Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Perfect No More

Sunday, the 20 game win streak of the Green Bay Packers was snapped by the Kansas City Chiefs. Although it was painful to watch, I think it was something that needed to happen. It was a great opportunity for us to get the much needed wake up call. Now, we can focus on the real task at hand now that the '72 Dolphins record will stay active for one more season. The goal get to the Super Bowl and win back to back World Championships. On Sunday night, I joined Farzin Vousoughian on his Chiefs podcast "The Chiefs Zone" hosted by TheSportsStuff.com. On his show, we discussed 3 things that this game brought to the attention to the Packers.

Link to The Chief Zone episode: http://thesportsstuff.com/?p=3725

The first point that was brought up was the injuries to our offensive line and the protection of Aaron Rodgers. Brian Bulaga left the game Sunday with a sprained knee cap and on Monday Mike McCarthy said Bulaga will struggle with this injury and may not play against the Chicago Bears on Christmas. Later in the game, we lost Derek Sherrod for the year to a broken leg. The Packers had to then move TJ Lang to right tackle, which proved to not be effective, as Rodgers was sacked multiple time. There have been rumors swirling that the Packers might call Mark Tauscher, but I honestly don't see that happening. Thus, the Pack will have to look to the practice squad (Chris Cambel), which is risky at this point of the season where you need your players to play at a playoff level.

The second point was how out of sync Rodgers was with his receivers. Truth be told, this was Aaron Rodgers worst game in over a year. However, he did not throw an interception. There were a lot of mental mistakes that were costly, including Jordy Nelson's 2 offensive pass interference penalties and Jermichael Finley's 4-5 dropped passes. Randall Cobb and Donald Driver seemed to be the only ones that were on the same page as Rodgers. Ryan Grant was very effective for the second straight week, but was not used for the second half. This game showed that Rodgers' success is based off of how great the players are around him, and the absence Greg Jennings was blatantly obvious. The Packers offense is like a puzzle, and if one piece is missing, its not complete.

Third, and its something we've seen all season long. Our defense playing at a lackluster level. We give up to many yards from scrimmage by run and pass, which leads us to give up way too many points. Now, don't get me wrong. The Packers are still effective on defense. We lead the league with interceptions and also have 27 sacks. Still, I think me need more of a pass rush and we cannot allow guys to be wide open down field for big gains. That kind of play will not work in the playoffs.

In conclusion, if the Packers can figure out their injury issues and secure homefield advantage on Sunday, I still think they have a great chance to make it to the Super Bowl. Any team that has to come to Green Bay in January will struggle. As for the Super Bowl, if we get the Patriots we will run them off the field. If its the Steelers, it would be an outstanding rematch but the outcome would be another victory for Green Bay. The only team that worries we in the Baltimore Ravens, a team based off of a great defense that could potentially control Aaron Rodgers gameplan. All remains to be seen.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@WSB_Andrew)

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Grading the Brewers during Winter Meetings

The Winter Meetings for the 2011-2012 offseason have come to a close, and for the Brewers it ended up being a successful one. Despite losing a lot of key players we would have loved to have on our team still, the Brewers will recover from there losses. The fans biggest frustration from the Meetings were Melvins inability to negotiate enough with a player enough to sign them to a deal. It seemed we would sign no one. In Melvins defense, as many know, waiting for K Rod to accept arbitration, which he later did, is what hog tied Doug. Here is a quick recap of every loss, acquisition, and trade so far this offseason for Milwaukee:

(Courtesy of CBS Sports)

ARRIVALS: 3B Aramis Ramirez (free agent from Cubs), 1B Travis Ishikawa (minor league free agent from Giants), RHP Jose Veras (trade with Pirates), SS Alex Gonzalez (free agent from Braves).

DEPARTURES: RHP Takeshi Saito (free agent, signed with Diamondbacks), 3B Casey McGehee (traded to Pirates), RHP LaTroy Hawkins (free agent, signed with Angels), INF Jerry Hairston Jr. (free agent, signed with Dodgers), 1B/OF Mark Kotsay (free agent, signed with Padres).

FREE AGENTS: SS Yuniesky Betancourt, 1B Prince Fielder, INF Craig Counsell

With the arrivals, Milwaukee did a great job at filling the gaps and holes of our infield and bullpen. However, what Milwaukee needs still is a utility infielder and possibly one more bullpen pitcher, preferably a lefty (no one knows at this point the status of Many Parra or Zack Braddock for next season) At the beginning of the offseason Melvin decided not to resign free agent Craig Counsell but considered him for coaching. However, at this point I think Melvin needs to reopen the chapter with Counsell to add some depth to our infield incase we need it. If not Craig, Ryan Theriot and Jeff Keppinger are both free agent utility infielders available that Doug Melvin should consider. Theriot played for the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals last season while Keppinger played for the Astros and Giants in 2011. Both would come at a decent price to help the team's depth chart.

So, if I had to slap a grade on to how the Brewers did during the Winter Meetings, I would have give them a B-. I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt because of them awaiting the decisions KRod and free agent 1B Prince Fielder. They didn't want to make a big move early, then find out later that could have done better by keeping Prince in Milwaukee, or a scenario similar.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@WSB_Andrew)

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ryan Braun: Guilty or Innocent?

December 10th , 2011 could be a day that makes or breaks the up coming Brewers season. No, it was not a big name acquisition via free agency, nor a trade with another team. The news that all star left fielder Ryan Braun tested positive spread like wild fire. Facing a possible 50 game suspension, Braun would be one of the biggest names in the sport today to be found to test positive for a Performance Enhancing Drug. Let me clear that up. Braun was tested and found to have a high level of testosterone, which is a chemical the body produces naturally, NOT A STEROID. The testosterone was found to be synthetic which puts it on the list of banned substances. There are many items that could have made him test positive for raised levels of such, including male enhancement treatments such as those given to men who suffer from Low-T, a condition on which the body produces low amounts of testosterone and causes the patient to experience lack of willingness to do many things. When Braun received word that the first test came back positive he immediately demanded another test which then came back negative. He is hoping to use these results to help him clear his name and his reputation. The few things that may hurt him while trying to do so could be the length of time between the two tests.

The thing that has many people puzzled is why would such a prominent young athlete like Braun would resort to PED'S. By far one of the best outfielders in the game today, why would you decide to tarnish your name and reputation as a star athlete by starting to use performance enhancers. It's quite possible that Ryan Braun could be exonerated and go back to living an everyday life. Then all of the fuss over this would just be a large distraction for Ryan, his family and fans. But if he does test positive, with the so called steroid era supposedly being over, the breaking of this news has some people wondering, if everything that is being done to try and stop the use of PED's is really enough, or have PED's truly become part of the game.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Brandon Krueger (@WSB_Brandon)

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Can the Packers go 16-0?

How good is Aaron Rodgers? Everyone thinks that his mega-ultra-goodness is going to make this team win because he will outscore everyone. That is very believable, but it is very hard to do. If he does pass for 5000 yards, then I think we’ll see a very special team continue to be very special, but that’s 19 games straight of being ridiculous. Is that really going to happen? Very well could happen, Rodgers has been spot on this season catching the eye of everyone especially Skip Bayless. Skip believes that Tom Brady is still having a better 2011 season then our Aaron Rodgers. Which is fine because Rodgers and the Packers love being the Underdogs. If you have watched ESPN the last couple weeks, you will notice that Aaron Rodgers is on pace to become the greatest quarterback of all-time. Maybe it’s not that dramatic, but he has been getting an enormous amount of love this season. Trent Dilfer and Steve Young gushed over the Packers' signal caller on Monday night’s pre and post game telecasts. To be fair, it is deservedly so far this season. Twenty-eight touchdowns, three interceptions, almost three thousand passing yard, 318 yards per game, 73 percent completion percentage, 130.7 quarterback rating, nine wins and zero losses. He is leading one of best and most efficient passing attacks the NFL has seen in quite some time and doing so at a record-breaking pace. 

The Defense finally started strong and finished strong in Monday nights game against the Minnesota Vikings. Green Bay allowed just 14 first downs and 266 yards, their second-lowest totals in both categories in 2011. The Vikings were just 5-of-14 on third-down conversions and scored only when given a short field following a Packers fumble on a punt return.  We owed it to ourselves to play a game like that,” cornerback Charles Woodson said. “We owed it to our fans, our team and especially our offense, who’s been playing out of their minds this year. We needed a game like that. But it’s still one game." Woodson, who after last week’s game in San Diego called for the Packers to get more “creative” on defense, said he talked briefly during the week with Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers to share his thoughts. Woodson didn’t go so far as to say he dictated the game plan, but he felt his thoughts were well-received by Capers and he appreciated the aggressive, blitz-oriented scheme Capers dialed up for Minnesota rookie quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder was sacked three times and was under duress most of the evening. Clay Matthews sacked him twice, raising his season total to five and recording his first two-sack performance since the Atlanta playoff game last January. “I think we’ve known we could play at this level, it’s just a matter of getting it done,” Matthews said. “We have the same players, same coaching staff, defensive scheme. It’s just a matter of putting it all together, and that’s exactly what we did tonight.” The key was controlling Minnesota’s running game and getting the Vikings in third-and-long. Only three of Adrian Peterson’s 14 carries went for more than six yards, and he finished with just 51 yards. The Vikings also had nine or more yards to go on third down eight times, including their last five in a row on the night. That allowed Capers to turn more blitzers free, and the Packers were seemingly coming from everywhere, keeping Ponder guessing. The only time this season the Packers gave up fewer yards was in Atlanta in Week 5, when the Falcons gained just 251 and were shut out over the final 42 minutes. The Packers would like to make games like that one and Monday night’s more the rule than the exception, of course, but the fact remains that in nine games the Packers have held their opponent under 380 yards just three times, so the defense wasn’t about to say it has proven itself once and for all. But it’s safe to say things are “trending in the right direction,” according to linebacker A.J Hawk.

The Packers remaining schedule has 4 home games against the Buccaneers, Raiders, Lions, and Bears, while only 3 road games against the Chiefs, Lions, and Giants. It certainly isn't the easiest of schedules, but it isn't the hardest either. The only tests the Packers have left is the Bears at Lambeau on Christmas, and the Lions at Ford Field on Thanksgiving and the biggest test of all, The Giants at Metlife Stadium. Last season the Packers struggled against both the Lions and Bears which almost kept them out of the playoffs. The Bear did, remember, beat Green Bay at Lambeau, too. However, this is an entirely new squad of players, some of which who were injured. The game against the Lions was the most pitiful performances all last season by Green Bay. Lastly, the Packers did manage to slaughter the Giants last season, however it was at Green Bay. This year New York has an entirely different team and they will be at home this time. And lets not forget, around the time the Packer will be playing New York and Chicago, they will more then likely have already clinched the division and home field advantage for the playoffs, so the only thing they will be playing for that that point it the illustrious 16-0 record, which (depending on the organization) may not be viewed as a necessity. McCarthy would likely rest players as much as possible to avoid injury in the playoffs, especially after how he experienced last season with the endless IR list Green Bay had.

So the question remains. Can Green Bay do it? Yes. Will they do it? That remains to be seen. They have the team, coaching staff, and fundamentals to accomplish it that would give the franchise even more history to add to the books. 

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota @WSB_Andrew & @WISportsBlog
-Nick Pritzlaff @WSB_Nick

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Agent: Prince Fielder

As of today, Prince Fielder is a free agent. Mark Attanasio and Doug Melvin will be meeting in L.A. in the next few weeks to discuss a contract they can offer Fielder to somehow keep him in Milwaukee for next season. Now, assuming we don't offer him something to stay, here are the Top 10 teams and a few wild card teams that will most likely be bidding for Prince this offseason.

10. Baltimore Orioles
Not many people know exactly what the intentions of the Orioles are at this point. They spent a lot of money that season by acquiring Vladamir Guerrero and Derrick Lee and signing J.J. Hardy to a long term deal. They are in a transition of General Managers as well so the direction of the team is a big question mark. In a tough division like the one they are in, the AL East, you would think that they would want a guy like Fielder to contend. It will all come down to what they can offer him if they make a run for him.

9. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners are believed to be considering Fielder. Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik drafted Fielder with the Brewers, but the Mariners already have switch-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak. The Mariners are in a rebuilding stage, so don't count them out for at least making an offer for Fielder. The Mariners would love to have a big bat and a veteran like Fielder in the middle of their lack luster line-up. I don't see Prince going there, though. Prince wants to win.

8. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels lack a big bat that Fielder offers, and even though they do have Kendry Morales and Mark Trumbo at 1B, the downside of Fielder coming to town is the laundry list of DH options the Angels have too. The Angels have the money to offer, but I don't think they have a spot for Fielder with the talent that they already have. Angels will trade for pitching without a doubt if they acquire Prince, as they would no longer need both Morales and Trumbo. Decision, decisions.

7. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers would be much higher on this list if Frank McCourt didn't turn the franchise into a disaster. But they still can't be ignored to at least make an offer. It all comes down to money in the end for the Dodgers. They need a first baseman, and with a line up that already consists of Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, adding Fielder to it could potentially do some damage in the National League. Its amazing that Fielder once wanted to raid the Dodger's locker room and throw bombs, and now he could potentially launch bombs in Dodger Stadium.

6. Texas Rangers
Coming off their second straight season of going to the World Series but walking out empty handed, the Rangers have to figure out what the missing link is to take them to the next step and win a championship. Quite frankly, it is not the offense by any means. The Rangers need to focus on locking up C.J. Wilson before they make a bid for another bat to add to their squad of lethal bats. Even though the Ranger's trio of Moreland/Young/Napoli worked perfectly fine throughout the season, you can't count Texas out in the Prince sweepstakes.

5. Washington Nationals
Let's get this crystal clear. The Nationals would love to have Fielder on their team. They have yet to say they are committed to Adam LaRouche and Michael Morse has every right to argue he should be the starting first baseman after the season to had last year. The reason why the Nationals would shy away from a deal with Fielder, is because of the simple fact that Prince has Boras. Boras is not a popular guy in Washington, because they feel they were ripped off with the lackluster performance of Jayson Werth. The Nationals signed Werth to a 7 year, 126 million dollar contract, identical to another wasted contract that is listed below for the Blue Jays. Washington doesn't want to waste more money on a guy who potentially could have weight issues and leg injuries in the making. It's possible that Nationals will pursue, but in the end I say they pass.

4. San Fransisco Giants
It needs to be stressed that the Giants need a starting first baseman. They do not want Brandon Belt as their starter. Pablo Sandoval could easily be bumped to third base, so that solves that little issue. The Giants have every other position filled. Just slight upgrades needed in the infield and outfield and they would be set. They have one of the best pitching staffs, when healthy, in the league. The Giants could potentially have their next south-paw to launch some bombs into McCovey Cove.

3. Toronto Blue Jays
This is my, along with a lot of people's, sleeper pick as far as where Fielder is going. There is sweat on the brow of every form of management who would potentially offer Fielder a deal, however, because of the last time they offered out a huge contract was a huge bust (Vernon Wells 7 year, 126 mil). It seems as though the Blue Jays are at a point were in the next few seasons they will be contenders in the AL East. Fielder is definitely a guy who can get them into the postseason, outlasting teams like Boston and New York.

2. Chicago Cubs
They have the money for sure. Adding Theo Epstein in the mix makes talks of Prince taking the trip down I-94 even more realistic. Carlos Pena had an awful year, and he if likely to play elsewhere in 2012. Epstein noted that he wants to bring in the right people for the job. Fielder blasting homeruns in Wrigley Field for 81 games a year must make Chicago fans drool. Fielder wouldn't be the only acquisition the Cubs would be seeking this offseason, either. With C.C. Sabathia opting out of his option with New York, Epstein will be looking to bring him in as well. Look for big changes to come for Chicago. They mean business. 

1. Miami Marlins
The Marlins should have Prince Fielder as their number one target this offseason. They are bringing in new manager Ozzie Guillen for their inaugural year in their new stadium with a brand new name of Miami, rather then previous "Florida". All they need is a face for the franchise to lead them to the teams 3rd World Series. They definitely have the money available to compete for Prince. They could easily move Gaby Sanchez to third base to make room for Fielder in the lineup which already consists of Mike Stanton, Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison, Omar Infante, John Buck, Emilio Bonifacio, and Gaby Sanchez. The only other thing the Marlins need to focus on this offseason is getting a closer and maybe one more starting pitcher, and they are set. Look out, people. Marlins are for real.

Two teams that would have a shot at Fielder could be the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies. The only way St. Louis has a shot is if for whatever reason the Cardinals don't re-sign Albert Pujols. The only way the Phillies would have a shot at Prince is if Ryan Howard has complications with his Achilles tendon. Both very unlikely situations, but it's worth mentioning. 

The kicker in all of this will be Scott Boras. It's all on what he thinks his client deserves. It will also be based on what Boras views as an acceptable contending team. I truly wish Fielder the best, I hope he gets the best deal possible with whoever that may be. The market is not typically "good" for a free agent first baseman this year, since the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies, who have the most money every year to spend, all have first basemen locked up for long terms. Who knows, Prince might not want to pack his bags just yet. I could only hope he stays in Milwaukee, but I'm a realist.

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota @TheBIGVrchota & @WISportsBlog

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, and more. Live in game commentary, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @TheBIGVrchota @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @mikeshuz

Friday, October 28, 2011

Green Bay Packers: Mid-Season Report Card

The last time the Packers started out 7-0 you would have to go back to the 1962 season when they went 13-1. Fortunately for the Packers, that's not the last time they had a great quarterback to lead them to such a great feat. Aaron Rodgers has quickly risen the ranks as a quarterback in the NFL these past 3 years. In his 4th year as the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, he is showing no signs of slowing down. Through 7 games, Rodgers has completed 171/239 passes (71.5 completion rating), 2,372 yards (averaging 339 YPG), 22 TDs (2 rushing), and with only 3 INTs. Those stats accumulate a passer rating of 125.7. Playing 15 games last season, Rodgers only tossed 28 TDs. Rodgers in on pace to shatter his previous season TD total and his all-time season high of 30 from the 2009 season. To his credit, he has all of his offensive weapons healthy this season. At this point last year, Finley and Grant were both lost causes for the Packers with season ending injuries. Rodgers has had the luxury of having all of his weapons. He's a craftsman with all of his loyal tools, and the football field is his workshop.

The Green Bay Packer's defense is still ranked amongst the worst in the NFL coming in at 27th. They are averaging to allow 20.1 points a game with a total of 141 points given up in there total of 7 games. They give up about 391 yards a game to there opponents in 7 games. If you compare the Packer's defense to the entire NFC there coming in at 14th out of 16th. Even though their defense isn't looking too hot right now, their defense didn't start off too hot last year, either. After the Week 7 win over the Vikings rookie Christian Ponder, who was tearing apart the Packer's defense until Charles Woodson was able to slow him down by grabbing two INTs to put him at #1 in the league with 5 INTs. Even though Clay Matthews has been slacking with the sacks this year after having a career best 13.5 sacks last year, he was able to record sack #3 last week against. If the Packers defense could stop allowing so many yards per game this team would be even more dominate, But how can a 7-0 team get any more dominate then they already are. The Packers have been cutting it close in some of there games because the defense is unable to make the 3rd down stops. They have been riddled with injuries, losing Chad Clifton, Sam Shields, Frank Zombo and Nick Collins. Collins is out for the year with a neck injury, and his career could possibly be over. Clifton and Zombo have injured knees while Shields has been bothered by a concussion.

Taking a step back and looking at the grand scheme of things, whether you focus on the dynamic offense, or their spotty defense, you can't give the Packers any less grade then an A so far for the season. The Packers have 3 legitimate tests left for the rest of the season. It will be next week in San Diego, Detroit on Thanksgiving,  then the following week in New York against the Giants. If the Packers can get past those 3 teams, I don;t see why not we couldn't see the Pack go 16-0. Stay healthy, be smart, make plays.

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota @TheBIGVrchota & @WISportsBlog
-Nick Pritzlaff @WSB_Nick

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, and more. Live in game commentary, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @TheBIGVrchota @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @mikeshuz

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What the Crew Needs to Brew This Offseason

The Milwaukee Brewers have a lot of work to do this offseason to prepare to defend the NL Central championship. They do have their work cut out for them, however. The entire starting 5 pitching rotation is slated to return next season. Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, John Axford, among others, are signed for long term. The biggest objective is obviously re-signing free agent first baseman Prince Fielder. Also, rebuilding our bullpen and fixing the left side of the infield is a must. We will take a look at the Brewers arbitration eligible players, free agents, the free agent market, and possible trade opportunities for the Brewers.

The Brewers have 9 players that are up for arbitration. Casee McGehee, Nyjer Morgan, George Kottaras, and Mitch Stetter are first timers. Kameron Loe, Manny Parra, and Josh Wilson and second timers. Shaun Marcum and Carlos Gomez are third year eligibles. For those confused on what arbitration in baseball is, players with three or more years on a Major League roster can file for salary arbitration. In special cases, a player can file for free agency with 2 1/2 years of service if they rank in the top 17 percent of players who have two years of experience but less than three years. In those cases, players will be granted arbitration eligibility even though they have less than three years of experience. Players cannot file for arbitration once they have six full years of experience. Those players can file for free agency.

From that list, the top 3 the Brewers need to focus on resigning have to be Gomez, Morgan and Marcum. After you lock up those three, focusing on McGehee and Kottaras would be next in line. McGehee is an interesting situation. He had a very bad year in 2011, but it seems many teams would be willing to take a chance on him to be there third baseman. So, signing McGehee and using him as a trade candidate would be in our best interest. The same could be said about George Kottaras. George didn't necessarily have a bad year, but some teams view him more then just a back-up catcher. So again, another possible trade candidate. As for the rest, Loe pretty much set his own fate with his performance this year. Manny Parra was a waste of space on our roster with injury, for the second straight year. Josh Wilson could have just been a mannequin in the dugout, as he did nothing impressive for the Brewers to keep him, either. Lastly, Mitch Stetter, who I think could go either way. Our bullpen needs a lefty and I believe Stetter has the stuff to be the specialist we are looking for. It just depends on what Melvin and Attanasio are willing to spend.

The rest of this article will be based on if the Brewers do not sign Prince Fielder to a new deal and we lose him to free agency. Ideally, the logical move would be to move Corey Hart to first base, shift Morgan to RF, and have Gomez be our everyday center fielder. With those moves, that strictly lets us focus fixing the left side of our infield. Now, as Melvin noted in his end of the year press conference that he had not considered Hart as our first baseman if we lose Prince. But that doesn't mean Melvin won't change his mind. We do have Gamel down in Triple A but I view that as last resort. The only other option is to obtain a first baseman via a trade or free agency. Third base, which was played by Casee McGehee in the regular season, and occupied fully by Jerry Hairston Jr. for the postseason. I think it would be smart to keep Jerry on our team for next year to be our main utility man off the bench, and either take a chance on McGehee or trade him. Shortstop, which Yuniesky Betancourt occupied all year and through the playoffs, did not play at a level to give the Brewers any reason to re-sign him for next year. He did play well in the postseason, but all the errors, effortless range at short, and useless at-bats all year outweigh his hot streak in the playoffs.

A look at free agents, by postion, the Brewers would consider:

Jose Reyes
Jimmy Rollins
Marco Scutaro
Alex Gonzalez

Third base
Aramis Ramirez
Edwin Encarnacion
Wilson Betemit
Mark DeRosa

First base
Casey Kotchman
Wily Mo Pena
Brad Hawpe
Jorge Cantu

Now, based on the seasons these next players had in 2011, and based on possible moves these players teams could make this year, here are candidates that the Brewers could acquire via trade.

Michael Morse 1B (Nationals): When Adam LaRouche went out with injury in 2011, the Nationals turned to Michael Morse for first base and he delivered on a superior level. He batted .303 with 31 homeruns, 95 RBIs, with an OBP of .360. It's not Prince Fielder stats, but it's close enough. And, with talks of Fielder landing in Washington, the Nationals really have no place for Morse with LaRouche coming back, unless they bump him to the outfield. The Brewers would have to give up someone higher-tier for this to happen.

Gaby Sanchez 1B (Marlins): Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez hit .266 with 19 homers, three steals, 78 RBIs and 72 runs scored during the 2011 regular season. Now, this is no where near Fielder stats, but Sanchez is young and he showed a lot of pop this year for the Marlins. The Marlins also are in the runnings for Prince Fielder, which again would leave no space on the team for the young Sanchez. The Brewers could get him for nearly nothing too.

Alexei Ramirez SS (White Sox): White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez finished the 2011 regular season with 15 homers, seven steals, 70 RBIs, 81 runs scored and a .269 batting average. He also won a Silver Slugger award in 2010 with the White Sox. With a new manager and more then likely a new direction as a team, the White Sox are probably going to be all ears on any offer teams bring to the table. He could come at a price, but the Brewers need a short stop bad, especially if Reyes or Rollins sign elsewhere.

David Wright 3B (Mets): Mets third baseman David Wright never got on track in 2011, hitting .255 with 14 homers, 13 steals, 61 RBIs and 60 runs scored in 389 at-bats. 2011 was an injury-pleagued year for David Wright, but with the money situation in New York, the Mets wouldn't mind getting Wright off their hands to free up some cap space. Wright would, however come at an extremely his price, as far as who we would have to trade. A Zack Grienke level player would be what New York would want.

In conclusion, the Brewers have a lot of work to do this offseason. However, with Attanasio and Melvin at the guns, I have no doubt that they will take care of business. Also, with Theo Epstein coming to the Chicago Cubs as their new President, he brings a huge threat to the National League Central. Melvin and Mark will open up the pocket book and do what they need to do to contend again in 2012 to defend the NL Central Championship and into the future seasons

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota @TheBIGVrchota & @WISportsBlog

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, and more. Live in game commentary, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @TheBIGVrchota @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @mikeshuz

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Nyjer Morgan "Put On" For His City

Coming off a great weekend of 2 home wins against the Diamondbacks, the Crew was looking to sweep Arizona at home. To say the least, the Brewers could not accomplish that task. Our starting pitching, which was so dominant in Game 1 and 2, lacked majorly for the Brewers. Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf simply did not look to be on their game. They were missing their locations, and were also not on the same page with catcher Jonathon Lucroy. The strike zone in this series was very strict, to say the least. Our offense lacked big time in Game 3, but showed a bit of fight in Game 4. Nonetheless, after it was said and done, the series was tied heading back to Milwaukee for Game 5.

Miller Park was a rowdy house on Friday afternoon. Yovani was on the bump and Brewer Nation was looking for a similar performance as to what they witnessed a week before fro Game 1. Yovani struggled to keep his pitch count down, again the third pitcher in a row to struggle with the umpire's strike zone. Arizona got on top of the Brewers 1-0 with a solo home run hit to opposite field by Justin Upton. The Brewers would tie it with Nyjer Morgan scoring on a sac fly to shallow right field and later take the lead on a Yuniesky Betancourt RBI single to center. Saito and K-Rod worked the 7th and 8th, respectively. The stage was set. Axford, running on a 44 consecutive save streak, was in for the 9th inning to close it out and send the Brewers to the NLCS. TBS made sure they covered every detail of when the last time Axford blew a save. Low and behold, Axford pitches himself into a jam, and gives up the lead. Blows his first save since April 18th. The game was tied 2-2 heading into extra innings, your definition of a nail biter.

It didn't take long for the Brewers to get the much anticipated and well deserved victory. Carlos Gomez lead off the10th inning with a single to left and would later advance to second on a passed ball by Arizona closer J.J. Putz. Morgan, calm as can be, singled to center, allowing Gomez to score. The Brewers were heading to a Championship series for the first time since 1982. Confetti was flying, champagne bottles were popping. The celebration had begun again in Miller Park.

And whats a celebration without a little controversy? TBS was in the middle of an interview MVP candidate with Ryan Braun when the analyst caught eye that Nyjer Morgan was standing on the outfield grass on the first base side doing the beast mode pose for the crowd, clearly enjoying the moment with the fans. Morgan was caught up in saying "F*** Yeah!, F*** Yeah!" on national television. I ranted a bit about this situation on the blog's Twitter page (@WISportsBlog). Here's what I had to say:

"Can't believe the amount of attention Morgan's post game profanity is getting. It's the analysts fault for stuffing the mic in his face. He wasn't being interviewed. He was celebrating with the fans. And the only people upset are the parents cause their kids are watching. Which, I can guarantee, are the same parents that let their 7 year olds watch R rated films and play M for mature video games. Pick your battles carefully people. Life is too short to get your panties in a bunch over a baseball players passion and excitement."

No punishment or fines have been handed out for Morgan, and I don't anticipate there will be, either. Morgan is not in the lineup for Game 1 vs the Cardinals, but there is no way its disciplinary. Gomez is known for defense, and that's what plagued us a bit in the NLDS. What was also very reassuring was that everyone on that offense produced in some way. We didn't strictly rely on just Braun and Fielder. Hairston, Betancourt, Gomez, Morgan, Lucroy all had a great series batting. Lucroy was a monster behind home plate for us. Took numerous shots, and still got right back in there. On a side note, Weeks will not be benched. His defense alone will keep him in there everyday. Every has slumps, incase you couch coaches didn't know that. Look at Parra from Arizona. He was hitless in the NLDS up until his last at bat in the series which started off a rally that kept his team momentarily alive in Game 5.

To close up, I want to actually give credit where credit is due. Kirk Gibson turned a team that was destined for nothing, according to the experts, into a championship caliber team. Although I don't believe their fan base is anything to be proud about, which I refer to as artificial, I must say they have some incredible talent on that team. Upton needs to lose the attitude of the world owing him something for not being picked for the HR derby and focus on improving that team. 

The Brewers now take on the St Louis Cardinals in a 7 game series, winner goes to the World Series, loser books the weekend tee time. This isn't just a regular series. This is for blood. This is a fight. A battle for the ages. This is a rematch of the 1982 World Series. It's time for the Brewers to show the baseball world that we aren't just a fluke and that we can beat teams with good record. Right now, to them, all we are is a bunch of cocky athletes who don't appreciate where we are and have no respect for the game. It's time to prove everyone wrong and quiet the skeptics, and I believe that Tony "Hush" and the Brewers will do that. Go Crew!

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota @TheBIGVrchota & @WISportsBlog

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, and more. Live in game commentary, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @TheBIGVrchota @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @mikeshuz

Thursday, October 6, 2011

4 Wins, 3 Teams, 1 State: On, Wisconsin!

This past weekend had to have been one of the most exciting weekends for the world of sports in a long time for the state of Wisconsin.  To kick off the weekend, we had the Brewers against the Diamondbacks in Game 1 of the NLDS.  Yovani Gallardo faced off with Ian Kennedy and in the end Yovani and the Brewers prevailed winning game one by a score of 4-1.  On to game two, Zack Greinke squared off with Arizona’s Daniel Hudson.  While not one of Greinke’s best performances, the offense was able to bail out the ace with a five run inning and hold that lead for the rest of the game winning 9-4.  Brewers lead the series 2-0.

The Wisconsin Badgers welcomed Nebraska to the Big Ten Saturday night at Camp Randell Stadium.  Quite possibly one the top match-ups of the season, the badgers proved once again to be the real deal.  They got off to a slow start offensively, but that changed quickly as the Badgers were ahead 27-14 at half.  The Badgers scoring surge continued into the second half and outscored the Cornhuskers 21-3.  Wisconsin went on to win by a score of 48-17.  The team was led by Heisman hopeful Russell Wilson, who threw for two touchdowns; and also a huge effort from Montee Ball who rushed for 151 yards and scoring 4 times.  The Badgers remain undefeated with a record of 5-0.

To finish off the weekend of sports, the Packers played the Denver Broncos at Lambeau Field on Sunday.  The Broncos scored first but Green Bay scored and could not stop.  They scored 14 points every quarter except in the fourth.  Aaron Rodgers had a field day passing for 401 yards and he threw 4 touchdown passes.  He also ran the ball nine times and rushed for two touchdowns as well.  The pass defense looked a little better this week, keeping Broncos QB Kyle Orton to under 300 yards passing and also intercepting him three times.  Packers remain unbeaten with a record of 4-0.

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

-Michael Schuster @mikeshuz

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, and more. Live in game commentary, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @TheBIGVrchota @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @mikeshuz

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Packer's Progress Report: Week 1-3

Every year, the Packers are usually a team that gets off to a slow start and then become a force as the season goes on.  However, the beginning of the 2011 season they are off to a 3-0 start due to the continuing effort from the top quarterback(in my eyes), in the league.  Aaron Rodgers has amassed over 900 yards passing with 8 touchdowns.  Two areas of the team that are off to a slow start is the running game and pass defense.  The running game is not a dominant one as we Packer fans know, but Ryan Grant did have a good game this past Sunday at Chicago, rushing for 92 yards on 17 attempts. Rodgers is 9th in total yards in the NFL with 917, 8 TDs, and 1 INT with a RTG rating of 120.9, the highest RTG in the league a head of Tom Brady. He has 305.7 yards per game and has the highest completion rating in the league thus far, completing 74-103 with a rating of 71.8. Greg Jennings is the Packers leading receiver with 18 rec 263 yards and 2 TDs, look very good last week against the bears catching a career high 9 rec in a game with 119 yards and 0 TDs. speaking of career games, Packers star TE Jermichael Finley had 3 TDs 7 rec and 85 yards against the Bears in week 3. Ryan Grant had a slow week 1-2 but looked like he was back to his old 2008-2009 form with 17 att: and 92 yards rushing with 0 TDs, As for the pass defense, the Pack are currently ranked 31st  in opposing team’s passing yards.

Injuries can make or break any teams season. Look at the Indianapolis Colts. One key injury can make your team go from contenders to pretenders, most of the time last year the Green Bay Packers deified the odds and won a Superbowl with over 15 people on the injured reserve. This year the Packers have been bitten by the injury bug one more time with Nick Collins having a season ending neck injury. Granted Morgan Brunett  made a huge impression on Packers fans with a huge game against rival Chicago Bears.  Also having  big games against the Bears were running back Ryan Grant and right tackle Bryan Bulaga. I bring up these names because like Collins they were also injured. Just not to the severity of Collins. Ryan came out of the game last week vs the Bears with a bruised kidney but did end up coming back in the game. Grant is questionable for this weeks game against the Denver Broncos but doesn't think it will keep him out very long, In an appearance on WSSP radio in Milwaukee, Grant said: “I feel fine. I have been walking around. I finished the game and everything. We really don’t know any details right now. Like I said I feel fine. It wasn’t really anything major to it, just precautionary I guess. We’ll get some more information from the doctors on some tests later on this week.” Bulaga on the other hand narrowly missed a season ending ACL tear, but thankfully for fans, he only suffered a sprained and bruised knee and will only likely miss one game. The season is still young and everyone is trying to get back into sync now with the unfortunate loss of Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins lost for the season with a neck injury.  I have faith in Charlie Peprah stepping in after last year’s display of good play from him, teamed with rising star Morgan Burnett. Also with a slight injury is back up linebacker Brad Jones who is dealing with a hamstring strain. Compared to this time last year Packers are in similar if not better shape. The lack of OTA's and training camps has not effected the Packers as severally as many people have predicted. Packers have started the season 3-0 and compared to the same time last season, they have been better offensively and poorer defensively. With 13 games left its no doubt that the packers will become a stronger team after every week. I see the Pack making another deep playoff run, hopefully ending with another Superbowl victory.

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota @TheBIGVrchota
-Michael Schuster @mikeshuz
-Nick Pritzlaff @WSB_Nick
-Brandon Krueger @WSB_Brandon

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, and more. Live in game commentary, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @TheBIGVrchota @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @mikeshuz

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Brains and The Braun

First of all, congratulations to the Milwaukee Brewers, who won the National League Central last evening with a little help from the rival Chicago Cubs. Brewer's Ryan Braun hit a 3 run HR in the 8th inning to put the Brewers ahead 4-1, which was quiet similar to how the Brewers cliched the Wild Card in 2008. That lead would hold and John Axford would get his 44th save of the year, 41st consecutive. Then, we had to wait. Things were looking bright, though. Shortly after Braun hit his HR, Alfonso Soriano then mimicked Braun when he too hit a 3 run blast to put the Cubs ahead 4-1, later winning 5-1. The division was sealed. It was the Brewers first divisional championship since 1982 and first playoff birth since 2008.

This season I've realized that I have a passion for this team like no other sport out there. Sure, the Packers winning the Super Bowl was awesome, but I experienced it already back in 1996. I have never had a memorable Brewers season where I was this into it. I remember when my dad would take me to County Stadium when the Brewers only drew about 10,000 fans a game. My first memory I have is when (Sammy) Sosa and (Mark) McGuire were in the middle of their HR battle in 1998 and seeing both of those icons play the Brewers was such a great experience. I'm a firm believer that if it wasn't for that HR chase in '98, baseball in America would be dead. But anyways, back to the Brewers.

13 years later, here I am talking to you folks about a team that has superstars that you run out of fingers to count on. It's a team that plays smart (most of the time). Playing smart all starts with a great manager, and Mr Roenicke has done that this season. You never see them (players) in the news for drugs, violence, or anything else that is considered unacceptable. Sure, the antics make the news a lot. But, you see that with any team and they are honestly having a lot of fun. We have a superior pitching staff that I believe is only bettered by The Phillies. We have 2 legitimate MVP candidates, in Braun and Fielder, who each have 100 RBIs and 30+ HRs. But, after last nights performance I'm convinced Ryan Braun is your National League MVP. And it warms my heart we have him until he retires. He has the potential of being the Brewers version of Yankee great, Derek Jeter. He's going to break records. Lots of them. He is here to stay, and Milwaukee Brewers fans appreciate everything he has done, is doing, and will do.

Our next milestone is to break our single season wins record, which stands at 95. (Brewers are at 93 with 5 games remaining.) Also, if timed correctly, the Brewers vs Marlins game could set MLB history by being the 200,000th game played. A lot of magic going on at Miller Park this year, and only more to come as we move to the postseason.
Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota @TheBIGVrchota

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, and more. Live in game commentary, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @TheBIGVrchota @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @mikeshuz

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Hunt for a BCS Championship, Bucky Style

One could say the Badgers had one of their best seasons last year when they lost one lone game in the regular season. They peaked at #5 in the nation. They took out #1 ranked Ohio State (Wisconsin was ranked #18 at that point) at Camp Randall in which some call one the most one sided dominate wins over a #1 ranked team in college football history (31-18 victory). The Badgers made it too the Rose Bowl where they lost to Andy Dalton and the TCU Horned Frogs. Their run game, which some argue got them to where they were that season, seemed absent during the Rose Bowl. The final score was 21-19. The season was over. J.J. Watt, Lance Kendricks, Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt, and Bill Nagy were all taken by teams in the NFL. The Badgers would also not see Scott Tolzien return because he was a senior. Tolzien went undrafted. John Clay, a junior,  was undrafted but signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was time to rebuild.

The Badgers entered the 2011 season with high expectations.  With the transfer of Russell Wilson from North Carolina State, expectations are even higher.  Through the first three games of the season, the Badgers have not been a disappointment.  The Badgers have out scored opponents 135-24 so far. Russell Wilson has thrown for a staggering 791 yards and 8 touchdowns. The Wisconsin Badgers also have a formidable duo at the running position. Monte Ball and James White have combined this season for 82 carries 480 yards and 9 touchdowns (Ball with 7). Finally, Nick Toon, the Badgers #1 wide receiver, has 200 yards receiving with 3 touchdowns, averaging 14 yards per catch. If these kinds of performances continue for the rest of the season, I see no reason why Wilson should not get any Heisman votes, or why the Badgers can't be the #1 team in the nation. It has been 11 years since the Heisman has been won by a Badger (Ron Dayne) and this year fans all across the state have "that feeling of something good"  And with two contenders for the Big Ten Championship, Ohio St. And Michigan St, already with a loss this season, the Badgers have a great opportunity to win the Leaders Division and have a chance at winning back to back Big Ten Titles.

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota @TheBIGVrchota
-Michael Schuster @mikeshuz
-Nick Pritzlaff @WSB_Nick
-Brandon Krueger @WSB_Brandon

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, and more. Live in game commentary, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog

Friday, September 16, 2011

State of the Union: Brewers

When the 2011 season got underway for the Milwaukee Brewers, the fans had everything to be excited about. Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio did an outstanding job in the offseason by addressing the issues the Brewers had from the previous season, which was mostly the pitching aspect of the game. Brewers acquired starting pitchers Zach Greinke from the Kansas City Royals (along with Yuniesky Betancourt) in exchange for top prospects which included Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain. Brewers also acquired Shaun Marcum from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for a very promising athlete, Brett Lawrie. We also traded for Nyjer Morgan, who we acquired from the Washington Nationals for Cutter Dykstra. The bullpen was still a partial red flag, even with veteran pitcher Takashi Saito being signed from free agency. The Brewers were set, ready to take on the NL Central and all of baseball. They finally had a contending team.

To much delight of Brewers Nation, baseball heard the unfortunate news that Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright was done for the season. Adam blew out his elbow during spring training which required Tommy John's surgery, putting him out for 15 months. Still, the Cardinals had their depth in their pitching staff and remained a contender. The Reds also looked to be promising with their young pitching and their dominate offense. It was off to the races, with the Reds and Cardinals as the heavy favorites to take the NL Central as the season began. Since the Brewers are such a small market team, no one even gave them the light of day on the top sports television networks and shows. But, as you can see, there is a reason a baseball season is 162 games and not merely decided by who looks good on paper.

With the magic number being at just 8, the Brewer get to finish the season out with all teams below a record of .500, and have the last 6 games at Miller Park, where they are a ML best 52-23, one would think that the division is all but theirs. The Cardinals, who have a 4 game series coming up at the Phillies, remain 5.5 games behind the Brewers. The only thing that is holding back the Brewers right now is themselves, who seem to have turned the burners off as of late and seem to want to just coast into the post season. All sides of the ball have been dismal. Batters are struggling to hit, pitchers are getting their pitch counts too high early, and defense has been lackluster. The media hasn't helped either. The Sports Illustrated "curse", Nyjer Morgan's antics, K-Rod complaining to the media about not being used how he wants, and then Fielder announcing that he will likely not play for Milwaukee next year, all come into play at the absolute worst time. The Brewers are about to win the NL Central for the first time since coming over from the American League, and all this negativity affects a surging team like the Brewers. Just a month ago, they were the hottest team in baseball. Now it seems like the morale has deflated.

The news on Fielder probably not playing here next season isn't shocking, its what everyone expects. However, an interview like that should be conducted in the offseason, not when a team is in a playoff hunt. As for K-Rod, I understand we promised him split saves between him and closer John Axford. Nonetheless, Frankie knew coming in he was here to be our set-up guy. Axford is currently on a 39 game save streak. The say goes: "Don't fix what isn't broken." Nyjer Morgan will be Nyjer Morgan. Until he stops producing as a .300 hitter, let him do what he wants, whether its a beast mode pose, or an "Ahhhhh!!" As long as he keeps his cool and doesn't let his temper get the best of him, he will be a great asset for the Brewers in the postseason and into next year, assuming we offer him a contract. I'll save the complete talk of Fielder's free agency for a different blog after the season is over with.

The bottom line is is that the Brewers, in my eyes and in the eyes of the 2,000 plus new season ticket holders, is that the Brewers are the real deal. We have a chance to do great things this year and years to come. We finally have an owner who wants to win, a General Manager who makes things happen and keeps promises, and a head coach who is gutsy yet tactical at the same time. It's a recipe for success. A recipe that could put up a few new banners to hang at Miller Park, and who knows, one could even say "World Series" on it. Time will tell. We just need to ignite one last time this year and not let it run out until mid-October. We defeated the odds so much this year by outlasting the Reds and presumably the Cardinals too. We now just have to prove we can win under the spotlight, when all the cameras are on us. If we do that, engrave the Brewers name on that World Series trophy. We have a team that can do it.

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota @TheBIGVrchota

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hello, Wisconsin!

Hello everyone, my name is Andrew, and I will be one of the 4 writers on this blog writing for you fans. I have along with me, Nick Pritzlaff, Brandon Krueger, and Michael Schuster. I will be covering the Milwaukee Brewers, Nick will cover the Packers, Brandon will cover the Badgers and Admirals, and Michael will cover the Badgers and the Bucks. The main focus will be the Brewers, Packers, and Badgers for the first few months of the existence of this blog. If this kicks off like we expect, we will contemplate starting a podcast on iTunes. Until then, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. I'll leave you with links to get in contact with the writers.

Wisconsin Sports Blog - @WISportsBlog
Andrew - @TheBIGVrchota
Nick - @WSB_Nick
Brandon - @WSB_Brandon
Michael - @mikeshuz

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships