With Alex Rodriguez suspended for the season, I'm not sure there is a more hated active player right now than Ryan Braun. He served a 65-game suspension for his ties to Biogenesis last year, but not before beating a failed performance-enhancing drug test in an appeal during the 2011-12 offseason and dragging several people through the mud along the way.
"Dude, say what you want about me, but I am strong,'' Braun says in an exclusive interview with USA TODAY Sports. "Mentally, and emotionally, I am strong.
"This doesn't bother me. People may have something new to yell now, but it's really no different than anything I've gone though. I've never gone to Chicago and had them cheer for me. I've never gone to St. Louis and had them say, "I hope you do great.' Nobody's fans have ever cheered for the opposing team's best player.
"I'm sure it will be a bit adventuresome at times this year, but if anything, it's probably better now. Normally, you go to Philly and Chicago, and they're talking about your mom, your sister, your girlfriend, whatever. So, now, it will be just about me.''
Braun, 30, is 7 for 11 with two doubles, two homers, three walks and one strikeout in six spring training games so far. He heard "M-V-P-E-D" chants earlier this spring according to Nightengale -- I applaud the creativity -- and is regularly heckled not just while at the plate, but while in the field and the on-deck circle as well.
Still, Braun is not concerned about what he hears from the fans because he can't control it. He is focused on getting back to being one of the best players in the world.
"I'm one of the league leaders in confidence,'' says Braun, who is hitting .636 this spring with two homers. "If I perform like I've always done, I'll be one of the best players in this game. I don't need any added motivation of drama at work.
"I'll just let my work speak for itself, as every artist should.''
An artist, huh? No, I would not say confidence is a problem for Braun at this point.