April showers bring May flowers but not in Pigsville.
On May 24th, 2007, Ryan Joseph Braun came up to the Majors. By that date next season, he will no longer be wearing Blue…Milwaukee Blue as in True Blue Brew Crew.
What was so promising…with him becoming one of the best players in the game, crashed down around him when he was declared out for most of the 2013 season because of prohibited drug use. He lost all respect. He lost all commercial ties. He lost partnerships. He lost friendships. He lost his dignity.
There is a soulless emptiness at the bottom. It is nowhere land. No friends and plenty of enemies. People turn away when you are sighted walking toward you. People, who were once your friends, don’t respond to emails. People who once welcomed your contact, do not respond to phone calls. They are always conveniently out. People whom you have helped when they needed help ignore you. You are persona non rata, literally a person not appreciated. ‘Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.’ stated General George S. Patton. Ryan Braun was on the bottom.
That is what hit Braun squarely in the face. ‘Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.’ Muhammad Ali said. In Braun’s case, it wasn’t even at all. The only thing going for him was his contract which would tie him to the Milwaukee Brewers through 2020.
He was once the Rookie of the Year; he became the third-fastest major leaguer to reach 50 career home runs; in 2008, he reached the 150-RBI milestone faster than any major leaguer since Boston’s Walt Dropo needed only 155 games, in 1949–51; was a starting outfielder for the NL in the 2008 All Star Game, finishing first in player voting; Braun hit his 30th home run, becoming just the second player in MLB history to hit 30 or more homers in each of his first two seasons as he hit 71 home runs in his first two seasons, tying him with Pujols for fourth all-time as Joe DiMaggio topped the list with 75 home runs, followed by Ralph Kiner (74) and Eddie Mathews (72). He was the toast of all the baseball world. Apple released a commercial for a new iPhone, that showed a clip of Braun’s 10th inning walk-off grand slam against the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 25, 2008, which kept the Brewers’ Wild Card hopes alive. Gatorade used the same clip in its November 2008 “League of Clutch” commercial.
But imagine, only behind DiMaggio, Kiner and Mathews. Here was the star Milwaukee was praying for.
In 2009, Braun was named to Sporting News’ list of the 50 greatest current players in baseball, ranking #32. In 2011, he rose to #16. He was named to the Team USA in the 2nd World Baseball Classic. On September 23, Braun hit a three-run, 450-foot home run that sealed the Brewers’ NL-Central-clinching victory. He was named MVP of the National League that season. And in 2012, Braun was awarded the 2012 NL Outfielder Silver Slugger Award, winning it for the fifth year in a row. His five consecutive awards was the longest active streak in the major leagues.
Then the fall.
Like Phoenix rising, he began a comeback. “I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed—all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates.” He was seen in around Milwaukee even in the cold dead of winter, in the parking lot assisting in various charity drives, thanking the fans for coming out. He was at every Brewer Fest during the off-season, signing autographs and taking tons of pics with the fans.
However, 2014 was not a good year. With that time off, he was heckled in nearly every ballpark in America. He stood quietly in left field. He took the heat. Fans were angry. Opposing fans were merciless. In spring training, even in Maryvale, opposing fans yelled and screamed offensive insults. During the regular season, if you ever attended a game in Phoenix or Chicago, you heard the raw, cutting insults smashing through the air, mother’s quickly covering their children’s ears. ‘What did you do that for, Ma?’, was the response. On the field he managed to be only a mere shadow of what he had been before. A .300+ hitter, he battled insults and injury coming away with a .266 average and only 19 home runs. But after another off season of rest, he came back and there were bright spots which appeared as he lifted his average .285 with 25 home runs while suffering from a bad thumb and back and once again became an All-Star. Then this season, he finally found his old form, batting well above .300 for the season, often in the top five in hitting, and as of today, reached the 30 home run level with 88 RBI.
They still yell insults at him in a couple of towns, particularly Phoenix and Chicago. But for most good baseball fans, they have stopped the childish insults.
Ryan Braun is back. He is world class in the outfield, back in his old position in left field and is back as a world class hitter. And that is bad for Brewer fans.
The owner now has a valued commodity with which to enrich his pockets, drastically decrease his costs, and is dangling his star player in front of an ownership group where he does business (Los Angeles) like a fresh piece of meat. The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of only six teams that Braun has named as favorable as part of his no trade clause contractual rights. And just as the trade deadline neared, his piece of meat was dangled hard. The Dodgers agreed to trade the oft injured and big time trouble fielder Puig along with a host of injured and players to be named later. The only thing that saved Milwaukee fans from this disgusting trade was their general manager’s inability to agree with the Dodgers on those players to be named later. In the meantime, Braun was in the clubhouse waiting to see if his long career with the Pigsville Nine was over.
But this is not the end. The Milwaukee Brewers owner is a classic meat dangler. He is a hedge fund man. He knows value of meat…fresh, hard hitting meat that is one of the best pieces of steak on the baseball planet. By next May, Braun’s 10/5 rights kick in. At the end of May, when Braun accumulates 10 years of service time, Braun will gain full no-trade rights, which will complicate any trade the Brewers try to make involving him. Though Braun could waive those for a situation he likes, it’s another factor that has to be worked into negotiations, and one that could further complicate any deal that the Brewers try to make in the future.
Thus this next week, take a look at the magnificent talent playing left field for the Milwaukee Brewers. It may be the last time you will see this quality of baseball player wearing the Milwaukee Blue. Winter is coming and with it, the old meat man will be behind the counter dangling for every team owner to mouth-water over. He has USDA Prime in his freezer. And the owners of the Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Angels, Diamondbacks and Marlins and any other owner willing to part with a bunch of no-name players for a star, are all invited to attend the bidding war in Pigsville.
Once again, Milwaukee will be the loser.