Yesterday, reports started to swirl that some Brewer fans were receiving an unexpected surprise – a personal call and apology from Ryan Braun. Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger joined WTMJ’s “Wisconsin’s Afternoon News” program to confirm the story. The call was not a generic, prerecorded robocall either. Meaning that some fans needed a bit of convincing that the caller was actually who he said he was. So Brewer fans beware, if you get a call from someone claiming to be Ryan Braun, it’s probably him.
Schlesinger said that Braun came to him with the idea. So the organization provided Braun with an unscreened list of both season and partial season ticket holders to call. Schlesinger didn’t mention how many people made the list. When pressed regarding the content of the calls, Schlesinger was light on specifics. Only that Braun wanted to tell Brewer fans that “I hope my mistakes don’t sour you on attending the games, being a fan”.
Schlesinger also claimed that Braun wasn’t doing this for the publicity. Yet, isn’t the publicity exactly why he’s doing this? Outside of his press release, this is the next step chosen by Braun to begin making amends. He knows, as well as everyone else, that no step he takes will be free of publicity. Braun might not have wanted to make a big deal out of it but he had to know that it wouldn’t go unnoticed.
Simply, there is no easy road ahead for Ryan Braun. As I write this Thursday night, I’ve already seen a Bleacher Report headline claiming that Braun’s phone calls are a “publicity stunt”. This on the heels of people blasting Braun’s press release for being short on specifics, hollow, worded too carefully, etc. Right now, no move will be the “right” move for Braun. Anything and everything he does will be met with harsh criticism.
Personally, I give Braun credit for making such an effort. It can’t be easy to pick up the phone and not know what kind of reaction you’ll get on the other end of the line. Lucky for him, he’s probably dialing a lot of mild-mannered Midwesterners and not a more unruly fan base, like Philadelphia.
That said, this isn’t a bridge that can be rebuilt one personal phone call at a time. For Braun truly to win back the support of Brewers fans, he must again give them a reason to cheer. He must prove that he is the player the organization believed they invested in. And that his bad choices, and personal denial of them, are in the past.
If I ended up on the phone with Ryan Braun, I wouldn’t want to hear an apology. I would want to hear him say he’s working harder than ever to make sure he hits .300 with 25-30 long balls next season. For Ryan Braun, the quickest way to fan forgiveness isn’t from a phone call. It’s from his play on the field.