Chicago Cubs villain Ryan Braun leaves behind a complicated legacy

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

When you think of the archetypal Chicago Cubs villain of recent, who comes to mind first? Maybe it’s Yadier Molina, the stalwart catcher and face of the bitter rival Cardinals, or his former teammate, Albert Pujols, arguably the most notorious Cub killer ever. Perhaps guys like 2015 Daniel Murphy and 2017 Justin Turner, both of whom crushed the team in the postseason, still haunt you.

For me, it’s hard to find a better villain than Ryan Braun. Braun recently announced his retirement and I couldn’t help but reflect on the terror he inflicted throughout his tenure with the Milwaukee Brewers. For 14 seasons, he was one of the most feared and loathed hitters on the North Side, both because of how well he swung the bat and his actions off the field.

In over 193 games against the Cubs, Braun crushed the boys in blue with 40 home runs and a .311/.387/.558 slash line. He hit the entirety of the NL Central well, but the Cubs were his favorite punching bag of them all. He was certainly a talented hitter, earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2007 and an MVP award in 2011 alongside six All-Star nods.

Perhaps his most infamous moment of villainy on the field came on September 28, 2008, when he single-handedly swung the Brewers to their first postseason in 26 years against the Cubs. With his former teammate and manager Craig Counsell on base, Braun came up in the eighth against Cubs reliever Bob Howry. The first pitch he saw wouldn’t see the field again, winning the game for the Brewers and propelling the North Side’s rivals into the playoffs.

Notable Chicago Cubs villain Ryan Braun leaves behind a complicated legacy

It’s not as simple as just being a good player on a rival team though. Braun’s legacy will forever be marred by his 2013 PED scandal. Braun had initially claimed that the test he received during his 2011 season was tampered with, insinuating that the handler, Dino Laurenzi Jr, was responsible, reportedly claiming that he was an anti-Semite and a Cubs fan. It’s truly despicable behavior aimed at ruining another person’s life and reputation for the sake of self-preservation. It gave fans a whole other, completely justifiable reason to boo.

For this reason, I feel torn on Braun. A part of me is sad to see him go because every good story needs a good villain and Braun was among the best at that. He gave fans a reason to root a little harder for the Cubs to pull out a W whenever they played Milwaukee and helped foster that rivalry as one of the greatest Brewers ever.

On the other hand, his actions were detestable and are still hard to get past to this day, even if he has since tried to pay his debts to society and become a force for good in the Milwaukee community.

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Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if he’s worth forgiving and respecting, but there’s no denying the memories (mostly nightmares) he left in Chicago. No matter how much time passes, we’ll always hold a little bit of hatred in our hearts for Braun as an all-time Cubs villain. To be honest, I don’t think he, nor Cubs fans, would have it any other way.