Heading into last night's game Ryan Braun was hitting .263/.322/.500 with four homeruns and three steals. Not exactly MVP numbers, but if your entire team is hitting like that you are probably leading the league in offense. He's been good, but he hasn't been great which is to say he hasn't been Ryan Braun. Much like the Brewers record he has been merely okay. Last night he changed that. Last night Ryan Braun did for the Brewers what the Aliens did for Woody and the gang at the end of Toy Story 3, he picked them up and he carried them away from the incinerator.
It was one of "those games" that only a special player like Ryan Braun can have. He hits the first one and you're glad, but you're not surprised. Ryan Braun was the MVP last season, he hits homeruns. Then he hits the second one and you're like
"jesus maybe he is on steroids" "I have never seen a ball hit that far in my entire life, that was amazing." The next time he steps up to bat you are excited. You WANT something to happen, but you don't expect it. You think he's done enough, but you want him to do it again. Wouldn't that be cool? You know he can and all you can think of is how awesome it would be if he did. AND THEN HE DOES and it's more awesome than you think. Ryan Braun is trending worldwide. You celebrate. You pump your fist. You shotgun a beer. You wave your hands in the air like you just don't care.
(so many lols)
By the time the ninth inning rolls around and Ryan Braun (somehow) gets one last at-bat you don't want it to happen anymore because you fully expect it to. It's Ryan Braun. He is going to hit four homeruns and you are going to talk about it non-stop for the next 24 hours plus. He steps in, he takes a few pitches and the anticipation builds. It was meant to be this way. It is going to happen. (!) He swings and makes contact, you know it's gone. Four homeruns. FOUR HOMERUNS. Only it's not a homerun, it's in the gap and for a split second you think it could go for an inside the park homerun. Wouldn't that be something, you think. Only it's not and Ryan Braun slides safely into third with a triple. You laugh. You're not even mad. Of course it would end this way. It's Ryan Braun.
Yeah, it was one of those games.
It was one of those games that makes you proud to support this team and this player. A game that makes you feel like Bonnie feels playing with her toys in Toy Story 3. You love this guy so much, so much that you think the entire world should know just how awesome he is. You tune in to SportsCenter expecting them to spend 20 minutes gushing about the performance of the 2011 NL MVP, but it's barely a minute and it feels more like 20 seconds. (In their defense they can't cut into that precious NFL talk. The season starts in four months!) Later on today some idiot is going to make a reference to what happened in the offseason on one of the talking head shows (my money is on Skip Bayless) and blah blah blah blah. He won't start suddenly appearing on MLB's promotional material. Matt Kemp will remain the media's favorite for MVP. He will likely be booed tomorrow by San Diego fans and it'll be worse over the weekend in San Francisco because they actually have fans. It won't seem right and some of your happy feelings will be replaced by anger.
It's not worth it.
For whatever reason baseball needs a villain and for a long time that villain was Barry Bonds. He was so good at it too. He was really good, he was cocky, he used to wear an earring when he played (gasp!), he wasn't cool with the media and then, of course, the whole steroids thing. After Barry Bonds left us that villain became Alex Rodriguez. Who totally deserved it. He was really good, he took the biggest contract ever and then had the nerve to be the best player on a last place team, he didn't show up in the playoffs, there was that whole centaur thing, he dated the worst version of Madonna and, of course, the whole steroids thing. A-Rod did a great job as baseball's most hated man for a long time, but then a funny thing happened. He wasn't that great anymore so everyone kind of stopped hating him so much. This created a void and the position of baseball villain was vacant. Nobody wanted to step up to the plate and be hated. Then last winter happened.
And now for a lot of people Ryan Braun is baseball's villain. He's cocky, he's good looking, he wears ridiculous outfits, he "doesn't respect the game" (© St. Louis Cardinals), sometimes he poses like this and, of course, that whole steroids thing. It's sad because Ryan Braun was exonerated and he isn't a bad guy. Unlike those other villains Ryan Braun is always open, honest and affable. He has tons of friends who all speak very highly of him. He does not have an STD. He is a good person who relishes the spotlight and he deserves it for a night like last night, but unfortunately it's been shown on him for a completely different reason and nobody seems to want to turn that one off. Ryan Braun should be Buzz Lightyear, but instead he's Lotso and it's all because of a leak in the MLB offices. (Have I ever mentioned I have a four year old?) It's wrong and it's not fair and it sucks and there's nothing anyone can do about it, but wait until it blows over.
Until then moments like last night are for us. We would like to share them with the rest of the world, to let them know how awesome our guy is, but they don't seem to want to. It's their loss because we appreciate what Ryan Braun does for our team. We realize that what we are seeing a once in a lifetime talent in the early stages of a Hall of Fame career. He's going to be around for awhile, but we still cherish every moment with him because we know that what we are witnessing is something special. It's a great time to be a Brewer fan and a big part of that is Ryan Braun. Last night was not a fluke, last night is how Ryan Braun rolls and that is why we love Ryan Braun.