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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wisconsin's biggest sports story in 2013

Wisconsin was filled with many positive and some negative sports stories throughout 2013, but most people can agree that Ryan Braun's suspension and Aaron Rodgers' injury were the two biggest ones. Now the question is which one of these was the biggest story?

You can make an argument for either one of them, but Braun being suspended for Performance Enhancing Drugs is the bigger story.  While Rodgers' injury affected him and the entire team, as the Packers only went 2-4-1 without him, they still have a chance to win a Super Bowl.  Plus the injury only affects the organization this season.

While on the other hand Braun's suspension does not last just this year, the effects will carry on for the years to come.  You can say what you want about Braun, but his suspension will live with him throughout the rest of his career.  It just does not affect him though; it affects many more including the Brewers organization who have to deal with all the bad PR surrounding him.  Brewers' fans have also felt betrayed by Braun as he admitted that he never used PEDs.

2013 has been a roller coaster year, as there have been many great sports stories, but also some negative ones too.  Unfortunately the biggest story was Ryan Braun's suspension because of the impact it had on so many people.  Lets just hope 2014 is a better sports year, filled with a couple of championships.

Aaron Rodgers addresses rumor that he's gay

Where will Masahiro Tanaka land?

Talented starting pitchers are always sought after on the free agent market, and this offseason with the lack of quality pitching, Masahiro Tanaka will cash in big time.  Now the question is, which team will step up to the plate to sign the 25-year-old Japanese sensation?

There are a handful of teams who are believed to be seriously interested, and of course the high spending New York Yankees are the favorite to land the righties services; but just because the Yanks are the favorite, doesn't mean they will end up landing him.  Instead the Seattle Mariners will be the lucky organization to sign the young pitching star.

The Mariners have a huge presence in Japan due to their owner being Nintendo of America, and Ichiro Suzuki spending the majority of his career with them.  Plus with Hisashi Iwakuma, a former teammate of Tanaka, there is now a bigger connection.  Due to these connections and a comfort level with the organization, it will put the Mariners ahead of the other teams trying to land Tanaka.

Seattle has already signed the top bat on the market, and time will tell if they can add Tanaka to their already solid pitching staff.  Jack Zduriecik has shown that he wants to build a competitive team, and if he can get upper management to approve this move, it will take their ball club to the next level.  

Monday, December 30, 2013

Luke Fischer is transferring from Indiana

Indiana freshman, Luke Fischer, has made a decision that has shocked everyone around college basketball.  A former Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Wisconsin, and a top-100 recruit coming out of high school, Fischer has decided to transfer to another school.

Fischer, a 6-foot-11 center, was expected to make an impact with the departure of Cody Zeller to the NBA, but in the Hoosiers 13 games he received little opportunities, only averaging 10 minutes per game.

Indiana's head coach Tom Crean said that Fischer is looking for a different fit for him, and it was later reported by JP Cadorin from Time Warner Cable that he was supposedly home sick.

It should not surprise many people that he is home sick especially for being so far away from home because many college students have trouble adjusting to the different environment of college.  If he is truly home sick, it could be interesting to see what program he decides to transfer to as it would most likely be a program in Wisconsin.

The decision just came out today about Fischer deciding to transfer, but when he choses his new team, it will change that program, as he is one of the more talented freshman big men in the country.  And who knows, what if he choses the Milwaukee Panthers?

Aaron Rodgers To Randall Cobb To Win The NFC North

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Packers vs. Bears: Preview and prediction

It comes down to just one game.  One more win and you are in the playoffs.  This is the situation the Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) and Chicago Bears (8-7) will be in as they square off this afternoon for the NFC North division crown.

In the first meeting between these two teams earlier this season at Lambeau Field, the Chicago Bears where able to grab the 27-20 victory, as Aaron Rodgers left the game early with a broken collarbone.

Without Rodgers the Packers have struggled to play consistent football going 2-4-1, causing many people to believe the Green and Gold would be out of the playoff picture by the time A-Rod got back onto the field.  Fortunately for the Packers, the Bears have not played much better either going 3-4, giving them a chance to win the division in the final week of the regular season.  

Now with Rodgers back, the Pack have a chance.  Both teams' defenses have struggled, and in fact the Bears defense has been even worse as they allowed 54 points to Philly a week ago.  The running game will be key for both teams as it is expected to be a cold and windy day down in the Windy City, but the difference in today's game will be Rodgers.

Everyone can agree that he will be the best player on the field, and when it comes down to it, quarterbacks are the reason teams win games.  As long as the offensive line can hold a block for three seconds, Rodgers should do just fine.  Plus whom would you rather have throwing the ball late in a big game situation, Aaron Rodgers or Jay Cutler?  The answer is Rodgers, unless you are a clueless Bears fan.

This game could go either way, but Aaron Rodgers and Co. will be too much for the Bears to handle, as they will win this game 34-31 to keep their season alive.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Michael Young is a perfect fit at first base

Finding someone to play first base for the 2014 season has been atop the Milwaukee Brewers shopping list since the beginning of the offseason, and it is now time for the Brewers to finally check it off their list.  While they have explored options including resigning Corey Hart or trading for Ike Davis, nothing has happened yet.  One solution could be veteran infielder Michael Young.

The 14-year veteran is 37 years old, and although his great years are behind him, he still has enough left in the tank to be a solid contributor next season.  Young split last season with the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers showing his ability to still hit for average and get on base (.279/.335/.395).  While Young has played on the left side of the infield for most of his career, he has experience playing anywhere in the infield including first base.

Bringing in Young would not only fill their opening at first, but it would also allow the Brewers to give Hunter Morris more at-bats and time to develop in Triple-A.  He would also be a great clubhouse guy, who could teach the young Brewer hitters a few things about being successful big league hitters.

In this stage of Young's career he can still be a solid contributor, while playing on a short term deal for an affordable price.  He solves the Brewers first base issue for the short-term while the Brewers wait for their young first base prospects to be major league ready.  Signing Young makes so much sense, that the Brewers need to make sure that he is wearing their jersey next season.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The 3rd Man In Sounds Off: Tanaka isn't worth huge money

In baseball pitching wins championships.  While it sounds cliche it is true.  If you look around the major leagues, all the great franchises have great pitching.  This causes talented pitchers to be coveted and overvalued when they hit the open market, and Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka is the latest example of this.

After months of speculation the 25-year-old phenom has officially been posted, and is expected to land a long-term deal that pays him at least $17 million per season, along with the $20 million release fee the team that signs him has to pay.

Last season the righty completely dominated in Japan going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 212 innings, and in his seven years playing professionally he has gone 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA, while averaging almost a strikeout per inning.

Although those are impressive numbers, he has thrown more innings at a young age than anyone in baseball has in the past 35 years, as he has pitched in 1,315 innings throughout his young career.  Japanese pitchers are also know for having bigger workloads, and after a few seasons performing in the major leagues they tend to break down.  In fact out of the 11 Japanese born pitchers who have made 25 MLB starts, only Hideo Nomo and Hiroki Kuroda were able to reach that number three or more times.

These two statistics alone are reasons to be concerned, plus he has never faced a lineup anywhere near the level he will be facing in the majors on a consistent bases.

Signing any pitcher is a risk, but Tanaka seems to have more question marks surrounding him than most others usually do.  While signing a top of the rotation pitcher to a huge deal is not uncommon in today's age, signing someone who has no MLB experience and some miles on his shoulder is.  Baseball is a game of risks, but signing Tanaka to a major deal worth at least $17 million per season is a risk that will never live up to the reward.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Red Sox sign submarine-style pitcher

When it comes to taking chances on Japanese players, the Boston Red Sox are notorious for doing so, as they have had five different Japanese pitchers pitch for them over the years.  So seeing the Red Sox going out and signing a Japanese pitcher is not uncommon, but when they sign a pitcher that has a delivery like Shunsuke Watanabe, it surprises some people.

(Watanable delivery in slow motion)

Watanable, 37, signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox last week, after spending 13 seasons with the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league.  Mostly as a starter the submarine-style pitcher posted a career record of 87-82 with a 3.65 ERA and 846 strikeouts in 255 games, 244 of them as starts.

He will report to minor league camp this spring, and will work as a reliever the Red Sox reported. Although people should not expect him to break camp on the major league roster, if he performs well in the minors, there is a good chance fans could see him in midsummer.

It is rare to see a pitcher with a submarine delivery, and hopefully Watanable will appear in at least one game with the Red Sox next season because if he does, he will go down as having the most unorthodox delivery baseball has ever seen.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Jesse Crain is worth the risk

First base is a glaring question mark for the Milwaukee Brewers right now, causing the bullpen holes to go under the radar, but they are just as important.  Jim Henderson, Brandon Kintzler and Tom Gorzelanny are the only relief pitchers guaranteed a spot for next season; otherwise the Brewers have a handful of players who have struggled to produce consistently at the major league level.

Veteran righty, Jesse Crain would be a great fit for the Milwaukee Brewers.  An All-Star a year ago, he missed the final three months of the season with a shoulder injury, but when he was healthy he had a 0.74 ERA in 36.2 innings while striking out 46 batters.

Assuming he is healthy and the Brewers could sign him to a contract with a small base salary, that is incentives based would be one of the biggest steals on the free agent market as he was having a career year until he got hurt last season.  

The Milwaukee Brewers have vacant spots in their bullpen, and signing Crain would solidify one of those spots.  He has had successes over his nine-year career pitching in late inning situations, and he would bring experience to a young Brewers bullpen.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Top 4 prospects for the Bucks in 2014 NBA Draft

It continues to be an awful season for the Milwaukee Bucks as they are the worst team in the NBA with a 5-20 record.  While the franchise might be disappointed with the Bucks success so far, fans on the other hand are happy.  With one of the deepest drafts expected to take place in 2014, this is a perfect time for them to be struggling.

Last week I gave the top four prospects that the Bucks should select in the 2014 NBA Draft if they receive one of the top picks, and now it is time to see if those four players still remain in the top four.  

1. Jabari Parker - SF - Duke: Jabari Parker has earned the right to be the top prospect the last two weeks, as he as been the most dominating player in college basketball this season.  He is a great scorer and in his two games this past week he showed it averaging 22 points per contest while shooting an average of 56 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc.  

In his game against UCLA he did it all scoring 23 points while grabbing 10 rebounds and recording five assists.  His stock continues to remain high, and if he continues to produce the way he has in the first five weeks of the season, he will be the most sought after prospect in the upcoming draft.  

2. Andrew Wiggins - SG - Kansas: Andrew Wiggins only played in one game this week, and he would have been better off just sitting on the bench.  While Wiggins possess all the tools to make him a great NBA player, he has not proved that in his first 10 games this season.  

His performance has been up and down all season, and on Saturday night he was really struggling to do anything against New Mexico at home.  In 28 minutes of action he made only three of his 11 shots from the field scoring a total of 11 points, while securing four boards and recording four personal fouls.  

Wiggins' stock is falling as he has not performed to the level many people thought coming into the season.  Although he remains the number two overall prospect for the Bucks, if he continues to struggle offensively like he did this week, you will see him fall in the rankings.  

3. Joel Embiid - C - Kansas: The Milwaukee Bucks already have Larry Sanders projected as their starting center for the seasons to come, but his lack of performance and off the court issues have caused people to be concerned.  While drafting a center might not fill a need as of now, Embiid continues to put his name in the conversation with his consistent high level of play.  

In his lone game against New Mexico he played in 25 minutes while shooting 83.3 percent (5-6) from the floor and 80 percent (8-10) from the charity strip for a total of 18 points.  He also added six rebounds, four blocks and three steals for an all around great performance.  

While he needs to add more strength to his frame, and could use more in game experience, his stock continues to rise after another outstanding performance.  

4. Marcus Smart - PG - Oklahoma State: Marcus Smart returned for his sophomore season to improve his game, after last year when he could have been a top three pick in the draft.  This decision has hurt Smart so far because he has not taken his game to the next step like many people thought he would.  

This week he played in two home games against non-conference opponents, Louisiana Tech and Delaware State, and had two awful showings.  In the two contests he averaged about 30 minutes of action while scoring 10.5 points per game on 46.2 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent from distance.  He did record at least three rebounds, assists and steals in each game, but he turned the ball over a combined eight times in the two games.  

Smart stock is falling after last week when he ranked as the third best prospect for Milwaukee, and while he would make a lot of sense for them, he has not been performing up to the level that a top pick should be playing at.  

Prospects on the outside looking in: Dante Exum - PG - Australia; Zach LaVine - PG - UCLA

The 2014 NBA Draft is still a long ways away, but as of now Jabari Parker is the player that is the most deserving of being selected number one, while Andrew Wiggins' stock continues to fall.  It will be another interesting week of college basketball, and make sure to check back next week to see if Joel Embiid is able to overtake Wiggins for the number two spot and if Marcus Smart falls out of the rankings.    

The 3rd Man In Sounds Off: Brewers should trade Braun

It was a disastrous season for the Milwaukee Brewers a year ago as their face of their franchise, Ryan Braun, missed 101 games throughout the 162 game schedule.  Braun was on the shelf for 36 games due to injuries, and then missed the final 65 games for using Performance Enhancing Drugs.

Doug Melvin has said that Braun is not available for trade, but I think they need to rethink this.  With the Brewers years away from being a competitive ball club, trading Braun would be the solution to rebuilding one of the worst farm systems in all of baseball.  Braun definitely has trade value if the Brewers put him on the block even with seven-years, $113 million remaining left on his deal, and with the controversy surrounding his PED use.

While he still has to prove that he can be a productive player, he is in the prime of his career, and Braun said that he used the banned substance only at the end of the 2011 season to help with the injury, meaning we should all expect him to return to his MVP level of production.

With this free agent class only having one superstar available, and many teams needing a big bat, teams would have lined up to give Melvin their offers.  Plus as we have seen this offseason, players who have been cracked with using PEDs, have not seen their value decrease at all.  

Braun is one of the most affordable superstars in all of baseball, and while he brings some negative attention to the franchise, he still possesses great value.  Milwaukee is making a huge mistake by not dealing Braun to rebuild their farm system for the future, and this could be a decision that affects them long term with all four NL Central teams continuing to get better.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Top 4 prospects for the Bucks in 2014 NBA Draft

It is a great time to be a Milwaukee Bucks fan as the team has struggled to begin the season sitting near the bottom of the NBA with a 5-17 record, and appear be one of the lucky teams who will get one of the top picks in the deep 2014 NBA Draft.  The Bucks are in need of a young, talented player to build their franchise around, and in this draft that looks possible with many potential stars projected to be available.  Here are the rankings for the top players that the Bucks should take if they do receive one of the top picks in the 2014 NBA Draft:

1. Jabari Parker - SF - Duke: Jabari Parker has been the best player in college basketball so far this season.  In almost every game this year, he has clearly been the best and most dynamic player on the court.  Although he isn't a great athlete, he is very skilled and can score from anywhere on the floor.  Through nine games this season he is averaging 22.1 points per game, while shooting 54.8 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from behind the arc.  He is also averaging nearly eight rebounds per game.

Not only are the Bucks looking for an electric scorer, they are also looking for someone to build the franchise around.  Parker is a high character guy, who is an exceptional basketball talent, and would be deserving of being selected near the top of the draft.

2. Andrew Wiggins - SG - Kansas: Andrew Wiggins is an incredible athlete, and has the most potential in the upcoming draft, but he has not stood out so far this season.  Although he is only a freshman, he was the most talked about player entering the season, and he has not lived up to all the attention he received.  He is averaging 16.4 points per game, while making 50.5 percent of his shots and 36.7 percent of his attempts from three-point territory, but he has only dominated in only one game this season.

Wiggins can play multiple positions on the floor and is very talented, but right now he has not done anything to set himself apart from all the other talented players in college basketball.

3. Marcus Smart - PG - Oklahoma State:  Marcus Smart would be the perfect point guard for the Milwaukee Bucks. He is capable of playing both the one and two, but whatever position he plays, he will produce.  The sophomore guard chose to return to Stillwater after last year to improve his game, and it has looked like it was a good decision.  He is averaging 19.7 points per game, while holding a 46.3 shooting percentage and making 34.6 percent of his long-range attempts.  All three statistics are an improvement from last season.

Smart is a strong, physical player who plays good defense, and is a born leader.  He is another high character guy who brings a lot of energy and competitiveness to the court, and is someone teams can build their franchise around.

4. Joel Embiid - C - Kansas: The seven foot freshman is a raw, freaky big man that possess tons of upside along with his 7'-5" wingspan.  Although he does need more game experience, and could add more strength, the sky is the limit.  Per game Embiid is averaging 8.9 points, while grabbing 6.6 rebounds, and blocking 2.2 shots in only 20 minutes of action.

This would be a surprising move for the Bucks since they need a scorer, and locked up the dysfunctional Larry Sanders this past offseason.  But Embiid is nothing like Sanders because he has more potential and is a harder worker.  Embiid's stock is rising, and while he would not fill a need, his potential maybe to much for the Bucks to pass on if they are unable to select the three players above.

Final thoughts: 

While the 2014 NBA Draft is still many months away, it is never too early to look into the future.  With the way the Bucks have been playing this season, do not be surprised if they end up with one of the top three picks in the draft. As of now these four players should be atop the Bucks draft board because they have shown that they are capable of being very talented NBA players that could help a struggling Bucks franchise.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Anaheim Ducks call up David Steckel

According to a source close to the family, David Steckel has been called up to the Anaheim Ducks for the injured Mathieu Perreault, who will miss time due to a lower-body injury.

After getting off to a fast start with 13 points in his first 14 games, the 25-year-old forward has struggled with only two points in the 14 games since.

Due to his injury, Steckel will take his spot on the roster, and will suit up for their game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night.  The former first round pick has spent the beginning part of the season in the AHL with the Iowa Wild and Norfolk Admirals scoring three goals while recording three assist for six points.

With his call up to the NHL, he will provide the Ducks with experience.  In his career he has been known for being a solid and reliable faceoff man, with a 58.3 percent career faceoff success rate.

While Steckel might not be a well-known name, his experience in faceoffs in big games will be a huge addition to the Ducks as they try to continue to stay near the top in the Western Conference.