The Milwaukee Brewers have a hot button reputation issue on their hands, and its name is Ryan Braun.
On July 22nd, Major League Baseball announced that Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers would be suspended for the remainder of the 2013 season.  The suspension was due to Braun’s involvement with the Biogenesis Clinic in Miami, which has been linked to accusations of providing several athletes with various types of steroids.

Steroid scandals are, sadly, no longer a unique event, but this is Braun’s second time at bat with a steroid indictment, and fans have simply lost faith. He failed a drug test during the 2011 playoffs, which would have resulted in the automatic suspension of 50 games. The failed test was released to the media in December of 2011, but Braun skipped his suspension on a technicality: improper sample collection.The urine sample was collected before a playoff game on October 1, 2001.  By the time the collector left the stadium, he wasn’t able to overnight the sample, so he went home and put it in his refrigerator, and sending it out that Monday morning.  The letter of the law states that all samples must be received in the lab in 24 hours, and Braun’s attorneys used this issue to have his suspension overturned.  While the letter of the law was not followed, the results were still revealing.

“You’re not going to grow synthetic testosterone just because it sat in a refrigerator over the weekend,” stated Travis Tygart of the US Anti Doping Agency

Milwaukee Brewers baseball player Ryan Braun speaks about doping scandal in an effort to save his reputation

When Spring Training rolled around for 2012, Braun made a statement in front of the media in Arizona, where he spoke with righteousness:

  • “My name has been dragged through the mud.”
  • “The truth is on my side.”
  • “Today is for everybody who has ever been wrongly accused.”
  • “The simple truth is that I’m innocent. The truth is always relevant and the truth prevailed.”
  • “If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I’d be the first one to step up and say I did it.”
  • “I would bet my life this substance never entered my body.”

The whole topic of steroids has always been rather boring to me, but watching his press conference I could honestly say that I believed him.  This was, of course, without knowing that the only loophole in the case was that his steroid laden pee sat in a fridge for an extra day before going to the lab.  I think many fans felt that Braun, the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player, was treated unfairly, and that after his press conference, baseball should go on as usual.

That leads us to today, where Braun has now been caught cheating not once, but twice. Unfortunately, he signed a contract extension in April of 2011 in which the Brewers agreed to pay him $145.5 million through 2020.  In Major League Baseball, unlike the National Football League, those contracts are guaranteed, and the Brewers will be on the hook for all of that money even though their fans feel betrayed, duped, and conned. So, where does the Milwaukee Brewer franchise go from here?

Well, they got off to a bad start, that is for sure.  On July 26th, a woman was asked to either turn her shirt inside out, or she would be kicked out of the stadium.  As you can see below, Karen Eidem simply took her Ryan Braun jersey and added a couple of letters to comically spell out “Fraud” instead of “Braun”.  By no means could this be considered offensive, lewd, or anything else, but the security guard threatened removal from the stadium unless she changed.

Brewers fan changes Braun jersey to read fraud

The team apologized, of course, after the story began to garner national headlines. They even offered her a ticket to another game this year!

The Brewers are in quite a predicament. They are a small market team that went against the grain to pay $20 million a year for a single player, so they obviously put their faith and trust in this person.  How can they handle the situation and still get fans into the ball park when Braun has disgraced himself, the team, the fans, and even the league as a whole?

There’s a slippery slope.  Because of the guaranteed contract, they can’t just release Braun and go their separate ways.  He is a Milwaukee Brewer through 2020, so they must do what they can to stand by their player during a humiliating time.  On the other hand, a good portion of that $20 million per year salary starting next year is being paid by season ticket holders who feel as if their ‘hero’ has cheated them.  The Brewers have to find a happy medium to still keep Braun on everyone’s radar, apologize for his transgressions, and keep fans happy to get people to the stadium.

Yesterday, they came up with an interesting olive branch to their fans: Free Beer and Bratwurst!!

With the suspension, the Brewers are going to be saving roughly $3.5 million in salary that Braun will not be allowed to collect. Instead of keeping that money, they are electing to creatively give it back to the fans with a $10 voucher.

Braun free beer and bratwurst voucher

Below is an except from the Brewers Press Release:

Milwaukee Brewers Chairman and Principal Owner Mark Attanasio today announced what could be a first in all of Major League sports – all fans attending any of the 12 Brewers home games in August will receive a $10 voucher for free concessions, merchandise and game tickets at Miller Park.

“This has been a challenging season for all of us, but the one thing that has never wavered has been the tremendous support we have received from fans who love the Brewers,” Attanasio said today. “We wanted to do something meaningful to show our appreciation, and we will strive to provide the best fan experience possible.”

The Brewers have 12 home games in the month of August, and expect an average attendance of 30,000, so they plan spending $3.6 million on the promotion, which does seem eerily close to Braun’s salary savings of $3.5 million.  In the end, only time will tell if a voucher to placate fans is going to save their reputation when the team’s best player being considered a liar and a cheat. Still, I have to commend the Brewers for coming up with a clever promotion to keep their loyal fans happy while sticking by their player.