Rogers' power rankings: No. 17 Brewers

No. 17 Brewers: 14th in a series counting down to spring training. Next: Nationals.

Years from now, Brewers fans should remember this. Don't blame Ryan Braun for his contract.

That one's on owner Mark Attanasio, and to a lesser degree his general manager, Doug Melvin.

Melvin's not a tough-love guy. He's unwilling (or at the very least, unable) to throw himself in front of a speeding train when his boss experiences a sense of grandiosity, when he wants to make a magnificent gesture to back up his commitment to winning.

At least Attanasio was trying to reward Milwaukee fans for an unprecedented level of support. When Melvin worked for Tom Hicks in Texas, he watched in shock when Hicks danced with Scott Boras at the winter meetings in Dallas after the 2000 season, when the team he had just bought from George W. Bush's ownership group went 71-91, a drop of 24 wins from the year before.

Hicks was trying to show Rangers fans there was a new boss in town, and that things would be different under his administration. So he signed Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year, $252 million contract that was the biggest in sports, and he did it when the next biggest offer was barely half what he paid.

It turned out to be the worst deal in the history of sports, even though Rodriguez was magnificent. The Rangers had to pay part of his salary to trade him to the Yankees, bringing their final tally to $130 million for three last-place finishes, and despite Rodriguez doing his part, attendance dropped an average of 180,000 a year.

But Rodriguez was a free agent when he signed, like Albert Pujols this winter. What was Attanasio thinking last April when he tacked a fat five-year extension onto a club-friendly eight-year, $45 million contract Braun had signed in May 2008 (Braun's second season), essentially guaranteeing he'll be the highest-paid Brewer through 2020?

The extension will make him one of 14 players ever to earn at least $20 million per season.

It stands as the fourth-biggest commitment in baseball history, and it was written by a team that plays in the second-smallest market in the majors. It is insane.

At least Joe Mauer was one year away from leaving his hometown team when the Twins gave him the $184 million deal that hangs over the franchise's head like a guillotine blade. Bill Smith, the general manager who was canned a year later, and owner Jim Pohlad were feeling tremendous pressure on the eve of the move into a publicly funded stadium. It was, in many ways, the perfect storm.

But all Attanasio was feeling was rejected. The Braun contract extension that took an obligation of about $40 million and turned it into $145 million over almost 10 years came about a month after Prince Fielder had affirmed he was going to do what Boras clients almost always do, enter free agency and chase a contract far larger than his five-year, $100 million offer from the Brewers.

No one wants to look cheap. Attanasio sure didn't. Not with the Brewers hitting the 3-million attendance mark at Miller Park in 2009. So he overlooked Braun being nearly five seasons away from free agency to lock him up.

Braun would have been a fool to say no to the deal, but it puts the onus on him to perform as well as Pujols, Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Kemp and baseball's other elite hitters. So the guy who led the National League in slugging as a rookie amped up his game to again lead the NL in slugging and to compile a .994 OPS last season, earning an MVP award — and then he tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance.

Braun has said he'll be vindicated on appeal for the test that came back dirty last October. Maybe he will. There's a better chance of that than him giving Attanasio enough of a return to justify the unnecessary investment, with his free agency just a speck in the distance.

And furthermore

    • As of August 2011, there were about 11,000 more TV households in the Milwaukee market than Cincinnati. The markets bigger than those that do not have a major-league team are Orlando-Daytona Beach, Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto-Portland (Ore.), Raleigh-Durham, Indianapolis, Nashville, Hartford-New Haven, Columbus (Ohio) and Salt Lake City.
    • Third baseman Aramis Ramirez has been imported to replace Fielder in the middle of the Brewers' lineup, with career .222 hitter Mat Gamel getting first crack to play first base. The Brewers signed former Giant Travis Ishikawa to a minor-league contract.
    • The Brewers' current contract priority is right-hander Zack Greinke, who is eligible for free agency after the season.
    • Ace Yovani Gallardo is a sleeper pick to win the Cy Young award this season. But he'll be hurt by pitching in Miller Park, which doesn't bring the advantage of Dodger Stadium (Clayton Kershaw) and AT&T Park (Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain).
    • The Brewers hope that 22-year-old Wily Peralta develops into a No. 2 starter behind Gallardo. He can hit 98 with his fastball and won 11 games between Double A and Triple A last season.
Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Cubs sign veteran lefty Trever Miller

    Cubs sign veteran lefty Trever Miller

    The Chicago Cubs added veteran left-handed reliever Trever Miller to their eclectic pitching mix Monday, signing him to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.

  • Chicago sues red light camera firm for $300 million

    Chicago sues red light camera firm for $300 million

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has sued Chicago's former red light camera operator, Redflex Traffic Systems, for more than $300 million on grounds the entire program was built on a $2 million bribery scheme at City Hall that has already led to federal corruption convictions.

  • Marrow's 'The Gold Standard' raises the Chicago rock bar

    Marrow's 'The Gold Standard' raises the Chicago rock bar

    The four musicians in Marrow know quite a bit about bringing diverse influences to the table. After all, three of them, singer-guitarist Liam Kazar, singer-keyboardist Macie Stewart and bassist Lane Beckstrom were in Kids These Days, a now-defunct septet that combined jazz, funk, rap and rock in...

  • The Kids These Days family tree

    The Kids These Days family tree

    From its 2009 beginnings to its 2013 demise, Chicago's Kids These Days seemed like one of the most promising acts the city had seen in years. While the band split up at the height of its hype, its members have since gone on to do bigger and better things—seriously impressive considering the hip-hop/rock/jazz...

  • Solid 'Gold': How ex-Kids These Days members came back stronger as Marrow

    Solid 'Gold': How ex-Kids These Days members came back stronger as Marrow

    After the dissolution of Kids These Days, the much-buzzed about Chicago fusion-jazz-rock-rap septet that split in spring 2013 just a few months after releasing its only album, “Traphouse Rock,” some of its members spent what seems like all of 20 minutes bandless. "We were driving back from the...

  • Mr Twin Sister's 'In the House of Yes' is one of last year's hidden treasures

    Mr Twin Sister's 'In the House of Yes' is one of last year's hidden treasures

    Welcome to RedEye's "Song of the Day," an ongoing feature where music reporter Josh Terry or another RedEye staff member highlights something they're listening to. Some days the track will be new, and some days it will be old. No matter what, each offering is something you should check out. Check...

  • GrubHub's weekend customer-support issues made people hangry

    GrubHub's weekend customer-support issues made people hangry

    Technical difficulties at GrubHub and Seamless over the weekend drove hordes of hangry would-be customers to air their grievances on social media. The food ordering and delivery sites, which merged in 2013 and use GrubHub’s back-end technology, errantly accepted payments on Saturday evening without...

  • One dead in Heart of Chicago after being shot by police

    One dead in Heart of Chicago after being shot by police

    A 29-year-old man died after being shot by police on the Lower West Side early Saturday, police said.