Baseball is a game of patience and thus baseball executives, mangers and fans have to exercise a patience which could only try the likes Job. Sometimes they have to endure years of failure before a long stretch of success. This was true for Twins fans for much of the 1970s and 80s and through much of the 1990s while the team was rebuilding around the stars which won Minnesota two World Series titles and whole decade worth of AL Central titles and playoff appearances. Brewers fans had to endure even more hardship, about 25 years worth of bad baseball thanks not just to market inequities but to the utter mismanagement of the Seligs and GM Sal Bando at the time before coming competitive and winning division titles again.
Both franchises are going through down periods again. Both teams have sluggers and some other talent but they have exhausted their pitching talent and have nothing left other than what can be patched together in terms of starters and bullpen. For both teams, their best prospects are still down in the minor leagues. And it is imperative for both clubs to back to winning baseball none of those prospects are rushed to the majors before they are fully ready, even if it means a 100 loss season. It also means not trading away such prospects for bust out veterans just to try and make a playoff run (especially with an additional wild card spot). Neither squad is a playoff team even they could squeak through and they could only do so if other teams ahead of them collapse (which doesn’t say much for the league they are in. Hopefully patient people are in charge in both Milwaukee and Minneapolis who will take the long view of their team’s prospects, not the short term.
If NBA coaches like George Karl and Lionel Hollins are being canned despite taking their respective teams (Denver and Memphis) deep in playoffs, then Jim Boylan wasn’t keeping his job with the Bucks either after their predicted first round flameout to the Heat. Another such successful/fired coach, Larry Drew, has taken the reigns in the Cream City after he was axed in Atlanta. Beyond coaching, there is a debate in Bucks’ circles as to what strategy should be taken with free agents Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. Hopefully such a debate will be a short one if, as predicted, neither guard really wants to stay around no matter how much money the Bucks throw at them (for Ellis the offer was a considerable one by Bucks’ standards). Losing both guards would obviously mean another rebuilding job for the Bucks but one which could work if the club gives Drew the time and support to build a better team (which he showed he could do in Atlanta) while management finds good, young players to build around the talent they have already.
Three first round draft picks and the kind of money it takes to sign such players shows the Vikings are targeting this coming season for at least a NFC North title. The Bears are in the decline, the Lions stalled and the Packers in a precarious spot atop the division. It’s now or never given Adrian Peterson is at his peak of performance level as is Jerad Allen and with the team stuck with Christian Ponder for the time being.Greg Jennings certainly can’t make up what Percy Harvin brought to the Vikings on the field but he can certainly make up for it off the field.
The Packers had a pretty good draft too, especially addressing the running game concerns by picking up Alabama’s Eddie Lacy and UCLA’s Jonathan Franklin and concerns on defense by drafting UCLA’s Datone Jones. Although no one should have their fingers crossed, anything Johnny Jolly can provide up front on defense should be considered a big, big bonus if he’s got his head on straight again. Its these areas which are going to determine whether the Pack can stay on top or kneel before the Vikings in 2013. We’ll see if the difference in quarterback (and considering what the Pack want to pay Aaron Rodgers it is considerable) will be enough again.
Like the Bucks, the Minnesota Wild didn’t last too long in the playoffs either (at least they won a game against the Western Conference champion Blackhawks). Some have look at offense and others have looked at defense to make changes to make the Wild a better club for next season full schedule. Perhaps the answer lies in goal. Minnesota was already at a disadvantage facing Chicago in the first round to have a revolving door at goalie. Bottom line is they need a lot better than a hurt and inconsistent Nicklas Backstrom, a back-up with MS in Josh Harding (who did an exceptional job nonetheless against a relentless ‘Hawks attack and deserves kudos for it). Whether Darcy Kuempfer is the answer or if the Wild have to go on the market for a free-agent goalie remains to be seen but as of right now the Wild do not have the presence in goal for a deep playoff run.
Speaking of the Chicago Blackhawks, their Stanley Cup final with the Boston Bruins not just because both teams are part of the NHL’s Original Six, but because both are literally the best of their respective Conferences and will be playing for the championship. For as many problems as the league has had over the past two years, they’ve certainly have had one heck of playoff so far and now they can top it off with a seven game battle between the Originals.