When Ryan Braun stepped to the podium last Saturday night at the annual dinner for the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, a hush replaced the festive banquet din. The Brewers' leftfielder, there to collect his National League MVP plaque, was making his first public appearance since ESPN reported last month that he had failed an October drug trust for having elevated levels of testosterone. Braun, who has denied wrongdoing and now awaits the verdict of his appeal (which reportedly began last Thursday), gave a short acceptance speech to a packed Hilton hotel ballroom in which many of the attendees were reporters and columnists, some of whom had wondered whether Braun should decline the award, and who collectively have been loath to cast Hall of Fame ballots for even suspected users of PEDs.
Braun spoke humbly, congratulating the other candidates and stressing his integrity without explicitly acknowledging his situation. "I've always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball," he said. "That's why I'm so grateful and humbled to accept this award tonight." Braun left the podium to tepid applause and continued unease.
The BBWAA has said it won't strip Braun of the award, citing as precedent the 2003 AL MVP given to and retained by Alex Rodriguez (who later admitted using steroids). Braun's test also occurred during the postseason, while the MVP is a regular-season award. But the slugger needs to meet a high standard to prove his innocence. Accidental intake of a banned substance is not an acceptable excuse. Failure to win his appeal would mean Braun would serve a 50-game suspension to start the 2012 season. That could preclude a repeat MVP award—and tarnish the one he picked up on Saturday.
GENE BOYARS/NEW YORK CHAPTER, BBWAA (BRAUN)
OFF HIS GAME Braun's 2011 season earned him MVP honors as well as an uneasy spot in the eyes of baseball fans and media that won't go away until his case is settled.