I didn’t really want to write about this, but the Ryan Braun situation has inflamed enough Dodger fans to demand that Matt Kemp retroactively receive the MVP that I figure it’s worth opening up a Sunday discussion topic on it. Some have assumed that I’d be leading the charge to demonize Braun and elevate Kemp, and to them I say no – absolutely not.
The fact is, we simply don’t know the facts yet. We’re hearing all sorts of conflicting reports about how Braun’s failed test isn’t actually for a PED, but for something else, and Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is reporting that ESPN’s original source was wrong and that “there has “never” been a result like this in the history of the MLB testing program”. In the rush to judgement, absolutely no one comes out of this looking good – not MLB, who should be horrified at the leak before the process was complete, not Braun, who will have his reputation ruined forever no matter how this plays out, and certainly not the fans who are rushing to gather the pitchforks to crucify Braun without actually knowing what they’re talking about. Even if Braun did take a PED, which again, we don’t know he did, there’s no concrete evidence that it actually even helped his production, otherwise every previous offender like Guillermo Mota and J.C. Romero would be instant all-stars.
Besides, when it comes to the MVP, 24 hours ago we would have all sworn up and down that Braun was clean, based on the years of testing and his history of production. Now we know he might not be. Who are we to say that Kemp isn’t doing the same thing and just hasn’t been caught? (Just to be 1000% clear for anyone too dense to understand, I am not suggesting that I believe Kemp is cheating.)
If anything, the biggest story here to me is the part that is getting the least amount of attention, and that’s that this story was leaked before the appeal process was complete. Let’s say that Braun has a real, viable medical reason for why his testosterone levels apparently tested above normal levels. You really think the common fan in the left field bleachers of every park Braun visits for the rest of his career is going to remember or care? Of course not; they’ll treat him just like everyone treated Barry Bonds. For anyone to take this process seriously, there has to be an expectation of confidentiality – otherwise we end up in situations like this where sanctimonious reporters pretending they have some high moral authority salivate over their keyboards without having all the facts. (To be honest, I’m surprised that Bill Plaschke hasn’t hit the bricks on this one yet, but if there’s anything more predictable than him simply refiling his Manny Ramirez piece with the name changed, I’ve yet to see it.)
So no, Braun shouldn’t lose the MVP. If Bonds and others like him didn’t get their awards taken away, if the cocaine-fueled Pirates of the 70s didn’t lose their championships, and if the entire NFL can pretend they don’t have an enhancing problem, then Braun shouldn’t be subjected to such criticism either, even if it would be favorable to our viewpoint as Dodger fans.
I hope it turns out that Braun wasn’t juicing, just for baseball’s sake. But mostly, I’d hope that everyone – fans and media alike – just step back and take a deep breath before condemning him before the facts are out.