In lieu of MLB Network’s “Face of the Franchise” campaign that centered its focus on the Brewers on Tuesday, the question of “Who really is the face of the franchise?” has risen. And though it’s not a completely integral to the team’s success on the field, the idea of this “face of the franchise” is a big fan draw, marketing tool, and a great off-season narrative right after your team failed to make any free agent signings and you can only discuss the current situation at first base so much.
A quick Twitter search of #FaceOfBrewers gives us a few candidates for who the current face of the franchise.
Among the reasons noted that people nominated the Brewers catcher for face of the franchise include his leadership during the Ryan Braun saga over the course of the previous season, his emergence as a team captain, and his overall production on the field. The Brewers have undergone massive turnover from their 2011 NLCS team. Think about it for a second: With Corey Hart now in Seattle, how many regulars from that team remain? Braun, Rickie Weeks, Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Carlos Gomez, and Lucroy. Of those, Braun, Weeks, and Gallardo all had down years, some worse than the others.
At 27, the Brewers have a young, team-controlled catcher that exudes a quiet confidence and doesn’t get in trouble. Around a team filled with the drama surrounding Braun, Lucroy isn’t controversial, yet brings value to the field (7.2 WAR over 243 games the last two seasons). His walk-off home run against Aroldis Chapman of the Reds stands out as his most memorable moment from a 2013 season in which he was one of few bright spots.
Carlos Gomez was awesome in 2013. His defense won him his first of many Gold Gloves to come, but his offense was what made him one of the National League’s most valuable players. He upped his OPS to .843, hit 24 homers, and stole 40 bases. He was selected as an All-Star for the first time in his career, as well. If there was a breakout star in the National League, it would have been difficult to choose against Gomez. At 28 and signed through 2016, Gomez is a name and a face the franchise can choose to build around for the future, but one breakout season may not be enough to secure the title.
While searching through Twitter to see what people said about Segura being the face of the franchise, I ran across someone who was vying for Scooter Gennett–he of 230 career plate appearances–as the title holder. Luckily, I’ve recovered and present the case for Segura.
Acquired in the deal that sent Zack Greinke to the Angels, Segura had a season much like Gomez. He hit .325 with 11 homers and led the league in hits in the first half and was named a National League All Star. He experienced the effects of playing winter ball, spring training, and then as the everyday shortstop for the Brewers with a second-half burnout in which he hit .241 with only one homer. Segura had a positive year and surprised us with his all-around game at times, but it’s premature to put that weight on him at this point. Potential doesn’t equal current status.
Pitchforks down, everybody. Can we just let bygones be bygones, leave what’s in the past in the past, and literally every other cliche that applies to the Brewers outfielder’s current situation. Ryan Braun is still the face of the franchise, and it’s going to be a hard position to take away from him. Regardless of the alleged month in which he used PEDs to help his team clinch the division and push for a World Series, he’s posted some of the best seasons and overall numbers in franchise history. We’re talking back-to-back 30/30 seasons, the MVP award in 2011, a career .938 OPS, and 211 home runs.
The tension some fans feel toward Braun may still remain high, but I’d like to see how quiet the boos become at Miller Park once Braun is back to his routine .300/.370/.580 clip. For both good and bad reasons, he still remains the face of the franchise. His is one of the few household names in both Milwaukee and in baseball in general, this resulting from both his on-field production, memorable moments, and PED scandal that I’m sure both the Brewers and Braun are glad to have behind them finally. The face of the franchise almost always goes to the team’s best player, and that player is still Ryan Braun.
Honorable Twitter mentions
Among the best (and most head-desk inducing) mentions on Twitter include: John Jaha, Front Row Amy, Ryan Braun’s steroids (clever), Bob Uecker, Stan Ross, no one.