Recently I talked about some of the mental negatives that can complicate a baseball player's performance.
It's also hard not to consider some positives -- in this case, ego, which is competition fuel for athletes driven by testosterone (naturally or not). Even class-oozing Derek Jeter, one of my baseball heroes, knows he's kind of a big deal. (I bet his apartment smells of rich mahogany. Maybe we should ask one of Jete's legions of gift-bag recipients.)
And even with the much less glamorous fanfare of his forced mea culpa last summer, also as evidenced by his torrid start to spring training, Ryan Braun's self-worth still pumps furiously.
I'll clarify that having an ego doesn't always constitute being a bad person; we all need self-confidence here and there. But for better or worse, self-guided or directed by his legal team, we saw a significant glimpse of how Braun's may influence his behavior at his infamous press conference in 2012. He simultaneously put on a self-pity party while lying through his teeth and deriding a test collector to save his own skin.
But a negative view of someone's attitude or theatrics can't blindly dictate how to judge someone's performance. It's hard to say with 100 percent conviction that Braun has received performance enhancement throughout his career. The only instances of proof come from 2011. He had numerous elite seasons before that, tracing back to 2007.
Until you show me concrete evidence from those seasons, I'm counting his skills as real, albeit somewhat exaggerated recently.
He's not Alex Sanchez. Braun passes the eye test. (That phrase can never tell the whole story, but it matters, stubborn stat freaks. Deal with it.)
Come on ... of course he's angry!
It's beyond me (and especially most verbal detractors) to pinpoint any talk of down cycles from his PEDs. Nagging injuries last year more directly caused turmoil. Heck, maybe the fact he was about to get caught was weighing on him, too.
Braun has paid for his misgivings, but even with all the apologies, he's not going to forget his downfall. Just as he (or his lawyers via his voice) compulsively attacked Dino Laurenzi Jr., it'll power him into another elite year out of spite toward those who boo him.
My draft board starts with Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez, Adam Jones and Clayton Kershaw. I'd gladly draft Braun over Bryce Harper, Jacoby Ellsbury, Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez and any remaining first baseman. Likely Robinson Cano, too.
Buying a mere 20-20 season with a .280 BA doesn't leave much risk for a late-first-round floor when you consider what else Braun has done.
He has a long way to go to rehabilitate his PR, but fantasy owners aren't looking for spin. His work at the plate -- and his pride -- will be just fine.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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