I promised a post on why Ryan Braun is my favorite current Brewer and I will deliver… even if it is a few weeks late.
Ryan (a.k.a. The Hebrew Hammer), is certainly a very good player. Last year he won the NL Rookie of the Year award in a tight race with Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Despite missing the first quarter of the season and making many errors, Braun put up huge numbers that powered him past Tulowitzki. Ryan found himself in elite company for stats for first-year players. But I was not sold. The Brewers faded down the stretch, missing the playoffs for the 25th consecutive season. And I had visions of the last Brewer to be Rookie of the Year: Pat Listach*. After a good (but by no means great, let alone amazing) first year, he fell off entirely, hitting .231 with 4 HRs in ~350 games over the next 5 years between Milwaukee and Houston.
So, I had a wait-and-see approach to Braun. Especially after seeing him rated very highly (15th overall… seriously?) in Fantasy Baseball drafts, I stayed far away from him, expecting my hopes to be dashed. But he continued his stellar performance this year, if perhaps a little slower (just 3 HRs in April). He kept doing so well, that the Brewers were enticed to sign him to a long-term deal, a deal to the tune of 8 years for $45 million.
I was (and still am) very pleased at this win-win deal. If Braun even does half as well as he’s done over the past 200+ games, it’s a good deal for the Brewers, but if he keeps close to his current level of performance, it could be one of the best bargains in baseball. It’s also a good deal for Braun, providing him the long-term security I can only imagine would be very appealing to a young player. It’s a good sign for fans that he’s willing to sign away potential future bigger paychecks, especially in sharp contrast to Prince FIelder, who looks to just sign year-to-year and aim for a big free agent contract in about 3 years.
Oh yeah, and he signed his contract on my birthday. Talk about good birthday presents.
Furthermore, he has continued to do well, including a game-winning 2-run homer in the 9th just last night to complete a 4-game sweep of the Cardinals in St. Louis. I’ve also been impressed with what I’ve seen of his character. He may watch his homeruns a little bit more than the next guy, but there’s something to be said for exuding confidence. Confidence is contagious, and so is a winning attitude. Braun has that in spades. I really liked when he came out and said some things about the team’s attitude after a 5-game losing streak put them in last place back in late May: “We didn’t expect to win” and “For us, as a team, our goal can’t be to compete. Our goal has to be to win.” (from Tom Haudricourt at JSOnline)
Anyway, that got a fair amount longer than I expected and there are some more thoughts that will just have to wait for another time. In the mean time, I’m looking forward to watching the Brewers twice in the coming weeks: once against the Cubs at home, and on the road in Atlanta. Probably get to see Ben Sheets start both games.
*Looking back, I now realize Pat Listach had no business winning Rookie of the Year in 1992. Kenny Lofton, who was 2nd in RotY voting, had more HRs (5-1), SBs (66-54), BBs (68-55), and fewer CSs (12-18), SOs (54-124). Every other stat is surprisingly similar between the two. The one thing Pat had was playing for a winning team.