Thursday, July 31, 2008
This series has been the most frustrating of the season (Or maybe tied with the Boston series). I think they're very similar series. Our defense is awful. We can't get guys around the bases. Our pitching is faltering and we look like pretenders.
This series has highlighted the holes in the Brewers armor that other teams haven't been able to, namely our problems with leaving guys on base/not bringing in Runners in Scoring Position (RISP). This has been a problem all season - we're averaging just .239 for the season with RISP.
Since the All-Star Break, we're 19 for 122 with RISP.
In the thir past 60 AB, Brewers hitters have just THREE HITS - that's .50 with RISP.
We're 0 for 15 this series.
Why must we consistantly attempt to score 5 runs with one swing of the bat? We swing at impossible-to-hit pitches and try to send them to the lake. What's wrong with breaking a rhythm? Why can't we punch balls, bunt, or bloop into the holes? Why are we so undisciplined that we can't hit strategically and instead are constantly trying to hit homers. If we're down by 5, your ineffectual one-run homer does us no good.
Where's the plate discipline? How many first-pitch strikes right down the middle of the plate are we going to watch? Every team knows by now that we do this. We are behind the count with every batter. Does anyone remember seeing Kevin Mench last season when he'd come up to bat and not even fully get into his batting stance for the first pitch. There was no question he wasn't taking the bat from his shoulder. That's this whole team right now. Why even bother with the first set of warm-up swings, glove adjustments and stances?
We've also been called out a lot looking at third pitch strikes. So we're watching the first strike and watching the third. We're going to have one strike to play with each at bat? Isn't there some sort of happy medium here?
Conversely, if a pitcher is struggling and has thrown 6 straight strikes, why are we swinging away? Force him to throw to you. Take as many free bases as you can get. Lastly, please, for the love of god, stop swinging at sliders low and away with less than 2 strikes.
At this point, I think we need to be looking at hitting coach Jim Skaalen. We have absolutely no plate discipline, we can't bring in RISP. Those are pretty much 1a and 1b on the list of important things our hitting coach needs to accomplish. Why isn't he under fire?
The rest of the list are sort of like quick hits:
What happened to Jason Kendall's ability to throw out runners? Suddenly his throws are Rickie Weeks-esque - all over the place!
Speaking of Rickie, isn't it awful that it's impossible to assume a double play with us. I mean, I know with official scoring you can't assume it anyway, but everytime Rickie lays his hands on the ball, I want to cover my eyes. When you're watching on TV, Brian Anderson always says we've turned the play before the ball is throw - he thinks they look that routine that there's NO WAY we wouldn't turn it - and yet, there appears to be no such thing as a routine double-play for this team.
A hit and run with the pitcher at the plate? And you're reasoning was the heat? Seriously, Ned? Your excuses are floundering...
I'm not a big Yost fan, I've made that pretty clear, but he's been pretty even-keeled lately. I still hate his press conferences, but that doesn't have to do with his managing, so I guess it doesn't matter, right? Twice this week he completely mismanaged his starting pitchers and there's no excuse.
Jeff Suppan completely lost his stuff in the 5th inning last Sunday and Ned kept hoping Soup would get out the next batter. Instead, he gave up 7 runs, all while Seth McClung was already warm and just standing in the bullpen wondering, like the rest of us, what the hell Ned was thinking.
Ben Sheets gave up seven straight hits and 6 runs in the 6th inning on Tuesday before Ned pulled him.
One last additional Ned rant:
Dear Ned Yost.
Brian Shouse is a LOOGY. He's a situational lefty. I'm aware that you were able to convert Mitch Stetter a bit and he's now effective against both right and left handers. I'm not sure why you think that means you should/can do the same with Brian Shouse. He has proven time and again that he does not fair well against righties. He's one of the most effective LOOGY's in the game. Stop trying to force it. Leaving him in against five straight righties is not only ludicrous, but suicidal to the game we're playing.
The Brewers Fanbase
One more letter:
Dear Corey Hart,
What the hell happened to you? Did you lose your mojo when you went to New York? Are you on the Derrick Turnbow career train - good stuff, all-star game, disaster? You look like you're barely jogging in the outfield, your swing is sad and you just look lethargic. Please pull your head out of your butt. Remember how they St. Louis paper exhalted you as one of the most-underappreciated players? Where's that guy? We'd like him back, please.
The Brewers Fanbase
P.S. - Please go back to wearing high socks.
And just in case you thought I'm over-reacting when I get upset about how bad we perform when we finally get some national attention:
"In improving to 12-4, Dempster was outstanding during his seven innings of work ... but his performance didn't lack strangeness, either. Two of the five hits he allowed were by opposing pitcher Manny Parra, who doubled and tripled to lift his batting average to .220. Dempster also wild-pitched home a run. And during his follow-through of a delivery to Prince Fielder in the sixth, the right-hander fell to his knees.
The Brewers played anything but sound, fundamental baseball, with their assorted misplays and goof-ups greeted simultaneously by cheers and groans because there were as many Cubbie fans as Brew Crew backers at "Wrigley Field North."
All in all, a pretty humiliating evening on ESPN for an organization trying to prove it belongs in prime time.
The loss dropped the Brewers four games behind the NL Central-leading Cubs, into a second-place tie with a remarkable St. Louis team that refuses to go away.
With the season only two-thirds complete, it's far too early to say the Cubs have wrapped up anything. Same with saying Milwaukee is doomed. Still, the Brewers' claims of being unaffected by this series' results were as unbelievable as Erin Andrews' work clothes."
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Over at Brewers Bar, they have no such qualms about being involved and placing blame:
By Jesse Motiff | July 29th, 2008
The Cubs beat the Brewers 7-1 Tuesday night at Miller Park. I could only stand to stomach the breakdown through the sixth inning before I got up and left. Ben Sheets took the lost but I blame Ned Yost.
Yost left Sheets in the game to give the game away with not even going out for a mound visit. Sheets gave up three runs and loaded the bases before recording an out in the sixth inning. It was at that point that Yost came to the mound to replace Sheets with Carlos Villanueva.
Last night’s loss was heart-breaking and tonight’s game was just plain frustrating. The Cubs have done a great job by beating the two Milwaukee aces. All credit goes to them for that. Luckily, the Cubs only gained one game each night so the Brewers are only three games back. Tomorrow is a new day and the Crew will send Manny Parra to the mound to stop the losing streak that now sits at three.
___Between Ned's lack of mound visit/control here and the complete uselessness he showed with Suppan over the weekend (WHY OH WHY DOESN'T HE PUT MCCLUNG IN?) - Ned's back on the crap list.
Running Backs (And At A Glance)
Quarterbacks (And At A Glance)
Defensive Backs (And At A Glance)
Defensive Line (And At A Glance)
I'm late with this, but RB Lance Smith is suspended indefinitely
Team conditioning on Bascom Hill
Returning players learn from last year
Big Ten Meetings:
On Bielema and Beckum
Are 3 tailbacks too many?
Defensive End Matt Shaughnessy was named to the Hendricks Award watch list
But this guy ranks him 4th in the Big Ten
Ranking the Big Ten Interior Linemen
Bleacher Reports Big Ten report
The Seniors want a title, the rest doesn't mean much
From this mailbag:
Brian from parts unknown, writes:
Hey Adam-lets talk some Badger Football-do you think the scheduling of Cal Poly will cost the Badgers a shot in the BCS? They have a favorable schedule-if they stay healthy and with a couple of breaks, they could be a very dangerous team later in the season. They have a lot of the skilled positions back, including the best groups of running backs in the Big Ten, maybe even the country. There are high expectations here in Wisconsin, your thoughts??
Adam Rittenberg: Most major-conference teams are dipping into the I-AA ranks for scheduling purposes, so the Badgers should be fine. A quick look shows that Ohio State plays Youngstown State, Florida plays The Citadel (a Wisconsin opponent last year), Oklahoma plays Chattanooga and West Virginia plays Villanova. The only thing that could hurt is that the Cal Poly game comes at the end of the season. Wisconsin's nonconference schedule isn't too treacherous, as a reporter pointed out to Bret Bielema last week, but a visit to Fresno State provides a major test in September. If Wisconsin knocks off Fresno in Fresno, it will have nothing to worry about regarding possible BCS selection.____
Post Spring Two Deep depth chart
At the Big Ten Meetings Bielema was asked about our "soft" non-conference schedule and got a little feisty:
The reporter acknowledged Bielema had the floor.
Bielema noted that Akron, which visits Camp Randall Stadium on Aug. 30, had been a strong team in the Mid-American Conference over the past two seasons.
He noted that when the contract with Marshall, which visits Madison on Sept. 6, was set several years ago, Marshall was among the top programs in the nation.
"And then to go to Fresno State," he added, "if you read the publications in the preseason, is top 25 in almost everything."
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
My dog is sick and I spent the first 2 hours of Monday with him in the vet.
It's very, very difficult to blog without the internet and now I'm late into work on my busiest day - needless to say, there won't be any posting.. So Sorry!
Friday, July 25, 2008
WE'RE GOING STREAKING!
We've won 8 in a row. We swept a road series and swept in St. Louis for the first time EVER. It's the longest road undefeated streak since 1999.
Seven straight road wins. 20 game home run hitting streak. First time to be 15 games over .500 since 1992.
Ryan Braun was 15 for 29 on the road trip
Thursday, July 24, 2008
July 24, 2008
MILWAUKEE—The Brewers' playoff push has run afoul of an unusual distraction, as sources close to the organization confirm that newly acquired husky starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia and sizable power-hitting first baseman Prince Fielder continue to visualize one another as a 6'7" chili cheese dog and a 260-pound hamburger with all the trimmings, respectively.
Team insiders say the problem has become a serious disruption, with numerous incidences of each player tying a bib around his neck, holding a knife and fork in their outstretched hands, and chasing the other around the ballpark.
"I should have noticed something was wrong weeks ago, when Prince, who has always had a certain fascination with the sausage races, expressed delight that we had 'signed Cleveland's huge chili cheese dog' and welcomed C.C. to the team by coating him liberally with celery salt and mustard," said manager Ned Yost. "And in his very first start, C.C. praised the way our 'great big hamburger' was hitting, and kept trying to pick off runners at first base by throwing ketchup and extra cheese to Prince."
Although both Fielder and Sabathia are major factors in the Brewer's playoff plans, their teammates admit that their recent displays of appetite have been a bit unnerving.
"Usually, the other players step in before one of them takes a bite out of the other," said Brewers reliever David Riske. "But the whole thing is pretty unsettling. Sabathia and I were getting our arms rubbed the other day, just kind of stretching them out across the massage table, when suddenly an empty jar of relish rolled by. I looked up, and Prince had put a huge hot dog bun and all the trimmings on Sabathia's arm when he wasn't paying attention. C.C. pulled himself out at the last minute, but when Prince's teeth came together, it made a chomping sound you could hear throughout the clubhouse."
Sabathia responded by chasing Fielder around the clubhouse with a pair of giant salt and pepper shakers.
On Monday, Yost announced that any player who attempted to devour another, no matter how delicious they seemed to appear, would be subject to disciplinary action. However, like many disciplinary measures involving athletes, the decree seemed only to make those involved more cunning.
"I was using the hot tub to ease some soreness the other day with Prince, who had nodded off, when C.C. came in carrying these grocery bags," said third baseman Bill Hall. "I had just noticed that something smelled really good when I realized that C.C. was cutting up vegetables and throwing them in the hot tub with Prince, alongside plenty of noodles and spices, to make some sort of hamburger casserole."
Luckily, Fielder woke up before the mixture thickened and retaliated by attempting to trap Sabathia in the steam room along with a bag of mesquite-flavored grilling charcoal."This has to end," Yost admitted to reporters as the Brewers readied themselves for a four-game series against St. Louis. "We can't have players trying to eat one another, even in Milwaukee, so we're taking steps. We've already talked to both players, explaining that while they are big, they are not food. And as a provisional measure, we've gotten Ray Durham from the Giants in the hopes that both Prince and C.C. will think he's a giant ham and leave one another alone.
07/28 vs. Cubs: Sabathia
07/29 vs. Cubs: Sheets
07/30 vs. Cubs: Parra
07/31 vs. Cubs: Bush
08/26 at Cards: Sheets
08/27 at Cards: Parra
09/16 at Cubs: Sabathia
09/17 at Cubs: Sheets
09/18 at Cubs: Parra
09/26 vs. Cubs: Suppan
09/27 vs. Cubs: Sabathia
09/28 vs. Cubs: Sheets
Only 2 starts by someone other than CC, Sheets and Parra.
Ok, on BB Tonight they were talking about our game just now and how baserunning mistakes were a big issue and that we're leaving the Cards in the game instead of blowing this wide open. They pointed out the first inning in which Rickie hit the double and never looked over to the third base coach, thereby ending up on second instead of third. He allowed the SS to deke him.
They also brought up Rickie getting picked off in the third. They froze frame and showed how Molina set up outside and because he's Molina, Rickie should have taken that as a sign and stayed closer to the bag. Here's the freeze frame of where Molina set up to begin with and where he was on that pitch. The highlighted one is where he started the AB, the one to the left is where he ended up being set before the pitch.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Under orders from Roger Goodell to resolve their impasse with Brett Favre, the Green Bay Packers have begun making calls about their former franchise QB, according to online reports.
Goodell talked to Packers GM Ted Thompson, who confirmed the team was ready to move on without Favre. Goodell asked Thompson to begin exploring the market for the disgruntled QB, according to WEAU 13, an NBC television affiliate in Wisconsin.
The report also says Goodell told Thompson that he will reinstate Favre as an active player, should he make the request and that the commissioner has also spoken to Favre and promised his assistance.
The team wasted no time, calling several teams Tuesday night — including at least one NFC team — according to a report on NFL.com.
One name being brought up a lot lately as a possible destination for Favre is Tampa Bay, where coach Jon Gruden has a history with Favre as his former quarterbacks coach.
And Chris Simms, one of the several QBs currently on the roster, says GM Bruce Allen has given it thought, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
"He asked me questions about Brett Favre. He asked if I felt Brett would be able to come back and be good here if he didn't have a lot of reps in training camp. I said I thought he would but there would have to be some compromise with coach Gruden. He'll just want the play called and to drop back and throw it in there," said Simms.
Meanwhile, there are also updates on the tampering charges filed by Green Bay against the Vikings.
Cell phone charges, to be specific.
The Packers say phone records show Favre used his team-issued cell phone to make several calls to Vikings coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
NFL officials are in Minnesota to talk to the team about the tampering charges, according to an early Wednesday report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
This week's ESPN The Magazine includes lots of Brewers mentions:
In their Big Ten, #3 says "Brewers and Cubs load up to win now. So if the world does come to an end this October, we'll know why." and includes a big picture of CC pitching.
In Mike & Mike's Page 2 section called The Big Question, there's a big picture of Brewers fans and a discussion of the Brewers in the post-season:
Greeny:The Brewers understand how to play in this era of baseball. If you're a team that can always spend upward of $100 million on payroll, you'll make plenty of post-season runs. But team like the Brewers have to realize when they're competitive window is closing; they need to strike while the iron is hot. Milwaukee knows it's going to lose CC Sabathia and likely Ben Sheets after this season. And at that point, it'll reload and try for another run in five years. That's the other side of this era of baseball. And the Brewers are playing it perfectly.
Golic: Well, only if the fans like the approach. Currently, the fans in Milwaukee are getting their moment in the sun. And playing to win this year knowing you won't contend next year is what the Marlins have done successfully twice. So maybe it is worth it.
Greeny:It's definitely worth it, especially in an era in which the fans of small-market teams have been conditioned to believe they have no chance. The Brewers haven't made the post-season since 1982. You don't think those fans would wait another 25 years if they could just win it all this season? But what about this: Would a Milwaukee-Tampa Bay World Series be good for baseball?
Golic: It's a good thing for baseball, but it's a bad thing for Fox, which airs the World Series.
Greeny: If it's bad for Fox, it's bad for baseball. The recent NBA Finals wasn't a great series, but the ratings were very strong because it was the Lakers and the Celtics. The reality is, Milwaukee and Tampa Bay could play seven extra-inning games decided by walk-off home runs and it wouldn't rate well. That's just a fact. Parity in baseball is good, too much parity is bad.
On the MLB Insider page, the column K Korner by Tim Kurkjian says:
The Brewers won big in the CC Sabathia deal. The Indians got slugging OF Matt LaPorta as a part of a four-player package, but one scout says, "He isn't even one of the two best players on his double-A team." So, Brewers fans, keep an eye out for SS Alcides Escobar and 3B Mat Gamel...
On that same page it says: The number 1,400: The day of Milwaukee's big trade with Cleveland, the Brewers sold 50 customized CC Sabathia jerseys and 250 T-shirts. The next night, Sabathia's Beer Town debut, the team hawked another 100 jerseys and 1,000 tees, exhausting the initial supply of 1,400 items. Pennant fever, catch it... It lasts forever. (Or at least until Sabathia becomes a free agent after this season.)
The same K Korner column says this about the Cubs trade:
Rich Harden didn't cost the Cubs anyone who'll have a major impact this year. Although he has No. 1 stuff, durability is a question mark. "You always have to have another pitcher ready in case he can't go four innings," says a former As teammate. That's painfully reminiscent of the Mark Prior era in Chicago. Someone who knows Harden well says, "Until this year, he wouldn't go out there unless he was 110%. He's just starting to understand the difference between pain and soreness.
Lots of Brewers links today.
I like what this game recap has to say about last night's game, including this quote from Cards manager Tony LaRussa:
"Do you think the bullpen lost this game?" an irritated manager Tony La Russa said. "Do you think the bullpen lost it yesterday? How many runs did we score? It ain't the bullpen, our team got beat."
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch did a feature on Corey Hart that's extremely flattering and says that despite the big names on the team, at the end of the day, Corey's the MVP. It also includes this:
An admitted bad-ball hitter, he has been called a "poor man's Vlad Guerrero," a reference to the Los Angeles Angels star who is the king of hitting off-the-plate pitches.
Now, the former 11th-round pick's stock has risen so much that when opposing teams try to discuss Hart in a trade, Melvin said, "I tell them I'm not going to even talk about him. But it's taken clubs three or four years to ask about him. They see him and say, 'Hey, that guy's a pretty good player.' (General manager) Jim Hendry of the Cubs told me they fear him more than anybody on the club.''
Definitely worth your time to read.
SI looks at the run to the playoffs and says:
The Cubs are the best team in the league, and all the trade acquisitions in the world by the teams chasing them aren't going to change that. They won't be caught by anyone, leaving them only to manage their health and set their rotation for the start of the postseason. With as deep and balanced a roster as there is in the National League, the Cubs will be the favorites to reach their first World Series in 63 years.
The acquisition of Sabathia made clear what should have been before: the Brewers are better than the Cardinals, and will finish ahead of them in the Central. Whether that will be enough to reach the postseason -- the NL East features three teams as good as or better than the Brew Crew -- is an incredibly close call. It's not unreasonable to suggest that Russell Branyan saved this team, arriving in June and providing the second lefty power bat that the team desperately needed at a time when the team's hopes were fading away. With Ray Durham now on hand as well, the Brewers can put out better balance in the lineup than they've been able to in years, which should help them threaten both northpaws and southpaws. The bullpen remains a concern; their collection of veteran arms has been intermittently effective, and prone to ugly blowups. The defense is also sub-par, although much better than the 2007 team. If the Braves don't win the wild card, the Brewers will.They also name Rickie Weeks as the player to watch. Interesting.
The Cubs were fined half a million dollars for violations having to do with this year's draft that included failing to report a signing to MLB's New York offices and putting the player on the field before receiving approval for the signing from MLB offices.
Vote here for Baseball Tonight's all-time greatest of each of the franchises.
Brewers voting here.
|Who is the all-time greatest player in Brewers history?|
|Mike Caldwell (1977-1984):|
Won 22 games with a 2.36 ERA in 1978.
|Cecil Cooper (1977-1987):|
Three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glover with Brewers.
|Jim Gantner (1976-1992):|
Stalwart second baseman hit .333 in 1982 World Series.
|Ted Higuera (1985-1994):|
Led AL in ERA in 1988 with a 2.45 mark.
|Geoff Jenkins (1998-2007):|
Hit 212 home runs in ten-year Brewers career.
|Paul Molitor (1978-1992):|
Five-tool star became elite leadoff hitter with Brewers.
|Ben Oglivie (1971-1986):|
41 home runs led AL in 1980.
|Dan Plesac (1986-1992):|
Brewers' career leader in saves, games, and ERA.
|Gorman Thomas (1973-1983, 1986):|
Low-average, high-power slugger defined the "Harvey's Wallbangers" Brewers.
|Robin Yount (1974-1993):|
Hit .331 with 129 runs scored in 1982 MVP campaign.
The theory is that CC will look to go to California, his home, when his contract is up at the end of this year.
This tidbit from Sunday says we're still looking at Huston Street, but so are the White Sox...
The Brewers and White Sox are two of the teams to have inquired about A's closer Huston Street, SI.com has learned. Milwaukee's interest is no surprise since the contending Brewers have a willing owner, an aggressive general manager, a stash of prospects to trade and a deep desire to improve their bullpen. The interest of Chicago's South Side team is more curious since its bullpen has been among the best in baseball this year.
We signed Braun's brother to a minor-league contract.
In other signing news:
Also on Tuesday, the Brewers announced they had come to terms with right-hander Blake Billings, a prep pitcher selected in the 19th round of the First-Year Player Draft whose deal was first mentioned on the "Brew Crew Ball" blog last week.
The team also signed undrafted right-hander Bobby McEwen from Gonzaga University.
Milwaukee has now signed 34 of its 54 Draft picks including 25 of its first 26 picks. Their first-round pick, catcher Brett Lawrie, is playing for Team Canada in the run-up to next month's Olympic Summer Games. He remains unsigned, but indications from both sides are that a deal will be struck before the Aug. 15 deadline to sign Draft picks.
Veteran outfielder Jay Gibbons passed a physical in Huntsville, Ala., on Tuesday afternoon and cleared the final obstacle on his long road back to organized baseball.
The Brewers inked a Minor League contract with Gibbons, a left-handed hitter who belted 121 home runs for the Orioles from 2001-07. He was released in March and had been playing in an Independent league.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
That being said, of course Favre became the main topic of conversation. I had SportsCenter on to see Brewers highlights and caught interviews with Gilbert Brown and LeRoy Butler and both had interesting things to say, I thought:
"Everybody can't sit around thinking about everybody else. I'm a grown man, too. He put his pants on just like me. I ain't got time to worry about him," said Gilbert Brown.
"For the bad things that are going on, if I was Brett, I'd say 'look, it's my fault because I wavered back and forth.' I'd take my punishment I'm going to come into camp, open competition, and see can I win the job. And if they say I'm going to come in on the 27th as a backup, that's fine, I'll earn it," said LeRoy Butler.
Take what you want from them, I just thought they were interesting takes on all of the hoopla.
Today's Journal Sentinel had an long, well-written (I thought) column about the Brett situation.
It's on the front page of the sports section, but is listed as Packers Insider on the website, so I can't link to it. If you can get your hands on the paper, I think it's a really good read on the situation and provides good insight. While it does happen to fall on my side of the argument, that's not why I like it. There's no vitriol, it's not angry like I am. Just a good look at the situation and why McCarthy and Thompson's hands are tied.
One problem, Jim couldn't actually see McCovey Cove. On the Brewers SqueezePlay replay Saturday night, they showed the homerun. Here's the picture of the Cove...
Look at those sailboats go....
The Packers have asked multiple teams what they would be willing to offer for their team icon and former NFL MVP, the NFL Network reported -- a state of affairs once unthinkable in Green Bay.
While it is not known how many teams the Packers have contacted about Favre, they have not limited their inquiries to AFC teams, according to the report.
Favre retired in early March, but recently has been having second thoughts about playing in 2008. He has asked to be released from his contract, a request the team has no plans to grant. The team has said it is committed to Aaron Rodgers, Favre's former understudy, as its quarterback of the future.
The next step for Favre could be to petition NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement, a move that would force the Packers to release him or place him on their active roster. But last week, Favre's agent, James "Bus" Cook, said Favre has no plans to do so immediately.
According to the report, one NFL executive speculated that the Packers simply are completing their due diligence on a potential trade market for Favre before deciding whether it would be worth dealing him.
Favre's contractual rights belong to the Packers until his current deal expires after the 2010 season.
Green Bay's players report to training camp on Monday, with the first practice Tuesday.
Also from ESPN, reactions and what people are saying about this whole debacle here
Monday, July 21, 2008
Durham's On Base Percentage so far this season is higher than any other member of the team (it's .385). He's a better option off the bench than Joe Dillon, who was sent to AAA Nashville when we acquired Durham. He's a switch hitter, giving us a valid left-handed option off the bench. He's a veteran and he didn't cost much. It's no blockbuster Sabathia trade, but I think it's a solid-enough move.
His OBP is .050 points higher than Rickie's. This is a bit of a no-lose situation. Best case scenario, Durham keeps his BA and OBP as high as they are and he becomes a guy we can't ignore at 2B and in the leadoff position. Worst case scenario, we have a left-handed guy to come off the bench and pinch hit.
A few tidbits I picked up off Brewerfan.net:
Durham's OPS (on base plus slugging) against the Cubs is 1.129 and against the Cards is .924.
Between the Cubs and Cards, they have 1 (count them one) left-handed starter in their rotations right now. Having Durham really opens things up for us.
The best part of this trade is how much talking Ned has done to say that Rickie is our guy, he's our second baseman, nothing's changing.
It feels like while Ned is stubbornly sticking with Rickie, Doug Melvin is forcing his hand and going above him to make the situation more urgent. Like Melvin knows we can't win with Rickie in the leadoff and though Ned is talking the talk, Melvin's walking the walk.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought some of Ned's quotes were hilarious:
“I wouldn’t say he has underachieved,” Yost said.
“He has never been a .300 hitter (in the majors), so who says he is underachieving?
“He’s working his way up. He’s getting better in all phases of his game. For me, he has never underachieved because he never achieved up here. How can you say he has underachieved?”
“Nobody comes at the same time,” Yost said. “Everybody comes at their own (pace). Those other guys still have a lot of things to be done, to get better at.and from another article:
"I will not, probably, right now," Yost said. "Rickie's doing fine. I'll play Ray a couple days a week, maybe. We'll see how it goes. I'll take it day by day.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," Yost added. "We'll find out when it happens."
"He just finds a way to help you win baseball games," Yost said. "Either by scoring a run, getting a big hit every now and then, stealing a base, taking a way to set something up. A lot of things go on that don't get noticed with Rickie that helps us win games. Everybody looks at solid numbers and says, 'How can you do this?' But he helps you win games."
Yost called the Weeks critics "people that don't know anything about anything." He did concede that there is plenty of room for improvement.
"He's going to get better," Yost said. "But he's never been a .300 hitter, ever. So who says he's underachieving? He is working his way up there. He's getting better in all phases of his game. For me, he has never underachieved because he has never achieved up here [in the Majors]."
“Rickie has yet to begin to scratch the surface of what he can do offensively,” Yost said. “It’s more promising than it is frustrating. He helps us win ball games now, so there’s not a lot of frustration involved in it.”
“It’s not like it’s, ‘Come on, Rickie, do something.’ He does something every day. A lot of it just goes unnoticed.”
I was on a message board reading someone else's "keys" to this series and one involved Ned Yost not trying to "out manage" Tony LaRussa. The point of this is that Ned is NO Tony LaRussa.
And yet every time we play the Cardinals, it feels like Ned is trying to prove that he can run with the big boys and it often feels like LaRussa is just shaking his head and wondering what the heck Ned is doing.
This led to a pretty hilarious mental image in which Ned is furiously in the clubhouse trying to plan his managing beforehand and Tony is in his clubhouse planning ways to screw with Ned. I imagine LaRussa looking forward to these series all season long.
No matter how much Ned tries to do his matchups, LaRussa has no problem burning a pinch hitter so that Ned has trotted out a reliever for a matchup that doesn't exist anymore.
LaRussa is the kind of hitting the pitcher 8th. Tonight already he had the hit and run on with his pitcher on 1st. He'll be unusual. He'll be unconventional. And he will totally screw with and out-manage Ned.
Ned Yost, you are not smarter than Tony LaRussa.
Speaking of our manager, if Seth McClung and Jeff Suppan do not have short leashes today and tomorrow, I'll be very upset. We have CC and Sheets for the final 2 games of the series. There is no need to save the bullpen. Please be quick with the hook if McClung or Suppan struggles. We've got Bush and Villanueva in the bullpen, well-rested and able to eat up more than a couple of innings.
It's crucial that we take at least one of these first two games. We cannot rely on CC and Sheets to be the only pitchers that can win games for us. This is a huge series and we need to take every chance at winning it, not just splitting it. Please Ned, have the hook out and ready to go.
And if Guillermo Mota even sniffs a warmup in a game where we have less than a 12 run lead, I will personally drive to St. Louis and do bodily harm. He is not ok. A few days rest didn't fix him. Do not risk this crucial series. Do not start this 11 game swing against division opponents with a blown game by the mediocre parts of our bullpen.
The Cards bullpen is worse than ours. Please strike early and force them to pull their starter early. This is our best chance.
[redacted part about Rickie Weeks in leadoff as he just hit a 3-run homer to the third deck to give us the lead]
Please force the Cardinals to get us out. Do not give them easy outs on the bases as we've done all season. Yadier Molina WILL throw us out when we stray too far from the bag. He WILL gun down either Rickie or Cameron. A bit of a judicious hand in regards to baserunning would be appreciated and appropriate here.
(Ok, so the game played a little part in the rest of the entry)
The Capital Times — 7/18/2008 6:49 am
Would you eat a beetle for $30? Well, as many as 250 Madison Mallards fans did Thursday night.
The Mallards hosted Beetle Eating Night at the Duck Pond at Warner Park, in which the first 250 people to eat a dead beetle received a free ticket to the ballpark's all-you-can-eat-and-drink Duck Blind party deck -- a $30 value.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
#77 by Nicole on 07.20.08 7:00 pm | Quote
Not yet. Rumor is that it’s close, but the Brewers GM was mum before today’s game.
I’m thinking he’s getting on our team plane after today’s game, though.
Bill Schroeder and Brian Anderson just said "Guess we'll have another guy on the plane ride home." They said they found out via text message from the Brewers front office. Love it.
Call me Kreskin!
SAN FRANCISCO -- Brewers manager Ned Yost made it abundantly clear Sunday that Rickie Weeks is his leadoff man and second baseman, but Weeks will have some company for the rest of the season.
The Brewers on Sunday finalized a trade with the Giants for veteran switch-hitting second baseman Ray Durham, who did not play in any of the three games between the teams at AT&T Park this weekend. The Giants said he had the flu.
Headed to San Francisco in the trade were fleet-footed outfielder Darren Ford from Class A Brevard County and Triple-A Nashville left-hander Steve Hammond.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The first half of this season has been excruciatingly unpredictable, and baseball fans across America are grinding their teeth in search of a logical explanation to a maddening last few months.
Which means only one thing: Fantasy owners everywhere are in a uniquely painful state of retrospective agony. No one -- not even me - could've seen this all coming when they made their preseason draft picks. It simply wasn't possible.
Don't believe me? Take a look at the first half's 10 players who inspired the most regret, and tell me you saw it all coming:
This article is a mid-season review and has the best possible title for Russell:
"...and surprise contributions from role players like three-true-outcomes overlord Russell Branyan."
It also includes this: "The possibility of a Cubs-Brewers NLCS to decide the pennant, with long-suffering fans of both teams yelling at each other from 90 miles away, is almost too good to imagine. Plus, then maybe we could finally push Favre Watch to the sidelines for good."
I am (and have been) SO over Brett Favre for about 6 months now. The way his retirement was treated was an abomination of journalism. Here in Wisconsin, it was Favre 24/7 and it got ridiculous and out-of-hand. I'm sorry, but I just don't think anyone deserves the deification he received.
I tried valiantly to ignore most of this talk, from the first retirement rumor through today. I stopped watching the nightly news. I only watch Baseball Tonight, instead of SportsCenter. This is coming out more angry than I thought I was, but frankly I just wish Favre would sit down and shut up. I find it so off-putting for a guy to sit and talk about his own legacy. Maybe it's me, but I find it incredibly distasteful - too boastful, I guess. And for someone who is so self-aware of his legacy, he's certainly doing his best to flush it down the toilet.
Every 4-6 weeks since then, there's been some sort of leak about how he's going to unretire and he wants to come back. It's to the point that I feel these "leaks" were orchestrated as their timing meant that as soon as he wasn't a story and as soon as their were bigger sports stories in Wisconsin, here came another possible Favre unretirement. This latest one came just in time for the baseball All-Star Break, which I don't think is it all coincidental.
The day the Brewers signed C.C. Sabathia and the Bucks signed their draft pick, this tidbit happened on SportsCenter:
Scott Van Pelt:"What I wouldn't do to be in Milwaukee today, raise a double fister of Miller's and extend Summerfest an extra day."
Michele Tofoya : "After a hardy burp just sit back and watch first CC Sabathia get traded to the Brewers, then Richard Jefferson get introduced to the Bucks, and the likelyhood that Brett Favre will do something to trump it all because he won't be mentioned in the Wisconsin press today unless he does."
He was the butt of the joke even before this rant with Greta Van Sustern. Now he's going on to say that we don't know the whole story and Ted Thompson's not telling the truth and Brett can't trust him. O RLY Brett? Because saying you were retiring and then changing your mind totally makes you trustworthy? And while we're on the subject, I would imagine it's ard for them to trust you too, when they had a chartered jet scheduled to come down and see you 2 months ago when you first decided you were coming back, only to cancel it because you still weren't "100% committed."
And I just don't see how anyone can blame Ted Thompson at this point. The man has a team to run. He's got 80 other players to worry about. He cannot yank them around and pull the carpet out from under Aaron Rodgers because of Favre. I think it jeopardizes Ted Thompson's standing/reputation with other players - not just on the roster, but on other teams as well. If he bends to Favre, he's going to lose the trust of the other guys. I think Thompson gets a reputation as someone not looking out for all the players and it effects whether or not guys want to come here in the future.
This article from the retirement hoopla has agent Bus Cook saying: "'nobody forced you to make this decision to retire". Interesting that now Brett's saying that Ted Thompson and that Packers forced him to make a decision.
Because how dare the leader of a professional football franchise want the most important position on the field solidified sometime before mini-camp. How dare he not want to go through the "Will He/Won't He" that we suffered through for two off-seasons prior to this. How unfair and ridiculous of him to expect to be able to make decisions for the rest of the team and not drop everything for Brett Favre.
Of course, since the story went to the media when Ted Thompson didn't return his text messages (is this how we're handling business deals now, by text?), I find it hard to imagine that Brett didn't expect Ted Thompson to drop everything.
The more this story goes on, the more I think Brett Favre is an egomaniacal jerk. Buddy, you had your chance. Ok, so you changed your mind and you need to discuss it with Ted. But Ted doesn't need to drop his vacation at your whim. You've been sitting on this for months. Wait another week. For someone who has often pontificated on how much he loves his privacy and wants respect from the media/fans in terms of personal time/space, you sure didn't give a damn about the fact that Ted Thompson was taking some personal time and you had a fit when he didn't drop everything to cater to you.
In addition, I love how you want your release, even though you have said you don't know if anyone is interested in you but you want your release "for whatever comes up", but if the Packers won't give you that, you're in no hurry for reinstatement because you don't want to pay the $15,000/day fine for not showing up to camp.
"I know this has been tough on him," Favre said of Rodgers. "And this has nothing to do with him, this whole deal."
Saying that this has nothing to Aaron Rodgers is like running off with the bride and saying it has nothing to do with the groom. You're putting his starting job in jeopardy. You're making him the ugly step-sister. You're distracting the entire club. You're ensuring that if Rodgers stumbles, he gets the "we should've brought back Favre" cold shoulder. And you admitted that you didn't really bother to work with him/teach him/mentor him as any good out-going quarterback should have. So he's gotten nothing but screwed from day 1, but you know, it has nothing to do with him.
I'm not understanding why every story about Aaron Rodgers intimates that we aren't secure in him as our quarterback because we drafted two others. Last I checked, every team carries 3 quarterbacks. We don't have any others. I'm sorry Craig Nall, but we're not willing to take the chance that you're our starter if Rodgers gets injured.
In addition, I think both Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn were steals. If Brohm comes out early, he would have been a top 10 pick. Matt Flynn is a national champion who fought for his position before. He stepped into a bowl game 2 years ago against Miami and absolutely picked them apart. He played for a top-tier program and amassed impressive numbers: he completed 245 of 437 passes (56.1 percent) for 3,096 yards, 30 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his LSU career. He carried 128 times for 340 yards (2.7 avg) and five scores. On 565 plays, he amassed 3,436 yards in total offense. And we got him in the 7th round.
This does not mean we don't trust Aaron Rogers - it means we need 3 QBs on our roster and we weren't passing up these opportunities. Did people think it was a threat to Brett when we drafted Rodgers? NO. They knew we couldn't pass him up in that position. Much like Brohm and Flynn.
Lastly, I'm not sure I could retain my last shreds of respect for Favre if he shows up in Green Bay this weekend. I know he's supposed to introduce Frank Winters for his induction in the Green Bay Hall of Fame, but if Favre shows up, the weekend becomes ALL ABOUT HIM and I find that inexcusable. Be selfless for the first time in a few weeks, Brett. Don't spoil what the moment for Winters and Gilbert Brown. Your presence will completely over-shadow the honorees.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Matt LaPorta to head Olympic baseball team
Favre is scheduled to present Frank Winters at this weekend's Packer Hall of Fame introduction. Frankly, I think he's better off staying home, since he'll just become the main event and take all the attention from the men who are there to be honored. Though being an attention whore does seem to be high on Brett's list of things to do this week... And he has no definite plans to apply for reinstatement
The Miller Park infield got a new kind of grass this week
Some Badger football game times have been set - of course the 1st two games are on Big Ten Network...
Not sure why this W. Va. paper is writing an article entitled "Badgers among college football elite" but I like it.
A look at the NL Central in the second half
Also, ESPN's Blue Ribbon Insider Previews are up for the new football season. Here's Wisconsin's:
Team preview: Wisconsin
Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook
Editor's Note: ESPN Insider has teamed with Blue Ribbon College
Football Yearbook to provide a comprehensive look at all Division I-A
teams. To order the complete 2008 edition of Blue Ribbon College
Football Yearbook, visit <www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call
(All information as of June 20, 2008)
COACH AND PROGRAM
There's only one Big Ten school that has played in a bowl game on New
Year's Day or later four seasons running. That's a good thing. A mark
of consistency. A coach can stamp that statement on every page of a
recruiting guide and sell the heck out of it.
But for Wisconsin, earning nine regular-season wins and ringing in
2008 at the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., just didn't cut it.
Not after ringing in 2007... and 2006 ... and 2005 ... in Florida at
either the Capital One or Outback Bowl.
Not after starting the 2007 season as the nation's No. 7 team in the
Associated Press poll and moving up to No. 5 with a 5-0 start -- only
to fall so hard and so fast that Wisconsin wasn't included in the
original Bowl Championship Series Top 25 two weeks later.
Not even after factoring in a legitimate alibi: Starter after starter
went down with injuries -- many of them of the season-ending variety.
So while many programs would have been content to be playing in
Florida on New Year's Day against Tennessee, the Badgers' 21-17 loss
seemed to encapsulate their autumn of discontent.
With Wisconsin on the march for the winning score, senior quarterback
Tyler Donovan's jump-ball pass to senior Paul Hubbard was intercepted
at the goal line with 28 seconds to go.
"It was a frustrating year," said coach Bret Bielema, who embarks upon
his third year. "But we had interviews with all of our players in
January and February and got it out of our system. We're eager to get
back on track."
Here's where the irony comes in: Getting back on track might require
the Badgers to ring in another New Year in Florida. With the 2009 BCS
title game being played on Jan. 8 at Dolphin Stadium, there's a
legitimate chance the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 teams will get to Miami
by New Year's Eve.
And, yes, there's a legitimate chance Wisconsin could turn out to be
one of those two teams.
The Badgers retain 17 starters from their 9-4 team, including all of
the pieces necessary to boast a merciless rushing attack. In addition
to welcoming back four offensive linemen -- including one four-year
starter and two three-year starters -- the Badgers feature a
bottomless well of running backs.
Prized redshirt freshman John Clay has the size, speed and resume to
challenge for a starting job at many schools, but he starts the fall
in Madison as the fourth-stringer. That's how it goes when junior P.J.
Hill (1,212 yards, 14 touchdowns), sophomore Zach Brown (568 yards,
five touchdowns) and junior Lance Smith-Williams (429 yards, three
touchdowns) are also on your side.
As for the other side of the ball at Wisconsin, six members of the
front seven are back. So is safety Shane Carter, whose seven
interceptions led the Big Ten last fall. But Bielema showed shortly
after the Outback Bowl that he wouldn't be content with his eight
returning defensive starters making the normal amount of offseason
improvement. He fired co-defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, who had
been in charge of play calling, other game day responsibilities and
addressing the defense during the week, and gave co-coordinator Dave
Doeren the whole job.
"Dave had been in more of a secondary role," Bielema said. "I just
really felt Dave was in a position to take us another step forward."
Bielema and Doeren also shuffled the coaching responsibilities on
defense, which ultimately concluded with former Pittsburgh assistant
Charles Partridge taking Hankwitz' spot on staff and taking on the
defensive linemen. The newly re-jiggered defensive staff then spent a
good part of the offseason scattered across the country learning some
"We felt we really needed to get better against the spread," Bielema
said. "College coaches are a lot more willing to share with each other
[than pro coaches]. Our defensive staff probably visited with about 12
defensive staffs. "You can't solve everything because everybody's
spread is different. Purdue doesn't run the same kind of spread as
Indiana, which doesn't run the same kind as Northwestern, which is
different than Illinois. But there are things you can do from game to
game no matter who you're playing."
For the second year in a row, Bielema and offensive coordinator Paul
Chryst have elected not to anoint their starting quarterback until the
Badgers wade hip-deep into fall practice. Fifth-year senior Allan
Evridge (6-2, 212) and redshirt junior Dustin Sherer (6-4, 213) are
the finalists in the competition to replace the graduated Tyler
"The big thing for me is, when you've got a guy who's going to be
starting for the first time ever, it's good to have competition as
long as possible," said Bielema, who would like to choose the starter
two weeks before the Aug. 30 opener against Akron.
Technically, one of the finalists wouldn't be starting for the first
time. Evridge, shortly before transferring to Wisconsin, started six
games for Kansas State in 2005. The left-hander completed 102-of-213
passes for 1,365 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions. He
also rushed for 203 yards and four scores. After serving his redshirt
year in 2006, Evridge finished runner-up to Donovan in last year's
derby. He got to throw just 12 passes last fall, completing five for
If someone has an edge going into fall ball, it's Evridge.
"Evridge has shown at times to be the No. 1 guy," Bielema said. "But
at times, he regresses."
"Allan has moments where he's good," Chryst said. "He has a good level
of football awareness. He's played in games. That counts for
something. He has plenty of arm strength, and he's athletic enough to
do some of the same things we did with Tyler. His biggest thing is
That last statement is important because here's Chryst's overall take
on the competition: "The biggest thing that will decide it is
Sherer hasn't had a chance to prove his consistency in games. He took
one snap last fall and went 0-for-3 with an interception in 2006.
"[Evridge and Sherer] are different guys, but what you'd do with them
is very similar," Chryst said. "Both got a ton of work with the first
group in the spring, so though Dustin is limited in game experience,
he's been involved with the offense and taken a lot of reps."
There are three other scholarship quarterbacks in the program trying
to move up the charts and get in the picture with the top two.
Redshirt sophomore Scott Tolzien (6-3, 200) is closest to getting into
"He's a little less mobile than Allan and Dustin," Chryst said. "He's
more along the lines of John Stocco. The thing I like about him, in
some ways he's the most consistent. This spring was when he truly got
some work. We saw some progress."
Redshirt freshman James Stallons (6-5, 172) has his selling points as well.
"He's kind of like a Jim Sorgi. Taller, lankier, a pro-style
quarterback. In many ways, he's our purest thrower. I'm excited to see
Then there's freshman Curt Phillips (6-3, 215), a Kingsport, Tenn.,
native who caused a stir by finishing high school early and enrolling
at Wisconsin in January. That enabled him to take part in spring ball.
Phillips piled up 2,263 passing yards, 1,885 rushing yards and 57
touchdowns in his senior year.
"He'll be the first to admit he has a long way to go," Chryst said.
"He realizes what a guy has to do. I thought he did a really good job
"It was really good for him to get in here," Bielema said. "The first
two weeks, it was just an overload of football. The last two weeks, he
really settled in."
In his first two seasons at Wisconsin, junior tailback P.J. Hill
(5-11, 236) piled up 2,805 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground. In
his spare time, he caught 32 passes for 286 yards and two more scores.
He's on pace to become the second-leading rusher in UW history, which
isn't too shabby considering he has to share the same record book as
NCAA career leader Ron Dayne.
But Wisconsin has so many thoroughbreds in its stable, there's no
guarantee Hill will be the starter when the Badgers line up against
Akron on Aug. 30.
"We have four very, very capable running backs," Bielema said.
"Everyone knows P.J.'s name, but a guy I've been impressed with is
In fact, Brown and Hill finished spring ball as co-starters on
Bielema's depth chart. Brown (5-11, 207), a sophomore, started the
final four games after Hill injured his leg against Ohio State. He
rushed for 450 yards and four scores in those games and finished with
568 yards and five touchdowns overall.
"I'm extremely impressed with him," Chryst said. "He's serious about
it. He's a heck of a complete back, and he's just finishing his first
lap. If he can make a good jump, just like any first-year guy to his
second year. ..."
Then it might be harder for junior Lance Smith-Williams (5-10, 208)
and redshirt freshman John Clay (6-2, 237) to get as many touches as
they deserve. The speedy Smith-Williams rushed for 429 yards and three
touchdowns last fall despite being limited to home games because of a
court order that's no longer in effect. Perhaps because of the
on-again, off-again nature of his season, Smith-Williams has yet to
show his coaches the consistency they'd prefer.
"He's an incredibly talented back," Chryst said. "He provides a real
good changeup. Athletically, you want him on the field against the
Clay, one of the finer schoolboy runners the state of Wisconsin has
turned out, received lots of reps in the spring.
"He's a heck of a big-guy changeup," Chryst said.
With Brown, Smith-Williams and Clay chasing his tail, Hill kicked it
up a notch during the spring. Apparently he's not ready to give up the
No. 1 spot.
"P.J.'s our most complete back," Bielema said. "He had his best spring."
"You've gotta start with P.J.," Chryst said. "But I think there's
enough football there for everyone."
Or at least for three guys. Because Brown and Smith-Williams still
have their redshirt years, Bielema hinted one could sit out this
season to save them for a bigger role down the road.
"If it comes to that," Chryst said, "we're lucky to have that problem."
The Badgers, who employ a fullback more often than most teams these
days, boast a pair of fifth-year seniors at the position in returning
starter Chris Pressley (6-1, 259) and Bill Rentmeester (6-1, 248).
"For us to have a good season, we need them to play their best,"
Chryst said. "They're similar guys -- big thumpers. We ask them to be
physical, but we want to broaden their job description a little bit.
We did some stuff in the spring; we wanted to look at them in the
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
The Badgers don't have any seniors to lead their wide receiving corps.
Their 12 returning receivers (counting redshirt freshmen) caught a
grand total of 30 passes for 461 yards and a touchown last year. In
short, Wisconsin has several big questions at wideout. But they'll be
easier to answer them with help from the exclamation points that are
the Badgers' tight ends.
"I like to think there's flexibility within the offensive system,"
Chryst said. "We're not reinventing the wheel. But obviously, a lot of
what we do revolves around the tight ends."
In senior Travis Beckum (6-4, 231) and junior Garrett Graham (6-4,
237), Wisconsin boasts the best set of tight ends in the country.
Beckum, who briefly contemplated turning pro a year early, was a
finalist for the John Mackey Award that goes to the nation's best
tight end after catching 75 passes for 982 yards and six scores.
If Beckum snags 67 passes this fall -- one less than his average over
the last two seasons -- then he'll become the most-prolific pass
catcher in Wisconsin history. Graham, meanwhile, served as Wisconsin's
No. 2 receiver last year with 30 catches for 328 yards and four
"At first glance, Garrett plays more on the line and Travis is more of
a guy who moves around," Chryst said. "But Travis lines up at tight
end about two-thirds of the time while Garrett has lined up everywhere
except quarterback and O-line. Everyone here knows Garrett's worth.
He's a really good football player."
Junior Mickey Turner (6-4, 240) is a versatile tight end who earned
crucial reps during the spring while Beckum and Graham sat out with
injuries that won't affect them in the fall. Sophomore Lance Kendricks
(6-4, 227) switched from receiver to tight end last fall, which
suggests he could be the next Badger on the Beckum track. Redshirt
freshman Rob Korslin (6-5, 247) is more of a traditional tight end
while freshman Jake Byrne (6-5, 254) came to school a semester early
to get a jump on fulfilling his potential.
"He's got a chance to be a good player,' Chryst said.
Meanwhile, though the Badgers don't have much experience at receiver,
two guys jumped to the forefront during spring ball. Sophomore Kyle
Jefferson (6-5, 175), who became a starter at midseason after senior
Luke Swan suffered a career-ending hamstring injury, finished with 26
catches for 412 yards and two touchdowns. He'll probably be joined in
the starting lineup by sophomore David Gilreath (5-11, 158), who
caught just one pass last fall but made a name for himself as the
Badgers' punt and kick returner.
"If we're going to be good, we need them to be good," Chryst said.
"Gilreath is probably our fastest receiver. He has good ball skills.
Jefferson just kept coming on last fall."
Sophomore Isaac Anderson (5-11, 176) redshirted last year due to
hamstring problems, but he caught five passes as a freshman. If
bloodlines count for anything, his father, Melvin, caught passes worth
1,265 yards at Minnesota and his mother, Lisa, ran track for the
Speaking of bloodlines, redshirt freshman Nick Toon (6-3, 214) should
be someone to watch this fall. His father, Al, caught 19 touchdown
passes during his years at Wisconsin before becoming a first-round
pick in the 1985 NFL draft. Nick Toon spent his redshirt year adding
20 pounds of muscle.
After catching six passes as a freshman and showing promise, junior
Xavier Harris (5-11, 182) caught two passes for 30 yards last year,
though he was hampered by lingering injuries.
Sophomore Daven Jones (6-1, 200), who caught one pass last year,
showed progress during the spring. Junior Elijah "T.J." Theus (6-2,
184) and sophomore Maurice Moore (5-11, 167) are the only other
scholarship recruits among the returning receivers.
Here's an indication of how experienced and how strong Wisconsin's
line expects to be this fall. The Badgers boast the nation's No. 1
line recruit from 2007 in redshirt freshman Josh Oglesby (6-7, 328)
and a 2005 USA Today All-American in junior Jake Bscherer (6-7, 294)
-- and they have to wait their turn to get on the field.
"I think the beauty of this group is their strength in numbers,"
offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said. "The fun thing about this
group? They know who they are and know what they're doing."
Fifth-year senior Kraig Urbik (6-6, 332) is receiving the most
preseason acclaim. Urbik, who has started 39 straight games, returns
to right guard after finishing last season at right tackle for injured
Eric Vanden Heuvel (6-7, 324). Vanden Heuvel, who had made 23 straight
starts at right tackle before hurting his foot, has healed and is
ready to roll.
So is senior left guard Andy Kemp (6-6, 315), who owned a streak of 20
straight starts before breaking his hand and missing three games.
Bielema believes Urbik, Vanden Heuvel and Kemp are too equally skilled
to proclaim one better than another, a good sign when you consider
since Urbik has reaped consistent preseason All-Big Ten recognition.
Chryst acknowledges Urbik as the line's leader in one breath, but uses
the next one to suggest his younger starters are the superior
athletes. Sophomore left tackle Gabe Carimi (6-8, 301) started all 13
games last year and made big strides throughout.
"He may be our best prospect down the road," Chryst said. "He's
extremely athletic. I love the way he goes about his business."
Sophomore John Moffitt (6-4, 323) will be the only new starter of this
crew, but Marcus Coleman's successor at center gained valuable
experience during the latter half of 2007. Moffitt started the final
six games, albeit at left guard, to fill the gaps created when Kemp
and Vanden Heuvel suffered their injuries.
"He's got a lot of ability," Chryst said.
If there's any downside to Wisconsin's line, it's the lack of depth.
The Badgers finished spring ball with just nine O-linemen, two of
which have never played a collegiate snap. Oglesby, pegged as the
nation's top lineman coming out of Milwaukee, and Bscherer are
regarded as up-and-coming tackles.
"They're getting better. There's so much to the position," Chryst
said. "Josh has a ton of ability. For us, he's doing well. He's right
where you'd want him to be."
Redshirt sophomore Bill Nagy (6-4, 300) is the top sub inside. He
appeared in five games last fall and Chryst says he wouldn't hesitate
to play him. Jake Current (6-4, 278) skipped his final high school
semester in order to get a start on practice. He's also viewed as a
future center or guard.
Just in case anyone wasn't clear on Taylor Mehlhaff's skill as a
kicker, the New Orleans Saints clarified matters by making Mehlhaff
the first kicker picked in the 2008 NFL draft.
Mehlhaff, a three-year starter who went in the sixth round to the
Saints, finished his career as Wisconsin's No. 2 all-time scorer with
Anticipating Mehlhaff's graduation, Bielema brought in three-star
kicker Philip Welch (6-3, 190) last year. Welch redshirted in the
fall, then began his competition against junior walk on Matt Fischer
(5-11, 179). Their competition resumes in the fall with Welch owning
Welch was a second-team USA Today All-American after his senior season
at Fort Collins (Colo.) High School in 2006. He set a state record
with 19 field goals, connecting on 17-of-20 inside 50 yards and two
others from 56 and 51. Eighty-five percent of his kickoffs resulted in
Wisconsin's training room was filled to bursting during the first six
months of 2008 -- and that would have been the case if only defensive
linemen were allowed in for treatment.
To put another way, it'd be far easier to list the defensive linemen
who managed to stay healthy throughout the spring.
Senior defensive end Matt Shaughnessy (6-6, 253), a second-team
All-Big Ten pick and Wisconsin's defensive MVP last year, thought he
would be among the few and the proud. But in the waning moments of
Wisconsin's final practice before its spring game, as if to prove no
defensive linemen was immune from the injury bug, Shaughnessy broke
The good news? The young man who piled up 18 tackles for loss and five
sacks in 2007 should be cleared to play in time for fall camp. Barring
any summertime calamities, Shaughnessy should be the last lineman to
round back into shape. Fifth-year defensive tackle Jason Chapman (6-4,
285), who missed the final three games last year after tearing up his
knee, was on a rehabilitation pace that would allow him to take part
in summer workouts. The same for fifth-year senior Mike Newkirk (6-3,
264), who started all 13 games last year but went out early in spring
ball with a shoulder injury. The fourth projected starter, junior
defensive end O'Brien Schofield (6-3, 232), broke his hand but taped
it up so he could keep practicing. If all four of these show up on
Aug. 30 in good health and ill temper, the Badgers should have one of
the Big Ten's best lines. Chapman, who has 31 career starts and 7.5
sacks on his resume, and Newkirk, who owns six career sacks, make
Wisconsin strong up the middle.
"Jason has one of the quickest first steps I've ever seen," Bielema
said. "He's hungry, very serious. And Mike, we did a disservice to him
last year starting him at defensive end. They're both going to have
Because of injury and other issues, Newkirk started the first 10 games
at defensive end last fall before moving inside when Chapman injured
his knee. When Newkirk moved inside, that gave precocious pass-rusher
Kirk DeCremer (6-5, 230) a chance to play more. The redshirt
sophomore, who started the Badgers' final two games, wound up with a
team-high 5.5 sacks. Of course, in keeping with the line's theme,
DeCremer missed spring ball after undergoing back surgery.
DeCremer was listed behind Shaughnessy on Wisconsin's post-spring
depth chart, while junior-college transfer Dan Moore (6-2, 270) owned
the spot behind Schofield at the other end. Moore injured his knee
midway through spring ball, but he should be ready for the fall.
Junior Jeff Stehle (6-6, 290) and red-hirt freshman Patrick Butrym
(6-4, 264) head into fall practices as the top backups at tackle.
Junior Dan Cascone (6-3, 288) missed spring ball with a bad shoulder,
while sophomore tackle Brandon Hoey (6-5, 278) sat with a back injury
and sophomore Ricky Garner (6-5, 232) also spent some time on the
sidelines. These woes forced Wisconsin to turn sophomore offensive
lineman Kenny Jones (6-2, 265) into a defensive tackle. Redshirt
freshmen Jasper Grimes (6-2, 285) and Louis Nzegwu (6-3, 228) also
earned extra reps because of all the injuries.
It only seems like Wisconsin's linebackers have been around since the
turn of the century. Senior weak-side linebacker Jonathan Casillas
(6-2, 226) has started the last 26 games and piled up some solid
numbers. After leading the Badgers in tackles for loss as a sophomore
(12.5), he paced them in total tackles with 96 last fall.
Senior strong-side linebacker DeAndre Levy (6-3, 228), perhaps best
known for crashing into Penn State legend Joe Paterno on the sideline
in 2006, also owns 26 consecutive starts. Levy posted perhaps the
team's most versatile stat line last fall -- 70 tackles, 10 tackles
for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and
two passes de-fended. Casillas and Levy are both All-Big Ten
candidates, though Bielema was especially impressed by Levy's spring
"He played his best ball," Bielema said. "He has seen the light going
into his senior year."
Junior Elijah Hodge (6-1, 227) is the incumbent at middle linebacker
after making 11 starts and posting 67 tackles, but he won't have an
easy time keeping his job. When Hodge missed some spring ball with
knee trouble, redshirt sophomore Culmer St. Jean (6-1, 228) performed
well enough to make it an even competition going into the fall. St.
Jean started twice last fall (Illinois and Minnesota) and posted 11 of
his 17 tackles in those games.
Even redshirt junior Jaevery McFadden (6-3, 220), ostensibly listed as
Casillas' backup, is making a job at becoming the Mike linebacker. He
has caused two fumbles in limited playing time.
"We'll play the best three guys," Bielema said.
Sophomore Blake Sorensen (6-1, 217) begins fall ball as Levy's top
backup. He posted 14 tackles last season, nearly all of them on
special teams. Redshirt freshman Kevin Rouse (6-0, 227) is yet another
blossoming prospect who could turn up in the middle.
The rest of the linebacking corps focuses on special teams: Fifth-year
seniors Joshua Neal (5-10, 245) and Ryan Flasch (6-1, 220), junior
Erik Prather (6-3, 212) and redshirt freshman Tony Megna (6-0, 199).
When the 2007 season came to a close, Wisconsin had a chance to retain
all of its starters in the secondary. Then All-Big Ten cornerback Jack
Ikegwuonu decided to leave for the NFL a year early, which wound up
backfiring when he wrecked his knee shortly after the deadline to
return to school.
By injuring his knee, though, Ikegwuonu merely maintained solidarity
with several of his ex-teammates. Fellow cornerback Allen Langford
(5-11, 189), who enters this season with 31 career starts, had his
season cut three games short because of a torn ACL. Then Langford's
replacement, sophomore Aaron Henry (6-0, 190), started the final two
regular-season games only to tear his ACL during practice leading up
to the Outback Bowl.
Langford and Henry should be ready to go this fall, but there's no
guarantee they'll be the starters. Because both missed spring ball,
redshirt freshman Mario Goins (6-1, 186) took advantage of the extra
reps to claim the right corner job ahead of Langford going into fall
practices. Meanwhile, there also appears to be an unanticipated
shakeup at the safeties.
While ball-hawking junior Shane Carter (6-2, 202) has switched from
free safety to strong, even though he led the Big Ten with seven
interceptions last year, redshirt sophomore Jay Valai (5-9, 197) took
over the top spot at free safety despite seeing brief action in just
three games last fall. Valai's ascension puts junior Aubrey Pleasant
(6-1, 198), who started all 13 games at strong safety last year but
struggled with his tackling, with the second string going into the
"I think [Jay] and Aubrey both, they've improved quite a bit," Bielema
told the Badger Herald. "I think Aubrey from a year ago to where he is
right now and Jay with the momentum of the way he played in the bowl
game, it's a classic case [of good competition]."
Redshirt sophomore Niles Brinkley (5-10, 177), who played so little
last fall he posted no tackles, heads into the fall as Henry's top
backup, while redshirt junior Chris Maragos (6-0, 189) backs up Carter
at strong safety. Maragos sat out last year after transferring from
Western Michigan, where he started his career as a walk on wideout.
Junior Josh Nettles (5-10, 175) posted an interception last year
against Indiana. Redshirt junior Prince Moody (5-11, 190) has yet to
make a collegiate tackle, while classmate Wil-liam Hartmann (5-11,
197) owns one career stop. Redshirt freshman Otis Merrill (5-11, 175)
had the prep resume to play immediately, but he redshirted because of
a shoulder injury. Freshman Adam Hampton (5-11, 184) also redshirted.
Just as the Badgers lost a long-time valued starter at kicker, they
must replace four-year veteran Ken DeBauche at punter. While DeBauche
had to move along (he signed a free-agent contract with Green Bay),
his name might live on.
Redshirt freshman Brad DeBauche (6-2, 218), a walk on and Ken's
brother, was the team's unopposed punter during spring drills.
However, that won't remain the case this fall.
Incoming freshman Bradley Nortman (6-3, 210), who committed initially
to Minnesota, will compete immediately for the job. As a senior, he
punted 24 times for a 39-yard average, including 13 inside the 20.
In sophomore David Gilreath, the Badgers boast a game-breaker who will
return kicks and punts again this year. Gilreath earned preseason
acclaim after finishing 14th in the country last fall with a 14.0
average on punt returns. Gilreath also averaged 23.0 yards per kick
"He's pretty special," Bielema said.
Fifth-year senior Dave Peck (6-5, 249), who served as the Badgers'
short snapper the last two years, will add long-snapping duties this
year as he replaces three-year vet Steve Johnson.
BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS
Grading the Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin enters Bret Bielema's third season riding a 14-game winning
streak at Camp Randall Stadium. Only Oklahoma boasts a longer active
Why does that matter? Because each of the three teams that figure to
be Wisconsin's top challengers for the Big Ten title -- Ohio State,
Penn State and Illinois -- must play on the Badgers' home field in
But first, Wisconsin must hurdle a tricky nonconference road trip to
Fresno State. The Bulldogs went 9-4 last year and could well be a
preseason Top 25 squad.
If Wisconsin negotiates that trap successfully, it has a bye week
before launching into the Big Ten schedule with a trip to Michigan.
That's an opportune time for a bye.
For the most comprehensive previews available on all Division I-A
teams, order the "Bible" of college football, the 2008 Blue Ribbon
College Football Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call