Nobody, aside from Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount, has made a bigger impact in Brewers history than slugger Ryan Braun, who announced his retirement Tuesday after 14 MLB seasons.
The club's all-time leader in home runs with 352, he was NL Rookie of the Year in 2007 and won NL MVP in 2011 when the Brewers reached the NLCS, one of five times Braun's teams made the postseason. Braun made six All-Star Games and was a five-time Silver Slugger recipient as an outfielder.
Braun didn't just hit the ball over the fence. He's third in club history with 216 stolen bases, third in runs scored, second in RBIs, second in total bases, third in walks and third in WAR. He's also fourth in weighted on-base average for anyone with at least 1,000 plate appearances — only Christian Yelich, Prince Fielder and Richie Sexson are better.
Injuries plagued Braun, particularly chronic back problems, over the second half of his career. He didn't play in 2021 after getting some time at DH in the shortened pandemic season of 2020, which wasn’t an option this season. Braun, who turns 38 years old in November, said he wasn't sure until now that it was time to call it a career.
"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,’” Braun said in a video made at his home.
He also made it a point to say he's watching the Brewers closely as they pursue the best regular season in club history.
"Like you, I'm enjoying every minute of it," said Braun, who the team will honor with a ceremony at American Family Field later this month.
Braun is an all-time Brewers great, but where he stands in major league history is more nuanced. Injuries limited his opportunities and making the Hall of Fame became unlikely once Braun failed a PED test in 2012. He soiled his reputation even further by denying his guilt — and worse — when he tried to discredit the urine sample collector. After the Biogenesis scandal connected Braun to PEDs again and he couldn’t blame it on MLB’s faulty collection system, Braun apologized and seemed to make amends with the collector, Dino Laurenzi J. A good number of people forgave him, including a plurality of Brewers fans.
Braun wasn't going to directly address that part of his legacy in his statement, but you can read between the lines:
“To the fans,” Braun said, “thank you for showing me and my family unconditional love and always making us feel like we truly belonged to this community. Thank you for packing the ballpark night in and night out for 14 years. You made coming to the ballpark every day a joy, and I cannot imagine a better playing experience than being a Brewer for life. Thank you for the encouragement, support and motivation. Thank you for the memories, the postseason runs, the moments I’ll never forget.”
As for what’s next, Braun and his wife have three kids. That’s plenty to keep him busy.
Braun's MLB career began May 25, 2007 at Petco Park in San Diego. Batting second and playing third base (his spot on defense until shifting to left field the next season). Braun started 0-for-3 against Greg Maddux but also connected in his third at-bat for a sacrifice fly. Against reliever Doug Brocail an inning later, Braun lined an RBI double for his first major league hit. Braun hit the first of his 34 home runs as a rookie the next day against Justin Germano and added a stolen base. He was on his way to winning the NL ROY.
Braun's final MLB at-bat was a strikeout against Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler in the third inning of Game 1 of the 2020 NL Wild Card Series.