You can't be shut-out by Miguel Batista and JA Happ in the space of four games and call yourself a contender. It's not all about missing Prince, but that is the first reason the Brewers offense is so pathetic. Injuries to everyday starters Mat Gamel and Alex Gonzalez haven't helped, but you still can't get blanked by a 40-something journeyman like Batista and a crappy never-has-been like Happ. It's time to give Rickie weeks a weekend(or more) off. It's time to put Nyger Morgan on the bench with him. I'm not giving up on the Brewers, but I certainly am not optimistic, because the only guy on the roster right now who I believe should be playing more is back-up catcher George Kottaras. And if he's your best and only hope to shake up the bats, then you have a pretty bad team!
So I did what Matt Forte should have done and slept on things before reacting. I don't think it helped. First of all, Wisconsin, Bo Ryan and his staff did an excellent job of devising a game plan to exploit Syracuse's zone and still allow Wisconsin to do what it does best...make open 3's. Wisconsin rotated a bunch of different players into the high post to give Syracuse different looks. Some worked..some didn't, but it was good to see the ingenuity. I thought the players themselves did not execute particularly well. There were all kinds of open entry passes to the high post the Badgers passed on.( get it?!? passed on passing?!?) That said, Wisconsin was still able to make their open looks and played well enough to squeeze the Orange. It could be boiled down to the Badgers living and dying on 3's. They made 6 in a row and had the lead. They missed their last 5 and lost the game. But they didn't need to miss their 5th one at the end because they didn't need a three to win.. All they needed was 2. Yet their best offensive player of the night was not on the court at the end and the coaching staff had three chances to get him there. Why Jared Berggren was at the scorers table and not in the game is beyond me. He should have been brought in to rebound the 'cuse free throw. He should have been brought in after the rebound was knocked out of bounds. He could have been brought in if Ryan would have called a TO. Bo says he never leaves his inbounders without a TO. Bo, you might have wanted to make an exception. Berggren was 6 for 7. He was a threat outside, inside and passing from the high post. He needed to be in there. And another thing, Jordan Taylor is a poised senior leader and tactician who can use his size to get anywhere on the court. With or without Berggren on the court, he has to attack the basket..draw a foul.. win from the line.. dish to an open shooter... he has to attack. And speaking of the line. I have focused alot on the games final seconds, but this game was won and lost in other areas too. Wisconsin was only 7-12 from the free throw line. That cost them. And I thought their defense gave up way to many easy shots in the paint. Coach Bo said Syracuse's size, speed and athletism is hard to replicate in practice. No its not. RECRUIT BETTER ATHLETES. Wisconsin is getting there.. but I'm doubting if they can make that next step.
Well, at least they didn't stink it up like Michigan State did. So we got that going for us...which is nice...
What can Dan Appino be thinking? The head coach of the two-time defending state champion Boylan Titans resigns suddenly. That's stunning enough. Then to learn he will take over the mordibund Auburn Knight program? That is more than taking on a new challenge in life. That is like rock star to roadie...Whatever the reason for the sudden and seismic shift, in the long run, it will be good for the NIC-10. Because Appino apparently will be able to bring a few key assistant coaches to Auburn with him, it will probably weaken Boylan a bit while a new coach makes the transition. Boylan has rattled off 56 straight NIC-10 wins. That''s more than 6 years worth. That kind of dominance is bad for the conference. If Boylan falls back a step or two, it gives Harlem, Hononegah and other teams a chance to play for more than 2nd place. And, if Appino and company move to Auburn, it should help make Auburn more competitive. Perhaps not immediately, but a coach of his stature and pedigree, and with the apparent support of the Rockford School administration, will have success. A better Auburn and a weakened Boylan will make for a stronger NIC-10.
Still, it is a mind-boggling move unless Coach Appino is hooking up with '97 Boylan grad and recent Oscar winner Dan Lindsay to do a documentary on Auburn!
So now that Prince Fielder is finally and officially gone as a Milwaukee Brewer, the Mat Gamel era begins. And what exactly has Mr. Gamel done to earn the job as the firstbaseman for the defending NL Central Champs? In 85 games over three seasons, Gamel has hit 5HR's and batted a robust .222. In 171 AB's Gamel has struck out 67 times. That's one strike-out every 2.5 times at-bat. Gamel was sooo bad and apparently developed such an attitude, the pennant-chasing Brewers decided they didn't need a power-hitting lefty off the bench down the stretch. Put it this way, they thought Craig Counsell-fresh off an 0h-for-44 streak- would be more useful. So when Gamel flames out...what's Plan B? Corey Hart to first when he has already indicated he would prefer not to? Even if you talk Hart into that, then who plays right? Carlos Gomez? I don't think so! Maybe Taylor Green will blossom, but he is more unproven than Gamel. Really, how much would it have cost the Brewers to keep Jerry Hairston? No, he's not your typical firstbaseman and probably shouldn't be an everyday player, but at least he's a proven commodity and a patient, smart hitter. The Brewers will miss that now that Prince is gone.
I gotta admit...watching a third string running back and an unknown runningback and a quarterback who was teaching high school less than a month ago carve up the Packers defense while the game still mattered Christmas night was dispiriting. No..the Packers cannot defend their Super Bowl title if the defense plays that poorly. Head Coach Mike McCarthy says the run defense graded out worse than it ever has in his coaching career. If that doesn't improve in the playoffs the Packers will be hard pressed to even make it to Indy. When teams run successfully against the Packers it means the Packers offense is not on the field as much. Both Kansas City and Chicago ran well and dominated time of possession. That means the Packers offense has limited time and opportunities to do their thing. A couple three and outs and the Packers could find themselves down and out. Ryan Pickett missed both the Chiefs and Bears games. He is due back for the playoffs. He will be a big help when it comes to stuffing the run. But he can't do it alone. The Packers must do a better job of taking away the run in the post-season or it will be a short run for them.
The positive performance enhancing drug test for newly minted MVP Ryan Braun is saddening, disheartening and frustrating. Sure, it will hurt the Brewers not to have Braun in the 3rd spot in the lineup for the first two months of the season. But that’s not why its so painful to me. I was actually starting to believe that baseball had pretty much cleaned up its act. Testing in the minors has been in place for years. The major league testing program has been going on for some time as well and players have been busted. Sure, there will always be that next thing that will take a few years to detect and test for, but I believed that players appetites to look for that next thing had been severely diminished. But now, the poster boy for the new era of baseball gets busted. Braun was the NL’s leading All-Star vote getter last year. I don’t care if it was accidental or inadvertent. Not knowing is not a defense. It’s not devastating to the game of baseball..but it just adds to the stains on the game and this one hurts alittle more not just because it’s a Brewer but because he’s one of the guys from the post-steroid era…a post steroid era that may not actually exist.