All Posts by Sky Skibosh

NFL WEEK 1 – WHAT TO WATCH

Let’s take a look at the first week of the NFL from different angles – match-ups, fantasy and my thoughts of the game. I am not really picking the winners – with the spread – because if I was any good at that I would have retired years ago. So please don’t place any bets on what I say. Just have fun with it.

CAROLINA PANTHERS AT DENVER BRONCOS

MATCH-UPLast year’s Super Bowl opponents, a game won by Denver’s defense behind OLB Von Miller (2.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles) as neither offense stood out.  Will it be more of the same in the opener? Will QB Cam Newton return to MVP form? Will now healthy WR Kelvin Benjamin team with TE Greg Olsen and WRs Devin Funchess and Ted Ginn, Jr. to make a dent on the Bronco defense?

FANTASY – Watch TE Virgil Green, who has moved on to many experts Top 10 list.

I THINK – The big story is how will QB Trevor Siemian run the Denver offense. If he can connect with WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos could be one of the best teams in the AFC once again.

 

MINNESOTA VIKINGS AT TENNESSEE TITANS

MATCH-UPThe rugged Vikes defense will battle the Titans, who look to pound the ball this season. The defending NFC North Champions They have a solid defense, which will have to carry them if their QB situation (Sam Bradford/Shaun Hill) doesn’t develop. The running game will have to perform to give second-year QB Marc Mariota a chance.

FANTASYWatch Tajae Sharpe, the Titans’ top WR as a rookie. Might be on the waiver wire in your league. Also watch the time share RB program for Murray/Henry, the latter who could start for many teams.

I THINKWill DeMarco Murray and Derek Henry make a dent in Minnesota’s defense. If not, the Titans could be in trouble with one of the weakest receiving corps in football.

 

CHICAGO BEARS AT HOUSTON TEXANS

MATCH-UP Do you think JJ Watt will be fired up to hit someone after sitting out with back surgery?  It will be interesting to see what QB Jay Cutler, RB Jeremy Langford and WR Alshon Jeffery can do against the Texans defense? Not much, probably. Houston newcomers QB Brock Osweiler and RB Lamar Miller join WR DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best in football. Edge goes to Texans.

FANTASYPlenty of things to watch here. Miller at RB, Osweiler at QB and former No. 1 draft pick Kevin White with the Bears.

I THINKHow quick Osweiler develops could be the key to Houston having a great season vs a good season. Josh Sitton or not, I think it’s going to be a long year for the Bears.

 

CLEVELAND BROWNS AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

MATCH-UP – RGIII debuts as a Brown against Eagles rookie Carson Wentz and that’s the story to look for. Key for Cleveland is to get something out of the RB-Tandem of Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson and keep the ball away from Philly. But until Josh (Flash) Gordon is eligible, Cleveland doesn’t have a real threat for RBIII to throw. Ryan Mathews can have a good season if he can stay healthy because there is no real time-share in the backfield.

FANTASY Two good fantasy players to watch are TEs Gary Barnidge of Cleveland and Zach Ertz of the Eagles. Others – RGIII, rookie WR Corey Coleman and converted WR Terrelle Pryor for Browns. Same with Philly’s WR Jordan Matthews if he is healthy enough to play.

I THINK Neither of these teams will contend for anything this year, but in the screwy East Division, who knows. Eagles should win easily.

 

BUFFALO BILLS AT BALTIMORE RAVENS

MATCH-UPUsually this a defensive battle, but Bills have suffered several injuries and Baltimore was not as good last year at in the past. But Neither offense is really exciting. RB LeSean McCoy, WR Sammy Watkins and QB Tyrod Taylor give the Bills a good starting point. Ravens have several RBs and WRs, but the talent is questionable.

FANTASYWatch the Bills’ Big 3. See Joe Flacco’s and Steve Smith, Sr.’s comebacks from surgery. Figure out who does what in the Ravens’ backfield (Justin Forsett, Terrence West) and look for the development of Baltimore’s Kamar Aiken and Breshad Perriman. The Ravens have been raving about Mike Wallace.

I THINKThere could be more points scored in this game than usual because the defenses aren’t as good. But that doesn’t mean anyone will reach 24 points.

 

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

MATCH-UP – Could be a game in the high 20’s – could be. Phil Rivers, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates are a good place to start. Danny Woodhead, you know what you have, and Melvin Gordon, you don’t, although he should be better. Alex Smith is a game manager, who sometimes can win a game by himself. Jeremy Maclin is what the doctor ordered at WR. Chiefs have plenty of RBs.

FANTASY Chiefs backfield is what to watch for as Spencer Ware and Jamaal Charles will split time until the latter looks healthy, but Ware will be the goal line guy. Watch Gordon’s development and Gates will catch a TD.

I THINK Defense is the name of the game and only one team on the field has one, so I like the Chiefs.

 

OAKLAND RAIDERS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

MATCH-UP – Points should be quickly showing up on the scoreboard with David Carr, Latavius Murray, Amari Cooper and Tim Crabtree and Drew Brees, Mark Ingram and Brandin Cooks all getting in on the action.

FANTASY – Want to see Carr’s continued development after a fine season last year. Also want to see Cooks become a big time WR. Plenty of fantasy talent here.

I THINK – Saints are hard to beat in the dome, but Oakland has a solid defense and offense and could make it interesting.

 

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS AT ATLANTA FALCONS

MATCH-UPThe better defense will win this game, but the game is at Atlanta. Might end up being a field goal game.

FANTASY Julio Jones is the best fantasy player on the field by far. Hopefully he is healthy (ankle). Watch how much he helps Mohamed Sanu or vice versa. See how much Tevin Coleman cuts into Freeman’s time. Watch Winston’s progress.

I THINK – Doug Martin vs Devonta Freeman/Coleman could be the key to victory. Matt Ryan needs to get his act together this year. Jameis Winston is growing.

 

CINCINNATI BENGALS AT NEW YORK JETS

MATCH-UP – Hard one to call because each has offensive weapons (Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Jeremy Hill, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Matt Forte) and solid defenses.

FANTASY – Watch how much NJY RB Bilal Powell takes away from Forte. Watch RB Giovani Bernard and WR Ty Boyd – is he really a threat for Cincy.

I THINK – Despite all the weapons, we’re looking at a score in low 20’s. I like Bengals defense better, but the Jets are at home.

 

MIAMI DOLPHINS AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

MATCHUP – Seattle at home will fillet the Dolphins. Russell Wilson, Christine Michael, Thomas Rawls, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett vs Ryan Tannehill, Arian (Yes I’m still playing) Foster and Jarvis (I don’t score TDs) Landry – SERIOUSLY?

FANTASY – Watch the C-Mich/Rawls breakdown and see how much Lockett plays since Kearse moved ahead of him in the depth chart. Watch Foster and see if he gets into the second half until he gets hurt.

I THINK – Add the famous Seattle 12th-man into the picture and this should be a runaway.

 

NEW YORK GIANTS AT DALLAS COWBOYS

MATCH-UP – Could be a heck of a football game. Rookie quarterback and running back and All-Pro WR in Dez Bryant for Dallas. Veteran Eli Manning, All-Pro WR in Odell Beckham, Jr. and interesting rookie WR. It was only exhibition season, but the Giants offense was pitiful.

FANTASY – Should be fun watching QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott. NYG WR Sterling Shepard is being hailed as a top rookie. Will Victor Cruz finally be a threat again?

I THINK – Giants improved defense will get their first chance to show something. The Dallas rookies are for real and the game is in Dallas, so I’m taking the Cowboys.

 

DETROIT LIONS AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

MATCH-UP – Lots of points could be scored here, since neither team has a defense. Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Andrew Luck, Frank Gore, T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief have the ability to put points on the board.

FANTASY – Want to see if Luck bounces back from injury and a terrible season. Want to see how Jones affects Tate and Moncrief affects Hilton.

I THINK – The game is at Indy and the Colts have more weapons and the Lions and Bears will fight to stay out of last in the NFC North. I think Indy’s Adam Vinatieri might have some key field goals.

 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AT ARIZONA CARDINALS

MATCH-UP – With Jimmy Garoppolo at QB and the game on the road, this will be one of the Pats’ losses without Tom Brady. RBs LeGarrette Blount and James White, WR Julian Edelman and TE Rob Gronkowski will have to carry the load. QB Carson Palmer struggled at the end of the year and Michael Floyd is the only healthy starter at WR. Larry Fitzgerald (knee) and John Brown (concussion) aren’t 100 percent.

FANTASY – Watch the health of the Arizona WRs and look for Chris Hogan to be a surprise fantasy contributor this year.

I THINK – David Johnson could be the best player on the field and he will key the Cards offense, despite all the weapons on the field.

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS

MATCH-UP – Lots of firepower on both sides and should be high-scoring.

FANTASY – Second year in a row DeAngelo Williams will fill in for suspended RB Le’Veon Bell. See if WRs Marcus Wheaton and rookie Eli (I’m a sleeper) Rogers make up for Martavis Bryant and take some pressure off the best WR in football Antonio Brown. Watch for Redskins RB Rob Kelley behind the injury-prone Jones.

I THINK – It will be interesting to see how Pittsburgh’s offense responds to the loss of Bryant who is suspended for the season. Is Kirk Cousins for real? Huge year for him contract-wise. TE Jordan Reed and WRs DeSean Jackson and a healthy Matt Jones gives Cousins weapons. The Steelers are the better team, but I think the Redskins will ride the Monday Night Football, Opening Night emotional wave and get the win.

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS AT SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

MATCH-UPThe Rams must beat the 49ers – I think SF is one of the worst teams in football – because LA won’t beat a lot of other teams. Probably a low-scoring game since the Rams have Todd Gurley and the 49ers have a backup QB who gets all the attention for kneeling during the National Anthem because he’s not worth much on it.

FANTASY – Gurley and Carlos Hyde, but with the 49ers trailing all the time how much work will he get.

I THINK – The kickers will play a big part in this game, a 13-10 thriller.

 

GREEN BAY PACKERS AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

MATCH-UP – Saved the best for last. Both teams defenses are improved and the offenses have plenty of talent, but have struggled a bit in spring training or haven’t even played together. Aaron Rodgers, Blake Bortles, Eddy Lacy, T.Y. Yeldon/Chris Ivory, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.

FANTASY – Watch how Jax uses Yeldon/Ivory. Watch Jared Abbrederis and Ty Montgomery. One of them has to come through this year because the overrated Devante Adams won’t.

I THINK – I am very interested to how much sitting A-Rod down and not playing Nelson at all affects the offense. Watching all the young talent in the defensive backfield against Robinson and Hurns will be a real test. They are one of the best duos in all of football. Packers should win, but a Jaguars upset wouldn’t surprise me at all.

SOME LITTLE THINGS THAT BOTHER ME…

BREWERS

  • Please explain to me how the Milwaukee Brewers ‘offense’ has totally fallen apart after the Jonathan Lucroy trade.  I loved Luc and everything he stood for, but he was one player and the offense was not built around him. To say this offense is struggling would be an understatement.
  • I am waiting to see who the Brewers bring up after Sept, 1, especially the starting pitchers.  If we have to look at Matt Garza, Wily Peralta and Jimmy Nelson the entire month of September, then please don’t tell the fans you are rebuilding. Give them a chance to build up some trade value, but don’t punish the young pitchers that need to be looked at (see my last blog). Even if you give them a couple starts or use them in relief, they need some big league exposure.
  • We need to bring up an outfielder or two, because only Ryan Braun and Keon Broxton should be brought back next year with the idea of starting.
  • With Jeremy Jeffress’ latest brush with the law – which no one ever wants to see happen – the Texas deal is looking better.  I’m still curious to see the PTBN in the deal based on what’s been promised.
  • I know they will get a better draft pick as the team plays worst and I know the effort is being made – which is a credit to Craig Counsell – but I hate to see them go down the toilet since they have been competitive most of the season. I don’t care if they finish last, because Cincinnati is a better team which had been playing worst.

PACKERS

  • Those who follow me know that I like Ted Thompson. I am not a ‘FireTedThompson’ guy and people who are know very little about football, so when they say things I find it as ridiculous as me talking about Calculus and Physics. But one thing I really admire Ron Wolf for was his ability to cut bait with his draft choices. He was very candid about his team. I will never forget his ‘we were just a fart in the wind’ comment when the Packers blew the Super Bowl to Denver.So seeing Thompson sign tight end Jared Cook for a reasonable price (that’s important)  instead of sitting on his hands, trading OLB Lerentee McCray to the Buffalo Bills for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2018 and finally cutting the embarrassing punter Tim Mastay gave me hope. I couldn’t tell you the first thing about his replacement Jacob Schum except that he is NOT Tim Mastay. Being a good holder is no reason for keeping a punting job.
  • It will be interesting if the Packers go with Brandon Burks as their third running back or sign one of the many RBs who will be let go in the final cuts. I am not among the many people who think Eddie Lacy will run for 1200 yards and score 12 TDs (ALTHOUGH I WOULD  LOVE TO SEE IT) and I have never been a big fan of James Starks, who fumbles and gets hurt too much. I do think the No. 3 back will be important.
  • The depth the Packers have put together at defensive back (love Joe Whitt) and linebacker is outstanding, but I wonder if the lack of depth in the front line (because of injuries and stupid suspensions) will end up off-setting them.
  • If Jody Nelson can be 100 percent, hopefully Randall Cobb will be better. Jared Abbrederis and Ty Montgomery (a bigger Cobb) need to stay healthy and Trevor Davis and Jeff Janis (if healthy) are good special teamers at least.
  • I like Janis. When I hear things like ‘he’s stupid, he doesn’t run routes’ I wonder if these people watched him play down the stretch. That one is on Aaron Rodgers as much as anyone. Janis in a couple games did more than Davante Adams did all season. Thompson will keep him because he is a high draft choice despite the fact he has hands of stone. It’s moves like this that could hurt the Packers.

 

SPARTANS’ MAX ASLIN BIG ON AND OFF FIELD

Whenever you try to interview Brookfield East's All-State running back/linebacker Sam Santiago-Lloyd, one of the first people he wants to talk about is Max Aslin and his offensive line buddies who open the holes for him.

"We just want to make sure Sam's got an open lane," Aslin said. "With Sam behind us, it makes my job a lot easier. A running back as good as Sam, seeing the holes even if they're small. As long as you keep trying, Sam has a good chance to break one."

When talking about the 6-foot, 3 inch Aslin, there is never a question about his effort - on or off the field. Ask Jake Hoerchner, East's new offensive line coach and former player at North Dakota University.

Photos by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

"He's a guy that finishes," Hoerchner said. "He goes from the snap of the ball to the whistle and that's what I like the most about Max. He is willing to put in all that extra work, effort and he is willing to go that 100 percent whether it's a walk through or going full go.

"He is always giving it his all. That's something I really noticed these first couple of weeks. His effort is everything, so I think that's what's gotten him this far and it's going to get him through the season."

Aslin is in his third season on the varsity - he was on special teams as a sophomore and was second-team All-Greater Metro Conference his junior year. East's offensive line, which returns Aslin at right guard, senior Max MacGillis at right tackle and junior Adam Streich at left guard. Juniors Matt Johnston is at left guard and Everett Cartier at left tackle.

"It's an experienced and balanced group," Hoerchner said. "It makes my job easy with two big guys (Aslin, 285, MacGillis, 300) and then it takes six guys to take Sam down."

His footwork; he doesn’t move like a 300-pounder does. He has just as good as footwork as some of our running backs. That’s huge for him when he can get off the ball that fast and you’re able to overpower some of the big ‘D-lineman’ in this conference.”

- Jake Hoerchner, offensive line coach on Max Aslin

New head coach Ben Farley, who was a member of retired Tom Swittel's staff, talked about the adjustment Aslin and his teammates are making.

"We have a healthy balance of experienced guys who have been in big games," he said. "It's the same, but we put in some new things in the system and we're balancing that experience, getting out of our comfort zone, learning new things. improving every single day."

And leading the pack is Aslin, who has already had an offer to attend Air Force Academy.

"His leadership, his physical present - he's a tough kid," Farley said. "I see him being a big part of our football team, especially in the leadership role.

"I am amazed how mature Max is. In our senior group, we do not have a ton of guys who will scream at you. But Max will step up and I respect that. He is also a guy who can come to me or come to his position coach, have an honest conversation and you respect it and trust him."

Hoerchner emphasized Aslin led by example as well as verbally.

"He's the first one to step up for a drill and demonstrate," he said. "He has led the way as far as communication and everything, not only up front with the offensive line, not only with the offense, but with the whole team.

"He's one of those guys that anyone feels comfortable coming to if there's an issue with another player or something that we're doing in practice. If there is a concern, he's kind of a spokesperson for the team. He's been a leader with everything all summer."

Aslin is as excited about his leadership role as he is facing small defensive backs when he reaches the second level on the football field.

"I like to take on a leadership role," he said. "I usually do the warm-ups. I like to motivate people, keep them going because sometimes guys like to go a little slow. You got to bring up the intensity and get ready for game day.

"I talk to a lot of players, tell them what they are supposed to be doing, give them tips and stuff like that. I make sure they can improve their game."

When asked if his teammates look up to him he was quick to respond.

"I think so. A lot of people ask me questions about things when they don't know what to do," he said. "It makes me feel good knowing I can help the program in the future and sustain the success we've been having."

Aslin's leadership skills are huge, of course, but don't forget what he does on the field.

Hoerchner smiled when asked what Aslin's strength was.

"His strength is his strength," he laughed. "He is a strong, big kid. He's 6-3, probably (close to 300 pounds (actually 285). As a 17-18 year old that's pretty impressive. He's a monster in the weight room. His footwork; he doesn't move like a 300-pounder does. He has just as good as footwork as some of our running backs.

"That's huge for him when he can get off the ball that fast and you're able to overpower some of the big 'D-lineman' in this conference. He's going to have a lot of success."

Aslin was happy to see Farley get the head job after Swittel retired.

"It helps a lot because he knows the program, he knows what we value, he knows the defensive side and he brought new people to refocus the offense," he said. "He knows the in and outs of practice time, the schedule and he knows to make sure we're not on the field too much. He makes sure we're ready to go by game day."

After going 10-2 overall and 6-1 in the GMC, the Spartans (2-0) open conference play on Sept. 2 against West Allis Central, Aslin is raring to get the important part of the schedule going.

" I think we have a lot of pieces coming back," he said. "And a lot pieces replacing the pieces we might have lost. I think we're going to have a lot of success this year in the GMC."

And surely, Aslin will literally and figuratively be a big reason.

QUESTIONS FOR THE ATHLETES

  • FAVORITE FOOD: Ribs,anything with meat.
  • FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP: Zach Brown Band
  • FAVORITE MOVIE: Marvel Action, especially Captain America.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW: Modern Family.
  • FAVORITE CLASS: Math/Science.
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED: Air Force Academy, Colorado.
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX? Watch Netflix.
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY: Brookfield Central
  • MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT: Sam Santiago-Loyd's winning TD over Brookfield Central in playoffs.
  • WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE? Want to be a physical therapist.

THOSE REBUILDING BREWERS

With the Milwaukee Brewers approaching the final month of the season, I thought I would take a look at the first year of the club’s rebuilding process. Some good, some bad. Some promise, some disappointment.

I thought I would do that by breaking down the roster – infield, outfield, catcher, starting pitcher and bullpen – and sharing my thoughts.

INFIELD (B-)

Unlike a lot of people, I’m not going ga-ga over Jonathan Villar. When I see a player consistently making the same mistakes over and over and over, I have a tendency to wonder how much baseball smarts this player has.

Some people compare him to Carlos Gomez, but I’m not one of them. Gomez was a terrific fielder at a different position. Every time someone hits a ground ball to Villar when he was at shortstop, with runners on and two outs, for example, I held my breath. Making the spectacular play and blowing the easy one at one of the most important positions is not a good thing.

I can see how Villar is compared to Gomez on the base paths – they hurt you as much as help you with some of the dumbest base running I have seen in years. And when I see that repeated, it bothers me more than it seems to bother the Brewers.

In my own opinion, I think Villar has individual goals (stolen base title) at the top of his mind, knowing if he’s successful he will help his team. I don’t see him as a selfish player.

The other reason I can’t compare Villar to Gomez is his approach at the plate. Most of the time he is patient and his on base average (.381) and batting average (.298) through August 24 is excellent. You don’t see him screw himself into the plate trying to hit homers like Gomez did.

I’m not sure where Villar’s future lies. He’s at third base for now, but he might be a better second baseman. But there lies another situation.

What do the Brewers do with Scooter Gennett, who has worked hard to show he can hit lefthander’s when given the opportunity this season. Villar and Gennett have similar doubles/triples stats, the same amount of homers and Villar has a slight edge in RBIs. However the biggest difference is BA (.298 to .268) and OBP (.381 to .322), which gives Villar a bigger advantage.

I see Villar as a placeholder at third, but his future might be at second base, if he is not used as trade bait in the off-season.

Speaking of placeholders, that is what Chris Carter is. What you see is what you get. A .223 BA and a .323 OBP. You would like to see both improve a little (.235, .340), but he is getting paid – and not a lot of money at that – to hit homers (30) and drive in runs (70) and he has done that. With no first baseman or third baseman on the horizon for a few years, GM David Stearns has to find placeholders like Carter for now.

The other big surprise – and this is something I predicted last spring – is Hernan Perez. He can play the corner outfield positions and any infield spot – but his bat is what has him up here. He is hitting .282 with 11 homers and 43 RBIs with 20 less games than Villar and Gennett. He needs to work on his .308 OBP, though. But every team needs a player like Perez and he has been one of the biggest surprises this season. A great utility player for a good team, but one who sees every day action now with a rebuilding squad.

The Brewers brought Orlando Arcia up to take some of the attention away from the Jonathan Lucroy-Jeremy Jeffress deal which has Texas at the top of the American League right now. I am interested in seeing who they got as the third player since they keep saying he is a very quality player. He better be.

The Brewers can deny it all they want, but that was the major reason for Arcia’s promotion. I just hope they don’t make the same mistake with him that they did with Keon Broxton (more on that later). Arcia has struggled and has been in and out of the lineup a little, but now is the time to throw him in there and have him play since they are ‘rebuilding.’ Sitting Arcia on the bench helps no one.

OUTFIELD (D+)

Ryan Braun is having an excellent season. He is batting .316 with a .378 OBP and 13 stolen bases. His power numbers (22 HRs, 71 RBI) would be better if he played more (104 of 125 games) because of the rest he has been given (back). Of course, without that rest, Manager Craig Counsell probably couldn’t have gotten that much out of him.

Ironically the contract Braun signed is not as much of a burden if the Brewers wanted to trade him because of some of the moronic signings by other owners last spring to lesser players. Since the Brewers are not paying anyone else besides Matt Garza, a payroll dump is not something they need to do.

They don’t need to trade Braun – and they don’t have to – since he is the closest thing they have to a major league hitter on the current team, which is struggling to be respectable offensively in the last few weeks.

Wasting their time with the likes of Ramon Flores – and it was a waste of time – and playing Kirk Niewenhuis in more than just a utility role left huge holes in two-thirds of the outfield.

Domingo Santana’s various injuries couldn’t be helped, of course, and now he lost most of the year and the Brewers have no idea whether he can be a good – ‘good’ is the key word here – major league outfielder.  Fact was Perez was the Brewers second-best offensive threat in the outfield behind Braun when Counsell moved him to right field.

Then there was Keon Broxton, who I felt was the favorite for centerfield going into spring training. He struggled to start the year going 0-for-24 and since his return on July 25 he is batting.329 (26-for-79, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 10 SB) in 26 games since being recalled from Triple-A. But the Brewers kept messing with him playing the yo-yo game when they had nothing on the MLB roster which was better. He was on the roster from Opening Day through April 16, May 20 through June 3 and June 10 through July 3 before bringing him up for good.

To Broxton’s credit, he worked on his batting stance, dropping his hands and hopefully now this is a sign of the future. But if you ‘claim’ you’re rebuilding, sending him up and down so many times is not the way to go about it.

The Brewers have several outfielders among their top position players in the minors. Hopefully they are smart enough to see if someone has the ability to jump from Double A to the bigs next spring they shouldn’t hesitate to try it like other clubs do. Give people a reason to buy tickets.

CATCHING (D+)

It will be interesting to see what Stearns does here. Martin Maldonado knows the pitching staff, has a good arm but his offense is hit and miss, with emphasis on the latter. But to be fair, that’s not what he gets paid for.

In his first 13 games, Manny Pina hit .308 with a .438 OBP. He had a nice Triple A (.329, 5 HR, 43 RBI), but he isn’t the answer either. Besides Maldonado is 30 and Pina is 29. Andrew Susac, 26, who came in the Will Smith trade and is injured, is a journeyman. Their top catching prospect Jacob Nottingham is at least two years away.

It will be interesting to see what they do.

STARTING PITCHING (D+)

A 31 year old rookie and a pitcher who can’t break a pane of glass. These are the highlights of the 2016 starting pitching staff.

I couldn’t imagine where the Brewers starting staff would be without Junior Guerra and Zach Davies. Guerra is 7-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 17 starts with 90 strikeouts in 97.1 innings. Opponents have only hit .206 with a WHIP of 1.09.  Those stats are outstanding.

Davies isn’t impressive looking (6-0, 155 pounds) but the 23 year old is 9-6 with a 4.18 ERA in 22 starts. He’s fanned 100 in 127 innings with a .264 BAA and a 1.26 WHIP. I have not enjoyed watching a pitcher work a hitter in years like I have watching Davies.

Davies reminds me of former Brewers Pete Vukovich, as his goal is to make you hit his pitch. He works the corners, works the inside of the plate, throws a lot of off-speed pitches, which make his 90 MPH fastball look more impressive.

He might look way younger than his age, but when he opens his mouth he is an intelligent young man who gives a good interview.

His problem is if he has an off-day or if his pitches catch a bigger part of the strike zone than he wanted to, you could usually find them somewhere in the bleacher seats. Not a lot of margin for error.

The only goal the front office should have with two other starters (Garza and Wily Peralta) is simple. Pray they pitch well enough to have some value to be moved in the off-season. I actually prefer Garza, who will be harder to trade because of his contract, more than Peralta, who is tradable. I have never be excited about Peralta – he reminds me too much of Yovani Gallardo – way over-hyped and too inconsistent to start for a successful team UNLESS they’re desperate (i.e. Baltimore Orioles).

Chase Anderson to me is ‘just a guy’ with a 7-10, 4.99 ERA, who opponents hit .270 against and who puts too many guys on base (1.42 WHIP).

How fast this ‘rebuild’ can happen will depend a lot on the pitchers.

Needing to bounce back QUICKLY are pitchers like Jorge Lopez and Taylor Jungman (I haven’t given up on him yet), for example. I think their best starting prospect is Josh Hader and I see no reason he isn’t given an opportunity in September.

Hiram Burgos (8-9, 4.60 ERA), impressive stats at Colorado Springs, Aaron Wilkerson, acquired in the Aaron Hill deal and Wei-Chung Wang, they held on to him as a Rule 5 Draft pitcher when he couldn’t contribute, so why not see if he can now since he has had a good season. Besides, he’s lefthanded. And don’t put him in the bullpen!

Brandon Woodruff also deserves a chance (7-8. 3.63 ERA, 98 K in 91.2 IP, 1.15 WHIP).

BULLPEN (B)

Speaking of the bullpen, Stearns has done a great job of putting it together and Counsell has done a great job of using them.

They traded their two best bullpen pitchers (Jeremy Jeffress, Will Smith) and never missed a beat with Tyler Thornburg taking over the closers role. I didn’t agree with adding Carlos Torres, but it was a brilliant pickup by Stearns, as Torres is 2-2 with a 2.81 ERA, 62 strikeouts in 64 innings and a .213 BAA and a 1.17 WHIP.

Corey Knebel has pitched well (3.44 ERA, .215 BA, 1.36 WHIP) when he wasn’t on the disabled list. Michael Blazek, Jacob Barnes, Damien Magnifico, have pitched well when healthy, but because of the injuries some of the stats don’t show it.  Brent Suter, who started at Triple A, will work out of the bullpen, giving the team a lefthander.

SUMMARY (C-)

I thought the Brewers would win 68-72 games – I was optimistic, I guess. I cheer for them every game, but when they lose I don’t shed any tears. Most of the year they stayed in games and if they lost, it happened late in the game so they got me to stick around.

My grades reflect that the outfield and the starting pitching were big disappointments in 2016.  But the bullpen and the infield leave hope for the future. With a month to go, it will be interesting to see what happens in September.

Stearns made a statement last week that he won’t be bringing up many prospects ‘because he doesn’t want a crowded clubhouse.’ I hope he was kidding, because now is the time to get a look at what’s in store for 2017.

That’s part of  ‘rebuilding,’ David.

BROOKFIELD CENTRAL’S BALDING CONFIDENT ABOUT HER GOALS

When it comes to setting goals, Brookfield Central junior golf Emily Balding doesn't fool around.

Last season Balding, who was only a sophomore, set her goal as being the best golfer in the Greater Metro Conference.

"Definitely that was a goal of mine last year, so when it happened, it wasn't really a surprise because that's what I was working for," the soft-spoken Balding said.

She went on and finished tied for 21st at the WIAA State Meet, shooting an 85 and an 81 for a 166 total.

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

"She hit the ground running in our program," veteran coach Brian Scrobel said. "Her freshman and sophomore years were very successful and she's about ready to have a successful junior year."

So, Emily, what's on the agenda this year?

"I would like to be the Player of the Year again," she said, never hesitating. "I am also hoping my team will qualify for state and ideally I would like to play well at state, maybe take Top 10."

That is a realistic goal, since the Lancers also return juniors Emma Whitefield, a first-team selection last year, and second-team selections, Lexi Romero and Sophia Sun, both juniors.

"Emily is very quiet, very calculated, goal driven," Scrobel said. "She has those goals and works very hard. I've had very few golfers who work as hard as she has. She has those goals."

Emily's parents introduced her to golf when she was 9-years old. She took a lot of lessons and she eventually took a liking to the game.

"I liked it a little bit," she said. "It was a little frustrating for me at first, but I enjoyed it when I hit a good one."

She began playing in tournaments when she was 11 and the summer before her freshman year she played in her first 18-hole tournament. But Emily had a decision to make going into her freshman year.

"I love to swim," she said. "I swam competitively for nine years, so I had to decide between swimming and golf. I quit swimming and decided I was going to play golf. I was a lot better at it than swimming, I think. I quit swimming to play golf because they are at the same time (fall season)."

Scrobel recalled the first time he heard of Emily was at an open house atWisconsin Hills Middle School.

"Her parents came up to me and introduced themselves," he said. "Her father talked about how his daughters are very active in golf and I told him a little bit about our program.

"I told him it was his lucky day he came to this school, but he said it wasn't luck. He called ahead and some friends in the area told him about the program and he chose to come to Brookfield Central. Emily was in our junior program (Jr. Lancer Academy) with a lot of success (as an eighth-grader)."

Scrobel was immediately impressed with Emily's play.

You can have all the skill in the world, but if you don’t have that passion, you’re never going to have that drive to want to get better.

Brian Scrobel, Lancers golf coach about what drives Emily Balding

"Her ability to hit the ball. Her ball striking, her putting, just her passion for the game, jumped out right away," he said.

Balding's confidence also shows in her leadership skills.

"I think I'm going to be captain this year and I feel like I'm a leader," she said. "I definitely play more golf than the other girls. I like to boost their confidence and encourage them a lot. Sometimes they are not confident in their games and I try to remind them that they are very good golfers and they should be confident.

"I practice a lot every day - I work hard to improve my game - so they'll see that and hopefully they'll practice hard too."

Scrobel also spoke about Emily's ability to lead.

"There are two things about her," he said. "Her confidence in herself allows her to have more of a vocal leadership role in the team. The other one is she does everything we ask and she works very hard. She's very diligent for her golf lessons. She signs up for a lot of tournaments. I want everyone to see our most successful golfer has done A, B and C to be good."

Despite her success, Emily is far from perfect.

"My strength is my short game, definitely, especially my putting," she said. "But I have to work on the mental part of my game; staying confident. If you have a bad shot, you have to remind yourself to stay positive."

Off the tee Emily wants to keep the ball in the fairway and hit it solid.

"I think a 220 drive is my best," she said. "But I think, 200-208 is a good job."

Scrobel smiled when I asked about her strengths.

"I'm not trying to avoid the question," he said. "But the best part of her game is her all-around game. She doesn't hit it real far, but she hits it far enough. Her irons, she plays very well, her short game is always there when she needs it. When she is in the zone, she really has a strong putter. She putts from all over the green."

So what's her next step?

"To get to the next level she needs to develop her course management," Scrobel said. "Her ability to play well even though she is not hitting the ball really well. To have that mental toughness to get through some situations like that. She's already shown growth in those areas and I can't see anything she needs to do to continue to make those strides."

Emily says she does not feel any pressure to play well because she is the Lancers' top golfer.

"I don't feel any pressure. It's just a positive thing (to build on)," she said. "The best way to support my team and help them do well is to do my best. Sometimes I do get caught up in thinking I have to make this putt for the team, but usually I play better when I just try to do my best. and that helps the team in return."

Scrobel then talked about what makes Emily a true success.

"Passion drives success in any action of your life," he said. "For an athlete - whether its basketball, soccer or golf - passion inside helps you want to practice, it's what drives you. You can have all the skill in the world, but if you don't have that passion, you're never going to have that drive to want to get better. Passion is the key."

Emily talks about winning the GMC Championship again and looks forward to another year with her teammates.

"We're like sisters," she said. "We just love each other."

Scrobel pointed out that Emily is more than just the team's best golfer.

"She's kind, caring, compassionate, she truly cares about her teammates," he said. "She's funny. People enjoy being around her. She's just a great kid.

"We're fortunate to have her in our program."

QUESTIONS FOR THE ATHLETES

  • FAVORITE FOOD: Strawberries. Meal: Stir fry.
  • FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP: Adele, Shawn Mendes, Bruno Mars
  • FAVORITE MOVIE: Action, comedy.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW: Grey's Anatomy
  • FAVORITE CLASS: Spanish. Born in Peru and mom is from Peru.
  • LEAST FAVORITE CLASS: English.
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED: Amazon Rain Forrest in Peru.
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX? Listen music, read books on fantasy magic (Sarah J. Mass)
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY/ATHLETE: Brookfield East. Jordan Spieth
  • MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT: Shooting a 71 (best score) at Pleasant View by Middleton
  • WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE? Keep playing golf through my life. Might want to be a doctor.

HERE’S HOW I SEE IT

I recently retired from my position at Community-Now Newspapers and web sites, but I am far from retired. I still cover sports events for my former employer and I write stories for the Milwaukee Brewers ‘Game Day’ Program. But I found something to keep me busy and keep my passion for all sports going.

And that’s Preps2Pros – my main ‘retirement’ project.

PREP FEATURES

I did a great deal of writing – mainly reporting the sports news – the last 14 years. However, I found myself doing less and less of what I enjoy the most – writing feature stories on prep athletes and seeing them as people, not just stats and individual accomplishments. This is what I hope to do with the major feature of Preps2Pros.

I plan on featuring a story on a local athlete every week.

My first one is Brookfield Central’s outstanding outside linebacker Reggie Jennings, the first junior to receive a scholarship in Wisconsin, as the Badgers made him an offer last spring.

In the next few weeks I will also have features on …

  • Brookfield Central junior Emily Balding, the defending Greater Metro Conference Golfer of the Year.
  • Brookfield East senior mammoth guard Max Aslin, one of the key lineman who opens
    holes for All-State Running Back Sam Santiago-Lloyd.
  • Brookfield East tennis players – senior Emma Corwin and sophomore
    Emily Horneffer – who are following in the steps of their brothers, who were three
    outstanding tennis players, with three state titles among them.

BLOG

Every week I will have a few blogs, depending on what is going on in the professional sports world. I will focus on the Brewers, Packers and Bucks, but I can write on anything.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter @skyskibosh know I have a tendency to be candid. Some of my followers feel that my objectivity is negative. Now I am a fan of all three teams, of course. I hope they all have winning records and eventually win a championship when ready.

But I don’t wear blue, gold and green – colored glasses. Having worked for the Brewers for 19 years and having been a sports writer for 14, I have a different view of what goes on behind the scenes and I am not afraid to share it.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Those of you who follow me on Twitter, know that I start the day with ‘SKY’S THOUGHT FOR THE DAY,’ a quote which I try to tie in with what is happening, usually in the prep sports world. I will do that on my web site as well as on my Twitter account. Based on my retweets and likes, people enjoy them.

STILL TO COME

In the next month I will be adding a section (THE BOOK) on my first book – ‘If You Wanna Have Fun, Go someplace Else’ – a humorous inside look at major league baseball. This is a behind the scenes look at my Brewers career. The first element available will be an audio version, which can be downloaded. We then will look to have a printed version which can be downloaded a little further down the road.

Even further down the road I will have my second book available – ‘You Wanna Hear Something Funny?’ This is a humorous – and emotional – book that looks at my personal life as well as my career, including my jobs with the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, the Brewers and CNI-Now Newspapers. I have some great stories on several topics which I am looking forward to sharing.

So this is my first blog. Hope you enjoy the web site and please pass on the web site to your friends.

It should be fun!

OUR TEAM

My son Marty Skibosh, a film editor in Hollywood, currently working on the popular Sci-Fi series ‘Supernatural,’ is my web site editor.

My photos are handled by one of the best photographers in the area – Al Hertzberg – who does outstanding work for the local high schools.

They make me look good.

REGGIE JENNINGS, LANCERS HAVE A TARGET ON THEIR BACK

Reggie Jennings remembers it well.

Brookfield Central and Oshkosh North were playing to a stalemate late into the third quarter of the Level 1 playoff game last Oct. 23 at Central.

"It was raining all game," Jennings recalled. "I came off the edge - it was a screen - and I tipped a pass late in the game and Nick Leszcynski caught it and ran it down to about the 20. We scored after that and went on to win, 13-0."

Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC

Jennings, who finished the game with a team-leading 8 tackles and 1.5 sacks, is a returning junior linebacker who has already been offered a scholarship by Wisconsin. He is hoping for some more moments like that this season.

"Our team is looking good right now," he said before a recent August practice. "We just have to go out there and play ball."

The Lancers are the defending Greater Metro Conference champion, so they will have a target on their back.

When asked about that and being defending champs, Jackson flashed a big smile and said, "It's always great to be one."

Coach Jed Kennedy knows Jennings and his Lancers will have to work hard defending their title.

"We have graduated a lot of folks," Kennedy said. "If you look at our offense, we probably graduated 97% of our offense. But that's what makes it fun; that's what makes it a challenge.

"We need to find new pieces to plug in there. I think by the end of the year we have a chance to be a good football team."

Jennings will have a lot to say about how good Central's defense is this year.

Jennings plays outside linebacker, next to his good friend Leszcynski, who plays on the inside. They both move around in the defense, defending on how the offense lines up.

"Being an outside backer is pretty tough," Jennings said. "You have to stop the run, stop the pass; you have to be able to blitz. He have to be quick, strong, powerful. It's pretty much the hardest position to play.

"I just contain outside and play ball. I enjoy contact. That's the best part about football."

When asked if he likes separating the offense from the ball, Jennings eyes got big.

"Yeah, pretty much," he said. "I love quarterbacks."

Jennings has a lot of responsibility in Central's defense according to Kennedy.

"What probably makes it the hardest position in our scheme is he's got to be able to rush the passer; play the run on the line of scrimmage, yet guard receivers down the field when we're in man. So you are going to have to have a lot of athletic ability and football ability to do both of those things."

Kennedy then talked about Jennings' strengths on the field.

"He's a great pass rusher," he said. "He is so athletic, so strong. The second thing is he tackles in the open field unbelievably. His ability to make plays in the open field is as about as good as I ever had."

Jennings first began playing youth football with Milwaukee Custer as a sixth grader before moving over to the Jr. Lancers.

It didn't take Jennings long to know this was the route to go for him.

"From the first day of practice, I loved it," he said. "I always wanted to play football."

Jennings is coming off an outstanding sophomore season, making All-Conference as he led the team with 31 individual tackles, 16 more than his buddy Leszcynski. He led the team with 64 total tackles, 10 tackles for losses, 5.5 sacks and two fumbles.

Despite all these impressive stats, Jennings moves aside questions about personal goals like he does offensive linemen.

"I really don't have personal goals," he said. "I just think about it as a team and every year our goal is the state championship."

Kennedy speaks highly of Jennings - on and off the field.

"I think he's just a great kid," the veteran coach said. "He obviously has all the on the field things we're looking for. But he also has all the off the field stuff too - he's a great team guy, he's humble, he has all those other qualities too."

Everyone knows how tough August practices can be with the hot, humid weather. But Jennings had some interesting thoughts on the early workouts.

"For me, I really like seeing how the team 'molds' (comes together) under these conditions," he said. "It's great to watch and see how the season is going to go from this. I like to see us compete. That makes us a better team. If a guy goes out you want to see who steps up and is able to play."

People will game plan to stop him and he is going to have to get better at all those things.

- Jed Kennedy Central coach on Reggie Jennings

He also had an answer for the heat.

"We got misters (fans that spray water) and we got pretty good water girls," he said.

Being perhaps the best player on this year's team, his teammates look to Jennings for leadership, as he is the first junior in Kennedy's three years who was voted a team captain.

"He's a quiet leader. He's not a rah-rah, get you fired up guy," Kennedy said. "He's a guy that leads by going out there every day, working hard and doing what you ask him to do. I've been a believer in that your best players are your hardest workers and Reggie is one of our hardest workers."

Jennings had good things to say when asked what it's like to play for the emotional Kennedy.

"It's amazing. You are going to run through a wall for him. That's what you are going to do; run through a wall for him."

Jennings success last season will make him a marked man his time around.

"He's not going to be a surprise anymore," Kennedy said. "People are going to know who he is. He was the first junior in the state to be offered (UW). People will game plan to stop him and he is going to have to get better at all those things."

Knowing Reggie Jennings, he will be up to the challenge.

QUESTIONS FOR THE ATHLETES

  • FAVORITE FOOD: Lasagna, any kind of pasta.
  • FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP: Anything smooth and mellow. Billy Joel,Uptown Girl, Britney Spears. Oops I did it again.
  • FAVORITE MOVIE: Forrest Gump
  •  FAVORITE TV SHOW: Sports, Comedy, anything with a good storyline.
  • FAVORITE CLASS: English
  • LEAST FAVORITE CLASS: Social Studies
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED: Hawaii (Maui)
  • WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX: Sleep.
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY: Marquette (preps), Michigan-Ohio State(college).
  • MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT: "Last year against Oshkosh North in the first round of the playoffs. It was raining all game. It was in the third quarter - it was a stalemate (0-0). I came off the edge, it was a screen and I tipped a pass late in the game and Nick Leszcynski caught it and ran it down to about the 20 and we scored after that" 13-0
  • WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE: My next step is college.
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