Writers from around Tribune Co. discuss how 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun might perform next season after returning from his suspension for violating baseball's drug policy. Feel free to join the conversation by leaving a comment of your own.
Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times
It's a tough question, because Braun accepted his suspension in part because MLB agreed not to disclose the evidence. Logic would say Braun would not have used performance-enhancing substances last season, after he had come so close to a suspension then. He was well aware MLB wanted him, and bad.
Braun hit .332 with 33 home runs, 111 runs batted in and a .994 OPS in his MVP season of 2011, the year when he tested positive for excessive testosterone. He hit .319 with 41 homers, 112 RBIs, and a .987 OPS last season. Two great seasons, hardly any difference in production.
Hubris would say Braun indeed would have used last season -- escaped suspension once, why not try again? Let's say that happened. But then let's go back and look at Braun's rookie year: .324, 34 homers, 97 RBI, 1.004 OPS. In his six full seasons, he never has hit lower than .285 or fewer than 25 home runs.
Could Braun have been using performance-enhancing substances during his entire career? Possible, but unlikely. More likely: As Braun's annual salary jumps from $8.5 million this year to $19 million in 2016, 2017 and 2018, he'll take up so much of the payroll of the team in baseball's smallest market that he won't be able to duplicate past numbers. The Brewers won't be able to afford a lineup good enough to allow him to produce.
Juan C. Rodriguez, South Florida Sun Sentinel
The Brewers certainly hope so, considering they owe him $127 million through 2020. We still don’t know exactly what Braun took and how long he took it. His body never really changed. It’s doubtful he’ll show up next spring training 30 pounds lighter and devoid of power.
Braun turns 30 in November, so fans shouldn’t expect a sharp decline in his ability to put the barrel on the baseball. Does he have another 40-home run season in him? Maybe not, but no reason to think at minimum he won’t be a 30-homer, 100-RBI guy for the next few seasons.
A huge benefit to Braun is his home ballpark. Through Monday, the only venue more conducive to hitting home runs this season than Miller Park was Rogers Centre in Toronto. Miller Park also has a top-10 ballpark factor in runs (eighth), hits (fifth) and walks (fifth).
Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune
When Ryan Braun returns to the Brewers next April, he’ll be 30. He’ll also still be one of the best hitters in baseball. There’s no reason that Braun shouldn’t still be highly productive, although it would help if the Brew Crew found another thumper to hit behind Braun, who will have the highly regarded Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez in front of him.
Braun may not be one of the five best hitters in baseball, as he was from 2009 to 2012 but he should be one of the top 25, which isn’t bad. The question is how his body and his focus hold up into his 30s, with an overly long contract and quite possibly a team lacking the pitching to compete.
He will likely be a mess by the last few years of a deal running through 2020, but in the short run I’d still want him on my fantasy team.
Matt Bell, Allentown Morning Call
When pro athletes become linked to steroids, we’re quick to purge our memory of everything they’ve ever accomplished. Ryan Braun was the 2007 National League rookie of the year. He collected 150 RBIs faster than any player since 1951. Just two years ago, he earned NL MVP honors and carried Milwaukee to within two games of the World Series.
It appears that Braun has accepted his punishment and already turned his focus to spring training.
While Braun’s production took a slight dip this season, there’s little evidence to suggest a fall from perennial-MVP status. If you look at his career numbers, you’ll see no major upward or downward trend in output. The fact is, Braun is startlingly consistent. When he returns in 2014, his numbers will be on par with his career averages of .312, 36, and 117.