MILWAUKEE — Just like that, it's all over for Ryan Braun.
The Milwaukee Brewers' all-time leader in home runs announced his retirement Tuesday, ending a 14-year career that helped turn a moribund franchise into a perennial postseason contender.
Along the way he picked up Rookie of the Year honors, one Most Valuable Player award and six All-Star appearances.
“I have weighed this decision for many months. While I still love this game very much, the time is right for me to retire from my playing days,” Braun said in a statement Tuesday morning.
The 37-year-old had not played this season after the Brewers declined their end of a $15 million mutual option last winter.
Today, more than 14 years after I first took the field as a Milwaukee Brewer, I’ve decided to retire. While it’s impossible to summarize my emotions, what I feel most is one, simple thing – gratitude.— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) September 14, 2021
I just wanted to take a moment to say ‘thank you’.
– Ryan Braun pic.twitter.com/pQxuW9qk1z
"I know this is something he’s been thinking about for a while and deciding whether this is the right time for him to do it," Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said. "I think he’s been very close to this for a while now and ultimately decided this was the right time."
Selected with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2005 MLB draft, Braun spent his entire big league career with the Brewers, batting .296 with 352 home runs, 1,154 RBIs and 216 stolen bases while appearing in 1,766 games.
Thank you, No. 8.— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) September 14, 2021
After a 14-year career, Ryan Braun has decided to hang up the cleats.
Help us thank Braun for all the years of cheers and celebrations when he comes to the ballpark Sept. 26: https://t.co/RSRdaPQN6o#RyanBraunForever pic.twitter.com/TpU5OdyTBP
Brewers manager Craig Counsell had a front-row seat for nearly all of those games. He was Braun's teammate for five seasons after spending three-plus years in Milwaukee's front office and served as manager for the final six years of Braun's career.
"I always joke with him that maybe besides (Braun's parents), I have seen (him) play baseball probably more than anyone in the world," Counsell said. "I was there for every game throughout his career. I got a close seat for a vast majority of them. Watching him play was definitely an honor."
Along with Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy, Cory Hart and Rickie Weeks, Braun was part of a talented group of prospects that snapped a 26-year postseason drought in 2008 and brought the team's first division title since 1982 three years later.
He was the only member of that group to stick around. While all finished their careers elsewhere, Braun signed two massive extensions aimed at keeping him in Milwaukee for the bulk of his career.
The first came in May 2008, when agreed to an eight-year deal worth $45 million. Three years later, Braun and the Brewers announced another extension, this time worth $105 million that ran through the 2020 season.
At the time, it seemed like a genius move for a small-market team that was all but certain to lose another star, Fielder, at the end of the season. The move took on greater significance when Braun led Milwaukee to an NL Central title and within a game of the World Series en route to becoming the third player in franchise history to be named MVP.
But the narrative changed quickly when shortly after winning the award news broke that Braun had tested positive for a banned substance. Although he eventually avoided suspension by winning his appeal, which he outlined in great detail during a now-infamous news conference during spring training in 2012, Braun's legacy took a massive hit a year later when he was suspended for the final 65 games of the 2013 season for his role in baseball's Biogenesis scandal.
Braun returned in 2014 determined to put the incident in his past but a series of injuries to his back and thumb resulted in a career-worst .266 average, 19 home runs and 81 RBIs. He bounced back in 2015 to hit .285/.356/.498 with 25 home runs and an .854 OPS and topped that by hitting .306 with 30 home runs and a .903 OPS in 2016.
Counsell, Braun and the team's medical staff combined on a plan to manage his playing time with the hopes of keeping him sharp down the stretch. That plan paid off as Braun batted .270 with 59 home runs and an .819 OPS over his next three seasons, including 144 games in 2019 when Milwaukee made the playoffs for a second straight season and fourth time in Braun's career.
"I always thought that the way Ryan's last six or seven years went, he should be incredibly proud," Counsell said of Braun's post-suspension career. "At that point, he had a story to write, he didn't know how it was going to go and I think he wrote a great story and that he should be proud of that."
Braun hit just .233 with eight home runs and 26 RBIs during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and played his final games in empty stadiums.
Fans will get a chance to say farewell on Sept. 26 when Braun is honored before the final home game of the regular season.
"It's well-deserved considering what he's done for the city, the organization and, obviously, not having a chance to play in front of fans last year, to get that sendoff," outfielder Christian Yelich said.