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Monday, July 8, 2013

MILWAUKEE BUCKS, BREWERS & BRAVES: AN ITEMIZED REPORT

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Some weeks produce a dominant topic, others a potpourri of talking points...

 

Item: The Bucks fill a key spot.

 

Frank: How do you feel about O.J. Mayo as the new shooting guard?

Artie: It's not a thrilling. "I can't wait for the season to start" kind of thing, but he's a good addition.

F: An improvement over the opted-out Monta Ellis?

A: He's a better, more consistent shooter, and bigger at 6-foot-4. Last season he shot 44.9% overall and 40.7% on three-pointers, and also had his career high in assists at 4.4 per game.

F: Assuming Brandon Jennings does get re-signed, a big question will be how Mayo meshes with him.

A: Especially since Jennings has declared his desire to be "The Man" here.

F: The Bucks still needed to replace more scoring, with J.J. Redick going to the Clippers and Mike Dunleavy to the Bulls. It helped that they brought back Carlos Delfino, and at least they got something for the future, two draft picks from a three-way deal involving Redick.

A: But that means the Bucks, in their wisdom, traded Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb and Redick for two future second-rounders. But look on the bright side: With O.J.'s brother Todd playing for Marquette—when he's not suspended—we're the Mayo capital of the basketball world!

 

Item: Steve Novak dealt to Toronto.

A: I don't understand this at all. The Knicks are dealing Novak, Marcus Camby and a future first-round pick to get Andrea Bargnani.

F: Who, because he's been a Raptor, I know nothing about.

A: He was the top overall pick in 2006, a 7-footer who's also an outside shooter.

F: I see he's averaged 15 points and 5 rebounds over seven seasons.

A: But he's not highly regarded at all! He's soft, really doesn't have a good three-point shot, and there's more than $20 million left on his contract over the next two years. Did Isiah Thomas return as the Knicks' GM?

F: What I don't get is how Novak fell out of favor so quickly. A year ago the pride of Marquette got a four-year, $15 million deal after leading the league with 47% three-point shooting. True, last season he was down to 42.5%, which is still plenty good. But in the playoffs he got only 50 minutes in nine games—while the Knicks were dying for consistent shooting against Boston and Indiana. Hell, J.R. Smith disappeared in several games while he was still on the court!

A: But he's being welcomed back.

 

Item: ESPN recalls a less-than-stellar moment.

F: One of the ESPN blather shows mentioned your all-time favorite Brewer.

A: You can't mean...

F: Yes, the one and fortunately only Izzy Alcantara, who was here for all of 16 games in the 106-loss disaster of '02.

A: So how did he make such an impression on me?

F: I suspect it was his name more than his .250 batting average, although he produced two homers and five RBI in just eight hits. The last eight of his big-league total of 31.

A: Why was ESPN remembering him?

F: For something that happened when he was with Boston's Triple-A team in Pawtucket. On July 3, 2001, he got riled by an inside pitch and charged the mound.

A: No wonder I liked him.

F: But in the video the big thing is what he does first—he nails the catcher in the chest with a karate kick, making sure he can't be grabbed from behind.

A: What ingenuity!

F: After that Izzy didn't really do much; he scuffled a bit with the pitcher, then confronted the converging infield, like Custer with the Indians closing in.

A: That's just Izzy being Izzy.

F: With the Brewers, that didn't involve a lot of skill on the field. In late August of '02 he butchered a play in right field, then he and centerfielder Alex Sanchez were seen laughing about it. The next day Sanchez was benched and Izzy was an ex-Brewer.

A: From Izzy to ain't-y.

F: After the Pawtucket incident Izzy was suspended for six games and the Triple-A All-Star Game, which he had qualified for with .344 hitting.

A: That's why I loved him! He had a knack for nullifying his potential.

Item: Statistics can be misleading.

F: Sports Illustrated had a "where are they now?" feature on Joe Montana, and it included a stat I knew you'd appreciate.

A: Proceed.

F: The piece noted that Montana's lifetime quarterback rating of 92.3, while quite good, is lower than those of several current QBs.

A: One of whom, I assume, is No. 12 in green and gold.

F: Yes, Aaron Rodgers' career rating is a whopping 104.9. But another guy who's higher than Montana is none other than Tony Romo, at 95.6.

A: Somebody misread something! Because Tony Romo is NOT a good quarterback.

F: I just wanted to get you revved up for training camp.

 

Item: Baseball's greatest pitchers' duel reaches its golden anniversary.

F: Another ESPN gasbag show, another anniversary noted. It was July 2, 1963, when Warren Spahn and Juan Marichal locked up in San Francisco.

A: Marichal's Giants beat Spahnie's Braves, 1-0, in 16 innings, and both of them went all the way!

F: Spahn's "line" was 15 1/3 innings, 9 hits, 1 earned run on Willie Mays' walk-off homer, 1 walk and 2 strikeouts. Marichal gave up 8 hits and 4 walks in his 16 innings, with 10 strikeouts. Even more amazing in light of our pitch count-obsessed times, Spahn threw 201 pitches and Marichal 227.

A: Gee, 200-plus pitches. Yovani Gallardo might, just might, get to the sixth inning with that total. If he had his so-called good stuff.

F: Spahn's total average out to about 13 per inning, Marichal's 14. Gallardo, as we've noted before, averages about 17 per inning and is always among the league leaders in pitches thrown.

A: And by the way, Spahnie was how old when he took the mound that day?

F: Forty-two.

A: For some of these young hurlers who may be thinking of PEDs—Hey, take a tip from Mr. Spahn and invest in some Ben-Gay. That's the miracle drug!

F: Just for grins, I went to baseball-reference.com and looked up the game logs for Spahn and Marichal in '63, just to see whether the epic duel took a lot out of them. Each of them pitched five days later; Spahn went all the way in shutting out Houston, giving up five hits and a walk. Marichal lost to St. Louis but gave up only two runs in seven innings, with five hits and no walks.

A: And how did they finish for the season?

F: Marichal was 25-8 with a 2.41 ERA and pitched 321 1/3 innings. Spahn was 23-7—his last winning record—with a 2.60 ERA in a mere 259 2/3 innings.

A: Not bad for forty-something.

F: This all struck me as interesting because in an earlier ESPN show I'd heard some discussion about Justin Verlander, who qualifies as a “horse” among modern pitchers. Apparently he's been struggling recently, and some of the commentators suggested that he's worn himself down. One noted that Verlander has pitched “more than 200 innings” in six of his seven full seasons so far.

A: Like 200 innings is some superhuman feat.

F: I guess it is in the modern game. But Verlander's top total is a league-leading 259 1/3 in 2011...

A: Or 8 1/3 less than Spahn's total as a 42-year-old!

F: Spahn went over 280 innings nine times, Marichal five times, and both surpassed 300 innings twice.

A: I know things have changed a lot in baseball over 50 years—less time in the minors, huge money that makes owners and managers super-cautious—but has the structure of the human arm somehow changed too?

F: I guess all this shows that statistics are time-sensitive.

 

Item: Tony Plush turns 33.

F: Another anniversary noted on ESPN was Nyjer Morgan's 33rd birthday, which he celebrated in Japan as a member of the Yokohama BayStars.

A: Was it only two years ago that Morgan and his “Tony Plush” shtick were captivating our fair city?

F: Morgan is doing a lot better in Yokohama than he did here last year. What I found on the Web showed him hitting .275 through 49 games. And along the way I found something else: Casey McGehee is a .300 hitter again, with the Rakuten Golden Eagles—.306 with 16 homers through 69 games, to be exact.

A: Right now both those guys would look pretty good in Brewer uniforms. McGehee could ramp up the production at first base and Morgan in that corner outfield spot where, in Ryan Braun's absence, Logan Schafer is chugging along in the .220 range. Hell, I wonder if Izzy could maybe make a comeback and play first for the Crew.

F: Unlikely; the last thing Wikipedia reports about "Israel Cristostomo Alcantara" is that he played briefly in 2005 for the New Jersey Jackals, an independent team, and for a team in Taiwan before being released “for reasons never fully explained by the management.”

A: What's Taiwanese for “Izzy, we hardly knew ye”? But getting back to Japan, maybe it's a good thing that Norichika Aoki is with the Crew right now. The way Gallardo's been pitching, I'd urge him to pick up a little Japanese from his pal Nori. He might not be too far away from having to say, “Sayonara.”

 

Frank Clines covered sports for The Milwaukee Journal and the Journal Sentinel. Art Kumbalek's QB rating is classified.