Royce, Yuni, and Suppan: The All-Brewers We Won’t Miss Team of the 2000’s
By Curt Hogg
Before a franchise turn-around in the past few seasons, the 2000’s were a rough decade for the Brewers. The 2002 team became the first 100-loss squad in franchise history and the Brewers finished in last place in three consecutive seasons from 2002-2004. Even as the teams became better and reached the Postseason in 2008 and 2011, there were still the Brad Nelson’s and the Yuniesky Betancourt’s of the world that drove fans crazy.
With the Hall of Brewers We Won’t Miss series going on back in June and a remembrance for, well, players we won’t miss, I assembled candidates for the All-Brewers We Won’t Miss team from the 2000’s.
So without further ado, make a quick run to your closet, put on your Royce Clayton shirt, and cringe a bit as you go through the team.
Candidates- Henry Blanco, Paul Bako, Chad Moeller
Any of these guys could have easily been selected to the team, but, in the end, consistently bad play was the determining factor. Henry Blanco batted .236 in 2000 and .210 in 2001 while getting the majority of the playing time over Raul Casanova. Though he was one of the best defensive catchers in the game, (2.7 combined dWAR over his two seasons), his offense was abysmal (negative oWAR in both seasons). Chad Moeller was really bad (batted .208, .206, and .184 from 2004-2006) and probably deserves being on the list, but he hit for the cycle and is thus spared. Paul Bako posted a mere .295 OBP and -0.7 WAR in 87 games in 2002 but only played one season with the Brewers–not nearly enough time for us to celebrate his departure.
Winner- Henry Blanco
We should actually be thanking Blanco for his contributions to the Brewers; tied at 2, he hit an inning-ending ground out with runners on the corners in the ninth inning of Game Five of the 2011 NLDS in Milwaukee. In the bottom of the 10th, his defense allowed Carlos Gomez to steal second after Blanco dropped the ball behind the plate and, as we all know, Gomez then scored on Nyjer Morgan’s series-winning single.
Candidates- Kevin Barker, Brooks Conrad, Brad Nelson
Look, who did you really expect too see here? Richie Sexson? Lyle Oooooooverbay? Prince Fielder? The Brewers have had some of the best luck with first basemen over the course of the 2000’s. To put it in perspective, the worst season by a Milwaukee starting first basemen (until this season because there really hasn’t been one starting 1B) was in 2005 when Overbay hit .276/.367/.449 with 19 homers, 72 RBI, and 80 runs.
Brewers fans will really have to dig into the memory bank to recall Kevin Barker. He was a 24-year-old draft pick of the Brewers and the Opening Day starter in the infamous tie game with the Reds in 2000. He batted .220 in 100 at-bats, posting two homers and nine RBI. Barker drew nearly as many walks (20) and hits (22), which led to a respectable .352 OBP before his season ended on May 27 and some guy named Richie Sexson took over. Brad Nelson and Brooks Conrad pretty much go hand-in-hand after their performances with the Brewers. Nelson started 2009 on the big league roster and couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn. He failed to get a hit in 21 at-bats (mainly as a pinch-hitter, but still…) before being released as a .000 hitter with nine strikeouts. Conrad wasn’t much better; the former Braves postseason hero went 0-27 to open 2012 despite batting over .400 in AAA. He finally broke through with a two-run homer on June 2 against Pittsburgh. Two of his three hits on the season were home runs against the Pirates before he was released as a .075 hitter with two homers and six RBI in 40 at-bats.
Winner- Brad Nelson
At least Brooks Conrad got a hit. Nelson was a joke each time he stepped into the box. No confidence. Overswinging. Pressing. It was just a bad situation for a guy who made the postseason roster a year before. Sorry, Brad, but we won’t miss you.
Candidates- Ronnie Belliard, Enrique Cruz, Junior Spivey
We could really just flip a coin for this one. Belliard had a good year in 1999, but that wasn’t the 2000s, which weren’t as productive for the dreadlocked Brewer. He batted a combined .263 over 2000 and 2001 and posted a 3.4 WAR in 2001. His 2002 season was simply awful, however. He had an OBP, not an average, of .257. 257. Two-fifty-seven. And a WAR of -2.3. In the end, his positive 2000 and 2001 season save him from making this team. Enrique Cruz somehow lasted the entire 2003 season in the majors despite only going 6-71 for a .085 average. He struck out more than 42% of the time. Adam Dunn’s career rate is 28%. His longest hitting streak was one and, in only 76 plate appearances, he had a -1.5 WAR. Junior Spivey came to Milwaukee in the Richie Sexson trade before the 2004 season after being an All Star in 2002. He got injured and only appeared in 59 games in ’04, then hit .236 in 2005 before being traded for Tomo Ohka. His defense made Rickie Weeks look like a Gold Glover, making 18 errors in 108 games over his two seasons.
Winner- Junior Spivey
Cruz wasn’t a starter like the two, and Belliard had two out of three good seasons. Spivey couldn’t stay healthy and didn’t prove nearly as valuable as the Brewers had hoped the former All Star would. When Rickie Weeks took over second after Spivey’s departure, we didn’t miss him.
Candidates- Jose Hernandez, Wes Helms, Casey McGehee
Though he started at shortstop in 2001 and 2002, Jose Hernandez’s arguably worst season came at third base in 2000. He batted .244 with 11 homers and 59 RBI–not the prototypical “power” third baseman numbers–and struck out 125 times, or over 25% of the time. His K totals grew worse as the years went on, but 2000 was his all-around worst season. When I asked someone on Twitter what they thought of Wes Helms, he replied “at least he was good at getting hit by pitches”. His numbers weren’t terrible (.267/23/67 in 2003) but Brewers fans were happy to replace him in 2006. He (zero steals over three seasons) and Casey McGehee (one over three seasons) would make for a good race to determine the slowest non-catcher of the 2000’s for the Brewers. McGehee actually may have had a better year than Prince Fielder in 2010 when he batted .285 with 23 homers and 104 RBI, but 2011 was a completely different story. He batted .223, led all NL third basemen in errors, and posted a -1.1 WAR.
Winner- Jose Hernandez
Normally, I’d put Hernandez under the shortstop category seeing as it was his primary position in two of his three season, but his terrible season as a third baseman coupling with the strong candidates for the team at short make for him reaching the squad at the Hot Corner. He led the team in errors, struck out three times more than he walked, was caught stealing seven out of ten times, and had a -0.3 WAR.
Candidates- Royce Clayton, Yuniesky Betancourt, Cesar Izturis
In 2003, my first year to follow every Brewers game, I distinctly recall my grandmother having a strong dislike for Royce Clayton, the long-haired shortstop for the Crew. He was an All Star with St. Louis in 1997 (once again proving the ASG is seriously flawed), but only batted .228 with a .301 OBP and 39 RBI in 146 games in his only season with Milwaukee. My grandma always noted that if he cut his hair, maybe he’d hit the ball…but judging by his -1.5 WAR that season I’d say that’s wishful thinking. As for Yuniesky Betancourt, I need not explain much. We won’t miss his first-pitch swinging, ground ball-botching play, but he did have a clutch RBI single in Game Five of the 2011 NLDS. Yuni B swung at the most first pitches in the league and was only in 12 3-1 counts all season long. Cesar Izturis has taken over the role of shortstop this season after losing Alex Gonzalez for the season to injury, playing more games at short than any other Brewer despite a stint on the DL himself. We can count on a .215 average and a dismal .234 OBP with a homer and eight RBI from the man Ron Roenicke calls “Caesar”.
Winner-Royce Clayton and Yuniesky Betancourt
There simply is no leaving Betancourt off the team, but Clayton was awful in his year with the Brewers. They’ll split time at shortstop with Cesar Izturis getting the occasional Ned Yost Sunday Special start.
Candidates- Ryan Thompson, Carlos Lee
The fact that Geoff Jenkins and Ryan Braun manned the garden in front of Friday’s Front Row at Miller Park for 11 of the last 13 seasons limited the options from which to choose. Jenkins was shelved because of an injury in June of 2002 and career .243 hitter Ryan Thompson joined the team and accumulated 62 games over the course of the remaining season. He stayed near his career totals, posting .248/.295/.518 splits. As for Carlos Lee, the production was never a problem. He played all 162 games in 2005 after being exchanged for Scott Podsednik, hitting 32 homers and driving in 114 runs. He was an All Star in both his seasons with Milwaukee, 2005 and 2006, but never had the fan-friendly appeal to him of other players. Lee never (and still doesn’t) run out grounders and was a minus defensive player.
Winner- Ryan Thompson
It’s not fair to include Thompson on this team with his limited action in a Brewers uniform, but he’s going up against Ryan Braun, Geoff Jenkins, and Carlos Lee. But does anybody really miss Thompson when El Caballo is still producing with Miami?
Candidates- James Mouton, Mike Cameron, Chris Duffy
James Mouton was never the everyday starter for the Brewers, but over his two seasons with the team (2000 and ’01) he totaled 355 plate appearances, which is nothing shabby for a bench player. He hit .233 and .246, respectively, with four total homers while striking out in over 25% of his at-bats. While he spent time in both left and right, center field was his primary position. Mike Cameron was a fan favorite in 2008 and 2009 and hit 49 homers in his two seasons but was in the decline of his career. Cam-Boogie’s strikeouts were his downfall. He struck out 298 times in 269 games and only hit .247. Chris Duffy was unproductive in his short stint with the Brewers in 2009. He racked up four hits in 32 at-bats and was released early on in the season.
Winner- Mike Cameron
I loved Mike Cameron’s work ethic, but there’s no missing his strikeouts. It pains me to say it, but Mike Cameron gets the start on the Brewers We Won’t Miss Team.
Candidates- Jeffry Hammonds, Kevin Mench, Chris Magruder, Jody Gerut
Right field is full of Hall of Brewers We Won’t Miss candidates. Jeffry Hammonds was the largest contract in Brewers history in 2001 when he signed as a free agent; injuries plagued his 2001 season but he was an intricate part in the team’s awfulness in 2002. MLB FanCave finalist, friend of RtB, and nominator of Hammonds for the Hall Steve Sievewright wrote the following on the former right fielder.
"65 RBI, now that sounds like a completely average year right? Well, it would be except that’s the amount of RBIs Hammonds had in his 3 years as a Brewer. Stats as a Brewer are as follows: .248 BA/.321 OBP/65 RBI/69 Runs/16 HRs. Here’s the key stat: 187 games. In three years! Three abysmal years. 49 games in 2001, 128 in 2002, and 10 (yes 10!) in 2003. All years were cut short by stints on the DL."
Kevin Mench came over in the deal that sent Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz (way to go, management!) to Texas for Francisco Cordero,
Mench, Laynce Nix, and a minor leaguer. He was incredibly slow, terrible on defense, and had consistently poor at-bats. He saw the 11th-fewest pitches per PA in 2007. He hit .288 while with the Brewers, which actually wasn’t that bad….if it wasn’t actually his OBP instead of his batting average. He drew a total of 20 walks and had a negative defensive WAR. In Chris Magruder’s two seasons, he hit .236 and .203, respectively, in a consistent role off the bench. He wasn’t very good, but seemed to just be some guy on the roster, which makes it hard to miss or not miss him. Jody Gerut wasn’t very good (he batted .197 in 2010) but he had a grand slam in ’09 and hit for the cycle in Arizona in ’10 so he gets a pass.
Winner- Jeffry Hammonds
Hammonds three year, $21 million contract, the biggest in franchise history at the time, is tied with the Jeff Suppan deal for the worst Brewers signing ever. He couldn’t stay on the field for the majority of the deal and was unproductive when he stayed relatively healthy in 2002.
Bench- Chad Moeller, Brooks Conrad, Enrique Cruz, Ronnie Belliard, Carlos Lee, Kevin Mench
Starting pitchers- Braden Looper, Jeff Suppan, Manny Parra, Victor Santos, Glendon Rusch
Bullpen- Luis Vizcaino (SU), Ricky Bottalico, Carlos Villanueva, Jorge Julio, Guillermo Mota, Eric Gagne (SU) , Derrick Turnbow (CL)
Manager- Ken Macha
Here’s how the lineup would look: