“Of course there is.”
That’s what Ryan Braun told Tom Haudricourt when asked if his monster first half — .306/.391/.599, a new All-Star break high in home runs (24) and OPS (.990; not counting his short rookie first half) all while offense continues to drop across the league — vindicates him after his steroid-centered ordeal this offseason.
Braun’s performance is unassailable. It’s another feather in the 28-year-old’s cap; another point in favor of his excellence; another step on a potential path to the Hall of Fame. But it’s not vindication.
At the least, vindication is not the proper word for Ryan Braun’s situation. Braun’s performance won’t prove to the skeptics that he isn’t taking steroids, or even that he didn’t take them in the past. It can’t. An overturned positive couldn’t do that, and neither will his play.
We are merely left, as we were coming into this season, without proof Braun ever doped. That’s enough for every other current player, but not for Braun. It’s not enough for Ryan Braun because somebody leaked his “positive” test before the appeal process could happen, an appeal process that eventually would have ruled him innocent and wiped any record from the face of the earth.
Strong evidence suggesting Braun’s test was not truly positive — both Lester Munson and Will Carroll both provided evidence — was not enough to clear his name. Just the simple presence of a test called positive was enough to issue suspicion, if not outright guilt. Consider the language used to attack Braun and the ruling exonerating him:
“An opening statement and press conference that was better manicured than the infield grass he stood on.”
“The whole mess eventually meets an arbitrator who doesn’t believe in basement bins or something.”
“MLB was foiled by the Rubbermaid defense.”
“Now we’re left to wonder who Ryan Braun is. Or was.”
“He concluded, ‘The truth prevailed.’ His eyes said yes. Science said no, no, no.”
“In the end, it just means that Braun, MVP of the National League and darling of Brewers fans, one of the big young talents in the game, just beat the game here.”
“He wasn’t exonerated. He was acquitted. There’s a difference.”
“If you want to think justice was served, have at it.”
“Floyd Landis probably wishes he could have found a legal loophole like this through which to ride his bike.”
Mike Lupica, New York Daily News
These are not feelings that go away lightly. Not after one home run nor ten nor 24.
Vindication means the clearing of blame; the clearing of suspicion. I don’t believe Braun has been vindicated. Not in the eyes of the mainstream fan, and not in the eyes of the mainstream media. Certainly not in the eyes of those like Mike Lupica and Tim Brown.
So is Braun just fooling himself?
When the word “vindicate” first entered the English language, somewhere around the turn of the 17th century, it had a different meaning: “to deliver,” or “to rescue.” It stems from the latin vindicat — claimed, avenged. It’s now an obsolete meaning, washed over by the technical definition of the word heard in the latest police procedural on CBS or NBC.
When Tom Haudricourt asks if there is vindication for Ryan Braun in his play, Haudricourt is asking in the dry, technical sense. Asking if Braun has somehow been cleared of blame through his destruction of National League pitchers. But that is impossible at this point. Braun cannot clear the damage done by the leak, the scandal, the conviction without evidence or trial, nor the unwavering certainty in the aftermath.
When Ryan Braun answers “Of course there is,” he means his play has delivered him away from the tumult of an offseason of scandal; rescued him from the uproar of columnists and the verdicts of those who simply do not and can not know. Delivered him to a place where he can simply play baseball, and do it at the highest level he is capable.
At the least, he’s playing like it.