Though many still believe he is, Ryan Braun is no longer the Milwaukee Brewers’ “face of the franchise”. He was stripped of that title when Major League Baseball blasted him with a suspension last season. So, if the former MVP isn’t the face of the franchise, then who is?
It’s Jonathan Lucroy, and here’s why.
Lucroy is a leader in the clubhouse. He’s not a boisterous vocal leader like Prince Fielder was, but he demands a certain amount of respect and lets his play do the talking. It helps that for a catcher, he is a sensational hitter.
In 2013, Lucroy was one of the very few bright spots for Milwaukee. The 27-year-old boasted a .280 batting average, 18 home runs and 82 RBI in an otherwise underachieving season for the Brewers. He has yet to make an All-Star game but expect that to change in 2014. In fact, I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t make it; so surprised that I will personally guarantee that he makes the trip to Target Field.
The thing I admire most about Lucroy is his unwillingness to take a day off, despite playing the game’s most exhausting position. If it were up to him, backup catcher Martin Maldonado wouldn’t have started one game last season. As a true competitor, Lucroy wants to be out there every day. He needs to be. His competitive fire fuels him and the Brewers as a team.
Lucroy says all the right things to the media. My favorite quote from Lucroy came in 2013 as the Brewers were about to begin the second half of the season:
It’s tough to go to war when you don’t have all your weapons.
That quote sums up the Brewers 2013 season perfectly. But don’t think he’s making excuses. He went on to say that the team can’t feel sorry for itself and they just need to keep working hard. When it comes to working hard, nobody puts more effort in than Lucroy.
Thankfully, Lucroy is signed through 2016 with a club option for 2017, which the Brewers are surely to pick up if he keeps producing.
Braun is a better all-around baseball player than Lucroy, but being the best doesn’t make you the face of the franchise. That honor is bestowed on someone who is honorable and plays with dignity, along with being a skilled player. And as long as Lucroy is behind home plate in Miller Park, he’ll own the “face of the franchise” title.