MILWAUKEE — Ryan Braun says he wasn’t paying much attention to the Most Valuable Player announcement Thursday evening.
Regardless of whether you believe him, the Milwaukee Brewers star left fielder sounded convincing.
“I didn’t think I was going to win,” he said in a teleconference with Milwaukee reporters shortly after learning he finished second in the voting. “It’s exciting to know that I was a finalist and to know that I had another season that put me in that MVP conversation. That’s something that I’m proud of. Other than that, I didn’t think about it at all.”
The National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2011, Braun finished far behind San Francisco catcher Buster Posey, garnering just three of 32 first-place votes. Posey finished with 422 points to Braun’s 285 and got 27 first-place votes.
“I think Buster Posey deserved to win,” Braun said. “What he was able to accomplish this year as a catcher for a team that eventually went on to win the World Series was incredible. I thought he was the best player and he deserved to be MVP. He’s certainly deserving of the award.”
There had been concern among Brewers fans that last offseason’s positive test for elevated testosterone, which was later overturned on appeal, would cause writers to punish Braun in the balloting. However, those fears were dispelled.
Not one of the 32 voters for the award left Braun off the ballot, and no writer had him lower than fourth. In fact, only four had him lower than third. Losing votes for an award was never a concern of Braun’s, and it won’t be one in the future.
“I never focus on things out of my control,” Braun said. “I don’t think about those things. I’m not oblivious to what’s going on or what’s been said, but aside from that I don’t spend any time thinking about those things. I really don’t.”
There’s little question Braun was the best offensive player in the National League in 2012. Take every other factor out of the equation – especially the fact Posey’s Giants were in the playoffs and the Brewers weren’t — and Braun would have been chosen by virtually every voter.
He led the league in home runs, runs, OPS and total bases. He finished third in the batting race and second in RBI and hits and stole 30 bases.
His OPS was 30 points higher than Posey’s, he hit 17 more home runs, he drove in nine more runs, and he has a speed element that Posey doesn’t. Posey did win the batting title, but only twice in the past 20 years has the batting champion been the NL MVP. Both times, that winner was Barry Bonds.
So if Braun wasn’t punished for last winter’s events and had better overall numbers than the winner, why didn’t he win? The answer is clear, and it’s similar to the answer that gave Braun the award over Matt Kemp a year ago:
Voters reward players for leading their teams to the playoffs. And Braun doesn’t disagree with that criterion.
“For all of us as players, our goal is to make it to the postseason,” Braun said. “That goal is now easier than ever with two additional wild-card teams. That’s what everybody’s goal is and what it should be.
“The best players that end up getting to the postseason deserve extra credit because that’s what everybody’s top priority is. That’s what everybody’s goal is, and that’s what everybody works for all year.”
Again, believe him or not, Braun believes he had a “good” season but not a “great” season. He said his numbers weren’t far and away better than the rest of the finalists, so he has no complaints with the final tally.
Braun’s an intelligent man. He understands how the process works. He’s also a fierce competitor. Don’t mistake his comments for a lack of wanting to win the award; he was just smart enough to see the writing on the wall. He wanted to win, but when he knew that wasn’t going to happen he didn’t care where he finished.
The best thing that came out of all of this for Braun and his fans are that they learned last offseason’s events are beginning to be put in the past. Maybe the race would have been slightly closer without them, but the result would have been the same. Like it or not, you pretty much have to make the postseason to be considered the MVP. There’s plenty of evidence to back that up.
And if the Brewers happen to be postseason-bound in 2013, there’s a strong chance Braun will then take home his second MVP.