The Milwaukee Bucks squandered a golden opportunity to advance beyond the first round of the NBA playoffs in front of a raucous home crowd Friday night. Despite holding a 5 point lead early in the 3rd quarter, the Bucks allowed the Atlanta Hawks to pull off a rare road playoff win and force the Bucks back to Atlanta for the deciding game in the 7 game series. All indications favor the Hawks in that scenario but, through injury and inexperience, Milwaukee has “Buck’d” the odds all year. It’s now obvious to me that, if the Bucks had a healthy Andrew Bogut for the playoffs, they’d already be heading to Orlando. Milwaukee has thrived in the underdog role so far; maybe they have one more surprise left in them.

Whatever today’s outcome, the Bucks have laid a solid foundation for next year. Coach (gritty, gutty) Scotty Skiles and his staff have built a team that is based on heart, unselfishness and defense; concepts unheard of around here since the ’80s. I haven’t been this interested in the Bucks fortunes since Sidney Moncrief played for the ‘Big Green Line’. All that remains for Milwaukee heading into next season is building on their playoff experience while deciding what to do about John Salmons and Michael Redd.

FEAR THE DEER!
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Last night’s Milwaukee Brewers game at San Diego provided a counterpoint to much of what has plagued the team recently. Yovani Gallardo pitched like the stopper the Brewers need him to be, throwing 7 innings while allowing only one run and striking out eleven. Gallardo even accounted for the Brewers first run with his third inning home run snapping a 24 inning scoreless streak. Slumping leadoff hitter Rickie Weeks later hit another solo shot that provided the margin of victory in the 2-1 game. It was the first time this year that the Brewers managed to win a game while scoring less than 3 runs, which says a lot about the first month of the season.

It’s difficult to pick out a Brewers’ player this side of Ryan Braun that hasn’t been struggling. Much of the talk this past week centered on veteran closer Trevor Hoffman, who has already blown more saves this year than he did all of last season. The Brewers Bar blog suggested earlier this week that Hoffman has been reluctant to throw his changeup since Nick Stavinoha ‘golfed’ one out of the park in a game against St. Louis early in April; a charge that may have some validity. Working with two new catchers may be another factor in the equation. Last season, Hoffman was able to establish his changeup enough that he was often able to sneak his sub-par fastball across the plate for strikes early in the count. This year, opposing hitters seem to be jumping on those first few pitches. Whatever the reason, Hoffman may have to “changeup” his pattern as he is nothing without his signature pitch. While many fans seem ready to write Hoffman off already, the Brewers really don’t have any alternatives to letting him work through his problems. It may be unrealistic to expect Hoffman to duplicate last season at this point, but clearly the Brewers aren’t going anywhere this year if their Hall of Fame closer isn’t right. Hopefully, last night’s clean ninth inning provides some reason for optimism.

The inconsistent pitching has only slightly overshadowed the Brewers anemic offense, which may in fact be the larger problem. We knew coming into the season that, despite the supposedly upgraded pitching staff, the Brewers were going to need to score runs in order to be successful. If you take away four prodigious games against the Pirates that skewed their numbers, the Brewers have averaged only 3.6 runs/game in the other 20. Add in another game in which they scored 11 runs against Washington and it’s even worse. That’s a number that’s not going to cut it with this pitching staff. Compounding the problem are the recent ailments of outfielders Carlos Gomez (knee) and Jim Edmonds (back). Gomez’ injury is particularly troubling as speed is about 90% of his game. These injuries are testing the Brewers’ depth at a time that they can least afford it.

The Brewers 10-14 record may be disappointing to Brewers’ fans, but they still have a lot of time to make up ground. Hopefully, Saturday night’s victory is a sign that May will be kinder than April.
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For the second year in a row, the Wisconsin Badgers basketball team had a recruit back out of his pledge to the university. Last year, it was Madison’s Vander Blue who defected to Marquette. This past week, 6’7″ forward Devon Hodges of Bolingbrook, IL decided to re-open his recruitment. As my nephew Wally said in a post this past week, that’s probably just the risk inherent when signing underclassmen to early verbal commitments. It’s open to debate how well either Blue or Hodges would have fit at UW. But to have recruits shun them on a regular basis doesn’t reflect well on coach Bo Ryan’s program no matter what the circumstances.

The Badgers did get a break this week when the Big(11)Ten ruled that Mundelein, IL senior Ben Brust would be allowed to sign with a conference school. The 6’2″ guard, a second team all-state selection who averaged 24 pts. a game this past fall, was released from his scholarship to Iowa when coach Todd Lickliter was fired after the season. Big(11)Ten rules prohibit transfers between member schools without sacrificing a year of eligibility, but UW appealed and Brust was granted a waiver. Reportedly, Brust is also considering a ride at Northwestern. Given that UW won it’s appeal on his behalf, they would seem to have the inside track. Since Bucky lost guards Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon to graduation, they could use a player with Brust’s offensive ability.
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Has there ever been a more polarizing figure in the history of the Green Bay Packers front office than current General Manager Ted Thompson? In the wake of last week’s NFL draft, many fans and ‘draft experts’ were decrying the lack of an ‘impact player’ among the Packers’ selections. Of Thompson’s many detractors, I’ve yet to hear any of them come up with a plausible alternative candidate to run the team. I’ll be the first one to admit that some of Thompson’s moves leave me scratching my head. On balance, though, I’m inclined to believe that his tenure has been good for Green Bay.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Packers-Therapy/113896815298853?ref=sgm Chris

    You know I am no fan of The Association. But I do like how the Gritty and Gutty One has MKE playing. Their run has me wondering how far they might have gone with Bogut.

    The Brewers are suffering the Losers Cycle: They hit when they can’t pitch, and the pitch when they can’t hit. That will get you to 10-14 real quick. Too soon to bail, but right now .500 is looking like a stretch.

    I think Bo Ryan is finding out what it was like to be Dick Bennett. I am not sure he is going to be able to attract “high fliers” to the program because he demands his guys to play a disciplined, team oriented game on both ends of the court. He also doesn’t suffer fools lightly, and that might turn some kids off, especially if they have been pampered stars along the way. Personally, I like the way Bo has built the program and, like Dick, I think the team will be better off getting players who fit well rather than those who might be more talented but also more temperamental.

    Ted Thompson is a steely-eyed assassin. Folks need to realize that and embrace it. GB might be able to find a better GM, but I don’t think finding that guy would be too easy. Ted is, in my estimation, among the top 10 GMs in the game.