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No Doubt About Yount
But the most-beloved Brewers player's legacy makes us wonder about Ryan Braun.

Of course Robin Yount is the most beloved player in Milwaukee Brewers history.

You don’t need the Sporting News to tell you that. Frankly, you don’t need anyone to tell you that. All you have to do is hear the roars whenever he makes a Miller Park appearance. Or see how Twitter lights up with breathless reports of coffeehouse sightings whenever The Kid is back in town.

But the Sporting News did indeed declare what everybody here knew – that Yount is indeed the most beloved Brewer. It also named his counterparts for each and every one of the other 29 MLB teams. And yes, even though it was a dreaded slideshow, and even though I knew I was falling prey to the ploy for clicks, I kept on clicking through. Because it’s a creative twist on those “who’s-the-best” arguments that baseball is so good at providing.

And yes, the usual point of such things is to start an argument, or at the very least, a conversation. So it’s only natural for me to agree that Fernando Valenzuela might be the most beloved Dodger while also wondering how Jackie Robinson doesn’t make the “also considered” list. Or, for that matter, how neither Hank Aaron nor Jim Gantner joined Paul Molitor and Gorman Thomas on the Brewers’ also-considered list. Or even how the Sporting News couldn’t find anyone in Milwaukee to give a quote about how beloved Yount is. (Nearly every other player got someone associated with his team or city, but for some reason, the quote on Yount was outsourced to Los Angeles.)

Quibbles aside, though, it’s a fun way to spend a few minutes while learning who the other Younts are. Roberto Clemente in Pittsburgh and Todd Helton for the Rockies? Of course. Roberto Alomar in Toronto? Well, I learned something new today.

And I was reminded of something, too. Because while perusing the piece on Robin Yount, I couldn’t help but wonder again about Ryan Braun.

If this list was produced a year ago, Braun might be on that also-considered list. If the list were produced 20 years from now, he might have actually succeeded Yount. And now… well… you know all about now.

When ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast the Brewers home finale, Braun was, of course, part of the narrative, and the announcers predictably pulled no punches. Analyst Orel Hershiser told the national audience about how Braun lied to his face. John Kruk and Dan Shulman wondered if he’ll be the same player.

When I chatted over the weekend with ESPN’s Buster Olney, he was quite complimentary about the Brewers organization, but his verdict on Braun’s legacy within the game was firm. “Do I think he’s ever going to recover his reputation in baseball?” Olney mused. “Absolutely not. He’ll never be forgiven by some players.”

As for the fans, Olney left more wiggle room. He was as curious as anyone to see how they’ll respond to the Brewers upon Braun’s return. “The Brewers have developed this great relationship with the fan base, and that’s why they’re so unique,” Olney said. “Maybe they’ll be more like, ‘We’re not happy with what happened to Braun, but the team didn’t have anything to do with it, and we respect that ownership here has consistently tried to put a good product on the field.’ Maybe they’ll be more forgiving than if it were with the Marlins.”

“I’m fascinated to see how the fans react,” Olney said.

He’s got plenty of company.

We’ll have to wait until April to know just how beloved Braun will still be. He seems like a man who has lost so much, but he’s also got plenty of time left to recapture some of it. His legacy remains such an uncertain quantity, which makes it the polar opposite of Yount’s, about which there can be no doubt.

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