Forgive me if I sound dumb in this entry. The following thoughts are only those of an idiot fan. Not only that, but I just got done watching the season premier of Jersey Shore and I can't say I've ever been more ashamed than today to be an American. But it's entertaining stuff. Moving from people undeserving of attention to those who warrant some recognition, the Milwaukee Brewers just completed an 8-1 home stand and finished it off with an anything-but-boring series victory over the Tony LaRussa-led St. Louis Cardinals. Anybody else lose a little bit of respect for that franchise? Over the last couple years, it's safe to say that LaRussa has managed to turn one of the most proud franchises in baseball into complete thuggery. LaRussa managed to steal the attention away from what was really important, and that was two teams fighting for a pennant in August. Maybe I'm just an idiot fan, but what I saw from the Cardinals in that series - the complaints about the lighting in the stadium from LaRussa - pitcher Chris Carpenter claiming that the Brewers were stealing signs - LaRussa ordering pitcher Jason Motte to throw at Ryan Braun...TWICE - Yadier Molina bumping and spitting in an umpire's face while arguing a strike three called...and only getting suspended for FIVE GAMES - I'd be embarrassed to be a Cardinals fan.
Trust me. I was a lot more infuriated on Tuesday night than I am tonight, a night that featured a game in which the bush league moves of Tony LaRussa took place and the Brewers eventually lost in extra innings. Now that I've calmed down (for the most part), I would like to turn my attention back to baseball. The Brewers are now 62-50, 12 games above .500 (the most they have been above .500 all season) and three games above the Cardinals in the Central. If there's one thing that the series with the Cards proved for Milwaukee, it's that a lot of guys are beginning to tickle the ball pretty well. I mean, who's NOT feeling it at the plate right now? Corey Hart has raised his average over 20 points in the last week, we've seen the turnaround of Yuni B in the second half, Braun and Fielder have both recovered from mini-slumps, Tony Plush continues to do his thing at the plate, in center and in the interview department, Jonathan Lucroy is still hanging around .280, and then there's Casey McGehee...I know I've been calling for McGehee's head for the better part of the season, but the complaints were warranted. McGehee hadn't found it at the plate all year, but with the loss of Rickie Weeks to injury and the troubles in the five hole, manager Ron Roenicke went back to what he started with - McGehee was hitting fifth again.
Low and behold, McGehee went OFF on the newly acquired Edwin Jackson and hit three dingers off of Jackson before Wednesday's game came to a close. McGehee had five home runs before Wednesday; he now has eight. In fact, he was 2-5 in Tuesday's game, so I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that this was McGehee's best two-game stretch of the season. And that's the thing...it was only two games. But McGehee has shown signs of snapping out of it. He's been staying inside the ball better and using all fields (his first, second and third home runs went to right, left and center field respectively) while hitting the ball hard. I'm not going to get ahead of myself and jump back on the Casey McGehee bandwagon just yet, but nobody's happier than me to see him succeed. All in all, the Brewers' offense exploded against the Cardinals...and to think I predicted the three game series wouldn't see any high scoring games. The Crew put up 23 runs on Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Jackson, and the later was left out to dry because of how many relievers were burned in Tuesday night's marathon. Hopefully the bats can stay hot as they move forward into another series with the Astros. Oh yeah, and then the Brewers travel to St. Louis to play another series with the Cards - three of the nine remaining against the fighting LaRussa's. If my math is correct, Molina won't be playing in one of the games as a result of serving his suspension, but with the way he played on Wednesday I wouldn't mind seeing him in there.
There's the red-hot Brewer offense, and then there's the suddenly not so solid pitching. After having some ridiculous number of straight quality starts, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf struggled over the past two games and luckily, the offense was able to step it up to keep the Brewers in the game. But I'm still not concerned one bit about our starting pitching because this is just one instance for Marcum and Wolf, two guys with sub 3.50 ERAs who have been reliable all season long. That and the emergence of Zack Greinke (finally) has me sleeping well at night. The bullpen? Ehhhh...yeah they're alright for the most part. K-Rod hasn't exactly prevented heart attacks in the eighth inning, but so far he hasn't cost us any wins. Takashi Saito is reliable for the most part, but he's a big reason why the Brewers didn't sweep the entire home stand. Axe has been incredible...so has Hawk...so has Loe...wait a minute - so has Kameron Loe? Yes, you heard correctly. The man has 41 scoreless appearances on the year, and that's nothing to joke around about. Loe is a shut-down pitcher against righties and as long as RR continues to use him in the right situations, he will continue to provide a huge boost late in games. So while the pitching has been a little suspect lately, there's no reason to get up in arms. If anything, the Astros should help us all feel better.
Now for a short segment on football. One more signing was made by the Packers since my last post, and that was fullback John KUUUUUUUUUUHNN much to the delight of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the entire Packers' fan base. That should basically be it for Green Bay as far as signings and cuts until we get a few games into the preseason and the roster has to be slimmed down. A few things to note thus far: first round draft pick Derek Sherrod is seeing time at left guard, the only position on the offensive line that is in question right now. With Chad Clifton protecting Rodgers' blind side and last year's first rounder Bryan Bulaga holding down right tackle, Sherrod wouldn't have a chance to see much playing time at his natural position, thus the move to guard. I'm in full support of this move because quite frankly, we don't really have anyone else to fill the void that Daryn Colledge left (in my opinion, we didn't lose much - with the money the Packers offered College, they didn't think so either). There is also a three-man rotation going on at the outside linebacker position opposite of the Claymaker between Brad Jones, Erik Walden and Frank Zombo, so we'll see how that shapes out over the course of training camp. Defensive line is also a question with Cullen Jenkins gone, but Ted Thompson must like what he has up front with B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Mike Neal among other guys like Howard Green and C.J. Wilson. More battles? How about at strong safety (Morgan Burnett v. Charlie Peprah) and running back (Ryan Grant v. James Starks v. Alex Green). It's difficult to say what will end up happening with the safety situation, but I can't see Burnett overtaking Peprah...at least not right away. Peprah performed nicely for Green Bay last season after Burnett went down, so I think it's his job to lose right now. Meanwhile, the Packers seem to have the perfect dilemma at the running back position. Starks is going to push Ryan Grant and there will probably be somewhat of a platoon between the two, and then there's Alex Green, who can come in for third down situations because of his pass catching ability. Personally, I've seen enough of Ryan Grant and James Starks proved that he could step in and do some things Grant could not...like, you know, not run straight forward all the time. Should be fun to see how all of the aforementioned position battles shape out.
The Wisconsin Badgers football team has just begun hitting the practice field, so I'll have more on them pretty soon. In fact, August 10 is the set date for my Badgers' season preview, so get ready for that. I know I'm ready for a little college football and if I could attend a game in Madison that was even half as awesome as the Ohio State game last year and watch Russell Wilson play, I'd be satisfied. Despite my love for the Big Ten (12), I was assigned to cover the Big 12 (10) for a college fantasy football site. I must admit that I'm a little out of my element covering this conference, which might be obsolete in the next few years, but it's a pretty cool gig and it led to me taking part in my first college fantasy football league...yes, those exist. I'll let you know how it goes, especially since I'm forking up $20 for it. Speaking of fantasy football, I should probably get going on starting up my annual league...
...AHHHHH, I GOTTA GO!