By Douglas Farmer —
With twice the number of possibilities, New York City cannot claim it. Neither can Los Angeles, while Chicago, Dallas and Miami combine to fall three behind Milwaukee.
No, this isn’t about Miller, Milwaukee Ale and Pabst. Rather, it’s about Yelich, Giannis and Rodgers.
The Milwaukee area can claim three MVP-caliber players these days, an abundance of riches not only unprecedented in Wisconsin, but across the country. Not only in 2019, but arguably ever.
Brewers center fielder Christian Yelich won the 2018 National League MVP, and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo deserved the 2019 NBA MVP, awarded to either him or Houston Rockets guard James Harden a week before this issue hit the figurative newsstands. And, of course, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was named the NFL MVP in both 2011 and 2014, remaining a perennial candidate to win a third.
Houston and Boston come closest to matching this confluence of success, with Harden joined by Astros second baseman José Altuve, and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady remaining at the top of his game as Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts reaches his peak. If being generous, Los Angeles enjoys both Angels center fielder Mike Trout and Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, as well as Lakers forward LeBron James, but the latter two of those seem to have aged past genuine MVP-level seasons.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, may be the home of the best baseball player in the league, the best basketball player in the world and, in any given fall, the best football artist in the world.
A few moments in time have featured two such stars in one city, but never three. Los Angeles in the late ‘80s had both Magic Johnson and Kirk Gibson, and in the late ‘70s there were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Don Baylor (Angels left fielder). San Francisco watched Steve Young and Barry Bonds just five years after the times of Joe Montana and Kevin Mitchell (Giants left fielder). Boston’s most-memorable tandem of Larry Bird and Roger Clemens came nearly 30 years after Bill Russell and Jackie Jensen (Red Sox right fielder).
And now Milwaukee, with Yelich, Giannis and Rodgers.
Enjoy it while it lasts. Fortunately for Wisconsin sports fans, that may be more a reflection on the effects of aging than it is on contract situations.
Part of the reason the Brewers traded for Yelich a year ago was that he is under a team-friendly contract through 2022. It was not necessarily expected to be that friendly of a deal until he started performing like the player that earned 29 of 30 MVP votes. Giannis, meanwhile, signed a four-year, $100 million contract entering the 2017-18 season, recognized then as a discount, one that will carry through another two years, with him extension-eligible in the summer of 2020. And Rodgers is signed through 2023, when he will be 39, at an expensive rate, albeit one he has earned.
In other words, this unprecedented abundance of athletic prowess may stay congregated for another four years.
Individual players of such brilliance do not guarantee titles, but they certainly help the cause, and with that in mind, there should be continued reasons to lift a Miller, Milwaukee Ale or Pabst.
Douglas Farmer grew up in La Crosse, Wisconsin, before covering sports across the country with stops at The Los Angeles Times, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Dallas Morning News. He graduated from Aquinas High School in 2008 and from the University of Notre Dame in 2012, and now spends his professional time keeping an eye on the latter’s football team.