Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Geoff Junkins: No longer a Brewer (also, CoCo filed for free agency)

The Brewers finally did what we all figured would happen and declined the $9 million dollar option on Geoff Junkins today.

This article has some interesting quotes, but the most important detail is buried way at the bottom.
From ESPN.com
MILWAUKEE -- Geoff Jenkins enjoyed a solid year as the Milwaukee Brewers stayed in playoff contention for most of the season.

Now they're moving on without him.

The Brewers said Tuesday they've declined a $9 million option for Jenkins, parting ways with the veteran left fielder who has played his entire career in Milwaukee.

"I don't think there's going to be any shortage of opportunity for him once he hits the free-agent market," agent Damon Lapa said.

A message left with the 33-year-old Jenkins was not immediately returned.

Jenkins was nicknamed "The Glue" by young teammates like Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks as Jenkins stuck around for several miserable years waiting for them to develop. Jenkins was called up midseason in 1998 and was the longest tenured Brewer.

From 1999 on, the Brewers went 525-811 and had four years of at least 94 losses. Milwaukee had its first winning season since 1992 this year, holding an 8½-game lead in the NL Central in June before sliding to 83-79.

"It's going to be an interesting opportunity for Geoff, because you've got to realize he's been in the big leagues for nine-plus years, but this is really the first time he's ever been a free agent," Lapa said.

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said he told Jenkins on Tuesday that they appreciated his efforts and thought he should pursue a multiyear deal with another organization.

"It's sort of bittersweet because he's played a big part of his career when the team wasn't very good and now that the team's getting a little bit better, it's the time that we're going to be parting ways," Melvin said.

Jenkins, who played at Southern California and was drafted in the first round in 1995, isn't committed to returning to the West Coast, instead looking for "a competitive team, an opportunity to win, a good organization," Lapa said.

"As far as narrowing his targets, Geoff's going into free agency with an open mind," Lapa said.

Jenkins was emotional in the clubhouse at the end the 2006 season, believing that the team would trade him in the final year of a three-year, $23 million extension and bitter after he was benched for a prolonged period.

Instead, he became a father in January and returned with a renewed enthusiasm in the final guaranteed year of his contract. Part of a platoon with Kevin Mench, Jenkins hit .255 with 21 homers and 64 RBIs in 132 games.

The move to decline the option was hardly a surprise to anyone, including Jenkins.

Brewers manager Ned Yost replaced him in the ninth inning of his final game in Milwaukee, and Jenkins received a warm ovation from fans.

"It's happy and sad all at once," Jenkins said afterward. "I have no regrets. I had a wonderful time here. I've played with a ton of great teammates. That's what I will miss the most."

Lapa said Melvin told him Monday that Jenkins would not be retained.

Jenkins earned a $1 million buyout after reaching certain thresholds for plate appearances. Jenkins, a career .277 hitter, had 212 homers with the Brewers, second-most on the club's list behind Robin Yount's 251.

"Based on the free-agent landscape, there's very few left-handed power hitters on the market this season," Lapa said. "As far as corner outfielders with left-handed pop, scarcity is obviously a thing that generally benefits the player."

Melvin said the Brewers hadn't decided how to fill the void in left field. Gabe Gross, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Joe Dillon could get a shot at the job.

Milwaukee also hired Ted Simmons as bench coach Tuesday and moved Dale Sveum back to third-base coach. Sveum replaces Nick Leyva, who was let go at the end of the season. Melvin declined comment about Jenkins during a conference call introducing Simmons.

It's the professional coaching debut for the 58-year-old Simmons, who was well-liked as a player in Milwaukee and a key member of the Brewers' last postseason team in 1982.

Simmons had been in the front offices of St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and San Diego from 1988-2007 in a variety of roles after a 21-year playing career in St. Louis, Milwaukee and Atlanta.

He was an eight-time All-Star and hit .285 with 248 home runs and 1,389 RBIs in 2,456 career games.

The Brewers also announced relievers Francisco Cordero, Ray King and Scott Linebrink, third baseman Corey Koskie and catcher Damian Miller filed for free agency.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun Honored

Prince Fielder was the NL recipient of the Hank Aaron award and the Players' Choice Award for most outstanding NL player this week.

The Hank Aaron Award is voted on by the fans and honors the top offensive player in each league. Alex Rodriguez won the AL award.

From Reuters.com:
Nearly 400,000 votes were cast at MLB.com, the official Web site of Major League Baseball, and Commissioner Bud Selig announced the winners on Sunday.

Fielder received 16 percent of the NL fan votes. The first baseman led the National League with 50 home runs and drove in 119 runs for the Brewers.
Rodriguez was absent from the ceremony held before Sunday's Game Four of the World Series, but Aaron had special praise for Fielder.

"I'd like to thank Prince Fielder and congratulate him on his outstanding year for winning this award," Aaron said.

"And I want to thank him again for playing in a city which I hold very dear to my heart, and that's Milwaukee," added the Hall of Fame slugger, who played most of his career with the Milwaukee Braves.


The Players' Choice awards were voted on in September.

from MilwaukeeBrewers.com:

Fielder beat out fellow finalists Matt Holliday of the Rockies and David Wright of the Mets to win the Players Choice Award for most outstanding player in the NL. The Yankees' Alex Rodriguez won the award in the American League after a vote of Major Leaguers in September.

"That's an awesome feeling, knowing that the guys you play against every day respect how you play and how you go out there and give 100 percent," Fielder told Yahoo.com, which announced the results on a webcast.

"The whole year I kind of surprised myself," Fielder said on the webcast. "Growing up, you never say you are going to hit 50 home runs or be in a pennant race or anything like this. This whole year was great all-around in terms of my season and the team's."


A few days later it was announced the Ryan Braun was chosen as the Players' Choice NL Rookie of the Year

From MilwaukeeBrewers.com:

The 23-year-old did not debut until late May but nonetheless led big league rookies with 34 home runs, a .324 batting average and a .634 slugging percentage. On Thursday, he won the Players Choice Award for most outstanding rookie in the National League, decided by a vote of his peers.

"It really wasn't easy," Braun told Yahoo.com in a webcast announcing the award. "I came up, tried to make adjustments as quickly as possible, and as long as I was able to do that, I was able to find some success."

"To me, there's nothing more meaningful than being awarded for something like this and recognized by your peers," Braun said. "It's very special to me and something I take great pride in."

"The most impressive thing was how quickly he adapted from being that new guy," Yahoo baseball analyst Tony Gwynn said in the webcast. "Things seemed to happen quite easy for him. ... The most amazing thing is that he accumulated these numbers in about four months."

Boston's Dustin Pedroia was named the top rookie in the American League.

Both Pedroia and Braun will get to make a donation to the charity of their choice courtesy of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Braun said he wanted to use the money for the Milwaukee Boys and Girls Club or the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, two causes supported by Brewers Charities.

Badgers break into BCS top 25

After a command performance yesterday that no one got to see (damn you Big Ten Network!!) the Badgers edged their way back into rankings and showed up at 21 on this week's BCS standings.

1. Ohio State
2. Boston College
3. LSU
4. Arizona State
5. Oregon
6. Oklahoma
7. West Virginia
8. Kansas
9. Missouri
10. Georgia
11. Virginia Tech
12. Michigan
13. UConn
14. Hawaii
15. Texas
16. Auburn
17. Alabama
18. South Florida
19. USC
20. Florida
21. Wisconsin
22. Boise State
23. Virginia
24. Wake Forest
25. Clemson

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Marquette is preseason #12

The ESPN/USA Today poll was released and Marquette is riding high in the #12 spot.

1. UNC
3. Memphis
4. Kansas
5. Georgetown
6. Louisville
7. Tennessee
8. Michigan State
9. Indiana
10. Washington State
11. Duke
12. Marquette
13. Oregon
14. Gonzaga
15. Texas A & M
16. Texas
17. Arizona
18. USC
19. Arkansas
20. Pittsburgh
21. Stanford
22. Kentucky
23. S. Illinois
24. North Carolina State
25. Villanova

Wisconsin didn't crack the top 25, but did receive 21 votes.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Very, very interesting stuff

INDIANAPOLIS -- Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have been rivals on the field for years.

Now the two Super Bowl MVPs could be taking their competition into the NFL record book.

A week before the Colts and Patriots face each other in that highly anticipated showdown, Manning and Brady have a chance to set up the perfect matchup with an almost perfect scenario this weekend: If each wins, and keeps his respective team unbeaten, the NFL says they will become the first quarterbacks in league history to defeat 31 teams.

"I think it's better for a quarterback to do it than a coach," said Tony Dungy, the league's first coach to beat all 32 teams. "You only play those NFC teams once every four years, so that's tough to do."

It's so difficult that even the NFL's record-setting ironman, Brett Favre, has yet to achieve the milestone. Aside from his own Packers, Favre has never beaten Kansas City, Green Bay's opponent next week.

Some might even joke that Manning, Brady and Favre will have beaten all 32 teams, since each could be accused of beating their own occasionally with mistakes.

The greater challenge is simply getting enough chances at each opponent.

Brady, for instance, has faced Washington, this week's opponent, only once in 7½ seasons. He threw three interceptions in a 16-13 loss in September 2003.

"Personally, I don't look at it like that. I think this team faces challenges each and every week," Brady said. "It'd be great to put our best game out there against Washington this week."

Manning, who has been in the league two years longer than Brady, has faced Carolina twice. The two-time league MVP lost 27-19 as a rookie, and again 23-20 in overtime four years ago at the RCA Dome.

Manning will be making the first trip of his 10-year career to Carolina, and have a chance to accomplish the feat first because the Colts game starts three hours earlier than the Patriots game.

"I hadn't really thought a whole lot about that," Manning said of the milestone. "We certainly want to get a win because it's like they said in 'Bull Durham,' it's better than losing."

The statistic can be a bit misleading since many ex-quarterbacks played in a league with fewer teams. The NFL expanded to 30 when Carolina and Jacksonville were added in 1995, went to 31 with the new Cleveland Browns in 1999 and eventually to 32 with Houston in 2002.

Scheduling changes also have made it more difficult. Before 2002, teams played one division from the opposite conference every three years; now it's every four years.

So if Manning or Brady fail Sunday, they won't get another shot at Carolina or Washington until they're in their mid-30s. At age 38, Favre may not get another chance at the Chiefs.

Yet Manning, Brady and Favre have survived in this fickle environment where quarterbacks are constantly scrutinized and sometimes replaced because of injuries or slumps. Favre has started an NFL-record 243 consecutive regular-season games, while Manning is second at 150 and Brady's streak is at 101. Those are the three longest active marks in the league.

What the trio has done best, though, is perform consistently well long enough to give themselves a chance to beat every team in the league except one -- the one they play for.

"He's going to have a tough time beating the Colts," Dungy said of Manning, who signed a seven-year, $98 million contract in March 2004.

Of course, milestones and records are about as much an issue to Brady and Manning as next week's game. They couldn't care less about the buildup.

But they wouldn't mind making a little history first.

"I think Marvin [Harrison] and I are the only two guys left from that [Carolina] game in '98," Manning said. "Coach [John] Fox always has that team ready and it's going to be a tough place to play. That's what we're focused on, Carolina, this week."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

Monday, October 22, 2007

On homegrown talent

Cultivating success

Next round of Brewers talent is working its way up

Posted: Oct. 9, 2007
The entire infield, their beThe entire infield, their best outfielder and two of their best starting pitchers down the stretch.

Yes, the Milwaukee Brewers spent the 2007 season reaping the fruits of their farm system.

Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, J.J. Hardy, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Yovani Gallardo and Carlos Villanueva all made huge contributions to the Brewers' first winning season in 15 years. And all will be counted on heavily in 2008 to push the Brewers into the playoffs.

Of those seven, six were drafted by the Brewers under the direction of Jack Zduriencik, the director of amateur scouting. Villanueva was acquired in a 2004 trade when he was in Class A ball and came through the Brewers' system.

And now the question remains: Who will be the next gems?

"I think we're pretty happy with our minor-league system right now," said Zduriencik. "Any time you take as many players as we have in the last year or two and bring them to the big leagues, there's going to be a little void.

"But some of the kids like the shortstop (Alcides) Escobar we're quite high on. Manny Parra got his feet wet in the big leagues and he's a guy I think we're going to see a lot of in Milwaukee. And we're counting on Matt LaPorta to be somewhat of a fast-track type guy and we've been real happy with some of the reviews on him.

"You look at our minor-league system and there were some terrific things. Mat Gamel in A ball had a 33-game hitting streak. I think there are kids there that you're going to see in a relatively short period of time and they're going to add to what we have here already."

Five Brewers farm teams reached post-season play, with only the Arizona rookie team not posting a winning record.

Entering the season, the Brewers had four players on the Top 100 Prospects list produced by Baseball Prospectus.

Braun was No. 12 and Gallardo was No. 14.

Pitcher Will Inman, who was traded to the San Diego Padres in July as part of a three-prospect package for setup man Scott Linebrink, was at No. 75.

And at No. 87 was the Brewers' top pick in the 2006 draft, pitcher Jeremy Jeffress.

Just 20, Jeffress was coming along very well and putting up solid numbers at Class A West Virginia. But at the end of August, the Brewers learned that Jeffress was given a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a "drug of abuse," reported to be marijuana.

How Jeffress handles his suspension is likely to determine which direction his career takes.

LaPorta was the Brewers' first-round pick this June out of Florida. A first baseman in college, LaPorta was moved to left field and started out with the Helena Brewers rookie team in the Pioneer League. He homered in his first at-bat and played just seven games there, hitting two homers, before being moved up to the Class A West Virginia Power.

LaPorta played 23 games for the Power, hitting .318 with 10 homers and 27 RBI in just 88 at-bats.

The Brewers won't rush him, but, as Zduriencik said, they hope LaPorta can make his way to the majors quickly. He will be 23 by the time spring training opens, only about two months younger than Braun was when he went to spring training this past year.

Escobar started the season at Class A Brevard County and hit .325 in 63 games. That earned him a promotion to Class AA Huntsville, where he hit .283 in 62 games. Escobar also was rated as the Brewers' Best Defensive Infielding Prospect by Baseball America.

Parra, a left-handed pitcher, was named the Brewers' minor league pitcher of the year, even though he was with the Brewers from July 16 on, posting a 0-1 record with a 3.76 ERA in nine outings covering 26 1/3 innings.

While Parra was the pitcher of the year, third baseman Taylor Green was the Brewers' minor league player of the year.

Drafted in the 25th round in 2005, Green didn't sign until May of 2006. Playing for West Virginia, Green hit .327 with 14 homers and 86 RBI in 111 games.

That was a major step forward, after Green hit just .231 for Helena in rookie ball in 2006. Better yet, he's a left-handed bat.

That 2005 draft appears to have been a very good one for the Brewers, as far as third basemen go.

Along with Braun and Green, third baseman Mat Gamel also was taken in that draft in the fourth round.

Gamel, 22, hit .300 at Class A Brevard County. There is, however, one area that Gamel obviously needs to work on. He made a whopping 55 errors in 128 games.

The 2007 Brewers were built mainly through the draft and the minor league system. For the Brewers to take their 2007 success to the next level, they'll have to continue to get key players from their system.

"The plan we laid out was a pretty good plan," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "I said to Jack a few years ago when Hardy and Prince Fielder were high school drafts, I said, 'Jack, we need to focus on some college guys so they can catch up and play with Hardy and Fielder.' Those guys were Braun and Weeks.

"If we'd have gone two high school guys they wouldn't be here with those guys. So we put a plan in place, we stayed with it, we were patient with it, and it all came to fruition here at this point."

The next step is to keep the waves coming. They may not be as big as the most recent one, but they probably won't have to be.

Johnny Estrada, Captain Obvious

This article from the Journal-Sentinel has Johnny Estrada saying his performance this season was "pathetic". Welcome to the bandwagon Johnny, you're a little late to the party.

Clearly I'm more than a little bitter about Estrada this season, and not just because he was so bored and mean at the 2nd Brewers Block Party this season.

Maybe I'm too easy to jump on his back, but it just seems to me like all this injury talk is a little late. He was really injured all season and no one said anything? I don't feel like this can be explained away as a "strategy" move, either. If he truly was injured and we can expect more in the future - well I guess I'll get off his back. But I was really turned off by his lackluster effort and this way-after-the-season explanation just sounds like justification.

On Ryan Braun

This article includes a lot of technical terminology, but it's worth the read because it's a very frank look at Braun's defense.

Ryan Braun's Defense
by Nate Silver
Publish Post
I’ve made several snide remarks about Ryan Braun’s third base defense in recent weeks, most recently in my review of the 50 most valuable players in baseball. I don’t have anything against Ryan Braun; it would be hard for someone with the last name Silver to root against the Hebrew Hammer. Nor is this based on any sort of personal observation. I’d probably have to see a player at least 10 times in person or 25-30 times on television before I’d be comfortable contributing any kind of scouting take on his defense, and the only teams I see play that often during the season are the two local clubs, and maybe the two that advance to the World Series. But there’s no doubt about it: Ryan Braun’s defense is bad.

These were the trailers in Clay Davenport’s Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) last season:

-22 Kouzmanoff, 3B, SD
-20 Braun, 3B, MIL
-19 Durham, 2B, SFG
-18 Burrell, LF, PHI
-18 Harris, INF, TB
-17 Willingham, LF, FLA
-17 Dunn, LF, CIN
-17 Atkins, 3B, COL
-16 Fielder, 1B, MIL
-16 Hall, CF, MIL
-16 Lugo, SS, BOS
-15 Eckstein, SS, STL
-15 Sanchez, 2B, PIT

Braun doesn’t actually have the lowest score on this list — he has the second lowest behind Kevin Kouzmanoff. But FRAA is a counting stat rather than a rate stat, and Braun played only about two-thirds of the season, whereas most everybody else had the full year to accumulate their low scores. On a rate basis, Braun was a little worse than Kouzmanoff, and Braun and Kouzmanoff were quite a bit worse than any other regular or quasi-regular in the game. By the way, notice how many of these players are notoriously old, slow, fat, or were playing out of position; these are exactly the people you’d expect to see on a list like this one.

We can also look at a second-generation, play-by-play based metric like the Hardball Times’ Revised Zone Rating. According to that statistic, there were five regular defensive players who made at least 10% fewer plays than an average player at their position. Ryan Braun is one of them; in fact he rates at the second-worst defender in baseball relative to his position, ahead of only Manny Ramirez.

-19.1% Ramirez, LF, BOS
-16.4% Braun, 3B, MIL
-12.0% Encarnacion, 3B, CIN
-13.4% Young, 1B, WAS
-10.7% Sexson, 1B, SEA
-9.5% Fielder, 1B, MIL
-9.3% Bautista, 3B, PIT
-9.2% Atkins, 3B, COL

And so we have agreement from two systems, with radically different approaches, that Braun was one of the very worst defensive players in baseball in 2007.

I don’t have Braun’s rating in my favorite third-gen metric, UZR, but here’s what Mitchel Lichtman had to say about him:

Braun would certainly be the worst [third baseman], if he qualified. Even using zero UZR to make up the games he “missed” he is still probably the worst. That is a shame since he is such a good hitter, and his poor defense takes most (75% or so) of his hitting value away.

Making a few inferences from Mitchel’s statements, this would imply that Braun’s UZR falls somewhere between Miguel Cabrera’s -28, and 75% of his 2007 VORP, which works out to -43. So here again, Braun ranks as one of the worst four or five defensive players in baseball, challenged only by Pat Burrell’s -34, Manny Ramirez’ -33, and Raul Ibanez‘ -30. By consensus view, Braun was probably the very worst defensive player in baseball in 2007; the only real competitors for the title might be Ramirez, and perhaps Burrell.

But the question is not so much whether Braun was bad in 2007 — he was awful — but how he’s likely to play going forward. Before the season, Braun was regarded anywhere from a somewhat below-average defender at third base to a problematically bad one. Here’s what Kevin Goldstein wrote about him last December.

Despite the tools, Braun is still inadequate at the hot corner. His footwork is bad, and while he has plus arm strength, his throws lack accuracy. His bat is nearly major league ready, so if the glove doesn’t catch up fast enough, he could be moved to right field. The bat will play anywhere.

This view is largely confirmed by Tom Tango’s Fans Scouting Report:

Speed 60
Arm Strength 57
First Step 52
Instincts 50
Hands 25
Release 9
Arm Accuracy 0

Braun grades out as roughly average in several categories, including the range-based metrics of speed and first step. Unfortunately, his hands are bad, and his release and throwing accuracy are off-the-charts bad. And double unfortunately, these would tend to be the categories that are most important for a third baseman; speed doesn’t matter much at all, for instance.

Are these things that Braun can work on? Perhaps: I’d certainly hold out more hope that a coach could improve a player’s accuracy and release than his arm strength. But the thing is, once a player reaches the major leagues for a competitive club, there isn’t much room for experimentation. What’s the upside to that experiment? Braun goes from being a way below-average defender at third base to a somewhat below-average one. And then you have to move him in a couple years anyway once he bulks up and slows down. What’s the downside? Braun can’t or won’t improve, or he takes a long time to do so, costing the Brewers runs in the field each week while the experiment in progress. Even worse, you could trigger a crisis of confidence, or detract from his work on his hitting approach, which requires more improvement than you might think. And all of this for what benefit? National League third basemen hit .280/.348/.456 last year, which is actually a bit better than the .275/.344/.442 it got out of its right fielders, and only slightly worse than the .278/.358/.478 from the left field position. The gap in the defensive spectrum between third base and corner outfield is small as compared with the gap between third base and center field or second base.

Braun, in spite have never played the position professionally, is probably much closer to being an adequate defensive corner outfielder than an adequate defensive third baseman. He runs reasonably well, and while his arm is not accurate, it is probably strong enough to deter baserunners from advancing on him Johnny Damon style. And the good news is that there are any number of permutations that would allow the Brewers to improve their defense without really losing any ground at the plate. For example:

* Move Braun to LF, sign Mike Lowell at 3B, sit on Matt LaPorta for a year

* Move Bill Hall to 3B, Braun to RF, and Corey Hart to CF; LaPorta gets the opportunity to make the big league club out of spring training.
* Trade Bill Hall and Claudio Vargas for Joe Crede and Faustino de los Santos, move Hart to CF, Braun to RF.

You get the idea … there are a million ways the Brewers can play this without incurring any real transaction costs.

If Braun does move to the outfield, does he become one of the most valuable commodities in baseball? We’ll have to see what PECOTA does with him, since there’s room for concern about his plate discipline numbers too. But the worst case would seem to be that he becomes another version of Jeff Francoeur, and that’s a pretty good worst-case scenario.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Some Brewers post-mortem

I have a few Brewers things I'd like to post and I was going to do one long entry, but this bit of writing alone is worth it's own space. Read the whole thing for a look at the season and how it went wrong long before the stats and record showed it did. And it reminds you that the downfall came because of player misuse which can be directly linked back to Ned Yost.

Yost infection

by John Brattain
October 06, 2007
Sometimes you find the best information in the oddest places. For instance: I find blogs a treasure trove of useful information. The thing is, as you know, I also write for a mainstream outlet. The demographic of the readers there is a lot different from the ones here; with my other gig most readers think that BRAA, FRAA and VORP mean that supper is digesting nicely.

My bosses prefer me to write in the context of what is most familiar to the readers. Hence, when I use things like RBI, runs, ERA, batting average and the like I try to stress how various factors affect these things. With players' power numbers and ERA, I emphasize things like the park in which they play and where they are in relation to the league average. I talk about the importance of outs used and batting order position when assessing things like runs and RBI.

I imagine most mainstream writers, regardless of their personal baseball philosophy, have similar guidelines. For those who lament that sabermetrics hasn’t really infiltrated the mainstream media—well there’s a reason for that. Your average Joe/Josie Sixpack baseball fan doesn’t read Baseball Prospectus, Hardball Times, Rob and Rany and buy subscriptions to Baseball-Reference’s Play Index or Lee Sinins Complete Baseball Encyclopedia. Outlets looking for the widest readership will offer what is most familiar to a typical fan. These readers get their stat fix from box scores and the lists of league leaders in statistical categories that they see flashed during games they are watching.

Due to this, other than comments from players and management, it’s difficult to find the sort of insights that the hard-core fan craves from the mainstream media since they cater to the typical fan rather than the hopeless baseball addict. When you try to find insights into the game itself rather than just the clich├ęs spouted by the people in it, you have to go outside local columnists and AP/CP press releases. That’s where blogs and so-called “renegade” sites are so valuable.

In 2007, the Milwaukee Brewers had a promising season go down the tubes. Throughout the year, I found an unusual and tremendous source of insight on what was a tumultuous season. At my main cyber-haunt, AKA Baseball Think Factory, there was, shall we say, a veteran Brewers fan who would post long, thoughtful analyses of the Brew Crew’s fortunes. Interestingly, he was one of the first folks who started to worry about the club’s chances this season while the Brewers were still comfortably in first place. He noticed misuse of players that was costing the Brewers games, or potentially could. As the Cubs got hot and Brewers started to scuffle, he began to sound prophetic.

What was fascinating is you didn’t read these things in the Milwaukee media. I started following the Brewers a little more closely and I would see things that reminded me of Harvey's Wallbanger's (he wishes his real name to be kept private) observations. He nailed it time after time after time. One of his peeves was that nobody was telling the true story of where it was going wrong for the Brew Crew.

Well, their season is over and I asked "Harvey's Wallbanger" if he would help me tell the story of how the Central was lost. All the insights you’re going to read are from him alone. I’m just the mouthpiece. Trust me—it’s fascinating and worth the time spent. I never regretted reading his posts on BTF; they were that good.

Believe it or not, 2007 began to slip away in the season’s first month. While the infield defense was an issue (see Hardball Times writer Jeff Sackmann's excellent Brew Crew Ball blog--another handy Brewers' resource), the Brewers' undoing began elsewhere. During spring training, manager Ned Yost declared his plan for managing the relief corps. With the services of Matt Wise and Derrick Turnbow to set up Francisco Cordero in the ninth, the Brewers could confidently turn any game into a six-inning affair. If you didn’t beat them in innings 1-6, then you may as well pack it in for the night.

Come the end of the first month, Turnbow alone had appeared 13 times. The "three-headed relief monster" had pitched in games won 9-4, 7-3 and 5-2 in addition to the games where their presence was legitimately needed. Of course, when you start 24-10, it must be working, right?

In early May, the Brew Crew first hit rocky waters, in an ugly 10-20 stretch. However Prince Fielder’s .321/.397/.755 13 HR in May coupled with Ben Sheets' 4-1, 3.29 ERA kept it from being far worse. His team's often being behind gave closer Cordero a breather, but it didn’t help Carlos Villanueva, Brian Shouse, Turnbow and Wise much and they finished May with a combined 93 appearances to date.

Why the workload? Yost had determined he had one starter capable of going eight innings— the oft-injured Sheets. The other four starters— Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan, Claudio Vargas and Chris Capuano— reached the eighth inning only five times in the season’s first two months.

Initially, a short leash with Bush seemed appropriate, due to an internal switch causing him to go from competent to Boom-Boom Beck in a nanosecond. Instead of trying to stretch him out on occasion, Yost just turned to the bullpen. As to Vargas, he appeared to be the pitching equivalent of a mouse. Nibble, nibble, nibble followed by a narrow escape. However, come pitch No. 100 … bye-bye, bring in the ‘pen.

Meanwhile, after fast starts Suppan (2-5, 6.68 ERA over 12 starts averaging 5 IP/start) and Capuano (0-6, 7.74 ERA over nine starts averaging less than 5 IP/start) went into the tank, further burdening the relief corps. Sheets had become Horatio at the bridge, the only starter still standing on two legs.

Capuano went on the DL, which was actually a blessing as Milwaukee gained the services of the fine rookie Yovani Gallardo. Regardless, since he was a rookie, management had Gallardo on a pitch limit per game. So while Gallardo was more efficient than his older peers and able to get deeper into games, he still required support. The Brewers recovered somewhat and June passed with the team regaining a firm hold on first place. Then disaster struck.

Sheets (10-4, 3.39 ERA) landed on the DL. The centerpiece, the very foundation of Yost's plan was gone and Yost looked like a deer in the headlights. By early July, Turnbow, who had pitched 42 times, admitted in the local papers he was feeling tired. Villanueva, who had done an amazing job in a swing role, started to crumble (0-2, 11.25 ERA over five appearances in July), and Wise's reliable change became less reliable. After a decent home stretch immediately after the All-Star break, the Brewers went on the road and the bullpen collapsed.

The carnage continued and Yost tried to get his un-stretched-out starters to go deeper into games. He finally managed to push Vargas to eight innings in a 12-2 win over St. Louis on July 27. That effort proved calamitous— Vargas went 1-2, 9.00 ERA over his subsequent five starts, ended up on the DL and finished the season in relief. Multiple leads in Cincinnati and St. Louis were frittered away, including the infamous effort on July 28 when Milwaukee let a 6-0 lead dissolve into an 7-6 defeat in the first game of a day/night doubleheader.

Drained physically (and I suspect mentally), the group was unable to rise to the occasion. Wise hit a Reds batter in the face and it affected him so much he became a train wreck posting a 10.45 ERA over his final 16 outings. With the team desperate for assistance, Grant Balfour was brought up from Nashville. Balfour was the proverbial gas on a fire, losing two games outright and generally being awful.

GM Doug Melvin, clearly somewhat panicked, shipped off three minor leaguers to the Padres for a veteran reliever (Scott Linebrink). After some initial success (1-0, 1.13 ERA in his first eight appearances, striking out a man per inning) he joined in the "fun" by also tanking (0-3, 11.57 ERA over his next five).

The Milwaukee pitching staff was in shambles. The Brewers suffered through an 9-18 August and how they won nine games is the puzzler.

At the end of August, the Brewers got a lift from Sheets' return. But the team's effort continued to be undermined by its manager's strict adherence to a failed orthodoxy. The moment all Brewers fans will remember as highlighting Yost's insanity is the first game of the Brewers/Cubs series the waning days of August. Milwaukee no longer led the Central and was at Wrigley. Suppan had miraculously pitched the Crew to a 3-1 lead and entered the bottom of the seventh with a low count of 79 pitches.

He got to 0-2 on Cliff Floyd, whose laundry was practically hanging over the plate. Suppan threw a borderline strike and Floyd was struck by the pitch. Yost lost it, running to the mound and to the complete, total and utter astonishment of everyone with the I.Q. of a common squash, yanking Suppan from the game. In comes Linebrink. Two outs and an E-1 later, and it's 5-3 Cubs and Milwaukee is below .500.

Despite his bullpen's utter disintegration over the previous six weeks, despite his veteran starter being in command, despite the obvious need to minimize using obviously exhausted pitchers, Yost put "The Plan" ahead of the obvious. Unfortunately, Yost managed his bullpen like a man in a body cast trying to scratch a 'personal itch'; he kept flailing around seeking relief but had no idea how to manage it.

The Milwaukee pitching staff recovered somewhat in September however Shouse and Turnbow fell off a cliff posting ERA's of 8.44 and 9.35 respectively in September. Gallardo was lights-out and Villanueva replaced Vargas after he received a much-needed rest by sitting around at Triple-A for two weeks. The offense scored oodles of runs thanks to Fielder (11 HR), Rickie Weeks (9 HR) and pretty much all the youngsters (Corey Hart/Ryan Braun/J.J. Hardy) crushing the ball, nailing 49 round-trippers in all. They came close but couldn’t stave off the Cubs and a promising season was over.

Other Yost miscues

Yost's feud with 2006 team MVP Bill Hall is another mark against the manager. Hall agreed to move to center field “for the good of the team” but struggled in the new role. He was rewarded with a two-game benching. Hall’s bat perked up in June (.307/.388/.523) but then he got hurt in July.

Seeing his team struggle, Hall rushed back from injury but his bat did not. After a rough two-game stretch in San Francisco in late August where he whiffed five times, Hall was benched yet again. This time, Hall went public with his complaint and to the dismay of his teammates found himself in a platoon role with Gabe Gross before being benched outright for about a month.

In the midst of a divisional race, Yost picked a fight with the squad's most popular player and then humiliated him. Unbelievable.

The Brewers under Yost played poorly in the second half, blowing an incredible number of three- and five-run leads (During the season the Brewers blew a MLB high of 16 games where they had a 3+ run lead.) And the Brewers lost 21 consecutive games (18 starts) in which Capuano pitched. He was 0-12, 6.08 ERA in those games, but Yost kept running him out there.

The Brewers' 2007 collapse was largely aided and abetted by Ned Yost.

References and Resources
I would like to thank Milwaukee Brewers' fan extraordinaire (and fellow primate) "Harvey's Wallbangers" for both his time and his input. Hopefully the Brewers will learn from 2007 and reach the post season next year and beyond. There's a lot of terrific talent with the Brewers and hopefully they can capitalize so 'Mr. Wallbangers' can watch his club play in October for the first time since 1982.

Wiscosnin ready to snap out of it?

According to this article (though who would know since it wasn't televised here) the UW football team finally took the field with some intensity yesterday.

It's about damn time.

Jonathan Casillas, among others, say in the article that the fire was missing from the team in the past few weeks.

That fire has been missing all season, but I'm happy that it may be there against N. Illinois in week 8.

Nobody knew for sure what happened, how the Badgers
(6-2) lost their way, only that it was clear from the sidelines during the second half of last week's loss to Penn State that something needed to change.

"If you look at our sideline last week, there wasn't too much intensity, wasn't too much passion (or) enthusiasm," linebacker Jonathan Casillas said.

That changed in this game. A defense that looked tentative for most of the season suddenly looked like it knew what it was doing.

Northern Illinois (1-7) started the game with six straight three-and-outs, and the Badgers built a 31-0 halftime lead. The Huskies only had two first downs in the first half and finished with 99 total yards.

"I think everybody was alignment and assignment sound (Saturday)," strong safety Aubrey Pleasant said. "I think overall we played very well."

UW quarterback Tyler Donovan noticed the difference in the defense, too.

"It was emotion," he said. "They played with high intensity. They kind of wanted to (make) a statement. They did that."

We apparently decided to stick with what we know and run the ball and the line finally showed up enough to let us do so. Donovan attempted just 19 passes all game.

New BCS out

Beware Boston Collge of the curse of #2

1. Ohio St.
2. Boston College
3. LSU
4. Arizona St.
6. Oklahoma
7. West Virginia
8. Virginia Tech
9. Kansas
10. South Florida
11. Florida
12. USC
13. Missouri
14. Kentucky
15. Virginia
16. South Carolina
17. Hawaii
18. Georgia
20. Michigan
21. Cal
22. Auburn
23. Connecticut
24. Alabama
25. Penn State

Seven Different Badgers Score in Wisconsin Victory

Madison, Wis. (from UWBadgers.com)

The Wisconsin men’s hockey team advanced to 3-1-0, as seven different Badgers scored in an 8-2 victory over Robert Morris (2-2-0), Saturday at the Kohl Center. Three freshmen recorded their first career goals in the win.

The first of Wisconsin’s eight goals came just four minutes into the game, as sophomore Blake Geoffrion (Brentwood, Tenn.) slid the puck past Colonial goaltender Wes Russell. Podge Turnbull (Hayward, Wis.) and Patrick Johnson (Madison, Wis.) collected assists on the play.

Two freshmen tallied two additional goals in the first period for the Badgers. Kyle Turris (New Westminster, B.C.) scored his fifth goal of the season on a power-play pass from Kyle Klubertanz (Sun Prairie, Wis.) and Geoffrion. Turris tallied one goal and three assists in tonight’s match-up. Johnson scored his first goal for Wisconsin to put the Badgers up 3-0. Johnson’s 13th minute goal was assisted by freshman Ryan McDonagh (Arden Hills, Minn.) and Geoffrion. Geoffrion had one goal and four assists on the night.

The Colonial’s were able to score back-to-back goals on freshman goalie Scott Gudmanson in his first career start for the Badgers. J.C. Velasquez and Ryan Cruthers each found the back of the net, cutting the Wisconsin lead to 3-2 by early in the second stanza.

From there, the Badgers scored five unanswered goals to score the win and sweep Robert Morris in the season's first series at the Kohl Center. Turnbull scored his first career goal in the second period, with assists to Geoffrion and Tom Gorowsky (Lino Lakes, Minn.). Michael Davies (Chesterfield, Mo.) scored two goals on Russell and collected an additional assist. Klubertanz scored his second goal of the season, while freshman Brendan Smith (Mimico, Ontario) picked up his first career goal.

Gudmanson (Sherwood Park, Alberta) stopped 25 of Robert Morris’ shots in his debut game. He is now 1-0-0 in the net. The Badgers fired 49 shots at Russell, who ended the night with 41 saves.

Wisconsin was 4-for-8 on the power play and stopped the Colonials on all four of their power-play attempts.

Turris now has twelve points in his first four games as a Badger. Geoffrion picked up an additional five points in Saturday’s win, while Davies and Johnson each tallied three points.

Nine different Badgers scored in the series versus the Colonials, picking up 15 goals while only allowing three.

The Badgers, who are off next weekend, will resume play on Nov. 2 and 3 with a series versus Michigan Tech at the Kohl Center. Game time is set for 7 p.m. both nights.

Street, Turris Help Badgers Down Robert Morris, 7-2

Madison, Wis. (from UWBadgers.com)

Two Badgers scored two goals each, as the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team toppled Robert Morris, 7-2, in their home-opener on Friday at the Kohl Center. Ben Street (Coquitlam, B.C.) and Kyle Turris (New Westminster, B.C.) both tallied two goals and two assists in the Badger win, earning four points apiece.

Wisconsin jumped to an early lead with Street’s first goal coming less than thirty seconds into the game. Kyle Klubertanz (Sun Prarie, Wis.) and Turris tallied assists on that goal, bringing the Badgers up 1-0. The Badgers slipped two more pucks past Colonial goaltender Christian Boucher in the first period, both on the power play. Klubertanz scored his ninth goal as a Badger, which was assisted by Patrick Johnson (Madison, Wis.) and Cody Goloubef (Oakville, Ontario). Freshman Ryan McDonagh (Arden Hills, Minn.) scored his first career goal for Wisconsin with eight minutes left in the first. Street and Jamie McBain (Fairbult, Minn.) colleted assists on McDonagh’s goal. Wisconsin entered the first intermission with a 3-0 lead.

The second period was a physical battle as twelve penalties were called. Another two goals were scored in that period. Robert Morris’s Jason Towsely cut the Badger’s lead to 3-1, with an assist from Nathan Longpre. The stanza was highlighted by a goal from Turris with less than four seconds left to play. The freshman took a slap-shot from the right boards as he was skating down the wing, sending the puck over Boucher’s right shoulder. Brendan Smith (Mimico, Ontario) earned the assist on Turris’ goal, which brought the Badgers up 4-1.

An additional four goals were scored in the final period of play. Turris and Street recorded their second goals of the night, in addition to a goal by sophomore Blake Geoffrion (Brentwood, Tenn.). Robert Morris scored the final goal of the game with a 5-on-3 advantage.

Both Turris and Street collected four points in the Badger’s home-opener. Klubertanz earned three points against the Colonials. Notably, all six Wisconsin defenders tallied a point in the match-up. Turris now has four career goals in only three games. The freshman also has six assists on the season.

Badger goaltender Shane Connelly stopped 24 shots, while Boucher stopped 22 for Robert Morris. Wes Russell, who protected the Colonial’s net for the third period, made an additional nine saves.

Wisconsin was 4-for-9 on the power play and killed off 12 of its 13 penalties.

Wisconsin Hockey Night

A couple of weekends ago we traveled to Madison for Hockey Night at the Kohl Center. I heard from one of the players that this event had happened last year, though it was a much smaller scale.

Essentially, it was an open invitation for fans to come catch an inside glimpse at the men’s hockey team and be able to take in a women’s game. For $15, you were admitted to watch the men’s team’s first practice of the season (more on this later), then you were served dinner, where the team was individually introduced and both Mike Eaves (men’s coach) and Mark Johnson (women’s coach) addressed the audience. The members of the men’s teams each sat at the tables with the attendees, which was a very cool chance for the kids to interact with the players. The ticket then admitted you to the women’s game against Robert Morris (which the won 3-1).

Ok, so we were a little late, as I had some iPod buying misadventures, so we didn’t catch much of the practice. But though I knew it in advance and it’s now been 4 more days, I still can’t believe that Saturday was their first practice. The team will be playing in a preseason tournament this weekend and I just can’t believe they are allowed only one week of practice. I know that the NCAA sanctions all of that and there were likely “captains practices” prior to this, but I am just flabbergasted that officially they are given (I think) two weeks before the season starts. If anyone knows more on this, please let me know. Admittedly, my hockey knowledge is basic at best.

Ultimately, I think the intent of the evening was child oriented – offering them a chance to get up-close and personal to the players, but I got a whole lot of information about the players and it was pretty cool to get a chance to just casually converse with a couple of the guys.

Sophomore Jamie McBain was at our table and he was immediately befriended by the youngest child at our table – who, by the way, was hilarious. He was incredibly inquisitive and outgoing. His older brother seemed more “starstuck” but the little guy had a rapid-fire set of questions for Jamie, who was both entertained and little overwhelmed, I think. The little guy took us all aback, because he was so gregarious and talkative.

When Jamie told him his name, the little guy told him that there was a James in his class. He paused, then told Jamie that the James he knew was REALLY naughty. Little Guy’s mom told him he couldn’t talk to Jamie while he was signing autographs, but he was so anxious he had to put some fingers in his mouth to keep it occupied!

Jamie’s from Minnesota and I asked him how choosing Wisconsin went over at home. He laughed and said he didn’t get too much crap, but that he had grown up playing with most of the guys on Minnesota’s team, so the rivalry was especially fierce for him. The boyfriend then asked if the rivalry was really, actually strong on the ice, or if it was just between the fans. Jamie said the guys are up for it just as much as the fans – even saying the guys all circle that weekend on the calendar.

The other player sitting next to us was freshman goalie Scott Goodmanson. Scott’s from Canada and actually took a year off between high school and college because of Brian Elliot. He said had Elliot left early, he would have entered right away, but when Elliot decided to stay for his senior year, Scott took the year off to save his eligibility for when he knew he had a fighting chance at the netminder spot.

Both Mark Johnson, women's coach, and Mike Eaves, men's coach, addressed the group. Before they were introduced the emcee had some stats

Last season the men averaged 14,335 in attendance, which is a record for the University and and was the NCAA high. That average attendance is better than 5 NHL teams.

Mark Johnson went to talk about the women's team, which at the time had won 29 straight dating back to last season. They were 3-0 to start the season and had yet to allow a goal. (At time of publish, the girls had improved to 6-1-1)

He also added that they had graduated 7 seniors and brought in 7 freshman. Though the team's composition had changed, Johnson urged the hockey fans to "give us an opportunity. Come see the product."

The men's team had a rough season after graduating and losing to the pros so many of the members of their national championship winning team. However, they did go 8-3-2 over the last few weeks of the season to finish strong.

They also had the #1 recruiting class in the country this year. Their new class includes 9 NHL draft picks, including the 3rd overall and 12th overall picks.

Of the 26 guys on this year's roster, 17 are underclassmen. It's the youngest team Wisconsin has fielded in 26 years.

This year's new class includes:

#12 Tom Vargas, a transfer from St. Lawrence, where he spent one season.

#16 Sean Dolan, a 6'3" forward. He was a member of the US Under-18 Junior Select Team at 2006 Viking Cup in Camrose, Alberta. He played 2006-07 season for the Chicago Steel of the USHL where he scored 22 goals, 40 points and 76 penalty minutes in 59 games played, before adding two goals and four points in five playoff games

#27 Cody Goloubef, a defensemen. He scored 10 goals and 42 points in 49 games with the Milton Ice Hawks of the OPJHL in 05-06 and was named the team's Rookie of the Year.

#1 Scott Gudmandson, goalie. Finished 2006–07 season with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the BCHL, after beginning year with Omaha of the USHL. He posted a 15-8-0 mark with a 2.84 goals-against average, .912 save percentage and two shutouts in 24 games played with Salmon Arm. He posted an 18-8-5 mark with a 2.10 goals-against average and .925 save percentage with the Drayton Valley Thunder of the AJHL in 2004–05 to earn recognition as the 2005 AJHL Rookie of the Year

#3 Craig Johnson, defense. Played for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the NAHL where he posted eight goals and 34 points in 60 contests to lead the team’s defensemen in 2006–07. He was also second on the team with four game-winning goals. He is from Waupaca.

#10 Patrick Johnson. Son of Women's coach Mark Johnson. He spent most of 2006–07 season skating with the Lincoln Stars of the USHL where he posted 11 goals and 27 points in 47 games with the Stars. He also scored two short-handed goals and 11 power-play points.

#17 Ryan McDonough. 2007 Minnesota Mr. Hockey, Ryan was the #12 overall pick in this year's NHL draft. He won silver with Team USA at the 2007 IIHF World Championships. He was a member of the silver medal winning U.S. Under-18 Select Team at the 2006 Under-18 Junior World Cup in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. He was a member of the 2005 United States Under-17 Select Team that took first place at the 2005 Five Nations Cup in Huttwil, Switzerland

#7 Brendan Smith, defense. Skated two seasons with the St. Michael’s Buzzers of the OPHJL where in 2006–07, posted 12 goals, 36 points and 90 penalty minutes in 39 games played to lead team’s defensemen. He was selected to play in the 2006 Canadian Junior A Hockey League All-Star Game ... won a silver medal with Canada East in the 2006 World Junior A Challenge. He was the 27th overall draft pick by the Detroit Red Wings.

#8 Joshus "Podge" Turnbull, forward. Skated 2006–07 for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the USHL where he was named team rookie of the year after collecting 27 goals and 54 points in 60 games played. He was also voted by Waterloo fans as the inaugural winner of the Fan’s Choice Award. We was the team's Rookie of the Year and was a 5th round draft pick of the LA Kings.

#19 Kyle Turris. Chosen 3rd overall by the Phoenix Coyotes. Named RBC Financial Group Canadian Junior A Player of the Year for 2006-07. He played for Team Canada in 2006-07, including two stints with Canada’s National Under-18 Team - the 2006 Junior World Cup in the Czech Republic and the 2007 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Finland. He played a major role in Canada West’s gold medal triumph at the 2007 World Junior A Challenge in Yorkton, Saskachewan, scoring his team’s first four goals in a tournament-opening win over Russia on his way to the tournament’s MVP award. He collected a BCHL-high 66 goals for the Burnaby Express, 15 goals more than the closest skater. He posted 121 points in 53 games played to rank second in league scoring during the regular season. He also posted a league-high 19-game point-scoring streak. He tied for the league lead in playoff scoring with 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) despite playing one less postseason round than the rest of the top 10 scorers

Former Packer great Max McGee dies

Former Green Bay receiver Max McGee dies (from AP.org)

Associated Press Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Max McGee, the unexpected hero of the first Super Bowl and a long-time challenge for Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, died Saturday after falling from the roof of his home, police confirmed. He was 75.

Police were called to the former Green Bay receiver's Deephaven home around 5:20 p.m., Sgt. Chris Whiteside said. Efforts to resuscitate McGee were unsuccessful.

McGee was blowing leaves off the roof when he fell, according to news reports. A phone message left at a number listed for an M. McGee wasn't immediately returned.

"I just lost my best friend," former teammate Paul Hornung told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "(His wife) Denise was away from the house. She'd warned him not to get up there. He shouldn't have been up there. He knew better than that."

Inserted into Packers' lineup when Boyd Dowler was sidelined by a shoulder injury, McGee went on to catch the first touchdown pass in Super Bowl history in Green Bay's 35-10 victory over Kansas City in January 1967. Still hung over from a night on the town, McGee caught seven passes for 138 yards and two TDs.

"Now he'll be the answer to one of the great trivia questions: Who scored the first touchdown in Super Bowl history?" Hornung said. "Vince knew he could count on him. ... He was a great athlete. He could do anything with his hands."

Though an admirer of Lombardi, McGee time and again pushed the tough-as-nails coach to the breaking point.

McGee - remembered for saying: "When it's third-and-10, you can take the milk drinkers and I'll take the whiskey drinkers every time." - put Lombardi to the ultimate test prior to the first Super Bowl.

McGee had caught only four passes for 91 yards during the 1966 regular season and, not expecting to play against the Chiefs, violated the team's curfew and spent the night before the game partying.

Reportedly, the next morning he told Dowler: "I hope you don't get hurt. I'm not in very good shape."

Dowler went down with a separated shoulder on the Packers' second drive, and McGee had to borrow a helmet because he left his in the locker room. A few plays later, McGee made a one-handed reception of a pass from Bart Starr and ran 37 yards to score.

"He had a delightful sense of humor and had a knack for coming up with big plays when you least expected it to happen," Packers historian Lee Remmel said. "He had a great sense of timing."

Remmel said McGee once teased Lombardi when the coach showed the team a football on their first meeting and said, "Gentlemen, this is a football."

"McGee said, 'Not so fast, not so fast,'" Remmel said. "That gives you an index to the kind of humor that he served up regularly."

McGee was a running back at Tulane and the nation's top kick returner in 1953.

Selected by the Packers in the fifth round of the 1954 draft, McGee spent two years in the Air Force as a pilot following his rookie year before returning in 1957 to play 11 more seasons. He finished his career with 345 receptions for 6,346 yards - an 18.4-yard average - and scored 51 touchdowns and 306 points.

After retiring from football, he became a major partner in developing the popular Chi-Chi's chain of Mexican restaurants. In 1979, he became an announcer for the Packer Radio Network with Jim Irwin until retiring in 1998.

McGee and wife Denise founded the Max McGee National Research Center for Juvenile Diabetes at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in 1999.

According to the center's Web site, his brother fought diabetes in his lifetime, and Max and Denise's youngest son, Dallas, lives with the disease.

McGee is survived by his wife, four children and several grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Packer Problems

It may have been ugly, but the Packers managed to remain on top of the NFC North yesterday with a win over the Redskins.

As ugly as the game was, I’m going to contend that 2 or 3 really poor calls made a major difference in the game and made it a squeaker when it should have been closer to a blowout.

There is literally no one that could argue that the no-call on the Bubba Franks touchdown was the right call. He was pushed and he still got one foot down. The announcers spent the few minutes right after the call talking about pass interference, but I don’t think that was the point. We went to commercial and came back and then they started talking about a push out and I couldn't believe it took them that long to talk about the obviously missed call.

There’s no question that if Franks isn’t touched that he comes down in the endzone with that ball. Period. The argument that it’s a ref’s judgment call just irks me. You can review the spot of the ball, which often times is the ref’s judgment call, but you can’t review a scoring play? I find this logic faulty. You can review a whole host of things in football, so I contend that any play involving possible points should be reviewable. You simply cannot allow human error to decide the outcome of a game. Everything I’ve heard uses the term judgment call, but isn’t the whole game a judgment call for the refs? Aren’t they deciding if something is a foul or not based on what they see? That’s a catchy phrase that tries to let the refs off the hook.

The other two questionable calls can certainly be argued for or against. The hold that called the touchdown back bothers me on the basis that if we’re going to call that, a flag should thrown on just about every play of the game.

While there were certainly times that the flag was justified, I wondered at some of the illegal contact flags that were thrown on Charles Woodson. There were times I felt like I was watching a basketball game where the whistle is blown every time two players touch each other. It’s impossible that two guys who aren’t looking at each other or at where they’re going aren’t going to touch each other.

That being said, Charles Woodson needs to learn to adjust and stop getting so many of those damn flags. Whether or not you agree with it, the fouls were getting called. You have to adjust your game in order to stop hurting your team.

There was a portion of the game where it felt like if we weren’t giving up a penalty for illegal contact then the receiver was all by his lonesome. Are these really the only two options the Packers secondary can handle? Either we leave a guy all alone or we maul him?

It’s hard to believe that we won this game without Favre throwing a TD pass. Our ground game sucks. I am just amazed that we scored on defense.

I guess we just take the win and be happy with it, but yesterday just seemed to put a spotlight on the things any team we play exploit.

BCS is out.

If ever there were a question about what kind of topsy-turvy upside down, wild college football season we're having, the BCS rankings that came out yesterday confirm it.

We've got two one-loss teams in the top 5. Ohio State, who was not even in any Big Ten championship conversations to start the year is the #1 team. South Florida (who?) is the #2 team.There are a half-dozen two-loss teams on the list. USC is #14. Last year's champion is #15.

Michigan, who were on the losing side of the biggest upset in many, many years, is #25.

BCS Standings

1. Ohio State
2. South Florida
3. Boston College
4. LSU
5. Oklahoma
6. South Carolina
7. Kentucky
8. Arizona State
9. West Virginia
10. Oregon
11. Virginia Tech
12. Cal
13. Kansas
14. USC
15. Florida
16. Missouri
17. Auburn
18. Hawaii
19. Virginia
20. Georgia
21. Tennessee
22. Texas
23. Cincinnati
24. Texas Tech
25. Michigan

Friday, October 12, 2007

I totally forgot

To put up my first ever Friday Random Ten. You put your iPod on shuffle and list the first ten songs that come up. No cheating! I can assure you that this will be very embarassing for me at some point, but today I come off looking ok:

1 - Keith Urban "Tonight I Wanna Cry"
2 - Garth Brooks "Do What you Gotta Do"
3 - The Temptations "My Girl"
4 - Marvin Gaye "Keep on Dancin"
5 - Cowboy Mouth "How Do You Tell Someone"
6 - Blessid Union of Stars "Humble Star"
7 - Dave Matthews Band "Bartender"
8 - The Offspring "Something to Believe In"
9 - The Muppets "Happiness Hotel"
10 - David Grey "Please Forgive Me"

Feel free to list yours in the comments.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Brian Elliot notches win in NHL debut

Brian Elliot made his debut last night with the Ottawa Senators. And he did it while wearing his University of Wisconsin goalie mask.

Elliot allowed just one goal and made 27 saves.

From the Senators website: Elliott, the 291st overall pick in the 2003 entry draft, claimed a spot on the Ottawa roster while Ray Emery recovers from off-season wrist surgery. The rookie watched Martin Gerber put up a 1.73 goals-against average in the first four games, then finally got his shot.

He admitted to a case of pre-game nerves, but Elliott savoured his first NHL start and win."You're nervous and it's your first game, and obviously you're playing in the NHL," he said. "It's the game you've prepared your whole life for, so that's how I went into it. I was prepared, and knowing how I play my game, I just needed to do that and everything would be all right."
Elliott stopped 27 shots, including a brilliant save on Alexei Zhitnik about a minute after Vermette's goal. The Thrashers defenceman got free at the side of the net on a give-and-go pass, but Elliott sprawled back with his right pad to keep the puck out.

A little behind..

I've been less than diligent about blogging this week and it's because I finally joined the technological age and got an ipod. This means that I do nothing from the time I get home from work until the time I go to bed but download cds.

I'm not even close to being done, but I've got the good stuff, so I promise I'll be back more this weekend.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bucks win!

I don't pay a whole lot of attention to the NBA, but I did see that the Bucks beat the Bulls in a pre-season game. I don't have many expectations for the Bucks going into any season, so I can't see this one being any different.

All the talking heads are proclaiming Yi as the second coming, but I remember hearing the same thing about Andrew Bogut and countless others, so the hype does nothing to change my opinion on their chances. I'll believe it when I see it.

Besides, the guy fouled out in 11 minutes last night. That's right, he had 6 fouls in 11 minutes last night. What a spectacular debut!!

It's been like a week since Yi's been here and he's already saying the pressure is getting to him and reports say Bulls rookie Joakim Noah was the guy who won the spotlight in the game, not Yi.

I can't promise tons of Bucks coverage, but I'll do my best to stay on the ball and keep track of the progress this season.

Game recap here.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The agony of defeat

The oh-so-righteous Cubs were swept right out of the playoffs and Babes Love Baseball decided that a pictorial tribute was much more appropriate than mere words

Check it out here. It's enough to warm any Brewers' fan's heart.

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

The Wicked Witch of the West is dead.

Sadly, I didn't see it, but USC lost to Stanford tonight.

I missed a lot of good action, but I will have plenty to report on Wisconsin Hockey tomorrow. (and also, that game that happened at 11am who's existence I'm in denial about)

In the meantime, let's just revel in all that is USC having lost. GEAUX TIGERS! GEAUX LSU!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Big Ten Football doesn't suck as much your conference does

Ohio State is #4. Wisconsin is #5. Purdue is #23.

I'm not so stupid as to not recognize that this is less about us being great and more about other teams sucking. However, my team's don't suck more than your conference's teams!

In all seriousness, for all the crap that we took in the first few weeks due to Michigan's loss, I'd say we've rebounded rather nicely. There isn't another conference with two teams in the top 5. edit: Sorry, I was wrong. Pac-10 too. My bad!

It's a long season and people are just way too quick to jump on the bandwagon.

When was the last time you remember being in the 5th week of the season and having two one-loss teams in the top 10? There are 12 one-loss teams in the top 25.

LSU is #1

And while I'm doubly happy, both because LSU is #1 and because stinkin' USC finally isn't, the whole makes me a little bitter.

For weeks Wisconsin has lost ground in the polls because of lackluster performances against bad teams.

Now LSU goes into halftime against Tulane (frickin' Tulane!)* leading 10-9 and jumps into first place.

I feel this is a little unfair.

* I can't express for you my dislike of all things Tulane. My small little Jesuit school in New Orleans shared a fence with Tulane, along with a bitter dislike of each other. The hate is palpable and very, very junvenile, but what can you do?

Brett Favre madness

I've kept away from blogging on the entity that is Brett Favre because even those living under rocks have heard that he broke the record yesterday.

However, what kind of fan would I be if I didn't at least mark the occasion.

First things first, this is a spectacular database that the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel put together to start of this season. I should have linked to it earlier, but it fell between the cracks. You can search through every TD he's thrown by
yards, receiver, opponent, stadium ... etc.
Any breakdown you want to see, it's here.

ESPN.com's game recap, and here

Len Pasquarelli's column

ESPN.com's breakdown of where Favre ranks among the best.

Another column

Some picture galleries here, here, here and here.

Don Banks' column on SI.com

Monday Morning QB

CBSports.com's recap