Saturday night in New York City, Ryan Braun was slated to receive the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player Award.
Big League Stew's David Brown suggested that Braun decline the honor.
Of course, that didn't happen. Had Braun turned down the MVP, he might as well have tattooed I CHEATED across his broad forehead. Though I suppose he could, quite dramatically, have held the plaque in his powerful hands for a few seconds, then handed it back and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, of course I'm honored to join the ranks of so many great players who have been granted this great honor before me. But I would like the Baseball Writers' Association of America to hold this until I have been absolved of the charges that I broke Major League Baseball's rules governing the use of performance-enhancing drugs."
That would have brought the house down.
But the New York Times' Andrew Keh was there, and of course Braun did accept the MVP, addressing MLB's charge against him and his prospective 50-game suspension just obliquely:
"You know, sometimes in life, we all deal with challenges we never expected to endure," he said.
"We have an opportunity to look at those challenges and view them either as obstacles or as opportunities. I've chose to view every challenge I've ever faced as an opportunity, and this will be no different."
Braun never said what challenge he was referring to, but it was clear. Through his lawyer and spokesman, Braun has vehemently denied using performance-enhancing drugs. He spent the two days before the dinner at appeal hearings with an independent arbitrator.
"I've always believed a person's character is revealed through the way they deal with those moments of adversity," he said.
"I've always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball. Everything I've done in my career has been done out of respect and appreciation in mind, and that is why I'm so grateful and humbled to accept this award tonight."
Braun left the podium to enthusiastic applause.
Okay, so it sounds like he brought down the house anyway.
We want to believe Ryan Braun, don't we?
The funny thing, I do believe him. I believe that whatever he did, it wasn't to gain a competitive advantage in baseball games.
Doesn't mean I'm right. Certainly doesn't mean he'll win his appeal. And it doesn't mean we'll ever know precisely what happened, though Braun seems like the sort of fellow who would like to win his case in the court of public opinion, even if he loses before the three-man panel that's deciding his case.
As usual, we'll all have to decide for ourselves. But I can't help wondering if a significant percentage of BBWAA members have already decided that Ryan Braun won't get their Hall of Fame support, should that come up in 15 or 20 years. And wonder who was doing all that enthusiastic applauding, Saturday night...