Today, more than 14 years after I first took the field as a Milwaukee Brewer, I’ve decided to retire. While it’s impossible to summarize my emotions, what I feel most is one, simple thing – gratitude.
I just wanted to take a moment to say ‘thank you’.
– Ryan Braun pic.twitter.com/pQxuW9qk1z
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) September 14, 2021
Braun, who had been a free agent all season long, apparently decided it was time to throw in the towel.
He walks away from the game at 37 years old, and he leaves behind a very complicated legacy.
Today, we’re going to talk about how he will be remembered.
Let’s get started.
First off, it would be silly not to talk about everything that Braun accomplished during his playing days.
We’ll get to the bad stuff in a minute.
Statistically, he had a long and impressive career.
He was a six-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger, 2011 MVP, and 2007 Rookie of the Year Award winner.
He finished his career with a slash line of .296/.358/.532 and an OPS+ of 134.
He was one of the league’s most feared hitters during his younger years.
Evidence: He led the league in OPS in back-to-back seasons in 2011 and 2012.
Also, from 2007 to 2012, he received MVP votes every year.
He finished in the top three of the race on three separate occasions.
He had 10 seasons with at least 20 home runs and six seasons with at least 30 home runs.
There’s no doubt that he was an elite hitter.
If only it were that simple.
Where Things Get Sticky
Of course, Braun’s legacy isn’t considered “complicated” for no reason.
The elephant in the room is the fact that Braun admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in the early 2010s.
While it’s tough to pin down the exact timeline of his PED usage, we know at minimum that he used a banned substance during his MVP season in 2011.
Most people would probably agree that that negates his accomplishments from that year.
A lot of fans think of Matt Kemp as the de facto MVP winner in 2011 since he finished second in the race behind Braun.
It would have been Kemp’s first and only MVP award, but instead, it went to a player who was on steroids.
How Will Braun Be Remembered?
Everyone has a different opinion about PEDs.
Some folks think that a player’s legacy becomes completely tarnished after a positive PED test, while others believe that it’s more complicated than that.
For example, with Braun, some people argue that it’s hard to know which of his seasons were legitimate and which were not.
What we DO know, however, is that he didn’t return a positive PED test at any point during the 2012 season.
And here’s where things get interesting: He was good as ever that year.
He batted .319 with league-bests in OPS (.987), home runs (41), runs (108), and total bases (356).
He also racked up a WAR of 6.9 and finished second in the MVP race.
Furthermore, if he was clean for the remainder of his MLB career from that point on, then he put together a nice run.
Over nine seasons after 2011, he batted .285 with an OPS of .858 and OPS+ of 126.
Over that span, he averaged 30 home runs per 162 games and a WAR of 3.3 per 650 plate appearance.
Additionally, if Braun was clean in each of his seasons leading up to 2011 (which, again, feels like a big “if”), then it’s worth considering the fact that he batted .307 with a .918 OPS and 140 OPS+ over four seasons prior to 2011.
But at the end of the day, a lot of fans feel like there’s too much ambiguity at play here.
I thought he was already retired. Only surprise…that it took this long for the official announcement. Ryan Braun was great in all ways. Great player and great cheater.
— Steve HomerTrue (@espnhomer) September 14, 2021
In the eyes of many, Braun will be remembered as a cheater, and that’s something he’s going to have to live with.
The Braun era is over in Major League Baseball, for better or worse.