On Tuesdays, thru basebal season, I will feature a baseball blog from WSSP's Andrew Dunn Bauman. He is the son of legendary Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Columnist and MLB.com's Michael Bauman.
Ryan Braun makes his not-so-triumphant return to Miller Park on March 31st when the Brewers take on the Atlanta Braves on Opening Day. It will be his first game played in a Brewers uniform in 254 days, and will set in motion the most important season of his Major League career. Braun doesn’t have a payday on the line; he’s guaranteed $113 million over the next seven seasons, but he will be playing for something even more important: his legacy.
Regardless of how the 2014 season unfolds for Ryan Braun, it will go down in the books as the year that began to solidify his place in baseball history.
The pressure on Braun will be greater than ever before. He will be booed and jeered at every road game this season. He will be taunted and showered in expletives. He may well even be booed by the home crowd upon his return to Miller Park. If he doesn’t come out of the blocks quickly in April, tension will swell in Milwaukee, where many fans already feel the face of their team’s franchise has betrayed them.
Team executives can’t feel too good about Braun’s travails either. The Brewer franchise now comes with the stigma of paying millions of dollars to a cheater, a player who broke the rules and then repeatedly lied about it. The organization entrusted Braun with their future, a future that now looks much bleaker than when he signed his $105 million contract extension in April 2011.
But despite all of the negatives now attached to his persona, Braun still has an opportunity to go out and silence his critics this season by posting the kind of numbers fans in Milwaukee have become accustomed to seeing. In his first seven years with the Brewers, Braun has averaged 36 home runs per 162 games, while hitting .312.
Those are Hall of Fame type numbers if sustained over the course of an entire career.
Braun may well never make the Hall of Fame as a result of his drug use and the subsequent suspension that saw him miss the final 65 games of the 2013 season. But if he continues to produce near the same clip as before his suspension, it will make for a convincing argument to be admitted to the Hall.
“During the latter part of the 2011 season, I was dealing with a nagging injury and I turned to products for a short period of time that I shouldn't have used,” Braun said in a statement released following the suspension in August of last year. “The products were a cream and a lozenge which I was told could help expedite my rehabilitation. It was a huge mistake for which I am deeply ashamed and I compounded the situation by not admitting my mistakes immediately.”
If what Braun claims about his drug use is true, then a dramatic dip in production shouldn’t be anywhere in his near future.
As of now, only Ryan Braun and his “Cream and a lozenge” supplier truly know if the banned substance he used was only for recovery purposes, or if it enhanced his baseball performance. But one thing is for certain, the numbers don’t lie. For Braun to have even an outside chance at etching his name in baseball history as one of the greats, this is the season he must make a statement.
If he stumbles, the collective groans and sighs will be heard all across the state of Wisconsin. He will be definitively labeled as a fraud and an impostor, even by his hometown fans. But if he succeeds in posting another .300/30 season, all could be forgiven in “Cream” City.
Braun will likely deflect any questions about his scandal once baseball operations begin for Brewer Spring Training in Phoenix, claiming that he needs to focus on playing each day and improving his game. And that’s the type of approach necessary for him to be successful this season, with all of the distractions that will go on around him.
But despite how much he may downplay his return, don’t let it fool you. This season is the definitive chapter in Ryan Braun’s legacy.
It's up to Braun to prove to me this season he wasn't doping his whole career. We will all be watching his numbers closely. Milwaukee loves it's Brewers and we don't want our team to be tarnished in any other way going forward.Great article!
It will be something to watch. He knows that if he under preforms, he'll never hear the end of it. Even if he keeps hitting 300, knocking 30 homers, 100 RBIs, I think he'll never make the HOF. They hate cheaters. In the 2013 HOF..they didn't even elect non-cheaters simply because they played at the same time as Clemens, Bonds, etc.