COMMENTARY | Opening day for the Milwaukee Brewers is oh so close, but first thing is first, we have some madness to endure. Even die-hard baseball fans must admit that there is no better time of the year than March Madness, when 68 college basketball teams duke it out for the ultimate prize.
The final days of the NCAA tournament will leak into the start of the baseball season, but the real madness takes place in the first few rounds of the tourney. And that got us thinking -- why can't the Milwaukee Brewers have their own miniature version of March Madness before we kick off the season?
The rules are simple: We'll pick the top eight Brewers of all time (admittedly, that's an entirely different argument), seed them one through eight, and have them square off until we declare the best player to ever put on a Brewers uniform.
Without further ado, let the madness begin.
(1) Robin Yount vs. (8) Geoff Jenkins
Just as a 16-seed has never defeated a 1-seed, Geoff Jenkins doesn't stand a chance going head-to-head with Robin Yount. Yount played his entire career with the Brewers, accumulating 3,142 hits and 251 HRs with Milwaukee. Jenkins nearly spent 10 of his 11 years in the big leagues with the Brewers, and he is near the top of several offensive categories with the franchise, but this one is no contest.
(2) Paul Molitor vs. (7) Teddy Higuera
Higuera gets the nod as the best Brewers starting pitcher of all time, but, unfortunately, he goes up against the No. 2 seed in Paul Molitor. The Ignitor spent 15 seasons in Milwaukee and helped lead the Brewers to the World Series in 1982. Like Jenkins, Molitor is at or near the top of just about every offensive category. The same goes for Higuera in terms of pitching, but just as in present day, the Brewers have always been known for their hitting, not their pitching. Molitor gets the nod here.
The one-two punch in the Brewers' lineup for five years, Braun and Fielder are now on different teams and different sides of this bracket. Braun hits better for average, but Fielder has more power. Both have finished in the top four of MVP voting three times. Fielder has spent one more season in Milwaukee, but Braun will spend many more there and has a better career WAR and OPS. When averaging every major statistic by year, Braun comes out on top in this matchup.
(4) Cecil Cooper vs. (5) Rollie Fingers
Old school versus old school faces off here, as Cecil Cooper's ability to hit for power and average goes up against the greatest pitcher to ever play for Milwaukee. Cooper hit above .300 and just over 200 HRs in his 11-year career as a Brewer and can claim perhaps the most famous hit in franchise history. Fingers played only four seasons for Milwaukee, but he won an MVP and a Cy Young in 1981 while putting together one of the most dominant seasons by a reliever to this day. But injuries plagued Fingers and shortened his career with Milwaukee. As difficult of a decision as this is, no pitchers will make it past the first round.
(1) Robin Yount vs. (4) Cecil Cooper
Tough opponent here for Coop. No one will ever forget his Game 5 hit to put the Brewers in the lead against the California Angels and sent the Brewers to their first World Series appearance. And something has to be said for Cooper averaging a better average and home run total per season than Yount during his time in Milwaukee. But let's face the facts here -- Yount was a Brewer for 20 years. He's a Hall of Famer. Cooper will forever be remembered in Milwaukee, but The Kid moves on with relative ease.
(2) Paul Molitor vs. (3) Ryan Braun
This is perhaps the most intriguing matchup we'll see among Brewers greats -- and, yes, Ryan Braun is already a Brewers great despite only entering his seventh season with the club. He has the top batting average of all time for Milwaukee (Molitor is third) and is already fifth in home runs (Molitor is 10th). He has already led the Brewers to two playoff appearances, the same amount as Molly in nine fewer seasons. It's hard to project just how long and successful Braun's career will be when it's all said and done at this very moment, but, even right now, the Hebrew Hammer makes a very good case for himself. In our first upset of the tournament, the man on the path to the Hall of Fame defeats the man already in the HOF.
(1) Robin Yount vs. (3) Ryan Braun
Here it is. For all the marbles, Robin Yount and Ryan Braun go at it for the Brewers' March Madness title. We basically broke down every statistic, so we'll delve into moments and accolades.
In his 20-year career, Yount won two MVP Awards and joined the illustrious 3,000-hit club in 1992 in a tear-jerking moment at old County Stadium. Braun has come close to matching Yount in MVPs -- he has one and finished second in 2012 -- and can hang his hat on putting the Brewers in the playoffs in 2008 with a memorable 2-run home run that gave the entire state of Wisconsin goosebumps.
What Braun has accomplished in such a short period of time is incredible and certainly worth noting, but he needs more time to reach Yount's level of Milwaukee lore. In seven or eight years, this "finals" matchup may go the other way, but, right now, it's a fairly easy call to make.
Champion: Robin Yount
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who contains an unhealthy amount of knowledge about Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline and as a featured columnist among other sites and publications.
You can follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .
- Sports & Recreation
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Robin Yount
- Paul Molitor
- Ryan Braun
- Cecil Cooper