(Image: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
ESPN reported earlier this week what Brewers fans knew was coming (but probably didn’t want to think about) – that Ryan Braun will probably be suspended for 100 games after the All-Star break. Braun won’t be suspended for PED use, but for not cooperating with MLB’s inquiries.
It’s fair to say that Brewers fans have more willing to give Braun the benefit of doubt throughout the last two years than baseball fans and pundits at large. On Wednesday, JSOnline columnist Michael Hunt wrote about Brewers fans’ protectiveness of Braun:
Could anyone still possibly believe that Braun is innocent?
When Braun was introduced as part of the starting lineup Tuesday night, the Miller Park gathering reacted with enthusiastic applause. When Braun came to bat in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds, he received an ovation for which a lot of people stood. And when he singled to move Jean Segura to third, the modest house again roared its approval.
As for the question of Braun’s innocence, it’s true Braun failed a PED test in 2011 – but reports are that he won’t be suspended for that. Braun will be suspended for not answering MLB’s questions. Given the lengths that MLB has gone to show it’s tough on drugs – including filing frivolous lawsuits and engaging in intimidation tactics – Braun has nothing to gain by cooperating.
Hunt goes on to ask, “Really, what are you supposed to think when someone lawyers up?” Based on the way MLB has conducted itself, it’s possible (one might even say perfectly reasonable) to believe that Braun took PEDs and that he’s the victim an MLB witch-hunt. (Aside: Given Hunt’s feelings on lawyering up, one hopes he’s never served on a jury.)
To be sure, there is plenty of reason not to accept Braun’s denials. But whether or not fans believe him, why should they change their minds now? All that changed since last week is Braun refused to answer MLB’s questions. If he did answer their questions, presumably he would repeat his denials, MLB wouldn’t believe him, and fans who believe Braun is innocent wouldn’t have any reason to think otherwise.
As for Brewers fans welcoming Braun back after his stint on the DL, Hunt acknowledged that’s to be expected. Regardless of whether or not Braun took PEDs – and let’s assume he did – what are Brewers fans supposed to do when Braun comes to the plate? Boo him? Sit on their hands? Applaud politely, but not enthusiastically? We want to see our team win. Braun plays a significant role in the Brewers winning games. Anyone who thinks Brewers fans shouldn’t cheer him when he produces is just not being sporting.
If fans don’t want to support Braun, they are free to change their allegiance to another team. Those of us who remain Brewers fans will keep hoping Braun produces for our team, we’ll be happy when he does, and we will applaud him enthusiastically, regardless of how we may feel about his personal choices.
Some of us might not even feel that bad about his personal choices. After all, Braun did fail that PED test during the 2011 playoffs, when the Brewers’ season was ended by the Cardinals. As far as I’m concerned, if a guy was willing to go outside of the rules to beat the goddamn Cardinals, he has nothing to apologize for. Go Brewers.