By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Dec 16, 2004 at 5:11 AM

{image1} Some fans were upset to see Scott Podsednik traded earlier this week, but the deal made sense.

In exchange for Podsednik, pitcher Luis Vizcaino and a minor leaguer, the Brewers acquired outfielder Carlos Lee, who hit .305 with 31 homers and 99 RBI last season for the White Sox.

Lee gives the Brewers a right-handed, power bat between lefties Geoff Jenkins and Lyle Overbay in the middle of the lineup. Jenkins likely will move to right field with Lee playing left.

That deal, plus a deal that sent reliever Dan Kolb to Atlanta for top prospect Jose Capellan and the signing of free agent catcher Damian Miller, give the Brewers more pop, some additional starting pitching depth and veteran leadership on the field.

Podsednik and Kolb were fan favorites and had great stories. Each fought his way through injuries and other obstacles to blossom somewhat later in his career with the Brewers. But, Podsednik hit only .244 last season, after a sensational rookie year. Kolb, who has a long history of arm problems, slumped badly late in the season.

So, both became expendable, yet still had the market value to bring something in return. If the Brewers had waited, and both had off-seasons or suffered injuries this coming year, their value would have plummeted.

Lee is 28 and could give the Brewers several good years. Capellan was considered the top-pitching prospect in an Atlanta organization that is traditionally rich in pitching. He could step into the Brewers' starting rotation.

GM Doug Melvin said Brady Clark will get a shot at center field, and Dave Krynzel, who came up from the minors late last season and basically in a Scotty Po clone, also could end up in the mix. Mike Adams will likely fill the role of either Vizcaino or Kolb. And don't be surprised if Melvin pursues another reliever or two before spring training.

Melvin has some elbowroom to make deals because Mark Attanasio, who has not yet been formally approved as the new Brewers' owner, already is showing he will spend some money to improve the club.

Attanasio, who should get MLB owners' approval before Christmas, will spend $8 million in 2005 on Lee and $2.8 next season on Miller.

We won't really know if the moves will improve the club until next season, but it's encouraging to see the Brewers making moves based on what seems like good baseball logic rather than only moves intended to cut salary.

The Crew's new outfielder talked with Milwaukee and Chicago media from Panama via a teleconference Wednesday. Brewers PR director Jon Greenberg said it was the "longest distance" press conference in team history.

Lee said he was looking forward to the challenge of playing with the Brewers.

"It is a challenge to go to a different team and a different league," said Lee, who played six seasons for the Chicago White Sox. "I already am doing research on National League pitching. Hopefully, my teammates can help me out, too.

"I don't think it will be that different. We play those guys in inter-league play. We played the Cubs every year in Chicago. I kind of have an idea on how they play in the National League.

Lee said he would prefer to play left field, where Geoff Jenkins has been a Gold Glove caliber player the last few seasons. "I know how to play there," Lee said. "I played only four games in the outfield before I got to the big leagues, but I have worked 120 percent on my defense. I might not be a great outfielder, but I am solid now. I would try to switch if they want me to, but I prefer to play left field."

Jenkins, who has a strong arm, will likely move to right field. GM Doug Melvin alluded to that possibility on the day the trade was announced.

The Brewers traded for Lee because he can hit (.305 with 31 homers and 99 RBI last season) and give the team a strong right-handed bat between Lyle Overbay and Jenkins, both lefties.

"It gives a team better balance," Lee said. "They can't throw all lefthanders at you."

Lee said he saw the trade from Chicago coming, because the White Sox talked about switching from power to speed at the end of last season. "I knew either me or Paul Konerko would be traded," he said.

There were some comical moments in the long-distance hookup. At one time, a radio or TV station put the call on hold, and everybody was "treated" to daytime television court programming for several minutes.

A reporter for a Spanish-speaking TV station in Chicago also asked several questions in Spanish, leaving many of the mono-linguistic reporters wondering what was being said.

After the Lee press conference, the Brewers sent infielder Keith Ginter to Oakland for outfielder Nelson Cruz and pitcher Justin Lehr.

Cruz will give the Brewers some added insurance in center field, where Brady Clark and Dave Krynzel will also be in the mix. Lehr could help the bullpen, which has been depleted with the trades of Vizcaino and Dan Kolb.

After the Brewers conference with Lee, the White Sox held one with Podsednik, who said he initially was a "bit shocked" by the trade. "I was in Japan doing a couple things, and learned of it Tuesday morning," he said. "I couldn't communicate with anybody and was a bit shocked, but on the other hand I also am excited. I know Milwaukee was doing what they think will help their ball club and vice versa."

Podsednik said he tried to do too much last season, when he slumped to .244 after a great rookie season. "I showed up at spring training and tried to do too much," he said. "I came out of my comfort zone and simply failed for it.

"I learned a lot of things that will help me in years to come. I don't feel it was a wasted season in that regards and I enjoyed my time in Milwaukee."

No Bucks' Surprises

The Bucks have struggled so far this season, at least in part because they aren't surprising teams anymore.

Last season, most "experts" picked the Bucks to suck, but coach Terry Porter got his players to hustle on both ends of the court. The Bucks surprised a lot of teams and made the playoffs. This season, opponents have expected to face a hustling, scrappy team. So, there have been few letdowns, and the under-manned Bucks have struggled.

Let's face it. They have not had the raw talent of some other NBA teams for the last couple seasons. They made up for it with that hustle and some surprises last season, but this year it has caught up with them.

Michael Redd and Desmond Mason are as talented as just about any tandem in the league, but after that it falls off. Joe Smith, when he is healthy, can stay up with the best in the NBA, but he has not been healthy for parts of this season.

Keith Van Horn has offensive skills, but can be a defensive liability at times. He too has been hurting with right ankle tendinitis. Toni Kukoc is a veteran who knows how to play the game, but has not been playing because of a right hip strain. Daniel Santiago is an experienced center, but has been suffering from a corneal abrasion.

None of these players could make a huge difference by themselves, but collectively they could help. So, injuries to them have hurt.

An injured player who could make a difference by himself is point guard T.J. Ford. The Bucks have not been the same since he went down last season with a serious neck injury. He has spent this season serving as a community ambassador for the team, but who knows if we will ever see him play regularly again.

Ford, even though he was a rookie, penetrated and distributed the ball. He was quick. Mo Williams and Mike James have seen most of the time at point this year. Both have their assets, but have not been able to take charge of the offense.

The Bucks also miss Brian Skinner, who went elsewhere as a free agent. Skinner gave the Bucks a presence down deep and could score down below. Dan Gadzuric, for all his youthful hustle, doesn't really have those skills.

Zaza Pachulia has shown some offensive ability. Marcus Fizer, when he gets completely healthy, and Zendon Hamilton also might be able to help in the front court eventually, but at this point really are not factors.

This writer recently saw the Bucks beat the Indiana Pacers suspension team. They looked horrible in the first half and trailed the B squad that Indiana has to put on the floor after the disgraceful incident in Detroit. But, in the second half, the Bucks played decent basketball and pulled out a win.

Porter's team still hustles, but lacks the ball movement and defensive toughness of last season. And, this season's Bucks just aren't taking opponents by surprise anymore.

Hot Tix

The Bucks play at Chicago Thursday night and host the Philadelphia 76ers at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Bradley Center.

In college basketball, Marquette hosts Arizona at 1 p.m. Saturday in a game that will be aired on ESPN and then entertains Nebraska at the BC at 8 p.m. Tuesday. UW and UWM are off for final exams until next week.

The Packers will try to wrap up the home portion of the regular season with a win against Jacksonville at Lambeau Field at 3:15 p.m. Sunday. The Pack will end the season with games at Minnesota and Chicago, which will determine whether they can win the NFC North and go to the playoffs.

In soccer, the Wave plays the Baltimore Blast at 7:05 p.m. Friday at the U.S. Cellular Arena. In hockey, the Admirals host the Chicago Wolves at 7 p.m. Friday at the BC.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.