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Brewers' Top 5 second basemen: McCalvy's take

@AdamMcCalvy
April 7, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debates purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, feel free to let the reporter know on Twitter.

Here is Adam McCalvy’s ranking of the top 5 second basemen in Brewers history.

1) Jim Gantner, 1976-92
Key fact: No. 17 is not formally retired, but the Brewers have not issued it to anyone since

Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Jim Gantner played together for 15 years, the longest tenure for a trio of teammates in Major League history until the Yankees’ Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera broke the mark in 2010. Two of the Brewers’ trio wound up in the Hall of Fame. The other was a 12th-round Draft pick from central Wisconsin, the son of a factory worker who took a blue-collar approach to playing big league baseball. Gantner was famously feisty, often tangling with opponents on the field and sometimes in the barroom. He batted .274 in his career, and while he didn’t hit for much power -- Gantner’s homer off Oakland’s Dave Stewart on Sept. 3, 1991, was his first since ’87, spanning 1,762 at-bats and 544 games -- Gantner became a steady hand at second base thanks in part to a strong throwing arm he’d honed as a boy playing catcher.

“I don’t think Jimmy would mind me saying that he was an overachiever,” Molitor said. “He went on to have a very good, very consistent career. He was fearless at second base. And he got a lot of big hits for us over the years. One of the most enjoyable things about my career is that I got to spend all 15 years with him and Robin.”

All-time Brewers rankings: First basemen | Catchers

2) Rickie Weeks, 2003, '05-14
Key fact: Top 10 in franchise history in games, runs, extra-base hits, total bases, stolen bases

The Brewers drafted him second overall in 2003 -- Delmon Young went first to Tampa Bay -- and Rickie Weeks Jr. joined a crop of Milwaukee Minor Leaguers that already included J.J. Hardy, Corey Hart and old friend Prince Fielder, another product of the Orlando area. The two had played travel ball together and quickly resumed a friendship that advanced to Double-A, Triple-A and then the Major Leagues, having lots of success as a group before uniting in Milwaukee to help the Brewers end a decades-long slump.

Whether Weeks reached the sky-high expectations that accompany such a high Draft position remains a matter of debate. But he was a capable and dangerous leadoff man -- Weeks’ .347 on-base percentage is 10th in franchise history among players with at least 2,500 at-bats; and his 148 home runs rank 12th -- atop a lineup that was one of the National League’s best in the late 2000s. And while he didn’t have Gantner’s longevity or defensive skill, Weeks did bring similar toughness.

“People don’t give Rickie so much credit,” said former teammate Martín Maldonado, “but Rickie should have a lot of credit over here.”

3) Fernando Viña, 1995-99
Key fact: Ranks 19th in MLB history with 157 hit-by-pitches

Fernando Viña made his only All-Star Game in 1998, the year he slashed .311/386/.427 with a career-high 39 doubles and a 114 adjusted OPS. It was the best of Viña’s five years with the Brewers before a trade to the Cardinals in a regrettable deal that netted Juan Acevedo, Eliezer Alfonzo and Matt Parker. Viña won a couple of Gold Glove Awards in St. Louis before finishing his 12-year big league career in Detroit.

But nothing he did gained more notoriety than the eighth inning on May 31, 1996, when Viña fielded a grounder in a game against the Indians and went to tag Albert Belle between first and second base in hopes of starting a double play. Belle lowered his right shoulder and sent Viña sprawling to the dirt. It was a magnified version of a similar play five innings earlier, when Belle was chided by then-Indians first-base coach (and later Brewers coach, television analyst and front-office official) Dave Nelson for not doing more to break up a double play. Belle was suspended and fined by the American League for the incident.

4) Scooter Gennett, 2013-16
Key fact: Full name is Ryan Joseph Gennett; “Scooter” came from the TV show “Muppet Babies”

Among players who appeared in at least 300 games as the Brewers’ second baseman, only Paul Molitor -- for the purposes of this exercise, we’re considering Molitor at third base -- and Weeks had an OPS superior to Scooter Gennett’s .744 while manning the position. Yet the Brewers waived Gennett during 2017 Spring Training because they felt covered on the middle infield with Orlando Arcia and Jonathan Villar, only to watch Gennett hit 50 home runs and log an .859 OPS over the next two seasons in Cincinnati.

5) Ronnie Belliard, 1998-02
Key fact: First Brewers hitter to step to home plate in a regular-season game at Miller Park

Belliard was the Brewers’ eighth-round Draft pick in 1994 and proved a solid value, though his best years came after he left as a free agent following the 2002 season. Belliard is fourth in Brewers history with 416 games played as a second baseman.

Honorable mentions
We did not forget about Paul Molitor and Mark Loretta, who each played a good bit of second base during their years with Brewers. But Molitor made about twice as many appearances at third base in a Milwaukee uniform than at second, and Loretta played more than twice as many innings at shortstop. So they were each categorized at those other positions.

Pedro Garcia played in four seasons for the Brewers from 1973-76 and led the AL with 32 doubles in ’73.

An argument can be made to rank Willie Randolph ahead of Belliard and maybe even Gennett on the strength of one fantastic season in a Brewers uniform, 1991, when Randolph slashed .327/.424/.374 and was worth 4.0 fWAR, just ahead of Kirby Puckett, Cecil Fielder and Rickey Henderson.

Give Keston Hiura some time and he could appear on this list. His 19 home runs last season (in 348 plate appearances) were third-most for a Brewers rookie in franchise history.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.