Just when I was ready to get back on the Milwaukee Bucks ‘bandwagon’, disaster strikes.

After a couple of ugly stumbles last week, I questioned whether the Bucks were reverting to their not so glorious form. But they rebounded to win 3 of 5 games over the course of six days and looked to have regained their stride.

However, last night’s win over Phoenix was a costly one as the Bucks lost center Andrew Bogut for the season on a play that was “LT/Theisman-like” in its severity. If you’ve seen it replayed once, that’s more than enough. Bogut scored on a breakaway off a lob pass from forward Carlos Delfino but landed awkwardly resulting in a dislocated elbow and broken right hand.

Credit the Bucks for pulling together to complete the victory over the Suns. This team appears to have taken on the personality of its coach, (gritty, gutty) Scott Skiles, who should be named ‘NBA Coach of the Year’. Sure, it’s a ‘homer’ call but it’s hard to argue with what Skiles has done in Milwaukee this year. Before the season, on paper this looked like a team that would be lucky to win 30 games. Now, even without Bogut going forward, the Bucks are virtually assured of a playoff spot. Skiles has his team sharing the ball and playing defense most of the time; concepts unheard of in MKE in recent years. Of course, Skiles has a couple of advantages his predecessors didn’t: Bogut had been available most of the season and guard Michael Redd hadn’t. Of the two, the latter may have almost as big an impact as the former. The biggest concern with the Bucks was their annoying tendency to settle for jump shots at critical times, a characteristic at least partially reflected by the free throw disparity in tense road losses at Cleveland and Charlotte this past week. Unfortunately, with the loss of Bogut the Bucks will likely become even more perimeter oriented, greatly diminishing their chances of advancing in the postseason.

As horrible as the injury was for Bogut, the timing may have even been worse. Since the Bucks took him with the first pick in the 2005 NBA draft, Bogut’s career could be fairly described as star-crossed; his development hindered by a balky back, bad teams and inexperienced coaches. Finally this season, Bogut began to fulfill the promise of his lofty draft status. Bogut was among the league leaders in rebounds and blocked shots and suddenly recognized as one of the premier centers in the game. It will be tough but hopefully he can come back and pick up where he left off. This just makes it a lot harder to “Feer the Deer”.
All through spring training in Arizona, the overriding question with respect to the Milwaukee Brewers was how they would resolve their starting pitching rotation, specifically as it applied to ‘millstone’ right hander Jeff Suppan. The Brewers essentially delayed making a decision in that regard by placing Suppan on the 15 day disabled list with a suddenly revealed neck problem; quite possibly the most fortuitous ailment in club history.

I understand that the Brewers wish to preserve their ‘pitching depth’ (hopefully, not a laughable notion after last year) but I don’t think that goes far enough. If the Brewers are going to be saddled by Suppan’s contract, it would be best if the team placed Suppan on the “180 day” disabled list.

Unfortunately, the Brewers don’t have many options when it comes to choosing a 5th starter. Manny Parra is looking more and more like the proverbial pitcher with ‘great stuff’ who never develops any consistency. Parra’s 5.30 spring ERA is marginally better than “Soup’s” but not enough to keep them in most games. The best choice would seem to be left hander Chris Narveson but he is also the most likely to be kept in the bullpen. Whatever happens, Milwaukee had better get more innings out of their starting pitchers this season or they can forget about challenging for the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Brewers outfield situation is beginning to appear as questionable as their pitching. Of course there are no worries with left fielder Ryan Braun, other than keeping him healthy. But until they play games that count in the standings, we still don’t know for certain what they have in Carlos Gomez and Corey Hart.

I had hoped that Hart’s ‘victory’ in arbitration would boost his confidence but the opposite seems to have happened as Hart looks worse than ever this spring. Never have I seen a player get so far away so quickly from what got him to ‘The Show’ in the first place. My friend Chris suggested in a post earlier this week that other teams may have altered how they pitch to Hart in light of his initial success. If that’s the case, he has so far failed to make the necessary adjustments in response and that doesn’t bode well for the Brewers or Hart’s career. Hart’s struggles have fueled the speculation of trade rumors and Manager Ken Macha has already suggested that 39 year old Jim Edmonds may start in right field on opening day. I have to believe that if the Brewers had a better option Hart would be gone already. Hart finally showed signs of life in this weekend’s exhibitions against Detroit, so maybe he’s coming around. If he can snap out of his funk, the Brewers prospects for this season improve considerably.

On a more positive note, second baseman Rickie Weeks looks poised to have a big year. The key, as always with Weeks, is staying healthy but thus far he has shown no ill effects of his most recent wrist injury. Stay tuned.

The Brewers may also have a ‘sleeper’ in backup catcher George Kottaras. Kottaras was a top prospect in the San Diego organization before being traded to Boston for pitcher David Wells. With 38 yr. old Gregg Zaun slated to start behind the plate, look for Kottaras to have a big impact with the Brewers as he will likely get much more playing time than a typical reserve.

BREWERS PREDICTION OF THE WEEK: Prospect Taylor Green will become the Brewers starting 3rd baseman before the more highly touted Matt Gamel.
I realize I’m kind of contradicting myself here but I’m fed up with hearing about Tiger Woods personal problems. And it’s probably only going to get worse with Woods’ return to play at the Masters this week. If it isn’t a new round of ‘revelations’ from Woods’ alleged bimbos, then it’s media honks saying they shouldn’t be talking about it as they’re talking about it. Either way, it’s tired stuff and most people don’t or shouldn’t care. Woods is far from the first professional athlete to display bad judgment and, given Michael Jordan’s past, not even the most prominent one. Give it a rest already!
This past week, NFL Players Association representative Kevin Mawae suggested that the broadcast partners of the National Football League in effect were supporting management in the collective bargaining talks with the union by guaranteeing rights fees to the league in the event of a strike or lockout. In response, Mawae hinted that the players would refuse to cooperate with the media by withholding interviews. Can we get that in writing? For the most part, all we’d really be missing would be cliched answers to obvious questions or outrageous utterings from the likes of Terrell Owens or Chad Ochocinco. In fact, I’d like to see the NFLPA try to put a muzzle on some of these publicity hounds.
Finally, congratulations to the Butler Bulldogs for making the NCAA title game. Here’s hoping they can finish off their ‘Cinderella season’ by defeating Duke on Monday night. Maybe that will help discourage the NCAA from expanding the tournament. Not only would 96 teams dilute the competition, it would be really unwieldy to fit on a pool sheet.

Thanks for reading. Happy Easter and enjoy the rest of the weekend.


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