His Bat Is Hot, His Thumb Is Numb And His Ears Are Probably Ringing
What did we learn from the Milwaukee Brewers as they complete their first road trip of the 2014 season?
First, this team ain't bad, going 6-0 away from Miller Park with a mix of clutch hitting, great starting pitching and a rock-solid bullpen.
And, we know fans away from here are predictable if not stereotypical (and, in some cities, downright hypocritical) when it comes to how they greet our disgraced but returning superstar outfielder.
It's not easy being Ryan Braun once the Brewers slugger is out of the 414 area code, as evidenced by the reception he got during the team's swing through Boston and Philadelphia.
Much was made of the response Braun received on Opening Day at Miller Park where his first at bat generated vigorous applause and, in many parts of the stadium, a standing ovation. The pre-game jury was largely out as to how he'd be received locally but the verdict after those first nine innings was unanimous--Brewers fans, at least the ones who live here, largely forgave and forgot.
Not so in Boston and Philadelphia. Probably not around the rest of Major League Baseball. And, after hearing the boo-birds in full throat these past six games, it just doesn't sound right to my ears.
Sure, Braun's crimes against the game know no boundaries, but the outrage elsewhere seems out of place, if not disproportionate. What Braun did--using banned substances and then lying about it--wasn't good for the game, but here is where it hurt the most. The Brewers have to live with the consequences, their fans have to process what to do with a fallen star. To hear some lunkhead in Philadelphia scream "Cheater!" at the top of his lungs at the disgraced star (just before Braun, coincidentally, blasted a home run) seems like a hollow, too-easy gesture, almost obligatory. Then again, Philly is the town that booed Santa. Entire studies and endless hours of sports talk radio have been spent on the topic of what makes a fan boo, and the Braun story will no doubt add fuel to the debate.
If anyone should be offended, upset, or carry a grudge, shouldn't it be us? And, it seems, we are doing none of the above. So why, then, are others still so chapped? How many of those Boston fans so eager to light into Braun did so sporting Roger Clemens or Manny Ramirez jerseys? What's the over/under on how many Wrigley patrons will lustily boo Braun when the Brewers make their first visit to Chicago, fans who will be sporting Sammy Sosa's number 21 on their backs as they do so?
We get it, everybody. You read the paper, you saw the story. Braun cheated, then lied, then got caught. It happens a lot in this game, unfortunately, but the time has been served. You'd have to bring a lot of produce to the ballpark every night if you want to hurl raspberries at players who have done wrong, be it PED's or something else that violates societal standards. To hear fans outside Milwaukee with so much venom for someone who's not their own, whose deeds sullied the game but really didn't hurt their respective teams (Arizona excepted) seems predictable and almost stereotypical.
And, it's not exactly bright--Braun seems to be channeling what he hears into his bar which turned red-hot once away from Miller Park. Fans he encounters on the road the rest of the season might be wise just to sit on their hands when #8 comes up to the plate, if nothing else to prevent the beast within from being stirred.
That said, boo away Beantown and Philly. Let the insults reign forth elsewhere, too. Think what you will about Ryan Braun, but you can't doubt his confidence. The rest of Major League Baseball has a constitutional right to give him both verbal barrels when he comes to town. Let each one, though, remember it's own sullied characters and remind itself you cant boo Braun while lauding your own in-house cheats and felons.
In Braun's case, they do so at their own team's risk.