The Milwaukee Brewers showed some signs of life yesterday for the first time in at least a couple of weeks. Sure, they broke a 9 game losing streak the other day but even that win over the Pirates was less than compelling. Saturday’s ninth inning rally against the Minnesota Twins demonstrated that the Brewers may still have a pulse. Of course the fact that they ultimately lost in extra innings leaves open the question of whether this can be a springboard for a resurgence or whether the devastating loss will send them into a death spiral.

Considering the struggles of the team and how many fans have been calling for the head of manager Ken Macha, it was an ominous sign that Brewers’ owner Mark Attanasio was in attendance for the series in Minneapolis. Attanasio maintained that Macha and General Manager Doug Melvin have his full support. According to the Brewers blog in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the owner said ‘he doesn’t see Macha out there blowing saves, not hitting with runners in scoring position or chasing balls out of the zone with two strikes, or walking too many hitters and not pitching deep into games’. While all that is true, wouldn’t it also have been true of Ned Yost two seasons ago? And it was widely assumed that Yost’s dismissal came at the behest of Attanasio.

I’m not among those calling for firing the manager, but since it seems inevitable that it’s going to happen, it’s probably better that it happens sooner rather than later. It won’t work, of course. The way these things usually play out is that the team sees a little bounce after the firing, as the Kansas City Royals have recently under Yost, before eventually reverting to form. But it can’t be a good thing for the team having the status of the manager hanging over its head. If nothing else, maybe once the manager is capped the players on the team will find themselves a little more accountable for their own dismal performance.

That dismal performance obviously starts with the pitching staff. Even “ace” Yovani Gallardo is not immune to the maladies that have continually plagued the staff. Gallardo put his team in a 4-0 hole against the Twins while running up another high pitch count in the first inning, limiting him to 6 innings in a game where the use of the designated hitter should have allowed for a longer outing. Milwaukee’s pitching is in such a shambles that Macha was forced to use Manny Parra at the end, removing him from today’s scheduled start in the series finale.

The big news this week was that reliever Trevor Hoffman was ‘temporarily’ removed from his role as the closer, ostensibly to fix a flaw that pitching coach Rick Peterson detected in his delivery. To my ears, that simply sounds like a contrivance to allow the venerated veteran to save face. For their part, the Brewers seem to have figured out that if you’re losing on the road, you don’t need anyone to pitch the 9th inning. ‘Interim’ closer Carlos Villanueva had an opportunity to solidify his position yesterday but his first blown save allowed the Twins to send the game to extra innings. Villanueva was given the closer’s role essentially by default as he had been the team’s most reliable reliever this season. But the Brewers are risking his effectiveness by taking him out of his comfort zone. Hard throwing rookie righthander John Axford would seem to be more classically suited to the role of a closer.

If the Brewers and their fans are looking for a model to emulate, they only have to look across the diamond today. For whatever reason, year in and year out the Minnesota Twins have fielded teams that are competitive and fundamentally sound. By way of illustration, outside of Minnesota’s new Target Field is a large statue of a Gold Glove alongside a long list of players that have won that award for the Twins. By contrast, the Brewers have had exactly 3 players (Sixto Lezcano, Cecil Cooper twice, Robin Yount) to be named Gold Glove winners in their 40 year history and none since 1982.
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The Green Bay Packers held the first of their offseason Organized Team Activities (sounds like they should be having a picnic) this past week. One noteworthy item was that the team was working starting nose tackle Ryan Pickett at defensive end while having second year man B.J. Raji line up exclusively at nose tackle, which was the opposite of how they were used last year. Frankly, I didn’t understand the move as the Packers like to rotate their linemen to keep them from wearing down and they would appear to have more depth at end.

Then reports came out this week about how unsigned incumbent DE Johnny Jolly was spending his offseason and the picture became a little clearer. It seems Jolly put off a court date because he was recovering from an appendectomy in the same week in which he was supposed to host a party at a nightclub in Houston. Judges tend to take a dim view of such juxtaposition and Jolly was placed on a 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. curfew pending the resolution of his case. Jolly’s shenanigans have long been a concern for the Packers and lead me to believe that his acquittal on drug charges may not be the slam dunk that he and his legal representatives have held it to be.

Jolly’s uncertain status not only explains why they made the moves with Pickett and Raji, but why they expended a second round draft pick on Purdue end Mike Neal. Unless someone else emerges in training camp, I have to believe that Pickett will still see more time at nose tackle than end. It also makes it imperative that the Packers finally realize a return on their long unrewarded investment in (don’t laugh) Justin Harrell.

On an unrelated note, I continue to be amazed at the sense of entitlement displayed by offensive lineman Daryn Colledge regarding his status as the Packers left guard. It seems to be grossly out of proportion to his performance on the field during his time in Green Bay. Colledge stated this week that he considers himself to be the starter until someone tells him otherwise and supported his position by noting that he took all the reps with the first team offensive line at this week’s OTAs. This conveniently ignores the fact that the primary challengers for the spot, namely Jason Spitz and T.J. Lang, were unable to participate as they were both recovering from offseason surgeries. Despite Colledge’s self assurance, I will be surprised if he remains the starter at the opening of the regular season.

Another player who seems to have an inflated sense of his worth is safety Atari Bigby. Bigby has yet to sign his team tender and therefore is absent from the OTAs. The beneficiary of Bigby’s no-show is rookie Morgan Burnett, who seems to have the best chance at a starting slot of all the Packers’ rookies. How thoughtful of Bigby to ease his transition.
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Lastly, congratulations go out to my hometown UW-Stevens Point baseball team, who defeated top seeded UW-Whitewater to win the NCAA Division III Midwest Regional. Coming on the heels of their basketball team’s appearance in the NCAA D-3 tournament, it’s been quite a year of success for their athletic program. Go Pointers!

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your (finally summer-like) weekend.

 

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

    Even if Jolly beats his rap, my guess is that GB is not going to make much of an effort to keep him around any longer than they have to. The moves this week confirmed for me that they are making their post-Jolly plans.

    What a mess for the Crew. Rally for five in the ninth to take the lead and end up losing in extras. When you combine all of their pitching issues with being plan old snake-bittten, you have Your 2010 Milwaukee Brewers.

    Still, glad Attanasio threw water instead of gasoline on the fire with his comments yesterday. On thing this team doesn’t need is more drama.

  • http://mike BigSnakeMan

    I’m surprised that the Packers haven’t rescinded their tender to Jolly yet and even more surprised that he hasn’t signed it.

    As for Attanasio, we’ll see if he maintains that posture once the Brewers start to see a decline at the gate.

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