(thought we changed the headline the other day..atrocious grammar)
As we pointed out yesterday, the San Francisco Chronicle says Ryan Braun's 2011 was in-line with past numbers. Therefore if he juiced the effects were either: 1.) not career altering or 2.) commensurate with past performance (or juicing).
Braun must now prove his worth over time, under the hot microscope of a skeptical public and press.
Braun's allegedly tainted season was profoundly typical of his career. Not a number out of place. He hit more homers in his rookie year, 2007, than he did last season (34 to 33) and had a higher slugging percentage (.634 to .597). To be a .300 hitter (.332) was common for him. He has essentially been the same player throughout a magnificent five-year run.
It is widely believed that steroids have vanished from the major-league scene and that players have turned to more subtle pursuits of the "edge." I wouldn't be shocked if Braun falls into this category, or if he's joined by hundreds of others. Players will be out to circumvent drug-testing systems for the rest of time, and even the more straitlaced players, those with legitimate concerns about putting their long-term health at risk, express lingering disappointment over the ban of amphetamines.
As the new season unfolds, I'm going to watch Braun with the same unbridled enthusiasm as before. I've spent too much time around big-league clubhouses - those havens of very adult behavior - to feel otherwise. But he's going to pay for this episode, in the form of relentless heckling whenever the Brewers hit the road. My biggest fear is that this engaging man becomes jaded, perhaps to the detriment of his game.