Saturday, October 11, 2008

CC-ing is believing

An open letter to Doug Melvin, GM of your Milwaukee Brewers--

Dear Doug,

Let me start by saying that for the first three plus months I never even dared to think it was possible. When you oh-so-wisely acquired CC Sabathia in July, I made peace with the fact that this was only a half year rental. As soon as anyone asked me what I thought about the Brewers chances of keeping CC for the future, I immediately told them to forget it. Draft picks. We were going to get a couple compensation draft picks to restock the farm system and replace the likes of Laporta, Jackson and Brantley. And I was fine with that. More than fine, actually. My Milwaukee Brewers had finally made a statement about "going for it." Those words were magic to my ears. I even abstained from blogging for the remainder of the season, out of fear that I might jinx what I believed was the oncoming end of the 26 year postseason void. And when that happened, it verified my faith in you, Doug. My belief in your status as a genius. You ended the postseason drought, and it was okay that CC would soon be moving on to greener pastures.

But then something funny happened. Both you and Mr. Attanasio stated that you would make an honest effort to sign the big lefty. You each acknowledged how much this guy is worth, and that he deserves every cent. But you would not rule out a CC signing in the free agent period. My gut reaction, of course, was that this was just company-speak to appease the fan base. Hoping is one thing, reality is another.

But the next to speak up was Ryan Braun. And the cornerstone of the franchise too thought it was possible for CC to stay in Milwaukee. Easy for him to say, sure, but I couldn't help but wonder if CC and Ryan had talked seriously on the subject. And then of course came the blow that knocked me out of (perhaps) reality...CC himself said it was possible. He said the clubhouse was like no other he'd played for, and he'd love to stick around if it could work out. And now, the guy who attempted to be so realistic, so accepting of those compensatory draft picks was completely lost to dream of what might be. And I'm daring to dream, Doug. I'm daring to dream.

That's because the signing of CC Sabathia would be the biggest transaction in the history of the organization. Think Reggie White to the Packers. In that equation, of course, Ryan Braun would play the role of Brett Favre: the talented up-and-comer that makes the veteran believe in the future of the franchise. Given that Mr. Favre is no longer a player in our beloved state--that makes a possible CC signing all the more impactful.

And so, from the moment I got home from the elimination game against the Phils, I've been crunching the numbers and trying to figure things out. You're a genius, Doug. I know that. So you don't really need my help. But I figured if I could make the numbers work, there'd be no doubt that you could too...

So here's my plan for '09, Mr. Melvin, the plan that includes one CC Sabathia. Our ace starting pitcher. #1 in the front of the rotation. The plan starts, of course, with signing him.

Step 1--CC Sabathia

I figure it's going to take at least $22 million a year to keep the big man in Milwaukee. Ryan Braun implied that perhaps CC would take a contract with one less year offered to stay in Milwaukee. I'll let you work out the details on the number of years, Doug. But I'm going to consider that we'll be $22 million above last year's salary. So that's what I'll look to make up.

(Truthfully, you actually paid a portion of CC's $9 million contract last year. But I know our beloved owner said by doing that it meant the club would be in the red for '08. And given the economic hardship right now, I'm not sure we can assume 3 million fans will come through the turnstiles again. Even with the championship-level squad I'm about to propose. So we'll look at making up the entire $22 million.)

We'll refer to this difference as the CCIP--the CC Investment Pool. I work at a company that's big on acronyms, and the "CCIP" just sounds kind of important to me. And it is pertinent-- because I'll be keeping a running total as we go. Just remember that step one is to get the big guy signed. We'll continue to look at the 2008 roster in order of the size of the '08 contract....

CCIP= - $ 22 mil

Step 2--Ben Sheets ($11 mil in '08; free agent)

I think it's quite clear that the Ben Sheets era is over in Milwaukee. Personally, it will be rough seeing him in an Astros uniform. And I'm not going to rehash Benny's injury history. We both know it is what it is. Ben still goes down as one of the greatest Brewers pitchers in club history. But step 2 involves not resigning Ben Sheets. Compensation draft picks are a plus.

CCIP= - $11 million

Step 3--Eric Gagne ($10 mil in 'o8; free agent)

Unlike others, Doug, I do not begrudge you for the Gagne signing. I actually think it was remarkable to sign the guy to a one year deal. 9 times out of 10, when you sign a guy to what is essentially a contract year, he's going to perform for the next contract. It's also amazing how many Brewers fans pissed and moaned (oops, forgive the language, Mr. Melvin) when Cordero got away, only because those are the same fans that complained when you acquired Cordero in the Carlos Lee trade. They mocked you for grabbing a "has-been" closer. And then they complained when you let that "has-been" get away. A fickle fan base, huh? Anyhow, there's no dispute that the one year deal with Gagne did not pay off. So step three is that we do not sign Eric Gagne.

CCIP= - $1 million

Step 4--Jeff Suppan ($8 million in '08; $12.5 million on '09)

I tried, Doug. I really did. But there's no way I can imagine anyone helping us unload this contract. I even considered the Yankees, but even they are not going to over spend on a number 5 starter. Not the way Suppan finished last year. And not when you consider that he's also under contract in 2010. So step 4 is dealing with the fact that we're keeping Jeff Suppan. (Although, you are the genius, Doug. So if anyone could figure it out, you could. And that sure would help with some of the very tough decisions I'm going to have to make moving forward. But I just couldn't do it...)

CCIP = - $5.5 million

Step 5--Ray Durham ($7.5 million in '08; free agent)

I'm not sure exactly how much of Durham's '08 contract you ended up paying. I know the Giants included cash considerations. But I have to believe you're saving at least $2.5 million by not having him on the roster next year. And step 5 is to not resign Ray Durham.

CCIP = - $3 million

Step 6--Mike Cameron ($7 million in '08; $10 mil in '09)

I spent a large portion of the '08 season defending the acquisition of Mike Cameron. I maintain that he's the greatest CF I've ever watched roam CF, not named Tori Hunter (and ever-so-slightly ahead of Devon White, during his Blue Jay years). I think the majority of Brewers coaches and players would attest to those comments. That being said, we desperately need to eliminate some of the strikeouts in this lineup. And the veteran leadership that Cameron provides may have to wait next year until we acquire a few veterans at the July trade deadline. And so, Step 6 is to not exercise the option on Mike Cameron.

CCIP = + $4 million

Step 7--Bill Hall ($4.8 mil in '08; $6.8 in '09)

Here's another significant contract increase that I didn't think I'd be able to move. I mean, what team is going to overpay for a guy who hits .225.? But then I remembered what Billy did to the Pittsburgh Pirates last year. And, even more, I remembered that they're the Pittsburgh Pirates. They desperately need some power in the line-up, and they might be willing to see what a change of scenery does to Billy's swing. That being said, the guy I've targeted in return from the Pirates could never be acquired straight up for Billy Hall. But Freddie Sanchez has been rumored to be on the trading block. And I also know that the Pirates, like most teams, could use more pitching. So step 7 is to trade Bill Hall and Dave Bush ($2.55 million, arbitration eligible) to the Pirates for Freddie Sanchez and a prospect. Freddie has a $6.1 million price tag that, like Hall, escalates over 8 million in 2010. It, however includes a reasonable club buy-out. The difference between Bush and Hall and Sanchez is a savings of $1.25 mil. It's tough to trade pitching away, and I'd never even consider dealing Bush...unless we had CC. But how could the Pirates pass on a pitcher who won a post season game? And how else could we expect them to take Billy's contract off our hands?

CCIP= + $5.25 million

Step 8--Keep Jason Kendall and David Riske (both under contract for '09)

We still haven't seen the best of David Riske yet. And Kendall is a great stop gap until either Salome or Lawrie are ready to go. Both have minimal escalators for '09--from what I've been able to locate it will total about half a million.

CCIP= +$4.75 million

Step 9--Trade Rickie Weeks ($1 mil in 'o8), Tony Gwynn ($.4 mil) and Chris Capuano ($3.75 mil) to the Kansas City Royals for David Dejesus ($3.6 in 'o9 escalates in '10, club option in '11) and Ryan Braun ($.4 million).

Let it be clear that I still believe Rickie will be an all-star in the next two to three years. But it's time for him to pay immediate dividends, by bringing back a legitimate lead-off hitter. Dejesus has been rumored on the block for a while, and the combination of Weeks and Gwynn gives the Royals solid major league ready prospects in return. The Cappy situation would certainly be dependent upon him passing a physical, but if he does look good, the Royals are in no position to pass up on pitching, especially one that is still under arbitration. With DeJesus and Sanchez now batting 1 and 2, the Brewers finally have the table setters that Braun and Fielder deserve. As for the other Ryan Braun, I don't know much about this young relief pitcher other than he seems to be somewhere between a triple A and big league pitcher. I just think it would be nice to completely corner the market on guys named Ryan Braun.

CCIP= + $5.9 million

Step 10--Do not resign Guilerma Mota ($3.2 mil in '08)

CCIP= + $9.1 million

Step 11-- Exercise the club option on Solomon Torres ($3.2 mil in '08; 3.75 mil in '09)

I'm not sure Torres will survive another season as closer, but he's too good not to bring back and the salary is very affordable.

CCIP= + $8.55 million

Step 12--Craig Counsell ($2.8 million in '08; $3.4 in '09 club buy out of $.4 mil)

I like Craig Counsell and think he's good for this ball club. But even he has to realize that, in order to keep CC, we can't pay a utility infielder over $3 million. So, Doug, I think you need to buyout Counsell's contract and then ask him to come back at $1 million. I'm willing to bet he gives the "Whitefish Bay discount" just to be a part of this team. If not, that $1 million could be put to the likes of a Russel Branyan or another utility infielder. I sure hope Counsell takes the deal though. It saves us $2 million, if he does.

CCIP= + $10.55 million

Step 13--I'm just going to assume that Mike Lamb isn't on the books for anything significant. We let him go.

Step 14--J.J Hardy ($2.65 mil in 'o8; arbitration eligible)

This is actually a two-step process. First, you have to convince J.J. that he's the club's future at third base. Alcides Escobar is the shortstop of my choice, and I think we need to bring him up in '09. J.J.'s been a shortstop his whole life, so this is going to be a tough one to accept. Especially when you consider that Escobar will almost certainly make more errors than J.J.'s 15 last year. Escobar committed 20 in AA, but the extra range that he has to offer makes it all worth it. If Cal Ripken (albeit later in his career) and ARod can swap positions, so can J.J. Hardy. And the selling point, Doug, is that with his somewhat limited range at short, J.J.'s probably never going to be a gold glove shortstop. But with his glove, I think he could be a gold glove third baseman--very, very soon. This also allows Matt Gamel to try either the OF or 1B and become the heir apparent to Prince in a few years.

The second part of this step is to lock J.J. up for three years. There's just not a huge market for 3B, and I'm not convinced that Gamel (30 errors in AA alone) will be ready to man the hot corner anytime soon. That means J.J. holds the fort until Greene is ready. After another solid year, I have to assume J.J.'s looking at a million dollar increase.

CCIP= + $9.55 million

Step 15--Brian Shouse ($2 million in '08; free agent)

As solid as he has been, I think it's time to look to Stetter to be our lefty specialist of the future. That means we're going to have to let Shousey walk.

CCIP= + $11.55 million

Step 16--Sign Todd Coffey to $1 million deal.

He was good enough for us in the last couple weeks to make him an offer. The fact that he was cut from the Reds should make it a very affordable contract.

CCIP= + $10.55 million

Step 17--Gabe Kapler ($.8 million in '08; free agent)

I don't see anyway how you can not bring this guy back in '09, Doug. The only problem is, he won't come as cheap as he did last off season. I have to assume Gabe's going to demand at least $2 million. But the good news is, he revived his career here, and I think he'll want to stay, which is especially good news for a friend named Jonny, who has developed a very, very serious man crush, Doug. He's even dubbed him "Gabe Ruth." So keep him around for Jonny, or I'll hear about it all next season. I'm not sure he can man RF every day, but my '09 plan involves Gabe being out there the majority of the time.

CCIP + $9.35 million

Step 18--Seth McClung ($ .75 million in '08; arbitration eligible)

Here's another guy who will see a marked (and deserved) increase in '09. I can't imagine where the team would have been without his right arm, however, so we have to bring him back (unless the Pirates would prefer him to Bush, which I doubt). I don't have him making the starting rotation, but he'll be in the pen in the event of an injury. And I have to say, given the way he pitched from the pen late in the year, Doug--I'd give Seth a serious look at the closer role in '09. That would allow Torres to return to his more comfortable set-up role...I'm guessing McClung's salary will jump up to 2.5 million next year.

CCIP= + $7.6 million

Step 19--Ryan Braun ($.455 mil in 'o8; $.745 mil in '09)

This was a step you already took last year, and it's almost as great of a move as the trade for CC itself. Braun's contract being so affordable next year is the biggest reason that re-signing CC is actually possible. He's almost certain to qualify as a super 2 after the season, however, and that means he'll jump all the way up to over $3 mill in 2010.

CCIP = + $ 7.3 million

Step 20--Prince Fielder ($ .67 million in 'o8; arbitration eligible)

Here come the two biggest steps of the process, Doug. There has been a lot of sentiment that Prince should be traded this off season. That includes a fellow actor I know who writes for, Dave Begel (see # 4)--

I respect Dave and his opinions a great deal. He's certainly seen a ton of more games than I have, but I think he's flat out wrong about trading Prince, Doug. Don't get me wrong. I understand that Prince is destined for the American League. But I just can't see moving him while we still have control of his contract for three more years. The trade will come, but it has to happen when we have identified a realistic dynamic left-handed bat to replace him. Frankly, even though he hit less homers in '08, I think it's remarkable that Prince played as well as he did without another legitimate lefty bat in the regular starting line-up. The majority of time Prince was in a key situation, he was either walked or the other team was able to save their only lefty in the pen just for Prince. And even so, he still put up a 30+HR/100 RBI season. And no one can tell me that Ryan Braun isn't a much better hitter because of Prince behind him. Maybe when Gamel becomes more of an established big league hitter--then maybe it will be possible. But we just can't move the big fellow yet, Doug. It would cause too big of a hole in the lineup. And I have a feeling the big fella at first is a drawing point for the other big lefty we're trying to keep. That means a big raise is coming Prince's way. Miguel Cabrera landed a $10 million contract in his first year of arbitration. As good as Prince has been, he doesn't quite match Cabrera, who made much more of an impact as a rookie. That being said a two year average of 40+ HRs and 100 RBIs doesn't come cheap. I'm guessing we're looking at an $8 million contract for '09.


Step 21--Corey Hart ($.44 million in '08, arbitration eligible in '09)

This is the one that hurts the most, Doug. And if you can find a way to sign Prince at a cheaper amount or somehow move Suppan, we might not have to make this last painful step. Anyone who thinks this a reactionary move to Hart's struggles at the end of the season would be completely wrong. I am as big a Corey Hart fan as you will meet. I love the way the kid comes to work every day. It really came down to J.J. or Corey, and it's simply easier to find corner outfielders than it is to find a third baseman. And Corey's going to be due for a huge raise. If JJ was at $2.5 million in '08, then I have to believe you're looking upwards of $3 million for Corey. I realize that Prince critics are going to argue that it's still much cheaper than Fielder, but we simply need Prince's left-handed power for at least one more year. I'm standing by that. So this final step involves trading Corey Hart to the Tampa Bay Rays for SP Andy Sonnanstine. The Rays have plenty of pitching, and with Price and Garza emerging with Kazmir and Shields, Sonnanstine should be available. I also know that the Rays are looking for a right-handed OF bat with power, and reportedly no one garnered more attention last offseason than Corey Hart. Sonnanstine's not arbitration eligible, so his salary should come out even with Hart's in '08.

Step 22--fill the remainder of roster with kids

Gallardo, Parra, Villanueva, Stetter and Escobar are all givens. You'll probably want to lock up Gallardo for a while in 2010. (Perhaps that's when we move Prince.) I'd also look to add Rivera again at catcher and Rottino if Rivera doesn't sign. I'd bring up Irribarren and Nix along with either Brad Nelson or Jay Gibbons. You've also got 8 kids who can compete for the last bullpen spot: DiFilice, Dillard, Pena, (non roster invitees:) Gulin, Narron, Narveson, Bateman, and the newly acquired Ryan Braun.

It's a young team, I get that. But as I mentioned, you will have a chance to acquire more veterans in July, when it's clear that this team is set to return to the post season. Here they are, Doug. The 2009 Milwauke Brewers.










The Bench:

Counsell, Rivera, Irribarren, Nelson, Gibbons/Nix

The rotation

1. Sabathia

2. Gallardo

3. Sonnanstine

4. Parra

5. Suppan

And the pen: McClung, Villanueva, Torres, Stetter, Riske, Coffey, and DiFilece

Now you just need to make it happen. And it all starts with step 1--signing CC. And, hell, if I can figure out a way to make it happen, well, then you know with a genius like you at the healm--

It. Is. Possible.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An Argument With...Myself

I call this blog the Midseason Forum, so I guess (given the mid-season baseball classic is about to begin) I’m obligated to post something this time of the year…The problem is: I’m having far too difficult a time focusing on baseball lately. And I guess that’s to be expected. After all, it’s not every day a legend says he wants to abandon his franchise. And it’s even rarer for a franchise to want to abandon their legend…

So here I sit, watching the first ever Milwaukee Brewers pitcher to start an all-star game, and as Sheets gets introduced and shakes hands with legends like Steve Carlton, Don Sutton and Whitey Ford, I can’t help but wonder if our Lambeau legend is hoping to shake hands and join forces with evil empires in Minnesota or Chicago. I mean, dammit, it’s the all-star break. I should be relishing in the CC trade. I should be rejoicing in the fact that baseball’s smallest television market managed to get Ryan Braun and Corey Hart into the all-star game. I should be wondering how Tony Gwynn Sr. came to get so friggin’ fat and should be worrying that just maybe he’s eaten Tony Gwynn Jr.

But no. I have to deal with the emotional roller coaster of Ted vs. Brett. And it pains me.

You see there are two sides to this blogger known as Tom. There is the Packer Tom, the guy who has admitted that he was wrong about Teddy T all along and believes this franchise is heading in the right direction…the guy who sweats green and gold…and who has considered shaving a large capital G into his private region but doesn’t know of the barber he would trust with the clippers.

And then there’s Favre Tom. The guy who defends Brett Favre’s every interception, who has a “Wall of Favre” in his rec room, and who has considered tattooing Favre’s likeness onto his backside (think Henry Winkler’s Roy Orbison in The Water Boy.) if only I wasn’t so afraid of having hot pokers near my supple tushy.

And these two Toms have been going back and forth inside my head since last Friday when the news broke that Favre had asked for his release. And they won’t stop bickering inside my head. It’s not fair to the Brewers. It’s not fair to my family. Hell, it’s not fair to me. And since I’ve been tortured for the past week, I thought I’d open my mind up to my seven readers…

PACKER TOM: I think we should just go ahead and call Favre “Moses” from now on. Not because he’s old, but because he’s managed to split the Green and Gold Sea better known as Packer Nation into two equal halves.

FAVRE TOM: That’s not Brett’s fault. That’s all on your boy Ted. All he had to do was welcome Brett back with open arms.

PACKER TOM: Ted didn’t retire. Brett did. And nobody made him retire. He even said so himself. He went out of his way to say as much at his press conference in March. Nobody forced me. I just don’t have it in me. But now, all of a sudden, his story changes. The guy has problems. Seriously. I think he’s mental.

FAVRE TOM: Why is he mental? Because he wants to play again? Great. Bring him back, hand him some shoulder pads, and snap the ball. We get another year of Favre. What’s the problem?

PACKER TOM: Look, it’s like that episode of Saved By the Bell. Remember the one where Zack sells a skin care product to everyone, but it actually makes Kelly’s face turn red? That’s how I feel about Favre. It’s like he’s selling us a different story all the time, and I just can’t trust him anymore. I just wish he’d go away and retire with a little grace.

FAVRE TOM: Are you really comparing Brett Favre to Zack Morris? So what does that make Ted Thompson—Screech? You should be embarrassed for even mentioning that show. And you should be more embarrassed for not standing up for Brett.

PACKER TOM: Hey—you know our old roommate, Eric, watched that show religiously. We were forced to watch so many episodes of both that show and Boy Meets World that it’s possible we actually went through puberty for a second time. Forget the Zack comparison. Think of it this way—when Javon Walker was threatening to hold out, Brett said a player needs to honor his contract. So if he comes back, and the Packers want him to be Aaron Rogers back up—he should honor his contract. Or is he saying that his words don’t apply to him? Only he’s allowed to play hardball and ask out of his contract? Seems like a double standard to me.

FAVRE TOM: Seriously, you think Brett Favre should be the back up QB? To Aaron Rogers? I can’t figure out what Packers nation is thinking. Rogers plays one good half of a football game in Dallas and suddenly he’s a better option than Favre? That’s ridiculous.

PACKER TOM: It’s not just about that half of the Cowboys game. Aaron’s been there all off-season. He wasn’t the one who said in March that he wouldn’t be able to give it 100%. He’s got the support of a lot of players in that locker room.

FAVRE TOM: But he’s Aaron Rogers!!! He’ll be hurt by Week 4, and then we’ll be wishing we did let Brett come back.

PACKER TOM: So then why doesn’t Brett just come back as the #2 QB? If everyone thinks Rogers is going to be hurt by Week 4, then why can’t Favre just wait until then to get his snaps? It might keep his old ass in shape for the post season.

FAVRE TOM: Because he’s BRETT FAVRE. He’s not a number two QB.

PACKERS TOM: But HE retired. He gave up his starting spot that day. Why shouldn’t the Packers brass tell him he needs to earn the spot back? Favre could have eliminated all of this nonsense by just saying, “all right, I’ll come back as the #2. But I’m leaving as the #1.” Instead he feels slighted. It’s ridiculous. His whining is driving me crazy.

FAVRE TOM: He’s not whining. He just wants to play football.

PACKERS TOM: Not whining? You heard the interview on FOX News as well as I did—

FAVRE TOM: Of course, I did. I am you.

PACKERS TOM: Why didn’t Ted sign Marco and Wahle? Whine, whine, whine. Why didn’t Ted hire Steve Mariucci and his oh-so-impressive record as head coach of the Lions? Whine, whine, whine. Why didn’t Ted get Randy Moss for me? Well you know something Brett? Greg Jennings and Donald Driver didn’t lose the NFC Championship game against the Giants. You did! Yeah, that’s right. Even if that last pass was headed for Randy Moss, it still would have been picked. 90% of the QBs in this league would be giddy to have a receiving core like you had last year. So how do you show them the love for all of the YAC they racked up? You complain that Ted didn’t get Moss. Let it go you, horse’s ass. There’s nothing wrong with the personnel Ted built around you.

FAVRE TOM: (Long pause.) Wow. Tell me how you really feel.

PACKERS TOM: Look, all I’m saying is Brett had a chance to be a team leader and instead he reverted to his usual selfish self. We keep hearing people say that the Packers should trade Aaron Rogers and let Favre play this year. But what if Rogers is the Matt LaPorta of QBs?

FAVRE TOM: So what if he is? Isn’t another year of Favre just as valuable as a half season of CC Sabathia? The guy was second in the MVP voting, for crying out loud. If the Packers can get something good for Rogers, make the deal. We know how Ted loves his draft picks…

PACKERS TOM: Until Favre calls it quits again in mid August, right? Look, we both suspected that Favre was going to call it quits when we saw him in that Bears game last year. Sure, he said it was the coldest game he’s ever played in, but that was the not the Brett Favre that we have grown to love. The playful, fun Favre would have toughed those cold conditions and put forth a much better effort. This Favre didn’t even want to be on that field at all. And it showed. Sure, we saw that playful Favre again during the Seahawks game, but we’ve come to expect it game in and game out. The current Favre only seems to bring the joy when they’re winning. Well, I’ve got a news flash for you: the Packers are going to lose some games. There’s going to be some missed tackles. And there’s going to be some dropped balls…I don’t want to watch a Favre that doesn’t have the joy of playing through thick and thin…maybe the Packers are right not to let him tarnish his legacy…

FAVRE TOM: That’s not for the Packers to decide. It’s Favre’s legacy. So he’s the only one who can determine how it’s written. So if the Packers aren’t going to let him start, maybe they should just grant his release (crap, I just threw up in my mouth a little…)

PACKERS TOM: Absolutely not. Favre is a commodity and you don’t just give him away. You have to trade him and get something for him (crap, I just threw up in my mouth a little…)

And the debate rages on in my mind. There’s no simple answer. And I feel like both halves of me are right. So I can’t even enjoy Sheets two solid innings right now. Now with all this background noise making me dizzy. All I know is something needs to be done to resolve this mess in Green Bay real soon. And if I were a betting man, I’d say this whole Favre mess is not going to end pretty…

Crap. I just threw up in my mouth a little…

Thursday, July 3, 2008


So much has happened since the last post on Weeks: Rickie got food poisoning, someone reminded JJ Hardy that he can hit to all fields, the Bucks are movin’ on up to the East side with Mr. Jefferson, and Favre got a nasty itch. With so much excitement bubbling, you’ll have to forgive me for needing to ramble…

With all the attention on getting Ryan Braun to the all-star game (which I do think is deserved, don’t get me wrong), I feel like Corey Hart’s first half of the season has gone a little unnoticed and unrecognized. He’ll never make it this year, but Corey Hart deserves just as much mention as a viable candidate to play at Yankee stadium. That’s why I was extremely happy to stumble upon this story on Yahoo!, in which Steve Henson lists Corey as a deserving starter for the National League team:;_ylt=As9YtsJtwUSEaOKtd7nnr6wRvLYF?slug=ys-allstarpicks070208&prov=yhoo&type=lgns
Again, I realize it won’t happen, but it’s nice to see Corey getting at least a little national attention. I have to admit, he’s certainly been well used in the five hole protecting Fielder, but he’s also proving he could produce from any spot in the order. Rickie’s out? Let’s hit Corey lead-off. Prince is going to get a day off? Let’s hit Corey clean-up. Ryan’s got a sore thumb? No problem; Corey can hit third. Now that Braun is a Brewer for years to come, there’s no player I want locked up more than this kid.

I’m going to have to declare Monday night’s loss to the Diamondbacks the most painful loss of the season. Not because Dave Bush gave up a 2-0 lead quicker than Lindsay Lohan gave up on the idea of wearing underpants. No, it actually had nothing to do with the final score, or the return of Dave Bush to his usual meatball tossing self. What made the game so painful was the foul tip that Arizona catcher, Chris Snyder, took to his giblets. When it happened, Bill and Brian did the usual, “he’s going to need a couple of minutes” routine, and the camera crew panned in on guys who were grimacing, but also smiling (because it wasn’t them). Then, early in Tuesday’s telecast, Brian Anderson announced that Snyder was placed on the DL with a fractured testicle. As my wife declared, “I didn’t even know that could happen,” I immediately curled myself into the fetal position and breathed deeply, desperately wishing I had taken that yoga class the company offers. Even just the fact that I typed the words seconds ago is causing me to ….type…much…slowe…r…
I think from now on, teammates should not be allowed to take these foul-tip-to-the-nards moments so casually. Instead, it should become an unwritten rule, that guys treat these incidents the same way football players react when a wide receiver is laid out and lying unconscious. They should huddle together, engage in a group prayer, and treat it as the solemn moment that it really is…any less respect for the injury is just plain nuts. (Forgive me.)

As long as I’m proposing unwritten rules, let me propose a written one as well. Last night, David Riske got the win after blowing the 3-2 lead in the 8th. There is no rule in sports that infuriates me more than this “win” rule in baseball. If a starting pitcher can’t earn a win without pitching 5 innings, why should a relief pitcher get a win after blowing a save (or a hold)? I just don’t get it. Why can’t the win get credited to the last pitcher of record (in this case Shouse, who performed an amazing escape act in the 7th)? If a relief pitcher blows a lead, they should have to pitch two more innings to qualify for a win. That’s a simple rule. We can add a Wild Card, realign divisions and move the Brewers to another league, but no one thinks it’s feasible to change this ridiculous rule? Who’s with me? (cricket, cricket)

A lot of debate is going to occur over the next three to four weeks in regards to how much the Brewers should be willing to give up for an ace pitcher. The Sabathia rumors abound, but there seems to be a large contingency who don’t think the Brewers should be willing to part with the likes of Matt Gamel. All I know is I’ve waited far too long for the Brewers to be legitimate buyers at the trade deadline, and even if Gamel ends up being the next Jeff Bagwell, I’m willing to take that gamble. Considering that we’ll probably lose Sheets after the season, the Brewers have to take a run at it this year…there’s simply no guarantees that a team, no matter how young and no matter how talented, can duplicate their output from year to year. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the Colorado Rockies…

Aaron Rogers is a smart man. I don’t know if he’s going to be a quality starting QB in the NFL, and I don’t know if he’s going to be able to stay healthy for four games, much less a full season. But I do know that he is smart. That’s why I couldn’t help but wonder if his comments in Sports Illustrated weren’t actually a little more contrived than he’s letting on. After all, for three years he’s had to deal with the Favre rumors every time he opened up his newspaper or turned on his tv.

“Will Favre retire?”
“Will Favre come back?”
“Does the fact that Favre has given up eating bagels mean he wants to return in August?”

It has to get old very fast. So why not purposefully say things about the fans needing to “shut up” just to draw a little attention to Aaron Rogers? Then you can quickly let the fans know how much they mean to you, and even if there’s a recovery period with the fans, you have them thinking about you, instead of the Hall of Famer that isn’t around anymore.
But then, of course, that attention goes away as soon as an unscratched itch is reported. I’m guessing it was a nice 18 hours of fame for Aaron while it lasted. I’m also guessing he ripped up his copy of the SI Special Edition Favre Tribute issue. Just a guess.

Every time I see that Kyle Lohse put up another quality start for the Cardinals, I can’t help but remember that the Twins wanted to trade Lohse for Hall, straight up. At the time I thought it was ridiculous. Billy was ten times the prospect of Lohse. And, of course, when the Twins finally gave up on him, I was feeling even cockier that I was right. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem like such a bad trade. Funny how these things go in cycles, huh?

I can’t ever remember being as excited about a Bucks off-season as I currently am about this one. I love the Jefferson trade. I like the draft picks of Alexander and Mbah. I’m excited that Skiles plans to instill a defensive mindset. And I think (forgive me, given my Pistons roots) that John Hammond will bring a winning attitude to the organization. I still think Mo and Charlie V are on their way out the door, given the fact that one of Hammond’s first comments was that he could ask Skiles to hide one poor defender, but not three or four. I have to assume that "one" is Michael, who they’ll try to hide. "Two" is Bobby, who is gone. And "three" and "four" are Mo and Charlie V. Package the two of them for a defensive minded PF, and I’ll really be ecstatic.

But as excited as I am about the direction of the team, I’ve been here before at trading deadlines and off-seasons gone by. Probably the best way to sum up my problem with the NBA is that I’m never as excited during the regular season as I am in July, when hope springs eternal. That’s the only league I can say that about. Let’s hope the Bucks can do something to have me as excited in January…you know, when they’re actually playing games…

I know this old news, but I just have to wonder what would have happened if Danika Patrick had taken a swing at the guy that she was pissed at a few weeks back. I know nothing about car racing, but i do know that you're never supposed to hit a lady. But what if she clocks you on national tv? You still can't hit a girl, right? Or is it offensive not to swing back at her, because she wants to be treated like an equal? I'm perplexed. And it's just another reason not to get into to car racing...

Finally, I close with the words of Ned Yost, after Rickie hit his pinch-hit home run last night--

"We figured Rickie's a leadoff hitter, let's see if he can't lead off and get on base," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "He put a jolt into one."

Is he really, Ned? ‘Cause he looked a lot like a power hitter to me…

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Great Rickie Weeks Debate

My daughter puked all over me on Friday night.

I don't share this information as an attempt to gross you out or as an attempt to use fatherhood as an excuse as to why I haven't been blogging of late. I only tell you this because I had never been puked on so thoroughly before in all my life. And because of this technicolor dream coat of vomit that I was given to wear, I became very, very ill myself. So ill, in fact, that I was unable to attend the Brewers game on Sunday. I had company seats, 7th row, behind home plate. I was taking my parents (my dad's birthday was Sunday and he retired on Friday), but I couldn't stay away from the toilet long enough to make it to my garage, much less all the way out to Miller Park. So the family went without me to a Brewers game--my wife, my dad, my mom...and of course, my daughter, who was feeling super-dee-duper by Sunday morning. I was with them in spirit, of course, and my dad did go back out of the park so he could re-enter and cash in on a Ryan Braun Bobblehead for his ailing son. And as I watched the Brewers offense come to life from the sweaty comfort of my own couch, I knew that the team's success had little to do with my absence from the game. Unfortunately, I couldn't say the same thing about Rickie Weeks absence from the line-up.

See, the thing is...just like I will always love my daughter, regardless of how many times she spews molten oatmeal upon me like my own little Mt. St. Helen's, I will always believe in the future of Rickie Weeks, even as he continues to consistently throw-up in key game situations. Hell, I'll just say it. I love that kid.

I love the way Rickie Weeks approaches the game of baseball. I loved that last year, while I was working at the park, I'd see Rickie taking infield with Dale Sveum before any other players were out there. I love the way the ball jumps off his bat (granted, when he makes contact), and I love the way he hustles out every single ground ball, just like Robin and Mollie used to. Despite the fact that he was the second overall pick and signed the largest amateur contract in Brewers history, Rickie has never displayed any arrogance or the slightest sense of entitlement. Despite his well documented struggles, the kid plays hard. And no one can deny that an abundance of talent is waiting to be tapped.

And we are again. For the past few weeks there have been another group of emails exchanged among several of my friends about when Yost is going to finally get the balls to bench Rickie. For several weeks, our friend Kelly has been admirably attempting to defend Rickie, primarily citing his ability to score runs as justification for putting up with Rickie's other apparent flaws. In the other corner of cyberspace were Jon and Darren (who, of course, still refers to Weeks as "Rick"), who each could care less about Rickie's runs scored, but merely want a lead-off hitter who can get on base for the big boppers. As these emails continued to be exchanged, I pretty much stayed out of the fray but silently cheered when Kelly would make his pro-Rickie arguments. Things turned for me a little, however, when Kelly started to rip Prince in his defense of Rickie. (However, maybe I should be thanking Kelly for apparently lighting a fire under the big man's arse.) And the debate seemed to flicker out eternally yesterday when Kelly conceded that the Brewers offense finally clicked with some legitimate table setters at the top of the order.

And although I applaud Kelly's efforts to defend Rickie, the fact is, I agree with both sides of the debate. For the record, I would never be in favor of benching Weeks this early in the season. He has offensive capabilities that no one else on the roster possesses. And as I've said before, no one has ever worked their way out of a slump on the bench. It just doesn't happen. But at the same time, I can't see how the Brewers can continue to march him up there in the lead-off spot.

And that, my friends, is the point I've tried to make about Rickie Weeks for the past three seasons--Rickie is NOT a lead-off hitter. The Brewers want him to be solely because he's fast, but that's not the approach Rickie has ever taken at the plate. And it's not how the Brewers projected him throughout his minor league career. Rickie was always projected to be a three-hole hitter, a plan that changed when the Brewers drafted arguably the greatest three hole hitter in all of baseball in the form of Ryan Braun. But that doesn't change the fact that Rickie never spent time as a lead-off hitter during his development. And it's really difficult to change your approach and make that drastic of an adjustment at the major league level.

Consider this: it was about this time of the year in 2005 when the Brewers decided to call Rickie up to the majors full time from Triple AAA. Take a look at his numbers when he left Nashville:

55G 203 AB 43 R 65H 12 HR 48RBI 28BB 51SO .320BA 10SB

Now I ask as you, as you look at these numbers from early June 2005 do you immediately think--"now there's a lead-off hitter"???? Me either. I know what I'm thinking: there's a kid who likes to swing for the fences, who probably benefited from hitting in front of Prince at triple A (Gwynn was the lead-off hitter on that team), and who doesn't get cheated when he swings...

Interestingly enough, take a look at Rickie's numbers heading into this evening's game against the Diamondbacks:

56G 217AB 41R 45H 7HR 19RBI 29BB 46SO .207BA 9SB

It's rather astonishing to me that with the exception of twenty less hits, and the 100 point drop in average because of it, the numbers are actually eerily similar. And I know, the cynics are going to say that those twenty extra hits makes it ridiculous for me to even compare the rest of the numbers--but is it really? When I look at the walks-to-strikeout totals and how close they are, I'd have to say that the Brewers have gotten everything they should have expected from Weeks back in 2005...with the exception, of course, of those missing twenty hits.

And I also believe that Rickie has failed to obtain those 20 less hits because he's not been able to take his same approach at the plate. The Brewers are asking Rickie to try to see more pitches and work the count deeper--you know, like a lead-off hitter would. But that's not something Rickie is used to doing. Like Ryan Braun, Rickie is a free swinger. Name the last time, you saw Rickie get a cheap, bloop single...He's a line drive hitter who doesn't ever shorten his stroke with two strikes--you know like a lead-off hitter would. And what's more bizarre to me, is the Brewers don't really want him to shorten his stroke with two strikes. You know why? Because they don't want to take away from his power. So they're asking him to take the approach of a lead-off hitter, but without relinquishing any of his power. What does that translate to? More hitting with two-strike counts. And more swinging and missing on that third strike...because you aren't asking him to shorten his swing.

What's more baffling to me is that Corey Hart has proven to be a terrific lead-off hitter, but because he doesn't look the part--the Brewers are resistant to put him there. Yost claims it's because he wants to protect Fielder because Corey is hitting so well with runners in scoring position...but do you know what else Corey does well--bunts for hits, sees a lot of pitches, and effectively shortens his stroke with two strikes--you know, like a lead-off hitter would.

So instead of Jon calling for the benching of Rickie Weeks or Kelly saying he should keep leading off, I say Rickie should be given the chance to swing like he did when he was called up to the big leagues. Is he going to strike out a lot? You betcha. After all, Ryan Braun has struck out 49 times this year and has only walked ten times. But you don't notice his Ks as much because he's producing those extra hits. But Ryan doesn't exactly work the count. And Rickie could really benefit from chasing a lot more first-pitch fastball strikes (something he started going after more during his seven game hitting streak a couple weeks ago) which he too often is letting go by because he's desperately trying to be a better lead-off hitter...even if he's not really built that way.

It's not easy to develop as a lead-off hitter. Tony Gwynn has had several years to try it in the minors (he and Rickie were drafted in the same year after all) and Dave Krynzel never figured it out. But if you want Rickie to start stroking the ball like he can--let him start hacking.

My suggestion: Give Rickie a shot in the two hole, with Ryan hitting behind him. After all, even Ryan Braun's numbers drastically improved when Yost flipped him and Fielder in the order and he started seeing more pitches. Give Rickie a chance to benefit from the fastballs he'll see from pitchers who don't want to pitch to Ryan and Prince. Then watch the fastball hitter go to work.



Ryan (who has the chance to be Wisconsin's next Favre, but that's another post)






This is the line-up I've been clamoring for. This is the line-up where Rickie will be able to show what he's made of. It will make Kelly proud.

And it will erase a third of a season full of constant puking...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Fantasy Baseball 2008

Before you can fully appreciate why I’m writing this article of pure fantasy, there are two key situations that you need to understand.

1.) I decided not to draft a fantasy baseball team this season.
2.) My friend Eric is taking a year off of life to travel the country with his wife.

Let me explain each in detail…

I was actually in Tucson, Arizona, watching the Brewers play the White Sox, when I realized that I hadn’t yet scheduled a fantasy baseball draft. I don’t belong to a regular fantasy league, but I have played in at least two free Yahoo! Leagues for the past 8 or 9 years. But as I was watching Ryan Braun’s monster home run sail out of Tucson Electric Park, it occurred to me that this year’s fantasy team was already assembled. Think about it; if I were going to draft a 2008 fantasy team, I’d be sure to focus on getting Prince in the first round, Braun in the second, and since I’d need pitching…Sheets in the third. The next few rounds might consist of non-Brewers, I suppose but there would certainly be other Brewers I’d want on my roster. I mean, how could you not want Corey Hart’s combo of speed and power? And since I didn’t get a shortstop in the first few rounds, there wouldn’t be a better value than JJ. And what second baseman this late in the draft will give you a better combination of HRs, SBs, and runs scored than Rickie (not Rick) Weeks. Obviously, I’d have to get Gallardo and Parra—since they’d be sure to come cheap in the later rounds. I’d take a gamble on Cameron, and I probably make Riske a sleeper pick, since I still think he might end up as the Brewers closer when all is said and done. And so it became obvious—I don’t need a fantasy team this year. They already play at Miller Park.

Now Eric is making a much bigger sacrifice—he’s going to give up his fantasy football team as he travels about the free world. Personally, I equate turning over my fantasy football team to another man to turning over my man parts to another man. I mean what happens if Chad, who’s assuming control of Eric’s…uhm…squad, wins the championship? I can’t imagine anything worse than finding out that the other guy uses your junk more effectively. Am I right?

But the fact is I’m envious of Eric’s ability to just leave it all behind and travel at will. I’m not exactly sure when my ex-roommate developed the ability to defecate fifty dollar bills, but it’s a neat trick. And as I sat there basking in the Arizona sun, I started to think about what my ideal journey would entail. And it was a pretty easy answer—I’d follow the Brewers as they embarked on their championship 2008 season. So here’s a little taste of what I envision. This, my dear seven readers, is the ultimate fantasy season…

April 23, 2008
The journey begins for my wife, my daughter and I at Miller Park on my 35th birthday. To make me feel just a little less old, Rickie Weeks scores on a little league type homer when Pat Burrell of the Phillies lets a ground ball get past him and all the way to the wall. He tries to throw Rickie out at third, but throws the ball into the stands. This is the exact same way I had my first “home run” against Oakfield as an 8-year-old. The only difference is that Weeks homer is the winning run—the LeRoy little league team could never beat Oakfield. But for whatever it’s worth, now I feel vindicated.

April 26, 2008
We take a trip to New York City to watch the NFL Draft. I initially planned to talk about the Packers surprise draft day trade to acquire Jason Taylor. After seeing him prance about on Dancing With the Stars, however, I don’t want him anymore. Disappointed that Keith Rivers is off the board for the Pack’s first pick, I remain optimistic about Dustin Keller, the TE from Purdue.

April 29, 2008
We take a trip to the urinal of a ballpark better known as Wrigley Field. Mike Cameron plays in his first game as a Brewer and hits for the cycle.

May 1, 2008
After being trashed talked to by a group of Cubs fans, my 6-month-old daughter strings together her first phrase as she yells “Cubs stink.” The Brewers lose 5-4, but all-in-all I consider the day to be a victory.

May 6, 2008
Since Eric and his wife are off on their own journey, we crash at their place after watching the Brewers suffer a tough loss to the Marlins on a Hanley Ramirez walk-off homer off Gagne. After the baby falls asleep, my wife and I decide to christen Eric’s bed with our love—just like we used to do when he was my roommate.

May 7, 2008
The Brewers hit seven home runs and romp over the Marlins 18 – 4. We drive back to Orlando, and decide to make love in all of the places of Eric’s that we used to—his couch, his closet, his guitar case and, of course, his humidor.

May 10, 2008
The Brewers have traveled back to Milwaukee for a series with the Cardinals, but we decide to spend another couple days in Orlando.

May 16, 2008
Fenway Park. Ryan Braun has a three home run game and all are over the Green Monster. The Brewers rough up Dice K for 11 runs and win 12-3.

May 20, 2008
As the Brewers knock out Zach Duke in the first inning, I get a text message that the Bucks just earned the second pick in the lottery.

May 23, 2008
Ben Sheets throws the second no-hitter in Brewers history at the new ball park in Washington D.C. The only one who comes close to getting a hit is Ronnie Belliard, but as he loligags into first on a one-hopper to right, Corey Hart throws him out at first.

May 31, 2008—
Saying that he simply doesn’t have the heart to play anymore, Carlos Lee retires from the Astros to become a fulltime cantle rancher.

June 7, 2008—
Colorado. While Matt Holiday goes 0-4 with three strike outs, Prince Fielder goes five-for-five with two home runs and seven RBI.

June 8, 2008—
Colorado. While Troy Tulowitski goes 0-4 with three strike outs, Ryan Braun goes five-for-five with two home runs and seven RBI.

June 17, 2008—
After appearing on the cover of Tiger Beat magazine, J.J. Hardy hits a walk-off homer to beat the Blue Jays at Miller Park. Sixteen year old girls scream for curtain calls until midnight. Oh…and so does my wife.

June 25th, 2008—
Atlanta. Ben Sheets strikes out 19 Braves in a 5-1 Brewers win.

June 26th, 2008—
As the Brewers travel from Atlanta to Minnesota, my family makes a stop in New York City for the NBA draft. With the second pick, the Bucks select Derrick Rose from Memphis. For the first time in my 35 years, the nickname “Rose” is actually cool.

July 3, 2008—
3-2 pitchers duel in Arizona. Sheets beats Webb and talk of an NLCS preview dominates the airwaves.

July 15, 2008—
Yankee Stadium. Prince Fielder is named the MVP of the All-Star game as he collects a record 7 RBIs and leads the NL past the AL 10-4. The NL will have home field advantage in the World Series. (In playwriting we call this foreshadowing.)

July 20, 2008—
San Francisco. Yovanni Gallardo throws a one hit shut out against the San Francisco Giants. When asked about the kids stuff, Ben Sheets is quoted as saying, “The kid's nasty. The only thing I have that he doesn’t is a no-hitter.”

July 25, 2008—
Yovanni Gallardo throws a no-hitter against the Astros at Miller Park.

July 28, 2008—Prince Fielder hits a home run off of Carlos Zambrano in the 5th inning. In the 7th, Zambrano plunks Prince. The melee that ensues is a true Miller Park memory, complete with Prince bodyslamming Zambrano on top off the mound. Unfortunately, Prince, Rickie, Hall, Kendall, and coach Ed Sedar are all suspended for seven games. Although the players alternate their suspensions, the Brewers play sub-five-hundred baseball during the next three weeks. After the season, they will admit that it was totally worth it.

August 6, 2008—
Back from his suspension, Bill Hall reminds fans how much he loves hitting in Cincy with a three homer game. The third comes off of Closer Francisco Cordero and leads the Brewers to a 7-5 win.

August 12, 2008—
Trailing the Cubs by four games, the Brewers win the first game of an important series in San Diego. The winning run comes in the form of Corey Hart, who steals home in the top of the 9th.

August 26, 2008—
Rickie Weeks hits four triples and the Brewers beat the Cardinals 7-2 in St. Louis. They trail the Cubs by 3 games.

September 3, 2008—
Carlos Beltran hits a ninth inning homer off Ben Sheets, who loses to the Johan Santana 1-0. The Mets sweep the three game series and in the post game press conference, Ned Yost declares, “one of these days we’re going to figure out how to beat those guys.”
Meanwhile, the sweep drops the Brewers to 5 games back of the Cubs.

September 18, 2008—
The Brewers beat the Cubs 5-2, taking two games of the three game series. They leave Wrigley 3 games back of the Cubs.

September 25, 2008—
Jeff Suppan throws a complete game, 14 hit shut-out against the Pirates. The Cubs are up next for the final series of the season. The Brewers trail the Cubs by two games for the division and the Padres by two games for the Wild Card.

September 26, 2008—
Trailing 3-2 in the 9th, Fielder and Braun hit back-to-back HRs against Kerry Wood. The Brewers trail the Cubs by one game.

September 27, 2008—
Gabe Kapler hits a pinch hit two run, go-ahead homer in the bottom of the 8th. David Riske (the closer since June) saves the game. The Cubs and Brewers are tied heading into the last game of the season.

September 28, 2008—
Sheets vs. Zambrano. The Padres, Brewers and Cubs all enter the day tied. After a 1-2-3 Cubs first—Rickie singles, Cameron singles, Prince walks, Braun singles, Hall doubles, Hart singles, Hardy doubles, Sheets strikes out, Kendall singles, Weeks triples…and Zambrano is removed. The great pitching duel never materializes as the Brewers win 18-0. Worse yet for the Cubs, the Padres win, and they’re eliminated from play-off contention...

So there it is—the ultimate fantasy season. I don’t know the exact dates of the play-off games, but just know that the Brewers sweep the Diamondbacks in the first round and then win a grueling seven game series against the Mets. The World Series? A four game sweep of the Yankees…

Am I dreaming? Maybe.

But it’s my fantasy team. And they’re the only ones I’m drafting this season.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Happy Trails...

I was thinking about how I needed to finish the article below when the news of Favre's retirement flooded into my inbox at work. I literally received over twenty emails in regards to the news of Brett's pending retirement. Most were from people just wanting to make sure I knew of the rumor; others were from people checking in on my overall well being. I certainly appreciated all of them.

I must say, as disappointed as I am to see Brett ride off into the sunset, I am happy to see him leave on his own terms and while he was still unquestionably one of the top QBs in the game.

I'm not sure there's much I can say about Brett that hasn't already been said about the man. There may be more books and magazine articles on Brett Favre then there are combined on Al Capone, Billy the Kid, and The Lone Ranger. (That was my way of calling Brett a "gunslinger" without having to actually use the word.) All I know is this--when I was twelve I dreamed that the Packers would someday acquire a superstar that we could be proud of. Every year, I'd look at the helmets in the Pro Bowl and wonder when the Packers would get their star quarterback. The faces never seemed to change. There was Marino, Montana, Elway and Simms, but never, ever a Packer. (Ok...Majkowski had a good year, but you never really felt it was going to last.) Then, as I was finishing up high school, I believed the Packers had finally found their man. His name? Ty Detmer.

Well, fortunately Ron Wolf had the insight to make the greatest trade in the history of the NFL. The rest, as they say, is history.

No matter where I live, I'll always make sure my rec room includes my current "Wall of Favre." The transition into life after Favre is going to be more surreal than painful. I'm turning 35 this spring, so Brett has been the Packers QB for all of my adult life. The funny thing is, I've never felt like an adult while I've watched Brett play. I always felt like a kid again. And for that Brett, I can never thank you enough...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

For the Love of Hate

A funny thing happened on the way to Michael Redd hitting his game-winning three pointer against the Cavs last week--I made a personal revelation. It was nothing of major significance, however, and it certainly wasn't life-altering. As a matter of fact, to somebody else, it's probably not a big deal at all. But it was early in the second quarter, when the Bucks were trailing by about 8 points when it hit me--I really don't like Damon Jones.

That's it. That was my big revelation: I hate watching Damon Jones play basketball.

I realized this as Jones was pumping a fist in celebration of a three he had just hit to extend the Cavs lead. Forget about the fact that he was so open that he looked like the booger-picking kid at the seventh grade dance (because three other Bucks were collapsing on LeBron), he still managed to talk trash and pump his fist as if he was a more dominant force than Kobiyashi at a barbecue. And it's not just because of his God-awful mohawk or the fact that no one thinks Damon Jones is as good as Damon Jones thinks he is...I just hate watching him play. I hated him with the Bucks, and now I hate him even more when he plays against us. Now, I realize that Damon Jones could care less what a guy who blogs to seven readers thinks about him. But the fact is, I need Damon Jones. Every sports fan needs guys they despise. We need a bad guy, a villain, an ass. It's what makes our heroes that much more likable, and it's what makes victory taste all that more sweet. Redd's three took on even more meaning because it meant that Damon Jones went home a loser. And for that, I was extremely happy.

As I began thinking about my favorite sports enemies, however, I quickly realized that Damon Jones was nowhere near my top 20 of all time. It's taken me some time to figure it out, but I now present you with the top 10 sports figures that I have hate.

10. Tony LaRussa--As much as Brewer fans want to throw Ned Yost under the bus for the beanball retaliation events last year, the fact remains that LaRussa had no business forcing Ned's hand in the first place. When you're a team out of contention, you don't get in a pissing contest with a team that is. It was prickish for LaRussa to put Yost in a position to defend his player. Perhaps Tony forgot that his team was eliminated from contention, or (more likely) perhaps Tony was merely a sore loser. Either way, beaning Prince was chicken shit. And Yost should bean Pujols again the first time the two teams meet, just to let Tony know that he can piss right back at him.

On a side note, before you continue to criticize the McGwire's, Bonds and Clemens of the world for the steroids problem in baseball--keep in mind that there was a particular manager who resided in the dugout of the team that without a doubt lifted the steroid craze to a whole new level, but never said a word. You can clearly track the phenomenon to the Oakland A's and their bash brothers. Now, you might believe LaRussa when he says he wasn't aware of what was going on in his club house...but then you must also believe that Paris Hilton never meant for that sex tape to be released too, right???

9. Reggie Miller--When I was in sixth grade, I used to let ones rip in class and when my friend Scottie (he of the, "come on Bruce, Ruffin some feathers" fame) busted out laughing, he'd get blamed for it. I usually felt bad afterwards because I was the one breaking all the wind, but Scottie was the one turning bright red and getting hollered at from the teacher. Well, similar to the way I learned how to get away with successfully breaking wind, Reggie Miller too mastered the art of breaking the rules of basketball without getting caught. No one has ever gotten away with pushing off more before taking a shot. He mastered the art of knowing when a ref's eyes weren't on him, and he took every advantage he could as soon as he was out of view. He was both a bastard and a sharpshooter, who was good enough to break your heart as the shot clock was winding down. That being said, I still think Cheryl takes him one-on-one.

8. Carlos Zambrano--Here's one that is bound to keep ascending up the list over the next few years. Every time he punches his chest and rejoices after a strikeout, I can only hope he suffers a mini-stroke. Last year, Prince stared Zambrano down mighty hard after one of Carlos' personal cheerleading sessions. The Prince/Zambrano brawl is not far away, my friends. I'm hoping for front row seats...

7. Chris Hovan--I was actually surprised that my top 10 didn't contain more Bears and Vikings. Moss and Alonzo Spellman would certainly make the top 20, and there was no motion I hated more than Daunte Culpepper's odd fist roll (as if he didn't know how to do the entire hand jive, so he just did one part over and over) after a touchdown. That being said, Hovan's blatant disrespect for Favre and Lambeau was so aggravating that I truly wanted to see him stabbed in the groin. One note for Mr. Hovan--if you have to wear makeup to show the world that you are intimidating, chances are you're no more fierce than Danny Norieaga. Hovan is the exception to the rule on this list because he's the only one who isn't a true star in his field.

6. Reggie Jackson--The original villain. First the Brewers got eliminated to Reggie's Yankees in '81, and then they faced his Angels in '82. Yankee fans will always remember Jeter's amazing flip to home plate; I'll always remember Charlie Moore's heave that nabbed Reggie at third.

5. Bob Huggins--Bastard. (What else is there to say?)

4.Michael Irvin--Even though I appreciated that he helped out Adam Sandler in The Longest Yard, I'll never forget how much I hated watching his ten minute celebrations...after catching a two yard slant.

3. Albert (Joey) Belle--I was at County Stadium the day he slid into Vina and caused all of the brawls that ensued. That happened after he threw a ball in the stands that nailed a female teacher. He may have made the quickest ever journey from Hero to Zero.

2. Gary Sheffield--evil personified. ("You think that was an error? I'll show you an error.")

1. Roy Williams (the coach, not the WR or Safety)--He may feel like he made his peace with Dick Bennett, but I'll never forgive him for trampling on what should have been the greatest moment ever for the coach that I so strongly revered. There's no way not to take offense to the following comments:

"Are you going to tell me you didn't like this more than 19-17 at halftime? I'm not a nuclear physicist, but you make the choice. We're trying to make it a game of basketball skills, not a weight-room contest."

I hate you, Roy. And because of you, I now cheer for DUKE (except when they play Wisconsin or Marquette, of course).

So there you have it. The 10 guys I've most enjoyed hating. I'm sure many Bucks fans would have Lambeer or Mahorn on the list, but as you know, my Magnificent Seven, I was a Pistons fan then, and those guys were always quick to defend Isiah. I would be curious to see if there was anyone that people thought I have missed. Feel free to disagree with me, but just don't tell me you hate me.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bucks' Lame Duck GM + Senile Owner = Brewers Talk

When I was a kid, I was very excited when The Karate Kid II was being set for release. I had loved the first movie--the way Daniel-san had outmaneuvered the entire Kobra Kai team, despite the fact that they had many years of karate training in comparison to Daniel's couple months of tutelage under Mr. Miyagi. What's more, Mr. Miyagi played Arnold in Happy Days, which, of course, was set in Milwaukee--so I was bound to enjoy the hell of that movie no matter what. (In retrospect, however, how cool would The Karate Kid have been if Fonzie was the one to teach Daniel how to defeat the Kobra Kai by passing on his "cool" skills? The movie could end with Daniel entering the soda shop and slamming his fist on the jukebox to start the song, "You're the best...around...")

Anyhow, when I finally got a chance to see the sequel, I was mortified to learn that Elizabeth Shue wasn't even in the film. I mean, she wasn't in it at all! Let's be honest, to a twelve year-old boy, Ali (with an i) was one of the key selling points of the first movie. So at first, I did what any normal kid in that situation would do--I pouted. Sure, I understood why Ali left Daniel for a football player. I mean, she probably figured out that he was destined to look like his 15- year old self way beyond his My Cousin Vinny years. Nonetheless, I was disheartened and no longer thought I would enjoy the film.

That's the same way I feel now about watching the Bucks, knowing that they didn't do anything to improve their roster at the trade deadline and especially knowing that Larry Harris had the trade for Zach Randolph in place, but that he was shot down by the Senator. Much like how Ali tossed Daniel aside, Senator Kohl pretty much let it be known that the Larry Harris era has come to an end. But even if that is the message being sent, I couldn't understand how in the world Mr. Kohl figures that the new GM will have an easier time moving Simmons, Bell and Gadzuric than he would moving Randolph this off season. Harris was looking to move three of the worst contacts in all of basketball for a problem child that is still coveted by others around the league. That's the thing with the Randolph's and Artest's of the world--there's always a coach or GM who's willing to believe they can turn that horrible attitude into something positive. But the Bucks are never going to find another GM who was willing to take on their garbage like Isiah was. I actually thought my loyalty to Isiah as a kid was finally going to pay dividends for the Bucks. Now, I can simply guarantee that a chance like that won't come around again.

But the thing about The Karate Kid II is that the movie did end up growing on me. By the time Miyagi was spinning his little Japanese-drum in the palm of his hand, he had me cheering on Daniel again and singing aloud, "I am one man who will fight for your honor...I'll be the hero, you've been dreaming of...."

So there isn't much we can do about the Bucks now, except wait and see if this roster grows on us. I do believe that their schedule is favorable enough for them to make a playoff push. The question is, of course, do we really even want them to--since it's bound to mean a first round exit at the hands of the Pistons or the Celtics? (Considering the results of last year's tank job, right now I'm leaning towards "yes.") But regardless, there's not much we can hope for now until the new GM is in place and a direction for the team is outlined.

So instead of worrying about the Bucks, I've decided to turn my attention to the Brewers--where hope forever springs eternal...

Back in October, I took a look at what I believed to be the Brewers biggest needs going into the off-season. Now, almost five months later, I'd thought I'd take a look at the Brewers moves and see how things stack up. The writing in small font that follows contains excerpts from the original article in October:

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...

I guess the answer here came in the form of Jason Kendall. Of all the acquisitions this off-season, this is one that has been subjected to the most criticism. My guess right now is that JJ might very well end up back in the 8-hole and that Kendall might be called on to move Rickie over in the 2-hole. (Yost is reportedly even playing with the notion of having Kendall hit 9th, behind the pitcher, and serve as a type of second lead-off hitter.) Kendall's not going to put up huge offensive numbers, but he is a tough out and makes pitchers work the count, which will be a huge departure from what we had gotten used to with Estrada's perimeter-less strike zone.

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...

Hmmm. Looks like the answer once again is: Jason Kendall. Most Brewer fans hate the Kendall signing because the only person who threw out a lower percentage of base-stealers last year was none other than Mr. Johnny Estrada. That being said, Ned Yost believes that Kendall's pitchers never gave him a chance to throw guys out, and Kendall himself claims that his issues last year were based on a foot mechanics issue that he has since corrected. The Brewers have struggled to answer the catcher question for many years. Jason Kendall's success might be the determining factor to the Crew taking the final step.

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.

Never in a million years would I have guessed that Mike Cameron was the answer to this question. Don't get me wrong, I like Cameron a ton and am excited to see him roam center field and take away the alleys with his blazing speed. (After, that is, he's done serving his 25 game suspension.) But I never would have thought that the Brewers would sign another power-hitting, free swinging, RIGHT HANDED hitter. Quite frankly, I fear for Prince. I'm not sure why a right handed pitcher would ever throw him strikes, based on the way that the current line-up shakes out. It will be interesting to see if Gwynn can emerge during Cameron's suspension and stake a claim on playing time.

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.

I have no indication that the Diamond Dancers will not be returning. I suppose the next step would be to turn the foul pole into a stripper pole. I really do hate to seem like a prude about this--but I'm just not ready for cheerleaders at baseball. It's not right. If drunk women want to take off their tops in the bleachers--that's a different story. But I'm telling you, if I ever take my daughter to a Brewer game and she seems even the slightest bit interested in the diamond dancers--I'm leaving, no matter what the score or the inning.

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.)

I still think there might be a pitcher moved, but all indications are that Capuano is a new man this spring. I'll be cheering for his return to 2005 form if only to give the Brewers a much needed lefty in the rotation (Unless of course, Parra makes a Villanueva like statement in camp.) Given Gallardo's injury situation, now I'd actually be more surprised if Capuano wasn't in the Brewers rotation come opening day.

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.

Here's the single biggest reason for the Kendall and Cameron signings. Tony Gwynn claims that Mike Cameron is the greatest clubhouse guy that the current Padres squad has ever had:

And even if Kendall does struggle throwing runners out, he's renowned as a one of the best "pitcher handlers" in the biz.

That being said, in order to truly lead the young team, Cameron and Kendall have to out-perform Jenkins and Miller and lead not just by words...but by example.

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.

Doug certainly agreed with me on this one, huh? Torres, Riske, Mota were all added to the middle relief equation. I couldn't be more pleased.

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.

How can you not expect big numbers from Sheets in a contract year? How can the Brewers pay him market value after one healthy season? Stay tuned because this topic is bound to dominate the airwaves at the trade deadline in July...

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!"

I know I put this as my second highest priority, but I had no idea that the Reds would throw that kind of money at Co-Co. I'm not really sure what to expect from Gagne, given his struggles with the Red Sox. But a one year deal was the perfect way for the Brewers to go--assuring that Gagne will be pitching for his next contract. Even if Gagne blows up, I was extremely excited about the Riske signing and think he could still emerge as the Brewers closer in time...

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....

There are no 1982 player bobbleheads on this year's promotional schedule, and I even tried to stay true to my own mantra of looking forward rather than behind this weekend. I had been given a gift certificate for Borders and was on my way out of the store with the Harvey Wallbangers DVD, when I suddenly realized that I was breaking my own rule. So instead, I put the DVD back on the shelf and left the store with American Gangster. The '82 Brewers are a part of history; but I'm more interested in watching the 2008 Brewers make a history of their own...

Finally, I need to ask you to forgive me for breaking out of my usually carefree and rather sarcastic writing style for just a moment...

On Saturday night I received the tragic news about the death of a Milwaukee actor named Keith. I had the very distinct pleasure of acting alongside Keith in Windfall's production of A LIE OF THE MIND--almost exactly a year ago to the date--and I can't begin to explain what an honor it was to share the stage with such a talent. Every so often you get to work alongside someone who provides so much life to a scene that you can't help but be a better actor because of it. I will forever remember that second scene of Act 1 as one of my greatest performances, and there is no doubt that it is mainly due to Keith's dedication and commitment to the art of theatre. What's more, Keith was also an avid Brewers fan, (And needless to say, I don't find many Brewers fans in the theatre world.) and he wasn't acting when it came to his love of the game or of the Crew. I remember wearing my batting practice jersey to rehearsal and Keith asking where I landed the sweet Lou Palmisano jersey. That told me just what kind of a fan he was. Numerous people, including other very avid Brewers fans, have had no idea who Palmisano was when I've donned the jersey in the past. They don't even know how to pronounce his name. Keith knew who he was, who the Brewers hoped he would be, and what he was currently hitting at Double A...

Needless to say, we bonded almost immediately.

Wherever you are now, Keith, I can only hope that the Brewers are eternally in first place and that you are sharing the stage with a much better actor than me. God bless, and play ball.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Please Stand By

I've been meaning to write an article on the state of the Milwaukee Bucks for the past three days. Actually, meaning to doesn't really even explain it. I've spent well over two hours desperately trying to articulate my thoughts on what ills this franchise. Unfortunately, I continue to fail miserably and everything I write is, quite frankly, crap. What makes it so infuriating is that I believe this Bucks team has talent, yet I don't see them recovering from their misery anytime soon. I hate the collective roster of the team, but I love many of the individual pieces. Trying to figure out why they can't click as a unit is more frustrating than trying to figure out why Ryan Grant only got 13 carries during the NFC Championship game (on a sub zero day at Lambeau when the wind was howling, mind you). And although I applaud Coach K's attempt to focus on the defensive side of the ball--there's certainly no excuse for this team continuing to struggle to find its offensive rythmn.

So with the trade deadline approaching on Thursday, I've decided to just wait. I know nothing is going to be done to clean up this disaster of a roster and solidify this disaster of a lockerroom. I know that Michael Redd isn't getting traded for Andre Kirilenko and that when the deadline has passed, we'll still be stuck with two of the worst contracts in the NBA--Gadzuric's and Simmons. I'm sure Larry Harris would love to try to make a move to ignite some enthusiasm for the team, but I also know that the Senator is NOT going to let him. But I'll save my rant until after the deadline has passed when we can see for ourselves the direction the club takes.

Maybe by then I'll have this team figured out...

In the meantime, I'll leave you with my favorite line from the season finale of Gladiators:

"On one side there's heaven, on the other side there's Hellll-ga!"

I guess that summarizes it best. The Bucks may very well be stuck in Hellga.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Rambling Rose, Part 5

I received a few emails this week that were along the lines of, "glad to see you're blogging again--I'm curious what your thoughts on the Super Bowl will be." But there's one itsy bitsy problem: I'm in complete denial that a Super Bowl was ever played.

What was monumental about this past week, however, is the fact that my site counter is claiming that I've now had 2,000 hits on The Midseason Forum. Granted, I'm sure the counter is adding up each time I log on as well, but even so--that means that my seven readers have each logged on upwards of 250 times each. Words can not express my gratitude, my dear magnificent seven. When we hit 3,000 I'll auction off my Antone Williamson rookie card...But for now, in order to show my gratitude, I'll do what I do best...ramble...

My friend Brent is an absolute NBA fantatic. Seriously, if there was ever a guy that should appear in one of those "The NBA...It's fantastic" type commercials it would definitely be Brent. (For some reason I picture him dressed in a Michael Redd jersey, some 1980s style, too-tight shorts and a red Bucks headband. Not really sure why. But if you're going to be in my daydream of an NBA commercial, then you have to be prepared to dress appropriately.) He is also extremely savvy when it comes to the NBA salary cap and financial particulars. I've never met anyone who is as well versed on the whole luxury tax, mid-level exemption, balancing out of contracts gobbly-gook that is involved with NBA wheelings and dealings. For that reason, I respect the hell out of his opinion. And that's why I realize I'm treading dangerous ground when I disagree with him on anything NBA related. But I'm afraid I do disagree with him on the Shaq trade.

You see, just like almost every other NBA analyst I've heard on tv or read online (such as Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski's 2 articles below:;_ylt=Ar2xff2fMRxXjdtdSGQn4qu8vLYF?slug=aw-shaqnoguarantee020708&prov=yhoo&type=lgns;_ylt=AjJHwpwHuvFYPIFB9UOBD8TTjdIF?slug=aw-shaqtrade020608&prov=yhoo&type=lgns)

Brent too believes that the Shaq trade was a horrible move for the Suns. He believes that they not only failed miserably in getting any quality for Marion--especially when you consider that they could have had Garnett earlier this summer--but that they'll also be strapped down with Shaq's contract longer than they would have been stuck with Marion's. And of course, like so many others analysts who are cynical of this trade, I think it's safe to say that Brent believes Shaq retired two years ago.

(I can also say that Mo Williams of the Bucks also shares this opinion. This week I planned a school visit with Mo, and we decided to turn the tables on him and do our own version of the Mo Show. When he was asked, "Shaq of the Heat or Shaq of the Suns," Mo's response was, "Shaq with the Heat, 'cause I'm not sure how that whole thing in Phoenix is going to turn out." So even Mo would disagree with me on this and side with Brent...nonetheless...)

Now, I do understand the skeptiscism. I do. I don't believe, however, that the Wolves wanted Garnett in the Western Conference, which is why I believe THEY were the ones to back away from the Suns deal and accept a much weaker Celtics offer (not vice versa). The other thing is...I don't believe Shaq is totally washed up.

Now, please don't misunderstand me, I'm not foolish enough to believe that Shaq can bring it--Diesel-style--as he did four or five years ago. But there are reasons that I do like this trade--namely, because in the post-season you must be able to succeed in the half court. The Suns have been a perennial great regular season team, that falters in the post-season when refs tend to swallow their whistles and the game slows way, way down. Shaq can be the answer to that, to date, unsolved Suns' problem.

Again, I know Shaq can't play like he once did. And I know that he's been badly banged up. But answer me this--when Shaq is healthy even in his limited aging state, what players can defend him in the post one-on-one? As banged up as the Diesel is, you can count on your hand the number of players that could seriously disrupt him in the post. So let's say you're the Spurs and you're going to put Duncan on him. So who guards Amare? Oberto? Elson? Game on. I like my chances. And if the Spurs decide to put Duncan on Amare? Game on. I like my chances. You see, I don't believe that the Suns would ever get out of the Western conference with Marion at the 4. Not in these play-offs. No way. No how.

And I know--now comes the statement that I've heard thousands of times since the Shaq to Phoenix rumors started--everyone believes that Shaq will slow down the Suns offense. I can't remember ever hearing the phrase "square peg in a round hole" so many times in one week. But I really think it's over blown. Will Shaq slow down the offense? Sure, probably. But not nearly as much as San Antonio managed to slow down the Suns offense last post-season. And it's not like the Suns fast break consisted of five-on-four or five-on-three. No. Most fast breaks are three-on-two and two-on-one. And it requires somebody who can rebound (of which Shaq does quite well) and then pass (yep, Shaq does that very well for a big guy too) to an outlet. I guarantee that Sportscenter highlights are going to be filled with half court outlets from Shaq to Nash with Nash making the perfect decision on assisting a Barbosa, Hill or Bell dunk.

I think the big problem is that most of us in Milwaukee have been permanently scarred by the way that Anthony Mason slowed down the Bucks offense by pounding the ball into submission with 974 dribbles (while rubbing his ass end up against the defender as if his name was Macy and the defender just paid $25 for the lap dance of his life) and then settling for a low percentage fall away shot as the shot clock expires. These nightmares still haunt me too, so I understand this concern. But that's not Shaq. And for those who say he was already complaining about touches in Miami I say--of course he was. When you're losing by twenty points night in and night out and you feel like you could be a difference maker, you would complain about touches. But I don't believe that will be the case when the Suns are winning night in and night out. Winning cures a lot of ills. And I believe the Suns are built to win.

Now, I'm not proclaiming the Suns the Western Conference Champs. Shaq's health is certainly a big gamble that Ainge rolled the dice on (perhaps even more of a gamble is them banking on Grant Hill's health, now that Marion is no longer an option at the three). But I think it's a gamble worth taking. And I think the suns chances of rising in the West have infinitely improved...

Kudos to FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS for their recent storyline in which Smash lost his scholarship to TMU. I thought it was some pretty damn fine writing as we see how kids can get blackballed after getting stamped with the reputation of having "character issues." I know most people don't encourage high schoolers to punch kids in the face, but admit it--you'd do the same thing if someone was talking junk to your sister. The storyline is actually similiar to what Randy Moss went through in high school. According to Moss the kid that he kicked the snot out of (which subsequently cost him his scholarship to Notre Dame) had etched some racial slurs into his desk. Now the last person I plan to defend in my blog is Randy Moss, but I do think too often the media portrays these kids as thugs without providing all of the details. Anyhow, if you have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about because you've never watched Friday Night Lights, all I can say is--Shame. On. You.

I can't mention television on NBC without rejoicing in the return of AMERICAN GLADIATORS. Has there ever been a more entertaining hour of television? The writing is lame and contrived, the trash talk is poorly rehearsed, you'd have a better chance understanding Charlie Brown's teacher than you would Hulk Hogan...and yet I love every minute of it. I think Monday's semi-final features the soccer mom who bounces around like a cheerleader but somehow manages to win just about every challenge they throw at her. She's my favorite contender, solely by virtue that she doesn't take the compettion as seriously as the others. As far as the Gladiators themselves go--how about a big round of applause for Hellga? That is one big woman. She's not really muscular or buff, but her voice alone intimidates the hell out of me. My wife enjoys laughing at Wolf and all the zany things he says. She especially likes when he gets behind the contender and sniffs him. Personally, every time Wolf speaks I feel very uncomfortable for him, myself and any child who is watching the show. Sonia also accuses me of having a crush on Crush. And I admit, she is my favorite. And I guess she's the cutest of the women gladiators. But that's sorta like saying Smurfette is the cutest Smurf, isn't it? There's not a whole lot of competition in Gladiatorland, and I'm just guessing that a few of those lady gladiators might very well be smurfing each other....

Ok, I'll admit it. I did watch the game last Sunday. It hurt me to do it, but I watched. I thought it would be unAmerican if I didn't. And I thought the David Tyree catch was absolutely incredible--largely because Tyree is far from being a household name. As a matter of fact, in our twelve team postseason fantasy league--no one drafted Tyree. That's what makes the play all the more special. It's kind of like when Mark Brouhard and Marshall Edwards chipped in on the Brewers '82 teams. Once something like that happened, you just knew the Giants were going to win. And as much as it kills me as a Packers fan to admit it--the Giants won the NFC Championship because they were only the team that could have beat the Patriots. As much as I love Kampman and the boys, there's no way the Packers front four puts that kind of pressure on Brady. How the Giants D-line didn't win a collective MVP award is beyond me. Ah well, at least I can hope that McCarthy did some serious recruiting of free agents at the Pro Bowl...

In the midst of Packers and Bucks depression, there's only one thought that can save me--pitchers and catchers report this coming weekend.

Batter Up.