Ryan Braun Owes an Apology

Boris YovchevCorrespondent IJuly 7, 2009

MARYVALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 19: Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers poses during photo day at the Brewers spring training complex on February 19, 2009 in Maryvale, Arizona. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

A couple of months ago, I jumped the gun on calling Ryan Braun "The Natural Leader" of the Milwaukee Brewers.

It turns out that qualification may have been a little premature.  

Braun most likely caused some serious outrage at the Milwaukee business office, as well as at the Brewers clubhouse with what he has most recently done.  

After the four game series against the Chicago Cubs over the holiday weekend, the rising star of the Brewers stunned more than just his own General Manager when he went on record saying that the Brewers should trade for starting pitching as the team needs some serious help in that department.

“They threw the ball a lot better than our starters did," Braun said. “All four guys we saw in this series are No. 1, worst-case, No. 2 type starters. They make big pitches in big situations. You’re not always going to get hits in those situations."

“To show everybody we’re for real, we can go out there and make a move and improve our ball club,” Braun added. “We want to head in the right direction, not the wrong direction.”

Braun said, “Regardless of the reasons, we’ve got to find a way to throw the ball a little bit better for us to have success. When you’re constantly behind in games, it’s not easy and not fun.”

It did not take very long for Doug Melvin to respond to what his young star stated in front of the media.

“We all work every day from 9 a.m. to midnight, and basically 12 months a year,” Melvin said. “I’ll be glad to have Ryan help if he wants to. I’ll give him a badge and he can be my deputy."

“I understand that maybe he thinks it’s taking a leadership role. I don’t know if he’s trying to tell me I’m not doing my job. We need to stick together as an organization. We’re all trying to win," Melvin added.

Last season, Braun was awarded by the Brewers with an eight-year contract worth $45 million.  He took it upon himself to become the leader of the club and has previously twice gone on record criticizing the performance of the entire team, including his own game, to spark some winning streaks.  

Even if his comments always came on nights when he collected multiple hits, on both occasions the remarks seemed rather timely and did lead to the desired result.  

Outside of speaking to the media, Braun also showed that he would do anything to help his teammates on the field by playing though a nagging rib cage soreness injury, and arriving half-way through a game in Pittsburgh following undergoing an MRI to spark a winning comeback earlier this season.

So far so good, one might say.  

But that would have been the case prior to Braun's most recent media stint following the Brewers dropping three of four games to the hand of the Cubs.

Braun wants the team to head in the right direction, but he may be forgetting that while he is making his guaranteed paychecks, the Brewers are weathering a financial storm.  

Yes, the expectations of fans this year are understandably high after a season in which the Brewers were able to rely on two great pitchers in CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets. But it was precisely Melvin who was able to bring Sabathia to the Brewers in the first place.

Melvin and principal owner Mark Attanasio had stated multiple times earlier this season their desire to "go for it" once again.  Hence, it was not necessary for Braun to step on their toes by going directly to the media.

He would have had greater success addressing any concerns directly with Melvin.

What Braun did, however, goes beyond the fact that the Brewers General Manager may now be understandably "ticked off" at him.  

What is more concerning with this case is that the clubhouse may be alienated after Braun's public statements, and that is a major reason for concern considering that this very clubhouse has been one of the primary reasons for the recent success of the club.

Mike Burns and Seth McClung, the two pitchers who had to fill in for injured Dave Bush and struggling Manny Parra, may not have liked what they first heard from the media.

And other teammates may not have liked the way Braun approached the matter either.

Burns is not a young player and has moved from organization to organization trying to unveil his potential. He never started a game in the majors prior to joining the Brewers.  

Assuming his first start with the Brewers less than two weeks ago when Parra was sent down to the minors, he was expected to fill the void and keep the Brewers in the running for the National League Central.  

And as if the responsibility and the pressure was not high enough already, he had to hear that Braun disapproves of his performance following the series against the Cubs.  

Certainly Burns is not a polished started by any means of the imagination, but he did hold his ground in the three starts he recorded. Not to mention the scoreless innings he pitched in relief prior to being promoted to a starter.

But even if Burns had lost all of his starts, which he did not, Braun had no right to throw his rookie teammate under the bus.

McClung is likely unhappy as well.  He has been anything but a problem for the Brewers. He has had to fill in holes so many times, and rather successfully I might add, that what Braun said may have surprised McClung even more than it would have upset him.

And finally, if we can accept that the pitching has struggled in recent games, where was the offense?  

Outside of the game on Independence Day, the Brewers have been rather quiet at the plate. Yet Braun chose to focus primarily on the pitching problems the Brewers are facing.

Mike Cameron, the veteran and the quiet leader in the Milwaukee clubhouse, should take it upon himself to teach Braun some essential leadership skills so as to prevent the young slugger from turning into a prima donna that will not have the respect of his teammates in the future.

And someone should tell Braun that he owes everyone an apology.  

"Going in the right direction" is a great thing, and undoubtedly Melvin understands this very well, but unavoidably a team will hit some slumps along the way.  

From what Braun stated in front of the media, we, as fans, are left with the impression that if the Brewers were to go on a losing streak Braun would be very unhappy.  So does that mean that he will be making the headlines of every sports web site or newspaper every time he is not pleased with the results the Brewers are getting?

I firmly stand by Melvin's words following Braun's comments.

“I don’t know his motivation for saying it," Melvin said. "It demoralizes the people in the organization at a time when we should be pulling together. It puts a bad taste in our mouths. That’s a pretty strong statement."

Anyone who follows baseball closely knows that if Braun keeps performing like he has thus far in his career, one day he will play for a big club. He will have his shot at winning a title.  He may win it with the Brewers if Melvin continues doing his job well, but Milwaukee can not buy its title, it has to earn it.

But until his time comes around, Braun is a Brewer, and he should respect the franchise, his teammates, and the fans, because he owes the Brewers much more than repaying the big paychecks he receives.

He owes them being the player he is today.


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