Archive for March, 2008

34: It’s A Long Journey From October to March.

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by SavannahGuy

 

After five long months,

never missing a single beat, going it alone against any and all blogosphere odds, trudging ever forward with determination and grit, heads held high, chins up, computers and keyboards ready for action, a merry band of good denizens and pranksters set out to discover and settle a new and peaceable kingdom in a nice, quiet, respectable little corner of the Braves Nation.

 

After another missed post-season,

hanging ever tough and never ever losing any hope or dreams of victory, sucking it up and blogging together throughout the dreary winter doldrums, hanging on and measuring every word of hot-stove predictions, getting totally caught up in all of the anticipation of a glorious new season to come, sharing personal ups and downs, ins and outs and throughout it all…we laughed.

 

After braving the rain, sleet and snow,

the high wind, the devastating storms, the damaging tornados, the floods, the power outages… we stuck in there and blogged.

 

After all of that…

we also, somehow managed to amass an incredibly impressive 33 superb posts, 14,652 comments and 34,223 views…

 

I think we’re ready for some Braves baseball.

 

 

While considering an appropriate topic to write about for my lead on this special opening day, I have to admit that it was a real head-scratcher. What could possibly be said about the players, the teams, those that made the roster and those that didn’t after four months of speculation? On this first day of real, honest to goodness Braves baseball, where our season begins and the games really count, I assumed that nothing written by anyone anywhere could possibly be interesting alongside the excitement of this rite of Spring occasion.

 

Then it hit me like a hard up and inside Francoeur pitch! Just not, well, that painful or bloody, mind you. Here’s the thing: this day actually marks two very special events and should be cause for celebration, commemoration and congratulation. It’s opening day but it’s also a milestone for Braves and Stuff.

 

The march to October is 162 games, but we began by making the journey from October to March and we’re still here for the start of the 2008 Braves baseball season. Looks like we made it!

 

Beginning on December 5, 2007 at 4:42 pm, a first-ever lead was written and posted by our founder and gracious ‘hostess with the most-ess’, the esteemed Carolina Lady. A blog was born. Friends gathered. Braves and Stuff was officially launched.

 

We got off to a respectable but an expected slow start. Baseball was not being played and winter was upon us. Braves fans had once again come to grips with a second season without a playoff berth and settled into the realization that Braves Nation was now feeling what most other teams in Major League Baseball have felt and experienced many times in the last fifteen years.

 

Being loyal and resilient Braves fans, we denizens gathered around and stoked our own hot stove to talk baseball and ‘stuff’, meaning whatever else we had a mind to discuss. Soon, new and old friends found the time and came to the neighborhood. The good company of loyal Braves fans and blog denizens would surely get us through the ‘tunnel’ of off-season. And it did. Four months of time has flown by and the settlement is strong and the hits keep coming.

 

As of today, Braves and Stuff can proudly boast a sustained and successful gathering place. That’s quite an accomplishment for a brand new blog that just started in the off-season, especially considering that, according to Cyberjournalist.net, as of July 31, 2006, 50 million blogs were tracked. The blogosphere is doubling every six and a half months and about 175,000 new blogs are created every day. Most will no doubt be relatively inactive and sparsely populated until they are abandoned. It’s easier to start a blog than to fill it with contributors.

 

Add to that, the impressive fact that our Braves and Stuff blog has been created and populated with quality, sustained activity without any marketing or advertising whatsoever. No substantial money has been invested, no web or IT consultants have retained and no funding has been required.

 

The success of Braves and Stuff blog is due to three very unique advantages:

 

First and foremost: Our hostess, the esteemed Carolina Lady. She has taken on all of the setup and management onto her capable and tireless shoulders. She serves as a host, greeter, gatekeeper and sanity monitor. She’s created and managed the site; loaded candid photos, helped with avatars, added links and has influenced and inspired all of us with her kind spirit and graciousness. It may be a labor of love for her, but it’s labor. We love her and thank her for it.

 

Secondly: Braves and Stuff was created as a respectable alternative to most other sports blogs. Our respectable neighborhood has had it’s less than pleasurable moments and a few times ‘words’ have gone back and forth, but the brief and comparatively mild unpleasantness is the rare exception. Even a peaceable kingdom has its moments. It’s Stuffville, not Pollyannaville after all. It works.

 

Last but not least: The third unique advantage is you. All of you make this blog the most interesting and enjoyable place in the universe of blogs that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, period. Pound for pound, the intelligence and down to earth good nature here will stack up against any blog anywhere, any time.

 

We’ve seen not only good off-season baseball talk but a regular supply of original thinking, thoughtful opines, poetry, music, naturally good humor, jokes, hilarious repartee, friendly denizen to denizen advice on matters of health and well-being, food talk, condolences and prayers, good wishes, good vibes and good karma sent toward one another.

 

Now that the Braves are taking the field and our favorite ‘reality show’ is back most every day for 162 games through September and well into October hopefully, there will be a bit of a blog topic shift – from talking mostly stuff to talking Braves baseball and stuff – as our team takes the field, capturing our attention and inspiring our posts.

 

During this Braves Nation journey to post-season, I’ll remind myself often to remember… particularly on those inevitable days when we get beat up, when we lose a close one, when our batters don’t get the clutch hit or when our pitchers falter… that it’s not only the October destination that is most critical. Even on those nights when I’m barking orders to the players or Bobby Cox through my TV or radio, I’ll enjoy the journey itself. That, and I’ll continue to enjoy all the good Braves and Stuff folks along the way.

 

Congratulations, Carolina Lady and good denizens of Braves and Stuff! Now, let’s watch Braves baseball and swing away. Just remember…

 

Words really do matter…

especially in Stuffville and on the blogosphere.

~SavannahGuy~

 

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33: Anticipation abounds as the journey to October begins

 

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by ssiscribe

 

ATLANTA – The flags high atop Turner Field fluttered in the breeze Sunday afternoon as I walked across Monument Plaza.

 

Through the gate to the left of the ticket window, I could see the sun glistening off the dark blue seats high in the upper deck, down the right-field line. A few other souls were present, putting down their cash in exchange for seats to a show we hope will play on past September.

 

And that’s where we stand as the 2008 season cranks up for the Atlanta Braves on Sunday night in the nation’s capital. This franchise, once known as laughable losers, then for a decade and a half as consistent winners, finds itself at the intersection of third place and the Fall Classic.

 

It’s been nine long years since Atlanta graced the World Series stage. Since then, the Braves have won exactly one postseason series, a three-game sweep of the Astros in the 2001 NL Division Series. The Braves then lost in the NLCS to Arizona. Four heart-wrenching losses in the division series would follow, followed then by two consecutive finishes in the middle of the NL East.

 

Turner Field sat empty the past two Octobers, as it was on Easter Sunday while I bought my tickets for Monday’s home opener. The laughter of two children pierced the otherwise silent scene. But you could feel something in the air, and it wasn’t just the swirl of that northwest wind.

 

It was the feeling of anticipation.

 

Maybe it’s the fact our new house includes a sports garage where all my baseball stuff is displayed. Maybe it’s the fact I’m blessed to be in a place where I can go to 30-to-40 games this season. Maybe it’s the fact my kids now are really into baseball. In the 30 years I’ve been paying attention, I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to a Braves season as much as this one.

 

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because this team looks like those Braves teams that danced deep into October on a consistent basis in the 1990s. The Braves, as many of us have stated, needed to stock up on pitching. That, after all, is what the Braves did in the past, the very foundation for their 14 consecutive division championships, their five pennants, their one World Series championship since 1991. Pitching, pitching and more pitching, stocked like one packs their pantry in advance of an oncoming storm.

 

If the Braves falter in 2008, lack of arms won’t be a reason why. The starting rotation is solid. The bullpen is deep. There are plenty of arms waiting in the wings. The Braves have the pitching talent to win over the long haul, to sustain the ups and downs that make up the six-month grind toward October.

 

Absence makes the heart fonder; two consecutive early winters have me longing to see the Braves return to the postseason. The journey is a delight, to be sure, but at the end of the day, you play to win the World Series. Even though many of us felt last year’s Braves were good enough to succeed in the playoffs, you can’t win in October if your season ends in September. And that’s where the Braves’ campaign the past two years has concluded.

 

But when the 10th month of 2008 arrives, the feeling here is Turner Field won’t be quiet. The Braves finally look like the Braves again. It’s the look of a team with the calm, steady confidence that comes with knowing they stand a good chance to win 90 times this season, and that will be enough to shatter the silence that’s descended on the corner of Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard and Hank Aaron Drive the past two autumns.

 

On Easter Sunday, Turner Field stood still. But I could almost hear the crowd roaring. It starts now, and it will reach its crescendo come October, when the Braves – and the good denizens of Braves Nation – storm back into the postseason.

 

–30–

~scribe~

 

 

 

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32: Diamonds in the Onion Patch

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By Salty

 

Lyrics

WOODSTOCK, GA – Like many, I’m a fan of music, influenced by my kids, peers, and generation. Too often I hear the music, yet not the lyrics, which can be embarrassing once they sink in. While driving, though, alone in my thoughts, some songs deliver a message, my perception, naturally. On a recent trip, several reminded me of: Braves & Stuff

Reunion

Girl have you been waiting here, for someone near,
Searchin’ the world for a friend,
Come on in, I’ve been expecting you
Sweet reunion, welcome home again.

(Kenny Loggins, Leap of Faith, 1991)

 

CL’s ‘little world’, created for us: shared sentiments, values, and yet…mirroring society, and even family dynamics, “why can’t we all just get along?” We love our Braves, share discourse over ‘Stuff’, and on both counts, we will disagree, although not always agreeing to do so. Metaphorically, or is it analogous (go ahead, it’s healthy to debate), I thought: Onions

The blog is the onion; ‘we’, its layers, with all our passions, idiosyncrasies, experiences, faiths, values, expectations, and so forth. Is it realistic to expect, trifling or not, that toes won’t be stepped upon? The process of understanding can oft-times be painful yet, isn’t that most treasured, worth enduring the process to make better?

Diamonds and Coal

We’re both aligned in framed of mind
but circumstance has got us good.
now you’re seeing a side of me
I wished no one ever would.

Come on, in spite of this we’re doing just fine
even diamonds start as coal.(Incubus, Light Grenades, 2006)

 

 

The blog is a journey, it takes time to deliver. In the interim, we will be much like: Oil and Water

When we’re all in agreement, the blog is well-blended, it’s shaking. Pick a topic that strikes a nerve, and positions are drawn, and we separate like

Oil and Water

You and… I are…
Like oil and water
And we’ve been trying, trying, trying
Ohhhhh…to mix it up
Let’s just call it what it is
Oil and Water

(Incubus, Light Grenades, 2006)

 

DO’B’s blog brought us together, for which we’re grateful. Ironically, in the course of a few months, the more things change, the more they stay the same!

Go Round in Circles

I got a song it ain’t got no melody;
I’m gonna sing it to my friends

I got a song it ain’t got no morals;
let the bad guy win every once in a while

Will it go round in circles;
will it fly high like a bird up in the sky?

(Billy Preston, 1973)

 

 

Despite bruised egos, sore toes, and frayed nerves, on the whole, we remain together by choice, owed largely to an ability to draw quarters, debate vociferously, and frankly, expose ourselves to varying degrees. A key reason:

RESPECT

R E S P E C T

Find out what it means to me

R E S P E C T

Take Care, TCB

(Otis Redding, 1965) (Who knew? ) (Performed by Aretha Franklin)

 

 

The other element that binds…humor! With that, I leave you with the last verse from a humorous song:

Twisted

My analyst told me
That I was right out of my head
But I said dear doctor
I think that it’s you instead
Because I have got a thing that’s unique and new
To prove it I’ll have the last laugh on you
‘Cause instead of one head
I got two
And you know two heads are better than one!

(Ross and Grey, performed by Joni Mitchell – ‘Court and Spark, 1974)

 

~Salty~

 

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31: Jerra and Pepa and Lewa and Raffa

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By Rosalynn

PLAINS, GEORGIA – Jimma Smith called me this mahnin’ and asked me to write a little storah about Atlanta Braves baseball. Ah am happa to do so. Ah guess mah fuhst memorah of Atlanta Braves baseball was back when mah Jimma was Govanuh. Jimma could get real good seats and sometimes we would go from the Capitol right on ovah to the Stadium and watch a game. Those weah the dahs of Barrah Bonnell, Jeff Burroughs, Garah Matthews, Dale Murpha, Phil Niekra, Rowland Office, Biff Pocoroba, Pat Rockett, and mah favahrite, Jerra Rawster. That Jerra Rawster could flah! And steal a base! That boah could steal a base and put it in his pocket! Jerra Rawster woah the numbah 1 and Jerra Rawster was alwahs numbah 1 in mah hahrt -except for mah Jimma, of coahse.

I remembuh the dah Jerra Rawster repohted to the Braves. He was a skinna little thang and he came ovah from the hated Laws Angeleez Dodgahs. Jerra could plah all the infield positions and outfield, too! Of coahse, the boah could not hit much moah than .240 or .250 but he looked good doin’ it. And that boah stole 174 bases! Onlah a few Braves have evah done that!

Ah was sad when Jerra Rawster lost his job but that’s when Bobba Cox brought in Pepa Frias. That Pepa was a delight! And sometimes Pepa would plah peppah right theah in front of ouah seats. That Pepa could reallah plah peppah! Of coahse, Pepa could not hit eitha but he was a lotta fun and loved to eat peanuts on the field. Jimma would alwahs bring Pepa a bag of peanuts and Pepa would alwahs give Jimma a big hug and some fahitas and those fahitas would get stuck in Jimma’s big ol’ teeth and Joda Powell would have to pick ’em out with his pocket knafe befoah Jimma appeahd on teluvishon.

After Pepa Frias theah was Lewa Gomez but Lewa did not last long heah. That’s when Raffa Rameraz arrived and that boah did not leave soon enough! The Braves coulda had Barrah Bonds for Raffa but did not make the trade. Next was Andres Thomas. Then, theah was Jeff Blowsah. I realla lahked Jeff Blowsah but the boah did not have lips. Could not whistle a lick. That is a recap of some Braves shortstops Ah have known.

Well, Ah guess that is enough nostalgha for one blog. Ah am happa to be back heah bloggin’ with Carolina Ladah and all the otha bloggahs. Remembuh to vote yoah conscience in the upcomin’ election. May yoah conscience be Democratic and mah yoah state be blue.

Fondla,

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30: baseball in sepia

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by Paladin

TULLAHOMA, TN – Back when it was suggested that I do a lead, someone (ww, I think) said they would be interested in my old man’s perspective of the game. Well, this is it.

The song and lyrics capture baseball through Terry’s (my boyish) eyes in a way that I always want to see it. No hormones, multi-zillion dollar contracts, or hold outs (or “ups” either). It’s just baseball in sepia. Hope you enjoy, and let’s play two.
(courtesy of Baseball Almanac:)

Talkin’ Baseball

In 1981 Terry Cashman recorded what is more commonly referred to as Talkin’ Baseball, which was originally called Willie, Mickey And The Duke. It became — and still is — a very popular pop song that pays tribute to players from the fifties and a variety of variations were released during the following seasons.

“If Cooperstown is calling, it’s no fluke.
They’ll be with Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.”
– Terry Cashman in Talkin’ Baseball (1981)
Talkin’ Baseball by Terry Cashman

© Copyright 1981, 1983, 1988, 1992, 1996 PKM Music
c/o Publishers’ Licensing Corporation
P.O. Box 5807
Englewood, New Jersey 07631
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Whiz Kids had won it,
Bobby Thomson had done it,
And Yogi read the comics all the while.
Rock ‘n roll was being born,
Marijuana, we would scorn,
So down on the corner,
The national past-time went on trial.

 

We’re talkin’ baseball!
Kluszewski, Campanella.
Talkin’ baseball!
The Man and Bobby Feller.
The Scooter, the Barber, and the Newc,
They knew ’em all from Boston to Dubuque.
Especially Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.

 

Well, Casey was winning,
Hank Aaron was beginning,
One Robbie going out, one coming in.
Kiner and Midget Gaedel,
The Thumper and Mel Parnell,
And Ike was the only one winning down in Washington.

 

We’re talkin’ baseball!
Kluszewski, Campanella.
Talkin’ baseball!
The Man and Bobby Feller.
The Scooter, the Barber, and the Newc,
They knew ’em all from Boston to Dubuque.
Especially Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.

 

Now my old friend, The Bachelor,
Well, he swore he was the Oklahoma Kid.
And Cookie played hooky,
To go and see the Duke.
And me, I always loved Willie Mays,
Those were the days!

 

Well, now it’s the 80’s,
And Brett is the greatest,
And Bobby Bonds can play for everyone.
Rose is at the Vet,
And Rusty again is a Met,
And the great Alexander is pitchin’ again in Washington.

 

I’m talkin’ baseball!
Like Reggie, Quisenberry.
Talkin’ baseball!
Carew and Gaylord Perry,
Seaver, Garvey, Schmidt and Vida Blue,
If Cooperstown is calling, it’s no fluke.
They’ll be with Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.

 

Willie, Mickey, and the Duke. (Say hey, say hey, say hey)
It was Willie, Mickey and the Duke (Say hey, say hey, say hey)
I’m talkin’ Willie, Mickey and the Duke (Say hey, say hey, say hey)
Willie, Mickey, and the Duke. (Say hey, say hey, say hey)
Say Willie, Mickey, and the Duke. (Say hey, say hey, say hey)

Talkin’ Baseball by Terry Cashman

 

Here’s the song with great photos! Enjoy!

~Paladin~

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29: I Believe

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by williamwallace

I believe John Smoltz will pitch deep into October and reclaim the best postseason pitcher of his era title ESPN has mistakenly handed over to Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling.

I believe the Braves will play the Red Sox in Game 7 of the World Series and John Smoltz will be the one who goes 10 innings this time against Beckett and wins a 1-0 game. A reversal of sorts of the Jack Morris game, with Smoltz being the old dude this time beating the fireballing young ‘un.

I believe Tim Hudson will continue to be the David Cone of this decade.

I believe Tom Glavine is more like the pitcher from his first 31 starts last season and not like the pitcher from his last three starts of 2007.

I believe Mike Hampton can stay somewhat healthy and give the Braves 100 innings.

I believe Chuck James will fill in the Hampton health gap and provide the other 100 innings Hampton can’t provide. The two of them combined will make for one helluva fifth starter.

I believe Jair Jurrjens is going to be pretty special and will be the 2008 version of Fausto Carmona.

I believe Rafael Soriano is going to be a heckuva closer. Sure, he will blow about 5 saves like all closers do because of his propensity to give up the dinger but, otherwise, he is gonna be lights out.

I believe Peter Moylan is going to continue to cause hitters to kill worms all season long.

I believe Will Ohman will be awesome now that he is away from the not so friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

I believe Royce Ring will be pretty special as well if he can learn not to cause Bobby Cox heart attacks by walking so many hitters.

I believe Tyler Yates will once again be Tyler Yates. Nothing special but pretty darn good for long stretches of the season when he is not going through awful periods where you want to shoot him.

I believe I will enjoy watching Jeff Bennett pitching like a hungry man who wants to make the baseball world regret the day they left him for dead.

I believe Brian McCann will take back the crown of best catcher in the National League from Russell Martin.

I believe Javy Lopez will provide much needed pop off the bench and hit 8 to 12 meaningful homers for the Braves this season.

I believe Tex will be a beast and win an MVP.

I believe the Braves have no shot to sign Tex.

I believe I won’t shed a tear when Tex acts like the prostitute his pimp Scott Boras has made him and he leaves the Braves.

I believe I will laugh my butt off at Tex when he signs with the Yankees or Mets and is torn to shreds.

I believe Kelly Johnson will be an All Star this season.

I believe Yunel Escobar will continue to prove he is the new and improved Derek Jeter.

I believe Omar Infante is much better than Woodward and Orr, who are most certainly not to be confused with Woodward and Bernstein.

I believe Brent Lillibridge will be a very special utility player.

I believe Chipper Jones will continue to be one of the best third baseman and switch hitters the game has ever seen.

I believe Matt Diaz will win the batting title his manager should have let him compete for the last two seasons.

I believe Brandon Jones will make all of those fellas who gave up on him early in spring training very, very sorry they did that.

I believe Mark Kotsay will be Mondesi and Jordan all over again but that will be okay because Jordan Schafer will pull what Frenchy pulled in 2005.

I believe Frenchy will take the next step and become the superstar we all expect him to become.

I believe this will be the last season for the great Bobby Cox because the Braves are going to win the World Series.

I believe Bobby, Smoltzie, Union Man Tom, Mad Dog and Javy will all ride off into the sunset together come November.

I believe that in 6 years the entire TBS Nation and Generation will flock to Cooperstown, New York as Bobby Cox, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux are all inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame together.

I believe there will not be a dry eye in the house and that no one who attends will forget the day.

I believe that although many have questioned the attendance record of Braves fans through the years, the Braves fans will set a Cooperstown attendance record should they induct that fantastic foursome in the Hall together as they all deserve.

I believe it would be a great shame if the Hall of Fame did not find a way to induct Ernie Johnson, Pete Van Wieren, and Skip Caray in on the very same day they induct Bobby, Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine.

I believe it would also be criminal if they did not find a way to induct Ted Turner and The Homeboy Upstairs in on the same day they induct Ernie, Skip, Pete, Bobby, Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine.

I believe that if they inducted all 9 of those fine baseball men into the Hall of Fame on the very same day, it would be the greatest day baseball ever had.

I believe it would be a stroke of absolute marketing genius by a game in desperate need right about now of some good p.r.

I believe that Ted Turner, Ernie Johnson, Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren, John Schuerholz, Bobby Cox, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux should all be enshrined together on the very same day.

And, yes, again, I believe the Braves will win the World Series in 2008.

~williamwallace~

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28: Faces of the Braves

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by Bob journalist

NASHVILLE, TN – Come 30 March, I’ll don my traditional tinted glasses … but until then … here’s what I think, plain and simple.

It appears that, barring injury, our lineup is all but set … the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly …

The rotation appears set … Hudson, Smoltz, Glavine, Hampton … with several good arms trying to win the final spot. Soriano is our designated closer with Moylan and Acosta setting things up.

The other part of the battery is set … McCann can and will be the backstop … Miller, Sammons, Lopez, and Pena are vying for the backup position … maybe vying is a little strong, but hopefully someone will raise their hand and claim the position. In the best condition of his life Lopez received all of the early attention and may be a Cox favorite but I would like to see Clint Sammons get the job. Of all the positions, methinks it’s our weakest.

Infante is definitely our super sub…with Jones, Escobar, Johnson and Teixeira around the diamond from 3rd to 1st. In the outfield, from left to right it’s Diaz, Kotsay, and Francoeur and a cast of four, maybe five, vying for the primary bench position.

Yes, conventional wisdom has the Braves with a starting rotation of Tim Hudson, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Mike Hampton … with Jair Jurrjens, Jo Jo Reyes, Chuck James and Buddy Carlyle competing for the final position.

I thought the trade that brought Tex to Atlanta was bad for two reasons … we needed starting pitching and Tex wasn’t a starting pitcher … and the price tag was too high in terms of what we gave up, especially for a rent-a-player. While perhaps just my singular opine, I would have liked to have seen Matt Diaz given a chance to play first base … and of course, a long term Salty in the hand was worth more than a “rent-a-bird” Tex and loss of additional prospects, methinks.

However, I thought trading Edgar for Jurrjens and Hernandez was very good because I believe Yunel is more than an adequate replacement and both Jair and Gorkys are good talents. At the same time, I thought bringing back Tom Glavine, who will soon be 42, for $8 million was fraught with peril … it’s a lot of money to pay a 42 year old pitcher. I read somewhere that the Braves jumped at the chance to get Tommy for $8 million … perhaps fools do indeed rush in. I don’t know what your expectations are for $8 million … but mine are greater than what I feel I can reasonably expect from him in 2008.

I threw every pitch I have today, and I normally don’t do that in a Spring Training game because it’s too hard … well, I’ve yet to fully buy into the notion that John’s approach to Spring Training is predicated on positives … but he is a competitor and it’s too early to sell him short.

Expectations are always subjective and there is good reason for playing the game … even Dan Patch didn’t win them all. Hopefully, Tommy will be a pleasant surprise and serve as the positive contagion John needs to have a good year … but, he is just a year younger than Glavine and his durability, given his history and 2007 problems, is a concern … as are the stats for these Hall members.

40:16-11 … 41:07-13 … Tom Seaver
41:09-14 … 42:06-14 … Steve Carlton
41:08-02 … 42:07-15 … Early Wynn
41:16-09 … 42:09-08 … Grover Cleveland Alexander
41:23-07 … 42:06-13 … Warren Spahn
40:14-08 … 41:??-?? … John Smoltz.
41:13-08 … 42:??-?? … Tom Glavine.

Mike Hampton, who is suffering from what is described as a groin strain … following his hamstring problem in Mexico, seems to be throwing well without experiencing arm/elbow discomfort. While everyone wishes Mike well and hopes for the best, that the Braves are placing such hopes on someone who hasn’t pitched in two years is also a concern. I don’t know the answer but I do wonder what the 5 all time best won-loss records are for pitchers attempting comebacks following their not having pitched in 2 or more years.

Quoting honest team player and leader “Hoss”, … Last year, Smoltz and Huddy were great, but our three-four-five guys couldn’t get past the fifth inning and our pen wound up in shambles … honestly, we were lucky to get to .500 Hopefully, with a good year from Glavine and getting some production from Hampton, you’re not running rookies out there. With such confidence, it’s little wonder that he was reluctant to put on the leotard. Perhaps, with such positive contagion coming from our team leader, we were indeed lucky to “get to .500” … it’s a team game … but we started 2007 with Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzalez and Bob Wickman … and expected Boyer to contribute.

Soriano has been designated the team’s closer as we enter 2008 but he has yet to pitch during Spring Training … with his 2004 “Tommy John” surgery 3 ½ years behind him, Rafael doesn’t seem worried about his current soreness which is being attributed to Spring Training irritation following offseason inactivity.

Soriano’s discomfort near his elbow seems to be improving … at least that was the evaluation after completing his March 7th bullpen session … My elbow feels better today than yesterday. Yesterday all I did was play catch. Today it was just a little bit sore, but not the same. I asked them to let me throw … everything was good.

Rafael remains a concern, regardless of health issues … I frequently suggest that the key to pitching success is “above the neck” … and while so saying may just be a personal penchant, methinks Soriano’s history makes it appropriate to express such concerns relative to our expectations for him as a closer … he has his demons, and like on the “To Tell The Truth” game show, methinks there is some question as to his identity. Yes, he’s got the stuff … I just hope he doesn’t have multiple personalities as well.

Hopefully, the diagnosis and evaluation regarding Soriano’s physical condition are correct … and he gets off to a good start, exceeding all expectations … but, should that not be, we do have options in Peter Moylan and Manny Acosta … and Mike Gonzales is expected to return in early June.

Were it me, I’d use a modified six man rotation … (1) Hudson, (2) Jurrjens, (3) Smoltz, (4) Hampton, (5) Glavine … and (6) Carlyle or Reyes. Yes, it’s a modified rotation … designed to match John, Tommy, and Mike against the back end of the opposing team’s rotation … relieving stress and giving us a matchup advantage in a majority of our games. The sixth man is a floating spot starter since it’s not expected that Hudson, Smoltz, Hampton and Glavine will be able to perform as a group without interruption.

Obviously, there would be difficulties in effectively effecting such a rotation, but methinks for each such difficulty, there would be a way.

I initially disliked the Mark Kotsay trade, primarily because of “above the neck” concerns associated with his back problems … offensively and defensively … and my desire to see Jordan Schafer, Josh Anderson, Brandon Jones and Gregor Blanco in the mix for the 2008 CF position. That hasn’t changed … but, conventional wisdom will again rule and Kotsay will be in Center, barring unexpected changes in his performance.

I want to see Matt Diaz playing every day but Bobby Cox wisdom is almost certain to again find justification for not so doing. However, Kotsay will be a good addition … if he is used as the fifth outfielder, available as needed … with Anderson and/or Schafer given a chance to be the starting Centerfielder.

While we might well sign Tex to a long term contract, that would not be my expectation and I would not keep Thorman as his backup in 2008 … which again may be the current intent. No, my projected 2009 outfield would consist of Schafer, Anderson, Jones, and Francoeur … with Diaz spending the winter honing his skill set at first base. Conventional wisdom won’t allow it to happen but, we’d be a better team methinks.

Omar Infante and Will Ohman … now that’s a trade I liked, though final judgment will be reserved until we see how Ohman pitches at The Ted … his performance at “The Friendly Confines” has been poor under any standard, but so too has been his performance at “Home”.

Regardless of how Will fares, expectations are that Omar will be a definite upgrade over what we had last year … last season, he hit .271 for the Tigers in 66 games …playing six different positions … he didn’t pitch, catch, or play first base.

The lineup is anybody’s guess … conventional wisdom rules against what I’d like to see …

Kelly Johnson

Yunel Escobar

Matt Diaz

Chipper Jones

Mark Teixeira

Brian McCann

Jeff Francouer

Starting Pitcher

Mark Kotsay

The idea is to best the pitcher and score runs … and I think that lineup would do the best job of so doing. I’ve favored having the pitcher bat eighth for over 50 years … to my knowledge, Dixie Walker never tried it but he looked at the lineup as a circle rather than a straight line and liked the idea … that convinced me … but of course, kids are easy to convince.

Were I a beet righter, I’d ask the players, the coaches, and the manager … all the same question … What are you going to do differently this season?I’ll admit that it’s not a very profound question … but it’s short and easy for a beet righter to remember.

Unfortunately, methinks that most of the answers would most likely be but variations of the same message … of course, most players need answers that short and easy for them to remember.

Well, that’s the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly … the question is … which will it be?

~Bob~

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27: Idylls (and idols) of Spring, and their subterranean counterparts

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by The Grinch

PALMETTO, GA – Spring, as a season, is traditionally about new beginnings. Metaphorically, mythologically, and even literally (don’t forget about all the various forms of flora and fauna that reappear). Even I become bored with my latest batch of stolen presents around the beginning of April. There comes a time when I stand at the edge of Grinch Mountain, reduced from my winter fasting, shed my scaly winter skin like a snake and emerge a smoother, younger Grinch with slightly lighter, glossier plumage. I celebrate by sacrificing a few young maidens (they flock to the mountain in droves), cracking a beer and turning on TBS. Well, at least until TBS decided “Raymond” reruns were a better idea than the Braves.

Anyhoo, every new baseball season also brings with it a new crop of young children as fans; kids who learn from their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, how incredibly important and wonderful baseball is and it becomes an integral part of their lives for the first time. Ballplayers aren’t lucky or greedy or mean or business-first to them, or even real people. They’re heroes. Genuine heroes that are looked up to as tiny gods. Do you all remember what that felt like in its pure, unadulterated form? The players know this too (though not as many as used to, alas), and many go out of their way to make a little gesture to kids knowing how important it is to their young lives. Watching it happen over and over on the faces of children on tv and at the ballpark are some of my favorite reasons for watching.

Thus I attended my first Spring Training camp this year at the tender age of 34, expecting to see lots of parents and kids down there getting autographs and sharing magical moments. I was not disappointed in this; there was many a kind ballplayer or coach, and many a happy child (and happy parents)…I could list
a number of scenes that were positively heartwarming.

However, everything was almost ruined on my last day by a large number of truly reprehensible people that made the entire experience almost collapse for everyone else. A bunch of thirty and forty-something businessmen shoved their way through the decent folk and spent the day making everyone’s lives miserable. They kept calling out to the players such gems as
“Hey, we paid twelve bucks to get in here, you guys gonna come over here and sign or what,” and “You know how freakin’ long we drove to get down here?” If those weren’t helpful enough, they finally started insulting Bobby while he was trying to observe batting practice, calling his intelligence, strategy and
morals into question quite loudly then demanding he come over and sign. When Bobby finally responded “I can’t right this minute, I’m trying to do my job” they responded “Job? You call this a job? We work 50-odd hours a week for 30 grand a year, now THAT’s a job.” Etc. Finally, the very mild mannered old man watching the gate came over and asked them to please tone it down. When a few players actually came over to sign anyway, these guys had stuff ready and charged to the front, knocking parents and kids alike out of the way. (One of them stepped on my foot to get in between me and McCann while his buddy glared at me from behind a camera tripod he was holding like a bat in case I made a move, forcing me to pack up and walk off before I started a riot).

I found out from others later that these guys had been around recruiting kids to go forward and get balls signed, then bring them back for 10 bucks. Another guy managed to track down Hank (who was trying not to be seen), got his autograph anyway, then got ANGRY because he’d signed in sharpie.

Now, I’m no stranger to ugly people, and normally this wouldn’t have bothered me, but it was all in front of the kids. Kids of parents who’d taken off work and come from long ways off to experience something special might remember those %$^#s instead of what they were meant to.

These kind of people, greedy players like Tex and A-Rod, greedy owners who do things like change TBS’ format (trust me, this move alone will reduce the Braves’ popularity around the country by a large margin), irresponsible owners who fling ridiculous contracts at players that throw everything else off
balance, Scot Boras (who needs no introduction), $7 beers, $6 hot dogs, $3 bottled water, etc…all this is leading towards the destruction of yet another sport I love (I officially held a funeral for NASCAR in 2002, and boxing died 10 years earlier).

I’m sure that we all have a huge number of fond baseball memories (many of which have been shared on this blog already) and I for one have no desire to see this get any worse. If (and that’s a very, very big if) I ever have any Grinchlets, I want to take the same pride in introducing something pure and wonderful to them as was done for me at an early age without
having to explain all the disgusting stuff that has risen to the surface of the sport like a bloated corpse in a sewer drain.

What can be done? Anything?

Or do we just let it’s distilled essence deteriorate gradually and eventually fade into dust like so many sepia-toned heroes of the past?

~Grinch~

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26: Writing beets is not easy!

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by Chop Seal

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL – Hello, Everbudy!

Writing beets is not easy. I work all day and then somebody asks me to blog. I blog and then somebody asks me to write game stories. I write game stories and then somebody says something about me calling Manny Hernandez, Manny Fernandez. Well, I don’t have to take this! yOU LOOSERS!

Just kidding. 😆 Beet writing is growing on me – like a fungus, but there is plenty of ointment down hear at camp and I have made friends with some of the clubhouse attendants (wink, wink). Can get all the ointment I want.

Now, let’s talk some baseball.

I am very impressed with the direction the Braves appear to be traveling. There are some good young players in camp and one, Gorkys Hernandez, reminds me of a young jimmy smith. Gorkys is very good looking and highly intelligent but speaks almost no English. He has a major league arm and pretty good speed. Alas, Gorkys is only 20 years old so we won’t see him in Atlanta for awhile.

You can’t necessarily sit down and have a conversation with Gorkys, but he understands baseball talk and being around Chino he now understands donuts and milk shakes.

I am very happy to be hear at Dizney World. Mickey Mouse is very nice but not at all talkative. Donald Duck is also very nice. Goofy appears slow-witted – could be a beet writer in waiting.

When I got hear I asked for directions to Cracker Jack Stadium and the cab driver pointed at me and laughed. I thought it was because I am a beet writer but that was not it. There is no Cracker Jack Stadium anymore, it’s Champion Stadium – formerly known as Disney Field, Disney’s Wide World of Sports, Cracker Jack Stadium and The Ballpark at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. I think if they would pay their bills on time they would not need to change the name so much.

I am starting to like Bobby Cox. He is so forgetful. I think he puts things in places and then can’t find them later. Up close you can see that he’s put a lot of things on his cap – yuck!

Well, I leeve you with a beet writer story:

“Pardon me, lady”, said the beet writer trying to get back to his seat in the darkened movie theater, “but did I step on your toes a few minutes ago?”

“You certainly did!!”, said the woman in the aisle seat.

“Good, then I’m in the right row!” the beet writer said as he went back to his seat.

Pleeze, Carulina Lady, make me a collumist soon!

Bye, Everbudy! Go Braves!

~Chop Seal~

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