With the major league trading deadline passed and the team all but officially out of the National League pennant chase, the focus is already on the future for the Milwaukee Brewers.  Rightfielder Corey Hart, who’s bounceback season made him the subject of many trade rumors, was unexpectedly signed to a 3 year contract extension this past week.  The agreement doesn’t preclude the team from yet trading Hart if the right deal comes along, but it makes it much more likely that he’ll be in a Brewers uniform for the foreseeable future. 

Assuming that first baseman Prince Fielder is dealt (presumably for pitching) in the offseason and general manager Doug Melvin has the foresight and wherewithal to lock up second baseman Rickie Weeks to a multi-year contract, what we see on the field in Milwaukee for the rest of this season could form the core of the team for years to come.

We’ve already gotten a glimpse of the future with the installation of a couple of rookies in the everyday lineup by default.  Catcher Jonathan Lucroy has acquitted himself well enough in place of veteran Greg Zaun (remember him?)  to be considered a fixture behind home plate.  And even PD whipping boy Alcides Escobar has recently shown signs of “getting it”, though I remain skeptical that he’ll ever be the consistent defensive asset his reputation suggests he should be (Shawon Dunston comes to mind by way of comparison).

The latest addition to the Brewers ‘kiddie corps’ is centerfielder Lorenzo Cain.  Cain’s previous callup resulted in only a few at-bats off the bench, leading me to question why he was brought to Milwaukee in the first place.  Reportedly, manager Ken Macha didn’t feel that Cain was ready to play everyday and was worried about exposing him with a starting assignment.  Now, with the ailments suffered by Carlos Gomez (concussion) and Jim Edmonds (achilles), Cain figures to receive more playing time.  From what I’ve seen so far, Cain doesn’t seem to be overmatched at all.  He already has displayed more plate discipline and poise than Gomez has all year.

The ascension of Cain leaves Fielder’s eventual replacement at first base as the only hole in the regular lineup.  The Brewers seem to be preparing for that contingency by having former third base prospect Mat Gamel work at first base and right field at Triple-A Nashville.  This will give the Brewers some options heading into next year.  There has been talk of putting Gamel in right field and restoring Hart to his original position of first base.  It has also been speculated that Gamel could stay at third while current “5″ Casey McGehee moves across the diamond.  While it might be advantageous to have Hart back at first, I believe the best course of action is to put Gamel there.  He’d likely be no worse than Fielder on defense and eliminates the challenge of having three players getting comfortable at new positions rather than one.  Then, all that would remain for Gamel is to prove he can handle the inside pitch at the major league level.

Of course, none of the above will get the Brewers anywhere if they can’t stabilize their pitching staff, which remains a work in (hopefully) progress.

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Closer to home (for me at least), the Green Bay Packers opened training camp this week.  I was going to pepper this space with updates and comments about last night’s Packers Family Night at Lambeau Field but, quite frankly, there are people more qualified for that than I.  Personally, I’m partial to the ‘tweets’ of Greg Bedard of JSOnline and Brian Carriveau of Cheesehead TV.

When I first moved to this area 13 years ago, I regularly enjoyed going over to watch Packers practice and even now it’s an interesting diversion from time to time.  This will sound like heresy around these parts but I’ve found as I grow older that I’m less interested in the process and more so in the final product.  Let’s face it; for most NFL teams there is very little insight to be gleaned for certain this early in camp.  Most of the lineup is set and all that’s really in play is a handful of spots at the end of the roster and to establish the depth chart beyond the starters.  Sure, it’s possible that a couple of free agents such as running back Quinn Porter or defensive back Sam Shields could carve themselves a niche on the final roster.  However, it’s unlikely that such players will have any significant impact on the Packers fortunes this year if they’re anywhere near the team they are projected to be.

Head coaches in the NFL are mostly concerned with getting their team through the preseason schedule without suffering any major injuries.  Even something as vital to the Packers as the punting duel between Chris Bryan and Tim Masthay is largely meaningless at this point.  How many times have we seen punters display a big leg in camp only to have them fizzle out under a live rush once the games begin?

Training camp provides a nice little football fix but it’s not really worth getting worked up about anything Packer related until the season starts.  Then, we’ll quickly learn what there really is to know about this team.

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Since it’s kind of a slow “news” week, I feel compelled to comment about the latest developments regarding our NFL neighbors to the west and a certain future Hall of Fame quarterback.  As Packers fans, the best part about the Minnesota Vikings situation with Brett Favre is that we can watch and laugh no matter which way it turns out.  We’ve seen this all before multiple times.  Assuming Favre returns to the Vikings (and even now there’s no reason to think he won’t), the Vikes will probably have to cough up more money for him and it gives the Packers another shot at their former leader. 

If, by some unforseen circumstance, Favre actually does retire (is that word even in his vocabulary?), the Vikings will have passed up a chance to acquire a QB such as Donovan McNabb.  McNabb would have been familiar with coach Brad Childress’ system and also would have settled the position for the next few years.  The move for Favre only works for the Vikings if they a.) win a championship with him, or b.) get a new stadium; neither of which is likely to happen. 

The bottom line is that the Vikings will have essentially wasted two years while gaining very little in the end.  That’s the problem when you go “all in”.  Anything short of ultimate success has to be considered failure.

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RANDOM SAMPLINGS:  It was nice to see Trevor Hoffman finally convert a save opportunity Saturday night.  What was even nicer was the reception he got from the Miller Park crowd.  Hopefully, Macha can find enough chances for him the rest of the season so he can pick up his 600th save in a Brewer uniform………..I’ve read a number of sources this year that said Brewers’ utility guy Joe Inglett could start for other teams but I don’t know where that comes from.  As Macha said this week, “He got to play for a week and couldn’t get a hit.  He’s better suited for pinch hitting, which is highly unusual.”……….Backup catcher George Kottaras has thrown out only 3 of 41 base runners attempting to steal on him.  In the interest of brevity, maybe all opponents who reach base when he’s playing should just be given an extra one………..St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright is 14-0 when given 4 or more runs in support.  Now, that’s what I call an ‘ace’………..Prior to the MLB trade deadline, there was speculation that the Chicago White Sox would offer a package including pitcher Daniel Hudson for Fielder.  Hudson, who eventually was traded to Arizona, is off to a good start in the NL.  The Brewers will get to see him firsthand this week when the D-backs come to Miller Park………..I think it’s poetic justice that NY Jets head coach Rex Ryan’s comments about corner Darrelle Revis being more worthy than Green Bay’s Charles Woodson for Defensive Player of the Year have helped provide justification for Revis’ holdout in training camp………..Golfer Tiger Woods had the highest 54 hole score of his career in this weekend’s WGC Bridgestone; a tournament he has won 7 times.  In Saturday’s round, Woods hacked around the course like a 10 handicap on his way to carding a 75.  The way Woods’ game is at present, it’s difficult to imagine him breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record for major championships; something that was once thought to be a lock.  Woods may eventually find a way to restore his game, but his intimidation of other golfers on the PGA Tour is history………..And, finally, the University of Wisconsin football team was projected to finish 3rd in the Big(11)Ten conference behind  the  Ohio State University and Iowa in the pre-season media poll.  That sounds about right to me.

Thanks for reading.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

 

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

    “I’ve found as I grow older that I’m less interested in the process and more so in the final product.”

    Same here, and that extends to the speculation leading up to the NFL draft, MLB trading deadline and baseball’s “hot stove” activity in the off-season.

  • http://mike BigSnakeMan

    On the positive side, at least the dogs no longer go crazy during the Family Night fireworks.

  • http://www.twitter.com/RichWardJr Rich Ward

    Solid take on the Training Camp reports. With the slow sports’ days and weeks during the summer, especially when the Crew are struggling, Training Camp does provide a nice “football fix.” But like you said, I’ve become more interested in the final product we see week 1, than I am padless practices, Crosby kicking without a rush, and no namers latching on in no-win situations that will ineviatbly end in cuts.

    I still get stoked for the draft and preseason games, but practices are just…practices.

    Hoffman’s been tough to watch this season. But it was nice to see him close out a game again. Sadly he had to follow that up with 1.0 IP and 3 ER given up in that 4-7 loss to Arizona the other night. Kind of defines there entire season.