Ryan Braun was in New York Saturday night to accept the National League MVP award at the annual BBWAA dinner. As expected, he didn't say much -- at least directly -- about his current situation, since a decision on his appeal hasn't been made yet. While he's still unable to directly comment on his failed drug test, he didn't completely ignore the elephant in the New York Hilton, either.
You can watch Braun's speech at MLB.com (embedding disabled), and read the entire text of the speech at JSOnline (mind the "pay" wall). After all the thank-yous, this is the part of the speech most people are interested in:
"I also wanted to take a moment to thank the players association for supporting me throughout my career and especially for supporting me through everything I went through over the last couple of months. Thank you, guys.
"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."
The early reaction to the speech has been interesting. My prediction was that Braun was in an impossible situation -- if he didn't mention the "challenges" at all, there would be a group of writers that would pile on for acting like nothing was going on; if he did mention it, he'd still be criticized for either marring the event with a reminder of the failed test or for not providing more detail. So far, it seems like most of the media is happy with Braun's speech, and is realizing that he probably made the best speech he could, given the circumstances.
- Dan Martin of the New York Post says it's never a good sign when an MVP thanks the union in his speech.
- The New York Daily News got cute with their headline, like they usually do.
- David Brown at Big League Stew says Braun seems genuinely hurt that people are accusing him of cheating.
- Rob Neyer notes how much everybody seems to want to believe Braun. And for what it's worth, he does believe that whatever caused Braun to get popped wasn't taken to gain an advantage.
- Buster Olney, who earlier Saturday suggested the best thing for Braun would be to decline the award, tweeted Braun did a "really great job" with his speech.
While media reaction seems to be positive in the early going, fan reaction is a different story. Just in case you thought most people were taking a smart, sensible, wait-to-see-what-happens approach, try doing a Twitter search for "braun." It's an example of why MLB leaking the test results was so damaging -- even if Braun is (improbably) cleared, he'll still be labeled as a "cheater," "juicer," or "disgrace." If Braun does win his appeal, the common perception is more likely to be that he "got away with it," rather than "he was exonerated."