At the close of the Chicago Cubs/Milwaukee Brewers' series, I was tempted to hack away at my keyboard in disgust after watching my favorite baseball team get out-dueled by their most hated rival. Instead, I decided to wait and see how the Brewers would respond to such a lackluster performance (on the field and from the manager) because of how often they have done just that...responded. To be real, taking one out of three from the best team in baseball in their home park can't be viewed as a failure. In fact, it's a good way to avoid getting your parachute tangled up while falling toward the ground. It's not the Red Sox series I'm concerned about, the beginning of the most brutal interleague schedule ever created by mankind...it's not Gallardo getting one of his few stinker performances out of the way against the best hitting team in baseball...it's not watching our ace, Shaun Marcum, have to leave the game with a hip injury and possibly miss his next start...it's not even Roenicke's insistence to continue using Kameron "Loe No" in the 8th inning time after time...it's the freaking Cubs' series that bothers me, and the potential return of the road woes for the Milwaukee Brewers.
An alarming stat was brought to my attention a few days ago by my roommate Kenne. The Brewers haven't won a season series against the Chicago Cubs since 2005. Can you believe that? Even with the recent struggles on the North Side, the Cubs have still managed to own Milwaukee, and what makes it even more frustrating is that it's always the same guys that beat us. Aramis Ramirez had the game winning RBI off of Loe in game one while Ryan Dempster continued his domination of the Brewers...Ramirez then promptly hit a game tying home run off of Marco Estrada, who, by the way has also not been of much help lately but was still thrown into a (sort-of) pressure situation in game two...and then in game four, after the Brewers outscored the Cubs to take game three, Greinke left far too many pitches over the plate while Rickie Weeks was gunned out twice at second by Fuku and the Brewers dropped three out of four to the Cubbies. Each starting pitcher had games they would rather forget during the road trip save for Randy Wolf, who had two stellar performances and a victory to show for his efforts. The struggles for the starting five on this trip was concerning considering they have been the key to this team's success over the course of the season. Just when we thought Greinke had finally turned the corner, he failed to step up in a game the Brewers really could've used. Gallardo did the same against the Red Sox earlier today.
The starting pitching wasn't the only aspect of the Brewers that saw a decline in performance while on the road this past week. Manager Ron Roenicke's coaching style cost the Brewers a chance at victories in both game one and game two of the series against the Cubs. Calling a suicide squeeze for Randy Wolf with Betancourt on third and one out in the fifth inning was pushing his luck a little too far for my liking. And to top it all off, Wolf crushed one to right for a double right after Betancourt was caught in a rundown when Wolf whiffed on the squeeze bunt. Later on in the same game, Loe trotted out for the eighth and that was that. In game two, RR decided it was best to insert his second worst reliever statistically into the eight inning slot instead of his worst and the result was even more catastrophic...a blown lead and eventual loss in the tenth following another questionable decision from Roenicke: not having Dillard intentionally walk Starlin Castro to set up a double play with a runner on third and one out. It's decisions like this that makes my head hurt, especially against THE FREAKING CUBS. Ugh. So frustrating. I like Roenicke. I really do. His crafty use of the shift. His aggressive style of managing. But playing the percentages like with the infield shift should be applied to other facets of the game...like walking a runner to set up a chance at a double play or a force out at home...or calling for a squeeze with your pitcher in a 0-0 game in the fifth instead of having some faith in his hitting ability. RR is learning the material as he goes, but don't fail an exam against the Cubs for God's sake.
That's about all the complaining I have for you and this is why: despite going 2-5 on the last road trip in which the Brewers visited the two oldest stadiums in baseball and proceeded to play like they were the oldest team in baseball, Milwaukee is still in a tie for first place with the St. Louis Cardinals thanks to the Cards also faltering over the last week. Every division in baseball is tight at the top with the exception of the NL East (Phillies = scary), so we Brewer fans have to accept the fact that this is going down to the wire and it won't be easy on the ole' ticker. But the biggest reason that I can remain optimistic is because the Brewers get to return home now, where they are 25-9!!!!! Decent. The two teams that will pay visit to Mil-town this week are the Tampa Bay Rays (39-33, 3 game winning streak) and the cross-state rival Minnesota Twins (31-39, 7 game winning streak). Because these teams play in the American League, I can't say I'm an expert on either the Rays and the Twins, but I am aware that the Twins have been on an absolute tear as of late. They looked so awful earlier in the year, but Minnesota isn't a team that can be kept down for long. The Twins always play the Brewers tough so it should be a good challenge for the Crew. You'll see me start to complain again if the Brewers fail to have a winning home stand before having to travel to New York and Minnesota, so for all our sakes....Go Brewers.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
It's time to take a step in a different direction and evaluate a few other sport-related activities around Wisconsin. Last Thursday, the Packers finally received their Super Bowl rings for winning Super Bowl 45 over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The rings, which are fully described in this article, are ridiculously amazing. But why get the rings now during the lockout instead of afterward? Coach Mike McCarthy gave a good explanation, saying that the team doesn't want to reflect on the past and get distracted by the Super Bowl victory while preparing for next season. Good call, Mike. The rings were handed out during a private ceremony, just as McCarthy would like it. This is the last time I'm talking about football until this damn lockout gets lifted.
Well, pro football at least. Over the last few weeks, there has been some speculation that former North Carolina State quarterback and current minor league baseball player Russell Wilson could come play for the Wisconsin Badgers. Wilson, who has another year of eligibility remaining, currently plays in the Colorado Rockies farm system and has strongly considered leaving baseball so he can pursue football. He has narrowed his options down to Wisconsin and Auburn. Wilson would be eligible to play this season since he wouldn't be transferring from a different school, but first Wilson has to make a decision between which sport he wants to play. According to the recent rumblings about Wilson, he his still very torn between playing baseball, where he hasn't exactly torn it up, and football, where a strong senior season could give him a legitimate chance to play in the NFL. Reports have said that Wilson is favoring Wisconsin, which I believe can be attributed to the genius ways of offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, a guy who could find himself at the helm of a college football program in the very near future. Hopefully Russell makes the right choice and becomes a Badger.
And last and also least, our beloved Milwaukee Bucks. In case you didn't notice, I rarely talk about the Bucks because, well, they aren't very good. Their franchise has been run extremely poorly ever since Ray Allen was traded away for a sack of s--- and all the death of Robert "Tractor" Traylor did a month or so ago was remind me of how Milwaukee thought it would be a good idea to trade Dirk "future hall-of-famer" Nowitzki and a 1st round pick for Tractor. Unreal. Of course, his death is very tragic but the horrible memories came flooding back. Arguably, the Bucks have the curse of the Dirk pinned on them for many years to come. But the Bucks are the NBA franchise I root for because they play 25 minutes away from where I grew up and I'm a homer. Because it's my job to write about sports in the Midwest for The Sports Jury, I decided to do a piece on the Bucks for the website. It includes a look at what went wrong last season, what the Bucks need to do to return to the playoffs and some of the prospects that Milwaukee should be targeting in the NBA draft coming up next Thursday. As far as other articles I've written for the site, feel free to take a look at my archive and see if anything interests you. Yes, the picture for my profile on the site is me with a mo-hawk and my 6th grade basketball jersey on.