I was scrolling through Brewers Twitter a couple of days ago when I came across a name that I haven’t seen in years…Jeff Cirillo. Naturally, I went straight to baseball-reference to remember just how good Cirillo was in Milwaukee. The numbers were good, actually, let me rephrase that, they were great. This Jeff Cirillo deep dive brought me to another article on MLB.com written by Will Leitch where he documented every single team’s best player from the 90s. On the list, there were names like Cal Ripken Jr., Roger Clemens, Bernie Williams, Kenny Lofton, Frank Thomas, Rickey Henderson, Ken Griffey Jr., and countless more stars. For the Brewers, Jeff Cirillo was named Milwaukee’s greatest player of the 1990s to which I have no qualms with.
The question is, why isn’t Jeff Cirillo remembered among the Brewer community as one of the greatest in franchise history even though his numbers speak for themselves. Most likely, it’s because the 90s were the beginning of the “dark days” in Brewers history that didn’t end until C.C. Sabathia brought the city to the playoffs in 2008. However, that shouldn’t take away from what Cirillo was able to do as the face of the franchise from 1995 through 1999.
From 1995 through 1999, Cirillo played in 750 games for the Brewers and hit a remarkable .311 with an OPS of .845. He made 1 All-Star game in 1997 but some would argue that he should have made it in 96’, 98, AND 99’. Also, during this time he was one of the best defensive third basemen in the entire league. It’s ridiculous that he wasn’t able to obtain even one Gold Glove Award. Jeff Cirillo was being snubbed all throughout the 90s making him one of the most under appreciated Brewers of All-Time.
After the 2007 season, Jeff Cirillo retired and put a stamp on a very productive career. In his 14-year career, Cirillo played 8 season in Milwaukee. He played in 978 games and registered 1,000 hits while batting .307 with an OBP of .383 and an OPS of .831. He also hit 73 homers, drove in 418 RBIs, and hit 217 doubles which is more doubles than Hall of Famer, Ralph Kiner, hit in his entire career. He finished his career 6th All-Time in Brewers history in WAR for position players. 6th All-Time in OPS, 7th in doubles, and 2nd All-Time in OBP only behind Prince Fielder. Finally, Jeff Cirillo is the Brewers franchise All-Time leader in batting average, a whole 4 points higher than Paul Molitor.
When people think of some of the greatest Brewers of All-Time obviously the “Big 3” come to mind. Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, and Ryan Braun but it’s in the next tier of greats where Cirillo should be mentioned. Right now, the most known second tier players include Geoff Jenkins, Cecil Cooper, and Don Money but Jeff Cirillo needs to be thrown in with these guys. Even though he played in the “dark days” of Brewers baseball, Jeff Cirillo needs to be remembered by the Milwaukee community, not only as underrated, but as one of the greatest players in franchise history.