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.