Wednesday, November 7, 2007
A part of my blogging deficiency can certainly be traced to the arrival of my beautiful daughter, Darian. Another part can simply be blamed on the fact that I hate admitting when I am wrong.
But it happens. Even the wisest of sports fans, the savviest of fantasy sports players, and the cagiest of armchair quarterbacks are wrong at times. And never let it be said that I’m not man enough to admit when I’ve erred. I was wrong about John Jaha becoming a perennial all-star. I was wrong about Ron Dayne becoming the next Jerome Bettis. I was wrong about the greatness of Cop Rock. And I was wrong about Yi.
So there. I’ve said it. But I do want to remind my seven readers that I never questioned Yi’s talent. What I questioned was Yi’s desire to play for the Milwaukee Bucks. And I questioned Harris’ continual arrogance in thinking that he could call Yi’s agent’s bluff. But he was right. And now that I’ve seen Yi play, I understand why the gamble was more than worth taking.
Now, we need to be very clear about this—Yi is probably not going to win Rookie of the Year, or put up dominating stat lines that get him noticed nationally (meaning within the U.S.) right away. He’s raw, and he still looks lost on the court at times. But there’s something about the kid that forces you to keep your eyes on him whenever he steps away from the scorer’s table...
So last night, as the Bucks were throttling the Raptors, I lied on the couch with my wonderfully fussy daughter on my chest…
(By the way, I don’t want to get overly sentimental because this is a sports blog after all, but I can’t begin to describe how great a feeling it is to have your own child cradled next to you. Those of you that are fathers already know exactly what I mean. Even as I type this I’m trying to think of something to compare it to, and I keep coming up short. Like the adrenaline of a big sports win or the high of a first kiss, it’s something that has a special feeling all to itself. So for those of you who are not fathers, I strongly recommend you go and knock somebody up. Immediately.
I also want to stress that I’ve decided that I’m never using the phrase “sleep like a baby” EVER again. Just not going to do it. I’ve only recently realized that it’s a phrase I’ve overused in the past. And on top of that--I was using it incorrectly. Because you know, I’d go out and play some basketball or some serious racquetball and as the last ounce of fluid would drip out of my body in a sweat saltier than the Pacific, I’d let out a sigh and say, “man, I’m gonna sleep like a baby tonight.” But I can assure you that I was not intending to imply that I would be sleeping only in two and a half hour intervals as I demanded something to eat and as I filled my shorts with a mustard poop that would make the fine people at French’s worry that they might be forced out of business. Nope. I didn’t mean that at all. So I’m not using the phrase ever again. I just thought you should know this.)
…and enjoyed the play of Yi Jianlian. As I discussed with my cable-lacking pal Brent (who is forced to either listen to the Bucks on the radio or watch as it’s updated on his computer), the thing about watching Yi play is that he is somehow able to show that he is playing hard and hustling with maximum effort, but at the same time manages to look graceful and effortless. Offensively, his footwork is well polished for a young (albeit, of an indeterminate age) player and even though he hasn’t truly found his shot yet, his form is a thing of beauty. It’s like watching a pure two-guard playing in a seven footer’s body. As Yi releases his shot, it’s like someone took Mark Price’s body and stretched him out to seven feet tall.
But even more impressive, is the way he hustles on the defensive end. Contrary to my draft day concerns, Yi’s not at all stiff or awkward. He really can defend more than just a chair. He has let a few guys blow by him on occasion, but he has also displayed much more physicality in the paint than I had expected, along with a much needed ability to alter shots. And he runs out and gets a hand in the face of shooters with a hustle that one can only hope is adopted by the entire team--a hustle that has been lacking in Milwaukee on the defensive side of the ball since Sidney Moncrief officially called it quits.
And, of course, on top of all of these intangibles, is that little extra element Yi adds in the way of revenue. When you consider that 100 million people in China tuned in for the Bucks/Bulls game you really start to grasp the economic impact that Yi could mean for the Bucks. There’s going to be a lot of Yi Jerseys sold in China. So many, in fact, that the fine people of China might deserve the naming rights of any future arena that may come Milwaukee’s way.
So yes, I now understand why Senator Kohl and Larry Harris wouldn’t back down. And I’m going to be patient as I enjoy Yi’s development. Because now I believe that this kid is destined for greatness…
That's right. I saw Yi play. And I'm a believer...
And there’s not a trace. Of doubt in my mind…
Monday, October 8, 2007
This is a good thing...because I'm torn.
You see, ever since the time I was a sophomore in high school, my first son was always going to be named Isiah. It was simply a given--Isiah Thomas Rosenthal. Or maybe Isiah David Rosenthal (named after my father, not the cold hearted son-of-a-gun who stole my No Sallies fantasy championship on Christmas Eve last year). I would even share this information with girls on first dates. (In retrospect, I'm now getting a sense as to why I wasn't more lucky with the ladies as an adolescent...) No ifs, and, or buts about it...My son was going to be "Isiah."
The problem is:now there's a "but."
You see, I'm a pretty simple sports fanatic, and I live by a couple of the simple rules of the sports fan. One is you never go and get a beer for a friend if he just referred to you as "beer bitch." (Unless of course you just lost a game and are therefore the official "beer bitch", in which case grabbing the beer is now mandatory.) Another is you never leave a ball game early, unless the starters have been removed. (Because if the coach has given up, any hope for that miraculous comeback has been shattered.) You never answer the phone during a Packer game. You never celebrate getting a foul ball if you picked it up off the ground. You never pee in the urinal right next to a guy, if there's an open urinal two or more spaces away.
(By the way, this last rule is an extremely important one in my book. I was traumatized in the eighth grade while peeing in the Middle school bathroom when our friend Metke stood two feet behind me and peed between my legs into my chosen urinal. As I hollered, "What the F are you doing?" he only laughed and said, "Stay still. We don't want to cross the streams." I felt like Batman in the old tv series, praying that the laser beam would not come close to me and slice at the inner side of my pants leg. "Will this be the end of our hero? Tune in tomorrow. Same bat time, same bat channel..." Miraculously, my jeans somehow remained dry, but to this day I break into a sweat any time the lines at Lambeau's urinals are four or five deep behind me. Because even though we're both in our mid-30s now, I have no doubt that if I met up with Metke in some arena's bathroom, he'd do the exact same thing today...)
And you never name your son after a man found guilty of sexual harassment.
As a kid, I had developed a knack at looking past Isiah's indiscretions. When he was accused of trying to orchestrate a freeze out of Michael Jordan at the all-star game, I chalked it up as a veteran trying to teach a young up-and-comer an important lesson. When he fell under fire for saying that Larry Bird would be just another ball player if he was black, I was quick to point out that Rodman had actually made that statement first, not Isiah. (He just agreed with it.)
And regardless of what was going on with Isiah Thomas the person at that time, all of it was forgotten whenever I was able to sit back and enjoy Isiah Thomas the ball player. Now, you can argue with me all you want, but nobody is going to ever convince me that there was a better player of his height than Zeke. What has always impressed me most about Isiah was his willingness to sacrifice his personal success for the success of the team. Many players will claim they are willing to do whatever it takes to win a championship. Few actually follow through. Isiah Thomas is one of the few exceptions.
Isiah could have been Allen Iverson before Allen Iverson was Allen Iverson. I have no doubt in my mind about this. As a matter of fact, I think he could have been an even more prolific scorer than Iverson because he was a better shooter, and could blow by any point guard who tried to defend him. (As a matter of fact, I remember my friends used to tease me that Isiah was only shooting 45% from the floor. It seems crazy now, considering how many times Iverson has failed to even hit 40%.) But Isiah knew (largely because Daley convinced him it was so) that in order to win championships he'd have to focus on making his teammates better. And he did just that. Oh, he'd still score. But he'd pick his spots and only start shooting daggers when the game was on the line. This is similar to the approach Jason Kidd takes today. Except, as great as Kidd is, he's nowhere close to Isiah on the all-time list of greats, largely because Kidd has nowhere near the same kind of scoring tools that Zeke had. As a matter of fact, I rank Isiah as the 9th greatest player of my lifetime, behind
5. Shaq (Lean, dominating Shaq of the early '90s)
6. Dr. J
D-Wade and Lebron certainly have the potential to join this list and knock Isiah out of the top 10, but they're not there yet. I'd listen to anyone make a case for Kobe too, but since he wasn't smart enough to recognize how sweet he had it and orchestrated the trade that sent Shaq packing, I refuse to put him ahead of the guy that made the likes of Vinnie Johnson, Rick Mahorn, John Salley and Dennis Rodman become three times the players that they really were anytime he stepped on the floor.
Anyhow, I could defend Isiah the player for days...
I'm not so sure, however, I could do the same for Isiah the person. Running the CBA straight to bankruptcy and running the Knicks to quickly becoming the embarrassment of the league was tough enough to defend.
But there's no defending his use of the word "bitch" towards a woman, especially in a professional setting. And even more so, there's no defending someone who shows no remorse for doing it. I'm puzzled about Isiah's opinion that it's okay for him to call an African American woman a "bitch" because he's black. And I'm wondering if there's anyway I can blame it on Dennis Rodman.
But as for my son, whenever he might be born, I don't know if the name Isiah makes sense anymore. And unfortunately, my wife despises the names "Brett" and "Robin."
I suppose I could name him after one of my high school friends, Eric or Darren. But they don't really set the greatest example either...
...especially when you consider how often they tried to make me their beer bitch.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
No. I'm just kidding. I didn't do that.
But you know what else I didn't do?
When one of the many drunken Cubs fans that had infiltrated Miller Park on Friday night came up to me saying that he was sick and tired of getting hit and that he wasn't going to be responsible if he "got into it" with someone, I certainly didn't bother calling anyone for assistance. I didn't even get out of my chair to see who was bothering him. This was the same Cubs fan, mind you, that I had witnessed earlier in the night screaming "Tough luck, buddy; it ends tonight" in the face of a nine year old wearing a Prince Fielder jersey. So you can see why I was slow to react. I made an executive decision that he had probably antagonized these Brewers fans and provoked them to throw things at him. And I figured if I wasn't working the game, I would have probably thrown things at him too...and, you know...I don't want to be a hypocrite.
Ah well. I'm optimistic that I'll get over the disappointment of the Brewers collapse by the time my daughter is old enough to register for tee ball. Given my wife's due date is still three weeks away, it looks like I've got four and half good years to put the frustration behind me. And thankfully, Willie Randolph did everything in his power to lead a collapse that has all but erased the Brewers downfall from the nation's collective memory.
Anyhow, I suppose it's time to move on to Packer season, and I've certainly ignored the stellar play of the Badgers (and my future fantasy football tight end Travis Beckum).
But before I can completely let go of the season that was, I feel it's important to look ahead. Disappointment or no disappointment--the one thing the '07 Brewers gave me is a ton of optimism for '08. Today, the Journal Sentinel took the time to look at the top ten things that went wrong this year. That seemed a bit idiotic to me--anyone who watched the games can tell you what went wrong.
No. What I want to do is look ahead. So, my dear seven readers, here are the top 10 questions the Brewers will face in the coming off season:
10. Contact hitter. It's not a question of do they need one; they do. The question is: who will it be? It's fun watching the Brewers hit the ball out of the yard as effortlessly as we used to hit the tennis ball out of the old middle school playground. But it's not fun watching guys constantly strike out with runners at second and third. Quite frankly, that's as "not fun" as it gets for me as a baseball fan. But it doesn't take an avid baseball fan to understand that more home runs equals more strikeouts. I'm not talking about needing a Tony Gwynn senior, but a Jeff Cirillo or Mark Loretta type (while in their prime) is the piece of the puzzle that this lineup is sorely missing. Maybe J.J. can be that type of hitter in time, but this year he failed to drop a bunt or move a runner far too many times.
And, of course, maybe Tony Jr. will finally get his shot...
9. Catcher--If Damian Miller's run is over, then it's going to be important to find a defensive catcher who can throw guys out. Opponents ran on Estrada with less fear than the Duke boys when they sped through Hazard County. If Mike Rivera or Vinnie Rotino are not the answer, than it will be important to find a veteran catcher that can handle the young staff. Is Estrada for sale? Despite two grand slams, he certainly wasn't the offensive force the Brewers were hoping for...
8. Centerfield. There are three solid candidates to roam center next year. Hall, Hart, and Gwynn. Gross played well in spurts, but I'm still not convinced he's going to be an every day outfielder, and I think Brewers management shares this concern. Regardless, the player who ends up in center, will dictate the rest of the outfield. If Gwynn finally gets his shot, you'd certainly feel good defensively with an outfield of Hart, Gwynn and Hall (in left?). Like Estrada, Hall might be dangled to see if teams show interest, despite his down season and new contract. His versatility and ability to play SS might make him more coveted than Brewers fans might initially think.
7. The Diamond Dancers--Seriously, I like flesh, women, and the flesh of women as much as the next married guy...but some of these gals had guts that rivaled Homer Simpson. I vote we throw them up in Bernie's chalet full time and call them "Bernie's biatches." The conga line down the slide alone is worth the price of admission. Either that or perhaps we save the half naked dancing girls for the Bradley Center.
6. Capuano. Quick story--When I was a kid playing little league I had a lucky pair of underwear. I'm not really sure how they came to be my lucky pair of underwear. I think I hit a little league homer (translation: a single and then a bunch of errors that allow you to run around all the bases) while wearing them, and from that point on they were officially my lucky underwear. Funny thing though--after about three games in a row of taking the collar, I quickly decided that they were not my lucky underwear anymore. I loved them drawers, but they just didn't have any magic left. Do you see where I'm going with this? The Brewers had lost 20 straight games in which Cappy had pitched, but yet they threw him out there on the day we were eliminated.
Needless to say, a change of scenery may be in order. And because he's a left-handed starter, the Brewers will get something good for him. (Maybe even a contact hitter.)
5. Veteran leadership. All spring training we heard how the Brewers had a great balance of youth and veteran leadership. But it's hard to follow those veterans when they don't perform. If you looked up "clutch" in the baseball dictionary the second or third definition listed would read "not Geoff Jenkins." Counsell was simply atrocious. Even Suppan struggled until September. This is why our 23 year-old firstbaseman emerged as the team leader. It's a great story, but it also happened out of necessity. Melvin needs to take some pressure of the kids and find the right veteran leaders this offseason.
4. Middle Relief. There was a message on my phone after the Monday night win to the Cardinals. It was my friend Darren saying that he wasn't giving up hope yet, but if the Brewers blew their chance I should look no further than Rick (and yes, he said "Rick") Weeks and Bill Hall. Now I hate to argue with Darren; he's a doctor, a real smart guy, and if I was ever being chased by the mafia I'd turn to him to help me pay off my gambling debts. Nonetheless, the real reason the Brewers blew their chance at the division was because of the 6th and 7th inning collapses that kept happening all season long. The not-so-sweet sixteen, if you will--the sixteen games in which the Brewers blew a lead of 3 runs or more. This bullpen needs to be revamped. I know the numbers say that Turnbow was on more often than he was off, but you simply can't put your pennant race hopes on a pitcher who too frequently loses the strike zone. The good news is that guys who can throw in the upper 90s are still highly regarded, so Turnbow might bring us something good in return. I'd bring back Linebrink, Shouse and King, give youngsters like Aquino and Stetter a shot, and then revamp the rest.
3. Ben Sheets. I know, I know. The Sheets fans are going to tell me that I'm crazy to mention a possible Sheets trade. And they have a good case--after all, the Brewers were horrible when he went down. The other side of that argument, of course, is that you have to worry every time Sheets sneezes for fear that he might pull something. And with just one year left on his contract, the Brewers probably do have to make a move so they don't lose Sheets and get nothing but a draft pick in return. Raise your hand if you thought the Brewers overpaid Suppan. Well, you can bet Sheets' next contract will be much closer to Bary Zito money than it will be to Jeff Suppan money. Since it would be bad PR to trade him at the deadline next year (assuming the Brewers will be in the midst of another run), it might make sense to deal him when there's snow on the ground. At this point, I'm not really sure what will happen. But the only three pitchers I'm willing to bet on as members of the rotation come April are named Suppan, Gallardo and Villanueva.
2. Francisco Cordero. Once they pay Jenkins his $500,000 buyout, the Brewers will have an extra $6.5 mil to play with. I say you put as much of that towards Ko-Ko as necessary and sign him quicker than you can yell, "click, click, boom!"
1. Retro Fridays. Anyone who read the article on my encounters with many of the '82 Brewers knows that they will forever have a special place in my heart. But just like the Packers had to let go of the Lombardi era, it's time for the Brewers to let 1982 go. There's a new legacy about to be written with names like Fielder, Braun and Gallardo. Leave the retro wear for the fans. Let's start turning our focus to the future....
Go Crew. We'll get 'em next year...
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Living in his Brewer joy...
They took the midnight train to the post season...
I know. That's really, really corny.
But Journey's "Don't Stop Believin" was one of my favorite songs when I was a kid in 1982. (And, yes, I know--you're going to tell me that the song was actually a hit in '81, but you need to know that I was 9 and I lived in the sticks. We were a little behind on the current hits in LeRoy, Wisconsin) That song always reminds me of the 1982 Brewers and the fact they never gave up despite being down 0-2 in that glorious A.L. Series.
Before I continue, I have to explain that I really thought my next article would be about the Packer game that I attended on Sunday. The fact is, it was the greatest game I've attended since the Yancey game, and I can't begin to explain how privileged I felt to be in attendance at Lambeau when Favre tied Marino's TD record. The Packers impressive start to the season has been truly inspiring, and as we made the drive back down I-43, my brother and I decided that if the loss to the Braves proved to be the final nail in the Brewers coffin...
(They kept us updated of the Brewers' score on the Jumbotron, but Tim also frequently tapped into his cell phone/PDA/paper shredder/potato masher for updates. Seriously, the only thing these hand held devices can't do nowadays is assist the Brewers in holding on to a 7th inning lead.)
...at least we witnessed the perfect segue from one season to the other.
But I told Tim Sunday afternoon, and I'll say it again and again until the Brewers are mathematically eliminated--this race isn't over just yet.... Look, I know what the supposed experts have been saying--no team has come back from 3 and half back with only a week to play since World War II. I know hoping for the post season at this point is improbable. Highly unlikely. But you have to believe, Brewers fans. You've invested in the team for this long; don't stop believin' now.
Perhaps I am the perpetually deluded optimist. But I am a playwright--and we playwrights know that you can't have drama without conflict. In order to have your audience root for your hero, you need to give him an obstacle to overcome. And of course, you can't have a storybook ending without first having a little adversity.
And this Brewers team has certainly experienced it's share of adversity--from Verlander's no-no, to Ben "Paper" Sheets' constant crumpling, to that horrible weekend in Atlanta--the Brewers have eaten an ample serving of humbling pie...but yet each time the pundits were ready to count them out, they've gotten up off the mat and flexed their collective muscle again and again...So why not one more time?
After all, there is a history behind my optimism. I take you back to fourth grade, when little Tommy was first unwilling to give up on his beloved Brewers. His classmates at Southview Elementary School ridiculed him and told him he was crazy to think the Brewers could come back from that 0-2 deficit. "It's NEVER happened. Don't you get that, stupidhead?" they jeered. "No team has ever done it before..."
But every record comes to an end. And once-in-a-while the baseball gods smile on your team and they drop that ball off Cecil Cooper's bat into left field, just as he motioned it to do...and history is rewritten...
And there's really no way to explain the joy of a fourth grade boy who carried in the Milwaukee Sentinel the next morning and proudly displayed the paper's headline:
NEVER SAY DIE; BREWERS DON'T!
And so I say, you just never know. Maybe the Cubs continue to be baffled by the Marlins. Maybe Adam Dunn hits 5 home runs in Cincinnati this weekend. Or maybe, just maybe...Milton Bradley injures himself during a temper tantrum and leaves the Padres without their best offensive weapon for the final series... anything is possible...
Regardless, it's been a remarkable atmosphere at Miller Park the last two nights. I've dreamed of being able to do serious scoreboard watching during the final week of September since the day Rene Lacheman was fired. And I was so elated after Hall's home run tonight that I couldn't keep my mouth shut when I encountered Davey Nelson on the employee's service elevator in the 6th inning. Even though we're not supposed to bother the "celebrities" when we encounter them, I had to let Davey know that I won't stop believin'...
Me: So far, so good.
Davey: Yeah, it's going well...the Cubs lost...now we just gotta keep going after it.
Me: Yeah, if we keep winning, that noose around the Cubs neck is gonna get tighter and tighter.
Davey: (a smile) That's right. That's right.
Davey believes, Brewer fans. The question is: Do you?
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I yanked the zipper off of my khaki pants at work on Friday.
I'm not reporting this because I'm proud of removing my zipper. Actually, it's rather embarrassing when you have to let your co-workers know that you are currently unable to close up your fly. Safety pins wouldn't do the trick, and to be honest--I wasn't all that comfortable having pins in my nether regions anyhow. But I'm not trying to brag about my zipper yanking strength, and I'm not going to stoop for the easy boyish joke of having too much girth in my trousers (although...)
No, the only reason I'm sharing this embarrassing moment with you is because I had to take a drive home to retrieve another pair of khaki pants in the middle of the work day. (And since khakis are the official uniform bottoms of a Miller Park concierge, I have three pairs in the old closet.) And during that drive, I happened to catch a little of the Jim Rome show.
Now, I'll admit; there was a time when I was a pretty big fan of Jim Rome. I'll never forget when he called Jim Everett "Chris" (you know, like the tennis player), and Everett went over the table and tackled him. Ironically, Rome called Everett "Chris" because he said he was afraid to take a hit. Apparently, he wasn't afraid to give one to a smarmy sports host.
But like so many of the sports personalities of the past couple decades, once Rome became larger than the sports he was discussing--I seemed to completely lose interest in him. It happened with Madden too. I used to love to grab the remote and turn on his selection show of the All-Madden team. Now I find myself grabbing the remote to press mute just about any time he opens his mouth. Likewise, I used to think Dick Vitale brought excitement to college basketball. Now I just think he yells a lot. And Chris Berman used to give funny nicknames. Now I just think Chris Berman looks funny.
Who knows--maybe I've just grown cynical since my college years. But far too many of these sports personalities remind me of the movie Jerry MaGuire--You know, because you start out thinking that you're watching this good sports movie about an agent and his star player. You like Rod Tidwell. You even celebrate the moment he makes the winning catch against Dallas, and you laugh as he does his elaborate touchdown dance. But by the time the movie ends...it suddenly dawns on you that what you were watching may not have had that much to do with sports after all...And you feel a little foolish when it's over, just about the time you realize that Jerry had her at hello. That's how it is with me and Rome--he just seems to have crossed over the line between sports and fluffy entertainment.
Regardless, on Friday afternoon I did tune in to Jim Rome (silently praying I wouldn't have to hear him yell "rack 'em" ) and listened to a fascinating interview with Redskins tight end, Chris Cooley. (Which is the point of this whole story in the first place.) I was just about to change the channel when suddenly Cooley said something that greatly concerned me...he said, "Yeah, I play fantasy football. I have since high school."
Time out. Now, I love fantasy football. Love it. I mean, I love it like O.J. loves collectibles. It's a serious problem for me. And my wife often misses me on Sunday afternoons because I'm lost in the world of fantasy stats where I'm often found yelling at my computer to throw the damn ball to Anquan Boldin. And I even think it's cool that Ben Sheets runs a fantasy league in the Brewers clubhouse every year. (Perhaps he should spend less time running the league and more time finding ways to stay healthy, but that's another story...). But when an NFL player admits that he too plays fantasy football...well, perhaps this whole thing has gotten a bit out of hand.
Of course, it's also pretty cool (forgive me) that Cooley still participates in a league with his high school friends. It's refreshing to know that stardom hasn't changed him. After all, he admitted that he never really thought the NFL was a possibility until his senior year at Utah State.
And Cooley confessed to Rome that he never gets the chance to draft himself because others in his league rate him higher than he does. Imagine what that must be like on draft day:
Token Friend: "Yeah, uhm...with the 4th pick in the 7th round I choose...him."
TF: "Yeah. I need a tight end. So I picked you."
Cooley: "Dude. That's way too high for me."
TF: "Just make sure you catch the ball. All right? I'm counting on you."
Cooley: "Whatever, man. I'm just saying--it's a reach. Especially with Heap and Watson still on the board."
It has to be awkward. And what happens when Cooley plays himself on a given week? If it's Monday Night Football and he has nobody left to play, while holding just a slight lead...well, maybe he's not getting open quite so easily.
Impossible, you say.
How many times have die-hard Packers fans (not naming any names) caught themselves not minding all that much when a TD pass is scored against the Pack because Roy Williams or L.J. Smith was on the receiving end? Be honest. It happens to the best of us.
After all, the Redskins are usually well out of playoff contention by the time Cooley's fantasy bowl rolls around. So you just never know.
So that's why I've decided not to draft or trade for Chris Cooley ever again until he drafts or trades for himself first. Because if HE's not grabbing the fantasy version of himself...what's that say in reality?
Since it's taken me over three days to complete this article--I have to link you to Simmons ESPN blog on Friday Night Lights. Like Simmons, I too enjoyed the hell out of FNL last year. But I didn't wait until after the season to watch it on DVD. I was right there with Riggins, Street and Crash from the opening week until the season ended. Every week I kept calling it "the soap opera disguised as a sports show," but yet every week I was right there on the couch hoping that Matt would win the Coach's approval. And if I gave Sonia the option to watch either Heroes or FNL from the saved programs on our DVR, she always chose FNL.
I had no idea that FNL was in jeopardy of being cancelled, so I'm joining in on Simmons' plea to save the show:
I don't know if I agree with him that it's the best Sport show ever. I always really liked those Scooby Doo episodes when the Globetrotters helped out.
Now that, my friends, was real.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
But you can't really blame me. Every time I've been ready to share my reaction on an important sports event, another one comes up that's even bigger and more exciting. Every Brewer game (with the exception of last night's dud in Pittsburgh) gets more and more dramatic as we approach October, and the football season kicked off with a bevy of intrigue, upsets and fantasy football disappointments (at least for me--thank you very much Mr. Johnson and Mr. Jackson). There's been an Appalachian upset, a Donovan bootleg, a cheating Belichek, a phantom offensive pass interference call (on my fantasy tight end, mind you), and a Brewers game that opened with back-to-back-to-back home runs. The fact is--I couldn't blog. I was too afraid that if I'd leave the tv, I'd miss something else. It was like the scene in Porky's when Pee Wee couldn't see any of the girls in the shower. I didn't want to be stuck behind the fat girl and miss something good. So I stayed right where I was--comfortably in front of the tv. (By the way, any man who hasn't seen Porky's and is therefore confused by the reference needs to rent it immediately. Seriously. Go right now.)
Anyhow, since there's so much to discuss, it seems like a perfect opportunity to ramble...
--I think I finally figured out what was going on with the Crew in Pittsburgh. There had to be some explanation to why every time the Brewers travel to PNC Park they play like...well...like Pittsburgh. I mean, other than Freddy Sanchez (especially considering that Bay is hurt) there is no hitter in that line-up that you would want to add to the Brewers starting 9. And with the way Rickie's getting on base, you could argue against Sanchez as well. But every year, the Brewers travel into Pittsburgh as if they were Brittany Spears heading into a spelling bee. It's that atrocious...
(Host: "Ms. Spears, your word is atrocious."
B: "You mean like Super-fragi-calli-licious-expi-al-atrocious?"
H: "No. I don't mean that at all."
B: "Could you use it in a sentence, please?"
H: "Brittney's parenting skills are atrocious."
B: "OH! I get it. Atrocious. A-T-R-O-W-S-H-I-S. Atrocius."
Anyhow, I've figured out the cause of it all--Yancey Thigpen. You see, I was at that game when Yancey dropped the pass in '95. And I specifically remember closing my eyes and pleading with God to please, please, please give us the division title. You see, the last Packers division title had been in 1972. I was born in 1973. I really, really wanted that game. So I bargained with the Lord. I told him that Pittsburgh could have something else over the next few years, but we in Wisconsin needed that game.
Well, you know the rest. To this day, whenever someone drops anything (a beer that's tossed to them, a bag of peanuts, the remote control) the first thing out of my mouth is "nice hands, Yancey."
But I spoke to the Lord this evening and asked him if we in Wisconsin have indeed now paid our debt for the Yancey game. I reminded him that the Steelers recently won a Super Bowl and that, despite the Pirates thirteen consecutive losing seasons, they at least got rid of Bonds before his head grew to the size of a Steelers helmet. Besides, a 19-41 record at PNC park seems like more than enough payment for the Yancey drop.
Anyhow, to all you unbelievers who doubt--apparently God does listen. To the tune of: Brewers 6, Pirates 1.
--Speaking of steroids, I love the new video game commercial with Shawn Merriman and Stephen Jackson as they go from stadium to stadium taking on blockers and/or tacklers on their way down the field. Despite how cool the commercial is--am I the only one who finds it odd that Merriman is featured on a video game? If he ends up breaking the all-time sacks record someday, will anyone demand that an asterisk be placed by his name? I mean, sure he hit a lot of quarterbacks, but he wouldn't have hit them nearly as hard without the help of steroids. Right?
--And as far as video games go--is there a cooler name than Atari Bigby? If he even has a halfway decent year, the Bigby jersey is as good as purchased. And man, if I could find a way to brainwash my wife to the name "Atari" for our first child. Well, I'd be all in.
--In the 10 year history of our "No Sallies" Fantasy Football league, I have owned my older brother Tim. In 19 previous match-ups, I was 16-3 against him, although he did win the only time we met in the postseason. In each of the two seasons I had lost to him, my team was pretty miserable, including the only season that I did not make the play-offs. Based on the fact that I lost opening week to Tim, I'm seriously considering renaming my team to "Rebuilding Year."
--The greatest line at this year's fantasy draft had to come from our friend Jonny. As the draft completed, he sees his older brother Eric on the phone with his wife, letting her know everyone that he drafted. So Jonny yells, "Guys, guys! This is the part where the giant beer can falls on Eric's head." Classic. And appropriate. I'm already writing a rule for next year that at least 2 hours have to pass before you can share your roster with your spouse...
--Wow. Rickie Weeks. Did I or did I not say that Rickie would be a key ingredient for this team's run? It's nice to have him back. I am a little concerned about his recent yips in the field, but hopefully it's just a Pittsburgh thing.
--Houston just won in the bottom of the 11th. 1 game lead! See, I just peed a little now for the Brewers. Ain't no thing but a chicken wing.
--Finally, with my first child only six weeks from entering the world, I'm really trying to cut back on the cursing I do during Brewers games. (Like tonight when Jenkins rolled into a double play with two on and no out. By the way, the only guys I don't bunt in that situation are Braun and Fielder. If it's anyone else, they're dropping it down and I'm getting a run.) To help with this, I've recently installed a punching bag in my basement. It works pretty well for taking out my frustration. Now I just have to find a way to eliminate the cursing on my way to the bag. Ah well, baby steps...
Monday, August 27, 2007
I'm not speaking metaphorically. And I'm not trying to be cute or cruel. But it's true; if Ned had fielded one more question from the reporters, he would have broken down and cried right there in the house that Bonds' steroids built. Now, I'm not sure it was a Dick Vermeil, make me feel really uncomfortable type of wail, but I believe there were tears at the doorstep. And that's why he cut that interview session short.
But I can't really blame the man. Truth is--I'd cry too if I was merely weeks from being fired from a job that I loved so dearly. And Ned really does love the Brewers. And Ned really does desperately want the Brewers to succeed.
The problem, of course, is that Ned has not been succeeding, and so we come to that all important series--the Wrestle at Wrigley, the Showdown in Chi-town--which can in one full swoop turn this whole mess around...or it can end up being a true Yost-Buster.
If you've read my blog in the past, you certainly know that I am a fan of Ned Yost. I don't always agree with his in-game decisions (okay, honestly--they sometimes cause me to curse like a hell-demon with a bad case of Tourette's) and I don't always gel with his post-game assessments, but Ned Yost has been one of my all-time favorite Brewers managers. I suppose that one could argue that naming Yost my favorite manager from a batch that includes the likes of Jerry Royster, Davey Lopes and Jim Lefebvre is about as bold as declaring Gwen Stefani the hottest member of No Doubt...But what can I say? Ned had me at hello...
I'll never forget that first speech he made in spring training about how great baseball could be in Milwaukee and how much people would love the Brewers and treat them like kings if they ever became winners. He lived through the frenzy of 1982, and he believed a winning attitude could be reality. He knew it could. Now, I realize this is going to sound completely egotistical, but in some ways--he reminded me of me. His passion for the Brewers was genuine. Earlier this year, my friend Chad and I attended the preview of the Harvey Wallbangers DVD at the Pabst Theatre. Ned had just suffered a tough loss--coincidentally enough, to the Cubs--and you could tell it was still eating at him hours later. It was only the 5th game of the season, but a super-charged Ned told the audience that he was determined to bring baseball magic back to Milwaukee. And again, he was so impassioned and so genuine, that I wanted it for him almost as much as I wanted it for myself.
And I must say, no other first place manager ever fell under the same kind of scrutiny that Ned Yost suffered through. Every night I've listened to WSSP's post game show on my way home from the ballpark, and if the Brewers lost, you could guarantee that Steve "Sparky" Fifer was going to find a way to pin it on Ned. I'm not even exaggerating about this. Every single time they lost. It was always, always, ALWAYS Ned's fault. Now, I've already said that I question many a Ned Yost move, but at some point some blame belongs to the players. And some of the second-guessing became flat out comical. Well...probably not for Ned.
But on Sunday I finally had to accept that Ned was grasping at straws. His decision to hit Bush in the 7th and send him back out after his struggles in the 6th was dumbfounding. And if I were Catholic, I'd need to go to about 6 years worth of confessions for the things I yelled at my television when Damian Miller lead off the 9th. (This is by far my biggest pet peeve of Ned--his unwillingness to hit for a catcher because he fears that if the back-up gets in and gets hurt, they'll have no more catchers. One problem--if you lose the game, who the hell cares that you still have a healthy back-up catcher!?!?!?). And I was even more angry when Dillon served that 0-2 pitch to center field for the 2 out single. You know, because he should have lead off that inning in the first place...
And I know what the Ned supporters will say (because I am one): Ned can't be blamed for the horrible starting pitching, the lack of clutch hitting, or the mental errors in the field. And you'll remember that I told you the Brewers would be in big trouble if the only trade they made was the acquisition of an arm for the bullpen. But you only have to go back a couple years to remember another Brewers team--the team that was above .500 at the break, only to set the all-time worst record for the second half of a season--that had a collapse as pathetic as the current one. You'll notice that the majority of the players from that team have moved on. The manager, however, has remained the same. And having another collapse after this year's start is simply unacceptable.
After all, when you think about teams having a special season, how many of you think about the Toronto Blue Jays? No one? Well that's who we are now. We're the National League version of the Toronto Blue Jays. A .500 team, with a realistic chance of finishing below .500 if things don't change real, real soon.
And unfortunately, Ned's the fall guy for that turn of events. With just one year left on his contract, there's no way the Brewers can renew it if he manages through two historic collapses. You simply can't bring back a lame duck manager next year to a team with so much talent and promise.
And so, perhaps it's ironic that the last winning Brewers manager got fired the day before Ned's Crew marches into a potential Yost-buster for a series. If they get swept in Wrigley, perhaps Ned won't be able to hold back the tears.
And you know something?
I might not be able to either...
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Granted, he didn’t know about it. But that’s hardly the point.
I probably need to explain. When I work at Miller Park, there are three different “stations” that I can be assigned. First, there are the Founders suites on the field level. This is my least favorite place to work because you feel completely cut off from the rest of Brewers civilization. Sure, sometimes you meet an occasional leader of the Milwaukee community, like Mayor Barrett, but for the most part it is a long, painfully boring five hours of work. I tend to just turn on my radio and pass the time away with Uek.
Then, there’s the center desk on the Club level. It’s not a bad place to be assigned. You can at least hear the game over the Stadium’s sound system, lots of traffic passes by the desk, and you end up assisting not only the suite guests but anyone who has a ticket to the club level.
But the center desk does not in any way compare to the Gehl Club. Before we report for duty, each concierge member quietly says their own type of prayer, pleading to their God to convince our manager, Patty, to give us this cushiest of assignments. Not only do we stay busy by wrist-banding all of the guests (who are enamored with the new space) and by giving them a run down of what they receive during their stay in the Gehl Club, but we also get to enjoy the 52-inch plasma that faces our desk. It’s simply the nicest place to work, perhaps in the entire stadium.
And it’s especially nice when members of the ’82 Brewers are staying there, as they were last night.
Now, generally I’m not that easily star struck. Terrell Buckley once called me “dude,” I held a lengthy conversation with Mike Maddux, whose daughters were in my First Stage class, and Don Majkowski once winked at me. (Although I later found out that Majik winks at every fan, and is a bit of a wink-whore.) And seeing modern day players up close and personal has almost become second nature for me. We clock in at the stadium right between the Brewers locker room and the visiting locker room, and I frequently pass by players who are heading to the indoor batting cages. So I’ve witnessed first hand how huge Pujols and Carlos Lee really are, and I can attest to the fact that Brady Clark was one of the hardest working Brewers you’ll ever find—he was always in the indoor cages.
But these are the ’82 Brewers, and they will forever have a special place in my heart. So when Craig Coshun popped down into the Gehl Club and asked me how things were going, I answered as honestly I knew how, “Great. I feel like I’m nine years old again.” And as Mr. Coshun scanned across the room and took in all of the players from the ’82 team, he could only agree with me. “Yeah. It’s pretty awesome, isn’t it?”
And it was awesome. The entire night. Even finding out that Pete Vukovich was not exactly a cordial gentleman, was rather endearing. It’s exactly how I remembered him, after all. But yes—to call Mr. Vuckovich “a bit surly” would be like calling Mark Chmura “a bit of a womanizer.” And after a warm smile from Audrey Kuenn, Vuckovich’s snarl was completely forgotten.
Ted Simmons, on the other hand, was the friendliest man you’ll ever meet. When other ex-Brewers (like Vukovich) were a bit put off that they had to have a wrist band put on, Simmons wondered aloud if there would be water rides. And when they found out that their wrist band entitled them to free drinks at the bar, most of the others became much more accommodating as well.
I could go on and on about my encounters with the ’82 Crew. Gorman entered with a big smile and began asking me if I had seen Fing-- But alas, that’s as far as he went before spotting Rollie and his handlebar himself, thereby thwarting my opportunity to assist Stormin’ and point him in the right direction.
When Molitor stopped up by my desk to throw something away, he said something to the effect of, “It’s pretty incredible in here.” This was a hall-of-Famer, and it was time for me to provide a hall-of-fame reply. I’m guessing I failed when I nervously nodded and said, “yep.”
So many others stopped by my desk with questions or a cordial “hello.” There was Pete Ladd. Jerry Augustine. Don Sutton. Moose Haas.
And then there was Robin.
I never actually had the chance to interact with Robin, but he and many of the players were in the Gehl Club prior to the autograph signings. And when they called him to go downstairs at 5:30, he left his beer on our concierge desk. That’s right. I spent the next several hours inches from Robin Yount’s beer. And while the autograph signings and the pre-game ceremony took place, it dawned on me that there was no way that Robin was going to come back for this beer. He’s Robin Yount, after all, and I was pretty sure they’d give him a fresh, cold brewskie. So we tucked the beer away from our desk, and I joked with my concierge partner, Kathy, that I need to drink some of that beer. It was a chance of a lifetime, I laughed, and I would never respect myself in the morning if I let the opportunity slip away. And suddenly, what started out as a joke became more and more of a mission. It simply had to be done.
My opportunity arrived when Mike Caldwell was saying his goodbyes to Patty and thanking her for all of the festivities that she had organized. With Patty distracted, I scooped up the beer with the grace of a sure-handed shortstop and took a quick sip. Before Caldwell walked away, I had returned the beer to it’s resting place without anyone knowing any better. It was smoother than a 6-4-3 double play. I didn’t care that I was risking my job by taking a sip of alcohol while on duty. I didn’t care that most people would think I was a bit crazy or, as my wife described it, “a borderline stalker.” I didn’t even care that that the beer had sat there stagnate for almost five hours.
And when Patty gave me the chance to leave early that night, I took her up on it. Not because the Brewers were getting waxed on the field. No, I didn’t care about that either. Because I was nine years old again. And I had just tasted my first sip of beer.
Nothing could have topped the night after that point anyhow--even if the Brewers had come back and erased the 7 run deficit that they were looking at when I left the game. After all, how many people can say they shared a beer with The Kid?
I now know of one.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
In the past four games the Milwaukee Brewers have:
--Blown a five run lead in the 9th inning
--Lost to a guy with a BROKEN LEG
--And given up 19 runs in a game in which their pitchers got hit harder than a white trash mistress on a Jerry Springer show…
Yep. It's safe to say I'm still not ready to discuss the state of the Brewers. So let's turn to something a little more cheerful--
Back when he was frequently hollering about Rickie Weeks (who, by the way, is making his return to the big club with Graffanino's injury), my friend Darren would also fill my ear with rants on why in the world ESPN was even acknowledging the accomplishments of guys like Sosa and our newest home run king, Barry Bonds.
In my intro to the Midseason Forum, I mentioned briefly that I thought keeping the home run hitters of the steroid era out of the Hall of Fame was wrong. Look, I'll be the first to tell you that I think Barry Bonds took steroids. I think Mark McGwire took steroids. I think Sammy Sosa took steroids. And, yes, I think Rafael Palmeiro took steroids. You'll get no argument there from me whatsoever.
But I also think that the use of steroids extended to ALL of major league baseball. Not all players, mind you, but all types of players. I don't understand why the media, Congress, and the baseball loving public in general only focuses on home run hitters. Steroids are not only used for strength. They can be used for speed, for endurance (AKA pitching), and most importantly for muscle recovery. So why aren't we scrutinizing the guys who made a living stealing bases and stretching singles into doubles and doubles into triples? After all, one of the first to be busted after the new drug testing went into place was ex-Brewer Alex Sanchez. In case you've forgotten--Alex is not exactly a power hitter. Or what about leading an investigation on all of the middle-relievers who somehow managed to set all kinds of major league appearance records by popping out of the bullpen five or six times a week? You think steroids might have played a role in their ability to throw in games on six consecutive days? Or what about taking a look at the 40-something year-old pitcher who constantly decides that his season can't start until late May or June. Am I really the only one who wonders if this gives him enough time to flush some roids out of the old system? I'm just saying. It's a theory.
As a matter of fact, I thought it was very appropriate that Bonds 755th came off of Clay Hensley, who was suspended for steroid use as a minor leaguer. Does that mean that homer number 755 doesn't have an asterisk? I mean, if one steroid user hits a long ball off another steroid user, that should count for something, right? And I truly believe that (although we'll probably never know for sure) when push comes to shove, more pitchers ended up using steroids than hitters.
And--if you'll allow me to switch sports for a second--I can't help but wonder why Shawn Merriman isn't looked at as cheater after he tested positive for steroids and was suspended for the first four games of last season. No, Merriman is a football god. Bonds, however, is the baseball devil.
And now I'm about to do something very dangerous. I'm going to somewhat make an effort to defend Barry Bonds. Now hold on, hear me out.
First let me start by assuring you that:
1.) I strongly dislike Barry Bonds the person and think he is a big league prick.
2.) We need to all agree that Barry has a big head. No wait. Of course he has a big head, that's how we know he was using. No, I mean he has a big ego. We can agree on this, correct? And yes, he has quite the melon too.
Now onto my dangerous defense of Bonds... (I realize that I could lose four of my six readers forever by doing this.) The thing is--I kind of understand why Bonds took them. Now, don't get me wrong. I don't condone it. So please don't accuse me of advocating the use of steroids and blame me when they show up in local high schools. Don't misinterpret what I'm saying. Steroids are bad. Very, very bad. And they do very bad things to your testicles.
BUT--if we take into consideration my two points above--that Barry is a big league prick with a huge ego--I do understand why he took them.
Think about it. It's 1998 and you're Barry Bonds. You're arguably the best baseball player of the past two or three decades (and really, if you look at the numbers, I'm not even sure how you can argue). You were the NL MVP in '90, '92 and '93. You won a gold glove every year since '90 except in '95. Since that same summer of 1990, you have finished no worse than 5th in the league in on-base-percentage, no worse than 6th in the league in slugging-percentage, and no worse than 3rd in the league in OPS. An amazing accomplishment that may not be rivaled by another player in any equal span of 8 seasons. Oh, and you also never finished lower than 4th in the league in Home Runs since '90 either.
Until, of course, the magical summer of 1998. Then you get to sit back and watch as all of America becomes infatuated with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as they chase down Roger Maris' single season home run record. And you see them become more and more beloved every single day. There are rumors and jokes that these two guys might be getting a little assistance, but no one seems to care. Not the fans, not the Commish, and surprisingly, not the media. (And yes, I consider every member of the media who calls Bonds a cheater a hypocrite because I know they knew what was going on back in '98. I knew it. And I was just a silly 25 year old fan. There's no way they didn't know too. No way.) But worst of all you have become the forgotten man. Nobody is talking about you. No one. Even though you hit .303 with 37 HRs and 122 RBIs and 28 SBs, you finish 8th in the NL MVP voting. And although those 37 HRs are the 4th most you've ever hit, they're only enough for you to finish 9th in the whole NL. 9th. That's just not acceptable. Not with your ego.
And look, every guy who has ever played a sport can relate to the power of ego. I just had my ass handed to me in a game of horse by my friend Brent tonight, and yes, my ego took a hit. Hell, you don't have to even be playing the sport for ego to take you places you wouldn't normally go. Come sit and listen to some of the arguments between Brewers and Cubs fans. Or stop by our fantasy football chat room sometime. Yep, men who know sports know egos.
But the thing is--I can't even relate to Barry's ego because I have to admit that I am not the best at anything I do. (I am pretty good at tetris on the toilet, but I'm not about to brag.) So I can't relate to the ego of a Barry or a Peyton or a Kobe. But it must be pretty intense. Non-stop ego.
And so Barry made a choice. His ego won out. And in three years he was back on top of the world. winning four more MVPs from 2001-2004.
But the saddest thing in my humble opinion is not how Barry tarnished the game. It's how he tarnished himself. You see, I don't think he needed to take steroids to be the greatest player of my lifetime. Now, don't get me wrong, he wouldn't have won the home run title. But without the muscle mass he gained, he might have kept stealing bases and kept winning gold gloves--two parts of his game that were never the same after that summer of '98. And we'll never know just how great his summer of 2001 really was. Because I will go on the record in saying that we will never again see a player as locked in as Barry was that summer. And I've said it before--I don't think steroids help guys hit a baseball. It's a point that's argued by very intelligent people (Darren included) who say, "well if it doesn't help them, why would they bother taking it?" But I'm not arguing that it helps them. I'm sure it helps them hit farther and stay stronger through the course of a season. I just don't think it helps you stay locked in on pitches for a whole summer. Not like Barry was. He drove every pitch, no matter where it was, with authority to all fields. Opposing managers feared him like no other. Didn't matter how you pitched him, if you even had the courage to, he was hitting it hard somewhere. Would he have hit 73 HRs without the steroids? Probably not. But considering his previous career high was 46, I think 60 was realistic. He was just that locked in. Unfortunately, now we'll never know.
I heard an argument that Ken Griffey Jr. is the biggest loser of the steroid era because, had he taken them, he might have stayed healthy enough to break Hank's record before Barry. I can't argue that fact. It's a shame to think about what Griffey's career might have been without all the injuries. And I hate that people make jokes about him being soft, considering the majority of his injuries were sustained while he was going all out--the only way he knows how to play.
Yep, if Griffey had taken steroids he would have easily been the greatest home run hitter of our day.
And if Barry had not taken them, there would be no debate that he was the greatest overall player of the day. Too bad his ego came around before we could eliminate any doubt.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
I was wrong.
Perhaps the numbness will leave my fingers, and I'll be able to type again...But not yet.
I simply don't have the strength.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
My company's annual meeting had wrapped up, the 7th Harry Potter book had been read, and I was ready to rant about yesterday's Brewer disaster in St. Louis. I was ready to show how the blown 6-0 lead was the exact polar opposite of Hall's HR against the Tigers the day after the no-no. I was ready to discuss how my year's of joking about just wanting the Brewers to get me to Packers training camp may have come back to haunt me, as the Brewers had their worst loss of the season on the exact day that training camp opened and then managed to make a pitcher with a 0-10 record look a little something like Bob Gibson. I even intended to apologize to my unborn daughter, who had to have heard my uncensored tirade following Cordero's 5th blown save of the season. That's not how daddy normally communicates, honey. It was just a tough loss.
That's right. I was actually prepared to be negative about the Brewers.
But then I went on to JSonline and read Bob McGinn's candid interview with Ted Thompson. Suddenly, the outlook of the Crew didn't seem nearly as bleak. 'Cause after all, we have Doug in Milwaukee. And no matter what happens the rest of the season (which I am by no means giving up on, nor will I be content to say, "well, at least we had a winning season" when it concludes), the Brewers' young talent has given us enough promise to know that the days of "just get me to training camp" should be far behind us.
And then there's Ted.
I have to give McGinn credit. His interview with Teddy certainly included the type of questions that a GM with Ted's putrid record should be asked. And it's the kind of interview that my co-worker Aaron (who works in media relations, mind you) feels the Journal never has the balls to put in print (my words, his would certainly be more eloquent). For those of you who might have missed it, the entire interview is here:
I need to, however, take a look at a few of my favorite Teddy-speak responses...
Q.Brett Favre will be 38 in October and is nearing the end of his legendary career. Yet, your major addition on offense was a second-round pick at running back. Why didn't you do more to provide some firepower for Favre in what might be his final season?
A. I think we try to do the best we can for the team. If our team gets better then that's better for Brett. We're trying to do the best we can. In the draft, the board works a certain way and that's the way we pick guys.
TRANSLATION: "I added a guy through the draft to help Brett. You're almost making it sound like the NFL has added free agency as an option for GMs to improve their roster. This isn't baseball."
Q.Favre has never come across as a shrewd judge of personnel, but in his mind he saw Moss doing damage in Green Bay with Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. He wanted Moss and said Moss would have done the same reduced deal that he took in New England. Given the circumstances, why didn't you obtain Moss?
A. Randy Moss is a member of the New England Patriots now. That's the way it is. It's inappropriate for me to be discussing a player that's on another team.
TRANSLATION: "Randy Moss is a wide receiver, right? Please don't compare me to the front office of the New England Patriots. That's just not fair."
Q.Ron Wolf and Bob Harlan almost always explained themselves to fans when given the opportunity in similar forums. Don't fans in this state deserve an explanation from the general manager three months after the fact?
A. Right. I still think it's inappropriate to talk about a player that's on another team.
TRANSLATION: "Have I done anything to make you think I should be compared to Wolf? Geesh. First the Patriots now Ron Wolf. Just what are you expecting from me?"
Q.You're well into the third year of a five-year contract. No matter what you inherited, the team is 12-20 during your watch. Do you worry that your tenure might be short-lived if the team doesn't start winning this season?
A. Well, we would like to win this season. I've said that publicly and privately, saying we expect to win. I don't worry about things like, "Am I going to be here after this year?" That never enters my mind.
TRANSLATION: "I told you already that I expect to win. I even told my wife I expect to win. I told the guy at the auto shop, my banker, even my dentist. It's just that we're not very good. But I do expect to win. As far as my job security... Well, I don't think about this as a job so much..."
(It never enters your mind? Ted, Ted, Ted. Perhaps it should...)
Q.On the day after Green signed with Houston for $5.7 million per year and $8 million guaranteed, running back Travis Henry went to Denver for an average of $4.5 million, with $12 million guaranteed. You're sitting here now with about $15 million in cap space. Why didn't you go get Henry?
A. That's another example of someone that's on another team and I'm not really going to get into that.
TRANSLATION: Travis Henry would have all made an immediate impact on this team. And that would have cut into my being able to dazzle you with my draft in a couple years."
Q. Joseph Addai, the 30th pick last year, helped lead the Colts to the Super Bowl. Little Maurice Drew, the 60th pick in '06, had a great first year in Jacksonville. Do you like Brandon Jackson as much as them? What do you expect from him and Vernand Morency?
A. I don't know how to compare them. They're different running backs. I think Brandon Jackson is a good player. Vernand Morency came in and played a role last year and did a nice job. All the guys in the backfield can catch the ball. They have different running styles. We think it's going to be a good group. It may wind up running back by committee, or someone might establish himself.
TRANSLATION: "I don't know how to compare them."
Q.Do you expect another major addition at running back before Sept. 9?
A. I don't know that you can predict anything like that. Depends on if some other team is looking to do something.
TRANSLATION: "We're going to wait and see who's available after the final cuts in August."
Q.Given that you didn't add much beyond the draft, you must be comfortable with your roster. Is this team pretty much where you hoped it would be?
A. Yeah. There's still a lot of unknowns. I believe in my heart the competition we have at every position will make our team better.
TRANSLATION: "We have average players at several key position, including RB and TE. I believe competition is going to raise the level of some of these average players so that they are slightly above average when training camp breaks."
Q.Sometimes the mark of a strong, confident leader is being able to admit mistakes. You know better than anyone when you've erred. What were some of your major miscalculations?
A. I don't do too much looking backwards. Probably the one that sticks in my mind is we weren't able to shore together the offensive line in 2005. We didn't do a very good job of that.
TRANSLATION: "Well, if I started looking back on all of my mistakes, we'd be here all day. But that Mike Wahle guy was pretty good. Who knew?"
Q. Would you fault yourself for not thinking bigger? Being too caught up in the minutiae of your job?
A. No. It's difficult to give a self-evaluation on something like that. I don't consider that a problem, but now that you mention it I'll look into it. We have some grandiose ideas at times. A lot of people say we're not very flashy. There are a lot of things that we discuss that don't come to fruition. I have a lot of different personalities working with us. It's their job to bring ideas and thoughts and what-if this and what-if that.
TRANSLATION: "The minutiae of my job? What does that even mean? No, don't tell me--I'll look into it. I bet someone in the office knows what that means. Perhaps Andrew Brandt. He's sharp. And very helpful. Yeah, he'll know what it means for sure."
Yep, suddenly things with the Brewers don't seem quite so bad...
Thursday, July 19, 2007
It was about 11:30 this morning when I got a call from a co-worker who was in Chicago at the time (Craig is definitely in the 99 percentile of true blue Brewers fans), asking me how I'd feel about the Brewers acquiring Adam Dunn. According to reports that he had been reading online (which were apparently also reported on WSSP and a Cincy radio station), the Brewers had already made a move to bring Dunn into our already jam-packed outfield. And a funny thing happened when I thought this rumor was true...I actually started to like it.
I mean, it makes absolutely no sense for the Brewers to bring in another incredibly strike-out prone, power-hitter, who may also be the worst defensive outfielder since Matt Mieske proved that charging in on balls is highly over-rated. And there's no way the Brewers can afford to take-on Dunn's $13 million next year, which he's guaranteed in the event that he is traded.
But yet...if you have a chance to add a power hitter to protect Braun, Prince, and maybe even Billy, you at least think about it, right? Especially if the cost is only Matt Wise and a couple of prospects, as the rumors were claiming. You would have to assume that Mench would be on his way out of town and that either Gwynn or Gross would be included in the trade for Dunn. So, would you do it?
No. I still wouldn't either. But I can't say enough how excited I am that the Brewers have a chance to be buyers and NOT SELLERS at this year's deadline. And I'm going to make two important statements that are going to seem contradictory, but yet are 100% valid.
1.) The Brewers should not make a move just for the sake of making a move.
2.) The Brewers should make a move to let the fan base and the rest of the league know that they are IN IT, TO WIN IT.
Like I said, I know those sentences seem contradictory, but they're really part of the same theory. I do think the Brewers need to send a message by making a move...but at the same time, it has to be the RIGHT move. Fortunately, there is no GM in the history of Wisconsin sports that I have more faith in than Doug.
BUT--that's doesn't mean I don't have a shopping list of my own, ranked from top to bottom:
--Chad Cordero (because you can never have enough arms in the pen)
--Mark Loretta (the Yankees want a utility player, Graffanino is as hot as he's ever going to be. Flip Graffy for a bullpen arm and then flip a prospect for Loretta, who hits for a higher average and plays more positions than Graffy)
--Octavio Dotel (because you can never have enough arms in the bullpen)
--Eric Gagne (because you can never have enough arms in the bullpen)
--Ryan Klesko or Eric Hinske (we're not in very good shape in the event Prince goes down for a couple of weeks)
--Akinori Otsuka (because you can never have enough arms in the bullpen)
--Brian Fuentes (you get the drift...)
And if the Brewers for some odd reason do decide to add Adam Dunn, perhaps he can at least help erase my memory of Todd Dunn...ah well, the days of "can't miss prospects," who in fact always missed, seems like such a long time ago now...That's why in Doug we trust...
--When I popped into Gord Ash's suite during the peanut run last night (Gord's always polite and either says "no, we still got plenty" or "yeah, I guess you better bring those in") I actually caught myself daydreaming about how cool it would be if he said, "before you go, Thomas, what do you think about this move..." But then I snap out of it and remember that I'm holding a bag of peanuts. And that he doesn't know my name. Actually, as I think about it, I hope I wasn't standing there an abnormal amount of time, holding my nuts. But, hey, I love my job.
--I made a realization the other night about J.J. Hardy, and I was a little disappointed. I've always been a fan of star shortstops. From Yount to Ozzie to Trammell to Reyes, there's nothing sweeter, in my opinion, than a slick-fielding shortstop. But I now realize that because thousands of teenage girls are wearing a Hardy jersey at each game, I'll never be able to buy one, no matter how good his career ends up being. There would just be something weird about wearing the same jersey that the pack of Lindsey Lohan wannabes that I had just passed in the concourse are wearing. Can't do it. Just like Scott Podsednik, a J.J. Hardy Jersey has become women's apparel...
--Thank God the Bucks got Jake Vohskul in the fold. I really don't have a problem with Garnett's $23 million per year or Redds max contract, but there's something wrong with a league where Jake Vohskul makes $3 million a year. That being said, I'm thrilled with the rumors (which are certainly based on more truth than the Dunn reports) that has Desmond re-signing with the Bucks. I look forward to seeing him take Bobby Simmon's starting spot by December.
And, wow, thank God this Yi Jianlian situation is cleared up. Silly me, I actually thought this situation might get messy...
And I guess I need to say that...
Darren was right. (God that's painful) Rickie needed to sit, but if he's not going to play, I'm all for him getting regular at bats in the minors once Billy comes off the DL...
We will need Rickie to contribute before it's all said and done. And he will. Trust me. Just like I trust Doug...to get 'er done...
Sunday, July 15, 2007
--I really love the opportunities that the Brewers are providing for kids who come to Miller Park. From the kid who yells "play ball" at the top of the game to the hordes of children partaking in the base run after a Sunday game, you see example after example of the Brewers' front office making every effort to create major league memories for their future fans. For example, I can't even begin to tell you how excited I would have been to announce the first three hitters of an inning, as one lucky kid gets to do every game in the bottom of the third.
But there have been a few kids that I have felt sorry for too.
That's because of another promotion that they run on Sundays, which is sponsored by Culvers and lets kids run out to one of the nine positions, greeting the players during the introductions and standing with them during the national anthem. I can't even begin to imagine how excited I would have been to stand next to Robin Yount when I was nine years old. You wanna talk about "pee your pants for the Brewers"? Yep. That would have done it.
But I do kind of feel bad for the kids who get chosen to stand next to the utility players when they get a start. For instance, on Bill Hall bobblehead day Fielder didn't start. So the kid who went out to first base stood next to Tony Graffanino instead. And today Counsell played for Hardy. I'm sure it's still a thrill for the kids to be next to a big leaguer, but if the kid's any kind of a Brewers fan--you gotta believe that when he first heard that he was going to go out to 1st base, he was thinking, "Awesome! Prince Fielder!"--and instead he gets to run out and meet Tony Graffanino. I'm sorry, and I really don't mean any offense to Tony, but there's got to be some measure of a letdown in that.
If it's 1983 and they tell me, "Tommy you're going to run out to shortstop," and I run out and meet Ed Romero--well, it's safe to say I'm sobbing in front of all of County Stadium. At the top of my lungs. I'm already picturing my mother scolding me and hollering "Tommy, you tell Mr. Romero 'thank you' right now, and take that baseball, dammit" as I fight through that post cry breath-intake thing that kids do (and can't ever seem to stop once they've started). As I think about it, perhaps it's best they started this promotion after I've become (somewhat of) an adult.
--Really glad the Bucks have Mo back in the fold, but I'm a little nervous about locking anyone up for 6 years. I like Mo's game, and I think he's only going to get better...but Bobby Simmons' contract has scarred me for a good three years (and I, admittedly liked the signing at the time). I do think Mo will play in an all-star game within the next two to three years, however, and will regularly pray that someone can teach him a little more defense.
--Meanwhile, Yi has had a conversation with Harris and Coach K, 68% of China wants him to play for the Bucks, and it's pretty well agreed that there's no way he would be able to sit next year (in order to re-enter the draft) with the Olympics on the immediate horizon. Nonetheless, I'm not going to admit I was wrong about the draft pick until Yi is practicing at the BC in a Bucks jersey. Until then, I still say the Buck should have sold while the selling was good. (Eric's comment three posts ago that I was "ripping on Yi," however is just not true. I've already said that I have no idea how good this kid is going to be. I haven't, after all, ever seen him play. But there's no way the Bucks can afford to "give him 2/3 years," because we all know that once he's completed his rookie contract, his days as a Buck are over...)
--Meanwhile, my other long-time friend, Darren, had to be ecstatic when Ned decided to pinch hit Tony G for Weeks on Saturday night. I have no problem with that decision, but I'm sticking with my prediction that Rickie breaks out of his funk during this homestand...
--One other observation I'd like to make from today's Brewers game, if I may--
Any of you that have ever sat behind home plate have probably watched kids run to the front row whenever a ball is fouled back to the screen and then beg the bat boy for the ball. (If you've ever thrown a piece of bread into a fish pond, it's pretty much looks like the same kind of thing.) And I have no problem with that. IF you're actually a kid. Today there were several adults begging for a ball as well. What's worse, there were at least two occasions in which the bat boy was throwing a kid a ball and an adult leaped up and stole it in front of them.
Can we just establish some kind of man law that it is NOT any kind of an accomplishment,whatsoever, to catch a ball from a bat boy? Please. I mean, maybe if Prince tosses one into the stands or Jenkins in left, then maybe that's a cool souvenir. But otherwise, unless you are catching the ball directly from the crack of the bat--you need to find the closest kid--immediately. And if you're stealing a bat boy ball from a kid, you should have one heaved at your head.
--Finally, I have a confession to make to my fellow Brewers fans. And an apology. On the night of the no-hitter, my cat Albus broke my Chris Capuano mini-bobblehead. I don't think he did it on purpose, but Albus does get jealous when I ignore him during the game. Anyhow, I think it's safe to say that Cappy hasn't been the same since. As a matter of fact, it was the next night that Villanueva had to make the spot start for him. My wife has obtained some super glue, however, and we hope to have him back to normal by his next outing. After all, with the Cubs playing like the '84 Tigers, we desperately need to put Cappy back together again...
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
If I would have told you in early January that the Milwaukee Brewers would be ten games above .500 at the all star break, what would you have said? Honestly.
And if I had told you that they would be four and half games up on the division, what would you have said to that? Come on; be honest.
Those of you that know me well enough would have probably said that it was just Tom being overly optimistic again. You might have called me delusional or you might have made some joke wondering how a guy who drinks as little as I do can always talk like such a crazy flippin' drunk. You might have even asked me if I had talked to Scotty F lately.
(Since 4 of my 9 readers don't know who Scotty is, let me explain. In my life, I've had the privilege of meeting several hard core Brewers fans. It's very seldom, however, that I meet someone who is as blindly optimistic about their chances every year as Scotty. I think I can safely say that you will also never meet a nicer guy--which only adds to the lore of Scotty's pure devotion for the Crew. Now, Scotty wasn't necessarily what you'd call "cool" by high school standards, but I guarantee you that if anyone was messing with him, you'd have about 120 guys (and about 400 girls) ready to throw down. He was just that nice. And the simplest story I can use to illustrate his sometimes misguided loyalty to the Crew happened when he went with a group of us to a game in 1992. It was the Brewers against the Blue Jays, and it was still a couple months before Scrap Iron's boys really got hot that summer and started making their push. Left-hander Bruce Ruffin was on the mound, and the first 7 Jays to bat laced balls all over County Stadium so hard that you wondered if you were actually watching an extended batting practice. Before an out could be recorded, there were 5 runs in and 2 more guys on base. Garner came out to talk to Ruffin, and when he didn't give him the hook--the crowd exploded in ferocious boos. Just as the two-fisted slobbers around the park started to calm down, Scotty stood up and at the top of his voice yelled, "Come on, Bruce. Ruffin some feathers!"
Yeah. We didn't get it either. But that's what Scotty brought to the table. Every single Brewer game. And to this day, if the Brewers are getting roughed up, I still quietly whisper to myself, "Come on, Turnbow (or whoever). Ruffin some feathers.")
Anyhow, the point is that you would have been pleased as punch to know the Brewers would be in this position, had you known back in January. And you might have called it flat out "impossible" if I had told you that they'd be in first place despite Rickie Weeks batting .221; Hall having only 9 HRs and 38 RBI; and the new free agent Suppan having an ERA of 5.00.
And--if you think about it--if I had told you that the Brewers would finish 15 games above five hundred at the end of the year...but two games back of the Cubs, you would have been more excited than Richard Simmons at a Spice Girls concert. "Awesome," you would have yelled, "you mean the Brewers will still be in the hunt during Packers season? That would be so cool."
Ah. But how things have changed. I'm guessing, if you're anything like me, that wouldn't be quite so awesome anymore. Sure, we could try to spin it that a winning season would still be a step in the right direction, but the truth is--now that we've tasted first place for this long--there would be no satisfaction in second place. And that's why things are suddenly different for us Brewer fans. It's a whole new world. A world where, "just keep me interested until Packers training camp" doesn't cut it anymore.
Not after a 24-10 start. Not after all of the national attention. Not after having four legitimate all stars.
(And really as good as are four stars have been, let's not forget four other stars, who also made this remarkable first half possible:
1. Carlos Villanueva--Unbelievably solid in the pen. While I understand the desire to save pitches on Gallardo's arm, I still think Villanueva should end up in the starting rotation soon. He would be such a huge upgrade over Vargas, it's not even funny. I know people are going to throw the Brewers record in games that Vargas has started in my face as an argument for him. But let me just say this--giving Vargas too much credit for those wins is EXACTLY the same as the Bears giving Grossman credit for their winning record. Of late, the Brewers were winning Vargas' outings, despite his efforts. And as the pennant push continues, we're going to need someone who can actually pitch more than five and a third innings every time out. Moving Villanueva would leave a hole in the bullpen, however, so acquiring a Chad Cordero or Gagne might have to be the first move...
2. Corey Hart--Just when all of Greater Milwaukee was complaining about Tony Gwynn not playing enough, Corey Hart reminded everyone that he's a top prospect too...
3. Ryan Braun--Simply unbelievable. I'll be the first to admit that I questioned Yost putting him in the 3 hole and worried about putting undue pressure on the kid. I'm silly.
4. Jenkins/Mench--Both were disappointed about being in a platoon role when camp broke, but neither have let it affect their game. And their combined numbers--.271; 18 HRs, 61 RBIs, make for quite the left fielder.)
Players always say that it's far too early to scoreboard watch at this point in the season. But that's not true with us fans. Hell, I've been watching Cubs scores and Cardinals scores since early May.
So, finally--like Yankees fans, and Red Sox fans and Dodgers fans--we get to see what this pennant run stuff is all about. And prepare yourself; because I'm already getting a sense that it won't be all fun and games. There will be some tense moments. There will be some sleepless nights. There might even be some rashes and vomiting.
But I bet it's worth it.
And it's definitely better than Ruffin some feathers...
Sunday, July 8, 2007
First off, I want to apologize for the things I've called you in the past. When I used the word "moron" I meant to say that you are more on with your choices than you are off. And when I used the term "ass wipe," I simply was trying to point out that, like toilet paper, you are essential to the back end success of the Green Bay Packers. And, well, I simply have no excuse for calling you a douche bag. But I do apologize. And I hope you accept.
See the thing about your moves thus far, Ted (if I may call you Ted), is that when Ron Wolf left the organization he admitted that his biggest regret was not getting better weapons to help Brett Favre. And since he was a mentor of yours, I've just always assumed that you had learned from his mistakes. And it has pained me to no extent to learn that you obviously haven't.
I will say, however, that you are up against unfair standards at GM. You see, the guy making the moves for my beloved Brewers has now officially moved into genius status. Every move he makes has come out looking more golden than than the gold of the Packers helmets. (But that's a topic for another blog, I suppose.) And it's hard for me not to notice that during your press conferences you look more confused than Mike Tyson at a spelling bee (All right, I stole that line from a comedian I saw last night, but it's so much more appropriate to you that I couldn't resist.)
That being said, however, there have been some moves I have really enjoyed, Ted (if I may call you Ted). I think you've done a fantastic job overhauling our defense, and yes it's true that defense wins championships. But let's be honest, for every Charles Woodson, there's been two Marquand Manuels or Arturo Freemans. And to be truly, truly honest Ted, I'll forever hold a grudge against you for using a 1st round pick on selecting Favre's successor when all Favre really wanted was a little help and he would have gladly stuck around without all the hemming and hawing.
I've also enjoyed your ability to successfully, "cut the fat" from our roster. Daycare centers have smaller messes to clean up at the end of the day in comparison to the dump truck load of poo Sherman left behind for you to clean up. The fact that you are still $10 million under the cap this year and $20 million under the cap on next year's books (with only Corey Williams becoming a free agent) is truly, truly remarkable. But here's the thing, Ted (if I may call you Ted)--it doesn't pay to cut all of that fat, if you don't spend the money. So here's what I propose, and if you can make this happen, well, we'll let all other bygones be bygones.
I need you to trade for Larry Johnson.
There were rumors that you were putting out feelers back in April before the draft, and now it's time to make the move, Ted (I'm just going to call you Ted and hope that's ok). You see, one of the biggest fallacies I heard after the Moss debacle was that the Packers shouldn't have gone after Moss anyhow because they are still far more than one player away from winning anything next year. Hogwash. That might be true in baseball or in the NBA, but anyone who's watched football the last 5 years knows it doesn't take much to go from worst to first these days. Not in the NFL, where parity reigns supreme.
The entire staff whole-heartily admits that Favre has his best year's when the Packers successfully run the football. Larry Johnson successfully runs the football.
Last year, the Packers were pathetic when they got into the red zone, lacking someone with a nose to the goal line. Larry Johnson has a nose for the goal line.
And when Favre does leave, it would be helpful to have a running back who can carry the load to take the pressure off the poor QB who'll have the unenviable position of being Favre's successor. Larry Johnson can carry that load.
So it's a no brainer really, Ted. You've done such a nice job of front-loading the salaries of Woodson and Kampman and now you can do the same when you negotiate LJ's contract.
And to make the deal sweet for the Chiefs, here's what I want you to offer them.
First Kansas City is always in need of help on their defense line, so I want you to offer them KGB. He's been exposed as purely a pass-rushing specialist, but Kansas City needs someone to rush on the weak side and KGB has proven he can put up double digit sacks. That opens the door for Montgomery and Hunter to step into the 3rd down pass rushing specialist and cuts $5 million off the cap that you can apply to front loading LJ's new deal.
Next, I want you to offer them one of your rookie WRs. You have two of them, Ted in Jones and Clowney, and I like what Ruvell Martin and Carlyle Holiday have to offer behind Jennings and Driver. So you really only have room for one of them--especially if Koren is able to contribute in October. The good news is that the Chiefs haven't been able to identify a good young WR in nearly two decades, so it's almost a lock that they'll choose the wrong one.
And finally, Ted, you need to offer them your next two first round draft choices. I know this is going to be really tough on you. You love your draft choices, I get that. And you have an uncanny knack at turning one pick into three lower picks, thus multiplying the number of average players on our roster. But LJ is a superstar, Ted. And sometimes you need to go and grab those kinds of players too.
And you can make the picks conditional. Here's what I propose.
If LJ rushes for 1,500 yards and/or 15 TDs in 2007, the Chiefs get our #1.
If LJ rushes for 1,200 yards and/or 12 TDS in 2007, the Chiefs get out #2.
If LJ rushes for 1,000 yards and/0r 10 TDS in 2007, the Chiefs get our #3.
Anything under those benchmarks, the Chiefs get our #4.
Follow the exact same formula for the 2008 season to tell you what the Chiefs get from us in the 2009 draft.
I think the Chiefs will be interested. After all, this deal is much sweeter than the 3rd round pick the Colts got from the Rams for Marshall Faulk. And if LJ rushes for 1500 yards the next two years and you lose a couple 1st rounders, so be it. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that with Favre and a 1500 yard rusher, it won't be a top ten pick. And you'll have Morency to become the great change of pace back that he is, thereby saving some of the hits that LJ will have to take over the next 4 years in a Packers uniform. That's the perfect formula for winning.
And after all, Ted, that's really how your job should be defined.
I was sorry to see the agony (comments section of my last blog post) that Darren went through last night watching Weeks hit in crucial situations. I do hope he used some mouth wash before going to bed as that vomit taste can be awfully nasty. Here's what Ned Yost said about Weeks in today's Journal, but the comments are following Friday night's game:
"I thought Rickie swung the bat well last night," Yost said. "He's just got zero luck right now. He can not find a hole.
"I thought Rickie had some good at-bats last night, but he just had nothing to show for it. Every once in a while you just need one to fall in. It doesn't matter how it is, you just need one to fall in and then they come in bunches after that."
I would expect Rickie to get today off and be ready to go after the all-star break...
Finally, it's early to be thinking about Marquette basketball, but here's a nice article on Jerel McNeal, who I think will start a solid NBA career in two years as a defensive specialist (think Eric Snow with a better shot and better ability to take it to the rim).
(As I'm typing this article, I can't get anything to pop into the "Title" box. Not sure what's going on, but just know I would have called this post "My Letter to Ted.")