Why Ryan Braun won’t win a second consecutive NL MVP
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With only 20 games left in this topsy-turvy Milwaukee Brewers season, so many uncertainties remain. Will Milwaukee’s unmatched hot streak continue? If so, will the Crew get enough help from other teams to leave Milwaukee a Wild Card vacancy? In terms of personal performance, can Aramis Ramirez be the first Brewer in 30 years to win a Gold Glove? Could Nori Aoki be considered for Rookie Of The Year honors? Can Ryan Braun help lead this strange, unexpected cast of Brewers to meaningful October baseball?
While we’ll have to wait for answers to each of those questions, one thing is abundantly clear: No matter the Brewers outcome or how deserving he might be, Ryan Braun will not win his second straight National League MVP. That fate was sealed with a tainted urine sample. Whether it was tainted through improper storage—as two of three on a panel thought when lifting Braun’s 50-game suspension this spring—or by something else, 500 Remetee photo-shoots-worth of damage was done to the reigning MVP’s reputation, making a repeat oh-so unlikely.
Apparently, nobody told Braun that, though. Shoved under the microscope and facing boos (and worse) at every visiting ballpark, he hasn’t shown any signs of cracking under pressure. His 38 homers are tops in the National League. His 100 RBI are good for second in the league, and his 162 hits are third—while his 23 steals and 57 walks (14 intentional) are each enough to put him in the top 20. In most categories, Braun has either already overtaken or is close to topping figures from his MVP season.
So why won’t Braun win the MVP? Because a (largely) behind-the-times boys club of baseball writers given the privilege of voting for the MVP wouldn’t dare smudge the pristine standing of an award given to Barry Bonds seven times (four times post-cranial gigantism). Forgetting the facts that 1.) Braun’s name was cleared, and 2.) Details of the failed test shouldn’t have been leaked in the first place, the Brewers slugger has managed another incredible season amid more scrutiny than ever—and, likely, more random drugs tests than ever before.
Still, in a sport in which staying with one team, being a good guy in the community, and adhering to the old “doing it the right way” litmus test is more important than, say, actual on-field play, Braun’s season will likely go by the wayside as an impressive campaign that bears no MVP fruit. Instead, one of these guys below will probably reap the benefit of baseball’s collective Mr. Magoo approach to rewarding performance.
MVP case: Posey has performed admirably well at the plate and nearly as well behind it. The young San Francisco catcher’s mangled ankle (incurred in a nasty home plate collision last season) is fully healed, and he’s wasted no time bringing offense to a Giants club that hangs its hat on great starting pitching. Posey’s .333 batting average, and astonishing near-.400 average since the All-Star Game has done volumes to keep his team atop the National League West—even after losing Melky Cabrerea and his .346 average for 50 games for using an illegal substance (and hiring people to make a fake website for the drug to throw MLB off the scent).
Why Braun is more deserving: Beyond the ridiculous batting average, playing for a surefire contender and the fact that he plays a more physically demanding position (well, when he’s not playing first base 20 percent of the time), not many of Posey’s stats or intangibles overtake those of Braun. He has fewer hits (156), significantly fewer home runs (21) and less to show in the RBI and stolen base departments as well (89 and one, respectively). Not to diminish Buster’s case, but Jonathan Lucroy was one suitcase mishap away from having an opportunity to put up similar stats in most categories.
MVP case: Matt Holliday is a regular name in annual NL MVP talks. Mention is warranted by the block-headed outfielder’s presence in the top 10 of National League hits, runs, walks, and RBI leader boards. Plus, he plays in St. Louis, which is utopia for obsolete baseball purists with voting privileges. Those pre-written yearly Albert Pujols ballots have to wind up somewhere. Why not a decent team’s most apt offensive threat?
Why Braun is more deserving: Holliday trails Braun in every relevant stat. To date, Braun has clubbed 12 more homers, has two more hits, five more runs, six more RBI, and 19 more stolen bases. They play the same position (Braun more effectively), and both players have the oft-referenced “big shoes” of a departing slugger to fill. As far as the contender variable some writers throw willy-nilly into their flawed MVP algorithms, the Cardinals are far from a lock for the second Wild Card spot right now. A vote for Holliday is a vote from someone who wishes they had the heart to vote for Braun.
MVP case: Back in June and July, the Pirates were the darlings of the National League, and the team many Brewers fans were pulling for, perceiving Milwaukee was out of contention. Andrew McCutchen was a huge part of Pittsburgh’s return to credibility, with a flurry of timely hits and a career high in home runs. ‘Cutch’s 177 hits are enough to lead the league, and the .340 average he’s managed to this point is second only to the aforementioned Cabrera in the NL. In all, his play is a good story within a better story of the Pirates not being terrible post-1992.
Why Braun is more deserving: Unfortunately, the storyline of the prolific Pirates hasn’t continued into the late summer months. Meanwhile, McCutchen’s numbers have dwindled, too. His career low 16 steals puts him 28th in the NL. His 85 RBI has him tied for 13th in the league, and his 26 homers—his best figure—still aren’t good enough to crack the top 10. Hitting the most singles for a team straddling the .500 mark isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) enough to bring the NL MVP to Pittsburgh.