By now, you’ve probably seen several different “Best Brewers Ever” lists based on a number of different themes. But did you expect to see one based on the greatest basketball player who ever lived?
Sports-starved fans were given a treat last month when ESPN released its highly-anticipated documentary “The Last Dance” earlier than originally planned. The series follows the legendary Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls as they attempt to win their sixth NBA championship.
The Last Dance documentary also covers the period where Jordan briefly stepped away from basketball to pursue a career as a baseball player. He had mixed results in his sole season with the Birmingham Barons, the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. While he began the year with a 13-game hitting streak, he stole 30 bases, but hit just .202 for the team.
But don’t let that distract you from the fact that Jordan has gone down as, arguably, the greatest basketball player of all time. So in honor of him and the current hottest sports show on television, here are four All-Time, Last Dance-themed players to suit up for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Best Brewer to wear No. 23 – Ted Simmons
A case could be made for both Ted Simmons and Rickie Weeks if looking at just their tenure as Milwaukee Brewers. The two had a similar OPS+ while playing for the Crew (100 for Simmons vs 105 for Weeks) and while Simmons held the edge in batting average (.262 to .249), Weeks wins in OBP (.347 to .311) and slugging (.425 to .399).
However, Simmons is the one who can match Jordan with the title of Hall of Famer. Perhaps that’s because over a 21-year career, he compiled a bWAR of 50.3, was an eight-time All-Star, won a Silver Slugger, and finished in the Top 20 in the MVP voting seven times.
Best Brewer to wear No. 45 – Carlos Lee
Carlos Lee certainly made the most of his limited time in Milwaukee. “El Caballo” slashed .288/.333/.511 with a 115 OPS+ in just over a year and a half in a Brewer uniform while slugging 60 dingers and driving in 195 in that short time span. The big righty made the All-Star game both years in Milwaukee and won a Silver Slugger as a Brewer as well.
Honorable mention probably goes to fellow slugger Rob Deer, who was the epitome of boom or bust while at the plate. While he batted just .229 and led the league in strikeouts in two of his five seasons as a Brewer, he had a very respectable .779 OPS and 112 OPS+ in Milwaukee and never slugged less than 23 home runs in a season for the team.
Best Brewer named Michael (or Mike) – Mike Caldwell
You could go in a few directions here. Mike Moustakas had a great run as a Brewer over 2019 and part of 2018, compiling a OPS of .824 in that time bashing 35 homers last year alone. Mike Fiers had a solid start to his career in Milwaukee with a 3.66 ERA and 9.2 K/9 over parts of five seasons.
But the nod here goes to Mike Caldwell. The lefty had decent career numbers with a 3.74 ERA and 1.284 WHIP in eight seasons as a Brewer. His 1978 season was a real eye-opener, though, as he went 22-9 with a 2.36 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 1.064 WHIP, and a 8.2 bWAR that is still the second-highest ever for a Brewers pitcher. He fell just short that year of earning the first Cy Young in franchise history, finishing second behind the Yankees’ Ron Guidry.
Best Brewer named Jordan – Jordan Lyles
This one was by far the easiest pick. That’s because Jordan Lyles is the only Brewer in team history to ever have the first or last name Jordan! The right-hander pitched parts of two seasons in 2018 and 2019 for the Brewers and really embraced the Jordan name by wearing No. 23 in his second stint with the Crew.
Lyles always seemed to summon his best performances for when he donned a Milwaukee uniform. His 2.64 ERA and 1.147 WHIP in 22 games as a Brewer are far lower than the 5.00+ ERA and 1.40+ WHIP he’s compiled in each of his other four career stops. And in 2019 in particular, the Brewers went 9-2 in games in which he appeared.
The Last Dance documentary series has helped sports fans get through this stretch where we have no sports at all, but hopefully we’re moving closer and closer to sports returning soon.