Ryan Braun is a guy whose reputation has been severely tarnished due to his admission of using performance-enhancing drugs.
It wasn’t the admission of PEDs that made everyone turn their back on him, though. Braun had previously gone on live television and read a prepared speech telling the public, “If I had done this intentionally, or unintentionally, I’d be the first one to step up and say, I did it. By no means am I perfect, but if I’ve ever made any mistakes in my life I’ve taken responsibility for my actions.”
A likely story, told by almost every player that has been caught using PEDs. The problem is, this wasn’t some bench player who was coming in to pinch hit once every three or four days — this was the 2011 NL MVP, and 2012 runner-up. The same guy who robbed Matt Kemp of the MVP award, as some may say
Braun was vilified, and rightfully so. He cheated and lied about it. Then he served his suspension and accepted the criticism.
It was hard for Braun to come back immediately and have the same impact he had during his prime. The 2014 season wasn’t great to him, as he finished the year with a slash line of .266/.324/.453 — all career lows. Not that it was a bad season by any means, but he didn’t have normal stats a five-time Silver Slugger should have. That wouldn’t last for long.
The 2015 season started off slow for Braun. In the month of April, he hit .254 with an OBP of just .293 and four home runs, as his Brewers went 5-17. However, May has seen vintage Braun. He has hit .286 with seven home runs, but the most impressive part of his game this month has been his ability to get on base. He has a .387 OBP in the month of May and an OPS of 1.010.
Braun is seeing the ball much better this month than last month. He’s drawn 14 walks in May, compared to the dismal three walks he drew in the entire month of April. That’s not to say that he’s going to go back to how he used to play. There’s no telling how much, or how little, PEDs effected his game. What cannot be argued is that Braun has always been a naturally talented player.
At this point, in 2015, it’s almost impossible to take PEDs and not get caught. The testing players have to go through, with all of the restrictions of supplements, makes it hard to drink an energy drink without testing positive for a banned substance. Braun always had power, vision, and elite plate discipline — PEDs cannot take that away, they can only (allegedly) enhance. Very much unlike the 2015 Brewers, Braun is starting to come around.
In a game against the San Francisco Giants on May 25, facing Tim Lincecum, Braun hit a 474-foot home run that went over the left-field bleachers and out of Miller Park. Not that that means vintage Braun is back either, but if he gets hot again, it could be awesome to watch. He lost a good amount of credibility, as he should have, when he lied to everyone. But there are still some people out there who just want to see great players do well; isn’t that what baseball is all about?
Lately, it seems as though many fans have gotten on players who have been caught using PEDs because they’re taking away from the integrity of the game, and all of that other nonsense. As if, throughout history, baseball has been a place where no one has cheated to gain an advantage. It wasn’t that, but Braun was really one of the first to get suspended during the prime of his career for PED use. In general, it sounds like Bug Selig wanted to send a message to future players that it won’t be tolerated.
So sure, suspend Alex Rodriguez in the twilight of his career for admitting to using steroids ten years prior, with no factual evidence or failed drug tests. Now Rodriguez hears boos in every stadium except Yankee Stadium. Since Braun, Everth Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Jenrry Mejia, and Ervin Santana have been suspended for PEDs. Four of the five were All-Star selections at one point, and Mejia is a great young talent.
Braun more than likely will spend the rest of his career with a figurative asterisk next to his name and all of his accomplishments — unrightfully so. He’s lied, multiple times, to many people, but although sometimes baseball looks like popularity contest, stats cannot be disputed.
As for whether or not Braun’s game has been effected by PEDs, it’s almost irrelevant. Fans have a right to not like him because of how he handled the situation, but he was suspended in the prime of his career. He lost a lot of money and time from suspensions. He’s paid his dues, accepted responsibility, and is paying a heavy price. Now the PED-free Ryan Braun is starting to get back into his All-Star form, and only time will tell what he does from here on out.