Our next featured player in our ongoing Past and Present series is former Brewers’ ace, Ben Sheets. Ben Sheets was the overwhelming winner of a Twitter poll for the next player to be highlighted here, beating out Mark Loretta, Charlie Moore, and Orlando Arcia. Below, we will highlight the career of one of the best starting pitchers in Brewers’ history.
Minor League Career
Ben Sheets was drafted by the Brewers with the tenth overall pick in the 1999 draft. He only pitched in seven games in the ’99 season in the minors, recording a record of 1-1 with a 4.04 ERA. The 2000 season, though, is when Sheets’ star began to rise. Sheets went 8-8 with a 2.40 ERA and 119 strikeouts in stints between AA Huntsville and AAA Indianapolis. His domination in the minors, though, was not his most impressive baseball accomplishment that year.
Ben Sheets: Olympic Gold Medalist
In 2000, the United States selected Ben Sheets to represent the country in the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Sheets, along with other minor league players and older semi-retired players, stunned the baseball world by winning the Gold Medal against Cuba. The team, reminiscent of the Major League Cleveland Indians, was not expected to do well. Tommy Lasorda, 73 years old at the time, was selected as manager in May of that year. The team’s catcher, Pat Borders, had been the World Series MVP eight years earlier in 1992. Roy Oswalt and Doug Mientkiewicz were young up-and-comers who were not on a 40-man roster yet.
The player who shined the most was Ben Sheets, who only allowed one run in 22 innings during the Games. His most important game was the Gold Medal game against Cuba. Sheets pitched a three-hit shutout to deliver the Americans a 4-0 victory. Mientkiewicz, who recorded the final out of the 2004 Red Sox World Series victory that ended their curse, said the 2000 Olympic experience with Sheets and the others was the best of his career.
Ben Sheets’s Brewers Career
Been Sheets made his Major League debut with the Brewers in 2001. He went 11-10 with a 4.76 ERA and made his first All-Star team. After leading the league with 16 losses in 2002 (one of the Brewers’ worst seasons ever as a franchise) and an average 2003, Ben Sheets exploded in 2004. Sheets made his second All-Star team, went 12-14 with a 2.70 ERA, and had a team record 264 strikeouts. In addition, Sheets finished eighth in Cy Young voting that year.
The highlight of the 2004 season was the May 16 victory over the Atlanta Braves at Miller Park. Milwaukee’s lineup featured current manager Craig Counsell at shortstop, Geoff Jenkins, Bill Hall, and Lyle Overbay. The star of the 4-1 victory, though, was Sheets. Ben Sheets tossed a complete game that day, walking one, and striking out 18 Braves. The lone run he surrendered, a solo shot to Andruw Jones, was the only blemish on his day. The 18 strikeouts remain a Brewers’ single-game record.
Ben Sheets best two-year stretch was the Brewers was the 2007 and 2008 seasons. He was an All-Star in both seasons and went 25-14 combined with a combined ERA of 3.46. Injuries, though, would get the best of Sheets. 2008 was his last season with the Brewers. After missing all of 2009, Sheets pitched for one season with the Oakland Athletics. He did not play in the Majors in 2010, but spent 2011 with the Atlanta Braves. He retired following the 2011 season.
Ben Sheets’s Brewers Legacy
Ben Sheets won 86 games as a Brewer, the sixth most in team history. His 1,206 strikeouts are second in team history to Yovani Gallardo’s 1,226. His 3.72 ERA as a Brewer is also sixth best in team history. In 2014, Sheets was a member of inaugural group of former Brewers selected to the Brewers’ Wall of Honor. Joining Sheets were Brewers’ legends Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Don Sutton, Bob Uecker, and Ted Simmons.
Sheets was a brilliant starting pitcher, but injuries cut short what could have been an even more brilliant career. Regardless, Sheets was a rare bright spot on many bad Brewers’ teams and he provided fans with many memories that are etched into Brewers’ history forever.
More Brewers Past and Present
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