Interest in Ryan Braun creates dilemma for Cubs fans

With the Cubs off to a 24-6 start and already holding an eight-game lead in the division, they don’t really look like a team that needs a lot of help. But with Kyle Schwarber out for the season, Matt Szczur currently disabled, and Jorge Soler struggling, they likely will be in the market for a left fielder as we near the July 31 trade deadline. There’s already plenty of speculation as to who the Cubs may be after, but there’s one name that has dominated the rumor mill so far:

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun.

As any diehard Cubs fan knows, Braun is currently the most hated player on the North Side of Chicago. That title use to belong to A.J. Pierzynski, but since he no longer plays for the crosstown White Sox and is near the end of his career (currently with the Braves), Braun has to be the undisputed Public Enemy #1 to the Wrigley Field faithful. Just listen to the chorus of boos he receives whenever he comes to bat for the visiting Brewers.

Personally, Braun has been irritating me for many years. Besides the fact that he’s the star player on one of the Cubs’ biggest rivals, he has an attitude unlike any other player I’ve seen in the game today. He feels the need to hot dog it after his big home runs and throw a tantrum when he makes an out, as if he’s saying, “I’m better than you and if you get me out it’s because I messed up, not because you’re good.”

I faced a similar dilemma several years ago when the Cubs signed Jim Edmonds after the Padres let him go in 2008. Edmonds spent many years as the enemy with the rival Cardinals, though he never annoyed me nearly to the same degree that Braun does. He played a big part in helping the Cubs win the NL Central title that year, hitting 19 home runs and driving in 49 in just 85 games. Cheering for him made me a little uncomfortable at first, but I eventually learned to embrace it since the Cubs winning trumps everything.

Just how likely are the Cubs to trade for Braun? From a purely baseball perspective, it makes some sense. Braun is still a very productive player – so far he’s batting .363 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs on the young season – and he meets one of the few needs the Cubs could potentially have. Braun does have the right to veto a trade to 23 of the 30 teams, and the Cubs are one of them. My guess is that he would accept a trade, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t either.

In either case, I’m not sure these two teams match up well in a trade. I can’t imagine the Brewers would want to trade the face of their franchise for the past decade to a division rival. From the Cubs’ perspective, though he’s a great hitter, he is 32 years old, still has a huge contract, and is a subpar defender. I certainly would hate to see the Cubs give up some of their higher-end minor league talent for him.

All that being said, we can analyze this from a business perspective all we want, but the emotional element of a potential Braun-to-the-Cubs trade is huge. Until the Brewers trade Braun – to the Cubs or another team – or the deadline passes without a deal, we’re sure to see more rumors connecting the two. If Braun ever does become a Cub, I suppose I’ll have no choice but to cheer him on. But it won’t be easy. At least now that I know it’s a possibility, I can mentally prepare myself.

Brian R. Johnston is the author of the book The Art of Being a Baseball Fan, available now on Amazon. Click here to visit him on Facebook.

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