Sunday Morning Musings
The Milwaukee Brewers have stumbled upon a unique solution to the conundrum that was the difference between their home and road records. They’ve begun to lose on the road, too. The Brewers have dropped 4 of 5 games so far on their current road trip, culminating in yesterday’s entertaining but ultimately frustrating extra inning loss in St. Louis that left their road record at 14-18. By the weird tenets of baseball, maybe this means they’ll start winning at home……….Don’t the Brewers wish they could somehow clone right-hander Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo has proven to be the team’s only capable starter this year, often winning games almost singlehandedly with his arm and his bat. He’s making that early season contract extension look like a good investment, in stark constrast to the deals with Randy Wolf and Doug Davis………How many times this season have Brewers’ pitchers been victimized by the 0-2 pitch? It happened again yesterday in the 11th inning when John Axford left a fastball over the plate that allowed the Cardinals’ to put the winning run on base. That’s a mistake that’s being repeated much too frequently by this pitching staff……….Speaking of Axford, by now it’s clear that he is and should be the closer for the team. I’m not sure that he’s a long term answer; I kind of get a “Doug Henry vibe” about him. But the Brewers have nothing to lose by riding him as long as he’s reasonably effective……….Much of the speculation in print about the Brewers this past week centered on the merits and prospects of trading first baseman Prince Fielder. Milwaukee is caught between the proverbial rock and hard place where Fielder is concerned. They can’t really justify keeping him at the salary he’s going to command but, at the same time, his trade value would appear to be limited. Fielder isn’t helping things by having a subpar season by his standards. If the Brewers have to accept less than Fielder’s perceived value in a trade, that’s not going to look good on GM Doug Melvin’s resume in the eyes of the fans. The Brewers may have no choice but to let Fielder play out his string with the team and let him walk away as a free agent. My friend and PD colleague Chris advocates getting what they can for Fielder and restoring Corey Hart to his original position of first base, a move that would leave them short in the outfield. Chris goes on to suggest calling up outfield prospect Lorenzo Cain, but I’m not sure the Brewers feel that Cain is yet able. Or, if he is, whether the team would be willing to grant him the extra service time in the major leagues in what is looking to be a lost season……….I’ve spent much of the year bagging on rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar but he finally demonstrated some of his reputed defensive ability in St. Louis. In the 5th inning of Friday night’s game, Escobar ranged well into centerfield to make a ‘snow-cone catch’ of a Ryan Ludwick pop-up. Escobar then followed that up on the next play by making a diving stop deep in the hole at short and throwing out Matt Holliday at first. The plays were so spectacular that I almost hesitate to mention that Escobar committed yet another error earlier this week and failed to get a bunt down in a key situation in the 11th inning Saturday with Jim Edmonds on 2nd base and no one out……….What is the deal with Wolf and the Brewers’ catchers? Manager Ken Macha had to remove rookie Jonathan Lucroy as Wolf’s personal catcher and a report surfaced this week that Wolf also had trouble getting together with George Kottaras on the pitching signs. This should be pretty basic stuff, particularly for a veteran hurler. C’mon! Get it together guys!……….Recently, Macha has taken to batting pitchers Gallardo and Wolf in the 8th spot of the order. Of course, in doing so he risks having other teams pitch around them to get to Escobar……….It’s curious to me how the problems with the Brewers pitching staff seem to mirror those that the Green Bay Packers have had on the offensive line. Both areas are key to the success of their respective teams, yet they remain in a state of flux. Due to injuries and/or ineffectiveness, neither team has been able to settle on a ‘starting five’. The latest change for the Brewers is the temporary(?) removal of Dave Bush from the rotation, ostensibly to allow lefthander Manny Parra to face the Cardinals, who have sometimes struggled against left handed pitchers this season. Bush was openly displeased about the move, indicating that he was informed of the decision without being given a reason why. That recalls complaints from last year about Macha’s communication skills and may point to a larger problem with his managerial style. Unfortunately for the Brewers, they don’t appear to have the baseball equivalent of a Mark Tauscher on the horizon to stabilize the rotation.
The “news” out of Green Bay this week sadly harkens back to a time when Forrest Gregg was coaching the Packers. First, we had the continuing saga of DE Johnny Jolly’s on-again/off-again court date. Prosecutors in Jolly’s drug case revealed the existence of a witness who supposedly will testify that Jolly had previously funded a major drug deal involving cocaine and other illegal substances. Given that the “witness” is currently serving a felony prison sentence, I’m certain that the defense will challenge the veracity of his testimony. But the Packers can’t be happy that Jolly has had such associations in the first place. As if that wasn’t enough bad publicity, a story emerged Saturday night of a sexual assault investigation involving Packer players in Lake Delton. A number of players were in the Wisconsin Dells area for a charity golf tournament hosted by linebacker Clay Matthews and one of them has been implicated in an assault on two women from Milwaukee. Police have yet to name the suspect pending the results of their investigation but reports have suggested that it is 2nd year DB Brandon Underwood. Since the Packers were counting on Underwood to help their beleaguered secondary this season, GM Ted Thompson can’t be happy about this development. The Packers have been pretty lucky the last few years as far as keeping their players out of trouble so hopefully these incidents are just an aberration or an effect of the law of averages. In the end, it may be much ado about nothing but it’s a given that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be monitoring both situations closely and that one or both may result in suspensions for the players involved.
Finally, the sports world lost an American icon this week when legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden died of natural causes Friday night in Los Angeles. A teacher at heart, the 99 year old “Wizard of Westwood” was still revered 35 years after he’d coached his final game and it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see another coach of his caliber. I’ll leave it to others to detail his many accomplishments but perhaps the greatest one was that he remained relevant to the end as his lessons extended well beyond basketball into life. Rest in peace, Coach Wooden.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of the wet weekend.