Ryan Braun will be in the lineup, batting third for the Brewers on April 6th. Brewers fans, rejoice.
Not only does the successful appeal on Braun’s positive drug test maintain his image, but it may have saved the Milwaukee Brewers season. With the off-season loss of three-time All Star Prince Fielder, the Brewers could not have afforded losing the reigning National League Most Valuable Player for 50 games to begin 2012. Though the pitching staff–primed with upper-echelon arms in Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, and Shaun Marcum–may have been able to keep the Brewers from locking themselves in the cellar by the end of May, the offense would have been stagnant without Braun and Fielder.
Let’s face it: Ryan Braun’s vindication saved the Milwaukee Brewers season.
All along, Braun denied any allegations, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the positive drug test report was “BS”. Throughout the entire process, including a five-week appeal in court, Braun was nothing short of professional. That same approach was taken Thursday by the Brewers outfielder, who said in a statement, “I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball. Everything I’ve done in my career has been with that respect and appreciation in mind.”
In a division with no evident front-runner, the Brewers now have as good a chance to make the Playoffs as any team in the NL Central. The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals lost the face of the franchise and arguably top player in the game, Albert Pujols. Cincinnati, though much-improved with the addition of starter Mat Latos, has much to prove with a plethora of question marks surrounding the back end of the rotation and bullpen.
The Brewers back end of the bullpen, comprised of 46-save-man John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez, is easily the best in the division. The starting rotation is proven and can compete with the likes of the Chris Carpenter-led St. Louis arms.
What may be overlooked in all this may be the fact that the Brewers retained a Gold Glove in left field with what may have been the worst defensive infield in the National League with the likes of Rickie Weeks and Mat Gamel. The outfield is now one of the best, boasting UZR-gem Carlos Gomez (27.5 UZR in 2011), the speedy Nyjer Morgan and his alter ego, Tony Plush, and the underrated Corey Hart in right field.
The effect will be most obvious under the ‘R’ column in the scoreboard. The Brewers gain a .330 hitter who can bop 30 homers and drive in over 100 in addition to stealing 30 bases. As much love as there may be for Carlos Gomez and Japanese import Nori Aoki, it’s borderline-impossible that the two could match that production. I mean, there is a reason the man was the National League MVP.
The debate over the Most Valuable Player award typically is along the lines of “Well, is he really the most valuable to his team? Or is he just the top performer?” As if that line isn’t spoken enough, it would as overused as the driver’s seat in a 1994 Buick by the time his 50 game suspension would have been over. I’ll just do us all a favor and call it out right now, on the spot.
Ryan Braun will prove to be most valuable to his team in 2012.