Injured Milwaukee Brewers Ryan Braun watches his team take on the St. Louis Cardinals from the bench at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on April 28, 2014. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

The Legacy of Ryan Braun

With his next home run, Brewers star outfielder Ryan Braun will pass Hall of Famer Robin Yount as the Brewers all-time franchise leader in home runs. Braun will sit atop a list that includes Hall of Famers Yount and Paul Molitor, along with former All-Stars Prince Fielder, Geoff Jenkins, Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie, Greg Vaughn, and Jeromy Burnitz.

It may be a bit early for this discussion, but what sort of legacy will Braun be held to once his playing days are over?

Braunie, The Baseball Player

It has certainly been a storybook career thus far for Braun, who has been the Brewers’ franchise player since breaking into the Major Leagues early in the 2007 season. Selected as the fifth overall pick of the 2005 MLB draft out of the University of Miami, Braun has lived up to all of the expectations and accolades of an elite player. He’s won a Rookie of the Year award, an MVP Award, and received the nod in six All-Star games. It’s hard to believe that this is only his ninth season in the Major Leagues. At 31 years old, he will be entering the first year of a 5-year, $105 million dollar contract in 2016.

On paper, Braun is a star through his first nearly 9 seasons in the Major Leagues. He carries a career .303 batting average, 251 home runs, 832 RBI, 1,407 hits, and 159 stolen bases, and he has a 162 game average of .303 batting average, 34 home runs, 113 RBI, and 22 stolen bases. These numbers put him in elite company.

This season, Braun made his first All-Star Game since 2012 and has shown flashes of his excellence that he exhibited earlier in his career. It finally appears as if he’s starting to rebound from his nagging thumb injury that cost him time during both the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Although this season as a whole has been quite the disappointment for the Brewers, Braun’s resurgence has been one of the bright spots. Through 113 games this season, Braun is hitting .275 to go along with 21 home runs, 71 RBI, and 18 stolen bases.

Braunie and the PED’s

It’s not the numbers that Brewers fans will necessarily look back on once Braun’s playing days are over. Rather, it will be the validity of those numbers. Brewers fans painfully remember the 2011-2012 offseason. They had come so close to their first World Series berth since 1982, but came up short after losing to the eventual World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals in six games in the National League Championship Series. They had also just lost Prince Fielder to free agency. An era of great Milwaukee baseball was coming to an end. Adding insult to injury, word then leaked out that Braun had failed a drug test for abnormally high levels of testosterone. He eventually appealed this test, and won the appeal, becoming the first player in MLB history to successfully appeal a drug ban. And who would have questioned it at the time? He had just come off an MVP award, and then came out in 2012 to hit .319, to go along with a career-high 41 home runs, 112 RBI, and 30 stolen bases.

In 2013, Braun’s name appeared in the infamous Biogenesis document, where it appeared as if Braun had purchased performance-enhancing drugs from the head of the Biogenesis clinic, Anthony Bosch. In June of 2013, ESPN reported that the MLB commissioner’s office was preparing to hand out suspensions for those players involved in the Biogenesis scandal. As a result, Braun was facing a 100 game suspension. On July 22, 2013, Braun was suspended for 65 games by the MLB. At the time of the suspension, he released a statement saying, “I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of these actions”. A month later, Braun released an additional statement revealing that he used some products during his 2011 MVP season in an effort to nurse a nagging injury.

Braun and the Brewers organization pledged to put the painful 2013 season behind them. The focus in Milwaukee is solely on baseball.

The Future

It is very easy to point fingers at Braun for the last four seasons of Milwaukee Brewers baseball. As the face of the franchise, especially after the departure of Fielder, he has really disappointed Brewers Nation, particularly during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. After the PED saga, it is easy to despise Braun, especially if you’re a fan of another team. He broke the rules, and even worse, he lied about his actions and put other people down in the process.

Many need to remember what Braun did for the Brewers franchise during his first five seasons in the Major Leagues. He led the team to their first playoff berth since 1982 during the 2008 season. That was his first full season, and he simply went out and hit 37 home runs. How can you forget his dramatic home run in the 8th inning of a tie ball game against the Cubs on the last day of the 2008 regular season (1:16 in that video), which ultimately clinched the wild card spot? That home run still remains one of the most memorable moments in Brewers franchise history. He was also the pride and soul of the 2011 Brewers team, which is any young Brewers fan’s most exciting memory, to date.

While he was such a positive influence on the Brewers franchise from 2007-2011, Braun has been the major negative influence on the lack of success the Brewers have experienced. His PED scandal, along with his nagging thumb injury, have made many throughout Milwaukee question whether he belongs in the same conversation as Yount, Molitor, and company.

It is so easy to root against Braun, and many Milwaukee fans will continue to do so as long as Braun dons a Brewers uniform. But, Brewers fans, I am urging you all to rethink this. The Brewers are in dire need of a franchise turnaround. The organization made a great first step, making some great trades during the July trade deadline, strengthening the Brewers farm system for the years to come. But, remember, it’s not just going to be young prospects that will turn a franchise around completely, especially in the ultra-competitive NL Central division. The Brewers will need Braun to put up his All-Star caliber numbers for the next five years of his new mega-deal. He will need to be a clubhouse leader and the franchise player that he has the potential to be.

So Brewers fans, before you start thinking about Braun’s potential legacy, I urge you to not think about the good things or the bad things. Yes, he won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2007, and the MVP in 2011. Yes, he’s made six All-Star games. Yes, he used performance-enhancing drugs and lied about it. Still, Braun really has a chance to redeem himself both in Milwaukee and throughout Major League Baseball over the next five years. The Brewers play in one of, if not the most talented divisions in all of Major League Baseball both now and in the future. The Brewers need to rebuild now, and Braun needs to be a major part of this rebuilding effort.

Before passing judgment and making conclusions far too early, I ask all Brewers fans to wait a few years. We all need a new sense of excitement at Miller Park, and we need Ryan Braun to be a significant part of it. Let’s see what Braunie is made of—will he struggle throughout his next contract or will he return to his ways of putting up season after season with MVP-caliber numbers. If Braun disappoints, then he deserves all of the negative criticism. But if he succeeds and helps the Brewers organization turn things around, we must forgive and forget.


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One thought on “The Legacy of Ryan Braun

  1. […] will be Ryan Braun’s legacy? Sconnie Sports Talk looks at the Brewers […]

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