Ryan Braun accepts MVP award at BBWAA banquet

58 Comments

Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun accepted his National League Most Valuable Player award on Saturday night at the Baseball Writers Association of America awards banquet in New York City.

It was his first public appearance since the news broke last month that he tested positive for “insanely high” levels of synthetic testosterone just before the start of the Brewers’ NLDS matchup with Arizona.

Braun gave a short speech, touching on his lingering PED conviction only in broad terms (via Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):

“Sometimes in life we all deal with challenges we never expected to endure. We have an opportunity to look as those challenges and view them either as obstacles or opportunities. I’ve chosen to view every challenge I’ve ever faced as an opportunity and this will be no different. I’ve always believed that a person’s character is revealed through the way they deal with those moments of adversity.

“I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball. Everything I’ve done in my career has been done with that respect and appreciation in mind, and that is why I’m so grateful and humbled to accept this award tonight. Thank you again to everybody and I hope you guys enjoy the rest of your evening.”

Braun pleaded his innocence Thursday in front of a three-person arbitration panel. A ruling should be coming soon. If the test result is upheld, he will serve a 50-game suspension at the start of the 2012 regular season.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images
8 Comments

The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.