Month: July 2016

Lucroy expresses no trade clause and kills deal to Cleveland, where will he end up?

By: Bill Tewes

UPDATE: According to MLBTraderumors.com, the Rangers are back in the mix for Jonathan Lucroy. The talks are “productive” and we may see Lucroy dealt today after all. Texas is not one of the eight teams that Lucroy can veto a trade to, so we’ll see if Stearns and company get a deal done!

Deadline day is upon us and it was only a matter of when we see Jonathan Lucroy in a jersey other than Milwaukee Brewer blue. Brewer fans were expected to wake up this morning and read the headline: “Jonathan Lucroy traded to Cleveland Indians for package of prospects.” Not so fast Brewer fans! As it usually is, MLB Trade Deadline day has many twists and turns. Lucroy has nixed a deal sending him to the Cleveland Indians due to the fact that Cleveland is one of the eight teams listed on his limited no-trade-clause. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted suggesting that the Brewers are working feverishly to convince Lucroy to waive his no-trade-clause and accept a deal to Cleveland. 

Additionally, it appears that the major stumbling block in this trade as reported by Jeff Passan, is that Lucroy was expecting the Indians to do away with the 2017 Club option as part of his contract. The Indians would have been foolish for doing so as they would surely lose Lucroy to free agency after this season. Brewer fans should be rightfully upset with Lucroy if he seriously expected the Indians to do that (after he complained about not being on a contender), but it is also the ugly side for the organization of the no-trade-clause.

The 30-year-old catcher fetched a substantial offer from the Cleveland Indians, which was expected to yield four prospects with catcher Francisco Mejia (#6 prospect in Indian’s organization) being the top prospect of the trade. The Brewers and Indians had a deal in principle and now that deal is for naught.

In a tweet from MLB.com writer Ken Rosenthal, the Brewers were expected to get Indians’ prospects Yu-Cheng Chang (#12) and outfielder Greg Allen (#22) plus a fourth player yet to be named. The Brewers were allegedly heavily interested in Justus Sheffield, but the Indians just traded him to the Yankees as part of a deal to get reliever Andrew Miller. It would have been an incredible trade for the Brewers if they could have received Sheffield as part of the Lucroy package.

Jonathan Lucroy was very vocal about wanting to play for a contender in the offseason and Cleveland has been making moves to solidify them as a top flight contender this year. For everything Lucroy has said, it is hard to believe that he would outright deny a trade to a team that looks like a serious threat in the AL.

The Brewers had multiple trade partners for Lucroy and it seemed as if the cost would rise for his services. Now the Brewers have to go back to the drawing board and hope that they can get as good of a deal or possibly slightly better now that the Indians are out. The Mets offered what I think is a lowball offer for Lucroy. They offered catcher Travis D-Arnaud and outfielder Brandon Nimmo (#5 prospect in their system) plus a player yet to be named. The other substantial trade partner was the Texas Rangers, but they fell out of the running early yesterday as it appears they do not want to part with a top prospect like Jurickson Profar or Joey Gallo.

It would behoove the Brewers to take their time today and wait this trade deadline out as long as possible. Brewers GM David Stearns is not going to sell low on Lucroy just because a deal fell through with Cleveland. Lucroy would still have one year left on his contract and can easily be traded in the offseason, so that a team can get a full year of his services behind the plate. In that aspect, it might be better for them to keep Lucroy in Milwaukee for the rest of this season.

The Brewers still have their relievers they could move and it is encouraging to see the haul that the New York Yankees received for reliever Andrew Miller. Milwaukee should be able to move Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith to contenders or teams on the verge of contending. It also would not surprise me to see Chris Carter moved for a team in serious need of a power bat, but so far there have been no rumors regarding Carter. By the end of the day, the Brewers should net some nice prospects, adding to their continued pursuit of a better future.

Brewers Jeremy Jeffress Trade Should Net Big Haul

By: Mark Prott

Recent Aroldis Chapman trade to Cubs should be model for asking price

Amid all the speculation, rumors and trade ideas surrounding Milwaukee Brewers Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, it has been a bit surprising to not see more trade talk surrounding the Brewers other big fish in the pond on the trade market, relief pitcher and suddenly dominant closer Jeremy Jeffress. Of course, with the trade deadline less than a week away and the recent New York Yankees trade of closer Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs, talk surrounding the Brewers hurler seems to be ramping up. MLB Network’s Jim Duquette says that Brewers General Manager David Stearns has a high asking price on a return for a Jeffress deal.

So in other words, the Brewers are asking for the same type of deal the Yankees received after they landed # 1 Cubs prospect shortstop Gleyber Torres in the Chapman deal. On the surface, one might think no way is Jeffress going to have the same value as Chapman. But when we dig a little deeper it couldn’t be more true that Jeffress should be worth at least the same type of top prospect on the level of Torres, rated by Baseball America as the #27th overall prospect in Major League Baseball.

Sure Aroldis Chapman comes with more flash and pizzazz, sporting his 105 mph fastballs and cranking out eye popping strikeout rates. But bottom line is the closer’s job is to get 3 outs in the 9th while protecting your team’s lead. No matter how you get the outs or how hard you throw, saves all count the same. And in that regard Jeremy Jeffress has been every bit as good as Aroldis Chapman this year. Compare the numbers so far, Jeffress is 25 out of 26 converting saves with a 2.11 ERA, while Chapman is 21 out of 22 with 1.87 ERA entering play Saturday. Both players also happen to be 28 years old.

If you still are not convinced Jeffress should command a similar return to Chapman, it is also important to take into account free agency status and team control. While we know the Cubs possess the resources to lock him up long term if they want, as of right now Chapman is simply a rental player. On the other hand, Jeffress does not become a free agent until the 2020 season. Then there’s the off field issues that need to be addressed in trade value. Jeremy Jeffress had a well publicized problem with marijuana, causing early career suspensions, but all indications are that problem is well in Jeffress’ past. Chapman on the other hand has a much more recent and alarming off field issue having been involved in an alleged domestic violence incident last October, which caused him to be suspended 30 games to start the 2016 season.

I’ll admit if it comes down to one game and I get to pick, I would choose Chapman over Jeffress. But there’s more factors involved than sheer talent when it comes to teams trading away building blocks of their future. Bottom line is the Brewers have a very valuable piece in Jeremy Jeffress. He’s one of the top closers in the game. And it also does not hurt that he’s been pitching great, when no doubt many scouts and executives’ eyes are on him, watching every pitch.

 

 

Deja Vu: How Rodgers Career Has Paralleled Favre's So Far

While they exhibit different qualities in their games, Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre have shared similar career paths.

By: Jim Boyce

I still remember where I was the day Brett Favre “retired” from the Green Bay Packers. I was in Physics class, it was my senior year of high school, and the news floored just about everyone I talked to that day. I skipped my lunch later that day to watch Favre’s press conference with a couple other guys and a teacher cool enough to let us do so. I remember getting choked up when Favre began to cry as I, like everyone else in Wisconsin, had grown so attached to him over the years. My focus shifted shortly after however, to what Aaron Rodgers could bring to the table. I am a naturally optimistic person when it comes to my sports teams, I thought Rodgers could succeed. That being said I could not have predicted he would play at the level he has since taking over the starting QB job at 1265 Lombardi Ave.

With Brett Favre headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in a couple weeks I could not help but reflect upon his career, and also the career of Rodgers. While the individual style they bring to the QB position is different, Rodgers career thus far has paralleled Favre’s in several ways.

THE ARRIVAL

Both players arrived to Green Bay under somewhat unusual circumstances. Brett Favre, after a forgettable rookie season in Atlanta, was traded to Green Bay for a first round pick. If that was not enough of a gamble by then new GM Ron Wolf, the fact that Wolf signed off on the trade despite Favre failing his physical certainly was. Obviously that worked out very well for Wolf and the Packers, but there was no shortage of risk in trading for Favre back in 1992.

Rodgers arrived to Green Bay in different, yet equally bizarre fashion. Considered a top five pick throughout the draft process, Green Bay and then new GM Ted Thompson probably figured they had no chance at drafting Aaron Rodgers in 2005. Yet 23 selections went by with teams passing on Rodgers for reasons that we may never truly know (Thanks San Francisco).

Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson were both new GM’s who hitched their futures to that of young QB’s that other teams had deemed questionable. The payoff for each was everything they could have possibly imagined.

THE SUCCESS

Both Favre and Rodgers won the Super Bowl at age 27, Favre in 1996 and Rodgers in 2010. Each played magnificently in their Super Bowl victories. Rodgers was MVP of the 2010 game, Favre likely would have been MVP of the 96 game if not for an extraordinary performance from Desmond Howard.

From a personal standpoint, both QB’s have put up record breaking numbers. Favre was league MVP three times in a row from 1995-1997. Aaron Rodgers has won league MVP twice, 2011 and 2014, and likely will remain a candidate to win a 3rd MVP throughout the next handful of seasons.

THE QUEST FOR A SECOND TITLE

This might be the most interesting aspect of each QB’s career, and is just as much a reflection of the team around them as it is about Favre and Rodgers themselves. Each QB has faced similar struggles in getting that elusive second Super Bowl win.

Obviously Favre’s book is closed, but he came painfully close to a second ring on several occasions. The Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos is still hard to talk about, as Green Bay went into that game a clear favorite. In 2003 Green Bay jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the NFC’s top seed, the Philadelphia Eagles, in the divisional round. After Mike Sherman’s decision not to go for a 4th and 1 to potentially run out the clock, the defense yielded the infamous 4th and 26 play. A Favre interception in overtime and suddenly Green Bay was heading home. In 2007 the Packers hosted the NFC Championship game against the Giants, they played poorly and missed a good shot at appearing in the Super Bowl. While this will make all of us angry, Favre also had a good shot at a ring with the hated Vikings in 2009, but Minnesota literally fumbled away the NFC title game in New Orleans.

Since winning the big game after the 2010 season, Rodgers has endured some similar heartbreaks. After going 15-1 in 2011, the Packers more or less didn’t show up to play at home against the Giants and got beat up 37-20 in the divisional round. In 2014 the Packers held a 19-7 lead with 4 minutes left against heavily favored Seattle in the NFC title game. That choke job remains one of the more baffling I have ever seen.

I’m not suggesting the Packers would have won the Super Bowl each and every year, but in my opinion these instances were the best shots the Packers had during the Favre and Rodgers eras. With each QB the Packers were almost always a playoff team, but while this may sound spoiled it would be slightly disappointing if the Favre-Rodgers era ends with two Super Bowl titles. Rodgers has quite a few years left to change that narrative however, so there is no need for doom and gloom just yet.

In closing, Packers fans have been blessed to watch Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. The ugliness of Favre’s exit in 2008 may have caused some to choose sides, but it shouldn’t. We are witnessing 25 plus seasons of hall of fame QB play which most fan bases would kill for. Brett Favre’s plaque in Canton is well deserved and I can’t wait for his Hall of Fame speech. In the not too distant future, but hopefully not too soon either, Aaron Rodgers will join his predecessor in football immortality.

 

The key to a championship defense: Mike Daniels

 

By: Bill Tewes           

 For Green Bay Packers defensive end Mike Daniels, nothing has ever come easy. Ever since being scouted out of high school and even being drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Daniels has had his fair share of naysayers and doubters. Most scouts referenced his height and athleticism as detriments to his ability to make a big impact on the field and that earned him a 2-star rating from rivals.com. So how did an undersized and less than stellar athlete like Daniels land a 4 year, $41-million-dollar contract and possibly end up cementing his legacy as one of Green Bay’s greatest pass rushers?

 The answer lies in Daniels’ drive and determination. Daniels’ fierce nature and unshakeable will has propelled him into the upper echelon of NFL pass rushers. Even though he does not have the size or flashy numbers as say a Muhammad Wilkerson or J.J. Watt, Daniels is still a force to be reckoned with on every snap. In an interview with PackersNews writer Wes Hodkiewicz, Daniels stated: “”If I’m not going to be physically bigger than the guy who’s 350, then I’m going to play bigger than him. If I’m not going to be physically bigger than the guy who’s 6-4, then I’m going to play bigger than him. That’s just my mentality. I’m just going to keep bringing it.”

Daniels compared to wilkerson

Take a look at this chart that was generated by Pro Football Focus regarding 2015’s best 3-4 pass rushers. Daniels graded out as the 4th ranked pass rusher and was right behind Muhammad Wilkerson, who is still waiting for the ink to dry on a freshly signed five-year, $86-million-dollar contract extension to remain with the New York Jets. Daniels most definitely could have got more on the open market, but chose to stay with Green Bay, a team that studied his skillset extensively and utilizes his motor to maximum capacity. It is clear that Daniels values playing for a Super Bowl caliber team over leaving for a bigger pay day.

 In comparing the two players, it is quite evident that Green Bay is really getting a massive deal with Daniels signing for $10.25 million per year. It might come as a shock to some, but Daniels’ pass rush efficiency nearly matches Wilkerson’s, even with Wilkerson rushing the passer at a higher rate (347 snaps to Daniels 234). Also consider Green Bay’s defensive line is nowhere near the caliber of New York’s’ with Sheldon Richardson and soon to be star Leonard Williams in the trenches with Wilkerson. 

Wilkerson’s 11.5 point pass rush productivity is only half a point higher than Daniels (11) and their percentage of total pressures to snaps is nearly identical (14.7% to 14.1%). If Daniels was afforded the role that Wilkerson has with the Jets, it would not be out of the question to see similar statistical productivity in the sack and tackle column.

It would also come as no surprise to see Daniels turn in the best year of his career with the pressure of contract negotiations off the table as well as a new look Packers defense. The Packers added key pieces through the draft in Kenny Clark and Blake Martinez who will look to make a significant impact this year as rookies. Clark will offer fresh legs in the middle and having a consistently solid player like Letroy Guion for another year will allow Green Bay to utilize Daniels all over the line.

I would expect Daniels to take a firm leadership role as he has already been a vocal locker-room guy and is definitely the teams’ de facto defensive captain (Packers use weekly captains as opposed to full time captains). Daniels will continue to work with young players such as Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry (also a 4th round pick) and hopefully instill in them the work ethic and determination that has made him into the key piece to what could become a championship caliber defense this year.

Brewers and Indians Trade Makes Sense

By: Mark Prott

Let the madness of the August 1st trade deadline begin! No doubt Milwaukee Brewers General Manager Davis Stearns will be fielding a lot of calls from now until the deadline but sounds like things could be heating up sooner rather than later. ESPN’s Buster Olney already reporting that the Indians and Brewers have begun discussing a possible trade that would send the All-Star Catcher Jonathan Lucroy to the Cleveland Indians likely for multiple prospects.

The Brewers are known to have discussed Lucroy with the Texas Rangers and most likely multiple other teams have kicked the tires as well but to me, Cleveland seems to be the perfect match. Let’s first take a look at a possible deal from Cleveland’s side. Sitting in first place in the AL Central, things are looking up for the Indians right now but then again, it’s still only July with a lot of baseball to be played. Former Brewers prospect and current Indians outfielder Michael Brantley suffered another setback to his shoulder, so it’s anyone’s guess when he’ll come back or if this will linger all year. Which leads me to believe the Indians decision makers want to strengthen other areas of the team for their upcoming pennant race. And the one position that stands out like a sore thumb on that team is catcher. Steve Adams of mlbtraderumors.com notes that Cleveland has by far the worst production in all of baseball from their catchers, hitting well under .200 for the year.

Jonathan Lucroy on the other hand has been a hitting machine, ranking third among all catchers in baseball with a .305 batting average and second in OPS at .854 entering play Thursday. Don’t forget his defense, ability to throw runners out (currently leads MLB with 28), and his ability to pitch frame. He’s also a leader in the clubhouse.  Hurts to say being a Brewers fan but Lucroy would look darn good in the middle of the Indians lineup and I know the city of Cleveland would love him just like the fans do here in Milwaukee.

Add in the Cleveland Indians desire to add back end relief help and I feel a blockbuster deal could be on its way. The Brewers happen to have two of the most coveted relievers on the market in lefty Will Smith and right hander Jeremy Jeffress, who is 23 out of 24 in save opportunities. Not only are both having great seasons, but they also won’t become free agents until 2020.

Now on to the Brewers side of things. GM David Stearns has made it clear he wants top value for Lucroy as well as his coveted relief pitchers and he will walk if he doesn’t get that in a deal. Lucroy has 1.5 years of control so Stearns knows the offseason is another possibility to deal Lucroy but with his value probably at an all time high, it would be great if the Brewers could find a taker right now to advance the rebuild. The Cleveland Indians possess the ammunition in their farm system to get this deal done now. Coming into 2016, they were ranked the #16 best farm system by Baseball America. But with many of their top prospects having excellent seasons, unlike the case with the Brewers prospects, their ranking is likely on the rise.

The Indians have a nice balance of 6 pitchers and 4 hitters among their top 10 prospects ranking on mlb.com. Even if the Indians hold onto their top 3 prospects in outfielders Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier, and pitcher Brady Aiken, a deal can still get done in my opinion. Among those 4 hitters is Bobby Bradley, a power hitting first baseman and catcher Francisco Mejia, who is having a huge season. Both spots are weak in the Brewers farm system and no doubt would be intriguing to Stearns and company. 3 high upside but young arms in lefties Justus Sheffield, Juan Hillman, and righty Triston Mckenzie also look like possible targets that would appeal to the Brewers brass.

Adding a Will Smith to a Lucroy deal would certainly drive the asking price up in a deal, enough so that Brewers could legitimately ask for 4-5 of the top 10 prospects on a team like the Indians. With just about every contending team wanting relief help, the Brewers could very well trade a Jeffress or a Smith on their own for a good return, but the thought here is the Indians would be wise to kill 2 birds with 1 stone in a blockbuster deal with the Brewers.

Bucks 2nd Round Spotlight

Why you should be rooting for Malcolm Brogdon.

By: Jim Boyce

The second round of the NBA draft can at best be described as a shot in the dark, and at worst described as pointless. Very few second round players ever become stars or even starters. For every Draymond Green, Isaiah Thomas, or our own Khris Middleton, there are dozens of Johnny O’Bryant’s.

That being said the Bucks may have found themselves a real value in this years second round with the selection of Malcolm Brogdon out of Virginia. After shocking the world with the selection of very talented but very risky Thon Maker in the first, John Hammond and Co. seemed to go a safer route in the second. Here are a couple reasons to like Malcolm Brogdon.

He Can Help the Team Right Away

Malcolm Brogdon’s game is not flashy, he is not likely to be joining Giannis and Jabari on SportsCenters Top 10 countdowns any time soon. What Brogdon does do though is play defense, something the Bucks mostly neglected last season. Brogdon was the NABC Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 and was often asked to guard all three perimeter positions. While lacking elite lateral quickness that worried some scouts, the effort and determination he shows on a nightly basis should help him to limit opposing wing players. In some ways that description reminds me of another recent Bucks addition and gritty defender, Matthew Dellevadova.

Brogdon probably won’t put up big numbers on the offensive end, but he often looked like the most poised player on the floor during the Summer League. He should be an unselfish teammate who is capable of hitting the open jumper when the opportunity presents itself.

His Intangibles Are Off The Charts

Look as hard as you can, but you will not find anyone that has had anything negative to say about Brogdon as a teammate or person. He was a leader for a good Virginia team, and despite being a rookie, can become the same on the Bucks. In a recent piece by Dave Johnson of the Daily Press highlighting his leadership skills, Brogdon sounded like a player comfortable with that role who also understands his place as a rookie making the leap to the next level.

“I’m excited,” Brogdon said in meeting the Milwaukee media. “I’m ready to take on whatever role Coach Kidd and Mr. Hammond have in mind for me. I think at heart, I’m a leader. But in this situation, I’ll have to listen and learn even from the younger guys here. I’m going to feel my way out.”

Outside of basketball Brogdon is a very impressive young man. Watch the 3:00-4:18 mark here where Brogdon talks about the importance of his education and goals of using the money he will make from his NBA career to help those in need. I know what you might be thinking, character is not going to win basketball games, and that is true. The reality is we as sports fans generally don’t care what players do with their free time as long as they perform on the court.

However I think Brogdon’s goals of contributing to the world outside of sports is impressive when he could easily live comfortably off the money he will make as a pro. It’s safe to say Brogdon would be a successful individual even without basketball. He is a genuinely likable person and because of that it is almost impossible not to cheer for Malcolm Brogdon as he begins his NBA career.

In closing, there are a lot of things to like about Brogdon both on and off the court. While the odds are he will never be a star player. His effort and basketball IQ should allow him to become a solid rotation player on a Milwaukee team that was lacking off the bench last season. Do not be surprised if Malcolm Brogdon carves out a role and plays meaningful minutes off the bench as early as his rookie season.

 

Packers 2016 Training Camp: 5 Breakout Candidates

With training camp quickly approaching in a little over a week, we examine 5 Green Bay Packers  who could potentially stake a claim for more playing time starting in training camp. To make this list, a player has to be in the first (1-4) years of their career and not already a starter at their position. Feel free to comment and give your list below.

By: Mark Prott

 

1.) Quinten Rollins

Admittingly, I’ve been on the Rollins Bandwagon ever since I heard his name called in the 2nd round on draft day 2015. His story and background are fascinating. From playing point guard for 4 years at Miami (Ohio) to being named the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2014, his lone year of College football.IMG_0009 (3) There’s just something about this kid that screams future impact player. The ball skills and instincts to be in the right place at the right time were evident early on as a rookie. The coaching he’s receiving from Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt is likely second to none in the NFL leading me to believe Packers fans are in store for an exciting 2nd year jump from Rollins. Expect him to challenge fellow 2nd year Damarious Randall for a starting outside cornerback job opposite Sam Shields but ultimately I believe Rollins will be the starting Nickel week one in the slot, where the Packers can get him closer to the ball and his play making ability can truly shine.

2.) Datone Jones

With only 8 sacks in his 3 year career with the Packers, the 2013 first round pick Datone Jones might qualify as a disappointment to many Packers fans. But let’s hold on because there’s still a glimmer of hope. It’s been well documented that the Packers plan to move Jones from defensive line to the elephant outside linebacker position, occupied by Julius Peppers and formerly unsigned free agent Mike Neal. I think it might be just what the doctor ordered. A similar move helped Mike Neal become a consistent contributor on defense after a slow start to his career. To prepare for the full time move Jones has cut fat and added speed according to an interview with Wes Hodkiewicz on packers.com. Jones just never seemed suited to play in the line full time and with a contract on the line I expect more impact plays with him on the edge where he can display his size, length and athleticism.

3.) Aaron Ripkowski

While local media provided conflicting reports about the Packers’ plans on whether or not to bring back John Kuhn, I am of the belief the Packers are moving forward without the long time fan favorite. In effect 2nd year full back Aaron Ripkowski served a year apprenticeship under Kuhn and his tutelage. Listed by the Packers at 6-1 246 and known as a blocker coming out of Oklahoma, Ripkowski offers the running game more pop and power. While currently listed atop the depth chart at fullback, he can’t be penciled in as the starter yet. John Kuhn is out there if Ripkowski shows he’s not ready. And many teams are getting away from the fullback altogether. However, Mike McCarthy loves the fullback in his offense and the eye test says Eddie Lacy is at his best with a lead blocker in front of him. He also looked comfortable with the ball in his hands, running over Carolina Panthers like a Mack truck in this video.

4.) Jeff Janis

The People’s Champ. Jokes aside, all Packers fans know that Jeff Janis is the most gifted receiver on the Packers depth chart when evaluating size/speed ratios. Mike McCarthy hinted that the Packers need more big targets to make plays in the middle of the field. Look no further than the Arizona Cardinals playoff game. Call it a fluke if you want but what I saw was a freak wide receiver out jumping possibly the best corner in the game with the game on the line and coming up with the ball. With the top two spots locked down, it would seem the number 3 and 4 spots are up for grabs. Davante Adams is likely the front runner but after a bad 2015 he doesn’t have anything locked up. Ty Montgomery’s status is still up in the air after coming off a bad ankle injury meaning significant playing time is still to be determined. Janis needs to work on route running but if he finally gets the playbook down and earns A-rod’s trust, watch out.

5.) Christian Ringo

Okay, I know this is a bit of a shot in the dark but hear me out on this Packers fans. First and foremost the 2nd year defensive lineman Ringo has already earned the respect of his teammates with All-Pro guard Josh Sitton describing him as a “good player” who is “young and full of energy.” Packers linebacker Jayrone Elliot also describes Ringo as the “captain of the scout team” in an  interview with Michael Cohen of the Journal Sentinel. Despite being on the Packers practice squad in 2015, the team raised his weekly salary in November to the rookie minimum for fear of losing him to another team’s 53. And then there’s the obvious Mike Daniels comparisons. Coach Mike McCarthy started the comparison with Daniels shortly after Ringo was drafted in regards to their similarities. The size/structure of both players are similar. Ringo is listed 6-1 298 while Daniels is 6-0 310. Both players are known for their quick twitch and explosive first step.  I’m not here to say Ringo is the next Daniels but the talent is intriguing. With Mike Pennel scheduled to be suspended 4 games to start the year, reserve snaps on the defensive line are likely up for grabs and Ringo should be in the mix. Oh and did I mention, this guy saves lives too!  

 

 

 

Matt Kenseth methodically powers to victory at New Hampshire

 

By: Bill Tewes

UPDATE: According to Bob Pockrass of ESPN.com, Kenseth’s #20 Toyota failed post race inspection during the laser tech portion of the inspection. Fines/Penalties will be announced Wednesday.

Wisconsin native Matt Kenseth took home his second checkered flag of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series campaign this afternoon, winning the New Hampshire 301. After starting 18th, Kenseth led only 38 laps and methodically worked his way into position late in the race to secure the victory, holding off charges from Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch.

Martin Truex Jr. led 123 laps, but was passed by Kenseth late in the race and then had a clutch issue; which forced him to restart in 4th gear for the rest of the race, killing his restart speed. Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch led the most laps (133), but suffered from a loose race car and was relegated to an 8th place finish.

Kenseth sat down with the NBCSports post-race show panel and gave a run-down of his race weekend: “The first run we were really, really tight. And for me this place, typically the middle gets tighter, tighter and tighter. And it’s easy to tighten something up when it’s loose but when you won’t roll the center fast enough it’s really hard to fix that. and I don’t know what he did from run one to run two. But run two it was money; and after that it was just real small adjustments just to keep trying to keep up with the track and keep up with the middle of the corner. I was pretty happy with it in happy hour yesterday and after the first run today I was really pretty happy with, it just took us a long time to get back all the track position. I did a poor job of qualifying and got blocked in the pits, it just took a while to get back up there.”

The Dollar General team had only one mishap on a pit-stop around midrace where he slid into his pit box and had to back up in order to leave, costing him multiple spots and valuable track position. Aside from that, the 20 car looked strong all day as Kenseth slowly but surely worked his way through the field and ran in the top five for vast majority of the 301 miles. Kenseth avoided late race accidents (multiple cautions were thrown with less than 30 to go) by being positioned upfront and his crew adjusted throughout the race to keep him out of traffic and in contention for the win.  

This race marked Kenseth’s third career victory at New Hampshire and comes at an important time as far as the Chase for the Sprint Cup is concerned. The 20 team is continuing to show that they will be a big threat when the Chase kicks off at New Hampshire in seven races. Kenseth is two wins shy of the Chase points leader Brad Keselowski (four) and will have excellent opportunities at Bristol, Darlington and Richmond to pick up a couple of victories before the Chase starts.

Kenseth’s season has been marred with inconsistent runs as well as some unfortunate luck. The good news for Kenseth fans and Joe Gibbs Racing is that Kenseth has had excellent runs at Chase tracks (Charlotte, Dover Kansas, Phoenix and now New Hampshire) and has wins at two of those tracks (Dover, New Hampshire). Kenseth could take some serious momentum into the chase if he can get one more win and will definitely have a lot in his favor by running well at these Chase tracks. The Sprint Cup Series heads to Indianapolis next week where Kenseth looks to take home his first ever Brickyard trophy and build momentum off today’s victory.  

Joe Whitt: Defensive Coordinator in Waiting?

Respected Cornerbacks coach has excelled in coaching up young talent during his time with the Green Bay Packers.

By: Mark Prott

The resume continues to build with each passing year. Young project after young project thrusted upon Joe Whitt Jr. and almost every time the same result occurs. Whitt, age 37, ends up bringing out the scouted talent through his coaching and a legitimate player quickly emerges on the field. Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Davon House, and Casey Hayward come to mind. Add in the outstanding rookie performances in 2015 out of the trio of Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, and Ladarious Gunter, albeit in varying amounts of playing time, and it’s easy to see the evidence is there. Joe Whitt Jr has proven he can coach cornerbacks with the best of them.

Promoted to Cornerbacks coach of the Green Bay Packers in 2009, Whitt came into a good situation that year with veteran Al Harris and a star playmaker in Charles Woodson entrenched as the starting tandem to go along with an upcoming talent at nickel in Tramon Williams. However, Whitt wasn’t intimidated and former Packers CB Tramon Williams noticed right away “He’s not shy, even though you got guys like Charles Woodson and Al Harris, you think, ‘What can he tell those guys?’ But he didn’t see it that way. He feels you can coach up a player, and that’s what he did,” said Williams in an interview with Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel.

While Whitt helped Williams take his game to a Pro Bowl level in 2010 and in some degree helped his now close friend Charles Woodson as he became Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, perhaps his biggest accomplishment was the job he did with current starting cornerback Sam Shields. Shields signed with the Packers in 2010 as a rookie free agent. Having played 3 years as a wide receiver for the Miami Hurricanes, Shields played only one year of cornerback in college. Simply put, he was about as raw as can be. His playing card that got him into the NFL was his blazing 4.28 forty speed but it takes more than speed to play corner in the NFL.  And it sounds like it wasn’t an easy endeavor. “He had no clue. Trust me, no clue,” Whitt said bluntly. “There was one day, I almost lost my mind,” Whitt told the Associated Press.

Fast forward to the upcoming 2016 season, Sam Shields, age 28, continues to use Whitt’s teaching to hone his craft as he enters the prime of his career as the Packers top cornerback. Behind him, talented 2nd year players Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins look to battle for the next two spots atop the depth chart. Talent-wise, it’s possible to argue that this trio could help return the Packers secondary back to the ball-hawking crew it was from 2009-2011. Let’s also not forget that Randall was actually a safety at Arizona State and Rollins had only one year of college football experience at Miami (Ohio) after playing 4 years of college basketball. To get them on the field as rookies was impressive and a testament to the coaching ability of Whitt.

So why do I believe Joe Whitt Jr. could be a NFL defensive coordinator, maybe even in Green Bay? Well besides the impressive resume, Whitt has shown a desire that he wants to move up the ranks in coaching. “I just know I want to run my own team,”  Whitt said in an interview with McGinn. He clearly doesn’t shy away from the subject, also telling ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, “I like working for Mike,” Whitt said. “And hopefully if any other opportunities come in the future, I’ll be able to take those opportunities.” Coach Mike McCarthy has shown he isn’t afraid to block interviews if a coach is under contract, but Ben McAdoo left in 2014 for a promotion with the New York Giants as offensive coordinator.

An opportunity to coordinate in Green Bay would hinge on the future of Dom Capers, who will be 66 in August. Capers hasn’t spoken about any plans to retire soon, so it would only be speculation if he has a number in his head of how long he wants to go. There’s also always the chance the Packers defense takes a step back and McCarthy decides a new voice is needed to lead the defense. Whitt’s blunt in your face approach as the leader of the defense could be appealing.

Or could the Packers change the structure like they did with the offense coaching staff when Edgar Bennett was promoted to offensive coordinator and Tom Clements to associate head coach/offense. Would an increase in title and/or responsibility entice Whitt to stay if Capers stays on in the coming years? That question remains to be answered. One thing’s for sure. The Packers have a rising star on their coaching staff in Joe Whitt Jr. and the resume backs him up. It’s only a matter of time before he fulfills his dream of moving up the coaching ranks. The only real question is where?

 

 

Rocky Mountain Way: Brewers Triple A Pitching Woes Explained

Is Colorado Springs bad for the Brewers?

By: Jim Boyce

The location of a team’s minor league affiliates is often an afterthought to fans of a baseball team. Throughout the years Brewers minor league teams have played ball in Wisconsin, Nashville, and Biloxi just to name a few and frankly few have cared as long as the prospects were putting up numbers and keeping themselves on track to play in Miller Park. Currently the Brewers Triple A affiliate is the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. Now as many of you know, the thin air in Colorado adds a different element and unique challenges in most outdoor sports in that state. When it comes to baseball the thin air tends to allow the ball to carry farther, which is great for hitters but a real nightmare for pitchers.

This is where we take a look at the Brewers pitching prospects. Here are the 2016 pitching statistics in Colorado Springs thus far.

statfile

If you just spit your drink all over your computer, I do apologize. Let’s run down some of the high, or low, lights of this chart. Jorge Lopez, one of the crown jewels of the Brewers farm system, is 1-6 with an ERA of 6.33. This is a pitcher who was 12-5 with a 2.26 ERA in Double A in 2015, and was rated the #59th prospect in all of baseball heading into the 2016 season. Another similar, yet startling example is Josh Hader. Called up to Colorado Springs after dominating everyone he faced in Biloxi to start this season and I don’t use that term lightly, a 0.95 ERA! And also representing the Brewers in the MLB futures game just this past week in which he struck out the only batter he faced. He has begun his stint with the Sky Sox with a 6.38 ERA over five games.

While some of Lopez and Hader’s numbers can be expected to suffer simply because they need to adjust to a higher level of competition, it seems ridiculous to say that either guy lost the stuff they had in double A. If you need an example to prove that I am not crazy, Junior Guerra started the year in Colorado Springs and had a mediocre stat line of 0-2 with a 4.63 ERA over 4 games. He is currently the best pitcher on the Milwaukee Brewers staff, going 6-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 13 games in the bigs. It seems crazy doesn’t it? That Guerra can do so well against Major League competition, but struggle against Triple A guys, many of whom will never see the big stage. This is the effect the thin air in Colorado Springs might have.

Wily Peralta and Taylor Jungmann both have had success in the majors before, they both currently sport you-have-to-look-twice-to-believe-it ERA’s over 9.00. In fact, Jungmann’s stint in Triple A has been so unproductive he is now back in Double A trying to work on his game. While there is no real data to quantify this, one has to wonder what struggling like these pitchers have does to their confidence levels. Especially for guys like Peralta and Jungmann who struggled in the majors and were sent down. Does getting shelled in the thin air of Colorado ruin their chances of ever getting back to being successful in the majors?

So what options do the Brewers have for moving out of Colorado Springs and into an environment better suited for developing pitchers? Unfortunately, not many, unless an alternate home opens up before next season the Brewers will have no choice but to stay at Colorado Springs another 2 seasons. David Stearns seems to understand the challenges of developing pitching at the current triple A affiliate as a recent piece by Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out.

“We know Colorado Springs is a very challenging environment to pitch in,” Stearns said. “The entire industry knows that; it’s no secret. It’s challenging, No. 1 because the ball flies there a lot. It has the same issues defensively that Coors Field presents in terms of outfielders playing differently.

“Also, breaking balls don’t break as much as pitchers try to manipulate spin on the ball. It’s a difficult pitcher’s environment but it’s not the only difficult pitcher’s environment in that league or minor-league baseball. Most clubs, somewhere in their system, have an environment that is a little more challenging for pitchers. We have an environment in the Florida State League (at Brevard County) that is a little more challenging for hitters.”

Stearns definitely does not give Colorado Springs a ringing endorsement in the piece when discussing the Brewers options for the future. The thin air in Colorado is a very real problem, it’s the reason the major league Rockies have trouble attracting top pitchers in free agency. The Brewers are a franchise that has struggled immensely in producing their own homegrown pitching talent.  Jimmy Nelson may be the first starting worthy option drafted by Milwaukee since Yovani Gallardo, and the team has no realistic shot at being able to afford an ace via free agency. For these reasons I think it is important that they find a way out of Colorado Springs in the near future. In the meantime, do not be surprised if Jorge Lopez and Josh Hader are called up late in the season to get some major league experience. Also do not be surprised if like Junior Guerra, they actually post better numbers against the best hitters in the world than in the gauntlet known as Colorado Springs.