Ryan Braun said he'd prove himself to critics this year. He did just that, with a monster season.
By RYAN KARTJEFS Wisconsin
Ryan Braun said before the season that he would prove wrong those who doubted he was telling the truth about his overturned positive PED test last offseason by showing them he could put together just as good of a year as he did in his 2011 NL MVP campaign.
And with the Brewers' season now in the books, Braun not only matched his numbers from last season but passed them on his way to another potential MVP year. Braun finished 2012 with a .319 average, 41 home runs and 112 RBI and led the league in runs, home runs, slugging percentage and OPS — a compelling case to be recognized again as the NL's best player.
But it wasn't always easy for Braun this season, as doubters populated nearly every major league baseball town on the Brewers' schedule, heckling him constantly and calling him a cheater. It was something Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said he wouldn't have been able to put up with as a player.
"I think off the field, I knew he was always going to carry himself (well), but he got heckled a lot — every ballpark we were in," Roenicke said. "It used to just be the Cubs and St. Louis … but it turned into pretty much everywhere we went. And that's hard to deal with. You can take it a couple places, but when you have to deal with that in every park you go, for one, it takes a lot of fun out of the job.
"He brushed it off. Some of it motivated him. In some of the ballparks, I could see he wasn't very happy, and sometimes that helps you."
Still, Braun rarely slumped in 2012 and finished off the season as strong as anyone in the National League — a statement he knew he had to make even before the season began.
"I knew from the beginning it was going to be challenging," Braun said, "and certainly, it was. But for the most part, I feel like I handled everything well. I feel like I was able to keep my composure."
But will that composure and his video game-like numbers be enough for an MVP award, even with the Brewers' season now done before the playoffs begin? It's something Braun tries not to think about too much, he said.
His manager, however, wasn't shy when it came to gushing about his slugger's season.
"Am I surprised he had this kind of year?" Roenicke asked. "No. But I think he did exceed (expectations). He's having another MVP year. … If we get into the playoffs, you have to say he's an MVP candidate. … His numbers? My gosh. … He definitely has the numbers to be one of those guys that's considered."