Benny Sieu / US PRESSWIRE | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
By all rights, Brewers' slugger Ryan Braun should be the leading contender for National League MVP. After all, he won the award last season, and his campaign in 2012 is even better. To wit: Braun is leading the league in Home Runs, RBIs, Slugging, OPS, and WAR. He's second in Runs score, fifth in Batting Average and Hits, and he has 27 Stolen Bases. His team is surging after a lackluster first half, now just 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, and this is without their number one starter (Zack Greinke) and slugger (Prince Fielder) from a year ago. That Braun has put up these numbers without Fielder batting behind him makes the performance all the more impressive.
But - and when discussing Ryan Braun, there's going to have to be a big "but", for better or for worse - as I'm sure everyone knows, Braun tested positive for testosterone at the end of last season, and despite the fact that the result was overturned, for plenty of fans, sportswriters and baseball officials, he's forever tainted. Never mind that the test was supposed to be confidential, that according to MLB rules, Braun's appeal should have taken place behind closed doors, and — given that it was overturned — we never should have known about it in the first place. Granted, the reasons for his successful appeal (Braun's urine sample was mishandled) strike many as fishy, but guess what? He was cleared, and his performance this year — without Fielder, but with opposing fans raining abuse upon him — speaks for itself. After all, Braun would have to be really fucking stupid to cheat after what he's been through, yet his production is better than ever. And fashion sense aside, Braun has always been considered an uncommonly smart ballplayer.
The truth is, given the cloud still hanging over him, Braun has almost no chance of actually winning the award. But while Buster Posey and Andrew McCutcheon are both having terrific seasons, Braun has proven himself the best player in the National League this year. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt.