The truth about Ryan Braun and his huge week is there are still a lot of questions for the Brewer slugger. Not the questions that dogged him the past couple seasons when he was embroiled in the PED scandal that sidelined him for 65 games last year. Rather these are questions about his availability and his suddenly found stroke that made him an all-star.
Braun had started the season with just one hit in his first 16 at bats and was given the night off last Saturday for what manager Ron Roenicke deemed “poor swings.” Immediately red flags went up as Braun complained of a sore thumb that dated back to last season. A sore thumb that doctors had given Braun three different scenarios, and two of them involved surgeries, that would have left Braun on the disabled list for a significant amount of time.
The third option was rest, and for now it is working. Braun lifted three home runs Tuesday night in Philadelphia against the Phillies and added a run scoring triple again Wednesday. So now the former National League MVP who came in to the series with the Phillies hitting .150 and was homerless since last May 22 has finally come back to life.
Whatever Braun and the Brewers medical team have done to remedy the situation it is working for the moment. Braun for his part has offered little insight in to his recent surge, saying “It’s OK. It always feels better after a night like that.”
What then is the truth about Ryan Braun and his thumb, his season and more importantly, the Brewers’ season? Because in the big picture that is all that matters. Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin has built his team around Braun and if the first eight games is any indication than Melvin has made the right choice. Milwaukee has won five in a row and is off to a 6-2 start and catching the attention of their division opponents already.
Speaking of which, Roenicke, Braun and the Brewers will get a chance to gauge themselves as they host six games in a row beginning this weekend against the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals. If they are going to be a team that can sustain success in a long baseball season, success in these early showdowns against the Bucs and Cards are key. A couple of series wins against two of the elite teams in the National League would be a huge boost to a team confident it can contend but looking for the reassurance a few victories would provide.
Which brings the Brewers’ faithful back to the same conclusion. A healthy Braun is a necessity for Milwaukee to contend. All he has to do is look across the field on this next home stand against the Pirates and Cardinals and see what he means to his team. It is the same as Andrew McCutchen to Pittsburgh and Matt Holliday to St. Louis. He anchors the heart of the lineup for the Brewers and when he hits it makes things easier for everyone else.
It is a simple equation and a tenuous existence for the Brewers and Braun. The truth about Ryan Braun and his thumb? It will hang over the Brewers all season, day-to-day and week to week issue but if his chronically injured thumb holds up the Brewers have a chance. If not, the Brewers are done.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the Milwaukee Brewers
milwaukee journal sentinel