Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wednesday What Happened - The Carlos Lee Trade

Just like every other year, the Major League Baseball trade deadline is July 31st. What makes this trade deadline so interesting is that the Milwaukee Brewers are most likely out of the playoff hunt which means they have two very attractive players, Prince Fielder and Corey Hart, that are available for the right price. Fielder and Hart are not scheduled to become free agents until after the 2011 season but anything can happen in the next 72 hours because Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin is no stranger to trade deadline deals.

Let's hop in Doc Brown's time machine and head back exactly four years to July 28, 2006 when Doug Melvin sent Carlos Lee (LF) and Nelson Cruz (RF) to the Texas Rangers for Francisco Cordero (Closer), Kevin Mench (LF), Laynce Nix (LF), and Julian Cordero (RHP).

At the time of the trade the Brewers were going nowhere, so they wanted to get something in return for Carlos Lee who was schedule to become free agent after the 2006 season. Shortly before the 2006 trade deadline Doug Melvin offered Lee a four-year, $48 million deal but Lee turned the deal down (Brewers dodged a huge bullet there by the way). As a result, Melvin felt "forced" to trade Lee. I say "forced" because even if the Brewers were unable to resign Lee, he was going be a "Class A" free agent (ranked in the top 20% of players at his position) so losing him would have netted the Brewers the top pick of the team that signed Lee and a sandwich pick between the first and second round in the 2007 MLB amateur draft.

Melvin claimed that six teams made offers for Lee at the 2006 trade deadline. We will never know if that is true, what we do know is that Melvin was the general manager for the Texas Rangers from 1994 to 2001. Melvin might have been offered a more attractive package from another team (according to a neutral party) but he wanted to get "his guys" from Texas. Unfortunately, "his guys" were not worth much:

Julian Cordero pitched briefly in Single A for the Brewers and is currently a free agent.

In three seasons with the Brewers, Laynce Nix had 9 hits over 57 at bats in 30 games. In 2009 Nix finally got regular at bats when he joined the Cincinnati Reds and put up careers highs in almost every offensive category.

In 2006 Kevin Mench hit .230 (29 hits in 126 at bats) in 40 games. In 2007 Mench hit .267 (77 hits in over 288 at bats) in 101 games. The Brewers did not tender Mench a contract for 2008 after his lackluster performance in a Brewers uniform.

Suffice to say, Melvin went 0 for 3 on the aforementioned players. Brewers closer Derrick Turnbow was an All-Star in 2006 but had a complete melt down as the season went on (0-4, allowed 14 earned runs over 4 2/3 innings resulting in a 26.98 ERA over his last nine appearances) which forced Melvin to acquire another closer.

That brings us to Francisco Cordero. The Rangers were offering Cordero to anyone and everyone. At the start of 2006 Cordero had a complete meltdown (sound familiar...paging Derrick Turnbow) and wasn't even serving as a closer for the Rangers when he was traded to the Brewers. Luckily for the Brewers a change of scenery helped Cordero. In one and a half seasons in a Brewers uniform Cordero was 3-5, converted 60 saves (9 blown) and amassed a 1.69 ERA in 2006 and a 2.98 ERA in 2007.

After the 2007 season Cordero became a free agent. The highest offer the Brewers extended to Cordero was a four-year, $42 million contract with an option for a fifth year for $13 million. Cordero spurned the Brewers offer and signed a four-year, $46 million contract with an option for a fifth year for $12 million ($1 million buyout) with the Cincinnati Reds. When Cordero signed the deal with the Reds, it was the largest amount of guaranteed money ever given to a closer.

As compensation for losing Francisco Cordero, the Milwaukee Brewers got the 32nd pick in the 2008 MLB Draft. With the 32nd pick the Brewers took Jake Odorizzi (born on March 27, 1990), a 6'2" and 175 pound right handed pitcher out of Highland High School in Highland, IL. Odorizzi is progressing nicely though the organization and is currently 6-1 with a 2.98 ERA for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Brewers Class A affiliate.

For those scoring at home so far, Doug Melvin turned Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz into Jake Odorizzi. Just to add salt the wounds, let's look at what the Rangers from the Brewers.

In 2005 Nelson Cruz hit .302 with 22 doubles, 20 HRs, 73 RBIs, and 17 stolen bases in 104 games for the Brewers' Triple-A affiliate in Nashville. The aforementioned productive season earned Cruz the the Brewers' minor league player of the year award for 2005. Again if you are scoring at home, Cruz is worth much more than all the players the Brewers got from the Rangers and we haven't even gotten to the center piece of the trade yet.

At the time of the trade the Rangers were only two games out of first place. Despite adding Lee and Cruz, the Rangers puttered down the stretch and finished 13 games behind the 2006 American League West Champion Oakland Athletics. As a result the Rangers decided to go in a new direction and let Carlos Lee sign with another team. Lee signed a monster six-year, $100 million contract ($3 million signing bonus, $11 million in '07, $12 million in '08, $18.5 million in '09, $18.5 million in '10, $18.5 million in '11, and $18.5 million in '12) with the Houston Astros after the 2006 season.

As compensation for losing Carlos Lee, the Texas Rangers got the 17th pick (Astros' first round pick) and 35th pick (sandwich pick) in the 2007 MLB Draft. With the 17th pick the Rangers took Blake Beavan (born on January 17, 1989), a 6'7" and 250 pound right handed pitcher out of Irving High School in Irving, TX. With the 35th pick the Rangers took Julio Borbon (born on February 20, 1986), a 6'0' and 195 pound center fielder out of the University of Tennessee.

The Rangers missed on Beavan, who is now a minor league pitcher in the Seattle Mariners organization. The Rangers hit a grand slam with Borbon who is already their starting centerfielder. As a result the Rangers went one for two with the draft picks they got for letting Carlos Lee leave for a bloated contract in Houston, which is great considering that the MLB draft is very unpredictable.

So for a final look at the trade four years (to the day) later, Doug Melvin turned Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz into minor league pitcher Jake Odorizzi. The Rangers turned Francisco Cordero, Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix, and Julian Cordero into starting left fielder Nelson Cruz and starting center fielder Julio Borbon.

That was a long way of saying that unless Melvin gets an amazing offer for Fielder or Hart, he might as well hold on to them. At the very least if they leave as free agents in 2011, the Brewers will get a ton of draft picks as compensation. As the Carlos Lee trade shows, sometimes draft picks are better than a smattering of mediocre major league talent.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Funday - The Story of the 2009 Green Bay Packers...12 Days to Contenders

The Green Bay Packers are on the verge of opening the 2010 training camp. In order to prime the football pump, I thought I would give a little blow-by-blow of the NFL Films production "The Story of the 2009 Green Bay Packers...12 Days to Contenders".

The Green Bay Packers 2009 season opened with the Packers hosting the Chicago Bears and their new quarterback Jay Cutler. The Packers intercepted Cutler four times with now suspended defensive lineman Johnny Jolly getting a crucial interception on a screen pass as the Bears were about to score a touchdown...welcome to Lambeau Field Cutler. By the way, how happy are Packer fans to have Aaron Rodgers instead of Jay Cutler? As a Cheesehead in Chicago, I sometimes have blinders on, but Cutler can't hold Rodgers' jock...look at the 2009 stats:
- Cutler: 336 of 555 for 3,666 years, 27 TDs, and 26 INTs for a passer rating of 76.8.
- Rodgers: 350 for 541 for 4,434 yards, 30 TDs, and 7 INTs for a passer rating of 103.2.
Cutler's body language alone would kill me if I was a Bears fan. Back to the game. Despite four interceptions by Cutler, the Packers still trailed 15 to 13 with 1:18 remaining in the game. Facing a 3rd and 1, instead of trying to pick up a yard on the ground (which they would not have because the offensive line was horrible at that point), Rodgers went deep to Greg Jennings for the winning touchdown. The Packers beat the Bears 21-15 to start the season off with a win.

In week 2 the Packer fell to 1-1, losing to the Cincinnati Bengals at home. The only positive thing from that game was Charles Woodson picking off 2 balls (1 returned for a touchdown), which started Woodson's momentum towards his NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award.

In week 3 the Packers traveled to St. Louis. Woodson picked off another ball and Greg Jennings had a huge game as the Packers pounded the Rams 36-17 to improve their record to 2-1.

Skipping ahead to week 6, the Packers faced the lowly Detroit Lions lead by Dante "Small Hands" Culpepper. Two things came out of the Lions game. First, the 3-4 defense really started to take hold. Second, in one of the best moments of season, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver became the Packers all-time receptions leader. Driver got the game ball and it couldn't go to a better guy. Whenever people talk about how professional athletes are prima donnas (think Jay Cutler), Driver should be Exhibit #1 of why that titled doesn't apply to every professional athlete.

In week 7 the Packers offense lead by Rodgers, Driver, Grant, and company picked up where left off against the Lions and out gained the Browns by more than 300 years on the road. The Packers went on to win 31-3 and improved their record to 4-2.

The Packers looked like a team on the charge until Week 8 when the Brett Favre lead Minnesota Vikings came to Green Bay. I was at that game and can say it was one of the weirdest sports moments in my life. Millions of words have been written about Favre's return to Green Bay so I won't belabor the point, but it was one of the craziest things in the world seeing Favre charge out on the field for the Vikings as opposed to the Packers. Favre is an adult, he can make his own decision. What Favre will have to deal with is the backlash from those decisions. Anyhow, Rodgers and Company fell to Favre and Company 38-26. This game produced one great moment caught on film when Rodgers said to Woodson: "we got a pretty good squad, what do you think?" As calm as ever, Woodson turned to Rodgers and said "I'm thinking Super Bowl, and your gonna take me there." Gotta love the confidence out of Chuck. Unfortunately that didn't happen in 2009 but there is a good chance that it will happen in 2010.

In Week 9 the Packers lost 38-28 to the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Nothing good happened in Tampa Bay so with all the positives that came from 2009, let's just move on and forget that the Packers ever lost to rookie quarterback Josh Freeman.

Entering Week 10 the Packers were 4-4 at home facing the 6-2 Dallas Cowboys. Juxtapose Tony Romo and Jay Cutler. Romo is a nice guy, while Cutler is prick. Cheesehead Chick doesn't like when I use the word prick so I save it for proper times...Cutler is just that...a prick. Back to the Packers/Cowboys game. After 3 quarters, the Packers lead 3-0. Woodson might have cemented the clubhouse lead for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award by forcing three turnovers against the Cowboys. The first came on a strip of Mrs. Roy Williams. The second came on a strip of Romo, which Rodgers converted for a touchdown to Spencer Havner. Finally with the Cowboys threatening to score, Charles Woodson made one of the best intercepts I have ever seen when he stepped in front of Jason Witten at the goal line to intercept Tony Romo. The Packers beat the Cowboys 17 to 7, check out my review of the 5 biggest plays from the Packers/Cowboys game.

Coming off a an important win over the Cowboys, the Packers faced the San Francisco 49ers in Week 11 in a classic trap game. Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy knows the 49ers well, he was the offensive coordinator when the 49ers selected Alex Smith instead of Aaron Rodgers with the 1st pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. McCarthy has addressed the issue a number of times so I am going to stop making the association since the Packers do owe a debt of gratitude for the 49ers picking the wrong guy. What NFL Films didn't cover for some reason is that the Packers lost Aaron Kampman and Al Harris in that game to season ending knee surgeries. The loss of Kampman was not considered that big because he was a bad fit for the 3-4 defense, but in an uncapped year, the Packers could have franchised Kampman to work out a trade with a 4-3 team if he was healthy. Or here is an even more novel idea, the Packers could have brought Kampman back. The Packers play a sub defense more then the 3-4 defense so Kampman could work at his usual defensive lineman position but for some reason the packers didn't like that idea. Al Harris is still working his way back from the knee injury suffered against the 49ers, which leaves the 2010 Green Bay Packers' secondary with a huge hole until he returns. The Packers beat the 49ers 30-24, check out my review of the 5 biggest plays from the Packers/49ers game.

In week 12 the Packers went to Detroit for a Thanksgiving showdown. That day marked our first "shared" holiday since Cheesehead Chick and I got married last summer. We spent Thanksgiving at Cheesehead Chick's parent's house. I got to watch the Packers in the comfort of their basement, while a tasty meal was being cooked upstairs. I even got to wear my kids XL Aaron Rodgers jersey to Thanksgiving dinner...awesome day all around. Rodgers was dialed in on Thanksgiving with Donald "Dropsies McGee" Lee even showing some flashes of talent. Speaking of flashes of talent, Collins and Woodson both had impressive interceptions against the Lions to propel the Packers to a Turkey Day triumph. The Packers beat the Lions 34-12, check out my review of the 5 biggest plays from the Packers/Lions game.

After facing the lowly Lions, the Packers faced a true test in week 13 when they squared off on Monday Night Football against the Baltimore Ravens at Lambeau Field. The Packers answered the challenge and held the Ravens to 185 yards on offense, their lowest output of the season. Nick Collins and even A.J. Hawk had an interception. Besides that, Jermichael Finley started to show why he is going to be a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses for the rest of his career. The Packers beat the Ravens 27-14, check out my review of the 10 biggest plays from the Packers/Ravens game.

In week 14 the Packers went to Chicago with Cheesehead Sports Nut and Sugawitz in attendance. My extended family is from Chicago and had Bears season tickets. Usually they are nice enough to give me the tickets because they know how much I enjoy seeing Rodgers and company live. Just to show how much my family loves the Chicago Bears, my Uncle Tony (who graciously gave us the tickets) told me to make sure Ryan Grant had a good game because he had Grant going for his fantasy team...classic. I play fantasy but not only do I think it is essentially a crap shot if you don't do an auction draft, a good fantasy team is not a panacea for a bad Packers season. When the Packers went 4-12 in 2005 my fantasy football team finished second in the league but it was no consolation; 2005 still goes down as one of the most painful NFL seasons in recent memory despite my strong fantasy football year. Back to the game, Grant responded for my Uncle Tony racking up 137 yards on the ground. Woodson got his 8th interception of season and Collins got yet another pick as well. The Packers improved to 9-4 in 2009 with a 21 to 14 victory over the Bears, check out my review of the 5 biggest plays from the Packers/Bears game.

In week 15 the Packers went to Yinztown (Pittsburgh for those who don't know what "Yinzers" are and the city where I attended college), which is actually an underrated city. The rivers and mountains make Yinztown one of the coolest cities to drive into through the hills from the airport at night. Okay enough advertising for Yinztown, back to the shoot out, I mean game. A ton of points were scored between two teams that are supposedly know for defense. With the Packers leading the Steelers 36-30, the Steelers had the ball facing a 3rd and 10 on the Green Bay 19 yard line with 3 seconds left in the game. Ben Roethlisberger threw deep left to Mike Wallace for 19 yards, touchdown. The replay assistant challenged the pass completion ruling, but the play was upheld. Much like 2009, the Packers have the same secondary issues that were exposed on that play. The Packers lost to the Steelers 37 to 36, check out my review of the 5 biggest plays from the Packers/Steelers game.

Going into week 16, despite sitting at 9-5, the Packers still needed a victory to clinch a playoff birth. The Packers running backs scored 6 TDs (3 by Brandon Jackson, 2 by Ryan Grant, and 1 by Ahman Green). Besides running all over the Seahawks, B.J. Raji showed some push along the defensive line and A.J. Hawk even got another interception. The Packers punched their playoff ticket with a victory over the Seahawks 48 to 10, check out my review of the 5 biggest plays from the Packers/Seahawks game.

Week 17 the Packers made their second trip of the season to Arizona knowing they were going to have a return trip in a week for the opening round of the playoffs. That has to be one of the only times in NFL history that a non-divisional opponent played a team on the road three times (counting pre-season). Coach Mike McCarthy decided to play the game like it mattered at the start, which allowed Charles Woodson to pick off another ball for a TD to lock down the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. The Packers beat the Cardinals 33-7, check out my review of the 5 biggest plays from the Packers/Cardinals game.

As we all know by now, the Packers opened the 2010 NFL Playoffs on the road against the Arizona Cardinals. The Packers struggled to start the game, going down 17-0 with 34 seconds remaining in the first quarter...yikes. The Packers were down by 21 in the 2nd half, yet they still fought back. It was 31-17 with 7:20 remaining in the 3rd quarter when Mike McCarthy took a risk trying an onside kick and it paid off. The Packers settled in and with 4:07 remaining in the 3rd quarter the Packers were only down 31-24 thanks to recovering the onside kick. On 4th and 5, Rodgers hit James Jones for a touchdown. Later in the game, Driver and Kuhn scored to pull the Packers to within 7 points (45-38) with 4:55 remaining in the 4th quarter. Havner scored a touchdown to tie the game and after 60 minutes, the highest scoring playoff game went to overtime. Quick side note, Aaron Rodgers and Jermichael Finley set Packers playoff records for passing yards (423 yards) and receiving yards (159 yards) in a playoff game. Finley's 159 receiving yards was the 2nd most receiving yards by a tight end in NFL playoff history. We all know how it ended, the Packers lost to the Cardinals 51-45 on a face mask penalty, check out my review of the 5 biggest plays from the Packers/Cardinals playoff game.

Season Nuggets:
- The Packers lead the NFL with 40 turnovers.
- The Packers lead the NFL in run defense (first time in franchise history).
- The Packers had the fewest giveaways in the NFL with 16.
- Rodgers threw touchdowns to 9 different Packers.
- Donald Driver became the Packers all-time leading receptions leader (Week 6 against the Detroit Lions).
- Clay Matthews set a Packer rookie record with 10 sacks.
- The offense scored the most points in franchise history.

Check back throughout the preseason to see my predictions for the 53 guys that will make the 2010 Green Bay Packers opening day roster.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Homestand: 2010 Milwaukee Brewers

"The Homestand: Milwaukee" gave a behind the scenes look at Miller Park and the Milwaukee Brewers organization over a six game homestand from June 7, 2010 to June 13, 2010. The one-hour special provided a bunch of "nuggets" that provoked a number of my thoughts about the Milwaukee Brewers.

Monday, June 7, 2010:
The narrator started with the understatement of the year when he described the Brewers season so far as "frustrating". Just to illustrate how frustrating the season has been, four Brewers pitchers (Chris Narveson, Manny Parra, Dave Bush, and Randy Wolf) joined the "Gave Up 10 Runs in a Game in 2010 Club" in July 2010. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last team to have three pitchers give up 10-plus runs over a four games span was the St. Louis Browns in July 1937...nice work Crew.

On a more positive note, you gotta love Yovani Gallardo getting in some extra work on the off day. I know it sounds crazy but if Gallardo can stay healthy, a big if since he is a pitcher, Gallardo has a chance to go down as one of the best Brewers pitchers of all-time. Plus, it's not like the Brewers have had a ton of great pitchers.

Just to drive the point home, only two pitchers have won at least 100 games in a Brewers uniform. I bet most thought those two guys are Teddy Higuera and Ben Sheets. Good guesses, but neither of them eclipsed the 100 win mark, Higuera had 94 wins and Sheets had 86 wins. The correct answer is Jim Slaton (118 wins) and Mike Caldwell (102 wins).

Besides Higuera, Sheets, Slaton, and Caldwell you have to consider Pete Vuckovich (great mustache), Juan Nieves (for one reason only...he threw the only no hitter in Brewers history), Dan Plesac (all-time Brewers saves leader with 133) and Rollie Fingers (best mustache ever) for the best pitcher ever. I would like to put C.C. Sabathia in there but that just seems too short sighted. Gallardo can easily top those guys.

Moving from all-time great Brewers pitchers to new Brewers pitchers, cut to the Brewers war room for the 2010 first year player draft. We get Bruce Seid, Brewers Director of Amateur Scouting, saying that we "gotta hit on the first ones"...value add Bruce. By the way, how can a sport have their draft in season? I understand the logistics and that players hardly ever go straight to the big leagues but it is absolutely absurd that the amateur draft happens during the season.

Former Brewer great Gorman Thomas relays the draft picks for the Brewers at the actual draft, which begs the question: who has a better mustache, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin or Gorman Thomas? Ultimately I give it to Thomas because his mustache creeps around the mouth a bit. Melvin's mustache is strong, just not quite as strong as Thomas.

As we all know, the Brewers took high school pitcher Dylan Covey in the first round of the 2010 amateur draft. Unfortunately the Brewers have had a great track record drafting high school pitchers in the first round over the last decade (Mike Jones in 2001, Mark Rogers in 2004, and Jeremy Jeffress in 2006). Come on Dylan, it's time to buck the trend.

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010:
Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio says he speaks almost everyday with Doug Melvin. In the few minutes they show Attanasio and Melvin speaking, they actually look fairly comfortable together. By the way, Attanasio seems to take just the right amount of interest in the Brewers. Any more interest and Attanasio would be a meddler, any less interest and Attanasio might seem out of touch. Trust me, the Brewers are in good hands with Attanasio.

The camera just flashed by new Brewers closer John Axford. Going back to the above conversation of best mustaches in the Brewers organization, Axford has to join the debate. I still think I give the gold medal to Thomas, but Axford probably takes the silver medal away from Melvin.

The camera moves from current closer Axford to former closer Trevor Hoffman. We all know that Hoffman is a workout warrior, unfortunately he no longer produces on the field...let's just move on.

The camera next flashes to Bernie Brewer. I am not a big fan of in stadium gimmicks but Bernie's slide is impressive. As the camera picks up the game, Corey Hart hits a home run off the Chicago Cubs so Bernie takes the plunge. Besides the Sausage Race, Bernie's slide is a sight to see at Miller Park.

With the game tied 1-1, Brewers manager Ken Macha brought in Axford to pitch the 9th inning. Axford pulls a Hoffman and gives up a run so the Cubs lead 2-1 heading to the bottom of the 9th. Former Cub Casey McGehee steps to the plate with a chance to win the game.

Quick tangent, I know the Brewers and Cubs are having absolutely horrible season so far. One silver lining for Brewers fans are at least they have the right guy playing third base for them. The Brewers have McGehee instead of his Cubs counterpart Aramis Ramirez. The Brewers are only paying McGehee $427,500 this year as opposed to $15.75 million that Ramirez is scheduled to earn this year. Furthermore, McGehee is not eligible for salary arbitration until 2012, which means McGehee cannot become a free agent until 2015. On the other hand, Cubs' 3rd basemen Aramis Ramirez is owed $15.75 million in 2010, has a $14.6 million player option in 2011, and a $16 million club option ($2 million buyout) in 2012. Here is a look at the head-to-head numbers:
McGehee is hitting .273 with 13 HRs, 55 RBIs, .337 OBP, and .443 SLG.
Ramirez is hitting .226 with 15 HRs, 47 RBIs, .283 OBP, and .447 SLG.

Back to the game, the grossly underpaid McGehee brought home two runs in the bottom of the 9th to give the Brewers a win in the series opener....sweet revenge against his old team. After the game McGehee's stock rises even higher when he shows he is a nice family man as well.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010:
The segment picks up in the examination room where Manny Parra's leg looks like complete hell all bruised up, .may be that is why he has struggled mightily this year.

Shocker of the year, Dave Riske is in the examination room getting treatment from Roger Caplinger, the Brewers' head athletic trainer. Riske seems like a nice guy, but it can't be said enough how horrible of a signing that was by Doug Melvin.

Next we cut to Corey Hart giving an interview with chewing tobacco in his mouth...really...couldn't leave the chew out for the interview Corey? The interview starts to get humorous when Hart can't give an explanation for why he is hitting so many home runs this year. Hart confirms he is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I have said all along that Hart gets by on talent, as opposed to smarts...this interviewed sealed it for me.

Next the camera cuts to the bullpen where we get to see a little of the banter between the Brewers' relief pitchers. We see John Axford talking about spitting seeds, which proves that relievers need some more productive hobbies in the bullpen.

The bullpen scene reminds me of one of my favorite Miller Park stories. I was at the game with my buddy Gaber and Fernando. Pretty ho-hum game, we got seats in right field a few rows back from the the visiting team's bullpen. For some reason we started throwing peanuts and my buddy Fernando tossed the "nut heard round the world". With one peanut, Fernando hit not one but two Angels relief pitchers...probably the most impressive toss Miller Park has ever seen. We thought we got away with it until we turned around and a women is talking to an usher pointing at us. Suffice to say, we heard the rest of the game in the parking lot on the radio courtesy of the soothing pipes of Bob Uecker. Nice toss Fernando, it was worth getting tossed for your toss.

Back to the game, shocking to see Randy Wolf give up a bunch of home runs. Wolf has almost already given up more home runs this season then he did all of last season and is on pace to give up the most home runs in a season of his entire career. Wolf is looking more and more like the left-handed Jeff Suppan.

The only real positive note to take from the loss to the Cubs is that Dave Riske threw a scoreless inning after being out 14 months. As a person, good for Riske. As a professional, Riske has gotten a ton of money for being on the disabled list. Never sign a pitcher named Riske, it's lie signing a hockey goalie named sieve.

Thursday, June 10, 2010:
A day game following a night game means the team eats breakfast at the stadium. As McGehee, Weeks, and Gomez eat they argue about whether Weeks or Gomez is faster...I say Rickie.

As Brewers bench coach Willie Randolph posts the line-up, Gomez sees he is out of the line-up again. With how inconsistent Gomez has been this season, the omission should come as no surprise.

During the rubber match against the Cubs, Hart hits another home run. Doug Melvin please add that to the trade package DVDs that you are sending to San Francisco and Tampa Bay.

With the game ted at 4-4 in the bottom of the 10th inning Gomez pinch hits for Axford. Gomez draws a walk on four straight pitches. Craig Counsell comes up to bat next. As Counsell lays down a perfect bunt, Gomez goes from first base to third base and ultimately scores on an errant throw to third to not only clinch the game but the series over the Cubs. On second thought, may be Gomez is faster than Weeks.

The final clip of the game is Axford getting the shaving cream in the face from LaTroy Hawkins. I don't really get that tradition, but like most things in baseball, old habits die hard. Speaking of old habits dying hard, despite having the technology, baseball refuses to embrace replay.

Friday, June 11, 2010:
As we come back from commercial, we get my buddy Gaber's favorite portion of the program...up close and personal with Jim Edmonds. Edmonds "took a year off from baseball" (translation: no one wanted to sign him) yet the Brewers still had a spot for him on the team. Edmonds could not be any more monotone when talking about the chemistry of the 2010 Brewers...not very convincing.

We move on to Doug Davis flying a model plane inside Miller Park. Flying the plane is supposed to keep Davis' mind off a heart condition that landed him on the disabled list...I hope it helps but I am not too sure if that is possible...seems like they are reaching for story lines at this point.

Next we cut to pitching coach Rick Peterson. For how prodigious the mustaches are within the Brewers organization, Peterson and his mullet are in a class of their own. Peterson truly takes business in the front and party in the back to a new level. The cameras show Peterson conducting a meeting about how to approach the Texas Rangers. The narrator says Peterson is always prepared, which is possible but unfortunately that has not translated to results on the field.

After leaving the meeting, the camera cuts to Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy. After starting the season in Double-A, Lucroy sits atop the depth chart. It shouldn't be all that surprising since Gregg Zaun is simultaneously collecting a pay check from the Brewers and social security from the government while spending the rest of the season on the disabled list.

Finally right before the game we get up close and personal with Prince Fielder. By all account Fielder seems like a gregarious guy, but I sincerely hope he is playing for the Chicago White Sox on August 1, 2010. There is no way that Prince is playing for the Brewers past 2011 so they might as well end the speculation and swap Fielder for a couple of prospects...hopefully a starting pitcher and an infielder.

Before we get to the opener between the Brewers and the Texas Rangers, as a kid I attended Texas Ranger Nolan Ryan's 300th victory at County Stadium with my Grandpa. The reason why I bring that up is that we used Pepsi Brewer Fan Club Tickets, which were general admission tickets to County Stadium. Granted we were limited to a couple of sections, but that meant we could choose between thousands of seats. Can you imagine general admission seats in 2010?

Back to the inter-league series opener between the Brewers and Texas Rangers. The Brewers hit the cover off the ball all night with Braun, McGehee, Hart, and Fielder going deep. Former Texas Ranger Kameron Loe picked up where Chris Narveson left off to hold the Rangers scoreless over the final two innings. The Brewers went on to take the series opener 6-2 over the Rangers. It sounds crazy to say but without Loe, Braddock, and Axford (three relative unknown commodities heading into spring training) the Brewers would have an even more dismal record.

Saturday, June 12, 2010:
Total 'sconsi to have a cook out with the Brewers. Players signed autographs and mingled with the community...good stuff all around...especially with the team struggling on the field.

Heading back on the field, Brewers third base coach Brad Fischer is working on pop flies in foul territory with catchers George Kottaras and Jonothan Lucroy. Although it is important to work on pop-flies in foul territory, let's make sure Kottaras and Lucry get some practice throwing down to 2nd or 3rd because throwing out base stealers has been a huge problem for the Brewers in 2010.

In batting practice, Dave Bush and Yovanni Gallardo hit a couple home runs. We all know Gallardo hits well for a pitcher but he takes it one step further by rounding the bases after knocking one out in batting practice...gotta love Gallardo.

Shockingly, the Rangers piled on runs in the first inning against Manny Parra. In one of the only Brewer highlights from the game, Alcides Escobar made a nice defensive play to show why the Brewers traded J.J. Hardy in the offseason to make way for Escobar.

As the game wears on, the offense continued to struggle. Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum offers some advice to the hitters. Sveum is a class guy. Towards the end of the 2008 season the Brewers went from a playoff lock to sputtering. Sveum took over as manager for the fired Ned Yost with only a handful of games remaining in 2008 to right the ship (with a ton of help from C.C. Sabathia) and guide the Brewers to their first postseason birth in 26 years. For some reason Dog Melvin passed on Sveum and hired Ken Macha instead. I give Sveum credit for coming back and going about his job without complaining, it has to be hard to take a back seat after sitting behind the wheel.

We pick the game up in the bottom of the 9th with the Brewers trailing 4-1. Rickie Weeks drove in a run to make it 4-2. Hart scored another run on a fielder's choice. That brought up Fielder with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, with a runner on 3rd. Unfortunately, Fielder popped out to left field to give the Rangers a 4-3 victory over the Brewers. Melvin, make sure NOT to include that highlight of Prince on the DVD you send to the White Sox.

Sunday, June 13, 2010:
Heading into a Sunday matinee between the Brewers and Ranges, the Brewers are 3-2 on the home stand with the Brewers/Rangers series tied 1-1. The best part of it all, it was Family Day at the park. It was great to see all the player's kids walking around the field with the players smiling. The highlight was Prince showing he is a much better father then his estranged dad Cecil.

Gallardo took the bump for the Brewers on a hot streak, 1.76 ERA over his last six starts. Fielder hit a home run to the left fielder power alley but the Rangers' Josh Hamilton countered with a home run of his own to the right field power alley.

If this game was played in County Stadium, neither Fielder's nor Hamilton's hits would have left the park. These two home runs are exactly what former Brewers great Robin Yount was talking about when Yount was asked about what he disliked about Miller Park. The only complaint Robin Yount had of Miller Park was the power alleys. At County Stadium, the power alleys were much deeper than they are at Miller Park.

The turning point in the game came when Gallardo gave up a hit to the pitcher that drove in two runs to ultimately give the Rangers a victory.

"The Homestand: Milwaukee" showed the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers going 3-3 at Miller Park over a seven day span. The specific homestand covered lacked on field drama so the "The Homestand: Milwaukee" focused on the Brewers organization, which made every person associated with the Brewers seem more human. From Brewers owner Mark Attanasio all the way down to third base coach Brad Fischer and everyone in between, "The Homestand: Milwaukee" painted everyone in a much more positive light than the NFL's counterpart "Hard Knocks" usually does. The production value was pretty good and an all around enjoyable hour of television.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Steve Stricker Wins the 2010 John Deere Classic

When Steve Stricker went to bed on Saturday night he had to like his chances of winning the John Deere Classic at the TPC Deere Run in Silvis, IL for the second year in a row. Stricker held a six stroke lead that was good for the PGA Tour 54-hole scoring record of 188 (25-under par).

Early in Stricker's final round on Sunday he stretched that lead to seven strokes, but that lead dwindled to two strokes on the back nine. After playing spectacularly for the first three rounds of the tournament, Stricker had a ho-hum final round that consisted of four birdies (1, 2, 10, and 17) and three bogeys (4, 11, and 18) for a 1-under-par 70.

Steve Stricker and Paul Goydos were white hot on Thursday when Stricker shot 60 but was trumped by Goydos who shot a 59 (tied for the lowest round in PGA Tour history, only the 4th 59 recorded in PGA Tour History).

The 60 on Thursday helped Stricker set the John Deere Classic tournament scoring record (258 strokes, 26-under par) en route to beating Goydos by two strokes.

Going into Sunday, Stricker had a chance to break the PGA Tour 72-hole scoring record of 254 and the PGA Tour 72-hole record for birdies of 32 birdies. Unfortunately, Stricker fell four strokes short of the scoring record and one birdie short of the birdie record.

Three other Cheeseheads competed in the 2010 John Deere Classic: Mark Wilson finished tied for 39th, Skip Kendall finished 74th, and J.P. Hayes tied for 92nd (missed the cut).

Stricker is one of the most liked guys on the PGA Tour, the only real knock against Sticker is that he is a Bears fan (source) which makes me somewhat question whether he is a real Cheesehead.

All kidding aside, Sunday was a deserved Funday for the Stricker family. The native Cheesehead won $792,000 en route to his second PGA Tour victory of 2010, and his 9th career victory on the PGA Tour.

Stricker Notes (as of 07/11/2010):
- 1st PGA Tour victory of the 2010 season came at the 2010 Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, CA shooting 268 (-16) and earned $1,152,000.
- 2nd on the FedEx Cup points list behind Ernie Els.
- 4th on the PGA Tour money list, $2,963,122 earned.
- 2nd on the Ryder Cup points list behind Phil Mickelson.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

New (sort of) 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond made his own minor free agent splash despite all the hoopla surrounding LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh by agreeing "in principle" to contracts with Drew Gooden and John Salmons. The Bucks didn't waste any time offering long-term contracts despite the fact that they can't actually sign players until the end of the week-long negotiating period on July 8th (also Cheesehead Sports Nut's 29th Birthday). The Milwaukee Bucks agreed in principle to a five-year, $40 million contract with shooting guard John Salmons and used their mid-level exception to sign power forward Drew Gooden to a five-year, $32 million contract.

The salary cap is projected at $56.1 million for the 2010-11 season. NBA teams are allowed to exceed the salary cap thanks to the "Larry Bird Exception" and the "Mid-Level Exception". The Bucks are going to use the "Larry Bird Exception" to sign Salmons and the "Mid-Level Exception" to sign Gooden. Depending on how the aforementioned contract are structured, the Bucks would be over the salary cap but under the luxury tax for the 2010-11 season.

John Salmons:
At 6'6" and 207 pounds, Salmons is a very unique shooting guard. Salmons joined the Bucks via trade from the Chicago Bulls last year and averaged 19.9 points in 30 regular season games. Salmons helped the Bucks go 22-8 to finish out the regular season and grab the 6th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Bucks drew the Atlanta Hawks in round one. Unfortunately Salmons' scoring averaged declined to 17 points per game in the playoffs but that was off-set by his quality defense on Atlanta's Joe Johnson. Despite building a 3-2 lead in the series over the Hawks, the Bucks' lost the series in seven games.

Salmons, 30, is getting a little long in the tooth by NBA standards, especially because of his slashing style of play where he tries to get to the rim at all cost. The first few years of this contract are palatable, it is years four and five when Salmons is approaching his mid-30's that John Hammond is going to regret giving Salmons a five-year extension instead of a three-year extension.

Drew Gooden:
Gooden was taken 4th overall in the 2002 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. Despite being a high draft pick, the Bucks will be the 10th team (Memphis Grizzlies, Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards, and Los Angles Clippers) Gooden has played for over his eight-year NBA career. Fortunately Gooden is only 28-years-old so he should be entering his prime.

Despite the fact that the Bucks have a ton of young quality depth at power forward, John Hammond offered Drew Gooden the full mid-level exception. After what John Hammond has done since taking over as general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks, he deserves a little leeway but I am even more skeptical of Gooden's contract than Salmons' contract.

On the positive side, Gooden gives the Bucks a quality rebounder and free throw shooter. Furthermore, Gooden excelled when paired with a quality center (Zydrunas Ilgauskas) in Cleveland.

Although Gooden played for peanuts last year by NBA standards, Gooden previously signed a three-year contract worth $23 million, so five-years for $32 million might not be that bad. Add in that Amir Johnson, who briefly was on the Bucks roster last year, agreed in principle to a five-year, $34 million contract with the Toronto Raptor and the Gooden deal looks like a steal.

Updated depth chart for the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks:
PG: Brandon Jennings
SG: John Salmons, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Darington Hobson, and Michael Redd
SF: Corey Maggette, Carlos Delfino, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
PF: Drew Gooden, Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders, Keith Gallon, and Darnell Jackson
C: Andrew Bogut

Where to go from here:
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the Bucks need to add a back-up point guard and back-up center. Unfortunately with the money the Bucks committed to Salmons and Gooden, they will most likely not be able to sign Luke Ridnour. That means the Bucks will have to identify quality, cheap talent at two of the trickier positions (point guard and center) to fill in the NBA. There are slim pickings for cheap, unrestricted free agents at point guard and center:

PG: Travis Diener, Royal Ivey, Acie Law, Flip Murray, Kevin Ollie, Jennaro Pargo, Nate Robinson, C.J. Watson, and Earl Watson.

C: Primoz Brezec, Kwame Brown, Jarron Collins, Jason Collins, Francisco Elson, Jamaal Magloire, Randolph Morris, Johan Petro, Theo Ratliff, Brian Skinner, Etan Thomas, and Kurt Thomas.

Undoubtedly the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks look better on paper than the 2009-10 Milwaukee Bucks. Will that translate into another playoff run? Check back throughout the off-season to see what further moves John Hammond makes because the last few pieces John Hammond adds this off-season could be make or break for whether the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks can make a serious playoff run.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Three Brewers make the 2010 NL All-Star Team

Baseball history buffs know that the National League still has a leg up in the all-time series 40-38-2. Plus, the all-time runs scored is almost dead even with the American League leading the National League 339 to 336. With that said, the last 13 years have been a completely different story.

The American League is 12-0-1 in the last 13 All-Star Games. The one tie came in Milwaukee in 2002 when Bud Selig called the game a tie after the 11th inning with the score knotted at 7. What makes that streak particularly hard to stomach for the National League is that the American League has four straight 1-run comeback wins.

Starting in 2003, the team that wins the All-Star Game gets home field advantage in the World Series. Home field advantage matters in the World Series, the team with home field advantage for the World Series has won 19 of last 24 World Series. Home field advantage should not have any impact on the Brewers this year because they will already all be on vacation for a month by the time the World Series rolls around.

With all of that mostly useless backdrop out of the way, here is a quick rundown of the three representatives the Milwaukee Brewers are sending to the 2010 MLB All-Star Game:

Ryan Braun (LF):
Braun received 2,972,525 all-star votes and was the leading outfielder in the fan balloting for the 3rd year in a row. That means that Braun will become the first Brewer in franchise history to start 3 consecutive all-star games. Despite being in a prolonged slump, Braun has still put up respectable numbers for the first half of the season: .295, 11 homers, and 51 RBI.

Corey Hart (RF):
After going into the season as public enemy #2 behind former Milwaukee Brewer Jeff Suppan, Hart has done quite a 180. The Milwaukee Brewers thought so little of Hart that they included Jim Edmonds on the All-Star ballot instead of Hart. Hart could have hung his head, instead he dug in and put together a pretty impressive start to the season: .286, 19 homers, and 61 RBI. Hard to believe, but Hart will not only be appearing in his second career MLB All-Star Game (previously appeared in 2008) but also accepted an invitation to compete in the home run derby contest. I hope Brewers general manager Doug Melvin sells high for once and gets some nice young pitching for Hart since his value is never going to be higher.

Yovanni Gallardo (RP):
Gallardo was a very deserving manager's selections. Gallardo put up great numbers in the first half of the season: 8-4, 2.58 ERA, 122 strikeouts, two shutouts, and two complete games. Unfortunately it looks like Gallardo will not be able to participate because he was injured yesterday.

Gallardo and Braun are both locked up long-term at relatively palatable numbers, which makes them the faces of the Milwaukee Brewers franchise. Much like Prince Fielder, Corey Hart is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2011 season. As I said earlier, Hart's value will never he higher so hopefully Doug Melvin will kick the trade tires while attending the All-Star Game.