COMMENTARY | It was a rough summer for the Milwaukee Brewers, and right in the middle of it all was a guy who played only 61 games.
That guy isn't just some guy. That guy is former MVP and exiled performance-enhancing drug user Ryan Braun, who was not only hindered by thumb and neck injuries this year but also accepted a 65-game suspension to close out the 2013 season.
For one moment, let's forget the baggage that comes with Braun -- let's focus on his performance on the field.
Braun has been reinstated from his suspension and will be back with the Brewers on opening day 2014 whether people like it or not, but there is reason to believe the Milwaukee left fielder will come back stronger than ever.
He's faced adversity before
This sure has a similar feeling to the start of the 2012 season, just months after news broke that Braun had been suspended 50 games for using PEDs. Eventually, Braun would win that appeal on a technicality, but the damage had already been done.
Braun now had to prove that he won that appeal for good reason. He went out and arguably had a better season than his MVP campaign, hitting .319 with 41 HRs and 112 RBIs.
There was a lot of adversity staring Braun right in the face two years ago, and he pushed it aside, going on to have perhaps the best season of his career.
2012 was one of his best seasons
We just covered in length that Braun's 2012 season was one of his best, but there's a reason this is important to note. If what Braun said was true in his lengthy apology, he only used PEDs during the 2011 season to recover from injury. Of course, what we hear come out of Braun's mouth has to be taken with a grain of salt, but there is no indication that Braun used PEDs following 2011.
For how well he performed in 2012, there's legitimate reason to believe that Braun did, in fact, only use PEDs to help him in his recovery from a nagging injury, as he hit a career-high 41 dingers the following season.
Teams can't pitch around him
When healthy, the Brewers have one of the best lineups in baseball, and it only got better with the breakout performances of Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez. Questions remain about first base, but, aside from that, there's no weakness in Milwaukee's offense.
Braun is protected well in the lineup, usually by Aramis Ramirez. While Ramirez's age is beginning to catch up with him, there are still several other viable options to back up Braun. Opponents won't have the luxury of pitching around him, which means Braun should continue to see plenty of good pitches to hit.
He's in the prime of his career
Braun will be only 30 years old entering his eighth season and will still be in the midst of his prime. Need we say more?
He owes it to the fans
PEDs may have helped Braun earn his $100 million extension, but that's no reason for him to sit back and count down the days to his retirement. He upset a lot of people with his actions, including those who matter the most -- the fans.
Braun has a lot of work to do in order to get Brewers fans back in his good graces. He can expect a smattering of boos when he's introduced on opening day, but those jeers will slowly turn into cheers if he can remain one of the best players in baseball.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ryan Braun
- Milwaukee Brewers