Friday, August 27, 2010

59 and feelin' fine...sometimes

The third preseason game is about as close as you’re going to get to regular season football, as starters normally see playing time creep into the second half. Unfortunately, without Greg Jennings in the lineup, we couldn’t get a true look at Green Bay’s offense, which only managed 59 points Thursday night at Lambeau against the Indianapolis Colts. Wait. The Packers set a new record for points scored in their history? Even without receiver Greg Jennings and the starters only playing in the first half? Seriously, I cannot stress how good this offense is. Granted, 21 of the points were scored in the second half once the scrubs entered the ballgame, but that doesn’t matter. These guys are good.

Let’s start with 3RD YEAR QUARTERBACK Aaron Rodgers. I still can’t wrap my head around that. Just for fun, let’s compare Favre’s first full two years as a Packer with Rodgers’.

Favre: 7,185 YDS, 52 TD, 38 INT, 61.7 COMP PCT
Rodgers: 8,472 YDS, 58 TD, 20 INT, 64.2 COMP PCT

Interesting…looks like Rodgers is better in each of those categories. Favre did reach the second round of the playoffs in each of those seasons, which eventually led to a Super Bowl in 1996, Favre’s fourth full season at the helm. We can only hope that Rodgers is on the same track. By the way, A-Rodg’s numbers from last night: 21/29, 195 YDS, 3 TDs and 0 picks. I think it’s fair to say that the future is not only bright, but downright blinding.

Another ‘blinding’ spot for the Green Bay offense is a man by the name of Jermichael Finley, who also goes by such nicknames as JerFin and Sirmichael. On Thursday, it was JerFin for the win as the emerging star at tight end was a key target for Rodgers on several drives. Finley’s final numbers showed six catches for 85 yards and a TD. After reading an article about how Donald Driver was a fantasy risk this season, I got a little riled up, and so did the Donald as he also reeled in a touchdown catch from Rodgers and looked as solid as ever. The other key target for Rodgers (Jennings), as I mentioned earlier, was held out of the game for precautionary reasons after Jennings suffered from back spasms at practice Tuesday, so no concern there for Packer fans. As usual, the defense looked like garbage right off the bat, but eventually they started doing what they do best, and that was force turnovers. Rookie safety Morgan Burnett jumped a route and intercepted Manning in the second quarter, which led to an eventual…Brandon Jackson fumble. Shacking off the rust, I’m hoping, Mr. Jackson. Manning also fumbled early on in the 3rd quarter (nighty-night, Joseph) and the Packers recovered a muffed punt in the endzone for a touchdown. As painful as the experience of watching our defense may be this season, one thing you can count on is a solid +/- when it comes to turnovers.

Speaking of plus/minus, the Brewers have a run difference of -81. This can certainly help explain why they only have 59 wins on the season and are bound for another third place finish under manager Ken Macha (if they’re lucky). Speaking of Macha, it must be nice to take over a playoff team, completely run them into the ground, make terrible decisions on a daily basis, not have the back of your players and still have a job. It’s not all his fault, though. A lot of the blame has to fall on General Manager Doug Melvin as well, who happens to be the reason Macha is not only here, but still employed. Melvin has made his fair share of good signings and trades over the years (Sabathia, McGehee, Podsednik, Sexson, Lee), but these moves are countered by signings that have really tied up the Brewers’ salary and/or not worked out at all (Suppan, Hall, Davis, Wolf, Gomez). Not to mention saying ‘no thanks’ to Dale Sveum for leading the team to a playoff berth in 2008 and instead signing the emotionless Macha over guys like Willie Randolph, Bob Brenly, and Sveum himself. Melvin just can’t seem to help himself and continues to sign pitchers who are past their prime year after year. Perhaps Brewer fans will be done a favor and won’t have to see old grandpa yakking on his gum with his mouth open in the dugout any longer once the season comes to a close. Maybe Melvin will go with him. I’m talking to you, Mark Attanasio.

This year, I exceeded my 2-team limit and somehow found myself in three fantasy football leagues. The reason? I wanted to try out an auction draft…and I’m so glad I did. In an auction draft, you have a $200 budget and you bid against other owners for players until you fill your 16-man roster (or until you run out of money). Since it was my first ever auction draft, I ended up with a surplus of $26, but I was still pretty happy with the outcome (especially since I got Rodgers and Jennings!). Anyway, I highly recommend the auction draft format and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the snake draft, which is how my other two leagues drafted. Try it out for yourself.

The countdown is on: 16 days until Packers @ Eagles on September 12th and 8 days until Badgers @ UNLV on September 4th. Get pumped. I know I am.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

10 things I hate about you

"Are you blind ref? I could see that from here!"

Just imagine that you lived in a world where we had the technology to avoid a referee determining the outcome of a game because of a bogus call. Oh wait… This is one of many things that could easily be fixed…if I was commissioner of sports. And what a great job that would be. For one day, let’s just pretend that this was the case (scary, I know). Let’s first keep in mind that sports are awesome and are a great place to turn when you want to escape your problems and forget about the real world. But just think if this world was (gasp) even better than it was now. Here are the top ten things that I would change about sports.

First, here are a few that just missed the cut:

-Move the 3 point line back in college basketball
I understand (better than anyone) that the three point shot has become much more prevalent as basketball has progressed. However, if you’re going to make a basket made behind an arc worth one more point, at least make it a little challenging. When you see 7-footers stepping out and draining a 3-pointer, something’s wrong. Move it back to NBA length (23.75 ft, 22 ft on the sides instead of 20.75 ft) and we’ve got a better brand of basketball in college.

-Go back to the way racing used to be

Yes, I at one point followed NASCAR. Key words there: one point. Get rid of the chase, design cars the way they used to be designed (but keep the safety devices) and NASCAR will get a lot of fans back that they’ve lost over the past five years as a result of these unnecessary changes.

-Eliminate the NFL Pro Bowl

Can we all agree on this one? Football is a contact sport. Therefore, there is a higher risk of injury than other sports. This pretty much goes hand in hand with pre-season games, which, believe it or not, nobody wants to play in! Plus, it takes place after the season is over, which is lame. Just name an all-star team of some sort and keep it at that. Nobody wants to play in it and nobody wants to watch it.

-Eliminate NCAA football down without contact rule
-Eliminate NCAA football time stoppage on first-down

-MLB Copyright issue
Ever notice how you can’t ever find a major league baseball video you want to see? That’s because baseball is stupid and doesn’t want people to know about its product. Basketball and football aren’t like this. Just let us watch your videos on YouTube…I think you’ll still manage financially somehow. Oh, and more people will like you, too!

-Eliminate NBA defense 3-seconds
This is possibly the most ridiculous rule in sports. Obviously, the offense shouldn’t be allowed to camp under the basket but with defense, there are many different things going on and it’s nearly impossible to decipher when someone is being guarded or when a defense is playing a zone or when a defender is just chilling under the basket for no reason. Even if they are, who cares? Plus the other team is awarded a free throw attempt because it’s a technical foul. Get rid of the rule please.

Now for the ones that did make the cut.

10. Change the MLB All Star game
So many things are wrong the midsummer classic. How about we get rid of/add the following rules:
- Don’t make it so that the league that wins the game receives home field advantage in the World Series. Pretty sure an exhibition game shouldn’t have that much of an influence on the biggest series in the sport. I also wouldn’t feel comfortable as a member of the New York Yankees putting your faith in some guy from the Kansas City Royals when the game is on the line.
- Don’t allow every team to have a representative. If you aren’t one the top 33 players in your league, GTFO. Sorry your team sucks, not my fault.
- Designate at least one starting pitcher to be ‘the emergency pitcher’. Have this guy saved for an extra inning game so we don’t see a repeat of this.

9. Better clarification in golf/keeping up with the times

Unfortunately, this issue was magnified recently at this year’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. I believe the PGA needs to address this problem by allowing rules officials to step in and alert players if they are about to create a violation. I would also say that instant replay should be enforced, but apparently it already is since they looked at Dustin Johnson’s violation on replay after the round was over to penalize him. Good job there, PGA. Another tiff I have is how the players must sign their opponent’s scorecard and make sure it is correct. Really? I’m pretty sure there are other people around that can keep score. The players have enough to worry about.

8. Remove the designated hitter
I understand that this position helps extend careers, but it takes all the strategy out of the game. If you aren’t in good enough shape to play in the field, it’s probably time to call it quits. Besides, if you’re going to have it in one league, you have to have it in both leagues. In my opinion, just get rid of it.

7. End the NBA Draft lottery
I didn’t know it could get any worse for the lowly 12-70 New Jersey Nets. And then it happened. They didn’t even get the first pick of the 2010 NBA draft because apparently, a lottery is the best way to find that out. So instead, a team with 14 more victories received the first overall pick. Let’s dump the lottery and order the picks the same way as the NFL.

6. Salary cap in baseball

It’s hard to ignore this problem. Teams in the biggest cities have the richest owners that spend a ridiculous amount of cash on players, normally giving them an unfair advantage over their opponents. An exception this year is the Cubs and Mets compared to the Rangers and Padres. The latter two teams have a minuscule payroll compared to the first two teams, but are almost sure bets to make the playoffs while the Cubs and Mets are all but eliminated from contention. My point is that this rarely happens, and if things don’t change soon, teams like the Royals and Pirates will forever be the laughing stock of baseball.

5. Instant replay in soccer/accurate time keeping
Now I’m still learning my way around the sport of soccer and I know this doesn’t happen too often, but anytime there is question about a goal or a non-offside call that leads to a goal, I think that play should be halted and a review should take place. Goals are so hard to come by in this sport and each one is so important, so just make sure the call is accurate. Besides, we can just add the time stoppage to stoppage time! Wait, this just leads to another problem. How many times do you see eight to ten minutes of stoppage time added? That’s right. Never. How many times should there be at least six to seven minutes of stoppage time? More times than not, that’s how many. Either keep an accurate account of how much stoppage time there should be or just stop the clock when play is delayed.

4. Instant replay in baseball

Now before you get your undies in a bundle over this one, let me clarify: only on important calls. These include close plays at the plate, home runs (already instituted), or any calls that clearly determine the outcome of the game (See: The Armando Galarraga Game, this call and other calls we’ve seen over the years similar to these). This should keep delays at a minimum, and if my next change was applied, then it would hardly matter anyway.

3. Eliminate stepping out of the batter’s box/stepping off the rubber
I don’t really need to say more, do I? If the batter steps out, he is penalized a strike. If the pitcher steps off, he is penalized a ball. I think that sounds fair. Moving on…

2. Change the NFL Overtime rule

Back in May, there was an overtime rule change adopted, but it only applies to the postseason and in my opinion, it still isn’t as good as it should be. I believe that overtime should take place as such:
- A coin flip still determines who gets the ball, and whoever chooses to receive gets the ball via kickoff
- Each team has two timeouts to use during the overtime period, which is 15 minutes long
- The overtime period is played out to the end, and whoever has the lead when the period is over wins the game
This way, there is no dilemma over a team not getting to touch the football. And if a team does hold the ball for the entire 15 minute period and wins at the last second, well, I think they earned it. Also, this rule should apply to the regular season as well.

1. The BCS is BS
Perhaps the facet of sports that has received the most scrutiny over recent years, the Bowl Championship Series needs to go. The BCS is a system derived of computers that determines who plays in the BCS National Championship Game in college football. C’mon. Computers? There are so many things wrong with this picture and so many ways it can be fixed. In the end, a playoff should determine the national champion, just like every other sport at every other level, and that’s as far as I’ll go with this one.

Doesn’t everyone feel a lot better now?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ohhh, people will come, Ray

My days as a golf course grounds crew member are finally over, and what better way to celebrate than some good ole’ tailgating/baseball at Miller Park. Unfortunately, the Milwaukee area was hit with a thunderstorm or two, but we still managed to get in our fair sure of fun in the parking lot while periodically taking breaks in the car during the downpours of rain. Once 7:30 rolled around and it was already 3-2 Padres, it was finally time to head inside. After a stop in the bleachers for a few innings, my buddy Kyle and I worked our way to field level seats down the 3rd base side about 12 rows up (Our original seats, which cost $7.50 a piece, were located in the upper deck. Do you really think I was going to even bother heading up there?) Anyways, despite a poor outing for Yovani Gallardo (6 ER and 5 BB allowed in 3.1 innings), the Brewers pulled out a 10-6 victory thanks to some clutch hitting and a solid effort from the pen.

Even though the game was a joy to watch, what really surprised me was the number of empty seats in the ballpark, especially for a Friday night. The official attendance was 27,976, which only filled about 67% of the stadium. I guess it’s hard to fault Brewer fans for not showing up on a night where the weather was awful and with the team already out of the playoff race, but it just goes to show how the sports fans of Wisconsin have already set their sights on football season. However, I still think there are plenty of reasons to watch this team (loads of young talent, explosive offense, Hoffman approaching 600 saves) and this should be the attendance of a weeknight game, not a weekend game. We can only hope that Terrance Mann knows what he’s talking about (One of my top 3 favorite movies..Field of Dreams. HIGHLY recommend it).

Anyway, since there isn’t much else to talk about until football season, I’ll get the dreaded 2011 pitching preview out of the way and touch on some potential free agent signings. As most of us know, the Brewers’ woes can be attributed mainly to the poor performance of the pitching staff (although the offense has also been inconsistent throughout the year). Even ace Yovani Gallardo has been roughed up in a few too many games for my liking. Randy Wolf, aka the lefty version of Jeff Suppan, has been a huge disappointment up until recently. Dave Bush is still building up his velocity after getting pegged on the elbow by a line drive last year, but has put up pretty good numbers…for a number five starter. The problem is that Bush is at worst our third-best starting pitcher, as lefties Chris Narveson and Manny Parra just can’t seem to avoid ‘the big inning’. Whether you want to fault the pitching coach, a mental road block or lack of ability for this problem, it’s something Brewer fans are getting rather sick of witnessing. The bullpen has undergone a complete overhaul since the beginning of the year (Original members of the pen still around: Trevor Hoffman, Todd Coffey…wow, that’s it?), and thank God this is the case. The bullpen was atrocious early on. Now, the Brewers have their closer of the future in John Axford. They also have solid setup men in Kameron Loe, who has found his calling as a relief pitcher, and Zach Braddock, who is only 22 and a solid lefty option for manager Ken Macha…a solid base for the future. Don’t forget about long reliever Chris Capuano. It’s hard not to root for this guy coming back from a second Tommy John Surgery. Plus he’s performed well since being called up. The Brewers have done a nice job of being careful with Cappy's arm. So let’s get to the question everyone is asking: What the eff are the Brewers going to do?

Keep them because they’re good:
SP Yovani Gallardo (R), SP/RP Chris Capuano (L), CP John Axford (R), RP Kameron Loe (R), RP Zach Braddock (L)

Gallardo is the Brewers bona fide ace and is signed through 2014…Capauno has showed that he deserves to be brought back next season with a solid spot start and nice work out of the pen…Axford will close next season thanks to a dazzling rookie season after stepping in for future hall of famer Trevor Hoffman…Loe has struggled lately but is definitely worth keeping after a career resurgence in the bullpen…Braddock is young, a hard thrower and left handed. Um, yeah, keep him!

Keep them because we have to:
SP Randy Wolf (L), RP LaTroy Hawkins (R)

The Brewers still owe Wolf $19 million over the next two years. Wolf also has a player option in 2013 for $10 million. If he earns it, that’s great. I want to see this guy succeed just like any Brewers’ fan. And I think he’s finally finding his groove and can play an important role for this team next season…Hawkins has been struggling with shoulder fatigue all year and when he has pitched, he’s looked terrible. He’s owed $4 million next season and you can be sure he’s back unless the Brewers find a way to move him. Crap. I would just eat his contract.

Sure, you can come back:

RP Todd Coffey (R)

Coffey has been alright, posting a 4.53 ERA in 54 games thus far. He is arbitration eligible after this season, so Coffey will likely be back in 2011.

Not keeping you, but I wish we were:
SP Dave Bush (R)
I don’t believe that Bush is quite all the way back from his right elbow surgery, and once he is, he can put up even better numbers than now (4.63 ERA, 6-10). However, he is a free agent once the season comes to a close and I don’t think the Brewers see what I see in Bush. :( There have been no contract negotiations to speak of.

So long, boys:
SP Doug Davis (L), RP Trevor Hoffman (R), RP David Riske (R)

Davis has a team option next year for $6.5 million. No thanks…Hoffman will be a free agent once the season comes to a close. Maybe the greatest closer of all time, he will almost surely end up with 600 saves and probably call it a career…Riske has a team option for $4.5 million, but has barely seen the field during his time with the Brewers because of injury. I don’t see the Brewers bringing him back, especially for that kind of money.

Question marks (And a lot of them at that):
SP Manny Parra (L), SP Chris Narveson (L), RP Chris Smith (R), RP Carlos Villanueva (R), RP Mitch Stetter (L), RP Marco Estrada (R), Mike McClendon (R)

Some of these guys will start in the majors while others will begin the year at Nashville, the Brewers’ AAA affiliate. It’s anyone’s guess, really. It’s also possible one or two of these pitchers will be dealt before the 2011 season.

Here is a list of all the potential free agents after the 2010 season. Personally, I would like to see the Brewers look at right handed starters like Jake Westbrook, Tim Hudson, Jon Garland and Jeff Suppan (just kidding…that wasn’t funny, I’m sorry) and relievers like Matt Guerrier, J.J. Putz and Jason Frasor.

My prediction for the 2011 Brewers’ Pitching Staff:
SP – Yovani Gallardo
SP – Randy Wolf
SP – Chris Capuano
SP – Manny Parra
SP – (Free Agent/Trade)
LRP – Chris Narveson
RP – Todd Coffey
RP – LaTroy Hawkins
RP – Chris Smith
RP – (Free Agent/Trade)
SU – Kameron Loe
SU – Zach Braddock
CP – John Axford

I don’t think the Brewers would be smart to give up on Parra just yet. He is arbitration eligible and needs to get his head on straight, but has a ton of upside and has shown flashes of brilliance. That being said, I think 2011 is his last hurrah as a Brewer if he struggles again. Narveson just doesn’t seem to be cut out to be a major league starter and belongs in the pen as a long reliever, if not in AAA. Triple A is where I think we’ll see Stetter, Estrada, Villanueva and McClendon begin the year, but they could receive call ups if Smith or Narveson struggle to start off the season. This is ASSUMING that none of the ‘Question mark’ guys are dealt before 2011 comes along. Also, it’s possible that Fielder gets dealt for an arm or two before the season begins, so the Brewers can add some pitching not only through free agency, but also trade.

Packer game at 9 tonight! FOOTBALL!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010


That’s right, ladies and gentlemen! Break out the brooms because the Milwaukee Brewers had a 2-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals and are now…12 games out of first place…Okay, so when you put it in perspective, things still suck, but it’s still impressive that the Crew can hang with the big boys. Especially when it comes to a bitter rival like the Cards. I know it’s cliché, but the Brewers have a chance to play the spoiler role down the stretch, as they play division leader Cincinnati nine more times and have 3-game series remaining with the Padres, Cardinals, Giants, and Phillies, who are all vying for playoff spots.

Today, it was the Lorenzo Cain and Randy Wolf show in St. Louis. For all of you fair-weather fans out there asking yourselves, “Lorenzo who?” you’re missing out big time. In my inaugural post, I predicted that Cain would be the main man in center field by the start of next season. He solidifies that prediction with each passing day, including today as he went 2 for 3 with a double, triple, an RBI and 2 runs scored. Cain is hitting at a torrid pace, with a batting average of .389 after 36 AB’s and is a blast to watch during these trying times for the Brewers. Wolf had a surprisingly strong outing as he out-dueled Cy Young Award candidate Adam Wainwright by going 8 1/3 innings and giving up 1* earned run. The asterisk accounts for Ryan Braun allowing two fly balls to go over his head, which ultimately led to two runs being scored by the Cardinals in the 9th. Aside from this causing me obvious discomfort, it gave the ageless wonder a chance at his seventh save of the season. No, I’m not talking about this dufous. Trevor Hoffman stepped in for regular closer John Axford, who was struggling with his command, and threw three pitches to strike out Brendan Ryan. This means Hoffman now has 598 career saves and is inching closer to a coveted 600 save career. It would be pretty cool to get out to the ballpark and see that happen and perhaps it will during the upcoming 9-game home stand. Something to keep an eye out for.

Another thing I want to touch on shortly is pitcher Randy Wolf. As painful as it is to watch this guy pitch at times, to this point he has put up okay numbers (10-9, 4.67 ERA) and ate up the most innings of any pitcher on the staff (100.1 pitches per start, 162 total). I know that more was expected than this coming off his solid 2009 season and the hefty contract he signed in the off-season, but I’m hoping that Wolf has turned a corner now that he has put together a nice string of solid outings. I expect bigger and better things for Wolf from here on out and moving on to the 2011 campaign. There will be more on Wolf and the rest of pitching staff in a later post.

A quick update on some of the happenings as the Badgers and Packers gear up for their respective football seasons…the Badgers already had a few question marks on defense, and injuries to four potential starters certainly won’t help the matter. The most recent to go down was safety Jay Valai with an undisclosed leg injury. Linebacker Mike Taylor had a second knee surgery for his injury from last season and is expected to miss at least the season opener at UNLV. The man who is expected to fill in for Taylor, senior Blake Sorensen, has a calf injury and defensive tackle Jordan Kohout (knee) is also sidelined. Luckily, none of these injuries are too threatening as far as we know, but Wisconsin can’t afford too many nicks to key players with the little depth they have on defense. If the injuries force some new faces into the lineup by the start of the season, I’ll give a quick overview of these players before the UNLV game.

Hide the women and children, because people are already going into panic mode over who will step in at the outside linebacker position opposite of Clay Matthews. Since we still have three preseason games and three and a half weeks to figure it out, I’m not going to worry yet…but all the Pack can do is continue experimenting. I would still like to see Chillar inserted into the vacancy. Oh, and in case you missed this, here you go. Ridiculous (love the celebration). Brent who?

The fantasy baseball playoffs are coming up soon. Not sure if any of you care, but I figured I would at least show you that for as much time as I spend watching sports, it pays off at least somehow as you see the numbers below. Both of my teams have been carried by pretty outstanding pitchers so far, which I guess makes sense since I was a pitcher myself back in the day.

My fantasy baseball team updates! (2 separate leagues)

Team 1: 10-5-3 record. 1st place in division, T-1st overall. (Scoring: Head-to-Head Most Categories)
Team 2: 91-78-11 record. 3rd place in division, 4th overall. (Scoring: Head-to-Head Each Category)

In both leagues, the top four teams reach the playoffs. Sorry if the links don’t lead you to where I want them to, but I think they should…

I came up with a short list of subjects I will cover in the future, some sooner than later. They include:

-The Brewers pitching situation
-The Prince Fielder situation
-Top 5 things I would change in each sport (or in all sports)
-Wisconsin sports teams’ busts/collapses/triumphs
-Bucks/Badgers/Golden Eagles Basketball season previews
-My March Madness Manifesto, which is a list I compiled with a friend of mine that I believe will be of much help when it comes time to fill out my bracket for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. (Obviously, a few of these won't be coming for awhile)

I encourage readers to submit ideas as well because the most important thing is what you all want to read. Just leave a comment below and also feel free to comment on any posts with feedback and opinions because again, I value these things very much. I also encourage you to become a follower of the blog if you haven’t already become one so that you know when new posts are up…and because I’m kind of a big deal. But all kidding aside, you should do it.

The items on this list, along with my regular updates on Wisconsin sports teams, my fantasy teams, and other regular weekly topics, will all be upcoming on the blog…I’m just not sure in what order. Stay tuned!

Until next time…

Monday, August 16, 2010

What bunker?

I was just going to have a short wrap up on the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits (in Wisconsin!), but s**t got real so I’m going to talk about it a little longer than I planned. Now, I didn’t watch much of the tournament since I was out of town, but I saw highlights and heard about the controversy. In case you missed it, German golfer Martin Kaymer defeated Bubba Watson in a 3-hole playoff, partly because of Watson’s idiotic attempt to clear a water hazard. This means Europeans have won the last three major championships. But enough with the boring stuff. Kaymer’s win was overshadowed by a controversial moment on the 18th hole involving Dustin Johnson, who had a one stroke lead before this happened:

Johnson hit his tee shot well right and the ball landed in a small bunker that was beaten down by spectators (the course has an estimated 1,200 bunkers). The problem is that Johnson didn’t realize the ball was in a bunker, and he grounded his club – twice – before hitting his second shot. Since it’s illegal to ground your club before hitting the ball out of a bunker, Johnson was penalized two strokes. After he finished up the hole with a bogey that at the time would have tied him with Watson and Kaymer, an official asked him if he grounded his club before his second shot. Johnson at first denied that he did and wondered why the official even asked him the question. Unfortunately, after watching the replay in the clubhouse, Johnson saw his grave mistake and had to change his score on the 18th hole from a 5 to a 7, costing him a chance at playing in the 3-hole playoff.

I’m pretty torn on this issue…the rule that players were supposed to read before the tournament clearly stated that, “All areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunkers will be played as bunkers (hazards), whether or not they have been raked.” Therefore, there is really no excuse for what Johnson did. Let that be a lesson to all the youngsters in school to always read the directions before you begin your assignment. Rules change from course to course and this is part of the uniqueness of golf. However, no one seemed to know what was going on at the time of the incident, including the announcers, golf experts, and Johnson himself. So since the situation was so confusing and the stakes were so high, why can’t the rules official just clarify with Johnson that his ball is laying in a bunker? I know that the player is supposed to ask for help when certain issues are in question, but Johnson didn’t even think twice and figured the ball was just in a trampled down area. I mean, c’mon…does this look like a bunker to you (mute the volume, the guy is really annoying)? Maybe it did at one point, but it was stomped on hundreds of thousands of times for four days and people are standing inside of it while Johnson is taking his shot. I think that if everyone had cleared out of this poor excuse for a bunker, Johnson would have realized that the ball was actually in a sand trap. If there is a similar situation to this one in the future, an official should have the right to alert the golfer to avoid such a conflict. Just imagine if Johnson made his par putt and wound up being the winner before being told about his penalty…ouch.

The Packers played their first preseason game of the year on Saturday against the Cleveland Browns, and as far as the defense is concerned, let’s be glad it didn’t count. From what I watched (the first half), Rodgers and the offense were clicking on all cylinders…with the exception of Ryan Grant. Grant fumbled early on and was also knocked out of the game with a head injury from a hard hit, but hopefully it’s nothing serious. To be honest, I’m not too high on Grant, but it’s not like we have anyone better to step in at running back…I’m probably being a little greedy anyhow. Still, the offense was fun to watch. The defense was a whole different story as it appeared that they picked up where they left off from last year. And that’s no good. Hopefully given time, the defensive unit will figure things out. I’m not really going to worry about it too much because it’s preseason. Enough said. Green Bay’s next game is this upcoming Saturday against the Seattle Seahawks.

Strictly from watching about two innings and the highlights from the Milwaukee Brewers’ series in Colorado, it looked like the Crew pretty much kicked away a sweep and only managed to come away with one victory. The bullpen was a major issue once again, but you can’t put all the blame on this unit. The starting pitching is towards the bottom of the league as far as innings pitched per game, and the bullpen is wearing down as a result because of how many innings they in return are forced to pitch. Anyways, the Brewers are 55-64 and I’m getting a little depressed talking about them so let’s move on.

The one good thing that comes along with preseason football is fantasy football drafts. In the past, I’ve played in leagues where people will show up for the draft and then never check the league site for the rest of the season. I’m hoping this changes as the main league I’m playing in (out of four…I know, I’m an addict) requires a $10 buy-in. You would think this compels people to check their team and stay active. Otherwise, I don’t know what will. The draft for this league is coming up Thursday night so I’ll have a part of an upcoming post devoted to how the draft went for me and continue having a portion on fantasy football as the year goes on. Here is an interesting piece by one my favorite writers, Bill Simmons, on some changes that he thinks should take place in fantasy football. Take a look at the basics of fantasy football here if you’re new to the ‘sport.’ Also, I’ll plan on picking games week by week against the spread for fun…maybe have a friendly competition with another avid football fan I know.

On deck: Current issues
In the hole: Pinch hitter (Get it? Since I don’t know what I’m going to write about?)

Until next time…

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pack-ing some heat

Okay, so Packers' defensive end Johnny Jolly wasn’t packing any heat as far as we know, but he was definitely packing something. The one thing we can all be sure of when it comes to the Green Bay Packers upcoming season is that the Jolly green giant will not see the field. Anyways, let’s do away with all the negativity. There is certainly a lot of hype surrounding the green and gold, with many experts picking the Pack to contend for the Super Bowl, so that’s a reason right off the bat to get pumped up for the 2010 season. But is the hype warranted? Well, let’s find out.

The Packers have been gearing up for the grind of another NFL season after walking off the field seven months ago from a demoralizing playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals (Was that a face mask? I couldn’t tell). Plenty is known about the strengths of the Packers, such as our passing attack, receiving corps and run defense. Therefore, this post is going to focus more on areas that are in question, like our offensive line, pass rush, and secondary.

I’m sure many of you still have that nasty, pungent smell hanging around after watching the Packers’ defense get picked apart by the ageless Kurt Warner (who’s retired now by the way). You’re not going to win many games when you give up 531 total yards and 51 points, believe it or not. This was in large part to the Packers’ inability to rush the passer. What was the reason for this? Maybe it was because defensive coordinator Dom Capers didn’t blitz enough. Or maybe because rookie linebacker Clay Matthews was double teamed nearly every play since the Cardinals knew he was the Pack’s only real blitzing threat. Or maybe because the game was rigged. Whichever way you want to look at it, it wasn’t pretty. However, the defense overall had a pretty solid year. The Cardinals just devised the perfect storm and picked it apart. How to fix this problem? The Packers are mixing it up at the second outside linebacker position, trying out Brandon Chillar, who I hope will start (he likely will) and battled injury last year, and Brady Poppinga opposite of Matthews. Linebacker Brad Jones is also a solid mainstay and stepped in admirably last season after the Aaron Kampman injury, so expect him to be in the mix as well. The team also plans on nose tackle B.J. Raji along with Matthews to continue developing into premier players on defense. The defensive line did a phenomenal job stopping the run, but hopefully there will be more focus on rushing the quarterback, especially with the ability guys like lineman Cullen Jenkins and Raji have. Depth could be an issue on the d-line with Jolly out and some unproven guys rotating in and out. The main thing most want to see out of the Packers’ 3-4 defense this season is consistency, and it’s all about finding the right guys to fit the system and adjusting schemes to avoid games like Arizona.

The O-Line was partially blamed throughout the year for not protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, although the number of sacks Rodgers sustained can also be attributed to holding onto the football too long. Rodgers did a much better job of getting rid of the ball as the year went on, and the number of sacks went down. Does this mean the offensive line is a non-issue? In my opinion: yes. Running back Ryan Grant ran for an impressive 1253 yards behind a line that is getting older, but also getting better thanks to the addition of 1st round draft pick Bryan Bulaga. What Bulaga’s role will be is yet to be determined, but he has seen practice time at guard even though his natural position is tackle. I expect to see him in there full time once we get deeper into the football season, and this can only make the line better. Tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher have been solid throughout their entire careers and are the only sure things as far as starting offensive linemen. I also like guys like T.J. Lang and Jason Spitz…the line is really up in the air so we’ll see how everything plays out during the preseason.

Not only is the strong safety position in question, but also Al Harris’ return to cornerback from his season ending ACL injury, which was actually more serious than reported. Again, no one knows for sure when Harris, who was placed on the active/PUP list, will ultimately return. In the meantime, Tramon Williams will fill in at the position. With safety Atari Bigby out for what is believed to be at least four weeks after ankle surgery, the Packers will turn to 3rd round draft pick Morgan Burnett to fill Bigby’s shoes. Bigby is known as the big hitter in the secondary, but Burnett is more of a ball hawking playmaker, similar to his counterpart at free safety, Nick Collins. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Burnett and I’m excited to see him in the first preseason game, but until we see the rookie get his feet wet, you can’t expect too much.

There are also the contract matters as well as questions surrounding special teams (as usual), but the Packers always do a nice job of locking up key players, which I’m sure they will do with players like A.J. Hawk and Cullen Jenkins. The Packers are taking it slow with recovering return man, Will Blackmon, who is one of the premier kick returners when healthy. Lord knows who will be punting this season, but take a look for yourselves at these names and tell me you feel confident (why did we get rid of Jon Ryan again?). I’m also expecting improvement out of the most overrated player on the Packers roster, kicker Mason Crosby, who looked solid in the Packers’ scrimmage. It would be a shame to see special teams cost the Packers any victories this season.

I think Green Bay is doing their best to address these concerns, and I’m very excited for the season to get going. Keep in mind that they face a pretty difficult schedule compared to last season. Here is my prediction (assuming that Mr. Favre eventually makes his way up to Minnesota):

Regular season record: 11-5
Playoffs: Lose in NFC Championship game

I don’t think this team has what it takes yet to reach the Super Bowl, but I think they have a deep playoff run in them. Anything is possible with their offensive weapons, and I hope this propels Green Bay further than last season.

The PGA Championship is at Whistling Straits this year, located in Kohler for those of you who just stopped reading because golf was mentioned. Yeah, pretty much the only reason I’m talking about golf right now is because Tiger Woods is in Wisconsin…but I like golf though so deal with it. Anyways, hometown man Steve Stricker is my pick and also who I’m rooting for because, like I said before, I’m a homer and he’s from Madison. Stricker is the 4th ranked player in the world, so he’s definitely a legitimate contender, but it would be his first major victory. That’s all I’ve got for now, but I’ll have a short wrap up next week on the tournament.

On deck: some baseball, fantasy sports, golf wrap up, Packers’ preseason game
In the hole: current issues, other cool stuff about sports

Until next time…

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Buck 'em up

With school looming and the heat causing milk to become a bad choice, people are desperately looking for a reason to live. Enter football. Whether you prefer college or pro football (the NFL edges out college by a nose personally), either brand involves people beating the living crap out of each other. So it’s time to turn our attention to America’s most popular sport, and we’ll begin with college football and our very own Wisconsin Badgers.

Last year, not too much was expected of Bucky, but the Badgers surprised many and ended the season with an impressive victory over Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl to finish the year at 10-3. Wisconsin returns 16 starters, including 10 on offense along with the entire starting offensive line. In case you haven’t heard, these guys are ginormous. And by ginormous, I mean an average height of 6’51/2” and an average weight of 325 pounds. Combine that with at least a year of experience for each member of the line, and you should see quarterback Scott Tolzien have all day to throw and Heisman trophy candidate John Clay have gaping holes to run through. Backing up Clay will be sophomore Monte Ball, a perfect change-of-pace back who has nice speed to compliment Clay’s bruising running style. Lance Kendricks has emerged as yet another pro tight end prospect in the Badgers’ system thanks to this game and will be one of the main targets for Tolzien along with receiver Nick Toon.

While there may not be many question marks on the offensive side of the ball, the defense could be the make or break factor for this year’s team. Notable returnees include junior defensive tackle J.J. Watt, sophomore linebacker Chris Borland, and senior safety Jay Valai (this dude can hit). However, the Badgers will be without two key defenders from last season in lineman O’ Brien Schofield and safety Chris Maragos. I really like what I see from the linebacker core with sophomore Mike Taylor returning from a season ending knee injury and senior Culmer St. Jean anchoring the crew. Taylor led the team in tackles through seven games last season before tearing his ACL. Oh yeah, and that Borland guy. He’s pretty good too. Thankfully, the Badgers have at least one bona fide player at each level of defense with Watt on the line, Borland in the middle, and Valai roaming in the secondary. An overall solid defense, but I still fear that if anything is going to cost this team a conference title, it’s the defense because of the five slots left open from last year.

The special teams unit will return two of the better players at their respective positions, Philip Welch at kicker and Brad Nortman at punter. Along with David Gilreath returning punts and kick-offs, head coach Bret Bielema has to be pleased with what he has to work with this season.

Now that we’ve covered the key players to keep an eye on this upcoming season, let’s take a look at the slate of games the Badgers were given for the 2010 campaign. I’ll break the games into three categories.

Chalk it up in the win column games:

@ UNLV, vs San Jose State, vs Arizona State, vs Austin Peay, vs Minnesota, vs Indiana, vs Northwestern

Some of these games aren’t even worth mentioning. UNLV plays in what has become one of the better conferences in the nation, the Mountain West, and I debated on whether this one was a gimme…but they are not a premier team in the conference and allow far too many points to present much of a problem for Bucky. The Sun Devils finished to next to last in the Pac-10 last season, and they have trouble moving the football. Add that to the game being played at home and Arizona State shouldn’t pose a challenge for Wisconsin. Minnesota is a rivalry game, but Eric Decker is gone and the Golden Gophers have to march into Camp Randall for the battle of the axe. Northwestern always poses a challenge on their home turf, but is a rollover when they have to visit the House that Bucky Built.

Should be a win but could present a problem games:

@ Michigan State, @ Purdue, @ Michigan

You may look at these teams and the records they put up in 2009 and wonder why these aren’t Chalk it up games. The fact is that in-conference road games are never a rollover, and any one of these teams could put it together for four quarters against the Badgers and come out on top. It’s put up or shut up time for head coach Rich Rodriguez at Michigan, so you can expect the kitchen sink to be thrown at Wisconsin in that one. The Badgers certainly don’t want to see a repeat of their 2008 matchup either. Purdue and Michigan State both finished below .500 overall and 4-4 in conference last year, so the Badgers should be favored in these games. I still believe one of these contests will result in a letdown for Bucky…maybe a late season collapse in Ann Arbor.

This could be a tough one games:
vs Ohio State, @ Iowa

These games are back to back on the schedule and will determine whether or not the Badgers make a trip to the Rose Bowl on January 1st. A HUGE game against Ohio State on October 16th in front of what will be an amped up Camp Randall Stadium crowd (myself included!) is the first of the two major tests. Heisman Trophy hopeful QB Terrelle Pryor will lead a highly touted Buckeye team that has realistic hopes of a National Championship. Pryor led a game winning drive at Wisconsin in ’08 as a freshman and easily handled the Badgers last year at the Horseshoe in a 31-13 victory. The Iowa Hawkeyes also handled the Badgers – in Camp Randall – last season behind junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi. It’s hard not to say that this is a game the Badgers have no chance of winning, but the Badgers have a very talented roster and I just can’t rule them out. I like Wisconsin to beat the Buckeyes and fall in Iowa City to the Hawkeyes.

With all this being said, I think the Badgers will earn a 10-2 regular season record (6-2 in conference), which may be good enough for a BCS at-large berth. Call me optimistic, but I think Wisconsin has a realistic chance at playing in a BCS game one way or another.

On deck: Packers’ season outlook, PGA Championship at Whistling Straits snippet
In the hole: some baseball, fantasy sports, perhaps golf, and maybe more!

Until next time…

Sunday, August 8, 2010

First things first

Hello and welcome to the blog! My name is Dave (check out the "About me" section on the right hand column for more) and I am an avid follower of sports teams in Wisconsin. There is simply no prying me away, no matter how bad it gets around here. Being a journalism major, I love writing and that is my motive for beginning this blog. The purpose of this blog's existence is to hopefully give you some insight on Wisconsin sports teams as well as my personal philosophies and opinions on certain issues pertaining to these teams and the leagues in which they play. Around 2-3 times a week, I'll update the blog and do my best to cover the events and issues drawing the most attention around the state. I'll try and mix it up once in awhile and draw away from sport a little bit as well.

Now that you all have the gist of how this blog is going to be run, let's delve into some sports!

The dog days of summer are upon us, and the Brewers aren't making things any easier. That's not to say they haven't been playing pretty good baseball recently, as the Crew completed a sweep of the Houston Astros today and have now won five of their last six. Even so, the Central Division leading Reds are 11 games ahead of the Beer Makers, leaving pride the only thing left to play for. That doesn't mean we have to stop watching the 53-59 Brewers(at least until September 12th rolls along), but it might be a good time to look ahead to the 2011 season.

I don't know about you, but Lorenzo Cain has gotten me all kinds of excited lately. The 24-year-old center fielder has only been playing baseball since he was 15. Really? 15? I got a ten year head start on the man and you don't see me roaming the outfield for a major league club. I believe there is no question that you'll see Cain starting in center to begin the 2011 season. With that in mind, it certainly won't be the only change the Brewers make prior to next April (if they want to have any chance of success). Although most of the problems start with the pitching, let's first take a look at what we are realistically looking at as Brewer fans for next season as far as position players are concerned.

Catcher: Jonathon Lucroy - At only 24 years of age, Lucroy has already made his mark this year after being called up from Triple-A Nashville in May. A great arm and solid defense combined with a so-so bat is more than the Brewers have had at this position for a long time, and there is still plenty of upside with Lucroy. He has the position locked down, hopefully for awhile.

1st Base: Prince Fielder? Mat Gamel? Corey Hart? - Let's be real. As sad as this is to admit, Prince Fielder will be wearing a different uniform either in 2011 or 2012. Gamel has started playing 1st base and right field in Nashville and still has high expectations amongst Brewer fans. Hart has experience at 1st and could move into this spot on the field once Fielder departs via trade or free agency.

2nd Base: Rickie Weeks - Amazing what can happen when this guy stays healthy. Emerging as one of the best lead-off hitters in the game, all that's left to do is lock down Weeks to a multi-year deal.

Shortstop: Alcides Escobar - Perhaps not living up to the hype this year, there is still plenty of time for Escobar to mature and grow into his role. He has shown flashes of brilliance on defense and should develop more consistency at the plate.

Third Base: Casey McGehee - Not much to say here. Gamel no longer sees time at 3rd in the minors, so McGehee won't have to worry about anyone breathing down his neck as long as he continues to produce like he has in the five hole. A contract extension could also be in order here.

Left Field: Ryan Braun - The face of the franchise, it's hard to say Braun has had a down year, but for the high standards that we hold Brauny up to, he has. If he keeps his focus on the diamond instead of his off the field endeavors, or at least learns how to keep his priorities straight, Braun should be back to his old ways and have a strong '11 campaign.

Center Field: Lorenzo Cain - Sorry Gomez. Or should we say thank you? Cain might be up for good this year after Gomez went on the DL for concussion-like symptoms. This guy can rake, and has finally gotten his chance to shine on the big stage. Edmonds might be out of the picture next year as well as the struggling Gomez (only through trade since Go-Go is arbitration eligible), so look for Cain to be the man next year.

Right Field: Hart or Gamel - At some point and time between this winter and July 31st of 2011, if the Brewers are smart, Fielder will be packing his bags. That leaves an opening at first base, which is where I expect Mat Gamel to step in. I think it would be a bad idea to remove the recently signed Hart from right field, so my feeling is that it will be Hart in right and Gamel at first...eventually.

So not too many changes for the Brewers in the field or in the lineup, but the one inevitable change is a BIG one. Without Fielder hitting third or cleanup, Gamel will be left with big shoes to fill. Even without da Prince, things look promising for the Brewers on offense. As for pitching? Oh boy...let's save that for another time.

On deck: Badgers' season outlook
In the hole: Packers' season outlook

Until next time...