Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Midseason Rankings of the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers

We are only half way through the 2010 major league baseball season and Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin has been a busy man. There are already 6 new faces on the current Milwaukee Brewers 25-man active roster. There are various reasons for the 6 new faces: one guy was released (#24-Claudio Vargas), four guys are on the disabled list (#23-Jody Gerut, #16-LaTroy Hawkins, #15-Gregg Zaun, and #14-Doug Davis), and one guy was sent to the minors (#19-Mitch Stetter).

The 6 new faces the Brewers added to the current 25-man roster are a nice blend of young pitchers (John Axford, Zach Braddock, and Kameron Loe), old pitchers (Chris Capuano and David Riske), and a potential franchise catcher (Jonathan Lucroy). The aforementioned 6 new faces will have an "NR" in parenthesis next to their name, while the other 19 players will have my initial 2010 ranking in parenthesis. As usual I ranked the player based on age, depth at each position, compensation, and clubhouse impact. Without further ado, here are the updated rankings:

#25 (NR) - David Riske (RHP): I don't put much stock in Riske's 2.70 ERA because he has only made 7 appearances and pitched 6.2 innings. I know this seems petty, but why did Doug Melvin sign a reliever named Riske?

#24 (20) - George Kottaras (C): in 35 games Kottaras has amassed a paltry .208 average over 106 at-bats. Kottaras will get his chances in the second half of 2010, which will be an audition for the back-up catcher spot for 2011 because recently promoted Jonathan Lucroy looks like the catcher of the future in Milwaukee after only 19 games.

#23 (NR) - Chris Capuano (LHP): much like Riske, I feel for Capuano on a personal level for all the injuries that he has gone through. That said, Capuano is a professional baseball player and injuries are part of the game. Capuano is 0-1 in 4 appearances (1 start) over 7 innings for a 5.14 ERA so he is going to have to produce soon or it might be time for the Brewers and Capuano to part ways for good.

#22 (25) - Joe Inglett (UTIL): is the Swiss army knife of field players for the Brewers because Inglett is able to play anywhere in the field besides catcher and first base. Inglett is batting a team-high .340 but take that with a grain of salt because it is only over 53 at-bats. Inglett is on the roster for flexibility as a pinch hitter and a spot starter so he better keep swinging the bat well or the Brewers might find a younger version of Inglett before the end of 2010.

#21 (NR) - Zach Braddock (LHP): has a fair amount of fuggly stats so far in 2010 going 1-1 in 15 appearances over 13 innings for a 5.54 ERA. I know all the stats that I cited were mediocre at best but Braddock leads the team with a 14.54 strikeouts per 9 innings. It is just a hunch, but Braddock looks like a major league reliever in the making thanks to his knack for striking hitters out.

#20 (21) - Carlos Villanueva (RHP): decent numbers, but again a guy that doesn't really have a specific role for the Brewers. Villanueva made 38 appearances pitching only 39 innings and amassing a 4.62 ERA. Villanueva better pick things up or he could be on his way out of Milwaukee soon.

#19 (22) - Jim Edmonds (CF): has been surprisingly effective for the Brewers. As I said in my initial rankings, it hurts me as a life-long Brewer fan to root for Edmonds but he has handled things very professionally in Milwaukee and produced fairly well on the field after a year out of baseball too boot.

#18 (18) - Manny Parra (LHP): much like Villanueva, since Parra has been inconsistent the Brewers have shuttled Parra between the bullpen and the starting rotation. Parra looks like he has the stuff to be an effective middle of the rotations starter but his performance so far this year has been less than impressive going 2-5 in 24 appearances (7 starts) over 59 innings leading to a 4.12 ERA. With the way things are going, Parra looks like a middle reliever in the making.

#17 (12) - Dave Bush (RHP): is a mere 3-6 over 16 appearances (15 starts) pitching 83.1 innings and amassing a 4.43 ERA. Bush has never looked the same since taking a line drive off his right arm last season. Bush can be a free agent for the first time in his career after the 2010 season so Bush needs to regain his pre-injury form if he wants a big payday in the off-season.

#16 (11) - Carlos Gomez (CF): guys like Inglett and Counsell would kill to have the talent that Gomez has but Gomez continues to sqaunder that talent with his subpar play on the field. In 50 games Gomez has 179 at-bats but is hitting a mere .235, which is the lowest batting average of any regular play field player on the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers.

#15 (8) - Todd Coffey (RHP): is 2-2 in 30 appearances over 27.1 innings, amassing a 4.28 ERA. The aforementioned numbers show that Coffey has sputtered a little bit in 2010 after being the primary set-up man for now-former closer Trevor Hoffman in 2009. Coffey is earning just over $2 million this year and has one more year of salary arbitration. If Coffey wants to pitch in Milwaukee in 2011 he will have to improve in the second half of 2011.

#14 (13) - Craig Counsell (UTIL): is invaluable because he is able to play anywhere in the infield besides first base. In 54 games Counsell has 117 at-bats but is only hitting .256. It seems cliché but Counsell is on the team for leadership more than production at this point. With a $2.1 million salary it feels like a lot to spend on leadership, but Counsell is showing the young studs another cliché "how to play the game the right way" and it is worth every penny. Trust me, if anyone is going to get through to Gomez it is Counsell.

#13 (17) - Chris Narveson (LHP): is 7-4 in 21 appearances (12 starts) over 78.1 innings while amassing a 5.17 ERA. Narveson has gotten great run support in his starts, which somewhat minimizes his 7-4 record. I know it is early in Narveson's young career but he looks like a young version of Chris Capuano, and I am not talking about the All-Star version of Capuano.

#12 (NR) - Jonathan Lucroy (C): 73 at-bats over 19 games is hardly a career but Lucroy is acquitting himself well as the starting catcher in Milwaukee. I voiced my displeasure with Gregg Zaun being the Brewers' starting catcher because of his advanced age. I hate to say it Doug Melvin, but I was right. Predictably Zaun got hurt. What could not have been predicted is who would step in. For the last few years Angel Salome was the Brewers’ top catching prospect but he recently requested to change positions to outfield. That makes two catching prospects (Angel Salome and Brett Lawrie) that have changed positions leaving the Brewers farm system lacking quality catching prospects. As a result it is Lucroy or bust for 2010.

#11 (4) - Trevor Hoffman (RHP): oh how the mighty have fallen. Hoffman entered 2010 looking to add to his all-time major league save record. Unfortunately in 25 appearances in 2010 Hoffman has gone 2-4 while surrendering a staggering 7 home runs in 24 innings leading to a bloated 8.25 ERA. Despite struggling on the field, Hoffman still goes about his business like a professional on a daily basis, which provides a great example for the young pitching staff. Hoffman's off-field work cannot be questioned. It looks like father time finally caught up to Hoffman on the field though.

#10 (10) - Alcides Escobar (SS): is half way through his first major league season after taking over for former all-star shortstop J.J. Hardy. Escobar is on the roster more for his glove than his bat so the Brewers are willing to deal with his .241 batting average as long as he still continues to flash the leather. Plus, Escobar is only a rookie so he will undoubtedly improvement at the plate.

#9 (6) - Randy Wolf (LHP): is a mere 5-7 over 16 starts eating up only 97 innings and amassing a pedestrian 4.92 ERA. This should come as no surprise though since Wolf was moving from a pitcher friendly park (Dodger Stadium) to a hitter friendly park (Miller Park). In fairness Wolf has owned up to his struggles but he does have $30 million reasons to own up to it though. Wolf needs to pick it up in the second half of 2010 so that he doesn't prove my proclamation correct that he is the left-handed Jeff Suppan.

#8 (5) - Casey McGehee (3B): with a year and half as the starting 3rd baseman for the Brewers under his belt Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry must be kicking themselves for letting McGehee go. McGehee is only earning $427,500 this year and cannot become a free agent till after 2014. On the flip side, current Cubs 3rd baseman Aramis Ramirez is schedule to earn $16.75 million in 2010, has a $14.6 million player option in 2011 that he will no doubt pick-up, and a $16 million club option (with a $2 million buyout) in 2012. That means if the Cubs thought long-term they could have kept McGehee in the fold to take over at third base half way through 2011. Instead the Brewers are reaping the benefits, thank you very much Jim Hendry.

#7 (NR) - Kameron Loe (RHP): is taking over the primary set-up role with ease. Loe is 0-0 in 13 appearances over 16.2 innings with a minuscule .54 ERA. It is delusional to think that Loe can continue to pitch that well but with bullpen mainstays like Coffey and Hawkins faltering or on the disabled list, Loe has been the perfect set-up man for new closer John Axford.

#6 (7) - Rickie Weeks (2B): has 13 home runs this year, which is 3rd most on the team and slightly ahead of sluggers like Braun (11) and McGehee (12). Unfortunately Weeks is a lead off hitter that is only hitting .274 with an on base percentage of .373. Weeks has one more year of salary arbitration before he becomes a free agent after the 2011 season. That means a big second half of 2010 will likely net Weeks a healthy contract extension despite his injury history.

#5 (9) - Corey Hart (RF): after winning his salary arbitration case, Hart is earning $4.8 million this year. Hart is backing up the arbitration win much to chigrin of Brewers fans. Hart is leading the 2010 Brewers is home runs (18) and slugging percentage (.571). 2011 is Hart's last salary arbitration year before he becomes a free agent so the second half of 2010 will go a long way to determining Hart's future in Milwaukee. Much like Weeks, Hart needs to continue to improve on those power numbers if he wants an extension before the end of 2011.

#4 (NR) - John Axford (RHP): is 3-1 with 8 saves in 18 appearances over 21 innings amassing a 3.00 ERA. In my 2010 Milwaukee Brewers Spring Training Preview I grouped players by position. Within each position group I put them in one of three categories: guaranteed, borderline, and long-shots to make the opening day 25-man roster. Both Loe and Axford were long-shots to make the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day Roster. Luckily Loe and Axford have produced despite the Brewers having low expectations for both because without them the Brewers bullpen would be in shambles.

#3 (2) Prince Fielder (1B): of course Fielder is having somewhat of a down year by his standards when the Brewers are looking to trade him. That means it is going to be a slow march towards the 2011 off-season when Fielder is scheduled to become a free agent. Fielder is earning $11 million in 2010 and will get a sizable raise through salary arbitration in 2011. Any team that acquires Fielder from now till the 2011 trade deadline will be merely renting Fielder because Fielder's agent is the often-loathed mega-agent Scott Boras. Let me reiterate the stance that I have had for over a year on what to do with Fielder. Keep Fielder until after 2011. If Fielder decides not to resign with the Brewers, take the compensatory picks. There is a slim chance that someone will offer the Brewers young pitching for Fielder, but I am not holding out too much hope. Young pitching trumps young hitting in the post-steroids era especially when the young hitter in question is overweight, short for his position, and represented by Scott Boras.

#2 (3) Yovani Gallardo (RHP): signed a hefty contract extension at the start of the season. Gallardo signed a five-year, $30.1 million contract with a $13 million club option ($.6 million buyout) that could make it a six-year contract. Gallardo can void the 6th year if he accumulates 6 points between 2010 and 2014. Gallardo earns 5 points for winning a Cy Young Award, 3 points for finishing 2nd in the Cy Young voting, and 1 point for finishing 3rd the Cy Young voting. I like the contract in general but have two small critiques of the contract. One, Gallardo missed most of 2008 with a torn ACL on a freak collision at Wrigley Field so the Brewers hopefully factored that into their long-term plans for dealing with Gallardo. Two, I dislike that it is so back-loaded. I understand inflation, but Gallardo deserves more money in 2010 and less money in 2014. If I were in charge of the Brewers (consider this part of my resume), I would have evened out the contract to make it go up very little on an annual basis for team salary predictability. Gallardo is justifying the extension by going 8-3 over 17 starts eating up 109.0 innings while amassing a 2.56 ERA and nearly doubling all other Brewer starters with 120 strikeouts. For how horrible the Brewers have drafted pitchers over the last decade, Gallardo is the Hope Diamond amongst cubic zirconia in the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation.

#1 (1) Ryan Braun (LF): it can't be reiterated enough how sweet of a deal Doug Melvin got when he extended Ryan Braun early on in his career. Take a look back at one of my first Sunday Funday posts where I dissected Braun's contract from almost every angle imaginable. If the Brewers do in fact lose Fielder soon, Braun is going to struggle unless Hart or McGehee go on a tear. Either way, Braun has been the Brewers most consistent player this year.

I will have reactions to what players Doug Melvin calls up in September when the rosters expand as well as my final player ranking at the end of the 2010 season. Check back for more Milwaukee Brewers coverage in the coming weeks when it is warranted.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

2010 Milwaukee Bucks Draft Picks

Congratulations to the three (four drafted) new Milwaukee Bucks taken in the 2010 NBA Draft! Today is truly a Sunday Funday for these guys and their families:

1st Round (15th Overall): Larry "Hey Now" Sanders
Position: Power Forward
Age: 21
Birth date: November 21, 1988
Birthplace: Fort Pierce, FL
School: Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial Athletic Association)
Class: Junior
Height: 6'11"
Weight: 222 pounds
Reach: 9'4"
Wingspan: 7'6"
Analysis: There was a run on my draft crushes right before the Bucks picked (Xavier Henry, Ed Davis, and Patrick Patterson) so Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond took Larry "Hey Now" Sanders. Fortunately, the Bucks needs (power forward) and best player available (Larry Sanders) lined up. Unfortunately, Sanders didn't start playing basketball until his sophomore year in high school so he will be a work in progress. That said, Sanders has improved every year since picking up the game. Last year Sanders averaged 14.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks during his junior year at Virginia Commonwealth University. Instead of going to New York for all of the NBA Draft hoopla (no pun intended), Sanders pulled a Joe Thomas (former Wisconsin Badger left tackle) and hung out with family and friends instead. I hope Sanders stayed home because he is a family man, not because he thought he might fall to the 2nd round. People love to talk about Sanders' wingspan but as it turns out, he has only a slightly above average wingspan. Sanders is 83 inches tall with a 90 inch wingspan. The human wingspan is normally 1.07 times a person's height, so Sanders is only slightly above average since he should have at least an 88.81 inch wingspan according to the "1.07 Rule". Sanders is a little thin for a power forward but runs the floor well for a big man which makes him an ideal fit to run with Brandon Jennings and company.

Quick tangent: As Jordan Crawford fell in the first round, if I were John Hammond I would have tried to package any or all of my second round picks to move into the first round and select Crawford. May be I am biased since I saw Crawford do a bunch of damage in person but of the guys taken in the second half of the first round I think he has the best chance to be an All-star. Plus, the price for late first round draft picks was cheap this year. For example, a few days before the draft the Miami Heat traded the 18th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft and Daequan Cook to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 32nd pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. That trade had to be available to John Hammond, instead he held onto his three second round draft picks.

2nd Round (37th Overall): Darington "John" Hobson
Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Age: 22
Birth date: September 29, 1987
Birthplace: Las Vegas, NV
School: University of New Mexico (Mountain West Conference)
Class: Junior
Height: 6'7"
Weight: 204 pounds
Reach: 8'9"
Wingspan: 6'9"
Analysis: Hobson is a very versatile combo guard, which is exactly what the Bucks need. At 6'7" and 205 pounds, Hobson is almost a carbon copy of John Salmons. The only real red flag with Darington Hobson is that he attended 7 schools in 5 states since starting high school. That is a lot of moving around in a small amount of time, was Hobson moving around on his own volition or against his wishes? On the positive side of the ledger, Hobson was player of the year in the Mountain West Conference and the first person to lead New Mexico in scoring (15.9), rebounding (9.3), and assists (4.6) in the same season. Hobson put together a pretty impressive season last year as one of only two NCCA Division 1 players (Ohio State's Evan Turner was the other one) to average at least 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. There were some other players involved in the trade but the Bucks essentially acquired the right to pick Hoboson from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Jodie Meeks. See above for my draft crush on Crawford, so this pick will be judged on whether Hobson, Meeks, or Crawford has the best NBA career?

2nd Round (44th Overall): Jerome "Traded" Jordan
Position: Center
Age: 23
Birth date: September 29, 1986
Birthplace: Kingston, Jamaica
School: University of Tulsa (Conference USA)
Class: Senior
Height: 7'1"
Weight: 244 pounds
Reach: 9'5"
Wingspan: 7'5"
Analysis: The Bucks need a back-up center. Bogut is supposed to return healthy next season, but there is no guarantee he will be completely healthy. Furthermore, the Bucks do not have another true center on the roster so I am not too sure why they shipped off Jordan to the Knicks for cash. May be I am biased because I recently had my honeymoon in Jamaica but I think the Bucks should have held onto Jordan. I know the economy is in the tank but we traded a guy named Jordan for money, it just doesn't feel right.

2nd Round (47th Overall): Keith "Tiny" Gallon
Position: Power Forward
Age: 19
Birth date: January 18, 1991
Birthplace: Houston, TX
School: Oklahoma University (Big 12)
Class: Freshman
Height: 6'10"
Weight: 302 pounds
Reach: 9'8"
Wingspan: 7'5"
Analysis: Gallon has battled weight issues throughout his entire career. Gallon weighed as much as 350 pounds in high school at Oak Hill Academy where he played with Brandon Jennings. Fortunately Gallon has lost some weight recently, but he still tips the scales at 302 pounds. Let's hope Gallon is more like Glen "Big Baby" Davis than Robert "Tractor" Traylor. Taking Gallon in the middle of the second round is the quintessential boom or bust pick. If Gallon can drop a little weight, the Bucks might have gotten the steal of the draft in the second round.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks heading into 2010 NBA Draft

John Hammond continued his wheeling and dealing ways ahead of the 2010 NBA Draft by making two pre-draft trades. In the bigger of the two trades Hammond sent Dan Gadzuric and Charlie Bell to the Golden State Warriors for Corey Maggette and a second round pick (44th overall) in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Maggette should be a nice player for the Bucks but when I saw the Bucks made a trade with Golden State I was hoping the Bucks acquired a different Golden State Warrior...Monte Ellis. Although Ellis has faced some off the court issues, he is an underpaid starting shooting guard (by NBA standards) at four-years for $44 million (2010-11: $11 million; 2011-12: $11 million; 2012-13: $11 million; and player option for 2013-14: $11 million). In my 2010 NBA trade deadline post I set out how the Bucks could get Ellis. That said, Bucks fans are ecstatic that Hammond got rid of Gadzuric and Bell in one fell swoop...almost too whats the catch?

The Golden State Warriors are having ownership issues so they are in full salary dump mode. On the other hand, the Bucks have a stable owner (Herb Kohl) and tons of cap space in 2011-12 so the Bucks have the ability to take on Maggette's contract. Here are the specifics of the trade, which looks like a one-sided salary dump by the Warriors:

Golden State receives:
- Dan Gadzuric averaged 2.8 points and 2.9 rebounds in 9.8 minutes per game over 32 games (6 starts) in 2009-10 and is owed $7,243,750 for the 2010-11 season. With Suppan and Gadzuric gone, Cheesehead fans will have to find a new whipping out Trevor Hoffmann. I actually think this is a good pick-up because Gadruric is perfect for the Warriors' run and gun offense.
- Charlie Bell averaged 6.5 points, 1.5 assists, and 1.9 rebounds per game over 71 games (39 starts) in 2009-10 but still has two-years for a little less than $8 million left on his contract (2010-11: $3,844,000 and 2011-12: $4,092,000). With Monte Ellis and Stephen Curry on the roster, look for the Warriors to trade Bell or buy him out.

Milwaukee receives:
- Corey Maggette averaged 19.8 points (highest scoring average for a player who played less than 30 minutes per game) shooting .516 from the field (19th in the NBA) in 70 games (49 starts) in 2009-10. The reason Maggette was available for essentially nothing is that he has three years and a little less than $31 million left on his contract (2010-11: $9,600,000; 2011-12: $10,262,069; and 2012-13: $10,924,138). The only real knock on acquiring Maggette (besides being 34 in the last year of the contract) is that he is a shoot first guy. But as I have said all along, if the Bucks want to get a player of Maggette's caliber they are going to have to do it via trade (because free agents rarely sign with the Bucks) so I will trust Hammond on this one.
- 44th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft

In the less heralded of the two trades, which broke Kevin Love style on Twitter, the Bucks acquired Chris Douglas-Roberts ("CDR") from the New Jersey Nets for a second round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. When the Bucks selected Luc Richard Mbah a Moute ("The Prince") 37th overall in the 2008 NBA Draft, I wanted the Bucks to take CDR (who went three picks later to the Nets).

As we all know, John Hammond did the right thing taking The Prince instead of CDR but now the Bucks have the best of both worlds with The Prince and CDR in the fold for the 2010-11 season. How well The Prince and CDR perform next season will determine if Hammond offers either of them a long-term contract since they will both be free agents after the 2010-11 season.

The aforementioned trades mean that the Milwaukee Bucks currently have 9 players under contract for a total of $54.5 million for the 2010-11 campaign As of July 1st though, the Bucks might only have 8 guys under contract (pending the Bucks signing their draft picks). As most Bucks fans know by now, John Salmons plans to opt-out of the last year of his contract. The Bucks say they want to keep Salmons in the fold but depending on who they select in the draft, Salmons could have a new home next season.

Here is how the Milwaukee Bucks depth-chart looks heading into the 2010 NBA Draft:

PG: Brandon Jennings
SG: John Salmons, Michael Redd, and Chris Douglas-Roberts
SF: Corey Maggette and Carlos Delfino
PF: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Ersan Ilyasova
C: Andrew Bogut

The Milwaukee Bucks currently have four picks: 15, 37, 44, and 47 in the 2010 NBA Draft. Before the Bucks acquired Maggette, most mock drafts had the Bucks selecting a small forward (Luke Babbitt, Gordon Hayward, Paul George, or Damion James) with the #15 pick. There is still a chance the Bucks will take one one of those guys if they fall to them at #15 but the Bucks have bigger needs now.

The Bucks need the 2010 version of 1996 Vin Baker...minus the drinking problem. It is a total crap shot trying to predict who the Bucks will select with the 15th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft but the Bucks are set at point guard, small forward, and center so look for the Bucks to take a shooting guard (Jordan Crawford or Xavier Henry) or power forward (Patrick Patterson, Larry Sanders, Kevin Seraphin, or Ekpe Udoh) at #15. With their three second round picks I expect the Bucks to address their needs at back-up point guard, combo guard, and center.

Check back tomorrow night for in-depth Cheesehead analysis of the 2010 NBA Draft.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

US v. Slovenia: World Cup Retro Diary

As you know by now, the United States and Slovenia tied 2-2 in a thrilling match of two completely different halves...Slovenia dominated the first half and the United State dominated the second half. Here is my retroactive look at the match:

1': Clint Dempsey elbows Zlatan Ljubijankic for what could have been a red card. At the very least it should have been a yellow card but as you will see throughout the match, this was not the only blown call by referee Koman Coulibaly.

8': Ljubijankic heads the ball straight up into the air. US goalkeeper Tim Howard comes out to snare the ball and as usual yells at his defenders. Howard is a very good keeper but why does he always come out barking at the top of his lungs. Every now and again he could just go about his business. Don't get me wrong, I am all about accountability but Howard's yelling seems like becomes ineffective if you always yell. My advice, pick your spots Timmy.

13' - Valter Birsa scores for Slovenia from 25 yards out to give Slovenia a 1-0 lead: Somehow there was not a US defender within 5 yards of Birsa. After the game Howard intimated that he never saw the ball. I hope that is the case because Howard watched the ball soar into the back of the net without even moving. The US is consistent at one thing, giving up early goal. Just to add insult to injury, that goal marks the 12th straight match that the US will not keep a clean sheet.

15': Landon Donovan's free kick is punched clear by Samir Handanovic. If Handanovic didn't punch that ball clear it looked like Dempsey would have had a great chance to equalize.

37': Bostjan Cesar is shown a yellow card for tripping Altodore. Torres takes the free kick and decides to go for goal instead of swinging it into the box. I like the idea of going for goal in that situation but the execution left more than a little to be desired. When I saw that Bradley inserted Torres instead of Clark I was ecstatic...after 37 minutes not so ecstatic.

40': Findley receives a yellow card for a handball that the replay shows hit him in the face. Since this is Findley's second yellow card in as many games, he will miss the US/Algeria match. I actually see this as the only gift referee Koman Coulibaly gave the US. As a quick tangent, not too sure why Bradley started Findley up top alongside Altidore against England and Slovenia. If I were in charge of the US, I would have started anyone (Buddle or Gomez) instead of Findley up top. Then I would bring Findley on with 20 minutes remaining to make some piercing runs. Findley starting consecutive matches for the US shows how much they miss Charlie Davies.

41': Dempsey's cross is deflected by Miso Brecko, robbing Donovan of an easy equalizer. When Donovan is that close he has to throw his body at the ball. Instead the US misses another close opportunity.

42' - Zlatan Ljubijankic scores for Slovenia to give Slovenia a 2-0 lead: Slovenia had two attempts on goal the entire first half, which lead to two goals. Oguchi Onyewu pulled off a tough double gaffe on the goal by failing to close down the attacker while playing on the goal scorer. A play like this by Gooch shows that Gooch is still not fully fit. What a change of momentum, in less than a few minutes the US goes from being tied 1-1 to being down 2-0.

Halftime: I don't think Ricardo Clark brings anything to the table so I liked that Bradley started Torres in Clark's place, unfortunately Torres was completely ineffective. As a result, Bradley brings in Benny Feilhaber for Jose Torres as well as Maurice Edu for Robbie Findley. Agree with bringing in Edu, I wanted Bradley to start him alongside his son instead of Clark or Torres the entire World Cup. The Feilhaber sub is a little surprising. Since Dempsey is going to move up top I would have brought in DeMarcus Beasley or Stuart Holden to play outside midfield instead of Feilhaner.

48' - Donovan scores for the US to cut Slovenia's lead to 2-1: Steve Cherundolo played Donovan into space. Donovan was looking to cross the ball but for some reason no one on Slovenia closed down Donovan so Donovan went towards goal. Donovan struck an absolute screamer into the only place he could go, the roof of the net, for his 3rd World Cup goal (43rd international) and first World Cup goal since 2002.

51': The US almost capitalized on a Donovan free kick but neither Dempsey or Gooch can bury the equalizer.

59': Altidore does the hard part turning the defender while possessing the ball but is unable to capitalize on his hard work. The way Altidore holds the ball reminds me of Brian McBride but Altidore is no where close to McBride in terms of finishing.

69': Marko Suler drags down Altidore just outside the box. If Suler gets Altidore a quarter second later, the US wins a penalty kick...instead they fail to capitalize on the free kick.

72': Andraz Kirm slides in late on Cherundolo and receives a yellow card.

75': Referee Koman Coulibaly continues to baffle me. Coulibaly is talking to Altidore despite the fact that Altidore was simply playing the ball. Coulibaly is really struggling and we haven't even gotten to his Mona Lisa of horrible decisions yet. Not too sure how reffing in Mali qualifies you to ref the World Cup...just saying Sepp Blatter.

80': Bob Bradley inserts Herculez Gomez for Gooch. I like the strategy, the US had to go for broke at that point. Plus, Edu is a better option than Gooch in central defense at this point. I am sure that it would create an uproar in the small but dedicated US soccer community if Bradley started Carlos Bocanegra or Clarence Goodson in place of Gooch but I would support the decision. Gooch is no doubt an impressive physical specimen, I just question if he can go another 90 minutes against Algeria coming off the major knee injury.

82' - Michael Bradley scores for the US to tie the game 2-2: Donovan played the ball long to Altidore, who perfectly nodded the ball towards an on rushing Bradley. Bradley pulled off one of the classiest toe pokes in World Cup history to tie the match. Can't say enough about how calmly Bradley slotted that shot. If the US advance, Bradley's 1st World Cup goal (8th international goal) will go down as one of the best in US soccer history.

86': Off a Donovan free kick, Maurice Edu bags a goal in the six yard box to put the US up 3-2. Wait...referee Koman Coulibaly continues his horrible performance by waving off the goal for a foul on the US. The replays show that at least four Slovenian defenders were absolutely mauling US players. If there was going to be a call, it should have been a penalty kick for the US instead of a foul against the US. It is hard to put into words how horrible of a decision Coulibaly made. ESPN has its talking point until the US plays again...if the US sputters against Algeria, everyone US fan is going to point to this decision as the turning point of the World Cup. If Edu's goal would have stood, it would have marked the first time in World Cup history that a team won 3-2 after going down 2-0 at halftime.

Final Thoughts: The US became the fifth team in World Cup history (the first since the 2002 World Cup) to tie a match after trailing 2-0 at halftime. The US should be happy with the result considering the US is 6-16-5 in World Cup history and has never won a World Cup game after trailing.

The US continued their futility against European teams in the World Cup running their record to 1-9-4 against European teams in the World Cup since 1990. If you were to tell me at half time that the US would have a chance to tie the game 2-2 and have a legitimate gripe about getting robbed on a third goal I would have called you crazy so US fans should be happy with the result.

Bring on Algeria and hopefully the knockout round!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

2010 Green Bay Packers Restricted Free Agent Update

In the beginning of March I set the stage for the decisions facing Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson. A week later, Thompson signed Chad Clifton, Nick Collins, Ryan Pickett, and Mark Tauscher to multi-year contracts. A few weeks later I took a look at the 2010 Green Bay Packers roster before and after the 2010 NFL Draft. As usual, Thompson was not active in the free agent market so the next big date on the NFL off-season calendar for the Green Bay Packers was June 14, 2010 when Ted Thompson had some decisions to make about the Packers remaining restricted free agents.

According to Article XIX, Section (ii) of the CBA,* if the remaining restricted free agents did not sign their tenders by 11 p.m. on June 14, 2010, the Green Bay Packers had a 24 hour window where they could replace those tenders with one-year contracts worth 110% of their 2009 base salaries. That rule potentially could have impacted only three players (Tramon Williams, Johnny Jolly, and Atari Bigby) since the Packers already reached deals (Will Blackmon, Daryn Colledge, Nick Collins, Spencer Havner, John Kuhn, and Jason Spitz) or cut (Jeremy Kapinos and DeShawn Wynn) their other restricted free agents.

The financial ramifications varied for the three players that had not signed their tenders with the deadline looming:
- Tramon Williams' 2010 salary would have dropped from $3.043 (first and third round tender) to $584,078.
- Johnny Jolly's 2010 salary would have dropped from $2.521 million (first round tender) to $589,501.
- Atari Bigby's 2010 salary would have dropped from $1.759 million (second round tender) to $1.704 million.

The Packers had till 11 p.m. on June 15, 2010 to reduce their offer to 110% if Williams, Jolly, or Bigby did not sign their tender. The impacted players could only sign with the Packers and would have to sign the reduced tender by Week 10 or sit out the entire season. For Jolly and Bigby, they would have become unrestricted free agents after 2010 even if they never played another down for the Packers.

Ultimately Williams and Jolly signed their tenders but Bigby choose not to sign his tender. It is surprising that Williams and Jolly cut things so close.

Tramon Williams:
Although the Packers are thin at cornerback with Al Harris out injured, the Packers have been very fair with Williams in the past. In 2009 the Packers paid Williams roughly $900,000, including a $375,000 signing bonus, despite only having to pay Williams $460,000 according to the CBA since Williams was only entering his 3rd season in the NFL in 2009. Furthermore, the Packers placed the highest restricted free agent tender on Williams, meaning if another team wanted to sign Williams they would have to give the Packers their 1st and 3rd round draft picks in the 2010 NFL Draft for the right to sign Williams.

Williams only has 3 accrued seasons so if he decided to sit out 2010, he would still be a restricted free agent going into the 2011 NFL season. Williams needs to play in at least 6 games in order to accrue another season of NFL service and become an unrestricted free agent, assuming a new CBA is agreed upon with similar terms to the old CBA. Williams played well after Al Harris was lost for the season but some scouts still question whether he will ever be any better than a nickel cornerback.

Johnny Jolly:
With all of the legal trouble Jolly is facing, he should be ecstatic the Packers even tendered him a contract let alone a first round tender. Jolly is set to earn $2.521 million, although he can be released at any point before the season without costing the Packers a dime. If Jolly was not facing jail time, the Packers probably would have given Jolly a multi-year extension based on how well he played in the 3-4 last season.

Instead, Jolly is facing very serious legal allegations in Texas. The prosecutor claims that Jolly not only possessed a number of illegal substances, but according to court documents he also "bought, sold, funded, transported and aided in the buying, selling, funding and transportation of illegal narcotics including cocaine and marijuana". The Packers will wait and see how the trial plays out (which is schedule for the first day of training camp), before making any long-term decisions on Jolly.

Atari Bigby:
Atari Bigby has had a rash of injuries the last two season that forced him to miss 12 games. Even thought Bigby was limited by injury last year, he still had four interceptions. At 5'11" and 213 pounds, Bigby was a physically imposing safety early in his Packer career but that has tailed off over the last few seasons. It has been an eternity (November 11, 2007) since Bigby forced a fumble. All of that adds up to Bigby being a one way player in pass coverage that provides little in combating the run. Atari Bigby stands to lose out on roughly $54,000 if the Packer decide to reduce his tender but he is jeopardizing a mountain of future earnings by holding out.

In the 3rd round of the 2010 NFL Draft the Packers traded up to draft Morgan Burnett, a physical safety that played for Georgia Tech. Burnett has great size at 6'1" and 209 pounds, which allows him to not only drop into coverage but also come up to the line of scrimmage to play the run. Burnett was VERY productive in college, he had 14 interceptions and 235 tackles (8th in school history) in just three years at Georgia Tech. Although Bigby thinks he is sending a message to the Packers by holding out, he might just be opening the door for perfect safety to compliment Nick Collins. Collins wears #36 and Burnett wears #42...hopefully the new version of former #36 LeRoy Butler and former #42 Darren Sharper.

* In the event that a Restricted Free Agent has not signed a Player Contract with a Club within the Signing Period in the League Year following the expiration of his last Player Contract, and if the Prior Club by June 1 tenders to the Restricted Free Agent a one year Player Contract of at least 110% of his Paragraph 5 Salary (with all other terms of his prior year contract carried forward unchanged) or extends the player’s Qualifying Offer, whichever is greater (the “June 1 Tender”), the Prior Club shall be the only Club with which the player may negotiate or sign a Player Contract during the period from June 1 until the Tuesday following the tenth week of the regular season, at 4:00 p.m. New York time. If the player’s Qualifying Offer is greater than 110% of the player’s Paragraph 5 Salary (with all other terms of his prior year contract carried forward unchanged), the Club may withdraw the Qualifying Offer on June 15 and retain its rights under the preceding sentence, so long as the Club immediately tenders the player a one year Player Contract of at least 110% of his Paragraph 5 Salary (with all other terms of his prior year contract carried forward unchanged) (the“June 15 Tender”).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wednesday What Happened - The Jeff Suppan Debacle

For the second straight season Mark Attanasio (the Brewers owner) signed a $10 million check to buy-out a horrible Doug Melvin (the Brewers general manager) contact. Last year, Attanasio paid the rest of Bill Hall's contract so he could play for another team. This year, Attanasio did the same thing just to make Jeff Suppan go away.

Unfortunately we are going to have to get in Doc Brown's time machine again and head back to October of 2006 to fully understand the Jeff Suppan Debacle. Suppan pitched for the NL Central rival St. Louis Cardinals in the 2006 NLCS. The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the New York Mets in the 2006 NLCS thanks in large part to Suppan's performance: 1-0 over 2 starts with a 0.60 ERA which earned Suppan the 2006 NLCS MVP.

Suppan also started Game 4 of the 2006 World Series, taking a no decision, that resulted in a St. Louis win over the Detroit Tigers. St. Louis went on to win the 2006 World Series over the Detroit Tigers in 5 games, their first World Series title since 1982 when they defeated...wait for it...the Milwaukee Brewers...oh dang.

Suppan's 2006 post-season performance capped off the best three year stretch (all for the St. Louis Cardinals) of his entire career. From 2004-06, Suppan went 44-26 with a 3.95 ERA in the regular season and 3-3 with a 3.0 ERA in the post-season.

Despite Suppan's stellar performance, the Cardinals did not make a push to resign Suppan in the off-season...that should have been hint #1 to Mark Attanasio and Doug Melvin to stay away.

Attanasio became the Brewers owner in 2005 and was looking to make a free agent splash. Despite Suppan's reputation for being a nibbler, the Brewers offered him the richest pitching contract in franchise history: 4 years, $42 millions (and club option for 2011 with $2 million buy-out).

What did Mark Attanasio get for $42 million (actually $44 million because he had to pay the $2 million buy-out)? Suppan went 29-36 in 97 starts (110 appearances) with a 5.08 ERA over 578 innings. Just to drive home how much Suppan underperformed for $44 million, here is the year-by-year breakdown:

2007: 12-12 in 34 starts with a 4.62 ERA over 206.2 innings.

2008: 10-10 in 31 starts with a 4.96 ERA over 177.2 innings.*

2009: 7-12 in 30 starts with a 5.29 ERA over 161.2 innings.**

2010: 0-2 in 2 starts (15 appearances) with a 7.84 ERA over 31 innings.

Since taking over as owner of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005, Mark Attanasio has drastically increased payroll:
- 2004: $27,528,500
- 2005: $39,934,833
- 2006: $57,568,333
- 2007: $70,986,500
- 2008: $80,937,499
- 2009: $80,182,502
- 2010: $90,408,000

That said, Attanasio has signed off on some horrible decisions by Doug Melvin..think Eric Gagne, Bill Hall, and Jeff Suppan. Of all the big money contracts the Brewers have handed out on Attanasio's watch, the only one that makes sense is Ryan Braun's contract who is grossly underpaid.

The combo of Attanasio and Melvin are responsible for two of the four contracts on the Mount Rushmore of worst contracts in Milwaukee Brewers history***:

George Washington = Teddy Higuera:
Higuera is Washington because he is the first one to get a horrible contract...a trailblazer if you will. After tearing up the American League in the mid to late 1980's, Higuera experienced injury problems the next few seasons. Despite knowing that, in 1991 the Brewers offered Higuera a 4-year, $13.1 million deal. In today's terms that doesn't seem like a lot (by MLB standards) but that was a ton of money at the time, especially for a player coming off some big injury problems.

Thomas Jefferson = Jeffrey Hammonds:
Hammonds parlayed a rarified Denver air aided All-Star season in 2000 into a 3-year, $21 million deal. Hammonds became Exhibit A for how much Denver can inflate a player's statistics because he never came close to making an All-Star team while in Milwaukee.

Theodore Roosevelt = Bill Hall:
As crazy as it sounds, 4-years, $24 millon seems cheap for Bill Hall (2007-10) compared to Hammonds getting 3-years, $21 million (2001-03). I have written positive and negative things about Bill Hall in the last year so hopefully this is the last time I have to bring up his name.

Abraham Lincoln = Jeff Suppan:
As a guy who currently lives in the Land of Lincoln, I feel bad comparing Lincoln to Suppan but Suppan is a dead ringer right down to the beard. You know the $44 million reasons why the Suppan deal gets included on Mount Rushmore by now...shoot.

* Part of the reason the Brewers signed Suppan was his impressive 2006 playoff performance. Unfortunately, Suppan's 2008 playoff performance was nothing like his 2006 playoff performance. After a 26-year playoff absence, the Brewers finally made it back to the postseason on the back of C.C. Sabathia, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Braun. On the verge of elimination, the Brewers sent Suppan to the mound to start Game 4 of the National League Division Series against Philadelphia at Miller Park. Suppan's stat line for the day: 3 innings, 6 hits (3 HRs), and 5 runs allowed. The Brewers went on to lose Game 4 and were eliminated from the playoffs. Thanks for the playoff heroics Sup.

** The Brewers allowed Suppan to start on the final day of the season against St. Louis so he could extend his streak of making 30 starts to 11 seasons. Classy move I guess by the Brewers but with how horribly Suppan performed since signing the mega-deal, did they really have to do that?

*** Attanasio and Melvin would be responsible for three of the four worst contracts in Milwaukee Brewers history if they offered Eric Gagne a multi-year deal. On December 9, 2007 Attanasio and Melvin offered Gagne a one-year, $10 million contract. Gagne was ecstatic to sign the deal and laughed all the way to the bank because only four days later (you read that correctly), Gagne was named in the Mitchell Report for using performance enhancing drugs.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday Funday - US Qualifies for 1990 World Cup

The United States men's national team squares off against England next Saturday in their opening match of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. While England is the heavy favorite, the United States men's national team has come a long way since they last met England in the 1950 World Cup in Brazil.

After a shocking 1-0 defeat of England in the 1950 World Cup dubbed "Miracle on Grass", the United States national team had a 40 year absence from the World Cup. In 1989, FIFA awarded the United States the 1994 World Cup. FIFA's decision was criticized around the world because the United States' perceived lack of soccer aptitude. The aforementioned 40 year absence from the World Cup and the lack of a top flight professional outdoor league made the international soccer community question why FIFA would give the United States the most watched sporting event in the world.

The host nation automatically qualifies for the World Cup. In order to justify FIFA's decision to stage the 1994 World Cup in America, the United States men's national team had to qualify for the 1990 World Cup in Italy on their own. If the United States failed to qualify for the 1990 World Cup, FIFA and the United States men's national team would have become the laughing stock of international soccer for not competing in the World Cup for 54 and only getting to participate by virtue of automatic qualification for hosting the World Cup.

The North and Central America and Caribbean region (CONCACAF) had two spots up for grabs for the 1990 World Cup which was decided at the 1989 CONCACAF Championship. Costa Rica took the top spot in the 1989 CONCACAF Championship on goal differential and qualified for their first ever World Cup. Costa Rica "won" because Mexico was disqualified for fielding improper players (too old) which watered down the field.

On Sunday, November 19, 1989 the United States faced Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain (the capital of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago) for the second of two CONCACAF qualification spots for the 1990 World Cup in Italy. The odds were stacked against the United States. The United States had not won a game on foreign soil in almost 2 years and in order to qualify for the World Cup they would have to beat Trinidad and Tobago on their home soil.

Some of the notable United States players from the game were John Harkes (current lead color analyst for ESPN's coverage of the 2010 World Cup), Marcelo Balboa (king mullet of the United States men's national team), Tab Ramos (who "hates to practice but loves to win" in his cheesy Snickers commercials), Tony Meola (set back soccer players decades with his failed attempt to kick for the New York Jets), and Paul Caligiuri (the man of the match).

The United States won the match 1-0 thanks to Paul Caligiuri's "Shot heard round the world". Although not as big as "The Miracle on Ice" or "The Dream Team", Caligiuri's goal is one of biggest moment's in United States sports history (unless the United States men's national team can pull of the improbable and win the World Cup).

Sunday, November 19, 1989 was truly a Sunday Funday and the most important day in United States soccer history. Not only did the United States qualify for their first World Cup in 40 years but the United States men's national team also silenced the critics who opposed the United States hosting the 1994 World Cup. Hosting the World Cup in 1994 lead to the formation of the MLS which gave the United States a legitimate professional soccer league in the United States for the first time in decades in 1996. Although soccer is still not a major sport in the United States, without Paul Caligiuri's goal, soccer would be light years behind where it is today.

The MLS will never (or at least not for a number of decades) be on the same level as the English Premier League, La Liga (Spanish 1st division) or Serie A (Italian 1st division) but Americans support winners. If the United States men's national team makes a deep run in the World Cup or even wins (especially with how much coverage ESPN is dedicating to the World Cup), soccer will take off in America and the United States men's national team (and tangentially the MLS) will have huge support.

Sorry if you are not a soccer fan but I have World Cup fever. As a result, I am going to cover the United States men's national team on the blog for the next month or so while still trying to sprinkle in other Cheesehead content.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Galarraga shafted and Atogwe available

I planned on having a much more in-depth post on Milwaukee Brewers Player Rankings but that is going to have to wait until next week because there are much more pressing Cheesehead and Non-Cheesehead sports issues to handle.

Non-Cheesehead sports issue: Did everyone see umpire Jim Joyce's horrendous call? For those that didn't, let me set the stage. Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Armando Galarraga had a perfect game through 8 and 2/3rds innings. The 27th batter that Galarraga faced hit a soft grounder to the right side. Galarraga covered first for what should have been the 27th and final out of the game.

For some unknown reason, umpire Jim Joyce called the runner safe. I would venture to say that everyone in the stadium could have made the right call but the one guy with the power completely screwed it up. The call was so bad that one of the other umpires should have stepped in to rectify the error.

I predict three reactions to Joyce's f*#k-up: some are going to call for Joyce to be suspended, others are going to use this as Exhibit A for why baseball needs instant replay, and some others are going to demand Bud Selig to retroactively give Galaraga the perfect game. I am a replay guy so while I feel bad for Galarraga, I think he is going to go down as a martyr for the replay cause. That said, I would totally support Selig overturning the call for this unique error but I think that is highly unlikely.

If the call did get reversed, it would be the 20th perfect game in MLB history and the 3rd perfect game this season. For those wondering why so many perfect games have happened this season I have a simple answer, PEDs might actually be getting phased out of MLB.

Cheesehead sports issue: My buddy Fernando asked whether the Packers should go after former St. Louis Rams safety O.J. Atogwe? For a quick explanation of how Atogwe became a free agent click here. My initial thought is no way, but let's take a look anyway for Mr. Fernando.

Atogwe was taken in the third round (66th overall) in the 2005 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. Atogwe played sparingly as a rookie in 2005 but had a breakout season in 2006 and never looked back.

On the positive side of the equation, Atogwe is a turnover machine. In five seasons, Atogwe had 19 interceptions and 14 forced fumbles.

On the negative side of the equation, Atogwe is not the biggest guy in the NFL (5'11", 205 pounds), turns 29 in June, and is coming off a dislocated right shoulder that landed him on injured reserve last season.

Atogwe is clearly a talented player with some baggage. As all Packer fans know, Ted Thompson is not usually very active in the free agent market. That said, one of Thompson's best free agents signing was a former St. Louis Ram, Ryan "Big Daddy" Pickett, so may be he will give Atogwe a look.

The Packers have good depth at safety after Pro Bowler Nick Collins. Assuming Atari Bigby signs his tender, there will be a fierce competition between Bigby and Morgan Burnett (3rd round pick from the 2010 NFL Draft). After that, the Packers have two dependable veterans in Charlie Peprah and Derrick Martin. Bringing up the rear are two long-shots to make the roster Khalil Jones and Anthony Levine.

If the Packers did add Atogwe, he would be the oldest safety on the roster. Although Atogwe is an intriguing talent, given the fact that Ted Thompson is very conservative in free agency and the Packers' quality depth at safety I think the odds are slim that Atogwe plays for the Green Bay Packers in 2010.