I sat down Saturday afternoon for what I anticipated would be an enjoyable Wisconsin sports doubleheader, figuring that the Milwaukee Brewers game against the Washington Nationals would segue nicely into the Milwaukee Bucks’ first playoff game at Atlanta. Needless to say, what I viewed was neither anticipated nor enjoyable.

The Brewers started things off by being on the short end of an 8-0 clunker. Okay, those things can happen over the course of a long season. Left handed starter Randy Wolf wasn’t sharp, but was able to last 5 innings while allowing “only” 4 runs; not great, but still manageable if the Brewers did anything on offense. Which they didn’t.

Earlier in the week, I thought manager Ken Macha took some unfounded criticism in how he handled his bullpen, specifically in two losses given away by set-up reliever LaTroy Hawkins. I’m not suggesting that Macha is the best manager in the world but if his players don’t do their job, his options are limited. As we saw yesterday, there’s no guarantee that Todd Coffey or Claudio Vargas would have done any better in those games than Hawkins. Macha can’t afford to manage entirely for one game, especially this early in the season. The way things are going so far, he’s already in danger of burning out his bullpen by Memorial Day.

Yesterday, however, there was one incident in particular that the Brewers’ manager should address. In the second inning when there was as yet no score in the game, the Brewers had the bases loaded with one out and pitcher Randy Wolf coming to the plate. Wolf promptly grounded into an inning ending double play, eliminating virtually the only threat Milwaukee would produce all game. Now, why the hell is Wolf swinging at anything in that situation?! Especially after Nats’ starter Livan Hernandez walked the previous two batters. In that instance, Wolf should have had the bat epoxied to his shoulder. Maybe the Brewers could have gotten lucky and have Hernandez walk in a run. At the very worst, they should have taken their chances with two outs and the top of the order coming to bat. That could have changed the entire complexion of this game.

So after the first two weeks of the season, we’ve seen that this year’s Brewers team looks……well, pretty much like last year’s Brewers team. For all the changes in the pitching staff with two (expensive) new starters and a ‘state of the art’ pitching coach, Milwaukee’s staff continues to demonstrate “awesome home run potential”. That leaves it once again to the offense to try and outscore opponents. Unfortunately, that formula is not conducive to consistently winning baseball as there are too many games like yesterday when their hitters are unable to do anything. That’s why games that the bullpen give away become magnified. If the Brewers can’t clean up their pitching, they can forget about even sniffing at a wild card playoff spot.

BREWERS PREDICTION OF THE WEEK: Recently returned starter Jeff Suppan will manage to pitch just well enough over his next few starts to keep himself in the rotation before he reverts to his pathetic form.
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I don’t want to jump on the ‘hate Corey Hart bandwagon’ ( really, I don’t ), especially when he’s been doing halfway decent. When Hart first came up, we were looking at a guy who could hit for some power and average, steal some bases and even play good defense. Somewhere along the way, Hart went from being a player who could do everything pretty well to one who does nothing particularly well. In their position, the Brewers need more out of Hart than ‘halfway decent’. Unlike fellow phenom Rickie Weeks, for the most part Hart’s career hasn’t been hampered by injuries. At this point, it’s questionable whether Hart will ever begin to fulfill a potential that was once thought to be considerable.

On the other hand, one bright spot for the Brewers early in the season has been the play of third baseman Casey McGehee. After a slow spring, I was afraid that McGehee might have been a flash in the pan but he’s picking up right where he left off from last year’s fine rookie season. If anything, McGehee might even be better now that he’s completely healthy from a balky knee injury. McGehee’s emergence should make him a fixture at the ‘hot corner’ for the foreseeable future and makes me wonder if the Brewers shouldn’t have traded third base prospect Mat Gamel while he still had some value.
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After the beatdown of the Brewers, I was looking for the Milwaukee Bucks to lift my spirits. Unfortunately, their opening playoff contest with the Atlanta Hawks got out of hand even more quickly than the baseball game. The talented and more experienced Hawks gave the young Bucks a lesson in playoff basketball in the first half, jumping out to a 22 point lead at the break.

Normally, I would have turned the game off then and there but I was curious to see how the Bucks reacted to the first half thumping.

I have to admit that I’m still getting used to the idea of a Bucks team that is based on toughness and defense but I was pleasantly surpised with how the Bucks responded. Unlike the Brewers, the Bucks showed some character in giving the Hawks a (minor) scare in the second half. Rookie point guard Brandon Jennings proved he wasn’t overmatched in his first exposure to postseason basketball, leading the Bucks with 34 points. Despite the early hole they dug for themselves, the Bucks managed to close the game to seven points before losing by 10.

In the end, though, this game only provided evidence that the matchups in this series don’t favor Milwaukee. If center Andrew Bogut had been healthy for the playoffs, the Bucks might have had a fighting chance of advancing beyond the first round. As it stands, I’m afraid the best Milwaukee fans can hope for is to use this series as a learning experience for the future and wonder about what might have been.
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One side note about the NBA: The playoffs are already too long with all seven game series extending into June. Is it really necessary to also have 2 and 3 day breaks between games?
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There was one other noteworthy occurrence in the Wisonsin sports landscape this week when UW-Green Bay officially named current assistant Brian Wardle as it’s new men’s head basketball coach.

Wardle was selected over University of Wisconsin assistant Greg Gard. While the news is bad for Gard, it’s probably good for the Badgers program.

UWGB athletic director Ken Buthof said that he picked Wardle because of his enthusiasm and communication skills. I suspect that Buthof also wanted to insure a sense of continuity with the current players and recruits in his program. Wardle is considered to be a rising star in the college ranks but, at only 30 years old, will be the youngest head coach in Division I. Given the financial constraints at UW-GB, it will be interesting to see what kind of assistants Wardle can attract to his staff. As the future unfolds, Gard may well be glad that UWGB decided to go in a different direction.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

 

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  • Chris

    First, tremendous reset on the “awesome home run potential” of the Brewers staff. That line will never get old.

    Second, I know it is not your style to rip anyone, but I am coming around to your position on Corey Hart. To me the tipping point has been his seemingly indifferent defense. Maybe he’s not using his glasses in the field? Something is wrong with his approach out there. He is rapidly becoming a liability.

    Third, I am encouraged by (but not totally sold on) Casey McGehee. Let’s see how this plays out a little longer. In any case, I believe they would have dealt Gamel had they acquired McGehee sooner and realized what they had.

    Fourth, I agree that Macha is getting unwarranted early season critique, but that is the fans game and, by God, they are sticking to it.

    Fifth, I agree that having Randy Wolf assume a catatonic pose at the plate in the second would have been a fine thing, but I don’t see it as an egregious error to having him swinging away: Dude did slap a safety (we remember you, Don Friday) to center in the fifth.

    Sixth, you have put your finger on (in?) a major problem I have with The Association: The grinding death march that is their post-season. Fortunately, it appears that it will be over soon for the Local Cagers (Friday ref #2).

    Seventh, Packers Therapy is slated to record tonight at 9pm. That gives me a few hours to become a NFL Draft Expert. The first thing I will need to know is whether there will be a draft this year and, if so, when it will be held…

  • http://mike BigSnakeMan

    The key with me on the “Wolf thing” was that Hernandez walked the previous two hitters. In that situation, I’d expect anyone to take at least a few pitches. Sure, he could have gotten a hit there but the odds don’t favor that.

    Why don’t you just wait ’til Monday night and record your appearance on Wisconsin Sports Talk? Then you can pass that off as “Packers Therapy” and save yourself some time.