But in the years since Braun was drafted by the Brewers in 2005, he had come to really like the people in the organization, and he had seen in 2008 that owner Mark Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin were willing to step outside the usual bounds of a team with a relatively modest payroll and make a deal for the best and most expensive player available, CC Sabathia.
Braun liked living in Milwaukee, too, right in the downtown area, where he could see people all the time and be surrounded by them. “The more I was around them,” he recalled on the phone the other day, “the more I realized how passionate the fan base is.”
Nez Balelo, Braun’s CAA Sports agent, told his client to think carefully about the decision, because it’s a life commitment. Braun decided that he would play with the Brewers for the foreseeable future, agreeing to a deal that is guaranteed through the 2020 season, fully realizing the challenges and embracing them.
“It would be more meaningful to me to win one championship here,” said Braun, “then to go to a big big-market team and win three or four.”
He has done his part this year, and more, finishing second in the NL batting race with a .332 batting average and first in OPS at .994. The Brewers finished the year with the second-best record in the National League, as the NL Central champions, and will host Arizona in the playoffs.
For his work, and for his importance to the Brewers’ success, Braun should be the NL MVP; Matt Kemp had a spectacular season for the Dodgers, but Los Angeles — hampered by ownership issues and the team’s inability to spend on needed improvements last offseason — never contended this year.