The Brewers have, historically, been able to maintain a reliable presence at short stop. When Jose Valentin was traded ahead of the 2000 season, Jose Hernandez was brought in to replace him. While Hernandez made an All-Star team, it was clear he was not the long-term solution at short. That honor would go to the young JJ Hardy. In this edition of Brewers Past and Present, we highlight the career of one of the most popular Brewers of the mid-late 2000s.
JJ Hardy’s Minor League Career
JJ Hardy was drafted by the Brewers in the second round of the 2001 amateur draft. Along with Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks, he formed a trio of exciting prospects that gave long-suffering Brewers fans something to look forward to. In his first season of professional ball, Hardy hit .248/.321/.352 with two home runs and 16 RBI.
In 2002, at the age of 19, Hardy spent time going between A+ and AA ball. He had showed a lot of improvement at the plate, hitting .273/.309/.375 with seven home runs and 61 RBI. Hardy enjoyed two more productive seasons in the minors, playing with AA in 2003 and AAA in 2004. What impressed scouts and the Brewers the most about Hardy, though, was his defense at short stop. Everyone was certain the Brewers had a future Gold Glove winner on their hands.
JJ Hardy’s Brewers Career
JJ Hardy broke into the Big Leagues in 2005. During his rookie season, he hit .247/.327/.384 with nine home runs and 50 RBI. The following year, he suffered an awful ankle injury sliding into home plate against the Giants. The injury limited him to just 35 games. Hardy, though, surged back in 2007. In his first career All-Star season, Hardy hit .277/.323/.463 with 26 home runs and 80 RBI. JJ had established himself as one of the premier shortstops in baseball.
The next season, 2008, Hardy and the core of young Brewers broke the organization’s 26-year playoff drought. Hardy was a key factor in their success, hitting .283/.343/.478 with 24 home runs and 76 RBI. Unfortunately, the 2009 season saw Hardy’s bat show significant decline. It was so poor, that he was optioned to AAA Nashville during the season. He was recalled before season’s end, but only hit .229/.302/.357 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI.
Following his disappointing 2009 season, the Brewers traded Hardy to the Minnesota Twins for Carlos Gomez. JJ played 101 games for the Twins in 2010, but missed significant time due to injury. His batting average climbed to .268, but it was not enough to convince the Twins to hold on to him. He was traded to Baltimore for prospects after the season.
Baltimore, though, is where Hardy would reach the potential that so many believed he had during his days with Milwaukee. In 2011, he hit a career-high 30 home runs. From 2012-2014, Hardy won three straight Gold Glove Awards. In 2013, he hit .263/.306/.433 with 25 home runs and 76 RBI. In addition to the Gold Glove, he also added his second career All-Star selection and a Silver Slugger Award. Unfortunately, JJ had several injury-plagued seasons following that campaign and had to retire in 2017.
During his time with the Brewers, JJ Hardy was easily one of the most popular players among fans. His steady defense wowed teammates, coaches, and fans alike. The role he played in building a winning culture on a team that had lost for so long is not something that is easily forgotten. In honor of his contributions, the Brewers added Hardy to the Wall of Honor last year, alongside Rickie Weeks and Trevor Hoffman.
More Brewers Past and Present
- Rickie Weeks
- Orlando Arcia
- Jeff Cirillo
- Cecil Cooper
- Paul Molitor
- Justin Smoak
- Ben Sheets
- Bob Uecker
- Keston Hiura
- Josh Hader
- Ted Simmons
- Gorman Thomas
- Pete Vuckovich
- Rollie Fingers
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