Amidst the Ryan Braun Controversy, Who is the Face of the Milwaukee Brewers?

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COMMENTARY | Ryan Braun is responsible for perhaps this generation's defining moment for the Milwaukee Brewers.

The sequence is cemented in the minds of Brewer nation. On the final day of the 2008 regular season against the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee was tied with the New York Mets for the wild card. With the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Braun stepped to the plate with a runner on first and one out.

What followed was a crack of the bat, and goose bumps.

He did it just days before that with a walk-off grand slam against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Then again down the stretch in 2011 to clinch home field advantage in the first round of the postseason.

Braun is a 5-time All-Star, an MVP, a Rookie of the Year. He can always be counted on to come through when it matters most. In 2008, he signed an 8-year, $51 million extension. In 2011, another extension -- five years for $105 million.

It would conceivably keep him in a Brewer uniform through the 2020 season, showing Braun's commitment to the city of Milwaukee and the team that drafted him in the first round of the 2005 MLB Draft. There wasn't much to dislike about the way Braun conducted himself on and off the field, making him an obvious fan favorite and respected player throughout the league -- a breath of fresh air following the steroid era in baseball.

But following a positive test for elevated levels of testosterone at the end of the 2011 season -- news that was meant to remain confidential but was leaked to the media -- things began to unravel for the 5-time Silver Slugger. A 50-game suspension was handed down to Braun, a suspension Braun was able to successfully appeal.

Still, his reputation was tarnished. Braun had become one of the most beloved Brewers of all-time after just five years in the big leagues, but now there were questions about how he was able to attain this status. Braun consistently hit above .300 and was hitting roughly 32 HRs a year, a number that shouldn't have raised any red flags prior to his positive test.

Braun, determined to prove his innocence on the field after proving his innocence in the appeals process, arguably topped his 2011 MVP campaign in 2012, hitting a career-high 41 HRs with a .319 average. After hearing the boo birds at just about every opposing ball park, the doubters were silenced, and it was time to move on.

With Prince Fielder gone and the controversy behind him, Ryan Braun was the undisputed face of the franchise in Milwaukee.

Now, with Braun expected to return from the disabled list soon, the Brewers at 35-52 and more controversy hovering over the Milwaukee left fielder, that undisputed title has some challengers.

As the Brewers' esteemed beat writer from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tom Haudricourt notes we shouldn't expect suspensions to be handed out to those with connections to Biogenesis before the All-Star game to avoid taking away any luster from the Midsummer Classic. But baseball is believed to be near completion with its investigation, and Braun could be facing a 100-game suspension by the end of July.

Major League Baseball was irate following Braun's successful appeal back in 2011, and with the opportunity to nab Braun once again, you can bet it will do everything in its power to come down hard on the 29-year-old.

If such is the case, and Braun winds up missing not only time this season, but also in 2014, the damage will be irreversible. Two performance enhancing drug scandals, a hefty suspension and the near-certainty that Braun cheated to become one of the game's greats would tarnish his legacy and his relationship with Milwaukee's faithful.

While we may be just a few weeks away from this frightening proposition, let's say Braun is able to avoid suspension. Have Brewer fans seen enough anyway? Can Braun really be considered the face of the franchise?

Braun, a young upstart once himself, is watching another player break onto the baseball scene in his first full season -- Jean Segura.

Segura, the main course in the deal that sent Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels just over a year ago, is a 23-year-old Dominican product who was recently named to the National League All-Star team. Just like Braun, Segura was able to reach the Midsummer Classic in his first full season at the big league level.

He has power -- 11 HRs through July 7. He sports a .317/.351/.484 split and the fifth highest average in the NL. He has wheels -- 26 steals, the third-most in the NL. And dare we say it -- Segura is a 5-tool player, making several dazzling plays at shortstop with his glove, only then to show off a cannon for an arm.

When was the last time the Brewers had a player burst onto the scene like this? 2007. Ryan Braun.

A case could also be made for Carlos Gomez, who has turned his career around and been rewarded with an All-Star selection of his own. He's also shown 5-tool ability, and his all-out hustle on every play, much like Segura, has quickly turned him into a fan favorite.

Fans will always have their reasons for standing behind Braun. Despite the controversy, he's never missed a game as a result of PED use, and even if he is suspended for his relationship with Tony Bosch and Biogenesis, Bosch has already agreed with Braun's statement that he merely used him as a consultant. With Bosch pressured to cooperate with MLB because of a lawsuit, what good is his word anyway?

Regardless, the cloud is there, and may always be hovering over Braun.

It might be time for the Brewers to get behind a current All-Star -- not a maligned star.

Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.

You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .

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