What the Braun Deal Means For Baseball

Ryan Braun is a different kind of guy.

He signed what many consider the most team-friendly deal in baseball in 2008, after winning Rookie of the Year and a spat of other awards for his first season of play.  Some predicted that, as one of the best players in baseball, Braun would soon become discontent with the seven-year, $45 million contract that would keep him in Brewers blue until 2015.

Braun put all that talk to rest today as he announced a five-year, $105 million extension of that contract.  “If I went back in time, I’d sign that contract every time. I’m so
thankful that they believed in me then. It meant a lot to me then for
them to come to me with an offer like that, with a belief in my ability
and in my work ethic to sign me to a contract like that at that time.
That means a lot to me today. It provided financial security, and
ultimately I was extremely happy with that contract, just like I am with
the one we agreed to today.”

Contrast that with Prince Fielder, who will enter free agency this year as one of the premier players on the market.  It’s no secret that Fielder is seeking the biggest payday possible, and that won’t be with the Brewers, who were apparently not even in the same ballpark as Fielder with their offer of five years and $100 million

Two elite players; two completely different approaches.  When asked about Fielder’s situation today, Braun said, “I know that this is a place he’d love to stay, but again, that depends
on what happens here in the future, and what he really feels like is in
the best interest of himself and his family.”

Of course, Braun is right.  It’s just that you have a hard time seeing how it could be against anyone’s interest to take a $100 million payday and play for a team that you love and fans that adore you.

Therein lies the impact of Braun’s contract on baseball.  His contract shows that it’s not always about the money, though there is plenty of that in his deal.  Instead, Braun’s contract exudes compromise, loyalty, and gratitude, traits that superstar athletes aren’t exactly known for.  The deferred portions of the contract allow the team to stay competitive while still giving Braun a competitive salary.

And, like any entrepreneur, Braun wants to make something his own.  Let’s face it, he, much like Fielder, could have latched on to the Yankees or the Red Sox and dramatically increased his chances of winning a championship while earning more than us mere mortals can imagine.  But that kind of conventional thinking has a price.  A star shines brightest when it has the sky to itself. 

Maybe, just maybe, Braun has decided to make his career in Milwaukee because he wants a championship of his own making, not the making of a general manager with a cash flow resembling that of GE.  And I’m sure he’s hoping his contract will have a domino effect, inspiring others to recognize that this city backs the team with all of its limited resources; that sacrificing a few million to get this city a championship might still be a good investment when the return is the gratitude of fans that, more than anything else, want to see the Brewers win.  It may not be the easiest path, but it’s probably the most satisfying.

Braun isn’t giving away anything in terms of expectations; either.  His goal:  “[T]o bring a World Series Championship to the Brewers
organization and the city of Milwaukee and I promise to do everything in
my power to make that dream a reality!” 

What a first step.  The rest of baseball could learn a thing or two from this guy.