On this day of May 25th, back in 2007, the Milwaukee Brewers promoted hot shot hitting prospect Ryan Braun up to the big leagues. What has followed since has been a crazy ride.
13 years ago on this day, Ryan Braun entered the MLB fraternity, making his debut and ushering the Milwaukee Brewers into a new era. His debut was in San Diego against the Padres, facing a future Hall of Famer in Greg Maddux. Welcome to the big leagues, kid.
Batting second in the lineup behind Rickie Weeks and ahead of J.J. Hardy and Prince Fielder, Braun was the final piece in a star-studded infield. In his first at-bat, Braun flew out to deep right-center. Then he grounded out to first base to end the third inning. After starting 0-2, Braun started to get his legs under him.
In the sixth inning, after a leadoff triple from Rickie Weeks, Braun hit a sacrifice fly to center field off Maddux, marking the first RBI of his storied career. Then, in the seventh inning against Doug Brocail, Braun ripped a double to left field, scoring Tony Gwynn, Jr. and marking the first hit of Braun’s career.
Braun finished his debut game with a groundout to short in the 9th inning and went 1-4 with a double and 2 RBIs.
For the rest of 2007, Ryan Braun dominated the competition, putting on an impressive display of power, speed, on-base ability, and contact ability. He rode those skills to a 113-game debut season in which he amassed 34 home runs, a .324/.370/.634 slash line, a 154 OPS+, and the NL Rookie of the Year award.
If you recall, it was a very close race for that 2007 Rookie of the Year award in the NL, with Braun winning by only two points over Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Both Braun and Tulo were top 10 picks in the historically good 2005 MLB Draft, with Braun being selected at No. 5 overall and Tulo at No. 7 overall.
What really made it close was Braun’s terrible defensive numbers at third base. Despite clearly superior offensive numbers, Braun’s WAR number was dragged down by his poor defense and those struggles directly led to Braun moving to left field in 2008.
Prime Ryan Braun
After the move to the outfield, Braun flourished, continuing to rake offensively and providing solid defense in the outfield.
From there, the legacy of Ryan Braun grows. He signed an eight-year contract extension prior to the 2008 season, helped lead the Brewers to their first playoff appearance in 26 years and was the centerpiece in a new golden era of Brewers baseball.
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2011 was obviously the big year for Braun, winning the NL MVP award, vaulting the Crew to the NLCS for the first time, and coming up clutch in pretty much every single opportunity. He had another very strong season in 2012, a revenge of sorts after a controversy-ridden offseason that year.
Since then, Braun has not been able to get back to those heights from 2007-2012, but what fun and incredible years they were. The closest he got was 2016, when he hit .305 with 30 home runs, but that was a rebuild year for the Crew and he didn’t have much around him.
In the later years of his career, Braun has served as the veteran leader in the clubhouse, mentoring the young Brewers that came up through the rebuild process and dishing out advice.
Towards The End
2020 is the final guaranteed year of Braun’s second contract extension that he signed in 2011. Back at Brewers On Deck in January, Braun said that this might be the final season of his career and he could retire. Nagging injuries have plagued Braun over the past several seasons, and he needs regular rest days for maintenance.
It’s unclear how the guarantee of a shortened season and the possibility of a DH in 2020 and beyond will impact Braun’s decision on retiring, but that option would help keep him healthy, keep him in the lineup, and keep him playing longer.
Whenever the 2020 season does get underway, it will do so without fans. Will Ryan Braun want to play his final game as a Milwaukee Brewer in front of an empty stadium with no fans to send him off into the sunset? Probably not. Will he have to? Possibly. Only time will tell how that situation will play out.
Either way, us Brewers fans have had Ryan Braun as a member of the team for 13 calendar years now. It’s been a wild ride with a lot of highs and a lot of lows, but he was the key final piece that brought the Brewers back into relevancy. For that, Braun will always hold a special place in the hearts of Brewers fans.
Hopefully, when Braun does decide to hang it up, he’ll be able to ride off into retirement with a sold out crowd at Miller Park to send him off and show our appreciation for him one final time.
It’s hard to believe that 13 years have already gone by since Braun made his debut, but it’s the truth. In that time, the Brewers have had the most successful 13 year stretch in franchise history, with four postseason appearances.