You have to give the man credit – he knows how to make an impression. In fact, the video above recalling his three-homer day at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia contains several moments that are too good to be true.
Before he launches his first homer of the day, the on-field cameras pick up a leather-lunged Phillies fan screaming “CHEEEEDURRR!” right before Braun takes Kyle Kendrick deep. Then, later in the highlight pack, the lucky recipient of Braun’s third home run ball refuses to throw it back onto the field, stuffing it into the pocket of his hoody as those around demand the ball go back from whence it came. You can see the guy in the Phillies sweater matter-of-factly state his reasoning for keeping the ball as “it’s RYAN BRAUN!” No further explanation needed.
Tuesday marked Braun’s second trip outside the friendly confines of Miller Park, and Phillies’ fans greeted him with a steady stream of boos, voicing their displeasure with his choice of nutritional supplements and subsequent suspension.
As a totally unrelated aside: Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd was greeted warmly in each of his five plate appearances on the day.
There is no need to overanalyze or waste even the briefest moment fretting about highly typical fan behavior. Ryan Braun is the villain in most ballparks, he is a cheater. All the extracurricular stuff associated with his failed test and the lab that handled it: the vast majority of fans in attendance, those who booed lustily, probably don’t recall anything about it. They just know Braun cheated and that’s bad. He’s bad and so they boo.
It’s simple. Just as the reasoning behind Brewers fans rising in unison to welcome Braun back are simple – he might be a cheater but he’s Milwaukee’s cheater. Byrd isn’t Philly’s cheater in absolute terms but he plays in Philly and therefore he gets a pass. This is the way it works and anybody who spends much time railing against this state of fandom is actually arguing against their own frustration with the world at large failing to bend to their will.
That Ryan Braun, drug-addled disgrace to the game, hit three home runs on the same day many brave warriors took up arms to defend the useless spit of land known as “Hank Aaron is the real home run king” is actually amazing. So much digital ink spilled on the anniversary of Aaron’s 715th home run that Braun’s three homer game serves as the perfect antidote for the sanctimony around the unfortunate lionization of Aaron at the expense of Bonds.
Yes, Barry Bonds probably wasn’t on the “up and up” at the end of his career. No, that shouldn’t invalidate the home run records he set. No, Hank Aaron was no saint, and no, that doesn’t invalidate his home run record, either.
The outrage cycle makes for an easy story while altering the perspective of exactly zero people. If you want to run around declaring Hank Aaron the “real” home run king, nothing you read in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel or Atlanta Journal-Constitution changes that. Because these folks are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. Barry Bonds hit more home runs than Hank Aaron. Barry Bonds hit more home runs than anybody. He is the home run king. You don’t have to like it, but host your flat earth society meeting on your own time.
Ryan Braun will hear more boos today. He’ll hear boos in every single stadium just as Barry Bonds did and still does today (though the boos he heard in Pittsburgh likely stem more from leaving as a free agent rather than crimes against baseball). Booing is a right, but re-writing history is a privilege only Bud Selig gets to wield, a tidy reminder that you can’t fight city hall.