Last week we released the All Brewers We Won’t Miss Team of the decade, so it’s only a moral obligation to show some love for those former Brewers who we wish were still with the club.
The likes of Brewers past such as Richie Sexson, Craig Counsell, Doug Davis, and many others were offered up from fans on Twitter who tweeted the names of players they wish were still on the team. Keeping the roster at only 25 men was incredibly hard and parts of my Brewers fan died when leaving some of the names off the roster.
The criteria for determining the team were simple: productivity both during and after their time with the Brewers and likability as both a player and person. Go ahead, put on that Jeff Cirillo jersey and take a trip through recent memory lane.
Candidates- Damian Miller, Jason Kendall
The best memory of Damian Miller came in 2007, but the story behind it starts in 2006. Thousands of Lacrosse natives voiced their displeasure after Miller, born and raised in La Crosse, did not play on La Crosse day at Miller Park that season. In 2006, manager Ned Yost made a point to give Miller the start on La Crosse day, and the then-37-year-old did not disappoint. He blasted his second career walk-off home run to give the Brewers a 6-3 victory in front of 31,000, many of whom were from his hometown. Over three seasons, he posted .257/.324/.391 numbers before retiring as a Brewer following 2007. Miller’s numbers may not have been eye-popping, but compared to other Brewers catchers, he was a plus offensive player and a fan-favorite in Milwaukee. Jason Kendall retired from baseball on Tuesday, three years after his final season as a Brewer. His gritty, old-style approach to the game and stellar defense made him an easy player to like. Kendall never liked to miss a game, and played in 151 games as the defensive captain for the 2008 Playoff team . One hundred fifty one. As a catcher. The three-time All Star threw out an incredible league-high 43 percent of attempted base stealers in ’08 and had the third-highest dWAR in all of baseball, contributing 2.8 wins just with his defense behind the dish.
Winner- Jason Kendall
He wouldn’t be starting over Jonathan Lucroy, but Kendall was fun to watch. He rarely struck out, was a stellar defensive catcher, and had a key RBI hit in the Brewers first postseason victory since 1982. He gets the slight nod over fan-favorite Damian Miller for the catcher spot on the team.
Candidates- Richie Sexson, Lyle Overbay, Prince Fielder
From August 2000 through their loss in the 2011 NLCS, the Brewers never had any questions as to who was the starting first
baseman. Sexson, Overbay, and Fielder combined for 398 homers in just over 11 combined seasons as the Brewers starting first basemen, averaging roughly 35 dingers per season. Richie Sexson tied Stormin’ Gorman Thomas’ franchise record 45 homers in a single season in 2001 before repeating the task again in 2003. He was the Spiderman on a team full of Peter Parker’s. He bashed 134 homers in only 534 games and slugged .536 before being traded to Arizona, which thrust Lyle Overbay into the starting spot. 2004 was Overbay’s first season as an everyday starter, and he responded by being named the Most Valuable Player on the team after hitting .301/.385/.478 with 16 homers, 87 RBI, and a franchise-record 53 doubles. Brewers fans showed their adoration by filling Miller Park with cardboard ‘O’s and chanted “Oooooooooooooh” as Overbay stepped up to bat. He finished his two seasons with the Brewers as a .289/.376./.464 hitter with 159 RBI and 87 two-baggers. It’s really a shame his time was cut short by Cecil’s kid. It’s not like he was the youngest player to ever hit 50 homers in a season or the 15th-fastest to 200 homers. Or holds the franchise record for single season homers, RBI, OBP, and OPS. Or a four-time All Star or top four in MVP voting thrice. Wait, what? Of course I don’t miss him!
Winner- Prince Fielder
If you claim to be a Brewers fan and can look me in the eye and, especially after the way this season is going, say “I don’t miss Fielder at all”, I’ll call up the producers of “Days of Our Lives”and get you a spot. Seriously. After hitting 230 home runs and nearly breaking the right field bleachers at Miller Park, Fielder hasn’t lost a beat in Detroit, hitting .307 with a .391 OBP and 67 RBI. I could’ve chosen any of these three easily (they’ll all make the team in some fashion), but Prince gets the starting spot. I, for one, am still going through withdrawal.
Candidates- Eric Young, Craig Counsell
E.Y. manned second base for the 2002 and the first half of the 2003 season, swiping 56 bases and posting modest .271/.340/.392 slash stats in 247 games. He had a random–and I mean random–power outburst in 2003, hitting 15 homers in 109 games with Milwaukee before being traded to San Francisco. That was the only season in which Eric Young took double digit trips to Souvenir City (a name he trademarked as an analyst for Baseball Tonight). If Damian Miller was the hometown kid, then Craig Counsell is that kid that grew up next door and cut your grass for $10 for eight years before marrying his high school sweetheart. Of all fan favorites to come through Milwaukee in the 2000s, Counsell may be the most endeared. Overall, he batted only .241, but that includes a woeful 2011 when he only batted .178 and had an 0-45 stretch. The Whitefish Bay native first came to Milwaukee in 2004 for only one season before coming back from 2007-2011 and appearing in two postseasons before retiring to the Brewers Front Office.
Winner- Craig Counsell
If one player could get away with an 0-45 stretch, it’d be Craig Counsell. He served as a veteran presence in the clubhouse for two Playoff teams and served as a productive Brewer for five seasons. Craig could have qualified for the team at shortstop, second, or third base, but the other two are laced with more candidates than second, so there you have it. The only thing up for debate is which batting stance he’ll use with the team: the old or new Craig Counsell bat wiggle?
Candidates- Tyler Houston, Russell Branyan, Jeff Cirillo, Jerry Hairston, Jr
It’s too bad Tyler Houston wasn’t able to stay consistently healthy during his three seasons with the Brewers. When on the field, he
hit .279/.326/.475, including a .302 average in 2002 before he was part of the mass fire sale of the team that season. In 252 games he hit 37 homers and drove in 114 runs. He never was exactly a fan-favorite, unlike the other candidates. Russell “The Muscle” Branyan unsurprisingly holds the record for the longest home run ever hit at Miller Park when he blasted one 480 feet in only his second game as a Brewer in 2004. He immediately became a fan favorite for one reason: Dude could mash. Forget about his .247 average over three seasons with the Crew; his slugging percentage (.527) ranks third in franchise history. Of his 122 hits, 35 (29 percent) of them left the yard. And most of those balls that left the yard were no-doubters. Jeff Cirillo was the ultimate trivia question for Brewers fans until Ryan Braun came around. His .307 average was the highest of any Brewer of all-time, surpassing Yount, Molitor, Cooper, Loretta, etc. He spent most of his time with the Brewers during the 90s but returned for a two-year stint in ’05 and ’06. He hit .289 and .319, respectively, drove in 46 runs, won the team’s Unsung Hero award in ’06, and was a light-out reliever. Not kidding. He pitched a shutout inning against Milwaukee while a member of the Diamonbacks in 2007, striking fellow fan-favorite Craig Counsell. Jerry Hairston helped push the Brewers over the top in 2011 after being acquired at the trade deadline from Washington. He took over for a scuffling Casey McGehee and had a 1.3 WAR in only 43 games. He gave the team additional veteran leadership and was huge in the Playoffs. His sacrifice fly in Game Five of the NLDS proved pivotal as the game went to extra innings and he batted .375 with two doubles and three RBI in the series. In the NLCS against St. Louis he batted .391 with four doubles and scored six runs as the team’s top batter along with Ryan Braun.
Winner- Jerry Hairston Jr
What separates JHJr is that, unlike the other candidates, he was on a Playoff team and made a good team into a great team. He filled in at third base on the best Brewers team in 30 years, as @A_Berdan11 put it.
Candidates- Mark Loretta, JJ Hardy, Alcides Escobar
Longtime Brewer Mark Loretta spent eight productive seasons with the Brewers from 1995-2002, batting .285 during his tenure. However, much of Loretta’s damage came after his time with the Brew Crew. He was dealt to Houston during the ’02 season and ensuing to bat .424 with the Astros. He only hit 29 total homers over his eight seasons in Milwaukee, but then exploded for 16 and 13 (for a total of 29, if you struggle with addition) in 2003 and 2004 with San Diego. His two All Star appearances came after 2002 and he exploded for a .335 season in 2004, when he finished ninth in MVP voting. JJ Hardy was ever the lady machine, racking up support from his female followers like none other since Scotty Podsednik (we’ll get to that later). The Brewers traded him following a rough 2009 in which he only batted .229. Two years prior, however, Hardy was an All Star and blasted 26 homers while driving in 80 homers in a Robin Yount-type season at short. A .262 hitter over five years in Milwaukee, Hardy was (and still is) regarded as one of the top defensive third basemen in the league. He had the highest dWAR among shortstop in 2008 and flashed incredible range to go along with an incredible arm. Last season in Baltimore, Hardy belted thirty homers and hadn the best range figures of any shortstop in the American League…meanwhile Milwaukee placed Brewers We Won’t Miss starting shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt in the lineup every day. Alcides Escobar only batted .235 in his only full season with the Brewers but was regarded as one of the top prospects in the system. He was dealt to Kansas City as part of the Zack Greinke trade, where he is coming into his own. This season, he is hitting .307 with his best years ahead of him at 25 years of age.
Winner- JJ Hardy
As much as the Brewers could have used Mark Loretta after he was sent to Houston, but
Candidates- Geoff Jenkins
As a lifetime Brewers fan, I feel it’d be a dishonor to even think about putting someone else in this category. Geoff Jenkins was a fan-favorite and the face of the Brewers for the majority of his ten seasons with the team. His 212 homers ranks third in franchise history. He roamed Jenkins Jungle in left with a laser for an arm, a Brett Favre-esque goat, a powerful swing, and even made his strikeouts (there were a lot of those) interesting. Jenkins left left fielders in assists in 2000 and 2003, his one and only All Star season. His single season high in homers came in 2000, when he hit 34 and batted .303. After the 2007 campaign the Brewers granted him free agency and he went on to be a contributing factor on the Phillies World Champion team the next season before retiring as a Brewer.
Winner- Geoff Jenkins
Here’s to you, Geoff. Brewers fans all over miss your glove and bat in Miller Park.
Candidates- Scott Podsednik, Brady Clark, Gabe Kapler
Scott Podsednik was fast. Real fast. In only two seasons, he worked his way into fifth in franchise history in steals with 113. He led all of baseball with 70 steals in 2004, his second season in the bigs. In 2003, Podsednik was runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .314 and stealing 43 bases. I could go on for days about Scotty Pods, but I already did that for the HOVG Heroes project. Brady Clark’s most productive days as a player came during his tenure with the Brewers. Over four seasons, he batted .284/.361/.393, including posting the tenth-highest average in the National League in 2005 (.306). He had great range in the outfield, finishing as the top UZR player at his position in 2003, ’04, and ’05. Gabe Kapler was an intrical part to the 2008 Wild Card team. After taking a year off from the MLB in 2007, he had a career revitalization during his one season with Milwaukee. He started 43 games and appeared in 96 while batting .301 with eight homers and 38 RBI. Kapler was a jolt of energy off the bench. He drew the admiration of Brewers fans with his work ethic and ability to answer when called upon. The highlight of his career with the Brewers came when he snapped an 0-6 day with a walk-off homer off the left field pole to give the Brewers a 5-4 victory in 13 innings.
Winner- Scott Podsednik
Out of the three candidates, Podsednik was the best player while with the Brewers, most liked among fans (yes, including “Scotty’s Hotties”), and went on to most productive after his time in Milwaukee. He hit a walk-off homer in the 2005 World Series, a year in which he was also an All Star. He rocked the eye black and high socks and was a stolen base machine while roaming center field at Miller Park.
Candidates- Jeromy Burnitz, Matt Stairs, Nelson Cruz
Jeromy Burnitz was pretty much the love of my grandmother’s life in his time with the Brewers and gets a strong vote from the likability department. A little nugget on Jeromy: he’s the only player to receive both AL and NL MVP votes as a Brewer–a fact that is only as impressive as you want it to be. The only problem with those stellar 1997, ’98, and ’99 propose is that…they happened in the 90’s and, technically, this is a team of the 2000s. His production slipped off in 2000 and ’01, batting a combined .240 over the seasons, but still hitting 65 homers and driving in 198 runs. Matt Stairs made a living off of hitting lots of baseballs really far and received a nomination from @fevankeyzi on Twitter. 20 percent of hits were home runs over a career that spanned 19 years and a Major League record-tying 12 teams. In 2002, his lone season with the Brewers, Stairs had 66 hits, 16 of which were homers (nearly 25 percent). He was fun to watch on a team that wasn’t so fun to even follow loosely and holds a place in my baseball heart for hitting the first professional homer I ever saw (even though it was as a member of the Cubs…). Nelson Cruz gets a big fat zero towards his case on the team as a fan favorite. This isn’t a knock against Cruz; it’s hard to have an impression on a fan base in the seven at-bats he had with the team before being traded to Texas along with Carlos Lee in a trade I would rather not discuss. He has been hampered by injuries in Texas, but has 96 homers in only 494 games dating back to 2009 and straight up mashed during the 2011 postseason. Cruz was 8-22 (.364) with six homers–including a walk off grand slam–and 13 RBI during the ALCS against Detroit and was named MVP of the series. In 33 postseason games he has 14 homers and 27 RBI with a .687 slugging percentage. And we wanted Kevin Mench.
Winner- Nelson Cruz
The outfielder the Brewers received when they traded Cruz away was Kevin Mench, who made the Brewers We Won’t Miss team. And after turning into one of the game’s top slugging outfielder, Cruz had given Brewers fans good reason to wish he was still around. Imagine if he had been around for our LCS instead of Texas’. The outcome may have been completely different. Rest assured, Burnitz will still make the team as a reserve, but a technicality allows Cruz to get the starting nod.
1B–Richie Sexson-Come on, I’m not leaving that power right-handed bat off my bench. Anyone else miss moments like when his huge Miller Park Opener game-winning homer or when he hit the flag pole in Houston?
1B-Lyle Overbay– Oooooooooooooooo would be the first left handed bat I’d call on to pinch hit unless I need a homer (see below). Fan favorite and productive, can’t keep him off.
3B-Russell Branyan-Apologies to all Jeff Cirillo fans, but not even Fielder hit balls as far as Russell The Muscle. Chicks dig the long ball, man.
RF-Jeromy Burnitz-Even while hitting .231, Burnitz drove in 100 runs. Props. Much like Jenkins, the fans loved him and how could he be left off the roster?
Candidates- Jeff D’Amico, Jamey Wright, Ben Sheets, Doug Davis, Tomo Ohka, Chris Capuano, David Bush, CC Sabathia
Rotation (by order)
1. LHP CC Sabathia– Just as with Prince, I’d be crazy to say I don’t miss CC. I’ll still argue he threw a no hitter (curse you, Bob Webb) and the carried the 2008 team to the Playoffs on his left arm alone. Possibly the gutsiest start in Brewers history came from Sabathia on the final day of that season against the Cubs when he got the team their first postseason berth since 1982.
2. RHP Ben Sheets– We don’t miss the injuries, but, Sheets was the best pitcher on the team year-after-year. His record doesn’t truly reflect what his 3.72 era and league-leading strikeout totals proved for him as a pitcher. And with the way he’s come back with Atlanta (2-0, 0.00 era) we would still take him back.
3. LHP Chris Capuano– Cappy was two wins away from becoming the fourth Brewers pitcher to win 20 games in a season in 2005 and was an All Star in 2006 before a second Tommy John surgery halted his career. After two years away from baseball, Capuano came back with the Brewers and is now 10-5 with a 2.81 era with the Dodgers. Yet another pitcher the team would like in the rotation.
4. LHP Doug Davis- By popular demand, Davis makes the team. He won 37 games over three consistent seasons with Milwaukee (let’s forget about his attempted 2010 return). He was the slowest-working pitcher the game has ever seen, I swear, but his name was mentioned more times on Twitter than any other former Brewer, so laissez-faire, Milwaukee.
5. RHP Jamey Wright– This one’s completely at the request of Brewers Senior Manager of Marketing Caitlin Moyer from over at John & Cait…Plus Nine. Back in the day, the Brewers didn’t carry a Jamey Wright tee-shirt, so Caitlin went on ahead and ordered a custom-made shirt of the guy with the “Wright stuff”. The more you know.
Candidates- David Weathers, Chad Fox, Curtis Leskanic, Mike DeJean, Dan Kolb, Mike Adams, Grant Balfour, Francisco Cordero, Brian Shosue, Salomon Torres, Trevor Hoffman, Todd Coffey, Takashi Saito, LaTroy Hawkins
RHP Curtis Leskanic– Before his fame in the 2004 ALCS with Boston, Leskanic was mowing down batters with the Brewers. His swag was on infinity when he wore the double zero jersey in 2000 and 2001. His nine wins in 2000 were good enough for third on the team (and he didn’t even start a game) to go along with a 2.56 era. Was 15-9 overall with a 3.01 era and 29 saves in three years with the team.
RHP Brooks Kieschnik– The legend of Brooks Kieschnik was almost too good to be true. He bashed eight homers, seven of which came in 2003, drove in 19 runs, and posted .286/.340/.496 slash stats over two seasons with the Crew. And had a 4.59 era in 96 innings. He hit more homers in 70 at-bats in 2003 than he gave up in 53 innings to actual, full-time, their-only-job-is-to-hit hitters. There’s no way he wasn’t making the team.
RHP Danny Kolb– I contemplated putting Kolb in the closer’s role on the team because he was simply lights out in his tenure with the Brewers. In his All Star season of 2004, he set the then-franchise record for single season saves with 39 and amounted 61 in two years as the team’s closer. He had a 2.55 era during his time as closer in 2003 and ’04 before coming back in 2006 as a middle reliever. Plus, he signed my glove as a third grader, which is pretty flippin’ neat.
RHP Grant Balfour– He issued “Ball-Four” (greatest name for a reliever ever?) to four batters over 2.2 innings with the Brewers in 2007, got lit up for a 20.25 era, was traded to Tampa Bay, and, like Adams, became one of the game’s top relievers. He nearly won a World Series ring with the Rays the year after being traded when he went 6-2 with a miniscule 1.54 era. Currently, he has a 2.93 era as a key member in the bullpen for the surging Oakland Athletics. Want him back, maybe?
LHP Brian Shouse– The man who brought “Shout”by Tears for Fear to Miller Park was also a great lefty specialist. The submaring-throwing lefty posted a 3.18 era over three seasons and was a master at stranding inherited runners. Plus, did I mention he had an epic intro song?
RHP Todd Coffey- Coffey probably could have made the team simply because of his likability. At 240 lbs, he would sprint onto the mound from the bullpen to a standing ovation at Miller Park every time his number was called. His 7.1 scoreless frames down the stretch in 2008 pushed the team to the Playoffs. Coffey followed that up with four wins and a 2.90 era in 83.2 innings in 2009, sprinting all the while.
Set Up- RHP Mike Adams– Adams had a 3.54 era in just 68.2 innings with the Brewers from 2004-06 before being traded for Geremi
Gonzalez (again, can we not discuss that trade?). Now he is one of the game’s top set-up men with a career 2.20 era and coming off a 1.47 era last season with San Diego and Texas. Anybody else wish we had kept him?
Set Up- RHP Francisco Cordero– CoCo may enter to boo’s at Miller Park now (though I’m not too sure why, unless we’re also going to boo Prince), but broke Kolb’s saves record when he saved 44 games in 2007 for the first Brewers team above .500 since 1992. He saved 60 games in a season and a half with a 2.60 and 1.18 WHIP. He was dynamite while with the Brewers before signing with Cincinnait, where his success continued.
Closer- RHP Trevor Hoffman- For two seasons, Trevor Time came to Milwaukee as the Brewers were lucky enough to have the all-time saves leader on their team (until Mariano Rivera passed him up in 2011), and he enjoyed one of his best seasons ever in 2009. Hoffman was an All Star that season as he posted a 1.83 era and 37 saves. He came on to a standing ovation and roars to his famed entrance music, AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells”. After a rough 2010, the fan-favorite Hoffman was able to record his 600th save, becoming the first player to ever do so. One of the game’s greatest closers of all-time gets the nod to close for this team, as it shouldn’t be any other way.
3B Hairston, Jr.
*Okay, okay. So I cheated. There are 26 guys on the team. Not 25. But I couldn’t leave on Brooks Kieschnick, so I gave in and 26 are on the team! But have no fear, Ben Sheets will get injured soon, go on the DL, and we’ll be back down to 25 in no time.
Comments? Questions? Queries? Posers? Anyone you felt was short-changed or forgotten? Leave your thoughts in the newly styled comments section below or tweet your thoughts to me (@CurtKnowsBest–I’m six followers away from 600, help a brother out!).