How can I not despise these people? These people who turn our home games into neutral to road/neutral games? People who will call you any and every name in the book, and none of them pleasant or repeatable here? People who will go to a NON-Cub game just to root against our beloved Brewers? How can I not hate these people, or at least this phenomenon?
I'll tell ya. The almighty dollar, that's how. Let's be realistic, Milwaukee is a small market team with a small market television deal. Which means that the Brewers have a small market salary as well. Unlike teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, or Cubs, the Brewers rarely make a big splash in free agency, and when they do, cannot afford to miss. Can you say Jeffrey Hammonds or Jeff Suppan? Signing these players to huge, long-term deals really hampered the Brewers' ability to patch holes in their lineup when players either did not perform or were injured.
The truth is, like them or not, the people who trek north from Chicago help pay our bills, and may have even been integral to the Brewers ending their 26 year playoff drought. Let's look at the numbers. Over the past two years, the Brewers have averaged 37,691 fans per game. When the Cubs come to town, that total jumps up to 42,100, more than 4,400 extra butts in the seats. And as we all know, there are waaaaay more than 4,400 Cubs fans at Miller Park at a Brewers-Cubs game. I think that there were that many Cubs fans under my canopy when it rained at the last game I went to, much less the entire stadium.
But how much do these extra attendees really help the bottom line? Guessing very conservatively, let's say an average Cub fan pays $25 for a ticket, spends $5 on parking (assuming a carpool of 3 people), and spends another $20 on beer/food/merchandise at the game. That's an extra $210,400 per game in the Brewers' collective pockets. With an average of 8 home games against the Cubbies each year, that's almost $1.7 million a year. And if you use the figure that at least 30% of people at a Brewer/Cub game in Miller are Cub fans, that number jumps up to over $5 million per year, still being quite conservative. That extra cash helps us pay for our free agents (hello Mike Cameron), our big trades (CC Sabathia anyone?), and our big contract extensions (Ryan Braun comes to mind).
So, next time you're tailgating outside Miller Park at a Brewer/Cub game and someone yells something like, "WOOOO! Screw you Milwaukee, you f*****' hicks! Go Cubbies! WOOOOOO!!!," just remember one thing: that guy is helping pay for our next free agent. So instead of yelling back obsenities, thank those FIBS for helping our cause. On second thought, yelling obscenities back is too much fun. Go Brewers! Wooo!!!
Both losses could have easily ended in the win column, but, by a variety of coaching and player mistakes, the Badgers lost. Heading out of the bye week Bucky sits at 2-2 in conference play, good enough for fifth in the Big Ten.
What those two losses left Badger Nation with was a lot of questions, questions that will need to be answered in the remainder of the year.
1. How good is Scott Tolzien?
This might be the biggest question facing Wisconsin through the stretch run. Which Scott Tolzien will we see? The one that threw four touchdowns against Michigan State or the one who struggled with accuracy against Iowa and tossed three interceptions.
Tolzien really seemed to get skittish in the pocket against the Hawkeyes, something the Badgers can't afford to have happen through the remainder of the season. Luckily, they won't face a defensive line of the caliber of Iowa or Ohio State again.
Realistically he needs to be just a game manager, not a playmaker. John Clay should be the focal point of the offense, and if that happens, Tolzien will be fine.
2. Will the secondary hold up?
Maybe the Badgers haven't been torched through the air like it seems... they're fifth in the Conference with 211 passing yards allowed per-game, but a certain amount of that is because they haven't faced the pass heavy teams in the Big Ten. When teams have passed against the Badgers, corners Antonio Fenelus, Devin Smith, Aaron Henry and Niles Brinkley have looked hapless.
Spread teams like Northwestern and Purdue will have a distinct offensive advantage against Wisconsin's corners, that is, unless someone steps up. The D-Line will provide pressure, the linebackers will handle the run game. Can the secondary hold their own? Cross your fingers that they do.
3. Can the defense rebound from losing Mike Taylor?
Mike Taylor was the best linebacker on the Badgers roster through the first six-plus games of the season. Now he's done for the year, and the Badgers will need to fill that void. Coaches are concerned with overplaying freshman Chris Borland, who has a had a noticeable effect on special teams and in pass rush situations.
Most likely we'll see a lot more of junior Blake Sorensen. Sorensen lost the competition with Taylor in the preseason but has seen a lot of playing time. He has a sack on the season, but he won't provide the same type of big play ability that Taylor provided. The linebackers should be solid, no major drop off due to the loss of Taylor.
4. What's wrong with Philip Welch?
Last year Philip Welch was steady as can be, which was remarkable for a freshman kicker, even if he was a redshirt. 2009 has been a completely different story. It only takes one game to get back on track, but the Badgers can't afford any more missed - short - field goals. That 33-yarder he missed against Iowa was game-changing.
I think Welch will be alright, but what other options are there? The only other kicker on the Badgers roster is freshman Alec Lerner, who the team had intended to redshirt. Welch needs to get his act together, and soon.
5. Can anyone catch the ball?
Dropped passes have become a major problem. Any time you drop touchdowns in back to back losses, you will bring the ire of fans. This hasn't been a problem for the tight ends, but the Badger wideouts have a serious problem with holding on to the football.
While Isaac Anderson and Maurice Moore have had their troubles, emerging star Nick Toon has dropped his share as well. The talent is there, but mental mistakes are unacceptable. Yes, this is a young team, but if the troubles continue the Badgers have enough good players to pull guys that struggle.
If Anderson and Moore can't hold onto the ball than Kyle Jefferson and David Gilreath should get their chances.
The Stretch Run
It's very likely that the Badgers will be favored to win the remainder of their games. With home games against Purdue 3-5(2-2) and a less than intimidating Michigan 5-3(1-3) and roadies at Northwestern 5-3(2-2), Indiana 4-4(1-3) and Hawaii 2-5(0-4 in the WAC) Bucky is in full control of their destiny.
With two losses a share of the Big Ten title is not out of the question. Otherwise, it's not unreasonable to put the Badgers at third or fourth place in the Big Ten. Winnable games from here out, it's time to beat the teams you're supposed to beat.
So let's just filter through all the nonsense of offseason rumors, because the fact is, people make things up. What I'm here to do today, is tell you all of the players that will not be traded by, or to, the Brewers in this year's Hot Stove League.
And really? Zack Greinke? Don't be stupid.
A Snowball's Chance in Hell:
Zack Greinke - Royals - (16-8, 2.16 ERA) - Hey, here's a good trade. Let's send the best pitcher in baseball to Milwaukee for a veteran shortstop coming off his worst career year (Hardy), a third base prospect with strikeout problems (Gamel), and a defensively challenged, slap hitting catcher whose been suspended for steroids (Salome).
Ask yourself, does this make sense for Kansas City? It's not like they already have a third base prospect drafted ahead of Ryan Braun (Alex Gordon). It's not like Greinke is signed through 2012. This isn't wishful thinking, it's delusional.
Josh Johnson - Royals - (15-5, 3.23 ERA) - Why wouldn't a team trade a talented young pitcher under club control for the next two seasons for mid-level prospects, I mean it would make sense for Milwaukee. Johnson is good, and the ace of Florida's staff, he's not going anywhere so don't waste time pretending he is.
Tim Lincecum (15-7, 2.48 ERA) Matt Cain (14-8, 2.89 ERA) - Giants - I'm not even going to write any reasons why this won't happen. Stupider than stupid, don't even think it.
Milton Bradley - Cubs - (.257, 12 HR, 40 RBI's) - Why would you even want this to happen? There is no good answer to that question.
Dan Haren - D'backs - (14-10, 3.14 ERA) - HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, this is me laughing in the face of anyone who thinks this could happen.
Chad Billingsley - Dodgers - (12-11, 4.03 ERA) - I repeat, teams don't trade good young pitchers under club control that have ace-type ability. Guys like Billingsley.
While we're at, let's just through some other names under that same category:
- Ricky Romero - Blue Jays - (13-9, 4.30 ERA)
- Brad Bergesen - Orioles - (7-5, 3.43 ERA)
- The Entire rotation of the Tampa Bay Rays
- John Lester - Red Sox - (15-8, 3.41 ERA)
- Phil Hughes - Yankees - (8-3, 3.03 ERA)
- Rick Porcello - Tigers - (14-9, 3.96 ERA)
- John Danks - White Sox - (13-11, 3.77 ERA)
- Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson - Oakland
- Any of the Rangers young pitchers
- Tommy Hanson - Braves - (11-4, 2.89 ERA)
- All of the Nationals good young starters
- Ubaldo Jimenez - Rockies - (15-12, 3.47 ERA)
Jeff Suppan - (7-12, 5.29 ERA) - He can't be traded, it's not possible without eating his entire contract. Will he be in the rotation? It's no guarantee, it wouldn't be a shock to see if the Brewers eat his contract after his abysmal showing over the first three years of his deal, but we can't trade him. Once you accept that, you'll feel much better.
It won't happen, But it's ok to think about:
Roy Halladay - Blue Jays - (17-9, 2.70 ERA) - This wasn't going to happen in season, but now that the Brewers seem more willing to deal a prospect like Mat Gamel or sell high on Casey McGehee packaged with J.J. Hardy and maybe a minor leaguer or two. Still, I don't think Halladay will be traded at all so don't get your hopes up.
Javier Vazquez - Braves - (15-10, 2.87 ERA) - It seems like every team that has Vasquez is willing to trade him, and he was even rumored to the Crew for about an hour and a half near the trade deadline. Still, Vazquez is consistent, and can be dominant. Maybe he won't win for you in the postseason, but he sure will get you there. The Braves will not trade him.
So there you have it. A comprehensive list of pitchers that won't be playing for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2010. So don't bother listening to any rumors that bring any of those players to the Brew Crew.
Anyway, let's get back to business.
Coming off a crushing loss to that one guy and the Minnesota Vikings and a day after watching Bucky cough up a ten-point lead, I think we can all thank the Green Bay Packers for ending the weekend on a high note. True, the Packers were playing the lowly Lions, but as a die-hard Wisconsin sports fan, I’ll take a chance to cheer any day of the week.
Yes, you can find negatives to focus on in a win, as Tom Oates is so great at doing (talk about a guy you don't want at a party). The penalty bug continues to plague the team after the bye-week, Clifton went down again, the 26 points could have been many more had the offense not sputtered and settled for field goals on a number of occasions. But how about we focus on the good of today?
The defense posted a shut out. Remember how much fun it was to watch the defense in preseason? We got another taste of that. Clay Matthews continues to work his way onto the field by making things happen—the man is always around the ball. Harris and Bigby got into the mix with a couple of nice picks, and if Bryant Johnson doesn’t have a cracked rib after being rocked by Nick Collins, he’s a lucky man. Oh, and I hope you enjoyed watching Culpepper struggle as much as I did. There are few things as enjoyable as watching a former Viking flounder.
And how great was it to see Aaron Kampman back getting after the quarterback? Was that a three-point stance I saw? He may have only gotten one sack, but he was in there disrupting things on a number of occasions. It sounds like Capers and Kampman had a discussion and decided if getting down on one hand makes him feel more comfortable, then its the best thing for everyone that he does it. I'm pretty sure anyone who saw the results can agree with that. Dom says he thinks we'll see more production in the next for games out of Kampman. I can't wait.
Perhaps my favorite positive from the game: the short passes that made 2007 so great have reemerged. The strength of the Packers wideouts is their ability to make people miss in the field. So watching Driver, who had a day to celebrate I might add, Jennings and Jones get the ball quick and turn upfield all day long brought a smile to my face that I've held on to until Monday morning, and I intend to keep it for the rest of the day. Other offensive pluses include Rodgers quickened release and that Finley continues to shine.
So really, why look for things to be pissy about after a much needed win? It's not like it was a 9-6 victory--26-0 is hardly something to gripe about. With all these positives, there's really no reason to wallow in the gutter. There's plenty of high ground nearby. So let's enjoy the shut-out, and hope that the team will build on these things in the week to come.
Not a good week for the first year starter. Scott Tolzien was inaccurate, and made some very poor decisions with the ball. His three interceptions were all on throws that he shouldn't have made.
Another problem for Tolzien, he got jumpy at any sign of pressure. The offensive line did a good enough job that nobody is at fault for a poor performance besides the quarterback. Tolzien had his first very bad game, it'll be interesting to see how he bounces back next against Purdue.
Running Backs: C-
Montee Ball looks like a much better second string running back that Zach Brown, but that shouldn't really surprise anyone since Brown has been more of a liability than anything else. In the first half of Saturday's game, it looked like the Badgers were going to roll past the Hawkeyes.
Then fans across the state held their breath as star running back John Clay was bent over backwards and left the game with what looked like a severe injury. He came back into the matchup, but the run game never found it's stride again. Clay finished the game with 80 yards on 21 carries. Again, the backs need to be better against the Boilermakers.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: D
Dropped passes. Again. This has been a problem for every single receiver that the Badgers have put out there this season. This week is Maurice Moore who dropped a touchdown, in a game against an undefeated team you can't make those kinds of mistakes. Also, Kyle Jefferson needs to be included more in the offense than he has been.
Tight Ends didn't have much of an impact on this game either. Garrett Graham and Lance Kendricks combined for only four catches and 38 yards. Graham left the game with a concussion, if he's out for an extended period of time the Badgers offense will take a big hit. When the offense is going well, the Tight Ends are putting up big numbers.
Offensive Line: D+
The inability to open up any running lanes in the second half absolutely killed Wisconsin. In the first half the Badgers really controlled the trenches, John Clay looked like he was going to run wild and he was getting into the secondary. The second half was another story though, there was just nowhere to run.
The Badgers won't see a defensive line of the caliber they faced the last two weeks for the rest of the season, so they should be a dominant unit for the remainder of the season.
Defensive Line: A
Wow, just wow. Between O'Brien Schofield and J.J. Watt the Badgers were able to consistently disrupt Ricky Stansi and effect the running game behind the line. The defensive line has really come together in the last few weeks. Seeing Chris Borland on the line in pass rush situations was a nice touch.
Not good, not bad, just kind of there. Mike Taylor getting hurt was a big hit for the linebackers, he's a sideline to sideline player and him being out left a big hole in the Badger Defense that Blake Sorensen and Chris Borland just can't fill.
One of those two guys will have to step up, Borland did end up leading the team in tackles for the game. That said, let's hope Taylor is alright. He's become a very important part of the defense.
What can you say? The Badgers corners are completely ineffective. The strength of the secondary is in the safeties, Jay Valai and Chris Maragos, and Iowa completely avoided the safeties in Saturday's game. They stuck to out routes and throws near the sidelines and Devin Smith, Niles Brinkley, Aaron Henry and Antonio Fenelus just can't cover anyone.
Special Teams: F
Philip Welch missed another field goal, and kick coverage stunk again. Also, David Gilreath is really struggling with his decision making on punt returns. He's running when he shouldn't and letting punts drop when he shouldn't. He's fast and a tremendous athlete but thus far, he is struggling as a return man.
Special teams just haven't been very good this year, they've struggled in all facets. Plenty to work on during the bye week.
All in all this was just a terribly played game from Wisconsin's standpoint. Defensive play-calling continues to be very questionable. It's hard to figure out why D-Coordinator Dave Doeren continues to call pass coverages where the corners play 10 yards off the wide receivers on third and four. He's basically conceding the first down. Why did Bielema fire Mike Hankwitz again? Doeren certainly isn't an upgrade and is clearly the worst coach on the staff.
After the Ohio State game, you felt good about the Badgers chances this week against Iowa. That was a loss you could feel good about in a lot of ways, not this week. Bucky has little chance at a Big Ten title, but there is not a game left on the schedule that they can't win. If the Badgers ever needed a bye week though, now is the time.
Huntsville Stars (AA) 63-75
Best Base Stealer: Adam Stern - CF - The minor league journeyman swiped 28 bases for Huntsville before being bumped up to Triple-A.
Most Power: Drew T. Anderson - OF - Remember him? Got called up a couple years back in September? Well, no matter, somehow his 10 home runs led the team, and that's borderline absurd.
Best Plate Presence: Jonathan Lucroy - C - The Brewers top catching prospect walked 78 times to finish the year with an OBP of .380.
Highest Average: Drew T. Anderson - OF - It's safe to call Anderson a journeyman as well, since he spent last year in another team's system. That said, Anderson led the Stars with a .301 average in 2009.
Best Command: Zach Braddock - SP/RP - Braddock figured something out this year, in 40.1 innings between Brevard County and Huntsville he struck out 62 and walked only seven.
Worst Defender: Kevin Melillo - 1B/INF - Who? Exactly. That it's not a top prospect is the best news we could have. The veteran minor leaguer led the team with 14 errors, which really isn't that bad.
Best Hitter: Jonathan Lucroy - C - The former Ragin' Cajun (Louisiana-Lafayette, look it up) led the team in doubles (32), RBI's (66) and was second in home runs (9). He also walked more than he struck out.
Best Pitcher: Josh Butler - SP - Butler managed to play for four different Brewers affiliates this season. With Huntsville he threw 41 innings and had a 2.85 ERA to go along with 33 strikeouts and just 13 walks.
Jonathan Lucroy - C - Nine home runs are a big dip for a player who hit 20 last season. But at Huntsville, Lucroy was by himself in the lineup. And he struggled for much of the first half but finished with good all-around numbers. He's defensively advanced and there's a reason the crew thinks of him as their top catching prospect.
Josh Butler - SP - Also known as "the guy we traded Gabe Gross for." Talk about putting yourself on the map. Butler had an outstanding year, going 9-3 with a 2.97 ERA and earning a Major League call-up. His numbers improved with each more advanced minor league level (At Triple-A he struckout 15 and walked just one). If he continues to progress he could make the rotation in 2010 or 2011.
Robert Wooten - RP - After setting the single season save record for Brevard County, Wooten was bumped to Huntsville. His command is impressive, he had 78 K's against just 22 walks and he's been a successful closer at every level he's pitched.
Zach Braddock - SP/RP - He managed to stay moderately healthy, and has showed how electric his stuff is. The question for Braddock will be can he stay healthy enough to start? If he can he will be an impact starter for the Brewers, either way he has a big time arm.
Mike Jones - SP - He pitched the whole year without injuring his pitching arm. Milwaukee's patience with Jones may finally be paying off. He finished the year with a 4.75 ERA but the big number is his 127 innings pitched. Hard not to root for a guy that's been through as many injuries as he has.
Lorenzo Cain - CF - Through no fault of his own, Cain's stock has dropped in 2009. After tearing a ligament in his knee early in the season, he never really had a chance of putting up a big year. Cain hit just .218 through 60 games, hitting four homers and driving in 19. Still, he can redeem himself with a good Arizona Fall League performance and playing well at Triple-A in 2010. He'll have to, because Logan Schafer is knocking on the door.
Taylor Green - 2B/3B - Much like Cain, Green was hampered with an injured wrist, only he had surgery before the season even started. Green had one good month, but on the whole struggled to get in the swing of things at Double-A. He hit .267 for the year but you need more than six home runs from a corner infielder. If he's going to surpass Mat Gamel on the prospect list, he'll need to improve.
Nick Green - SP - Hey let's sign this guy as insurance for our Major League pitching staff! That didn't work out so much, but at least he did better at Double-A than Triple-A, where he had an ERA close to seven. More pitching is always better, but for a guy who started in Triple-A on the 40-man roster, it's disappointing to finish the season in Double-A and off the 40-man.
Joshua Wahpepah - SP/RP - Wahpepah was somewhat of a decent prospect when he was in A-ball. But Double-A did not treat him well. In fact he fell so far that he was released by the team today. So I won't be making any projections as to where he'll be pitching in 2010. For the year he had an ERA over five a WHIP of 1.73.
Wes Littleton - RP - A waiver claim from the Boston Red Sox, Littleton was absolutely horrendous. Much like Green, he started the year at Triple-A, on the 40-man roster and finished the year at Double-A and off the 40-man roster. The difference between the two is that Littleton struggled big time at Double-A as well. He finished the year with an ERA of 6.50 and more walks than strikeouts.
Biggest Surprise: Mike Jones - SP - Call me a pessimist, but I'm going to be honest. I never thought he would make out of Single-A. I had written Jones into the annals of the Chris Saenzs and Nick Neugebauers of the world. But he proved me wrong, and pitched pretty well in the process, but that was just step one. Step two is next, and that will be pitching well in Triple-A and possibly spring training. Jones is a Minor League free agent this offseason, so he could choose to leave the organization. I sincerely hope he doesn't, after the patience the Brewers have shown with him.
Biggest Disappointment: Lorenzo Cain - CF - Again, he was doomed after the knee injury. That said, he was so hyped and everyone was so high on him after the Arizona Fall League that very big things were expected from him. Hopefully big things are still to come, but in the meantime expectations should be tempered. Cain is considered a "Five tool" player, and those kinds of guys always manage to break your heart. For every Carl Crawford there are five Corey Pattersons. Let's just let Cain become whatever type of player he's going to be sans the hype.
#10 - Yovanni Does it All (April 29th vs Pirates)
A pitcher's duel generally isn't going to make a list of top moments in a season. Some consider pitching duels to be baseball at its finest, but to the casual fan it is nothing more than a snoozefest, especially in April where games don't seem to have the same value as a September or October game. But this game Yo struck out 11, and when the normally potent Brewers offense was worse than anemic, Gallardo took things into his own hands and knocked a solo shot into the crowd.
This was the 2nd time Yovanni hit the go ahead homer to help himself. The first being when he hit a three run blast off Randy Johnson, and became the first pitcher to ever take the Big Unit yard.
#9 - Braun Walks It Off to Show Appreciation (September 26th vs Phillies)
Ryan Braun sure likes to give the fans something to appreciate on Fan Appreciation Day. In 2008, in easily the most exciting game I ever attended Braun hit what was his only walk off homer, in grand slam fashion to beat the Pirates in bottom of the 10th. 2009's game came down to the bottom of the 9th on Fan Appreciation Night...different year against a different opponent with different stakes, but Braun provided the same ending with a two run homer, his 30th of the year. I once again was in attendance, and though much less was on the line, I can tell you that the fans and players still showed they cared.
#8 - Braunie Lays Out For It (May 18th vs Cardinals)
You may have read that the Cardinals dislike having any sort fun by a recent post by Lange. Well, the Cardinals also dislike players making amazing plays against them and taking a second to gather themselves after slamming into the turf. Plenty happened on this day. The Brewers learned that Rickie Weeks would be out for the season, Jason Kendall hit his 2,000th hit, Braden Looper picked up the Brewer's Major League leading 24th quality start (you read that right), and Mat Gamel hit his 1st major league homerun. What stands out though was Ryan Braun's full extension catch in the third inning (video here). The message boards quickly lit up about how "unclassy" Braun was for laying on the ground with his arms extended after that catch. I think those fans were just upset that the Brewers ended up sweeping the Cards that series.
#7 - Home Opener Thriller/Rickie Weeks? Really? Okay then! (April 10th vs Cubs)
The Milwaukee Brewers Home Opener should be a statewide Holiday, seriously Governor Doyle, you should get on that. I know myself and many of my friends quickly ask for that day off of work so we can get to the park as early as possible and grill and drink for as long as possible. To me, it is the unofficial start of spring. So, what can make the home opener even better? Playing the hated Cubs of course! This game was the one Brewers vs Cubs game I've been to that didn't have 30%-50% Cubs fans because most of the seats went to those who purchased ticket packages for the season.
What's even better than those reasons? Watching Chicago's newest closer melt down the same way every other Chicago closer seems to do. In the bottom of the 9th, Rickie Weeks doubled home the tying run, then moved to third on a Gregg wild pitch. Ryan Braun then hit a soft grounder to Theriot and Weeks went for the kill. It was a close play at the plate, but when the umpire went palms down, the stadium erupted in a frenzy! Weeks, who many fans had given up on, pulled through in a clutch....really.
#6 - Fielder Goes "Back, Back, Back, Back, Back" Twenty Three Times (July 13th - HR Derby)
I apologize for making you think of Chris Berman, but unfortunately when I think of the HR Derby during the All Star Break all I hear is that doofus in my head. I was debating if this was technically a "Brewers" top moment, but act like you weren't glued to your TV cheering your ass off for Fielder. Fielder hit 23 total and took down former Brewer Nelson Cruz of the Rangers in the finals to hoist up his well deserved hardware.
It was a nice scene. Moments after winning the Derby both of Fielder's boys and Ryan Braun were quickly there to help the big guy celebrate. The best part though, Fielder "untucking it" at Busch Stadium, but the Cardinal fans, who usually respect impressive feats (ex. giving Rickie Weeks applause after he crushed one to 'Big Mac Land' years ago) gave Prince the cheers he deserved.
#5 - A Near No-No for Bush (April 23rd vs Phillies)
Nothing gets fans buzzing like the prospect of a no-hitter, also superstitions start to come into play like few other moments in sports. It was a day game in Philadelphia, so I like most was at work listening. After the 5th inning the office start to stir about the Brewer game and that "Bush is pitching very well", thankfully I had AT&T U-Verse and quickly went online to start recording the game on my DVR. After the 6th and 7th people couldn't help but mention the no-hitter and work progress started to slow. Uecker stayed right on with baseball announcer tradition of not making a deal of it, while still letting the audience know after each inning saying something like, the Phillies have no runs on no hits after 4...5...6...7. Then the bottom of the 8th I started to believe after listening to Uecker's call about Bill Hall's amazing play (video). There always seems to be an amazing defensive play involved in a no-hitter. For Juan Nieves it was Robin Yount diving for the 27th out, and even for Mark Buehrle this year he had an amazing HR saving catch. When I got home and watched that play I was in awe at Billy's throw. I also got a huge kick at how uncomfortable Bill Schroeder was at Brian Anderson for talking about the no-hitter (nonstop) and at one point telling him he wasn't comfortable with it.
Both Hall and Braun had that same feeling I did. Hall said, "When you get a play like that during a no-hitter, everybody starts to feel a little bit of momentum, like it's actually going to happen." Ryan Braun stated, "When Billy made that play, I really thought it was going to be [Bush's] day, our day. It almost happened."
Then Matt Stairs came along and sent one into the seats, ending Bush's bid for history. Just something about former Brewers (2002) crushing the Brewers at inopportune times. The crew still won the game though, and look, it made for a good story.
#4 - Ryan
Ryan Braun doesn't like to get beaned, especially if he feels it is intentional. We all found out about that earlier in the year after Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens was all but threatened by Braun after an obvious intentional ball. To set this one up, you have to go to the Brewers win night before where Braun hit a go ahead 8th inning HR to win the game off of Cubs pitcher, Aaron Heilman. It was somewhat similar to 2008's final regular season game, including Braun doing the "airplane", which set off many people as a classless move since it was only May.
Back to the game at hand. In the 5th inning, Dempster, who was pitching fairly sharp, threw one way inside as Braun tried to drop a drag bunt, and the ball got a piece of Braun's helmet. Dempster, of course, claimed the ball wasn't intentional, but Braun and most Brewer fans felt it was payback for last night's heroics/actions. It's hard to say if it was intentional or not, especially because Dempster unraveled in the 7th inning giving up a homerun to the non-power threat Craig Counsell followed up by the obviously upset Braun who launched one for back to back homers. Braunie did make it a point to stare Dempster down while trotting the bases. The thankfully not hired for Brewers Manager, Bob Brenly, had a big problem with that saying Braun was going to be getting hit plenty more for acting like he did. To us Brewer fans, it was awesome! It was as if Braun hated the Cubs as much as we did. Oh it should be mentioned this was game where the lights went out at Miller Park.
#3 - The Runoff Celebration (May 25th vs Cardinals)
Another "boring" pitcher duel with Gallardo on the mound. Chris Carpenter and Yo battled for 8 scoreless innings on Memorial Day. Things remained scoreless after 9 1/2, then Bill Hall, who seems to have a flair for the dramatic when it comes to Holidays, singled Casey McGehee home for the winning run in the bottom of the 10th. I was in the crowd, and noticed Bill Hall touch first and immediately sprint into the clubhouse. I thought maybe he was emotional since he was struggling mightily and had just came through in the clutch. I was too busy celebrating myself to notice the rest of the team had also all vacated the dugout immediately.
It is no secret the St. Louis Cardinals hate that the Brewers 'untuckem' after win, and the Cards have been vocal about it. So, as a smartass way to retaliate, the Brewers celebrated inside their clubhouse so as to not offend the losing Cardinals. Of course, this just infuriated the Cardinals even more, but made us fans love that the Crew was having some fun.
#2 - Prince Fielder is 'Da Bomb' (September 6th vs Giants)
I had the opportunity to use 90's slang talk, so I took it, and I'm pretty sure I nailed it! I'm talking of course about Prince Fielder's walk off homerun where he 'blasted' his teammates over with a 'mighty' hop on home plate. This was one of USA Today's top regular season moments, and what prompted Tom Haudricourt to ask the question that prompted me to write this post...whew. Why wasn't it #1 for me then? It was probably the best celebration I have ever seen in baseball, but we'll just say my heart strings weren't tugged (foreshadowing).
This actually was an amazing game that involved many defensive gems, of which a triple play wasn't even at the top of the list, but everyone will remember...quite possibly for years to come, the Brewers players (and some coaches) falling over as Fielder triumphantly hopped on the plate. The Giants were upset by it, the media, while loving it, claimed it to be pushing the envelope probably too far, especially since the Giants were still in the playoff hunt. Here's my question, if the Giants were trying to push for the postseason, what are they doing losing then? I think it is fantastic to see the Brewers having a good time, even though the season didn't go the way they wanted.
#1 - A McGehee Day to Remember (July 29th vs Nationals)
As mentioned before, I am going to go with the heart strings moment of the season. Casey McGehee had already proven himself to the fans with his great rookie campaign for the Brewers after the Cubs discarded him. His double shy of the cycle, his playing on a bum knee, his many clutch hits including his game winning Grand Slam a month earlier that probably could/should be on this very Top 10 list, were all shining moments we fans will remember about him this year. On this night though, Casey and his 2 year old son Mackail McGehee became endeared into Milwaukee's hearts.
Mackail McGehee has Cerebral Palsy, who many Brewer fans (myself included) were unaware of. So, when 'Mack' threw out the opening pitch to his Dad with assistance from Prince Fielder I think most of Wisconsin felt a wave of emotion for the moment. What made it all come together for a seemingly perfect day for Casey and his family, though, was when Casey hit the go ahead 2 run pinch hit homer that provided the difference for the win.
Casey was emotional (rightfully so) after the game, here is a portion of Adam McCalvy's article (linked above) after the game:
"As a father, that's going to me a moment I remember for a long time," said the elder McGehee, fighting back tears. "He's something special. To go through what he's going through and to keep on plugging, no one even notices he has anything wrong with him most of the time.
"He's been a big inspiration to me. The way some of the guys have taken to him is really special. If you would have asked me a few years ago if I would even be on a big league field, let alone be able to share it with my son in any way, shape or form, I was pretty lucky to have that happen."
Perhaps Casey can bring the Rookie of the Year Trophy home this year as well. It'll be a long shot, but wouldn't be surprising either.
There are 162 games, it is highly likely that I forgot about some top moments. Please leave a comment sharing some of your favorite moments from 2009 that I may have overlooked. Otherwise, here's looking to 2010's highlights!
Rough game for the Junior Scott Tolzien. Yes, he was under a lot of pressure, but those two interceptions he threw were essentially game breakers (along with horrendous kick coverage).
You can make a case that Tolzien being hit caused the first interception, but if he was throwing to the underneath receiver than he deserved to have the ball picked off, because that route was not open. More likely (and Dustin and I agree on this) he was throwing to the end zone where he had Isaac Anderson in man coverage and, seemingly, open. The hit just took all the zip out of the throw and made for an easy pick.
Still, there were some inaccurate throws and 27 of 45 isn't quite as efficient as a quarterback needs to be. After some of the early hits he also got a bit skittish in the pocket, he'll have to be better next week against another good defensive front in Iowa.
Zach Brown started, get over that please. Brown has been ineffective and is now hurt, so maybe that will finally break this idea that he's a good running back. John Clay showed some good power but never really got into a rhythm. Also, I don't buy into the thought that Brown is better at blitz pickup then Clay. Clay did a good job in that role once Brown was out of the game.
Montee Ball showed some good burst as a spell back, more than Brown has shown all year. Depending on how severe Brown's concussion is, expect to see him a bit more next week.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: D
Terrible day for this group. Let's start with the Tight Ends, who really had no positive impact on this game. Lance Kendricks and Garrett Graham combined to catch just five passes for 43 yards. Graham also got flagged for three penalties, two of which were very costly holding penalties.
On to the wide receivers, who were also terrible. Most notably, the dropped touchdown pass by Isaac Anderson. After that play the wind fell completely out of the Badger's sails. Dropped passes have been a problem all year long, and it finally caught up with Wisconsin in Columbus.
On a side note, it was good to see Kyle Jefferson getting some balls thrown his way. With Anderson's drops don't be shocked if Jefferson gets a chance to make some plays in the next few weeks.
Offensive Line: C-
In a game where Scott Tolzien was sacked six times you would probably expect this grade to be worse, so stay with me here. In the first, say, quarter-and-a-half, pressure was a problem. But, the line started to settle and Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst adjusted his play calling for quicker routes and holding a running back in to block (something Mike McCarthy could take a lesson from).
After that the O-Line started to really handle the pass rush. Up until late in the game when the Buckeyes didn't have to play the run, they gave Tolzien time to make plays. This was a good test for this group and with this battle under there belt they should be better prepared for the caliber of defensive line they face from Iowa next week.
Defensive Line: B
How good is O'Brien Schofield? He is a one man pass rush, and an impact player against the run. Any play made near or behind the line of scrimmage is probably made by him. Schofield had two more sacks and had 3.5 tackles for loss. He's a special player and fun to watch.
J.J. Watt also had another good game, the defensive line really seems to be rounding into form. After Watt and Schofield, the Badgers are putting together a nice rotation with Louis Nzegwu, Patrick Butrym, Dan Moore and Jeffrey Stehle.
You can't say enough good things about Mike Taylor. To be having an impact like his as true freshman speaks volumes about his talent. Along with Schofield and Safety Chris Maragos, Taylor is a star on the Defense.
The rest of the group had another steady performance as well, containing the "dual" threat quarterback, Terrelle Pryor. Culmer St. Jean notched an interception and Blake Sorensen and Jaevery McFadden have been as steady as ever.
It was a simple task this week, Terrelle Pryor is not a good throwing quarterback. So good coverage on the 3-4 accurate passes he will have in a game is not too much to ask.
Antonio Fenelus' coverage on DeVier Posey's touchdown catch was just terrible. The sad part was, Fenelus had good coverage, but he never looked for the ball. If he does, he's probably able to make a play and the Badgers go into half time with a lead.
Where is Jay Valai? The hard hitting safety has yet to make any impact on the 2009 season.
Special Teams: D
It's not a complete fail because the Badgers only touchdown came as a result of a fake field goal. Even that's not enough to salvage the abysmal kick coverage that Wisconsin had in the second half.
They say on a kickoff return the returner has to make at least one man miss to bring it back. Well, not on Ray Small's 96-yard return. The lane that he had on that return was big enough for an obese person on a rascal to score through. Unacceptable. The Badger's have one of the worst kick coverage units in the country.
One observation that was made after the game is that the Badgers offense needs to make a quick transition from offense to defense when a turnover is made. And that's true. Interceptions and fumbles happen, and when it does the Offense can't allow long returns. Two pick-6's is just hard to believe, and that's exactly what happened.
That said, despite the 18-point loss, this game gives us a much better idea of where Wisconsin stands. The Badgers didn't look over-matched, and had they not shot themselves in the foot so many times they would have had a very good chance to win the game.
Next week against undefeated Iowa at home, the Badgers are good enough to win. And they do not have a game on the schedule for the rest of the year that they can't win. Second place in the Big Ten is in reach, and maybe even a share of the title, as long as they don't continue to give their opponents points.
Untuck your jersey after a game, you are unclassy. Celebrate a walk-off win against another team, you are unclassy. Wave white towels in excitement as a fan, you are despicable. Act like you've been there before. Just remember, the Cardinals and their fans are better than you.
What's more offensive to you, an untucked jersey or a horrific porn-stache? Here's a hint, only one of them just made me throw up in my mouth.
If the mustache doesn't convince you, nothing screams classy like one of your top pitchers complaining about fans, well, being good fans.
"He lost the ball in the 50,000 white towels shaking in front of his face," starting pitcher and would-be hero Adam Wainwright said. "It doesn't seem really fair that an opposing team should be allowed to shake white towels when there's a white baseball flying through the air. Dodger blue towels — how about that?"Yea, those fans and their towel waving, really classy to blame them for being excited that your left-fielder got bag tagged rather than catch an easy pop fly. What's next, are they too loud? Are they saying mean things to you? Or is the problem that you just lost two games with supposedly the best pitching duo in the majors on the mound?
Speaking of the other top pitcher, what about Chris Carpenter's shouting at Dodgers game one starter Randy Wolf? Check out No. 2 in Tom Verducci's si.com story for more. Nothing like venting your frustration... at the other team's pitcher. And even if he did have an excessive bat flip, who cares? It's a bat flip, on an out.
But it's the Cardinals, and that means any shows of emotion from an opposing team are "not playing the game the right way." One of the greatest moments of the 2009 season was when the Crew beat St. Louis with a walk off hit and the entire team ran into the clubhouse to untuck their jersey because the Cardinals have a problem with the untuckem (it's classless).
It's the Cardinal way, Albert Pujols would never do anything like that... No Albert Pujols just stares down every pitcher who tries to throw inside on him. Newsflash Albie, that's baseball. It's not an affront to everything you stand for. If you don't want to get pitched inside stop hitting the living daylights out of the ball. Nobody is out to get you, so stop being an asshole.
But can he stop being an asshole? This team has taken on the personality of their Manager more than any other team in baseball and Tony LaRussa is the biggest asshole in the game today. Your team throws inside he'll have his pitchers hit you, whether it was intentional or not, that's just what he does. His is the clubhouse where no fun is allowed.
Do we all remember when LaRussa got a DUI for getting drunk and passing out in his car? While being stopped at a redlight? And the worst part of that whole situation is that when he managed his next home game home fans gave him a standing ovation. For what? Being a fucking moron? Classy St. Louis, very Classy.
That's right, Cardinalism starts with the team and spreads itself throughout the fanbase. Yes the Cards fans are some of the most informed in all of baseball. And thusly, they happen to believe that that are better than the rest of us, and why? Because the Cardinals do things the right way.
But what is the right way? Players doing off-base things like growing mustaches? Guys getting frustrated once in a while and venting publicly? Or staring down every pitcher who tries to back you off the plate?
Sorry, but the Cardinal way sounds an awful lot like the way the rest of baseball plays the game. Hate to break it to you St. Louis, but you're just like the rest of us. Your fans aren't better, your team isn't classier and baseball is, in fact, fun. Maybe once you get off the pedestal you've built for yourself you'll realize that. If you ever do, give us a call, we're the people that like to watch our team win and celebrate. We don't concern ourselves over towels and the class level of a performance, we just want a good game.
But we won't give an ovation to a drunk driver, that's classless.
Brevard County Manatees (Advanced Class-A) 79-48
Best Base Stealer: Eric Farris - 2B - The second baseman was a beast on the base paths, stealing 70 and only getting caught six times. He led the Florida State League by 15 steals.
Most Power: Caleb Gindl - RF - For a little guy (5'9") Gindl(right) sure has some pop. His 17 homers led the Manatees and was second in the FSL.
Best Plate Presence: Zealous Wheeler - 3B - Wheeler hit .268 with a .370 OBP, which led the team. For the year he had 60 walks to go along with 78 strikeouts.
Extra Base Machine: Logan Schafer - CF - Schafer (right) led the team with 204 total bases. He had 31 doubles to go along with six homers and six triples.
Highest Average: Logan Schafer - CF - The Center Field prospect also won the Florida State League batting title with a .313 average.
Best Command: Evan Anundsen - SP - The sinker baller just edges out Amaury Rivas. Anundsen walked 41 in 130 innings and had a paltry WHIP for a starter of just 1.09.
Worst Defender: Brent Brewer - SS - In his second year with the Manatees, the athletic Brewer logged 35 errors.
Best Hitter: Logan Schafer - CF - To go along with his FSL batting title, Schafer led the team in runs scored (76), and was fourth in RBI's (58). He also had a .369 OBP from the lead-off spot, not too shabby.
Best Pitcher: Amaury Rivas - SP - It looked like Anundsen would walk away with this title except Rivas was white-hot in the second half. After the break he went 9-2 with a 2.26 ERA and .205 batting average allowed. Rivas led the team with 13 wins.
Logan Schafer - CF - A third round pick a year ago, Schafer didn't make a splash as a rookie, but tore it up in 2009. He would seem ticketed for Huntsville, which means the pressure will be on another Center Field prospect (Lorenzo Cain) to have a big year next year.
Steffan Wilson - 1B/LF - Drafted in the 28th round in 2007, Wilson (left) has quietly put together a pair of very nice seasons. This year, he hit .272 with 13 home runs. The FSL is tough on hitters, but he'll need to improve on those numbers if he's to stay at first base. Double-A for him in 2010.
Mark Rogers - SP - He stayed healthy, which is most important, and pitched very well all season long. Rogers finished with an ERA of 1.67 in 64.2 innings. For the year he also struck out 67 and sported a .201 batting average allowed. He should be at Huntsville next year and is definitely one to watch since he already has to be on the 40-man roster.
Evan Anundsen - SP - Anundsen wasn't on the map coming into 2009. What did he do? Just put up a 2.69 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP. And throw a no-hitter. I think it's safe to say he's caught the attention of the front office.
Amaury Rivas - SP - Three talented pitchers in the Brewer's farm system? The only downside is that all three are still at least two years from the big league level (if they continue to spend a year at each level). Rivas signed as a free agent in 2005 and has been slowed by injuries. This was easily his best year as a pro.
Chris Errecart - 1B - Errecart started the year at Double-A Huntsville but struggled mightily at the dish (he hit just .149) and found himself demoted to Brevard. Once there, he struggled as well, Errecart batted just .245 with 86 strikeouts in 90 games. Not going to cut it, at this point he seems destined for another year with the Manatees.
Brent Brewer - SS - Brewer has been called the most athletic player in the Crew's farm system. Well, athletic does not a baseball player make. Along with leading the team with 35 errors Brewer hit an anemic .222 and struck out 109 times in 104 games. If he ever figures it out he may be a good one, but so far, so bad.
Jeremy Jeffress - SP - The only thing holding Jeffress back is himself. When he returns next season he'll be sitting one more suspension from a lifetime ban from the game of baseball. He has a $10 million arm and a pot problem to match. Expect the worst and hope for the best.
Alex Periard - SP - If someone knows why Periard is on the 40-man roster, please let me know. My best guess would be that it's a similiar situation to Cody Scarpetta (injury, invalidated contract, etc.). That said, Periard had an ERA over five and didn't look anywhere near a promotion to Double-A. Right now, he's a waste of a 40-man roster spot.
Omar Aguilar - RP - Maybe it's not fair to include Aguilar on this list. He made a huge splash in spring training with an upper-90s arm and many considered him to be a closer in waiting. He started with Huntsville after an injury caused him to miss the start of the year. After an ineffective stint (7.71 ERA) he was sent to the Manatees where he found his stride. Still, you had to hope that he'd be in Nashville next year and maybe even the bigs. But now, not going to happen.
Biggest Surprise: Logan Schafer - CF - Obviously the Brewers thought pretty highly of him, since they drafted him in the third round, but the early returns have been terrific. Schafer has played his way into the picture for the Crew.
Biggest Disappointment: Jeremy Jeffress - SP - There is nothing worse to fans than a talented player who struggles because of errors in judgement. Jeffress' future is in his own hands, and if he can turn it around he could be a dominant Major League pitcher, but right now? He just needs to lay off the weed.
Quarterback: B+. I thought about giving A-Rodg a better grade here, since he's been the heart and soul of this team, along with Charles Woodson. But giving an A to the leader of an offense that has been disappointing at best just didn't seem right. So, the numbers: 60% completion percentage, 1100 passing yards, 100 rushing yards, 7 TDs (1 rushing), 2 TOs (1 INT, 1 FUM), 101 QB rating. All very respectable numbers and improvements over last year's numbers, and should be good enough to earn him an A. Except for the two very important stats that have not yet been discussed: 20 sacks, 2-2 record. To be sure, neither of those numbers are all his fault, but he is partly to blame. He needs to get a better internal clock. Or the Packers need to game plan differently due to the lack of a legitimate NFL O-line. But taking 5 sacks a game is just unacceptible and is going to get A-Rodg killed. And it is A-Rodg, not A-Rod. He plays for the Yankees.
Running Backs: C. This may be a harsh grade, but I just haven't seen much out of this group. Ryan Grant doesn't seem to be running with the same kind of purpose as he has in the past, the backs haven't been much of a factor in the passing game, and the pass protection, which the backs are a part of, has just been atrocious. The lack of a running threat has really hurt this team, as evidenced by the Pack going 5-wide on 4th and goal from the Viking 1 Monday night. There is certainly room for improvement from this group, especially when Brandon Jackson gets back, but as of now, the backs definitely do not look like a strength.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B-. This grade could be higher and I suspect will be much higher at the next check-in. Yes, there have been some big plays (Jennings vs. CHI, Driver vs. STL, Finley vs. MN), but there have been way too many drops. Even guys like Driver and Jordy Nelson have had bouts of the dropsies. And Greg Jennings should never, ever be shut out in a game, as he was against Cinncinnati. And while the Viking game was a coming out party for the tight ends, Donald Lee HAS to catch that ball in the end zone.
Offensive Line: F. My mother, as most do, once told me that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
Defensive Line: B-. Boy, I'm glad that I never had me as a teacher in school, I probably would have flunked out. This was a tough one for me to grade, probably the toughest. I'm not as well-versed with the 3-4 style of defense, so I'm not really sure yet as to what the line's responsibilities are. Johnny Jolly has shown flashes of the spectacular, Adrian Peterson was basically as much of a non-factor as is possible, and the Packers did chase Jay Cutler all over the field, all of which are admirable. But they did give up big days to running backs Cedric Benson and Steven Jackson. Boy, I never thought that I'd use big day and Cedric Benson in a sentence together. And the time Brett Favre had to throw was just downright embarrassing. So, with this group, definitely some good, some bad. This unit should get better as they get (hopefully) a healthy B.J. Raji soon.
Linebackers: B. Again, not knowing the 3-4 in-and-out, this was a tough one for me to do. Brandon Chillar seems to be everywhere, Clay Matthews is a playmaker (how sweet was that rip-six vs. MN?), and I think that A.J. Hawk looks a lot better this year. Aaron Kampman has been quiet, but I think that he'll make some more plays as the season goes on. Nick Barnett seems a step slow, but he's coming off an injury, he'll get back up to game speed. This would have been an A, but letting Cedric Benson dominate a game against you knocks this unit down. I can't believe that I just used Cedric Benson and dominate in a sentence with Benson as the subject, not the object.
Secondary: B+. Tough to give a singular grade to this unit for four games. First off, Charles Woodson has been unbelievable. If the Pack would stop giving up four and five sacks a game to one person, Woodson could win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. That is, if teams keep throwing his way, which I'm guessing they'll do less of as the season progresses. Against Chicago, the unit was very good. Against the Bengals, again, the secondary was solid. As they were against the Rams. However, the old Leader of the Pack absolutely carved them up. Of course, they didn't stand much of a chance, what with the pathetic pass rush that the Pack threw up there. Also, due to injuries, the safety positions have been a bit scary, with way too many blown coverages against the Vikes. That alone drops this unit from an A.
Special Teams: B. Ok, I'm almost done with my beer (it was a big glass), so I should start wrapping this up. The special teams have been good, not great. Nothing flashy, but nothing abhorrent either. The Bengal game was a little scary, especially the punt coverage team. Crosby is 3-3 with good onside kicks, which is impressive. However, needing to use 3 onside kicks in the first 4 weeks is a little disturbing. Pretty good effort from the special teamers so far.
Coaching: C. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Mike McCarthy fan. I like him as a coach and want to see him leading the Green and Gold for years to come. So why the C? Because I think that he can do so much better. Two years ago, the Packers started 7-1 without a running game or a decent offensive line. How? Sure, Brett Favre was great, but they had a great game plan. Quick drops, get the ball out, and let the receivers run wild. This year, the Packers are in the same situation, but have not adjusted their game plan accordingly. Way too many deep drops for Rodgers. Maybe Rodgers isn't audibling to quick hitters when necessary or is missing guys, I don't know. But something needs to change. And as for the defense, teams seem to be handling the Packers' attacking 3-4 better each game. Time for Capers to do some adjusting of his own. And with a bye week coming up, he's got plenty of time to do it.
Overall: C. While there have been some bright spots, the first four games as a whole have been more disappointment than appointment (that's the opposite of disappointment, right?). 4-0 would have been an A+, 3-1 a B+/A-. But for the Packers' schedule so far, 2-2 is not where they wanted to be. And let's be honest, the Pack could VERY easily be 1-3, save for a spectacular pass from Rodgers to Jennings in the waning seconds against the Bears. This team does have time to right the ship though. The bye week comes at a good time, as do the two very winnable games right after the bye (DET, @CLE). While the record isn't what we were hoping for, the games have certainly been entertaining. And if we have learned nothing else from these first four games, it's this: never, ever believe anything that you see in the preseason. Well what do you know, looks like I'm out of beer. Gotta run, and here's hoping for a better report card in five weeks...
Scott Tolzien didn't have to shoulder as much of the load, and that's the way it should be. He was a true game manager in this match-up. Tolzien threw for just over 160 yards and continued to impress with his accuracy and pocket-presence. He's like Jim Sorgi only we don't expect him to do better than he has so it's alright.
But, he did throw an interception. With how close every single game has been for the Badgers those kind of mistakes cannot happen. Still, of the turnovers in the game that one was not nearly as costly as it could have been. How about that bootleg though.
Running Backs: A-
Minnesota had no answer for John Clay. He was too big, too fast and too powerful for that defense and it showed. Clay ran for 184 yards, making that three out of the last four weeks that he has run for more than 140 yards. He's good, and he seems to be taking better care of the football after that awful Wofford game.
On the other hand, there's Zach Brown, who looks like he's going to be carrying the ball less until he shows better ball security. Brown's fourth quarter fumble put the Gophers back in the game and also made it three straight games that he's put the ball on the turf.
That said, Clay was too good to not give Bucky's running backs an A for the game.
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends: B+
Garrett Graham and Lance Kendricks might be the best tight end duo in the country. The touchdown catch that Kendricks had was exceptional, you can't do a better job. Also, Graham had another stellar performance, providing Tolzien a go-to target.
Wide Receivers were quiet, but drops weren't as noticeable of a problem as they had been the past few weeks. The passing game wasn't as important in this game so it's hard to find fault in lower numbers than normal for guys like Nick Toon and Isaac Anderson.
Offensive Line: A
No complaints here, John Clay had big holes and the Minnesota pass rush was fairly ineffective. As the season has gone on, the offensive line has really gotten a lot better. Depth should not be a problem for this unit and as the O-line goes, usually the Badgers go.
Defensive Line: A
Getting healthy has done wonders for the Defensive Line. This week we can look past O'Brien Schofield (even though he was terrific as usual) and see heavy contributions from other members of the line. Louis Nzegwu and Patrick Butrym played well, and the Badgers were able to consistently pressure a team for the first time all season.
As a whole, the group didn't put the numbers up that they have in past weeks, but Chris Borland's presence on Minnesota's last drive was difference making. Borland almost single-handedly pressured and disrupted the Gopher rally.
Had Mike Taylor's interception not been called back due to penalty this group would probably be getting an A. Overall though a very, very good performance from the 'backers, especially the two true freshman, Borland and Taylor.
It's not a better grade because Eric Decker absolutely lit-up Bucky's defensive backs, but the Badgers aren't the first team he's done that to and they won't be the last. It's not worse because besides Decker, the Gophers receivers really didn't have an impact on the game.
The Badgers still lack a clear number one corner but the group of Antonio Fenelus, Devin Smith, Niles Brinkley and Aaron Henry seems to be improving. More improvement will be needed if Wisconsin wants to have any chance against Ohio State next week.
They won, and at the end of the day that's all that really matters. But for the second straight week, the Badgers had their opponent beaten and were in control only to allow them back into the game. This time it was Zach Brown's fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
Last year the Badgers lose this game, this year they win. But if they get a lead against Ohio State and can't put them away, they will lose. You can't let good teams hang around and give them chances to beat you, maybe Minnesota and Michigan State won't come back but the Buckeyes will, Iowa will. It's the difference between fourth place and a Big Ten title.
Get Drunk at Miller Park
You read that right. Just because the Brewers aren't playing, doesn't mean you have to stop drinking at your favorite summertime drunk stop. If you want to pull into the lot on a snowy day and fire up the grill, then you are a true tailgate trooper. If security tries to hassle you, just say you are waiting for the clubhouse store to open up because they have this new style hooded sweatshirt that your little nephew has been wanting to get since he first heard of it. Security won't know what to say and might just leave you alone.
The most feasible way to get yourself inebriated though, is to head to Friday's, which is open year round. It's a weird site to see a dark, empty, snow filled stadium...but after a couple of their famous long island iced teas, you'll be cheering like its game day!
Watch the Milwaukee Admirals
After all, they do have a Brewers patch on their jerseys, plus per the ever reliable wikipedia, Mark Attanasio and Gord Ash have a stake in the team (not sure if Ben Sheets still does or not). I've been to one game in my life, but this year I want to try and become a regular. The tickets are cheap, live hockey is always a blast, and there is beer to be drank. If those three reasons aren't enough to lure you, let me repeat, there is beer to be drank. They have a pretty sweet logo, so, there is that as well. Picture this evening: you start out the night in one of the sports bars by the stadium, then you head to the BC, then after the game you are just a short walk to the bar scene...perfect! For more information, please visit the Admirals website. And when you can't catch the game, be sure to get your Admiral updates from The Sports Bubbler's dedicated Admirals blog.
Start a Winter Meetings Fantasy Team
Fantasy is in, and come December, if you are like me, you are yearning for baseball to be back. This yearning, is what makes the winter meetings a bigger deal than they are. I am actually reasonably certain that it is an elaborate excuse for the General Managers to go on a vacation and drink it up. There are always big talks and big rumors, but it always seems like it just that, talk. Sure, there is a move made here and there to help us believe that it is legit. So, how do you win in a fantasy version? You and your friends go to the bar and talk baseball and potential trades. It'll be just like the real thing. If you want to go all out, rent a conference hall at a fancy hotel.
Get a Bob Uecker Ringtone on your phone
Always relive great Brewers moments every time you get a call. For you blackberry users, here is a link to Uecker's great call after Braun's HR that sent the Brewers into the playoff. I think his voice is somewhere in there, all I can hear is fan pandemonium...or fandemonium if you will.
Make a Countdown Calendar to When the Pitchers and Catchers Report
It'll be so exciting to know just when baseball will start to get back in the swing of things. Plus, you can
Experiment on the Grill
Have you always wanted to try something new on the grill, but been too scared to look foolish at the tailgate? Well, the winter is the perfect time to try out new recipes. Maybe you can even try Chef Jerry Garcia's tailgate tips! You don't want to have to experiment on Opening Day and look like a fool when you make bad tasting pork chops when you could have had a reliable, tasty bratwurst. Bonus points for grilling during a blizzard. I don't know who the dude is in the picture, but he gets whats up.
Snow Softball League
This doesn't exist, to my knowledge, but why not be a pioneer. I've played ice kickball, and can assume snow softball (or better yet, ice softball) would be equally as fun. I can hear it now, "Oh no, Lange just slipped and busted his head rounding third, that's almost as embarrassing as the Cubs 2009 season!" Just make sure to bring the brandy for that cozy, yet false, warmth.