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.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Proposition of Trades

I love trades.

I love them. I love the rumors before they happen, and I love the discussions and debates after they occur. In fantasy sports, I have a rule that says you aren't playing if you haven't made at least one trade. And I've made some pretty damn good trades over the years. But, of course, I've made some pretty damn horrible ones too. That's the gamble that makes trading so much fun. Because sometimes guys like Brian Westbrook emerge as "go-to" fantasy backs, and sometimes guys like Javon Walker go right to the IR the moment you acquire them. (In case there is any confusion, the latter of the two is the example of the horrible trade.)

It's actually amazing to me how excited we sports fans get whenever the trade deadlines in Major League Baseball and the NBA draw near. Just like Christmas, we all get reverted back to children as we dream about the presents that St. Melvin and St. Harris are sure to deliver us. Too often, however, we discover that we must not have been very good boys and girls this year--because instead of getting Scott Kazmir we get Scott Linebrink and instead of getting some help for Michael Redd we get a second round draft pick for Mike James. Nonetheless, like a cornerback who's trained to forget the last play, our minds are perfectly clear the next time a trade deadline rolls around, and we set ourselves up for disappointment all over again.

But trades are such an intregal part of a team's building, that we can't help but rely on them and treat them like Linus treats his security blanket. Even in the NFL, where trades are much more rare, Packer fans couldn't fathom life in Wisconsin without the trades for Favre, Ahman Green and more recently, Ryan Grant...

(...Ok, there it is. I thought I was over the whole Packer loss, but apparently I'm not. Just by typing Ryan Grant's name, I seem to have awaken an evil voice within me, which screams:

"13 carries!!! Thirteen f---in' carries is all you're giving the kid! That's f---in pathetic. The guy carried you last week against the Seahwaks and you give up on him after thirteen freakin carries!"

If this voice doesn't go away by April's draft, I'll certainly seek counseling. All the more reason for me to blog about college basketball and not football--eventhough I've heard talk that there is some kind of big game today...not really sure what the fuss is all about...)

Unfortunately, there are no trades in college basketball. About a week ago, I got an email from my friend Jon, stating that despite how well both teams are playing, it just feels like something is missing from both the Badgers and Warriors (not a typo) this year. I wanted to argue with him. After all, both are top 20 teams and both have had impressive wins (Marquette's being at the Kohl Center,Wisconsin's at Texas) this year which prove they can match-up against quality teams in tough environments. But there is indeed something missing from each roster that makes me worry about their tourney chances. And I do wish they could work out a trade, because I believe each team has what the other needs.

Or perhaps it's not a trade we need as much as we need to go back in time. Three years ago, there were two high schoolers that were head and shoulders above the rest of the seniors in Wisconsin. One was Marcus Landry, the kid out of Milwaukee St. Vincent. His girlfriend at the time (now his wife, I believe), went on to play basketball at Marquette. Marcus decided to go to Madison to play for Wisconsin. The other was Wesley Matthews, a kid from Madison with a family history with the Badgers--his father starred at Wisconsin before moving on to an impressive NBA career. So Wesley, of course, chose to play at Marquette.

Let me start by stating that I really enjoy watching both of these kids play ball at their respective schools. But I think both are currently being held back a bit in the systems that they play in, or because of the personnel around them. And there's just a part of me that can't help but wonder what would have happened if they had "swapped" their choices as seniors in high school.

I believe Marquette would have definitely gotten the better end of this "trade." The Warriors (again, not a typo) desperately need a more consistent presence in the post (with all due respect to Barro, who played a whale of a game yesterday in Cincy). Although Landry's only 6'7", he plays much bigger, and he would be the offensive post threat that could loosen things up on the perimter for James, McNeal, Cubillan, and Acker. Barro could still start at the 5, and Fitzgerald could back-up both Hayward and Landry at the 3 and 4. Landry sometimes gets a little lost behind Butch in Madison, and he'd undoubtedly be the first option at Marquette. With all due respect to Matthews, I think the addition of Landry would escalate Marquette to the Georgetown-like class of the Big East.

Now, the Badgers would certainly miss Landry's presence. But the one thing I worry about with Wisconsin this postseason is the tendency to fall under long stretches where the offense flat out stalls. At 6-5, Matthews seems perfect for the swing offense because he could post up smaller two guards and has enough of a shot to provide another threat from the perimeter. I'm a huge Michael Flowers fan, but--despite his clutch shot in the Texas game--he doesn't quite have Matthews offensive game. Matthews would also give the Badgers a slasher who can create his own shot--a talent that Wesley doesn't get to currently unveil as frequently at Marquette because they essentially have four point guards and they're the ones doing the majority of slashing and kicking. Granted, the Badgers have Travon, but Matthews athleticism would be a welcome addition in Madison. Landry's absence would also mean more opportunities for Stiemsma and Leuer, who impressed me a ton during the non-conference schedule. And it would allow even more time for Krabbenhoft, who can play three or four positions.

(By the way, as much as I love the way this Krabbenhoft kid plays, I can't help wonder if fans throughout the Big Ten are starting to hate him as much as I hated hearing about the tremendous effort of Brian Cardinal during his ten years at Purdue. What? Cardinal didn't play ten years at Purdue? Sure seemed like it.)

I realize all of the above is simply pointless speculation. But it's what makes trade talk so fun. Perhaps Dominic James will make the mistake of leaving early next year, and then Wesley is bound to get more touches in the offense. Certianly, Landry is bound to be a focal point of the Badger offense next year when Butch is gone. And since a time machine is yet to have been built, I guess I'll just cheer for both teams to make their runs this March, regardless of the flaws that might get exposed.

And besides that, the NBA trade deadline is only a few weeks away., and I've heard a rumor that the Bucks might get Tracy McGrady...