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Vote: Does Ryan Braun Need the Biggest Bounce-Back Season to Silence His Critics? – MLB – NESN.com

Every year there is a group of All-Star caliber players who, for whatever reason, just cannot live up to expectations. Luckily for those players, 2011 is in the past and 2012 brings a clean slate, and a chance for redemption. The majority of these players are coming off seasons where performance was the main issue, while with others, injuries and off-field issues plagued what otherwise could have been fantastic seasons. Last year, White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn led that group. He fell far below his career average of 38 home runs and 95 runs batted in, batting a mere .159 with only 11 homers in 122 games. Some of the other "duds" from 2011 include Boston's own Carl Crawford, who failed to shine in front of the Green Monster; Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who fought off injury after injury in his 2011 campaign; and lastly, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, a name every Red Sox fan loves to hear in discussions that include the word "overrated." Another player that has something to prove this season, albeit in a different way, is the reigning MVP, and apparently not a steroid user, Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun. Braun has been battling critics ever since his "positive" drug test back in October, and until recently, Braun was getting ready to spend the first 50 games of the season riding the pine pony. Crawford may never live up to the massive contract that he inked before last season, but he has far too much talent to not be an effective player at Fenway Park. With the enormous expectations dialed back a bit, don't be surprised if Crawford returns to his pre-2011 levels of production. Injuries plagued Mauer in 2011, but keep in mind that this is a guy that is merely two years removed from winning the AL MVP. Playing fewer innings at catcher should take some of the stress off Mauer's body. The Minnesota Twins' attempts to recover from a terrible 2011 campaign start with Mauer. Rodriguez is getting up there in age (he turns 37 in July), but is still paid and expected to produce like a superstar. The Yankees may be able to make up for his lack of production by turning to the other sluggers in their lineup, but Rodriguez always seems to be the center of attention. A-Rod's 16 home runs and 62 RBIs in 2011 were his lowest totals in a season since 1995. So we are going to leave the decision up to you folks at home.

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