Brewers want fans to weigh in on Braun

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Milwaukee Brewers want to know what their fans think about Ryan Braun.

In the wake of Braun's season-ending, 65-game suspension in 2013 and subsequent admission to using a banned, performance-enhancing substance, the Brewers included a series of questions about their embattled star as part of a comprehensive, wide-ranging survey made available to season ticket holders on the team's website.

The survey polls fans on their interest level in the team, thoughts on personnel changes made over the off-season, expectations for 2014, their view of ownership's commitment to being competitive and the Miller Park experience. But deep in the survey is the series of blunt, multiple-choice questions about Braun and how fans view him after his PED scandal.

“We wanted to do a fairly detailed and comprehensive survey, asking a lot of questions about fans' views of the team, the state of the team, the ballpark, the experience,” said Brewers chief operating officer Rick Schlesinger. “For us to not ask questions about Ryan, in our view just didn't make sense.

“Obviously, he's a very important player. We all know what transpired in 2013. I think it's important for us as a business, in our market, to see what our fans think about our key assets, including key players such as Ryan Braun. We would have been remiss, candidly, if we didn't ask those questions.”

The first multiple-choice question is simple: What is your opinion of Ryan Braun? Fans have these choices: extremely favorable; very favorable; somewhat favorable; neutral—neither favorable nor unfavorable; somewhat unfavorable; very unfavorable; extremely unfavorable.

The questions then become a little move involved, not to mention pointed. Fans are asked:

Which sports blogger statement about the recent criticism of Ryan Braun comes closest to your view?

■ n If Ryan Braun returns to playing at an all-star level, then that is enough for me to respect him as a player and root for him, regardless of how I might view him as a person or a role model.

■ n Ryan Braun will always be tainted by what he did. He disgraced himself, the team and baseball. His apologies mean nothing.

n ■Ryan Braun needs to apologize to the fans one more time at the beginning of this season because what he did was wrong. That will make it clear that he gets it. But after that apology, it's time to move on.

■ n Ryan Braun already apologized enough. He is an extraordinary player, offensively and defensively. I hope he'll be a Brewer for his entire career and I'll always support him.

■ n Ryan Braun will have to show me that he truly is sorry for what he did. He needs to continually demonstrate that he is remorseful and I will take a wait-and-see approach before I make a final judgment on him.

Fans are then asked: Which of these four press/blogger statements about Ryan Braun do you agree with the most?

■ n I don't like Ryan Braun, and I don't care what he says or does going forward.

■ n Ryan has made himself available on multiple occasions to the media to discuss, and it's now time for the Brewers to turn their focus to this season. Looking back isn't productive, and while they understand the interest, they need to move forward.

■ n Ryan has taken steps to reconnect with fans, sponsors and the public. He's made numerous appearances locally, called fans and sponsors and has made a serious effort to put this behind him the right way.

■ n Ryan has served his punishment. Period. He has repeatedly apologized. There is nothing more to talk about. It's time for the Brewers to get back to baseball and focus on their commitment to fans to fielding a winning baseball team.

Lastly, fans are asked: In light of Ryan Braun's return to the Brewers this season, how do you feel about the future of the Milwaukee Brewers?

■ n More excited.

■ n About the same.

■ n Less excited.

One month after he accepted his suspension last July 22 stemming from MLB's investigation into the scandalous Biogenesis clinic, Braun released a written statement of apology with vague details of his PED use. He admitted to using “a cream and a lozenge” to help recover from an unspecified injury during the 2011 season.

Braun tested positive after the Brewers' first playoff game that year for synthetic testosterone but had the result overturned on appeal, avoiding a 50-game suspension. He then vigorously attacked the MLB drug program and pointed a finger at the urine specimen collector, Dino Laurenzi Jr.

After Braun was nabbed by MLB investigators, much of the public outrage centered on his coverup and attack on Laurenzi Jr. He later placed phone calls to season ticket holders to apologize in person, participated in the team's Thanksgiving food drive and appeared at the Brewers' “On Deck” fan festival in late January. Each time, he admitted to making a “big mistake” that he regretted but refused to answer specific questions about his PED use.

Braun also said he had dinner at the home of Laurenzi Jr. to make amends.

The Brewers are trying to take the “temperature” of their fans to see if they think Braun has done enough to atone for his PED use and subsequent actions. Schlesinger said no plans had been made for forwarding results of the survey to Braun.

“If we get some specific, strong indications, again not just whether it's about Ryan or other things, we have to digest that and take it into account,” said Schlesinger. “What we're going to specifically do with the responses in relation to Ryan Braun, we haven't determined.”

Otherwise, what will the club do with the feedback it gets on Braun?

“We're not going to look at any one answer,” said Schlesinger. “We're going to look at how people respond and get a sense of what people think about the direction of our organization. The questions about Ryan Braun are going to be relevant.

“I can't tell you we're going to do anything specific in response to the questions we asked about Ryan Braun. I think we do have our own views about what the population thinks about Ryan Braun. But rather than 'guestimate,' I'd rather have some concrete survey data that gives us indications about what our market is thinking.”

The Brewers have a lot at stake with Braun, who has seven years and about $127 million remaining on the biggest contract in club history. Should the club get overwhelmingly negative feedback on Braun in the survey, it remains to be seen if it would affect the player's future with the club.

“That is so hypothetical and speculative, it's not for me to answer,” said Schlesinger. “We'll see what information we get from the survey and learn from it, see what our fans are thinking about the team from a lot of angles.”

The Brewers recently reintegrated Braun into their marketing and promotions for 2014 after a period of exclusion. Schlesinger was asked if that will be stepped up should the survey provide mostly positive feedback from fans.

“What I've seen to date, before this survey, is that fans don't have that view of Ryan and don't want us to scale back any marketing we do,” said Schlesinger.

“I would take exception with the perception that we scaled back on Ryan. When Ryan wasn't playing and was suspended, clearly your marketing is going to be reflective of the players that are playing as well as the players that are not playing. …

“We haven't exclusively focused on Ryan in our marketing in the past. We aren't doing it currently and we're not going to do it in the future.”

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