Over the past decade, it has been admirable the way that the Milwaukee Brewers achieved a balance between turning prospects into stars and adding veterans along the way to become competitive in the National League.
Ryan Braun became the pinnacle of that success. He went from the fifth overall pick in the 2005 draft, to the National League MVP in 2011. Not only did he help lead the Brewers to the playoffs in both 2008 and 2011, but he became extremely invested in the Milwaukee community, becoming the spokesperson for different organizations and opening local restaurants along the way.
He took a hometown deal in signing an extension with the small-market team that had invested so much in him. He’s helped revitalize a fanbase in Milwaukee that could now cheer for a respectable team with a golden boy in left field.
This week’s news out of the Biogenesis clinic in South Florida is threatening to tarnish all of that.
With Braun now facing the very real possibility of a 100-game suspension, a cloud is cast not only over his MVP and individual awards and accolades, but it tarnishes the successes – however mild in comparison to other clubs – the Brewers have attained in recent years.
When his name was brought up in late 2011 surrounding elevated testosterone tests, it was a crushing blow to fans in Milwaukee. The feeling was that the Brewers had done things the right way for so long, and this would forever put a black mark on that record. Braun came out with his steadfast denial of any wrongdoing, and say what you will about technicalities, chains of command and the like, but Brewers fans re-embraced their star without hesitation.
Brewers fans spent 2012 defending the legitimacy of Braun’s 2011 MVP and fending off taunts from fans of opposing teams. The left fielder seemingly did the same, putting up numbers equal to, if not better than his 2011 campaign. The jeers died down toward the latter part of 2012 and especially in 2013, as the Brewers have skidded out of the gates.
I don’t think there is a true fan in Wisconsin that can tell you with anything even remotely close to 100 percent certainty that they believed Ryan Braun was innocent. Personally, my belief was that it may have been something that was unknowingly in his system but the point still stood – there was something in his system.
But still, Braun was our guy. We watched him break onto the scene and win the Rookie of the Year award in 2007, and seemingly get better and better every year. He was a slugger, but didn’t having the hulking muscles and inflated craniums of some of his 1990s counterparts.
The fact is, it’s not 1998 anymore. It’s not about bulging biceps and expanding hat sizes. Today’s drugs are more sophisticated, with players turning to testosterone and hormone treatments instead of standard steroids like Winstrol. But just because the technology has advanced, that doesn’t mean people have stopped getting caught.
If Braun is actually suspended and has to serve a 50- or 100-game ban, it will officially put an asterisk next to his career marks. In getting his prior suspension overturned – even if it may have been on a technicality – it felt like he was given a clean slate by many.
I want to keep defending Ryan Braun. I was beyond thrilled that he became the first person to win an appeal and get a suspension overturned in early 2012. Fool me once, shame on you. But fool me twice? I, and Brewers fans everywhere, can’t let that happen.