This past September, the Ryan Braun era officially came to an end in Milwaukee as he announced his retirement.
Braun was drafted fifth overall out of the University of Miami in 2005. Upon his arrival to the major leagues in 2007, he made an immediate impact on the Brewers organization. In 2007 he won Rookie of the Year and in 2011 National League MVP. Combined this with multiple trips to the postseason and famed moments, Ryan Braun quickly became a household name and a legend in Milwaukee Brewers’ folklore.
With all of that success, many are wondering if the organization should retire his number.
The Case for Retiring #8
As mentioned before, the impact that Ryan Braun made on the Brewers organization is almost immeasurable. Before his tenure in Milwaukee began, the Brewers franchise was struggling to win. They had a shiny new stadium in Miller Park whose biggest game seen was the All Star Game in 2002. By the time Braun retired, the Brewers had five new playoff banners painted below the press box. However, more importantly, the Milwaukee Brewers were respected in the Major League Baseball community again.
There are six players/numbers hanging from the rafters and all of them are in the Hall of Fame. However, one could argue that Brauns’ impact on the franchise was greater than some. For example, reliever Rollie Fingers spent four years in Milwaukee and his #34 is retired by the team. Fingers was integral in the Brewers golden era in the 1980s and helped them to a World Series. Braun, on the other hand, played in Milwaukee for 14 seasons. He was the face of the franchise as the organization became relevant again.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons as to why the Brewers would opt not to retire #8.
The Case Against Retiring #8
There is one obvious reason as to why the Brewers may be hesitant to put #8 in the rafters.
In 2013, it came out that Braun tested positive for a performance enhancing drug in his 2011 NL MVP Season. He then lied about it with all of his heart and soul and went very far in attempts to cover it up. In fact, he nearly cost a FedEx worker their job as they delivered his positive urine sample late.
This, along with his decrease in offensive output in the late 2010s, will likely keep him out of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Typically voters are not very kind to those convicted of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemons are good examples of this.
The Hall of Fame is relevant in the case of retiring Ryan Braun’s number or not because everyone whose number is retired by the Brewers is in it. We don’t know if that is a requirement or not for the Brewers do not publish an official list of requirements for your number to be retired. However, the assumption that it is a requirement. This is backed up by the fact that Jim Gantner’s does not have his number officially retired.
What I Think Will Happen
Right now, I would say that Braun’s steroid scandal and the fact that he will most likely never go to Cooperstown will keep his name and number out of the Brewers rafters. It does not seem right to have the name of someone who got caught and lied about steroid usage next to those of Jackie Robinson, Henry Aaron and Robin Yount.
However, even though I believe that the number 8 will not be hung below the roof in the outfield at American Family Field, I do believe that no player will ever wear the number eight for the Brewers again.
Confused? Let me explain.
The Gantner Solution
By the time Jim Gantner retired, he was a Brewers legend. Although he never was as great as Yount or Molitor, he was a key part of the glory years during the 1980s.
As the core of the 80s began fade away, a few of the key players of that era had their numbers retired. By the time Milwaukee County Stadium was demolished, three of the star players from the 70s and 80s were honored. Those players were Robin Yount, Rollie Fingers, and Paul Molitor.
As you can see, Jim Gantner, arguably the next most impactful player to that era, was left off of that prestigious list. Although his name isn’t up there with the likes of Yount, Fingers, Molitor, Jackie Robinson (retired by all of MLB), Hank Aaron and Bud Selig (#1 in honor of “The first Brewers fan), nobody has worn the number 17 since he stopped playing.
This is what I believe will happen to Ryan Braun’s #8. #8 will not be immortalized on the Brewers’ Ring of Honor, but the organization will never issue the number again. This way, Braun’s impact on the franchise will forever be recognized. The subtle nod of never issuing his jersey number again seems like the most likely scenario.