Sunday, January 25, 2009

Prince Fielder: Why His Signing Benefits the Milwaukee Brewers As Much As Him

It was made official on Friday that Prince Fielder signed a two-year, $18 million deal with the Brewers. The deal, worth $6.5 million in 2009 and $11.5 million in 2010, includes a $1 million signing bonus.

Averaged out, the deal actually works out to more than the $8 million per year Fielder requested.

The two-year deal actually leaves Fielder one year short of free agency, where he’ll likely sign a contract for 2011 and be able to enter the market for a big payday at just the age of 27.

While it’s easy to look at the short contract and see it as a part of the growing trend of big-name stars signing short contracts and trying to control their free agency years, don’t overlook the positives the contract gives the Brewers.

The short contract gives the Brewers security in knowing that Fielder must continue to maintain his numbers, and his weight, if he’s going to make any kind of money in the free agent market.

Fielder’s weight has been a topic of discussion and concern among fans, especially after last season’s highly publicized switch to vegetarianism.

Fans worry that Fielder is on the fast-track to becoming an AL team’s designated hitter. His size has, at times, seemed to have an affect on his base-running and fielding skills at first base.

Fielding errant throws from Ricky Weeks on a daily basis can make anyone look bad, but combine his size with his lack of height, and it has seemed obvious that Prince is destined to be nothing but a bat in the coming years.

However, looking slimmer than he has been since arriving in Milwaukee at last night’s Brewers Winter Warm-Up program, when asked if he was happy about the signing, Fielder gave a succinct, “Hell yeah.”

The signing comes as a bit of a shock, as it was assumed by most that Fielder was being dangled as trade bait this offseason, as the Brewers tried to find another starting pitcher.

While youth has stepped up in Milwaukee with the impressive one-two starters of Yovani Gallardo and Manny Parry, the loss of CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets to free agency have left the Brewers with a less-than-stellar three-four-five of Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan, and a PTBNL (possible Seth McClung).

Fielder’s image was noticeably absent from any and all Brewers off-season promotion materials, only serving to fuel the fires of speculation.

Not only does the signing put those rumors to rest, but it also likely ends any hope Brewers’ fans had that the team could sign a free agent starter.

Owner Mark Attanasio told The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that the Fielder signing, along with money budgeted for Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks (who are still in the arbitration process), puts the team at their budget ceiling for 2009.

Arguments for and against the Fielder signing that look purely at stats miss the point. His 2007 with 50 home runs and a .618 slugging percentage is unlikely to be repeated. Likewise, his “slump” of just 34 home runs in 2008 will not be the norm.

With Fielder joined by Ryan Braun in the middle of Milwaukee’s batting order, the Brewers present a formidable problem to opposing pitchers. This signing ensures that Milwaukee enjoys at least two more seasons of that combination.

It’s possible that Braun is the best thing that ever happened to Fielder’s career in Milwaukee.

Never at ease in front of the camera, and always trying to win the game with one swing of the bat, Fielder has not seemed comfortable with the sole spotlight shining on him.

Braun, however, is articulate and well-spoken. He thrives on the attention and seems to be the natural, public leader that Prince is not.

Now that Fielder feels that the expectations of the team and city do not sit solely on his shoulders, he seems much more at ease at the plate.

While he’ll always be a power-hitter, fans can look for more clutch hitting and RBI. Instead of always slugging for the fences, it will be nice to see him finding more finesse and placement in his swing.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Marquette comes back against Providence, tied for first in Big East

I listened to Saturday night's Marquette basketball game on the radio driving home from a Badger hockey game in Madison. We'd been checking the score on the cell phone and when MU was down 13 points early on, I had little hope in the Golden Eagles' chances.

Marquette was 0-4 at Providence in their years in the Big East and their lack of size has kept them from keeping teams in check. The Friars were shooting lights-out and it seemed like Marquette was struggling to keep it's head above water.

Early in the second half, MU Coach Buzz Williams took a couple of timeouts to slow play and keep his team motivated. It's obvious he told his senior-led team that there was no way Providence could keep up the pace they had and MU just had to keep playing their game—eventually it would even out.

The Golden Eagles took that to heart and closed the game on a 30-12 run. Jerel McNeal and Lazar Hayward each had 25 points. Hayward was the difference-maker in the game, hitting threes when the team needed them most, including the initial go-ahead three with 2:10 left in the game.

Marquette moved to 5-0 in Big East play, tied for first with Louisville. The last time MU started 5-0 in conference was two conferences ago in the Great Midwest (their home before Conference USA.)

It's clear that Marquette's seniors are hitting on all cylinders and are looking to finish out their careers with a bang. The lack of size has yet to majorly affect the season and, in fact, the Golden Eagles purposely "went small" during Saturday's game, forcing Providence to play with them.

The determination they showed in not giving up despite losing by double digits on the road will carry Marquette well as they move further into conference play. With No. 1 Pitt losing to Louisville, it's clear that the Big East will be no cake-walk for any team.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wisconsin Basketball: Kind of Embarrassing

Up by 14 points with under 14 minutes left to play, the Badgers decided to stop playing defense and ended up losing the game in OT.

As if it weren't bad enough to blow the kind of lead that came from absolutely dominating the opposing team after you'd started the game down 10-2, the Badgers did it in the most lackluster, pathetic fashion.

Minnesota crept back in, little-by-little, so that it was a single digit deficit before you really noticed. Suddenly, the Badgers realized they were on auto-pilot and instead of settling back into a rhythm, started playing defense like a kid on the playground. They were out of place, flat-footed and ugly. They were jumping past defenders, allowing them to duck for a second and then take a wide-open shot.

In the final minute, Minnesota drained two three-pointers when they're defenders were out of place and off-balance. Both times, the defender bit on the fake, diving past the guy and allowing him time and space to size up the long ball.

It was disappointing and disheartening to watch after the Badgers had so thoroughly taken control of the game in the second part of the first half.

The late-game loss should be familiar to Wisconsin sports fans - the Packers patented the move this year.

Don't tell me you didn't get deja vu when you saw a team giving up big plays, showing little-to-no defense and ultimately losing a game they had been controlling for most of the clock.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reports: Brewers lock up Hardy, avoid arribtration

Hardy signs $4.65 million deal

Jan. 12, 2009 4:52 p.m. | The Brewers haven't officially announced it yet, but The Associated Press is reporting that shortstop J.J. Hardy has signed a $4.65 million deal for 2009, avoiding salary arbitration.

Hardy, 26, is in his second year of arbitration eligibility and made $2.65 million last season. He played in 146 games, batting .283 with 24 home runs and 74 RBI. He compiled 31 doubles.

Hardy became only the third player in club history to hit 20 or more homers twice in a season as a shortstop, joining Robin Yount and Jose Hernandez.

The Brewers have five players remaining in arbitration -- first baseman Prince Fielder, second baseman Rickie Weeks, right-handers Dave Bush and Seth McClung and rightfielder Corey Hart. Fielder and Hart are eligible for the first time.


On a seperate, but somewhat related note:

I got a mailer from the Brewers today advertising 9-packs.

Ryan Braun is on the cover.

Yovanni Gallardo, Manny Parra and Jason Kendall are pictured inside.

Prince Fielder was notably absent.

Was the PR department hedging their bets and not taking a chance that Prince would be traded this offseason?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Brewers sign Trevor Hoffman

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have ourselves a closer!!

The Brewers signed a one-year deal with all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman today.

According to
"Hoffman will earn a $6 million base salary in 2009 with up to $1.5 million in incentives based on games finished, beginning with No. 38 and ending with 52, has learned. There is no option for a second year. Hoffman earned $7.5 million for the Padres this past season, the last year of his three-year, $21 million contract."

It's also being reported that the contract offered was a year with an option for another year, but Hoffman turned down the option.

Not only is the signing exciting because Hoffman is another stellar veteran to add to the clubhouse, but his signing helps clear up some of the other pitching questions.

Because we had not signed anyone, there had been talks of Seth McClung or Carlos Villanueva taking on the closer role. Now, one of those pitchers could become another starter in the rotation.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Packers find key to their lack of success - the strength and conditioning coach

The Packers cleaned house today, firing six coaches. It's no surprise that Defensive Coordinator Bob Sanders was out the door - his firing was assumed weeks ago.

The most ridiculous firing was that of strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson.

Gullickson was voted by his peers to be one of the best in the business last year, but apparently his failure to buff-up our team is what led to our downfall.

Even in firing part of their staff, the Packers failed.

Special teams was awful, the offensive line was non-existent at times and the defense couldn't stop the run, but the crucial deficiency in this team was the strength and conditioning coach.

Never mind that these are grown-ass men who's job description includes strength and muscle-building. The players themselves clearly can't held responsible for their own bodies - the coach who supervises their bench presses is clearly the man who made the biggest difference in our season.

Hopefully, this isn't the biggest off-season move we see from the Pack.

According to, "Linebackers coach Winston Moss is the only major defensive coach to keep his job and is a likely candidate to take Sanders' place. But Moss, who also carries the title of assistant head coach, is a candidate for the St. Louis Rams' vacant head coaching job."

Friday, January 02, 2009

Marquette impressive in first Big East game, beats Villanova 79-72

You know when watching the Golden Eagles play this season that you're going to see Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews and Dominic James make great plays.

But who are Pat Hazel and Jimmy Butler?

Most of the non-conference games this season have been shown on the Time Warner Channel, so my Direct TV loving household is woefully behind on MU bball. I had no idea who these guys are, but I was pretty impressed with them today.

Marquette's size (or lack thereof) is going to be an issue all season, but Hazel and Butler, teamed with Dwight Burke, kept Nova from the paint and held their front three to just 20 points (16 by Cunningham, four by Clark and none from Pena.)

McNeal led all scorers with 24. Marquette got just two points from the bench, which could be a problematic trend for the team as the season progresses. (Villanova, for comparison, had 27 points from their bench.)

From Cracked

In a game that saw 10 ties, MU used back-to-back jumpers by Mathews and a 3 pointer by McNeal to pace an 11-2 late run that built a 71-61 lead. Matthews, McNeal and Lazar Hayward then combined for 13 of 14 from the line to seal the victory.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Boring Bowl Games

Today was my one and only down-time day to hang out and watch football games from start to finish and the games were really disappointing.

Who would have though that the VA Tech/Cincinnati Orange Bowl would be the best game of the day?

Too bad that by the time this game was on, I was burned out on football.

The Big Ten is not showing well, notching just one win so far (thanks Iowa!) ESPN is scrolling conference bowl records on the ticker and the Big Ten is at the end of the list. It's extremely depressing to watch.

The brother's girlfriend is a die-hard Georgia fan, so I was looking forward to some serious taunting today, but Sparty barely showed up for the contest, and Georgia (and Knowshon Moreno) ran away with the game.

Thankfully, the Georgia punter literally whiffed on a punt (how do you do that?), so there was still taunting. I was driving home from the resort at the time, so I didn't see it, but the radio announcers couldn't keep themselves from laughing and one of them said, "I've never seen THAT before." OUCH

Didn't get to see the LSU game last night, though their 35 first-half points were a record and probably pretty fun to watch. The score at half was 35-3 and it ended 38-3, so I'm guessing the second half wasn't too exciting.

After the disappointment of both the Packers' and Badgers' seasons, I was looking forward to seeing the football season out with some good games - you know, where your team doesn't give up a fourth quarter lead and leave you crying?

Of all the big names playing each other, I find it fitting that two smaller schools like VA Tech and Cincy were the ones that put on the best show.