August 6, 2008

Favre "saga" must be put to bed soon

Category: Packers — Patrick Stumpf @ 9:00 pm

After just returning from a long vacation, over a month to be exact, the one thing that has failed to end is the Brett Favre, and I know it is clique, “saga.” I’m going to express my feelings once and for all on this as this issue has mercilessly dragged on without resolution. So let’s rewind. March 4th. Brett Favre tearfully retires in front of a shocked Cheesehead nation. It’s quite obvious he could have returned; everyone saw him display the same if not more fiery passion he’s played with since ’92. Of course, fans continue to undermine Ted Thompson. Brett and Ted do not see eye to eye. Even the casual fan can see Ted has been desperately trying to push Favre out of town for the past three years. But for fans to point the finger at Thompson is ignorant. The fact is, Brett, you retired. Nobody forced you to do so, no, not even Ted. The Packers gave you’re your shining chance to come back. You declined. Any devil’s advocate would say well he didn’t come back because he felt pressured. Well if he really loved Green Bay enough, if he was loyal enough, he would have come back.

Brett has been trying to run the franchise ever since Mike Sherman was head coach/GM. And that just can not happen. You can’t have a player be above the franchise. Ted Thompson recognizes that. Mike McCarthy recognizes that. That shows great leadership on their part; to be able to put their foot down to arguably the greatest player ever to set foot on the gridiron.

Now I understand there is another side to this argument, and that is Ted Thompson’s bias toward Aaron Rodgers, and there’s definitely substance behind that point. Thompson wants Aaron to do well because he had the guts to draft him when nobody else would. He wants to give him his chance, before he bolts. Since 2005, Favre has known Aaron was the future. And now he’s come back playing the victim card. It’s sickening. Brett you knew this was coming. Don’t waltz back to 1265 expecting your job right back, despite cool aid guzzling green and gold fans’ chants and website making. Packer fans: you need to put Brett Favre in the past. He’s gone. Don’t pull this “Fire Ted Thompson” crap. Just look objectively at what he’s done for this franchise before jumping the gun. He pulled them out of the NFC North cellar, drafted extremely well and put them in a position to go to the Super Bowl in just three years. How many GMs would have gone after Ryan Grant off the Giants practice squad? Or drafted Greg Jennings in the 2nd round? This guy has a rare eye for talent. Don’t place the extent of the blame on him. Sure he could have handled it better, the whole Packers’ PR department could have.

Who was the guy that cost the team the NFC Championship, like so many other guy in his career? In a, “What have you done for me lately?” society, many will remember that last fateful pass. Whatever happens, when this saga is resolved, myself and I’m sure many other Packer fans will be relieved, because the way Favre has handled this, many have began losing respect he took 15 years to earn. He has become nothing more than a crying baby who for once did not get his way. His distraction has put this team behind and denied them precious time to prepare for 2008. At this point, getting rid of the headache to the Bucs, Jets, wherever, is paramount. Getting a player or pick in return of would merely be a bonus.

July 4, 2008

Brewers in trade talks with Tribe for Sabathia?

Category: Brewers — Patrick Stumpf @ 2:55 am

News broke in the wee hours of the morning that the Brewers were reportedly offering two top minor-league prospects for All-Star southpaw C.C. Sabathia.  Fox Sports’ insider Ken Rosenthal released the story, stating the Brewers had made an offer to the Indians, including arguably their best minor-leaguers in the system: Matt LaPorta and Alcides Escobar. The Double-A Huntsville stars have been tearing up opposing pitching. LaPorta is batting .291 with 20 bombs, while Escobar has complied a .331 average with 22 steals.  Sabathia is being actively shopped by Cleveland, trying to deal the 6?7, 290 pound lefty. While it would be an intriguing pick up for the Crew, giving them two bonafide aces (along with Ben Sheets) down the stretch, the offer is either over-exagerrated or just plain steep. At 27, Sabathia is not getting any younger, plus his contract is up following this season making him a risk to resign. Not to mention, LaPorta and Escobar would become eventual starters if kept by the club. So it’s doubtful the aforementioned players are truly involved; guys like Taylor Green and Mat Gamel would be more realistic trade-offs, as Brewers’ beat writer Tom Haudricourt points out. Hopefully more details become available as the holiday weekend wears on.

Update: It’s official. The Brewers have officially netted C.C. Sabathia, for star-prospect Matt LaPorta, along with prospects Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson, and a player-to-be-named later. What a deal for this club, who gains a bonafide ace next to Sheets for the remainder of the year. Despite the fact that that’s all it may be, a rental, they are in a position to reclaim a playoff berth. Losing LaPorta will hurt in the future, but because he was slated to be thrown in the crowded outfield mix, he may have lost his value already on an NL team’s roster, and may be a future DH for the Tribe, and hopefully a very good one. Back to Sabathia, who will take the mound tonight against the Rockies in Game 2. It should be fun!

May 27, 2008

Madison-Memorial star replacing another in '09

Category: Golden Eagles — Patrick Stumpf @ 9:27 pm

Even though the Buzz Williams-era in Milwaukee is just beginning, it didn’t take long for the newest Marquette head coach to reel in his first big recruit, junior forward Jeronne Maymon, who ranks as the nation’s 58th best player in the 2009 class according to Scout.com. The Madison Memorial big-man announced his intentions today, choosing MU over USC, Tennessee and Providence, among others. Maymon will become the second player Marquette has plucked from Steve Collins’ Spartans in the past three years, the other being Wisconsin’s “Mr. Basketball” in 2005, Wesley Matthews, and is the second cornerstone recruit of Williams’ 2009 class, joining Erik Williams, a 6’7 forward at Cypress Hill High in Texas. I haven’t seen much of Maymon, but of the very little I did see, about 2 1/2 quarters worth, I was thoroughly impressed. Trekking down to Madison for the annual WBCA Christmas Tournament held in the UW-Fieldhouse, which my Xavier Hawks were fortunate to play in, I was able to catch Maymon light up non-conference foe Wisconsin Rapids for 27 points in their game, a game where he may have scored 40 had he not sat on the bench the 4th quarter. I just can’t believe this guy’s my age. As long as he can get his grades up Marquette got a really good player, and from what I hear, the school’s got excellent tutors.

May 18, 2008

Celtics' Pierce close to riding monkey off his back

Category: NBA General — Patrick Stumpf @ 8:55 pm

While this is probably the first (and last) time I will consecutively post on Boston teams, anyone watching the NBA playoffs can’t help but feel good for the Celtics’ Paul Pierce. Pierce, who was originally drafted 10th overall by Boston in 1998, has only seen three winning seasons with the team in this his tenth season, and after last season’s second worst output in franchise history (24-58), he was ready to jump ship. Peering at his career stats for the first time, the partial observer could venture to guess Beantown’s All-Star guard had won it all at least once in his illustrious career, based on how rare a scorer he is (23 points-per-game lifetime scoring average). But now that I’ve hinted that isn’t the case, we should all agree he’s long past due for his first. This past summer, GM Danny Ainge obviously took offense to that, because he no longer hesitated to pull the trigger. Realizing he needed to make a big splash in order to keep his loyal star happy, he acquired not one, but two fellow All-Stars, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. And to nobody’s surprise, not a minute after the big trade that sent KG east, the team that posted one of the worst records in the league just a year before, was favored to win it all. And thus far, they haven’t disappointed. They’ve churned out their best season since Larry Bird’s heyday in the ’80s (66-16), and after tonight’s Game 7 win over the Cavs in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, a game where Pierce scored 41 points, that elusive first ring is finally within his grasp. With just one series left until the Finals, a place Pierce has never been, you can bet he will be exerting himself just a tad more. If and when he hoists that trophy up high, it’ll be hard not to clap for this guy, who’s busted his butt for this long unrewarded.

May 13, 2008

Ace showcase in Beantown would pay dividends

Category: Brewers — Patrick Stumpf @ 4:18 pm

With the Brewers long-awaited series at Fenway just a few days away, die-hard fans have already booked their flights. And what Milwaukee fan wouldn’t want to go catch this series? It’s not every year the team gets out to Beantown, in fact, it’s become a rarity. The last time the Brewers were fortunate to play the Red Sox in Boston was way back in 1997. Consequently, that year the two played each other six games in just over a week.  But due to the aforementioned fact, it would not only be a treat for traveling fans, but also wise for the front-office to make a minor personnel move. My proposal is this: push every starter back one day, to allow Ben Sheets to start Friday in the opener against Dice-K Matsuzaka, then subsequently recall Jeff Weaver from AAA to take Sheets’ spot Thursday (send down a reliever). Now this kind of move obviously isn’t plausible on a regular basis, but if there was ever a time to do it, this would be it. Why? Sheets, who is scheduled to pitch Thursday’s finale against the Dodgers, has posted a 4-0 record with a 2.53 ERA in 7 starts thus far. One day extra-rest would not only be advantageous for Sheets, it would be an opportunity for the Brewers to showcase Big-Ben on a national stage. And for all of you missing the point I’m getting at, Sheets’ contract is due up at the end of next season. While it’s always possible they could just resign him, they have a number of young stars entering arbitration in the upcoming years, and in order to retain them a chunk of change will have to be dished out. Allowing Sheets to start healthy, in Boston, against Dice-K, with six days rest, could be the last chance for the front-office to maximize his value before year’s end. It’s pure speculation, but if pulled off it would be a smart move looking down the road.

Fun Fact: Of the six games the Brewers played the Bo-Sox in ’97, the lone game they won was against none other than Jeff Suppan, who was chased from the game after surrendering 6 runs in 1 1/3 innings. Suppan was originally drafted by the Red Sox in the second round of the 1993 Draft (Courtesy of BaseballReference.com).

May 2, 2008

Brewers lose Gallardo to torn ACL: news and views

Category: Sports General — Patrick Stumpf @ 4:44 pm

The Brewers received news today a MRI on starter Yovani Gallardo revealed a torn ACL. This is absolutely devastating news for Brewer Nation. The team will need to do more tests after the swelling has reduced to determine if Gallardo will need surgery, but the team is taking it as if he’ll be out for the season. Dave Bush is the likely candidate to replace him, and let’s hope he steps up. All we can do is hope for the best at this point. No timetable has been set, however, the best case scenario is the injury wouldn’t require surgery and Yo could possibly return to the team late in the season. Regardless, this is too bad. 

The Bucks and former-Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson has reportedly agreed to a deal that would make Sampson part of Scott Skiles’ coaching staff. ESPN reported the deal could be announced as early as tonight. Sampson has valuable experience, but his credibility took a major hit after he violated NCAA recruitment regulations. If he can put the issue behind him, and being in a new city should help, he’ll be a great pickup.

Undrafted UW-Whitewater standout Justin Beaver made his debut today in Packers’ rookie camp. The 5’8″ running-back is hoping to make a name for himself in the NFL after capping off his collegiate career as the D-III player-of-the-year. Beaver received some national exposure on ESPN last season, when his Warhawks defeated Mount Union in the Championship. I wouldn’t bet against this guy, but it would be a surprise if he made the final cut.

Marquette guard Jerel McNeal has decided to declare for the NBA Draft, but hasn’t  hired an agent. This leaves the door open for the junior-guard to make a possible return to the Golden Eagles for his senior year. Of the three junior guards, he has the best shot of making the jump to the NBA, but not this year, as the draft is heavily-laden with guards. I’m confident he’ll be smart and come back.

Brewers’ reliever Derrick Turnbow has been designated for assignment, meaning the club has 10-days to either trade, release, or send him to the minors. This was the only news Brewers’ fans wanted to hear today. Turnbow has pitched awful in the back end of the bullpen this season, posting an ERA better than 15. That was most recently inflated by an unsuccessful mop-up session at Wrigley Wednesday, as he only lasted 2/3 of an inning in the Cubs’ 19-5 drubbing. The club has already decided to bring up utility-man Joe Dillon for tonight’s opener in Houston.

April 28, 2008

Slugging outfielder LaPorta on fast track to majors

Category: Brewers — Patrick Stumpf @ 10:03 pm

It’s just 25 games into the season, but already the Brewers’ Double-A Affiliate, the Huntsville Stars, have gotten off to a hot start (17-8). One of the key contributors to their early success: Matt LaPorta. LaPorta, the club’s 7th overall selection in the 2007 MLB Amateur League Draft, was a first-baseman by trade at the University of Florida, but with Prince Fielder anchoring the position for the immediate and hopefully extended future, LaPorta was forced to make a position switch. That position was left fielder; where GM Doug Melvin saw him as the best fit. The best fit, huh? Well looking at it long term, left field was the lone position the Brewers had yet to shore up. That was until, of course, Ryan Braun made the switch there before this season. Nevertheless, since settling in his new home in the outfield, the young man hasn’t been phased one bit. Like Braun, LaPorta has been on an accelerated path to the majors, not because the team’s rushing him, but because he’s crushing his opposition. Just to give you an idea, in his first major league at-bat in Rookie-Ball, LaPorta launched a home run. Since then, LaPorta made a short stop in West Virginia (Single-A), and then played in the Arizona Fall League, one of the most prestigious leagues at the minor league level, after being selected by the club to represent them. Braun was also chosen in 2006. In 30 games for the Mesa Solar Sox (a Fall League team), LaPorta socked 6 dingers, tied for the league lead over that span. LaPorta has since then opened the ’08 campaign in Double-A Huntsville, where he has picked up where he left off–raking. Through 24 games (82 at-bats), LaPorta has blasted 6 bombs, with 22 RBIs (both tops in the league). And if that’s not convincing enough, he also ranks 4th in runs scored (18), 2nd in total bases (behind only teammate Mat Gamel), 4th in slugging percentage (.602- tied with Gamel), and 7th in on-base slugging percentage. Hopefully that’s enough to convince you. I wouldn’t be surprised to see LaPorta reach Triple-A Nashville in the next few months, and possibly be called up as soon as September 1st, when the active rosters expand to 40. LaPorta ranks as the Brewers #1 prospect, as well as the #23 ranked player in all of baseball by Baseball America. As far his position once he reaches the big league club? Don’t be surprised if he ends up in right, with Corey Hart sliding to center after Mike Cameron leaves (Cameron signed a 1-year deal).

April 27, 2008

Trade obsession persists on Day 2; depth added

Category: Packers — Patrick Stumpf @ 11:13 pm

Before I get to all my Day 2 analysis, I figured I should provide a link to this excellent chart outlining all the Packers moves over the course of this weekend (it’s on the very bottom of the page). Whew, now that’s a lot of movement. Here’s my quick analysis of the second day picks, six in all, as well as my predictions on these players’ chances of making the team:

Jermichael Finley, TE, Texas- It’s ironic he ends up with the same team he was raving about at the NFL Combine. I love this pick. Finley finally gives the Packers an athletic tight end (Bubba was not athletic) that can stretch the field. He’ll provide Aaron Rodgers with a valuable check-down. He needs to improve his blocking, but he’s got plenty of time. Finley’s chances of making the team: Extremely good.

Jeremy Thompson, DE, Wake Forest- Ted Thompson fools all with a trade up, marking the first time he’s ever done so as the Packers’ GM. And I think it was the perfect time to do it. Thompson was a projected 2nd-3rd round pick, dropping because of injury concerns. As long as he can stay healthy, he’s got a great shot to make fans forgot Corey Williams quickly–great pick. Thompson’s chances of making the team: Very good.

Josh Sitton, OL, Central Florida- A little surprised they chose this guy with higher rated offensive-lineman on the board, but it’s a typical TT move. Underrated guy who was a major reason Kevin Smith rushed for 4,800 yards last year. The reason I think he’ll make the team is because he’s versatile (TT mentioned his ability to play both guard and tackle spots). Sitton’s chances of making the team: Good.

Breno Giaconimi, OT, Louisville- I had done a lot of research before this year’s draft, and this guy’s name was connected to the Pack in numerous draft circles. He’s a monster, (6’7+, 300 lbs.) that gets bonus points for having the most commonly mispronounced name on Wisconsin TV stations tonight. Giacomini’s chances of making the team: Good.

Matt Flynn, QB, LSU- Another quarterback? I can’t imagine Packer nation’s reaction to this pick after it flashed on the screen, but please remember everyone, this is in the 7th round. Flynn is the perfect #3 (as long as no veteran is signed) guy behind Rodgers and now Brohm. He doesn’t have a great arm, but it won’t hurt him because the West Coast Offense predominantly consists of slants and shorter routes. Solid pick given the circumstances. Flynn’s chances of making the team: Average if veteran QB is signed, good if not.

Brett Swain, WR, San Diego State- Ted said in his post-draft press conference that Swain caught his eye while scouting SDSU’s quarterback Kevin O’Connell. There’s absolutely no way this guy makes the active roster, but worst case scenario he creates good camp competition and makes the practice squad. Swain’s chances of making the team: Little to none (may make practice squad).

My final thoughts on the draft: Ted did a great job, although I’m not big on grades, so I won’t give one. But I feel eight of these nine have a good chance of making the final 53 man roster. The competition should be fierce in camp, and I’ll be especially interested to see how the quarterback’s perform in the preseason. Even after Mr. Irrelevant was chosen, the madness didn’t stop. Undrafted free agents began to sign, and the Packers have already inked multiple names. Here’s that list thus far:

TE Michael Peterson (Northwest Missouri State)
LB Danny Lansanah (UConn)
RB Kregg Lumpkin (Georgia)
WR Taj Smith (Syracuse)
LS J.J. Jansen (Notre Dame)
P Ken Debauche (Wisconsin)

Some intriguing names here. Of those, I think Jansen and Lansanah (left) have legitimate shots to make the team. Peterson, Smith, Lumpkin, and Debauche should all create healthy competition, with Lumpkin and Smith good practice squad candidates (along with Swain). Remember everyone, in Thompson’s blueprint, this is the year where depth isn’t just added, it’s significantly improved. They did a great job accomplishing that this weekend.

April 26, 2008

Thompson true to form on day one; trades down

Category: Packers — Patrick Stumpf @ 11:54 pm

For all those fans who were surprised the Packers dealt their first rounder, it’s time you do a little more research. The Packers’ head man didn’t waste any time accumulating picks on Day 1, dealing the 30th overall pick to the Jets for their second and fourth rounders (#36 and #113, respectively). I was thinking and hoping this would be the case, especially after watching Mike Jenkins, Antoine Cason, and Kentwan Balmer evaporate quickly off the board before 30. Dustin Keller, Brandon Flowers, and Limas Sweed were all there, but honestly, they weren’t alot better talent-wise than who they could have got trading down, and I’m glad Thompson recognized that. Now on to the picks:

With the #36 pick, the Packers select WR Jordy Nelson from Kansas State. Rip this pick as much as you want, but after watching this guy’s game film, he looks special. I especially loved the clip of him torching Kansas’ Aqib Talib (who went 20th to Tampa Bay) for a TD. Nelson possesses great size (6’3, 217 lbs), great hands, and tremendous route running skills. One aspect of Nelson’s game scouts question is his timed speed (he ran a 4.50 40), but for those same “experts,” please remember this kid was a track star in the 100 and 400. Nelson was incredibly productive during his senior year, racking up over 1,600 yards and 11 TDs. So productive, in fact, that his worst statistical game was 82 yards against San Jose State. There are definite concerns, however. He only had that one standout year; his first two years at receiver he had 84 grabs, while during his senior year he racked up 122. Packer fans can also question his role in 2008, as I did originally. At the moment, he appears to be at best #4 on the depth chart, with Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones ahead of him. He has return experience, which looks to be the most likely route for him to break onto the scene next year, but in the long run, Nelson should replace Driver and find his niche as the perfect slot guy for the Packers. 

With the #56 pick, the Packers select QB Brian Brohm from Louisville. Another pick that’s controversial at this point (what Thompson pick isn’t), Brohm provides one thing as  Nelson does: competition. Thompson has stressed that so often throughout his tenure and it hasn’t changed; it’s just amazing how many people are still surprised by these kind of choices. Regardless of position, Brohm was the best player available. The Packers were rumored to be interested in Brian at 30 and also trading up for him before 56, but to the team’s surprise, he fell to them. Had he declared last year, Brohm might have been a top 10 pick. He is a perfect fit for the West Coast Offense, as he is extremely accurate and has good timing on his throws. The knocks on him are his arm strength as well as his durability, both attributes Aaron Rodgers’ lacked out of Cal. It’s Rodger’s job to lose, and hopefully having Brohm behind him will push him to perform up to his full potential. I didn’t expect the Pack to take a QB this early, but he is too talented to pass up.

With the 60th pick, the Packers select CB Patrick Lee from Auburn. This was probably, for the majority of fans, the most sensible pick of the night. Lee is a big, physical corner that fits the mold the Packers look for in their press scheme. Working at AM 1570 the Score in Appleton, WI, I was able to listen to an interview conducted by host Justin Hull last week with the same Patrick Lee. Justin asked Patrick how he’d feel coming into Green Bay with Woodson and Harris to learn from, and Lee welcomed the opportunity. I expect Lee to have the best shot to make an immediate impact of the first three picks, possibly at nickel-back, but also on special teams. He needs to become more polished (he didn’t start at Auburn until his senior year), but he has all the makings of a solid future starter in Green Bay.

Overall, I thought the Packers did a great job on Day 1, setting themselves up for the future. As far as positions I think will need to be addressed tomorrow, a tight-end and change of pace running back would be nice. Guys like Jermichael Finley (TE, Texas) and Steve Slaton (RB, West Virginia) could be possibilities. Plenty more analysis to come tomorrow, as the team holds at least six more selections (one 3rd, three 4ths, one 5th, and one 7th). Draft coverage starts at 9:00 AM, so get up early, because players will be flying off the board real fast. Some of the best of the rest: LB Dan Connor (Penn State), CB Charles Godfrey (Iowa), QB Josh Johnson (San Diego), OG Jeremy Zuttah (Rutgers), and CB Antwaun Molden (Eastern Kentucky).

2008 NFL Draft Live Blog (Day 1)

Category: Live blogs — Patrick Stumpf @ 11:37 am