011.
Now, struggling at the plate or missing time because of an injury? That is something Brewers fans and the organization should have some concern about.
Every year, Braun seems to have an issue with a different part of his body. One season it was an intercostal muscle. In 2011, the time of his substance use, he was trying to recover from an upper calf/lower hamstring injury. Then in 2012, it was a season-long groin injury that hindered his play and forced him out of a few contests. Finally, prior to his suspension, Braun went to the disabled list with a right thumb injury.
While last season was the first time he officially landed on the DL, Braun has consistently battled ailments that have contributed to slumps, kept him out of multiple games and left people wondering if he was going to be a career-long headache in the health department. In theory, the months he got off due to his suspension gave his body ample time to heal, without the pressure of rushing back to help the club in 2013.
In a way, the timing of everything worked out well for the Brewers, as last season was essentially lost following their horrible 6-22 record in May.
Thus, the Brewers’ best player will come to spring training the healthiest and strongest of his career. Braun will have a lot to prove with scrutiny at its peak, but he tends to thrive under pressure.
If he can prevent the nagging issues of the past, and especially avoid a serious injury, you’ll see the same, MVP-caliber player you’re used to watching.