During the 50-plus year history of Brewers baseball in Milwaukee, there has been team success and individual success. The 2019 season was certainly one of those years. The Brewers, as a team, made the playoffs for consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1980s… Christian Yelich almost repeated his National League MVP season of 2018, but finished as the league runner-up in that award… and Craig Counsell for the second consecutive season finished second in the voting for N.L. Manager of the Year Award.
In 2020, a Brewers player took home one of the major awards when first-year reliever Devin Williams won the National League Rookie of the Year honor. Williams also finished tied for 18th in the N.L. MVP balloting, and was a Top Ten finisher in the N.L. Cy Young Award. Corbin Burnes also got some love when he finished sixth in the Cy Young vote. And the team made the playoffs for the third straight year, the first time in team history.
When it comes to the league MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year, the Brewers have had familiar names hoist these trophies at the end of a season. Brewers players Rollie Fingers, Robin Yount, Ryan Braun, Pete Vukovich, Pat Listach and the aforementioned Yelich all have their names etched on one (or more) of these end-of-the-year trophies.
Let’s take a look at these four individual awards and see how the Brewers have fared not only in terms of individuals winning the awards, but those who fell just a bit short and those who were at least in the conversation for these honors at years’ end. (The Milwaukee Brewers were in the American League from 1970 to 1997; in the National League from 1998 to today.)
Brewers league MVPs
Winners: Rollie Fingers (1981), Robin Yount (1982), Robin Yount (1989), Ryan Braun (2011), Christian Yelich (2018)
Runner-Up: Ryan Braun (2012), Christian Yelich (2019)
Top Five (3rd through 5th place) finish: Larry Hisle (3rd in 1978), Cecil Cooper (5th in 1980), Cecil Cooper (5th in 1982), Cecil Cooper (5th in 1983), Paul Molitor (5th in 1987), Prince Fielder (3rd in 2007), Ryan Braun (3rd in 2008), Prince Fielder (4th in 2009), Prince Fielder (3rd in 2011), Jonathan Lucroy (4th in 2014)
The Brewers were the first team to have American League MVP and Cy Young Award winners in back-to-back seasons. There have, however, been a handful of times when a team had a different player win the league MVP in three consecutive seasons. In the N.L., the Cincinnati Reds had three different MVPs in consecutive years (Ernie Lombardi, 1938, Bucky Walters, 1939 and Frank McCormick, 1940); the St. Louis Cardinals did it with Mort Cooper, 1942, Stan Musial, 1943 and Marty Marion, 1944. In the A.L., the Yankees did it… 1941-Joe DiMaggio, 1942-Joe Gordon and 1943-Spud Chandler. The last time it happened was in the early 1960s when the Yankees had Roger Maris as league MVP in 1961, Mickey Mantle in 1962 and Elston Howard in 1963.
Robin Yount is one of 31 players who have won the league MVP in more than one season. Barry Bonds tops this list with seven league MVP awards.
The Brewers have had nine different players finish in the Top 5 for a league MVP award. Three Brewers have finished in the league MVP Top 5 three different years: Cecil Cooper (1980, 1982, 1983), Prince Fielder (2007, 2009, 2011) and Ryan Braun (2008, 2011 and 2012).
Brewers league Rookie of the Year recipients
Winners: Pat Listach (1992), Ryan Braun (2007), Devin Williams (2020)
Runner-Up: Bill Parson (1971), Pedro Garcia (1973), Paul Molitor (1978), Teddy Higuera (1985), Scott Podsednik (2003)
Top Five (3rd through 5th place)finish: Darrell Porter (tied for 3rd in 1973), Ernest Riles (3rd in 1985), Don August (4th in 1988), Cal Eldred (4th in 1992), Casey McGehee (5th in 2009), Nori Aoki (5th in 2012)
Of the 43 Brewers players who finished in the Top 5 of the league Rookie of the Year voting, only three of those players played their entire careers with the Brewers. Braun has played all 13 of his MLB seasons with the Brew Crew; Teddy Higuera played all nine of his MLB seasons in Milwaukee; and Don August played only four years in the majors, all with the Brewers. Two Brewers on this rookie list, Scott Podsednik and Nori Aoki, played only two seasons with the Brewers.
There were three seasons where the Brewers placed two players in the Top 5 for the league Rookie of the Year: 1973-Garcia and Porter… 1985-Higuera and Riles… 1992-Listach and Eldred.
Brewers Cy Young winners
Winners: Rollie Fingers (1981), Pete Vukovich (1982)
Runner-Up: Mike Caldwell (1978), Teddy Higuera (1986)
Top Five (3rd through 5th place) finish: Pete Vukovich (4th in 1981), CC Sabathia (5th in 2008)
The Brewers are one of seven teams in history to have two different pitchers win the Cy Young Award in consecutive seasons. The seven: 1962-63,-Koufax/Drysdale (Dodgers), 1977-78-Lyle/Guidry (Yankees), 1979-80-Flanagan/Stone (Orioles), 1981-82-Fingers/Vukovich (Brewers), 1995-96-Maddox/Smoltz (Braves), 1996-97-Hentgen/Clemens (Blue Jays), 2007-08-Sabathia/Lee (Indians).
Sabathia is the only Brewers pitcher to ever finish in the Top 5 in Cy Young voting in the National League. There have been five Brewers pitchers who had Top 10 finishes in the N.L. Cy Young Award: Ben Sheets (tied for 8th in 2004), Yovani Gallardo (7th in 2011), John Axford (tied for 9th in 2011), Jimmy Nelson (tied for 9th in 2017), Josh Hader (7th in 2018).
Brewers Manager of the Year honorees
Runner-Up: Tom Trebelhorn (1987), Phil Garner (1992), Ron Roenicke (2011), Craig Counsell (2018), Craig Counsell (2019)
Top Five finish: Tom Trebelhorn (4th in 1988), Phil Garner (3rd in 1997), Ned Yost (5th in 2005), Craig Counsell (4th in 2017)
Counsell finished in the Top 5 for Manager of the Year in three straight years, 2017, 2018 and 2019. he finsihed 7th in last year’s voting.
The Brewers and Mets are the only two teams since the Manager of the Year Award was started in 1983 to have never had one of their managers win the award.
The two biggest additions the Brewers made to their roster this season were free agent acquisitions Kolton Wong and Jackie Bradley, Jr. Both are expected to play major roles when the Brew Crew takes the field in 2021. Both are former Gold Glovers and will hopefully add offense to the team’s lackluster offensive output in 2020.
Is it possible that Bradley and Wong, or one or the other, could represent the Brewers in the All-Star Game this season in their first year with the Brewers? Bradley, who was a mainstay for the Boston Red Sox for eight seasons in their outfield, was an American League All-Star in 2016. Wong, who played for the Cardinals for eight seasons, has never made the All-Star team, but he may be one of those players who is on the verge of becoming an All-Star.
Over the Brewers 50-plus year history, there have been 11 players who made the All-Star team in their first year with the Brewers; in fact, in the last two years when the All-Star Game was played (2018 and 2019), the Brewers had a first-year player who represented the team in the mid-season contest… in 2018, Christian Yelich was a Brewers all-star after coming over from the Miami Marlins, and in 2019, Yasmani Grandal represented the Brewers in the All-Star Game in his first (and only year) with the team.
Let’s take a quick look at the players who made the All-Star team in their first season with the Brewers.
1975: Hank Aaron… Aaron returned to Milwaukee to play for the Brewers after a lengthy career with the Braves. He was traded to the Brew Crew in a November, 1974 swap and was an American League all-star selection in ’75. He eventually retired after the 1976 campaign.
1978: Larry Hisle… Hisle came to the Brewers as a free agent and had his best season with the Brewers (of the five he played in Milwaukee). The ASG selection that year was the second of his career.
1981: Ted Simmons… This was the first of two ASG appearances with the Brewers for Simmons, who came to the team in a trade with the Cardinals.
1981: Rollie Fingers… Also a part of the trade with the Cardinals that brought Simmons to Milwaukee, Fingers in 1981 had a career season with the Brewers winning the league Cy Young and MVP.
1984: Jim Sundberg… Sundberg came to the Brewers in a trade with Texas and made the All-Star team in his one and only season with the Crew. He was traded the following year to the Kansas City Royals.
1990: Dave Parker… “The Cobra” was another “one and done” player with the Brewers, but he had 21 HRs and 92 RBI as the team’s DH and was a Brewers ASG selection that year. That ASG was the last of the seven in his career. He was traded to the Angels for the ’91 season.
2001: Ben Sheets… Sheets is the only Brewers rookie to make an all-star team. The 2001 ASG was the first of his four ASG appearances.
2005: Carlos Lee… Lee came to Brewers from the White Sox in a trade and hit 32 HRs and had 114 RBI. The ASG selection that season with the first of his three ASG appearances.
2009: Trevor Hoffman… After a long, storied career with the Padres, Hoffman ended up with the Brewers in ’09 via the free agency route. He made the ASG that first year with the Brew Crew and then retired after the 2010 season.
2018: Christian Yelich… 2018 was a dream season for Yelich; his first ASG selection and then a National League MVP Award. The Brewers got Yelich in a trade with the Miami Marlins.
2019: Yasmani Grandal… The veteran Los Angeles Dodgers catcher signed a free agent deal with the Brewers for 2019 and made the ASG for the team. He became another “one-and-player” for the club when he signed a free agent deal with the White Sox for the 2020 season.
If you are an avid baseball fan, you likely know the famous Abbott and Costello bit of “Who’s on First?” Who is the first baseman and I Don’t Know is the third baseman in this legendary skit.
Entering this season, there was a lot of question about who was on first and what player would be stationed at third base for the Milwaukee Brewers for the 2021 season. Once the Brewers signed free agent second baseman Kolton Wong, the general consensus was that Keston Huira would be moving from his spot at second base and would become the team’s first sacker. Third base was more of an open question. Luis Arias was the favorite for that spot, but just before the start of spring training, the team inked former third baseman Travis Shaw to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training with the parent club.
All of this being said, the question still remains: Who is on first? And who is going to play third?
Since the 2010 season through last year, the Brewers have had 50 different players play first base; in that same timeframe, they have seen 45 players over at third base. Long gone are the days when Cecil Cooper, George Scott, Richie Sexson, or even John Jaha, would be a fixture at first base; or how about Jeff Cirillo, Paul Molitor, Don Money or Sal Bando handing the third base chores for multiple season for the Brew Crew?
Time will tell how the first base and third base situation shakes out for the Brewers. But here’s a quick question for you: Can you name the five players who have played the most games at third base for the Brewers since 2010? How about the five players who have played the most games at third base for the team since 2010?
Here’s a look at the Brewers players who played the most games at first and third from 2010-2020.
Prince Fielder, 319
Jesus Aguilar, 269
Eric Thames, 242
Chris Carter, 15
Adam Lind, 138
Aramis Ramire, 423
Travis Shaw, 321
Casey McGehee, 300
Hernan Perez, 200
Mike Moustakas, 157