Archive for the 'Bobby Cox' Category

#133: The Future Is Now

Vox O'Raisins

Vox O’Raisins

 

2015 STARTS NOW

Not feeling very good about our team this morning. Let me clarify… not feeling good about it as a whole. Sure, there are elements and players that I still am glad we have. Freddie, Jason (hopefully for more than just 2015), Simba, most of the pitching staff…

But as a whole, this team was more than just painful, they were embarrassing. At a time when the Braves faced must-win games at home, when they had to show their mettle, they were outscored 27-9 over six games. They were shutout twice. They scored in just 4 innings out of 53. 4 out of 53! They managed just 3 ER off 6 starting pitchers. In all my years of watching baseball, I’ve never seen anything like it. This was beyond collapse. Something has to be standing up to collapse. This team seemed as though they never got off the bench.

I need to qualify that statement. Our pitchers need to sue the rest of the team for non-support. We have a lineup full of dead-beat-batters. Our starters have notched a league leading 108 quality starts through game 156 to date this season. The segment that should have an excuse, that was truly decimated before pitch 1 of game 1, leads MLB in quality starts. Yet, the Braves are heading toward a sub-.500 team for only the 3rd time since 1990.

It’s mind-boggling.Upton-BJ.Wren

Things change over time, and sometimes change quickly. Two weeks ago, I advocated for Frank to be given one more shot to correct his mistakes. As recently as a few days ago, I half-heartedly stood up for Fredi in that he has been dealt a rotten hand. But the series against the Mets revealed more than just the obvious flaws we’ve discussed ad nauseum. Frank assembled a team that lacks certain necessary game elements to be effective, and he allowed the team’s leaders to leave at the same time. His inability to get along with other staff directly led to long-time and highly respected scout Dom Chiti and coveted pitching instructor Dave Wallace leaving for other teams. And it was revealed over the weekend that John Schuerholz is the one that stepped in to the breach and prevented Roger McDowell from departing to the Phillies. This team lost several strong planks and attempted to replace them with Popsicle sticks. The boat is sinking, fellas.

Fredi Gonzalez

Fredi Gonzalez

As for Fredi, yes he was dealt a rotten hand. But he looked totally lost and defeated over this last week as well. He appeared to be grasping at straws. And while he did seem to manage his pitchers better this year, his mis-handling of Even Gattis is just unforgivable to me. And let’s not forget this is the 2nd September in the last 3 that the Braves looked like they were making vacation reservations early.

No, there is much work to be done both on and off the field. We have 2 years left before we open a brand new ballpark and a new era for the team. There is no way that Terry McGuirk and John Schuerholz are going to let this bunch pave the way. This is the offseason for the foundation to be laid. Frank is and Fredi should be gone, along with Walker/Fletcher and Tosca, and likely Dascenzo. I still believe TP and EP should be safe, given their long term ties to the championship days of this team.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves

At least John Schuerholz finally did what had to be done and canned Wren and his right hand man Burse Manno more changes are likely. My money is on John Coppolella, but with the appointment of John Hart as interim GM and the announcement of a blue ribbon search committee consisting of Schuerholtz, Hart and surprisingly Bobby Cox, anything is possible. That said, the new guy will get started with evaluating the team top to bottom.

I would have liked to see TP lead the last 7 games to see what he’s got. I’d would be nice to see if he could rally the troops and get this team to show some pride before heading to the beach or the golf course or the woods. However, perhaps his recent back trouble precluded that. That and Bobby Cox’s support of Fredi Gonzalez.  For better or worse, Bobby still appears to be willing to take a bullet for his guy.

As far as any great hope for 2014, it walked out the door yesterday. The push for 2015 should started today.

~ Raisins ~

 

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#132: PO-TEN-TIAL

Vox O'Raisins

by Vox O’Raisins

PO·TEN-TIAL
adjective:  having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future
noun:  
1. latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness
2. physics:  the quantity determining the energy of mass in a gravitational field                                 or of charge in an electric field.

 

The Braves simply do not have the pieces in place to be a championship team, and I have to keep reminding myself that they are very young. What are they missing?

Dizzy Dean

Dizzy Dean

 

 

 

#1.  a rotation leading ace. That’s right, I said it again. It’s much ballyhooed, and much debated, but a champion has an ace to lead the way. Julio has the potential, but an ace doesn’t go into a critical game, get a lead, and wet his pants.  Julio did that yesterday.  Most championship contenders have that tough 1-2 punch, like Kershaw-Greinke or Verlander-Scherzer.. The Braves have… uh, Teheran-Harang?

 

FredMcGriff3

 

 

#2.  a slugger. One might think about Gattis or JUp or Freddie. The NL HR leader as of today is the Fish’ Stanton with 26. The closest Brave is JUp with 19, tied for 7th. The league RBI leader as of today is also Stanton with 74. The closest Brave is JUp with 64, tied for 8th. Both are middle of the road of 15 teams. Not championship caliber.

 

Chipp4

 

 

#3.  a leader. The great teams have a strong character leading the way ala Chipper Jones. The current Braves have a couple of Cali surfers, a couple of guys from a FLA retirement haven, and a handful of dudes who barely speak English. The only 2 guys who show any fire at all are BJ, who vents his K frustrations at umpires, and Chris Johnson, whom I really think may be a little unstable.

 

 

Here’s a curveball for you…

Fredi Gonzalez

Fredi Gonzalez

 

I have vented plenty at Fredi, and I think he has deserved most of that, but to be honest he’s been dealt a pretty rotten hand. And none of us knows how much pressure he gets from above to play certain players. His biggest fault may simply be that he doesn’t handle the press as deftly as Bobby, and therefor makes himself out to look like a doof. He’s had pitchers go down quicker than a Malaysian airliner, multiple black holes in his lineup, and no clear productive hitters on which to hinge any lineups. And somehow, even after a historic roadie to the worst coast, we are still in the hunt in mid-August. I guess he can do something right.

Here’s the 2-edged sword. Things are not likely to improve a whole lot over the off-season. We’re locked in to most of our pieces, and don’t have the financial flexibility to make any significant upgrades. But the flip side is that Julio does have ace-potential. Freddie does have slugger-potential. And any number of our youngsters could step up and become a leader.. potentially. But it’s all potential.  I had a coach in high school who taught me that “potential just means you ain’t done $#!+ yet.” I guess the key word is “yet”.

Will those elements emerge? Maybe. The potential is on the roster. But they ain’t done $#!+ yet…

~ Vox O’Raisins ~

#130: Time to pull the plug, Frank….

Gil

Gil in Mechanicsville, VA

The Dan Uggla situation has extended beyond what any reasonable person should have to endure. I think  everyone gets it, Dan is past his prime and the Marlins snookered the Braves into taking a guy who was going to be  way over priced. The Braves should  have seen it for what it was. It is like many other GMs  discovered in the past  when trading the Braves for a  pitcher whom the Bravos had given up on. Said  pitchers hardly ever recovered  after being discarded by the Braves.UgglaSigns

Perhaps it is Frank Wren’s ego which will not allow him to admit he made a mistake. Message to Frank, get over it. If you don’t make a mistake or two, you are not trying hard enough. Okay, Kenshin Kawakami was a huge goof but Bobby Cox was involved in that a little bit. Never sign a pitcher who you have not personally seen in action yourself. Of course Melvin Upton may be on track to equal that blunder in scope. I’ve said it before, Melvin Junior stands to be the Braves’ Jason Bay. At least we all understood when you were forced to sign Derek Lowe for 4 years and $60 million, the Braves needed pitching and the Braves did actually get some value from him.

Get over it Frank, cut the cord and move on. You have to look at the situation as the cost of doing business. Salary is salary, whether you are paying one guy 90% or everyone gets an equal share, at the end of the day, it is what you are paying your team. It is why most teams are loath to give more than a three year contract and players push for huge payouts because it guarantees them a spot on a roster, no matter have miserably they fail.

Dan Uggla

Dan Uggla

So let it be with Dan Uggla, even if he is released tomorrow, it will not be the worse failure or bad trade the Braves have ever had. That distention still belongs to Ted Turner for the Len Barker trade and to Jonathan Schuerholz for when he traded away the farm in 2007 for Mark Texeria. Of course, the Rangers were pretty happy with what they got. It propelled them into the World Series for a couple of years. That said, think about how Billy Bean felt after trading away Tim Hudson for Tommy Tee and two pitching prospects who never panned out.

Uggla

Uggla

Throughout Dan’s exile to the nether world of the far end of the bench, all we have heard is how Dan has stayed professional. Working hard to stay ready and rooting for his teammates despite the fact he has become persona non grata on the 25 man roster. hey, he has done some good things for the team. Perhaps the Braves can restructure his contract so he gets paid $1 million dollars a year for the next 30 or so years in exchange to agreeing to his release. The Braves are going to have to pay him anyway. Dan is not stupid, he is not going to quit or refuse an assignment. After all, if the Braves are willing to play with a 24 man roster, he is willing to also serve for another season and one half.

Not every trade is a bad one, sometimes you get lucky. Chris Johnson is a great example of that. So keep the line moving

Gil2

 

 

125: Hall Of Fame: Destiny Fulfilled

by Gil Elliott 'Gil from Mechanicsville'

by Gil Elliott
‘Gil from Mechanicsville’

This past week, we discovered that two essential parts of the long time Braves’ stellar pitching triumphant were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Greg Maddux, aka Doggie, was without question one of the best pitchers ever to tie up a pair of baseball cleats. Those of us who were blessed with the opportunity to see Maddux pitch both in person or via the once venerable super station TBS remember so many of the gems hurled in under two hours. In an age where the average American League game often extended into four hours, when Greg was scheduled to pitch, you could still watch the game and bet on it being over early enough for you to watch your favorite prime time TV show.

Mad Dog

Mad Dog

I doubt Greg Maddux was the inventor of the strategy of pitching to contact, but he certainly was the master of its implementation. Often asked if he thought he would ever pitch a no hitter, he would reply that he doubted it. It just was not part of his game. Never blessed with the power to blow away hitters, he did possess the mind of a genius when it came to setting up hitters and keeping the ball off the sweet spot of the bat. Barry Bonds referred to him as old dipsy doddle because he never threw anything straight. Watching the game on TV allowed for us was to see the incredible movement on the ball no matter what he pitched. Ball control was his game. Anytime he issued a walk, it was of the intentional verity. The same is said of whenever he hit a batter. While he would profess innocence, everyone in the park knew his control was so fine, it was unfathomable that he could let one slip. He once pitched 51 consecutive innings without issuing a walk. Seldom did he throw more than three pitches to a batter. Of course in his typical self depreciating style, when ask to what he attributed his success, he cited having Rafael Furcal and Andrew Jones behind him certainly helped because he knew when the ball was struck, one of them would catch it.

Glavine

Glavine

The other first ballot Hall of Farmer elected who was a huge part of the Braves’ success was Tom Glavine. Another cerebral kind of guy, his game was also to make you hit his pitch. Often that pitch was a devastating change up. He lived on the outside for so long, the strike zone would became where ever he decided it should be on a particular start. When he found that batters started crowding the plate in anticipation of his extended strike zone, he learned that pitching inside was a winning strategy too.

Glavine likely would have won his 300th game as a Brave were it not for folks pushing the limits of a relationship and Tom calling the Braves’ bluff on an inside straight. I remember Glavine starting one All Star game and giving up six consecutive singles in the first inning, all ground balls. Needless to say, the National League lost that game but it was not until years later we discovered that Glavine was pitching with two cracked ribs in that game. Not that he didn’t execute his game plan, it was just the AL was hitting them where they won’t. That was the thing about Tom Terrific, he showed other pitchers on the team you did not have to be 100% to take your turn on the mound and still be successful. It also proves one can do what he is supposed to do but it still takes 8 other guys on a team to win. Glavine possessed a certain amount of grit, likely accrued from his youth hockey days. He showed others how to play through the pain. A lot of Braves fans never forgave Tom for signing with the Mets in 2003 nor his role as the President of the Baseball Player’s Association when the player’s strike of 1994 derailed the season. Say what you will, I believe it only demonstrated further his abilities as a leader both on and off the field.

Having a Hall of Fame manager to guide them did not hurt the pair either. Bobby Cox, BobbyCoxwho will also sit on the podium along with Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Frank Thomas, managed his teams to success, no matter their make up. Often the Braves were accused of always waiting for the three run homer to win games, seldom stealing bases or other wise employing the running game but Bobby was simply playing with the cards he was dealt. The speedy Furcal would often turn a game into a one nothing affair after legging out a single, stealing second, moving to third on a ground ball hit to second and scoring on a sac fly. Dion Sanders was another speedster employed by Cox but the two things a Bobby Cox team was known for were pitching and solid defense. Having players in the outfield who could “go get it”. Something that often contributed to the Braves pitching staff having the league leading ERA at the end of each season.

Smoltz2aHopefully, in 2015 we will be able to applaud the selection of John Smoltz, the third leg of the trinity of Braves pitching. John was the antithesis of Glavine and Maddux, relying upon power and an overwhelming split-finger pitch as opposed to finesse but that is a topic for discussion on another day.

Leo's Staff

Days of Glory

HOF2014

99: Flippin’ The Calendar

By Voice of Reason Raisins

Jefferson, GA (i.e. God’s country) – Yeah, I know we’re in the middle of an exciting and tight pennant race here in 2010, but I have 2011 on my mind.  It’s coming whether we have a Championship season or not.

So, here are my top 10 questions for 2011…

Freddie Gonzalez

#1:  Is there any covert agreement in place with Fredi, or are the reports true in that the Braves have given him no indication at all that he’s a candidate to manage here next season? Is Fredi really even the best candidate to replace Bobby? If not, who is? What about the current coaches? Clean house, or keep some/all? Who?

Rockin' Leo

#2: Very much related to #1… Leo has made absolutely no bones about his desire to return to the Braves as pitching coach. He also has indirectly been somewhat critical of how some of the pitchers are handled, and of some of the pitching philosophies being taught. Could we see Leo part 2? Fredi was here with Leo, not Roger…

#3: What about Omar? If Chipper returns, which he seems bent on doing, Martin goes back to 2B. What then of Omar. In my mind, he has established himself as an everyday player and as a top notch leadoff hitter. Where does he play? SS? Would Frank let Gonzo’s option go and make Omar the everyday SS? Maybe he could be our everyday LF. (I contend that Omar’s versatility will give Frank more offseason options than just locking in on one specific position.)

#4: This really isn’t a question, more of an assertion. Frank has to fix CF. Ankiel is a nice defensive guy, but not a starter for a contender. Melky is not an option (maybe a non-tender option, but not a starting option) and Schafer has a long, long road back. This may be Frank’s toughest offseason job next to hiring a manager (which ought to be easier than it appears.) Who’s available?

Nate McLouth

#5: What to do with Nate? He makes too much $$$ to just DFA. Nobody will take his contract from us. What do we do with him? This is a tough one…
#6: Non-tenders:   Diaz? Melky? Both are real possibilities, especially if we have to sit on Nate’s salary. I won’t be surprised to see both non-tendered, and a youngster (read: major league minimum salary player) kept as 4th outfielder. Maybe Brent Clevlen or Matt Young. Maybe Willie Cabrera. (http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?pos=&sid=t431&t=p_pbp&pid=488757 )

#7: And what of KK? He won’t be in the 2011 rotation plans, so can he be traded? I think he really needs to pitch well for us in the next 4 weeks to redeem his value. He only has one year left on his deal, and it isn’t terribly unreasonable in the current inflated salary environment. Did I mention that he really needs to pitch well over the next few weeks?

Jonny Venters

#8: Who closes? Kimbrell? He was the heir apparent early in the season. That is until Venters came from nowhere and impressed everyone, including current door-slammer Wagsy. Wags says Venters has the best stuff on the staff. The whole staff. That’s some pretty stout words. Bobby has never felt really comfortable handing closer duties over to a youngster, but then again Bobby won’t be here, will he?

#9:  Who’s the next star in the pipeline to keep our eye on? It was Hanson for 2009, then

Matt Lipka

Heyward for 2010, and now Freeman seemingly taking over at 1B in 2011. So, who is the next one to watch? Is it just one, or the troika (first on blog?) of Aroydis Vizcaino, Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado? We know they’re coming, and we’re all licking our chops over this new wave of talented tossers.  But what about position players? Maybe it’s young SS prospect Matt Lipka. You remember him, right? This year’s top pick… speedster… He had a stellar rookie season in the GCL, and was rewarded with a post-GCL promotion to Danville for their playoff run. He finished his inaugural pro campaign with a slash line of .296/.353/.392 with 34 R, 8 2B, 4 3B, 1 HR, 24 RBI, 22 K, 21/24 SB. You see the last part? 21 steals in 24 attempts. Also, notice he had only 22 K’s in almost 200 AB’s. He’s a few years away, but he looks like a good’un for sure. I’ll be keeping my eyes on him. Did I mention 21 out of 24?

#10: How will the Braves respond after fending off the Phillies, Padres, Reds, and Rays and winning it all in true Hollywood fashion to send HOF’er Bobby Cox into the sunset with his 2nd World Series title? (OK, maybe this part is a bit presumptuous, but it’s my list, so there…)

~Raisins~

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

Leo with Glavine, Avery, Mercker, Maddux & Smoltz

Editor’s Note:  Found this photo and just had to insert it for old times’ sake.

Were they truly that young??

98: Fish or Cut Bait: Time for the Braves to Make Up Their Minds

By Gil in Mechanicsville

MECHANICSVILLE, VA – So, here we sit with about six weeks to go in a season that has seen the good, the bad and the ugly from the Atlanta Braves. Early season doldrums returned immediately following the All-star break and as of the this writing we have watched as the once comfortable cushion of 6 games in front of our closest pursuers shrink to two as the Philadelphia Phillies have put on an incredible run of thirteen wins in fifteen games. The scariest part may be they have done it without their best players on the field and a bullpen that rivals some of the worse Atlanta has ever assembled.

And here we thought our old nemesis, the New York Mets, would be our biggest problem. Well, I guess our good friend John Smoltz tagged it right when he dubbed the NL East as the shoots-and-ladders division.  Shame on us for thinking that maybe the Braves would run away with this thing. After all, don’t we still need that “Big Bat” in the middle of the order?

Martin Prado

The loss of Marteen Prado has been muted somewhat by the outstanding play of Omar Infante’ in his place. One wonders how the Braves would fare without Marteen’s prolific bat missing from the

Omar Infante

line-up but Omar has hardly missed a beat.  Dare we guess how the Braves might perform with both Infante and Prado in the lineup together on a regular basis?  While Marteeen appears to have cooled somewhat since the beginning of the final series with the Mets prior to the All-star break, it was not due to a lack of contact but more as a results of the law of averages catching up to him as those line drives he was stroking began to be hit directly at people.

J Heyward (photo: P. Skinner. ajc)

On the up side, maybe Jason Heyward is finally understanding that while hitting the ball the other way is a good skill to have, always hitting to the off field can make you pretty predictable too and cause you to be an easy out in the line up. It is good to see the Braves Rookie of the Year candidate start to hit the ball with authority to right field again.  Sometimes you need to be in scoring position while standing at home plate. That’s not to say we want to see J-Hey swinging for the fences every at bat but he needs to remind opposing pitchers of what he is capable of occasionally to keep them honest.

Chipper Jones may have found his lost stroke again too. After watching him struggle for the first eight weeks of the season, I think we were all wondering if Larry had indeed reached the end of the line. Right now, the Braves truly need for him to step up.   Chipper is capable of carrying this team for extended periods and now would be the perfect time for him to do it.

It’s my opinion that Troy Glaus is the biggest question mark.  His work around the first base bag has been stellar at times and he sure has made some pretty outstanding plays snagging errant throws from the infielders.  Of course, we all know that Troy was not acquired for his

Troy Glaus

potential defensive prowess at first but to add some right handed pop in the middle of the line-up.  We all thought Frank Wren might have made the steal of the century in signing Glaus to a low cost, low risk contract when he lit up the scoreboard in late May and July.  Sadly, as his knees began to show their age and  his bat did the same. The Braves woeful record of failing to hit with men in scoring position can be directly attributed to Glaus’ lack of production.  Since the departure of Texieria , the Braves assembly of hitters has not exactly struck fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers. There  are  so many glaring holes in the lineup that pitchers feel no need to pitch to Chipper Jones or Brian McCann when they know there was an declining Troy Glaus or an out of sync Nate McLouth in the on deck circle.

Chipper & Mac

Still, that brings me back to the Braves most pressing  need, that one big bat in the middle of the order that forces opposing teams to throw to Jones and McCann. Without a guy who can consistently put a three run homer on you if you walk guys like Brian and Chipper, opposing teams will continue to load the bases with apparent impunity. Protection can pay big dividends, just ask the guys who hit ahead of Fielder and Howard.

So, the question remains, will the Braves pull the trigger and make the trade for that final piece, will they call up Freddie Freeman or will they simply stand pat? We are not privy to how much money the Braves have to work with nor do we know if the Braves front office is content to make it to the playoffs or seriously wants to vie for a World Series title in Bobby’s final year.  That said, without that final piece to the matrix,  the Braves may yet find themselves on the outside looking in come October because only four teams from each division are going to the big dance and there are at least eight teams in the running for a date.

Great pitching can carry you a long way but you still need to help them out by scoring more runs than the opposition.  Unlike soccer, baseball games do not finish in O-O ties.

~Gil~

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

97: Frank has some work to do….

By Voice of  Reason Raisins

Jefferson, GA (God’s country) – I am glad Jason Heyward finally admitted that his thumb injuryJason Heyward has been contributing to his offensive woes. Denying it is the first semblance of immaturity I have seen in the kid, especially in light of Jordan Schafer spectacle of 2009. Really… what was Heyward thinking? That he’d lose his Major League job? Please…

I think the injury to HeyHey only underscores the Braves need to pick up an everyday LF. At the moment, we have Omar serving as the RH compliment to Hinske with Brandon Hicks as the backup SS.

I say, “Nay, nay.”

This should not be. Omar is the back up SS/super sub. The key word there is “sub”. He makes this team stronger as a sub, not as a regular. If we had an everyday LF capable of batting in the middle of the lineup, then we could have both Hinske and Omar on our bench, occasionally spelling the regulars and keeping everyone fresh… not to mention coming to the plate in late innings with runners on base instead of Brandon Hicks.  KnowhatImean?

Nate McLouth

The CF situation already stretches this team thin as far as OF goes. My hope is that Nate’s extended time off will allow him to return to vintage form. Or if nothing else, the Braves can see that he will not, and to do something about it. Melky has been hot lately, but do we really want to count on that to continue into October?

Again, I say, “Nay, nay.”

This team would be best constructed with Melky serving as the 4th OF. Do I think that Frank should address 2 OF positions before the trade deadline? Maybe. It’s not job #1, but something will have to be done. — Nate, Schafer… heck, maybe even Blanco. He hasn’t been terrible, you know. He certainly hasn’t been a downgrade from Nate. I don’t care, but consistency has to be found. Melky is not consistency. Melky is a day off. Somebody needs to step up. Else Frank has some tough choices.

My beloved Braves are a 1st place team not by accident, but by pure hard work, desire and talent. Oh, they are talented. They are absolutely talented. They have a good mix of veterans and young players, they have terrific pitching, they have grit and energy… they are a playoff team. But, as currently constructed, they have flaws. Those flaws will become more and more exposed as the season grows longer, and really exposed in any post-season that may occur.

Frank must acquire an everyday LF. Period. CF might take care of itself. Or it might just take alot of prayer, duct tape, bubble gum and grinding until October. But LF has to be addressed.

As we move into September, and all of our games are against the NL East, it’ll essentially feel like a full month of playoffs. It’ll also stress this team like a full month of playoffs. The current roster won’t take those stresses.  It’ll fly apart at the seams like Oprah’s girdle.

I say, “Nay, nay.”

I say Frank should take care of it now. We need a LF. Anybody got the number to Outfielders ‘R’ Us?

~Raisins~

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

96: Your Schizophrenic Atlanta Braves!

by Berigan

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your schizophrenic Atlanta Braves!

Well, what does one make of this team??  After that wondrous opening day win by the score of 16-5, they looked like world beaters. On May 4th, they were 11-14, the only team in the east with a sub .500 record.

At one point this year, they had worst road record in the league (5-14) and a .217 road batting average. If the manager was anyone not named Bobby Cox, he would have been on such a hot seat, he would have to wear asbestos underwear!

We all know they looked like a team that had the life sucked out of them. I don’t know if any team on a losing streak looks quite as helpless as the Braves do. Heck, I’m not tellin’ y’all anything you don’t already know about the Braves on the skids. Or am I?? Nope…don’t think so.

But, what I do know is it’s bad form to start a sentence with a conjunction. Do it all the time though. Plus, gotta pad this out….pretty sure a  blog lead has to be at least 100 words, right??  😉  [Editor’s note: At minimum, Ber!]

On May 23rd, the team was 5-1 in the previous 6 road games, after going 5-14 in first 19. That’s kind of hard for a team to do, but nothing is impossible with the 2010 version of the team! 😛 Over the last 10 games, the Braves are 7-3. In the same span, the Phillies are 4-6, have completely stopped hitting, and only have a 2 1/2 game lead over the Bravos. Now…we all know if there is one certainty in this sport, the Phils will hit. So…can we really compete with that team or are the Braves just a wildcard team??

Imagine if Liberty had been more concerned about keeping Heyward from being a super 2 player and he was being held back like Stephen Strasburg has been for the Nats? We would be in last place and out of the hunt, no doubt about it. Have to give credit where credit is due.

Don’t know if Wren, J.S, etc had to put in a big fight about this, but so very glad we have had the chance to see a future (present?) Superstar in action.

And (oops, conjunction again!) while it looked a few weeks ago that there was no chance of the playoffs this year, right now, we are in the thick of a playoff race and that’s a good thing! 🙂

Is this thing long enough??? Hmmm, what else can I add…Hey, did I mention a list I saw that listed the top 10 switch hitters of all time? Chipper was ranked number 2! Then, I looked down the list, saw no Ted Simmons. Chili Davis was 10th. 1372 RBI’s .274 BA.  Read  in the comments that Ted Simmons was 11th on this writer’s list.  A guy who drove in 1389 RBI’s and had a .285 BA. All the while catching. Sigh….no respect, Simba gets no respect. There, just the perfect length. 😆    [Editor’s note: FYI, Ber, 490 words. 🙂 ]

~Berigan~

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

95: Opening Day With The Wildcat

.

by epriseWildcat

ENTERPRISE, AL – The wildcat is home from the most amazing baseball game I’ve ever seen. WOW!!!

The opening ceremony was fantastic. Well… except the fly-by which was mistimed and showed up half way through the national anthem. From my vantage point in section 225 we could not see the planes at all.

Heyward, Rich Addicks AP

Look who is standing respectfully, attentively and quietly. Photo by Rich Addicks, AP

Oh well… that was the about the only thing that went wrong for the Braves. Well… there was D. Lowe’s first inning. Yuk!!! From our vantage point there was no strike zone and there was no sink to his sinker. We’re lucky they only scored three!

As for our young right fielder Mr. Heyward there is no way to describe the excitement he generated with that blast deep into Braves bullpen. The Ted went absolutely crazy. The ball he hit was still rising from my vantage point deep into right field. It was a shot!!! I should also mention how smooth and graceful he is in the outfield. Amazing! This kid will be a fixture for the Braves for many years. The symbolic first pitch from Hank to Jason tells the story perfectly.

Hank & Heyward - ajc photo by Phil Skinner

Good gosh, there were Cub fans everywhere. It would be easy to over estimate their numbers but 15-20 percent wearing Cubs gear is probably pretty close. The obnoxious one in front of me left in the 7th inning. He’d seen enough. Atlanta needs to wake up and get behind this team and fill the seats.

I can remember a lot of speculation this winter about Marian Byrd and picking him up as a big bat. He may swing a pretty big stick but he can’t field a lick. Can’t imagine the Cubs will keep him in center field.

What a great day for Braves fans. For this Braves fan it was a great way to share a day with his son. What a shame they take tomorrow off. This line-up is strong with youth and veterans and the pitching is first rate.

Just a couple more observations of a great opening day for our Braves.

* The stadium staff and security could not be nicer. Very friendly and helpful.

* The stadium looks great! Upgrades to the electronic scoreboards and new graphics abound. The new Coke bottle is really cool. There have been major improvements to the sound effects played during the game. Long overdue! The Ted is a great place to watch a ballgame!!!

* The Chik-fil-A chopping cow appears to be having technical difficulties. He only managed to get into a full chop only once.

* The baritone singer in the tux that sang God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch was awesome! Should be a fixture at every home game. Sure beats Steven Tylers awful rendition during the Yanks-Red Sox game Sunday night. Yuk!

Really looking forward to going back in a couple of weeks.  Hope the weather is as great!

We'll be seeing a lot more of him! ajc photo by Phil Skinner

~epriseWildcat~

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

94: “Hello again, everybody!” – can’t you just hear it?

by Carolina Lady

It’s pretty safe to say that all of us are genuinely excited about the Braves’ potential for this year’s diamond campaign.

A kid’s Christmas morning anticipation is nothing compared to a baseball fan’s sparkly-eyed, hyperactive grinning as his/her team gets ready to launch a shiny new season.

Raisins and Ber have already addressed many of the reasons why in the previous couple of  leads.

My thoughts were are a little more in the ‘intangibles’ category: what, if anything, will be the impact of Bobby’s final year as field manager?

From everything I’ve read, it’s universal that Braves people want him to go out with another World Series ring, none more-so than the players themselves.

I sense it in the columns I read and in the interviews given by those associated in any way with the team. It’s as if there is a new purposefulness in the players’ attitudes, a certain determination in the eye. Have you noticed it?

They seem to have a more definitive goal this year rather than the annual generic “We wanna go to the Series” one. A mission. And they know what they have to do to make it happen: win ball games.

I don’t think there’s a way to measure this ‘swan song’ influence except maybe by seeing a player dig down a little deeper, try a little harder, successfully make that stolen base, make that extra-base hit, move that runner over and bring him in. I’ll sure be looking for it!

I just hope they can maintain this focus through the full, grueling 162-game schedule. Somehow I think they will. If this lady’s yelling and jumping up-and-down in front of the TV/computer during game time will help, I will be in the BSOML by Oct 2010!

With all his good points and bad, I’ll  really miss Bobby when he retires. I cannot even imagine who will be tasked with trying to fill those spikes in 2011. Really don’t even want to go there right now. But it will be an almost impossible position to hold with any success.

Today I listened again to some of the interviews done after Skip died. When Don Sutton was asked what Skip was like to him, he responded, “He’s like the grumpy old uncle that I couldn’t wait to see again.” In a strange sort of way, that made me think of Bobby. Everybody loves the man.  And that’s special in my book.

Speaking of Skip, wouldn’t you just love to listen to his comments through this final Bobby Cox season? Undoubtedly he would bring a perspective that would ring true in every aspect and would be unique and memorable – as only Skip could do. Don’t know about you but I can’t watch a game without hearing his voice in my mind commenting with humor and his own brand of caustic wit.

Anyhow, those are just a few thoughts on a cold February evening on the Carolina coast.

What do you think?  What and/or how much influence do you think the retirement of  No.6 will have on the season?

Gil, we’re all looking forward to your reports from Florida! Take photos! Lots of ’em!

~CL~

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

93: Spring Has Sprung – or soon will!

by Berigan

Well, with snow blanketing much of the US, clearly – it’s time to talk Braves baseball!

So, what do we make of the Braves version 2010?  Wasn’t it weird to have an offseason where the last thing we as fans were looking for was starting pitching?  Too many starters in fact. When did we last have that problem?! 19 hundred and something, at the latest!  Of course if any of the main guys go down, then we are like every other team in baseball, hoping and praying someone at AAA can go 5 innings and only give up 3-4 runs. But, as of now, I am sure everyone will agree that our starting pitching is in very good shape. As good as it was at the start of last season.

Now, the bullpen.  Ahh, yes, the bullpen.  While Gonzo and Soriano are not perfect, my feelings are they are better than Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner.  At least the former are younger!  😉

Takashi Saito has had an ERA under 3 for his 4 seasons in the big leagues.  Very impressive!  But he is also going to be 40 on Valentine’s Day.  He also was in only 56 games last year.  I sure hope one of the translators will make both facts well known to Bobby! 😉

Wagner is a relative spring chicken compared to him as he will turn 39 in July.  62 Games and 62 innings the past two years.  Can he pitch in 3 straight games?? 2 straight??

We know if the 87 games Peter Moylan pitched in last year don’t cause his arm to fall off this spring,  he will be a steady presence, most likely racking up 80 plus appearances again. Kris Medlen should continue to improve on last years work.

Eric O’Flaherty will get the lefties out once again.  Scott Proctor, if he has regained his health, could be a big boost to the bullpen. Bobby has to find someone else to rely on besides Gonzo, and Sori…oh wait…anyway.  He has to find a way to trust someone besides the 2 middle-aged guys.  Just can’t use them like guys 10-12 years younger.

Will Manny Acosta finally get his act together??? Will Chris Resop and his 100 MPH stuff finally come through??? Those guys clearly have great stuff….

Speaking of question marks:  our offense.  (Some of this is going to be ‘no duh, Berigan,’ please bear with me!)

Starting at 1st. Troy Glaus.  Man, if this was 2009, we would be tickled to get him after another 100 RBI season.  But it’s 2010 and in 2009 he hit .172 in just 29 AB’s. The biggest thing going in his favor is he is still fairly young, won’t turn 34 til August.

2nd Base. Toot toot! (me tooting my own horn) I have long been a fan of Martin Prado. It seemed like he would never get his chance to show what he could do as a full time player. Finally got that chance, and showed to everyone he deserves it. Still, he only has 770 AB’s for his career, and some guys the league does figure out. I don’t think he will be one of those though.

SS: Yunel Escobar. He has finally proven himself, offensively and defensively -well, as long as no one is sliding into him!- but what about between the ears?  Didn’t it seem last year that any day he would do just the right thing to get his talented behind traded???  Will he finally mature this year???

3rd base:  Ol Chipper. There was this 37 year old.  He hit  17 HR’s drove in  62 RBI’s and hit .337.  Then he turned 38 and in 404 AB’s hit 14 HR’s drove in  44 RBIs and hit a lousy .255.  A lot of people thought he was washed up.  His manager even was trying to tell him he wasn’t a regular anymore.   He hit .275 at the age of 39, .288 at the age of 40, and at 41, in 505 AB’s he hit 19 HR’s Drove in 82 RBIs, and had a .330 B.A. Unless I have a cystal ball  (I do, but it only sees 30 seconds in the future)  I am not talking about Chipper, but another guy already in the the Hall of Fame.  Stan Musial!

Funny, when Chipper hit .248 at the age of 32, no one thought he was washed up. He hit .264 last year and even he seems convinced he’s about done.  Like the great Joaquin Andujar said, “There is one word in America that says it all, and that one word is, You never know!”

Wait, what am I forgetting on the infield?  Catcher. McCann and David Ross.  If healthy, no worries.  Nuff said.

Left field:  Matt Diaz hit .313 last year!  Seems hard to believe, doesn’t it?!  He was very streaky early, .216 in April, .378 in May, .250 in June.  I think if he didn’t take those terrible swings on pitches low and outside he’d be thought of as a regular, IMO.

Anyway, likely a platoon guy with Melky Cabrera, who last year hit .274, 13 HR, 68 RBIs.  He lost the starting job last spring but won it back when Brett Gardner went on the DL.  So, Cabrera was in 154 games last year, the guy to man center for a team that won 103 games.  Of course, they also traded him.  But both he and Diaz arguably should be starting players, though neither has a whole lot of power. Seems we do have plenty of outfielders though, if you toss in Eric Hinske.

Center field:  Nate McClouth. Did you know he hit 26 HR’s and drove in 94 in 2008?  Do you understand why I think it’s bat poop crazy for him to bat leadoff on a team with little power?  *sigh*  Tilting at windmills.

Right Field:  some kid – what’s his name?  The JHey Kid!  Is he the real deal?  Everyone says he is.  Those short clips I’ve seen on the web show one of the smoothest swings out there – but he is 20.  What can we truly expect from him?

Willie Mays failed at first.  Cal Ripkin was bad at the very beginning, as well. ARod, at the age of 20, hit 36 HRs, drove in 123 and had a .358 BA.  But he also played 65 games in the previous two years in the majors. 

Ken Griffey jr came up at 19, and hit 16 Hr’s drove in 61, and hit .264. Are those realistic numbers for Heyward?  Would we win with those numbers?  Or How about what a 23 year old rookie by the name of Mark McGwire did as a rookie?  49 Homers! Not much pressure, but he should shoot for 50 to break his record!  :mrgreen: Still, wish the Braves had brought JHey up for a cup of coffee, especially if they are counting on him right out of the box.

So, long story longer – who knows what will happen this year?  3rd, 2nd or even 1st place all seem to be valid possibilities.  Which is why we watch the games, right?

PLAY BALL!!

~Ber~

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

92: A Little Seasoned Wood for the Hot Stove

by Voice of  Reason Raisins

JEFFERSON, GA – Some so-called “fans” sure are funny…

Damon

They’ll call for signing Johnny Damon, yet trash the idea of trading for Luke Scott. (Their numbers are almost identical over the

L Scott

last four years.  Scott is significantly younger and cheaper.)

They’ll wail at the signing of Billy Wagner because he’s coming off surgery, and gnash their collective teeth at not retaining Gonzo and Sori, both of whom came off surgeries last season.

They’ll want to lynch Frank Wren over signing Troy Glaus because of his

T Glaus

one shoulder surgery (from which he returned at the end of last season and was activated for the playoffs), yet clamor for Frank to sign Xavier Nady, who is coming off of 2 TJ surgeries and has yet to prove he can even scratch his own back.

They’ll elevate the up and down Javy Vazquez to Cy Youngian heights for winning 15 games (against 10 forgotten losses) and putting up the best stats of his career in 2009. The same fans will crucify the steady Derek Lowe for having one down year in 2009, and winning just 15 games while losing an unacceptable 10. Horrors! 😯

Many refuse to acknowledge that there was anything other than

A Viscaino

Vazquez and Melky Cabrera involved in the trade with the bankrolled Yankees.  And if they do acknowledge that Arodys Vizcaino was there, they ignore his pedigree. At the same time, they’ll absolutely go ballistic at the notion of including either Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado in a trade. Vizcaino is now rated in front of both of those deservedly treasured prospects in some publications.  And these “fans” somehow completely ignore lefty Michael Dunn, who will most likely be an important part of this year’s bullpen.  Oh, yeah… and there is still about $7 million or so to be spent as a net result. Can’t leave that nugget out.

M Dunn

(I, for one, am envisioning a 2013 rotation that includes Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Vizcaino, Teheran and possibly Mike Minor. That will be stout… STOUT.)

You know, we here in Stuffville are a unique bunch. We understand a few things.

First, the roster on January 5 is not the roster on April 5, when the Braves open the 2010 campaign at home against the Cubs.

Second, a GM’s job is not to shoot all of his bullets in pursuit of building for only the current year. He has to have forward vision and build for years down the road while fielding the most competitive team he can for the current season and keeping the franchise viable from a financial standpoint. It is simply the reality of operating in the current economic climate.

Third, and probably most importantly, we all have the good sense to realize that WE are the fans, and THEY are the professionals. That reality is lost on far too many laptop executives. I think fantasy baseball and the proliferation of far too many boutique statistics has warped the view of a lot of nouveau “fans”, who really have no idea how to have loyalty to a team and form a real emotional bond. We are in a “fast food” society that wants drive-thru satisfaction. In my estimation, you can’t truly enjoy the highs if you haven’t endured the lows. Plant the garden. Tend it, feed it, pull a few weeds, let it grow. Harvest the bounty.

But what do I know? I’ve only been a Braves fan since I was 5, when the Braves infield was made up of Clete Boyer, Sonny Jackson, Felix Millan and Orlando Cepeda. I had no idea who they were, but I had their cards and knew they played for my team. I do remember when Earl Williams was ROY in 1971.

And I remember 1973, when the Braves had 3 players with over 40 HR’s – Hank Aaron (40), Darrell Evans (41) and Davey Johnson (43). That same year, Ralph Garr stole 35 bases, and I had a Ralph Garr Road Runner (beep-beep) bicycle license plate proudly hanging from the back of my banana seat. I remember when Hammerin’ Hank broke “the record.” It was a day game. I was in 3rd grade. They announced it in class.

I will never forget any of those things. They are special to me.

Do you know what the common denominator is in all of those seasons from my kidhood? I could not begin to tell you the Win-Loss records of those teams. It didn’t matter; they were the Atlanta Braves. They were MY team. Period.

They still are. Period.

~Raisins~

90: Where’s the Big Bopper?

Where’s the Big Bopper?

by Voice of Reason Raisins

JEFFERSON, GA – Unicorns, Bigfoot, UFO’s, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, free lunch, government intelligence, affordable power hitting outfielder…

It’s gonna take more that a ride on the Polar Express to make me believe.

This years Free Agent crop is headlined by two premier outfielders, Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. Do I really have to go into deep detail as to why the Braves cannot be considered serous contenders in the bidding for either of these two Rolls Royces? I don’t think I do.

Past the luxury models, we can move to the more affordable, practical sedans.

For Left Field, you’ll find names such as Marlon Byrd… uh, Marlon Byrd. That’s about it. C’mon… does Marcus Thames really excite you? How about Joey Gathright? David Delucci? Folks, it ain’t there. Garret Anderson is one of the better names on that list. Really…

OK, what about Center Field? OK, there we can find Mike Cameron. Past that there’s Rick Ankiel, Andruw Jones (ugh), and Corey Patterson. Bleh!

Maybe Right Field. Maybe not. Austin Kearns? Brian Giles? Jermaine Dye? Do you really want Dye in left field? Do you remember some of the misadventures we endured with Anderson? No thanks!

Um, First Base? There you will see Adam LaRoache, Russell Branyan, Nick Johnson and a bunch of scrap. Johnson has a nice OBP, but isn’t a bopper. Branyan? Hmmm… maybe, but he wants two years guaranteed. If I’m doing that, I’m doing it for Adam and keeping him at home. That said, none of those is guaranteeing you 30+ HR’s. Branyan comes close, but there is that back thing…

Bottom line: The Big Bopper isn’t there.

What about the trade market? Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham immediately come to mind, but why would the Nationals trade their core offensive players to their division rival? Answer: they won’t. Not happenin’. Carlos Lee? Contract is too prohibitive. Delmon Young? We just traded our version of Delmon Young to the Mets. Cody Ross? See Dunn and Willingham. Brad Hawpe? Nick Swisher? Not enough power to be a bopper. Maybe Ryan Ludwick? I don’t see St. Louis trading him since Holliday is likely to sign elsewhere. The one guy who might be out there and fits the description is Adrian Gonzalez, but it is not yet determined if he’s actually going to be available, and the Padres would gut the farm system of just about everything leftover after the Tex trade. Uh, no.

Much has been said recently as to the candidacy of Dan Uggla. I’m not buying. First, he’s never logged one inning in the major leagues outside of Second Base. And he didn’t do that particularly well. Why would you take the absolute strength of your team, being pitching, and reduce it with sub-par defense? Answer: you won’t. Also, see Dunn, Willingham and Ross. The Marlins do not particularly want to make the Braves any better, and likewise the Braves do not particularly want to make the Marlins any better. That is what you call “not a match”.

And that is what Frank has to find in the trade market… a match. Who will take our surplus (pitching, KJ) and give us our need (LF, 1B, ‘pen)?

So, what can we take from all of this blather?

There isn’t a Big Bopper out there and available. We probably have a better chance of seeing the real Big Bopper rise up and sing <i>Chantilly Lace</i> as we have of landing a Big Bopper for the lineup.

So, how do we overcome that obstacle? Well, is it really an obstacle?

Three mid-level signings give you a pretty darn good team, in my view. Mike Cameron, as I have said over and over, can be had on a one year deal for around $7MM, plays stellar defense, and will give you 20-25 HR’s and 70-80 RBI. Re-sign Rochey and Gonzo, and you have a team to compete with anyone in the NL.

And we can afford that.

We need to take a step back and realize that after the acquisitions of Nate McClouth and Rochey, we played as well as anybody in the league. And that was with Chipper tanking and Garret Anderson in left field. I’ll take a whole season of both Rochey, an outfield of N8, Cameron and Diaz (and/or JHey, but that’s a separate topic).

Add that to the best starting rotation in the National League, and maybe in either league, and we have a winning team.

The best part? We still have a starter to trade… we still have ammo to fill the gaps.

And we won’t have Greg Norton.

~Raisins~

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

89: 2010 Potential Warms Cold Winter Nights

POTENTIAL FOR 2010 WARMS THOSE COLD WINTER NIGHTS

By ssiscribe

ATLANTA — Nothing chills the heart of a baseball fan more than when the first cold front of the offseason blows through town, sending the garden blooms shivering and the good denizens scrambling for that favorite sweater.

And that’s where we stand on this night along the southern rim of the capital city. On the big TV is a big-time doing: the Yankees and Angels battling in the late innings of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.

For Los Angeles (times two!) and New York and Philadelphia, the here and now sits squarely in focus. Here in Atlanta, and wherever the legions of Braves Nation lay their heads on this chilly October night, 2010 already has arrived, regardless of what the calendar on the wall reports to us.

Winter has arrived, even if we’re told it doesn’t get here until December. It arrived in late September, after a spirited late-season push by the Braves fell a few games short of a miracle ticket to the postseason party.

For all the hub-bub and boost Atlanta’s torrid September surge provided, I couldn’t help but wonder two things:

1.) We don’t deserve to play in October, given how we’d played in April, May and June.

2.) If we hadn’t played the first 74 games of this season six games under .500, I’d be pulling money aside for World Series tickets.

Therein rests the hope as we look ahead to a new season, one that we’re already thinking about and talking about and obsessing about, even as four teams still try to settle the final matters of 2009. What we saw out of the Braves from the moment they were 34-40 to the dying days of September provide plenty of evidence this team is plenty good enough to be plastered on our TV screens — and not just in our consciousness and discussion — come this time next year.

Certainly, there are questions to address, holes to fill. Let’s face it: after a 90-loss season in 2008, the Braves had two offseasons worth of work to do to get this thing straightened out. Give Frank Wren and Co. credit for addressing the most-glaring need first. Not too long after having to rely on Jorge Campillo, Jo-Jo Reyes, James Parr and Buddy Carlyle to fill out a starting rotation, the Braves have a staff that is the envy of the sport.

Heck, they have TOO many starters, if it’s even possible to find oneself in such a scenario.

Now that the rotation is salted away and salved, it’s time to give the lineup the pop it needs to generate enough runs to propel this squad into the playoffs. Moves made along the way, from trading for Nate McLouth to Adam LaRoche’s homecoming to Martin Prado’s ascension to everyday player status, have helped.

Re-sign LaRoche, find one more bat (preferably right-handed in nature), and this team is golden. I really believe that, and no, it’s not the fumes coming from the Hot Stove on this cold winter’s night providing such an intoxicating aroma.

Baseball 2009 is done for me, despite this ALCS contest playing on my TV. Baseball 2010 awaits. Dare I say, with the evidence at my disposal, the Braves have poured a strong foundation.

Add a few bricks to it, and next October will be a lot warmer.

–30–

~Scribe~

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

88: Would you believe, we missed it by this much!

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by Gil of Mechanicsville

Would you believe, we missed it by this much….

Last week in a post race interview with Nascar racing bad boy Kyle Bush, he was asked if he felt let down by just missing stock car racing version of a play-off by 12 points, just edged out by another team in the final race of the regular season. He was reflective and truthful in his reply when he said it was not the most recent race that was his downfall but rather the accumulation of near misses and questionable moves over the 26 race prelude that cause him to come up short.

I think that could also sum up the Braves season quite well. It was not losing two of three to the Phillies at home last week that have all but ended the Atlanta team’s playoff hopes but many instances where the Braves failed to play up to their potential over the course of a 162 game schedule.

However, the Braves faithful should not lose sight of what has been a remarkable turn-around for a club that was woefully bad last year. Going from a team which lost 90 games in 2008 to one that will likely win that many this year. In a world where everything seems to rely on winning the last game played in a season, the following of the Bravo’s should take heart that the future bodes well for their favorites.

There are a lot fewer holes to fill for next season. Frank Wren and company has done a pretty spectacular job of rebuilding the pitching staff and is a much better place than last year when filling the team’s need for a power bat in the line-up. In fact could be made that if the Braves had been able to field the team they currently have during the entire season, the results would be much different right now as far as the playoffs and likely would be holding off the Phillies for the NL East title.

While it is purely speculation on my part, here are some of the names I doubt you will see on an Atlanta uniform next year:

KJohnson

Kelly Johnson, while he may still ply his trade with another major league team next year, I doubt it will be in Atlanta. Kelly still has potential but the Braves have other options that are far cheaper and have greater ability at his position.
.
.
RafaelSoriano
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.
.
.
Rafael Soriano: While he can be a top shelf closer at times and un-hittable, his price tag will be too high for as far as Atlanta is concerned especially with the emergence of Peter Moylan and Eric O’Flaherty.
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.
.
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Mike Gonzalez: See above. Rocky will make a great Gonzo1closer for a team that does not over use him. Gee, can you imagine what a pitching coach like Dave Duncan could do with a talent like his? Awesome.
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.
.
AndersonG4

Garret Anderson: While he has shown flashes of his greatness at time this year, I doubt he will return for an encore performance. With some pretty good talent in the wings for the Atlanta with Heyward and Scheffer, I think the money paid to him this season will be used elsewhere. Probably to re-sign Adam LaRoche to a two year contract.

.
.
.
.

Standings as of 9/23/09:

88b
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~Gil~

87: The 2009 Braves – or ….

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by Savannah Guy

How We Managed To Lose Games We Should’ve Won.

The most frustrating thing in sports is watching your team lose when you know it is more than capable of winning. Surely all fans feel or think or say that as they seek answers to why their team failed to have a winning season and reach the playoffs. For some, like the Pirates and the Nationals, the answer is simple. For teams like the Braves, the answers are more complex. The Braves have an average payroll, above average rotation and that’ll get you to the post season. Get players that’ll get you some runs and you’re there in October.

The Braves are not going anywhere but home when this season ends. Why did that happen? Is it just “the way the ball bounces”? Is it just “that’s baseball”, or is there something or someone that we can point to and confidently and reasonably say, “that was the one undeniable cause of our losing season”. In sports, that is almost impossible to prove and there are as many opinions as there are fans.

Seeking blame is not a helpful exercise nor is it a fruitful cause, but seeking answers to questions and solutions for problems is worthwhile and helpful, even if the exercise is to satisfy our own curiosity and sense of logic, reason, cause and effect. A few excerpts inspired me from a Mark Bowman, MLB article last night:

Jair Jurgens

Jair Jurrjens

“I don’t even know what to say anymore,” said Jurrjens, who has seen the Braves score two runs or fewer in 14 of his 29 starts. “It’s getting frustrating for us now, especially because of how big these games are for us right now.”

I’m afraid this may be closer to what he wanted to say: I do know what to say after playing with this club… that it’s been frustrating from day one in Atlanta. First chance, I’m out’a here.

“Wells was hard to hit at,” manager Bobby Cox said. “He was wild enough to be effective. He would make some real bad pitches and then make the most Greg Maddux-[like] pitches you could ever imagine.”

Another perspective: Hate to mince words but must differ with the skipper… Wells was actually easy to “hit at”. We hit “at” him all night, trying to impatiently force the situation and pull the ball and wound up swinging at pitches way up and way out of the zone. Wells was “effectively wild” (stunk) but occasionally got one over. We helped him out a great deal by swinging at everything except, uh, the ones across the plate.

This season is a nightmare for the Braves rotation, where one run might lose a game and three runs pretty much assures you of hanging one in the loss column.

I’m not tracking, but it seems like we were on a pretty good roll until Chipper put himself back in. His pinch three run double made him forget all about the slumpfest he’s been in, figured he was invincible, happy days were here again and determined he’d play every game after that. That hasn’t worked out very well for Chipper or the team.

But that’s just one player and I don’t hang this or any season on just one player. Was it untimely injuries to McLouth, Infante, Prado, Church, just as they were playing so well? Was it sticking with French and Kelly so, so incredibly long? Did we overlook Diaz too long? Was it the unwillingness or stubbornness to keep Chipper in, or allow him to camp in the 3 spot so long? Is it having Mac bat cleanup when Rochey would be a better fit? Were we one big bat shy of having a winning team?

Should we have kept Conrad in Atlanta to play second, moving Prado to third to let Chipper have some real time off? Should we be resting Mac more and let Ross contribute?

Was it a bad idea to pitch Gonzo and Soriano with big leads too many times or put them in to pitch too often on consecutive nights when most managers would’ve used others in the pen?

Medlen

Medlen

Did we pitch Moylan way too much, especially with him coming off surgery? Is Lowe done as a starter?  Have we mismanaged Medlen enough yet, jerking him around to the point of throwing him out of synch and robbing him of confidence? Has “loyalty” or “patience” with a struggling Norton hurt the team?  Is Garret done as a position player?

As always, there is not one single reason a team loses and not one single player that causes a team to lose the season. “All of the above”  (and more) would be the only viable and fair answer to so many questions about this 2009 season.

Yet, even with all of the injuries (which all teams have) and slumps (which all teams have), our starting pitching has been excellent. With the exception of Lowe, our rotation is at least as good as any in the game. Cy Young could not have won more games than Jair this year with such pitiful run support.

This season, even with less than stellar offense, with just a little less loyalty and patience and that stubborn old playbook, the Braves could be ahead of the Phillies today. We had a good enough team this year but in my humble opinion they were mismanaged all the way. Bobby didn’t manage bad enough to be tossed out in mid season as some owners do, particularly because of the laurels he rests on, and he didn’t manage so blatantly bad that he lost all benefit of doubt about his current capability.

The Braves were managed just well enough to almost win. Luck had nothing to do with this season like it did last year. Our injuries could have been played through. Rally-killing, automatic-out players that were mired in months long, excruciating slumps could have been lifted. Luck played no role in the 2009 season, unless you consider having a great manager that is (still) on top of his game good luck. A few less injuries to key players would have helped as would the good fortune of landing a big bat, but our bad luck in 2009 was bad managing.

managers1

Maybe we’ll manage to get’em next year.

~SG~


Braves And Stuff - Blogged

86: Are they for real???? Part 1, Pitching

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by Berigan

Did you know Ted Simmons was the back up catcher and pinch hitter for the Braves from 1986 to 1988??? Don’t you feel better knowing this important bit of trivia???

Ted Simmons

Ted Simmons


Where was I??? Right, nowhere.

Some of this is painfully obvious, because it was originally a comment on a baseball thread for a jazz forum, that doesn’t know the braves like we know the braves. So there. Now I have updated, and padded the best I can. But I’m not going to kill myself for the mere $1000 Carolina Lady pays me to write these, you know??? :mrgreen: [CL to Ber: Do what?! 😯 ]

Anywho, the Braves, it could be argued, have the best 1-5 starters in all the majors. And Tim Hudson likely on the big league roster on or around Sept. 1st.

Kawakami

Kawakami

Kawakami is basically the 5th starter, (and paid more like a 2nd or 3rd) but when he’s against a big opponent, say Halladay, the Red Sox, or against the Dodgers, he has been huge! Funny, for a Japanese pitcher, I would have expected more consistency, but he needs challenges. I wouldn’t mind a bit IF the braves made the playoffs, for him to start game one. (And I wrote this before murderizing the mutts last night, am I good, or what????)

Derek Lowe

Derek Lowe


Derek Lowe is paid as a number one, but is more of a number 4 (or 5) of late. But his 4.45, while the worst of all the starters, is not horrible. Just horrible for a number one! 😉 It sure seems like his sinker was crisper the first month and a half of the season. I thought fatigue helped sinker pitchers???

Tommy Hanson is technically our 4th or 5th starter. While he has come down to earth a bit of late, a 8-2 record and a 3.05 ERA in your first year is nothing to sneeze at! He has gone at least 5 innings every time out. A rookie of the year candidate for sure. Hanson is simply not pitching like a 22 year old. Check out Maddux, Glavine, or Smoltz’s stats for their first year or two in the majors and see how truly bad they were!

Jair Jurgens

Jair Jurgens

Now for the 2 best starters. Flip a coin. Jair Jurrjens. I still get the feeling he doesn’t get the respect he deserves. A certain baseball writer for the braves didn’t seem to think he was a #1 or 2. He simply gets no run support. 9-8 with a 2.00 ERA. 13-10 last year, with a 3.68 ERA. And he was born in 1986, like Hanson! Hard to think of him as being that young, doesn’t it??? Gee, think the Tigers ever regret handing him over in the Edgar Renteria trade??? Even Lowe said early in the year after he pitched, well we have our best pitcher going tomorrow, talking about Jurrjens. Could have been trying to boost the kids confidence. Could have been just telling it the way it is.

Javier Vazquez

Javier Vazquez

But the guy with the best ERA??? Pitched the most innings??? Who has the 2nd most strikeouts in the NL??? Javier Vazquez! As you all my recall, I was NOT happy about getting him this spring. Career ERA over 4.
Check out his year by year ERA from 2004. 2004- 4.91. 2005(in the NL by the way) 4.42. 2006-4.84. 2007-3.74. 2008-4.67.

We traded Tyler Flowers, a guy that in the spring of 2008 was hitting balls much further than anyone else. We gave him up for some hack, who wilted when called out by his manager to step up his game. Then he pitched in the WC this spring. I figured he was a likely candidate for Tommy John.

Instead, 10-8(should be about 14-4) 2.90 era, 162 innings, 178 strike outs! And a month ago, many braves fans, including me, were all for trading him to get the illusive big bopper. Well, right now…we are glad he is still on the club!

I don’t know if it’s having a manager that actually respects him, or being closer to family in Puerto Rico (Heard that was an issue in Arizona) but he has been gold, and at the age of 33 is having his career year. Go figure.

We all know the bullpen is not perfect. I can’t find any stats for some reason, but I read about a month ago , the bullpen ERA was 13th out of 16 teams in the NL. Kind of surprising. After Gonzo, Soriano, Moylan, and O’Flaherty it’s been a crapshoot most of the year.

Everyone knows Manny Acosta has great stuff, it’s being consistent that has been the issue. And you get the feeling the manager doesn’t have a lot faith in him. But, if the arms are to stay attached to Moylan, Gonzo, and Sori, then Logan, Medlen, and Acosta need to be pitched more, and from time to time in big games.

But with 5 starters that all have above average stuff, and 4 trusted arms in the Bullpen, and a manager that doesn’t know the meaning of the word quit (both literally and figuratively) the braves should stay in it til the last week of the season!

~Berigan~

85: The Braves: Play-offs?

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by Gil in Mechanicsville

After much angst, we all find ourselves wondering if this team can actually make the playoffs. 4&1/2 games back with nearly 6 weeks to go; certainly it will make for interesting theater.

Good pitching beats good hitting, an old adage that has proven true for many seasons. With a National League best ERA, the Braves staff is once again leading the team to resurgence. So, what has changed to allow for the sudden optimism in Atlanta’s chances to again visit the post season after what seems to have been forever?  Simple, good pitching combined with timely hitting.

The Braves were on a run when Omar Infante’ suffered an unfortunate

Infante'

Infante'

injury. It seemed to stop the Braves in their tracks just when the seemed poised to make a run. It was not until the insertion of Martin Prado as an everyday player that the Braves have once again regained a winning form. Now, that is not to say that Kelly Johnson was dragging down the team, only to say no one was providing the spark. At the time, the Braves’ entire offense appeared centered around Chipper Jones and Brian McCann. As they went into their inevitable slump, so did the Braves.

Ryan Church

Ryan Church

Fortunately, the much-maligned Frank Wren also recognized the correlation between the two. The trade of hometown hero Jeff Francouer for Ryan Church appears to have helped shake the Bravos out of their doldrums. Coupled with the acquisition of Adam LaRoche for Casey Kotchman has also aided in a resurgence of offense. Additionally, blog whipping boy, Kelly Johnson, appears to have regained his timing as well as his confidence after a stint on the DL and a rehab stay in Gwinnett.

Now it appears Infante’ will be rejoining the club on Tuesday. While Diory Hernandez has a lot of upside, He is still a ways away from being an effective major league player. Infante’ is a much more proven utility man. In addition, two pitchers on the DL should be returning soon. Hudson and Carlyle should help bolster the pitching staff. While Manny Acosta can be effective at times, he is still pretty inconsistent. Perhaps the Nationals could use him in exchange for some of their prospects.

~Gil~

83: Here’s Your (Braves) Rant!!!

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Like many of us long-time Braves fans, our allegiance wasn’t forged since 1991. Oh, no…and oh, dear, for otherwise, our patience would have been sapped long ago. Nope, for me, I harken (poetic, ain’t it!?!) back to the late 60’s/early 70’s, to the insufferable Milo Hamilton and the equally HamiltonMiloinsufferable Brave’s teams. But they were our Braves…and we clung to hope…cause that’s what true fans do. Milo left…we stayed through thick (you have to imagine) and thin(ner)!

The fact is, those earlier times were easier to be fans in the strictest sense. We enjoyed the game for what it was…and feasted on the occasional teaser (1982-83). The only other intrigue, ’69 aside, was Aaron’s chase of the Babe … Garber halting Rose’s streak … Horner jumping straight from college to the Braves, and homering … and Murphy’s exploits. Otherwise it’s pretty slim pickings.

But, we had Ernie, Skip, and Pete to keep us entertained…many times to the point they forgot the game, which was a good thing.

Now, we have reasonably good talent each year, but a Hall of Fame manager acting like there is one book to manage by … and it sucks! How is it we have one of the top three starting rotations in baseball, and a solid relief core, yet have three of the only six MLB pitchers with over 42 appearances this year? Please, someone … explain … pound it through this thick skull, ‘cause it ain’t computin’!

Yesterday was yet another loss squarely on Bobby’s shoulders. The seeds were sown three days ago, with his inane use of the bullpen…yet again. Hey, Bobby! Actions have consequences. The key to managing is not just for today but also for tomorrow! Hello! Anybody home?

I looked on incredulously as he pulled Medlen in the 5th…the 5th…no oneMedlenK out and a four-run lead. One reliever has already gone home with a sore elbow! If he’s gonna yank Medlen, how patient will he be with the relievers?

Typically, he wasn’t. “Boone, go get ‘em.” “Manny, loosen up!” “You too, O’Flaherty!” “Peter, you’re not tired, are ya?” “Hey, ‘New Guy’, go do a Joey Devine for us!”

Give me a freakin’ break! The bullpen is to hold the lead, when it’s time to hold a lead! Not for the manager to panic with a four-run margin…in the 5th inning. Either a player learns to work through some level of adversity – or he never learns. Hey, Medlen…you tried…prob’ly coulda done alright, ya know? As it is, good luck getting any confidence in your current role…but good luck with your new club!

Folks, don’t try to make sense of CoxFarewellthis; it’s why it’s a RANT! If there is any, it’s purely accidental – well, ‘cept for this: Bobby, it’s time to enjoy the sunsets!

~Salty~

82: Yunel ???

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by Voice of Reason Raisins

I can’t read Buster Olney’s recent article because I am not an ESPN Insider, (nor shall I ever be), but according to sources, Olney says that “the Braves are willing to trade Yunel Escobar for a good hitter”.

escobar

Should we be surprised? Head cases do not last long in the ATL. But is this an indictment of the Braves, or of Yunel? Before you answer that question, let me remind you of Gary Sheffield’s relatively quiet tenure under the tomahawk…

Sheffield

Gary Sheffield made his major league debut with the Milwaukee Brewers on September 3, 1988 at the tender age of 19. While there, he accused the organization of being “racist” and suddenly endured a series of “injuries” to his wrist, thumb and shoulder before being traded to San Diego prior to the 1992 season. While with the Marlins, he publicly stated his unhappiness with landing on an “expansion” team. With the Dodgers, he publicly criticized management, as well as coaches and teammates. He then spent two very quiet years with Atlanta before leaving via free agency for the Yankees. There he publicly criticized both Brian Cashman and Joe Torre before being traded to Detroit. Prior to this season, Detroit released him despite owing him more that $14MM.

The point? Even a guy with the clubhouse reputation of Gary Sheffield can find tranquility in the Braves clubhouse. But apparently Yunel cannot find such solace. Now don’t get me wrong here. I like a player with personality. I like the fire. But fires that burn out of control can do a good bit of damage in their wake. Maybe, I said maybe, it’s time to dig the break.

Now, to the field and the question of how sound a trade of Yunel would be. Obviously, it is impossible to judge without knowing what the return would be, but we are a group of speculators, eh?

So, that being said, if Wren could get a return of a decent defensive SS to go along with that bat, I’d be OK with it. And let’s be clear… the bat should be of the SG defined boppage variety. Nothing less is acceptable. So, to further speculate, if we can add a real bopper to a traditional bopper position, i.e. 1B, LF, RF, and add a decent defensive SS, would that make folks happy? I think so…

And remember – you have to give quality to get quality. No way around it.

Yunel is a special talent. He is a better offensive player than most SS, but not the best. He is above average defensively, but not the best. If you can add a bona fide bopper, and hold the line defensively, I think you are taking a step forward.

What do you think?

~Raisins~

81: C’mon, kid!

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by Savannah Guy

Watched the first two innings last night. A pretty exciting evening it was, but not because of the listless, hapless Braves. About the time the Braves game was called, a powerful storm rolled into Savannah like a freight train with massive lightning, driving pea-sized hail, rain, water spouts and micro-bursts. Pretty exciting stuff. Not so much the Braves.

It’s gotten to the point that Jeff Francoeur is more productive striking out than making contact. If it were not for killing rallies and hitting into double plays he’d get no action at all. Last night’s double-play with the bases loaded was not even a surprise.

As Gil said, it’s not Francoeur’s fault the Braves lost and it’s not Bobby’s fault that French can’t hit. However, Jeff has become the living, breathing metaphor for the entire team, with the exception of Chipper and Mac and our three starting pitchers ….. who are beginning to show their inevitable frustration for the lack of run support. The team looks listless when they take the field. They are a rudderless team. They looked as though they’d rather be somewhere else. Kelly is lost and confused. I’ve never seen this Atlanta team look so bad… ever.

So, what is the problem? Who should take the blame for French taking the field every day? Who is to be blamed for the 250 “slugger” taking a pouting 2-day, truncated stint in Mississippi? Who should answer for 233 hitting (missing) Kelly Johnson being cemented into second base when Prado or someone else could fill the spot?

Who takes the rap for Schafer struggling way too long before finally, appropriately, mercifully being sent back to the minors where he belongs this year? Who is responsible for using Peter Moylan until his TJ-recovering arm falls off? Who is responsible when the entire team goes into a funk and stays in that funk for two months? Who is ultimately responsible when a professional ball club appears listless, lost, confused and befuddled for so long? Who should be called on the carpet?

Who will call those in responsible management positions onto the carpet? With Liberty and the current regime, there will be no response to this miserable, hapless play, other than the usual spin.

For this Braves team, the GM, Cox and his buddies (otherwise known as coaches), there is no accountability for results outside of the accounting department and the dugout where some derrieres rest way too comfortably on their country club, media guarded, bullet-proof, faded and tattered laurels.

BobbyCox
C’mon kid.

~SG~

BravesAndStuff@hotmail.com

80: The Case Against Terry Pendleton

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by Berigan

Well, that is a strong sounding title for a new lead, blog, whathaveyou, isn’t it???

Yet, I do think anyone who reads here would defend TP both as a former player and as a man. He was a great player, the kind of player we need today – and I bet he will someday make a fine manager.

But, as a hitting coach??? Not so much.

TerryPendleton
He became the hitting coach in November of 2001. Next year, Javy Lopez hit .233, the lowest BA of his Braves career.

In 2001, team B.A. was .260.
In 2002, the team B.A shot all the way up to…. .260.
In 2003, the team average did improve to .284.Marcus Giles, Chipper, Andruw and Garry Sheffield all hit above .300.

Credit to TP, God given skill, or a little help from steroids???

As I mentioned before, can anyone remember a hitter saying Terry really helped them??? Or even complimenting him in general??? Someone that wasn’t Bobby Cox??? It must have happened somewhere, but I sure don’t remember it….
TPandCox

Sports south ran that “David Justice in his own words” a few weeks ago…I guess I always caught the last part, but watched it from the beginning. It was interesting on several levels. One, to see Justice realize he made some mistakes, how he would do things differently now…wishes he knew then what he knows now…Also how hitting coach Clarence Jones told him basically that he could continue to hit 20 homers a year, or start hitting the ball the other way, and how he could hit 40 in a year, which he did in 1993.

Again, the sort of thing I don’t hear mentioned with TP. Does he try to get Frenchy to not only hit the ball the other way, but with power??? Does he or the Batting practice guy throw him dozens of pitches outside to show him if it ain’t a strike, you CANNOT hit it??? He may…I don’t know.

How often do you see him interviewed??? I may have missed it, but you would think a few times a year he would talk about his hitting philosophy, what he always wants guys to remember. In fact, I rarely see any coach ever interviewed! I saw McDowell the other day and it made me think how DOB had even said how he wasn’t a good interview, and after being such a character as a player, how disappointed he was in McDowell the serious coach of few words.

Anyway, back to T.P. A recent article relayed the point of how hurt T.P. was with Frenchy seeking outside help with his hitting. Doesn’t that speak volumes???? Wouldn’t you think the greatest desire of a hitting coach would have, is to see a player be successful??? Especially one you had worked with all year and had no success with??? You can’t get inside someone else’s head, but I would wish the best to a player that I clearly hadn’t been able to help, and if another teacher came along(And TP has to know Rudy Jaramillo is considered the best hitting coach around) and helped him, I’d do my level best to find out what were the keys to the success, and help him stick with that plan.

The Frenchy we saw in Spring training and the first week or so of the season, looked like a new man, a man with a plan..a man with a smooth swing. Now look at him. He has a strange, powerless swing. Stance is more closed up. Even the home run hit the other day looked like total luck, not a good swing at all. Friday night he worked the count full and couldn’t hit a 93 MPH pitch right down the middle. If he was 35, they would say his bat had slowed down.

Does TP ever talk to him about percentages??? Me, I am just a nobody…a just a longtime fan of the game. But it’s plain as nose on your face that when a hitter has a weakness, word gets out, pitchers exploit those weaknesses. It’s not enough to say, don’t swing at balls out of the strike zone. Back that up with some stats. I bet TP could in 5 minutes find out how many pitches were strikes that Jeff gets with 2 strikes. As with Andruw the last few years, wouldn’t you think 80% of 2 strike pitches were outside??? Ok, one in 5 times you will look silly with the bat resting on your shoulder for strike 3, but the other 4 times, you will make the pitchers work. You might get a walk, or a pitch down the middle if the count goes from 1-2 to 3-2.

Hasn’t TP ever watched a Yankees-Red Sox game??? Every time I see them play each other, or other teams in the league, you see guys down 0-2, or 1-2 end up getting walked. Then the next guy works a 3-2 count, and the pitcher, not wanting to walk back to back hitters, will grove a pitch that is a double or a homer. Even a dope like me can recognize patterns in the way the game is played today. What works best today.

TP was a great player, a team leader. An agressive hitter that rarely walked. Probably not the best guy in the world to be a hitting coach. Like any hitter, he must have figured out some things he can pass on to hitters, but it sure doesn’t seem like enough to help those who can’t hit balls low and outside for a double….

After all this pounding on Terry Pendleton, hitting coach, I could still see him making a fine manager. His weaknesses as a hitting coach would be strengths with this team. It needs to be more aggressive on the base paths, to have more guys play with a chip on their shoulders….I think Terry wouldn’t coddle guys that were hitting .200, he’d bench them….

Meanwhile, Bobby is likely to manage the team for at least the next year or two, so I guess we will have Terry to kick around for awhile yet.

~Ber~

BravesAndStuff@hotmail.com

79: Wandering Around the Ballpark….

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by FloridaBravesGirl

I haven’t been to Turner Field for a few years… I was happy to see that the big chopping cow is not really that prominent & most unhappy to see that the BBQ no longer bears Skip & Pete’s names. Boo hiss.

Is anything cuter than those Little Leaguers parading around the field?

O Canada was sung beautifully by a member of the Atlanta Opera, followed by a somewhat less-polished Star Spangled Banner by a children’s choir. The entertainment value makes up for the few wince-inducing notes.

I was not aware there was a Kosher Day but the rabbi throwing out the first pitch sure seemed excited. Nice throw, sir.

Why do cheap hot dogs taste so good at the ballpark?

Filled out your All-Star ballots yet? I did a handful.

Why do the Braves hire the DMV photographer to take their player pics? Eek.

A very cool thing the Braves are doing: the Hometown Hero presentation. Every Sun. they introduce a recently returned local soldier on the field. The standing ovation for that gentleman was long & loud.

Do y’all think they have fans blowing the cinnamon-glazed nuts’ aroma into the stands? Mmm.

Even when he’s hurting Chipper still comes up with the big hit.

Woohoo! Diory’s 1st ( & 2nd) ML hit! Hope there’s many more.

A 7-run 7th! Jim, Don & Jake got to give away $$$ on radio.

Mac must have known I was wearing my new #16 shirt. That was worth sitting through a rainout the previous Sun., driving down in the rain & back home in a monsoon.

FBG

BravesAndStuff@hotmai

77: What Happened???

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by Carolina Lady

❓ What happened ❓

andersong4

Garret Anderson came to Atlanta with the reputation of a solid player who produced good numbers, went about his business professionally. Fans and fellow players alike described him as humble and quiet, a person of excellent quality.

He may be, probably is, just that. But we’ve seen precious little of him from day 1.

Signed Feb 22, he didn’t play until Mar 5. The very next day he came up with an injured calf muscle and was out until the very end of March.

Now it’s a strained left quad and on the DL.

According to MLB.com stats, Anderson has produced over the last ten games:
4/05/09 vs PHI: 4 AB, 1 hit, 0 rbi, .250 avg
4/07/09 vs PHI: 4 AB, 1 hit, 0 rbi, .250 avg
4/08/09 vs PHI: 1 AB, 0 hit, 0 rbi, .222 avg
4/10/09 vs WSH: 1 AB, 0 hit, 0 rbi, .200 avg
4/14/09 vs FLA: 4 AB, 0 hit, 0 rbi,. 143 avg
4/15/09 vs FLA: 1 AB, 0 hit, 0 rbi,. 133 avg
4/16/09 vs FLA: 4 AB, 2 hit, 0 rbi, .222 avg
4/17/09 vs PIT: 1 AB, 0 hit, 0 rbi, .211 avg
4/18/09 vs PIT: 4 AB, 0 hit, 0 rbi, .174 avg
4/19/09 vs PIT: 2 AB, 1 hit, 0 rbi, .200 avg

This just has to be an aberration. Garret is the Angel’s career leader in hits, runs, doubles, RBIs and total bases. That just doesn’t evaporate overnight. Last year he hit .293, 15 homers, and .758 OPS for the Angels.

So, what is it? The switch from AL to NL? Just suddenly developed muscle problems? The Braves’ misfortunes continuing?

I would find it very hard to believe that a person of his long-standing, high-caliber character would develop “Sheffield-like” attitudes and demeanor. Doesn’t fit. I have to believe that he has been beset by some physical difficulties and will eventually live up to our expectations.

I’ll admit to being purely shocked by Bowman’s assessment of him as a left-field manikin and as blank and emotionless in person. No explanations there.

Though something is obviously going on with him, I’m nowhere near ready to disrespect him or give up on him.

What do you think?

~CL~

BravesAndStuff@hotmail.com

76: YES! OPENING DAY!!!

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by FloridaBravesGirl

Opening Day! It seemed as if it would never get here. Now the fun begins!

…..And the ❓ questions ❓ .

Does Chipper have another great season in him? Can Lowe be the ace? Can Mac really contend for the MVP (thank you, Mr. Bradley)? Can JJ avoid the sophomore slump? Has Frenchy figured out how to play this game? How will Kawakami adjust? And has Mac learned any Japanese? 🙂 Will Schafer live up to his spring? How long before Hanson gets called up?

Soon the answers will start to come to us. Soon we’ll see our Braves on the field again. We’ll hear Joe crack a joke in that deadpan voice and Boog giggle. We’ll get used to Jim and Don on radio but miss Skip and Pete all the while. Soon we’ll see what this team is made of. I for one see better days ahead… soon!

videotop

~FBG~

BravesAndStuff@hotmail.com

75:Thoughts Out Of Left Field… Sort Of

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by Voice of Reason Raisins

JEFFERSON, GA – As each day of this seemingly never-ending extended Spring Training continues to move forward at a pace rivaled only by the traffic on the I-285 perimeter highway around Atlanta at 5:00pm on any given weekday, I have a few random thoughts I’d like to share…

Be forewarned, though… random means random. No telling what may spill forth.

Isn’t it strange how we clamored all winter for Braves news items in anticipation of the coming new season, and have nearly disappeared in mid-Spring? That one’s hard to figure, except that we know what we have now, well sort of. I mean, the team is here, but not really. You can’t even really look at it these games as a barometer of the potential of team’s fortunes for 2009. The WBC has taken players from not just all over our roster, but everyone else’s as well. These games really don’t mean squat.

Our star 3B has been away, then injured. Our star catcher, who needs to be working with an entirely new pitching staff, has not been present either. Our only offseason offensive acquisition, long anticipated I might add, has been injured and out. We don’t know who our CF will be. It’s just been weird.

Yet, the promise of a new season is still here… knocking on the door like a child wanting to come into Mom and Dad’s bedroom at 2:00 in the morning. It’s a mixed blessing. You love them, but are just a tad resistant to their being there.

duhHey… if our knees bent in the other direction, what would chairs look like?

I like Jordan Schafer. I like Josh Anderson, too. I look at both of those kids and see many common qualities. Actually, I see kind of the same player – except Schafer does it just a little better. In my opinion, Jordan Schafer is Josh Anderson, and then some. Schafer will be a star. Anderson will be a… well he’ll be on the roster. He’ll be on somebody’s roster, anyway. It may not be in Atlanta though. I think Jordan Schafer is taking the job and running with it, so to speak.

So Jeff Francoeur went 42 AB’s into spring before taking his first K. I gotta say, he really has made some wholesale changes to his approach at the plate. He better… Jason Heyward wants to play with the big boys in a bad way. Jason Heyward IS a big boy… and a superior talent. Jeff better start thinking about Delta for more than just endorsements.

When flies land on the ceiling, do they fly upside down and stick, or do they fly rightside up and flip at the last second?
duh2

The new pitching staff is really something. Derek Lowe has been all that and a bag of chips. Javy Vazquez has something to prove, and judging by his performance in the evil WBC, he means to prove it. Jair Jurjjens is poised to have a real breakout season. Kenshin Kawakami may have the best pure “stuff” on the staff. TommyH almost makes you wish TommyG was at home in his Barc-O-Lounger. Yet, TommyG is throwing better at this stage of his spring than in many before. Teams are calling and inquiring about Buddy Carlyle, for goodness sake. Good problems to have if you ask me. I want to see it against whole rosters, though, before anointing them as anything.

Yunel, KJ, Kotch… three solid performing consistent youngsters that may fly under a lot of people’s radar, but they will carry this team this year. Mark it, archive it, do whatever you want with it. VOR says that Yunel, KJ and Kotch will all have very solid, very consistent, very classic Braves type years. Bobby Cox will heap his accolades on those three all season long.

My 6-year-old daughter wrote a little storyhmmmm called, “I Ran Out Of Ink.” I started reading it but it was only 2 pages long. I don’t know why she didn’t finish it…

I bet Chipper is wishing he had gotten that contract extension before going to Canada and getting hurt again. He was what, 0 for 10 with 6 K’s, then pulled a muscle? Don’t get me wrong, I love Chipper Jones, and I hope he never puts on another uniform, but it’s gotta be tough for Frank Wren to think about 3 more years of Chipper when he can’t even swing a bat right now. I’m just sayin’…

Speaking of Frank, can we all agree that he had a plan, stuck hard to his blueprint, and by early results, did a pretty darn good job of building this year’s club? The pitching, from starting to relieving, looks rock solid. The infield is going to be outstanding both defensively and offensively. They may not lead the league in homers, but they may lead the league in extra base hits. They may also lead the league in RBI as a collective. Don’t laugh at that one. There will be a lot of RBI opportunities with this lineup. As Gil has many times said, there were a lot of RBI opportunities last season; they just didn’t drive ‘em in. That won’t happen outta this group this year. I’ll take consistent gap-to-gap hitters every day over all-or-nothing bashers.

teethWhat are you really supposed to do with your umbrella when you get to your car? If you take it down real quick and try to get in, you get water all over the place from the umbrella. If you try to get some of the water off before you get in, you get soaked doing it. And where do you put it? Seat? Floorboard? These may sound like trivial questions to some, but if you’ve got people in your passenger seats, this can be a daunting task.

I can’t wait for opening night. Plain and simple… I can’t. This spring has been too weird and too long already. I want to see MY team, all of them, and I want to see games that matter. I want to see jersey numbers under 60. Heck, I even want to hear Don Sutton, and I can’t believe I just typed that.

Thanks for paying attention. Now you know a little of what goes on in my mind. It’s kinda like a BB in a shoebox – it just kinda rattles around until it falls out.

L8r…

~Raisins~

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74: How’s it looking?

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So. What’s going on in baseball?

Manny has his $8.5m condo in Boston up for sale. (That’ll show ’em, Manny!) 🙄

Smoltz is happy is Boston. I wish him well. (shrug)

Junior is 0-9. But, according to sports writers, the fans are ‘energized’. 🙂

The Yankees drama continues. (Their behavior and ‘drama’ remind me of a bunch of junior high school girls)

…..yawn….

What about the Braves?

I really like what I see. They are a ‘get ’em on, get ’em over, get ’em in’ type team – and I desperately hope Bobby will play them that way!

Look at yesterday’s game against the Yankees as one example:
Hitters got on base, Kotchman hits a 2-run double. Braves lead.
Later, Prado hits a double, Escobar hits a sac fly, Prado scores. Braves win.

The pitching is definitely there, IMHO. (Dear Lord, please don’t let them fall apart again this year!)

Kawakami needs a little more acclimation time, I think, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t wind up impressing us all.

hanson1And speaking of impressing: Hanson. Oh, wow! I want to see him in the regular rotation, but I don’t want it to be too early. Is he really ready? Judging by the comments I read from players, I’d have to say ‘yes’.

Then I read this from Cox about another young pitcher, Kris Medlen:
medlenk“”Medlen is impressive,” Cox said. “Everything that you hear about that kid, you like. He doesn’t walk anybody and he’s got three plus pitches, for me. He’s got a plus fastball, plus changeup and a plus breaking ball, with control. A lot of guys have plus-this and plus-that, but they don’t have control like he’s got.”

Continuing from Mark Bowman:
“Labeled by some as a poor man’s Greg Maddux, Medlen, who might actually look younger than Brent Lillibridge, possesses a fastball that rests between 91-93 mph and a changeup that has caught the attention of the Braves and many scouts from around the league.

Medlen’s stock began to soar after he was placed in Double-A Mississippi’s starting rotation midway through the 2008 season. In the 92 1/3 innings he worked as a starter, Medlen recorded 90 strikeouts and issued 21 walks.

Given a chance to make another solid impression during the Arizona Fall League, Medlen worked 25 innings, registered 25 strikeouts, issued just one walk and held opponents to a .203 batting average.”

gonzo1Moylan & Co in the bullpen look good. Gonzo seems ready and eager to go.

I can’t help but feel good about the pitching staff and the youngsters in the pipeline.

I like the infield. Not spectacular, but more than adequate. Steady. And that can take you places instead of always having to wait for a flash in the sun. Combine steadiness with occasional flashes and we might be pleased with the result.

The outfield. Garret Anderson. BIG, BIG plus! I’m very pleased with him as a person and a player. In centerfield, I think the team has a lot of potential with either of several players. In right? Well, I’m hopeful, I’ll leave it at that. (I read that Wrenn said something to the effect that they see improvement, are pleased with his efforts and feel that JF only needs some more time to finish putting it together’.)

andersongI also think that Garret’s very presence in the outfield will have a positive effect on the other 2 outer positions. For once, ‘veteran presence’ actually means something! There are people who can inspire others to perform at a higher level and I get the impression that GA is one of them.

Mac catching, David Ross backup. We’re secure there. (And a few days ago, I didn’t even know who Ross was! 🙄 Give me time; I’ll get there! 😆 )

Niggling things I don’t like:

~Kawakami doesn’t speak English; I read that during games, his interpreter will not be allowed to accompany Bobby/whoever to the mound. Why??

~The comment was made that Mac needs to be in ST instead of at the WBC so ‘he could learn Japanese.’ Ummm, why doesn’t Kawakami bother learn English if he’s going to play here??

~Chino is still bench coach. Eddie Perez should be in that spot and Chino should be in the bullpen.

OK – what do you think?

~CL~

 

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72: Spring is about to be sprung!

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by Berigan

Well, after being revived from a near death experience, (and some nasty frostbite) Spring is about to return…unless we are about to enter a new ice age. (20 for a low Tuesday night here in the ATL!!!) I’d rather enter another gilded age, but, I don’t have a say in the matter.

Speaking of things I have no say about, your Atlanta Braves! Our Bravos are about to get paid for what many have been doing for weeks if not months already, swinging bats, and throwing the ol’ Horsehide. Or is it cowhide??? Synthetic leather like material, PETA approved???

springtraining
Whatever, the guys are getting ready for the long grind ahead of them. And that’s just spring training, never mind the actual baseball season…..and fingers crossed, post season.

One thing just about every team, save the Padres have in abundance is hope for a good season, and with a few breaks, a real playoff race to be involved in.

Remember last spring??? Me neither, but Salty reminded me in a post a few days back that we had something like 10 potential starters last year at the start of spring.
We all could imagine a rotation of Hudson, Smoltz, Glavine, Hampton, and perhaps that kid Jurrjens (If he outdueled Chucky and Jo-Jo for 5th slot) giving the Mutts and Phillies phits, err, fits. Hmm, lets, see now, which of that group was still starting in September for us???

Do I really need to recap that we lose Smoltz and Hampton, but gained Javy Vasquez, Derek Lowe, and that Japanese guy, who’s name better start rolling off my tongue PDQ??? I guess I do, if I don’t want this lead to be only 3 paragraphs long! 😉

Thats 3 guys, that if their health luck/karma doesn’t do a 180 being acox Brave, should each make 30+ starts, and go 200 + innings, which will really rest the old bullpen in May and June, and make Bobby look like he has gained 30 IQ points, and is no longer in Forrest Gump territory! 😀

A real bopper in Left will make him seem smarter than Einstein! That, and not starting McCann 12 games straight.

Anyhoo, I know we will all be writing about our hopes and dreams for the team in the coming weeks, we will get familiar with, and excited about some of the kids we only know based on their names, and what writers have written about them.

Baseball tonight occasionally does a segment where guys on the panel have to make bold predictions. Who might be a surprise MVP, what team will win the most games the 2nd half of season, etc.

heyward1My bold/crazy predictions are that if we don’t get a real left fielder in spring training, Justin Heyward will have a huge spring, sparking talk of him being the left fielder. Also, Tommy Hanson will be so impressive, and Glavine will hurt his hammy in the second to last start of spring and will go north with the club.

What are everyone else’s Batpoop crazy predictions for the Braves in 2009???

~Berigan~

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70: Ah, Spring!

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By Gil In Mechanicsville

Well, almost, I can dream can’t I? Yes, we are only 30 days or so into winter but with global warming I can hope for an early thaw. Besides, pitchers and catchers report for Camp Leo Camp Roger early workouts in only three weeks. On the baseball calendar it must be spring.

Soon the sweet sound of horsehide hitting leather shall be upon us. Can that mean the sound of that same horsehide being stuck by ash will be far behind? I could have said maple I know but perhaps that would be more appropriately described as the crack of the bat… For all you little leaguer, pony league, college and high school types, it will be the “PING”…….but that is another story…

Now, as the all important early camps approach, who can Braves fans expect to show for early work. I thought that rather than talk about the usual suspects, Gonzalas, Acosta, Moylan and the like, I would throw a few new names into the mix. Some guys who have been acquired and may have a chance to show up in Atlanta or Gwinnett in 2009. Now, while many want to know everything there is to know about newcomer Tommy Hanson, I suspect he will get lots of ink from other sources before the end of spring training is done. Many of the fans will want to call him up to the bigs a bit too early. Folks, let the kid learn how to pitch and develop the arm strength needed before clamoring for him to be the next savior of the franchise. Lest we forget other promising rookies who were ruined from over exposure before they were truly ready, let me toss a few names out there. Steve Avery, Mark Fidrych, Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Dontrelle Willis, I could go on but I think you get the idea.

The Braves’ former pitching coach, Leo Mazzone was a stickler about conditioning. This was especially true about young pitchers. Now maybe it was good luck and maybe it was an aberration but the facts show that during his tenure with the Braves, they had the fewest arm problems of any staff in baseball.

So who might we see this year for the “non-mandatory” early conditioning camp?

oflahertyEric O’Flaherty is 23 y/o southpaw. He went from being a rising star with a 7-1 record in 2007 out of the pen to a horrible start in 2008 for Seattle when he appeared in but 7 games and had an ERA of 20.25. Eric was sent down to the Seattle minor league system until June of last year where he compiled a 4.96 ERA in 15 appearances. He suffered a back injury in June and did not pitch for the rest of the season.. One must wonder if he was concealing an injury suffered in spring training. It has been known to happen with young players, afraid they will be labeled “fragile”. The Braves are hoping he has fully recovered from whatever ailment he suffered. He was too good a pitcher to pass up as far as the Braves were concern. Time will tell if he can return to pre 2008 form. O’Flaherty was claimed off waivers by the Braves in November of 2008. A good showing in spring training may make Will Ohman expendable.

logan1Boone Logan is another young lefty acquired by Atlanta in the off season. Just 24 y/o, he came over in the Javier Vazquez trade. Boone appeared in 55 games in 2008 accumulating 42.1 innings. He compiled 42 strikeouts and gave up 14 walks last season while compiling an ERA of 5.95. To say he was another young pitcher in Ozzie’s doghouse is an understatement. Apparently he was used as a situational guy ALA Jeff Ridgeway. Again it looks like even though the Braves will not start many left handers, they potentially have a bevy of lefties available out of the pen.

marek3Stephen Marek is another relief specialist acquired last season. He came to the Braves along with Casey Kotchman in the Teixeira trade with the Angels. 28 years old, he might be on the precipice of his career. Perhaps he is just cannon fodder for the minor leagues. After all, They need to fill the rosters so the real prospect have a place to play. That said, perhaps the Braves can once again catch lightning in a bottle. Buddy Carlyle was another pitcher who supposedly had his best years behind him and he worked out pretty well. Marek was assigned to Mississippi last year and pitched this fall in the AFL with Tommy Hanson. Marek helped hold down many leads for the Solar Sox and aided in the team compiling the top record in the league. He is not a big strikeout pitcher, but has managed a career K/BB rate of 2.62 last fall for Mesa, he compiled 12 innings of work, giving up 9 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7. He gave up zero earned runs and had a WHIP of 0.92. In late November he was added to the Braves’ 40 man roster, both protecting him from the Rule 5 draft and placing him in the bullpen mix for 2009.

I will review some more of the prospects in another post.

~Gil~

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69: The Gift of Giving

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by Salty

hank
There may be no greater lesson learned as a youth than the gift of giving. Whether in actions, manners, talents, skills… we kids often learn without realizing. Sports certainly deliver that message.

Thus, in the hopes of pounding out much needed filler a lead to for our Blog-Mistress…I’ll begin with saying, “Thanks, CL, for giving your tireless energy in building the little hamlet of Stuff-ville!” And you, IM/SG, clearly your role as CFO is proving invaluable…in ways we’ll all never really understand!

Why the photo of Henry Aaron? Simple…he’s the hometown hero of this ‘LA-born and raised’ fan. The lesson: admiration for his grace under fire throughout his career. Knowing the recognition was far too often for his accomplishments as a ballplayer, absent recognizing the quality of the man. I am pretty sure I was not the only kid who never saw Hank as a black player, just a hero. Not giving into the pain he surely must have endured served as a lesson in perseverance.

Fighting through a handicap, giving far more of his time to perfect (and even imperfect) strangers, and providing a lasting memento to this fan of the American Pastime has left an indelible reminder that decency among men remains. Thank you, Lew, for sharing so much of your gift with so many of us! What a super Wurlitzer!

~ Salty~

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68: The Hole In Our Hearts

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Fans KNOW the individual players on their team. They have an ‘emotional investment’ in them, if you will. Just having a warm body in a playing position creates a void in that emotional investment – and fans begin to turn away to find that which is missing. A TEAM has to consist of more than just a collection of people. There has to be a bond, a constant, a glue that holds them all together.

The constants that have been present with the Braves for SO long – TV coverage, Skip, Pete, Smoltz, Chipper and Bobby are disappearing rapidly. I’d bet the ranch that this is Bobby’s last year and, from Chipper’s comments, he’ll leave at the first good offer – especially with Bobby leaving.

The Braves are the Braves in name only.

We hated to see Andruw come apart because we KNEW him. We had watched him grow up.

We hated to see Glavine leave because he was one of US. We felt betrayed.

A part of each of us died when Skip died because we KNEW him and loved him dearly. He was our link to the team, he was their voice, he was our voice.

And Pete’s retirement was almost expected after Skip died. The two just belonged together and one without the other was just ‘wasn’t right.’ He’ll be so badly missed.

Without the TV coverage we had for so long, we feel suddenly cut off from our team with no recourse. Makes it harder to ’stay in touch’ with them. Distance grows.

And Bobby. We love him, we get aggravated with him, but again, he’s always been there, it seems. Few remember the early days BBC – Before Bobby Cox. How unreal will it be for him to be missing from that top step, yelling encouragement, or hobbling out to the mound?

Chipper’s eyes are now wide open. He knows he’ll be playing elsewhere very soon now, especially after Bobby retires. No illusions.

John Smoltz. A true warrior if there ever was one. If Tommy LaSorda bled ‘Dodger Blue’, then surely the Braves Tomahawk beats in John Smoltz’s chest. After all these years and all he’s been through to keep pitching, he is badly disrespected by the current management. Gone in a flurry of bad decisions, severely hurt feelings and ill-will.

Well, at least we had it once and that’s more than many fans can say. The Braves are a 3rd rate team and will most likely stay there. I’m not excited about them anymore. I hope that will change, but I’d be surprised if it does. I don’t like being blind-sided.

~CL~

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67: Smoltz Chose What???

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by Voice of Reason Raisins

JEFFERSON, GA – So, I wake up this morning to news that John Smoltz, the one affectionately referred to in some circles as the Braves’ “Bearded Icon”, is taking his iconic status, packing his bags and heading north. To be specific, he’s going to Boston. He’s going to storied Fenway Park. He’s leaving corporate Turner Field. That’s a tough one to swallow.

Well, after taking a few minutes to digest the bombshell, and giving myself a little time to consider it carefully, I have to conclude that I think that…

… we still don’t have all of the information. Actually, all we have is multiple media reports. I would like to hear the official response from the Braves. I would like to hear from Frank Wren. I would like to hear both sides of this story. I’m hurt, but I am trying to be, well, reasonable about it.

So from where I sit, the information I have at this point is this:

According to Mark Bowman on the MLB.com site, The Red Sox have been aggressively pursuing Smoltz over the past month and it appears they were able to land him with guaranteed $5.5 million contract that includes incentives that could increase his 2009 earnings to $10 million.

According to the Major League source, the incentives offered by the Red Sox were “more attainable” than the ones provided by the Braves.

Multiple sources have said the Braves were offering slightly more than $2 million guaranteed and performance-based incentives that could have increased Smoltz’s earnings to approximately $7 million.

So, if the reports are correct, and we really don’t yet know if they are, then the overall worth of the deal was only $3M or so different, assuming Smoltz could perform. And let’s be truly honest, that is only an assumption.

First, let’s talk about the money aspect, because I’m sure most of you feel the way I did when I first read it. Geez, Frank, give Johnny the dough!. But after thinking about it a little more, The difference in overall money is only $3M. The difference in guaranteed money is about $3.5M. Is it the $3.5M the difference? Is the attainability of the incentives the difference? Does John not believe he can achieve the Braves incentives? If not, that is a concern.

Is this a competitive issue? Does John believe that he has a better chance of going back to the World Series with Boston and therefore felt the need to go? If so, he can go with my best wishes because the Red Sox have a lot better chance of dancing in October than do the Braves. If that is his motivation, then God bless him. Go Sox.

Is this a personality issue? Are there irreparable rifts with the organization going back to the “homeboy upstairs”? Maybe… I doubt it. It didn’t seem to have been an issue in 2008.

All of the above factors focus mostly on Smoltz, but let’s look at Frank Wren for a moment. We know his plan. We know his parameters. We know there is money to spend and we want to see it spent, by golly! We have $40M, right? We haven’t seen it spent and we feel lied to. We feel ripped off. But let’s stop and think. There is already money committed to Javier Vasquez. There is already money spent on maintaining the bench and on acquiring a much-needed back-up catcher. There is already money set aside for raises for existing players. There is already money earmarked for offers extended to Wil Ohman and to Japanese import Kenshin Kawakami. And all of that taken into account, there is still about $25M left to acquire a top of the rotation pitcher and a left fielder with a better resume than Matt Diaz. Do you really want to commit 40% of your remaining budget on a 41 year old pitcher attempting a comeback from major shoulder surgery that might not even be able to contribute until May or later? Or counting just the guaranteed portion, it’s still 20% of the remaining money. It’s enough to forego an offer to Derek Lowe or Oliver Perez or anyone else upwards from Paul Byrd. It’s enough to resign the team to play Blanco/Anderson/Diaz in left field for another season. Frank Wren is going to be crucified in Atlanta in the wake of this staggering event, but the truth is that it is probably the in the best overall team interests to spend the remaining money in a more assured manner. It’s smart to stick to the plan.

John Smoltz has been my favorite Atlanta Brave. This is a personal loss for me, and I know it is a personal loss for many of you as well. But if I am Frank Wren, and I am trying to spend the limited amount of remaining money to field a contending team, I’m keeping my focus on the plan. I’m keeping my focus on the top of the rotation pitcher and the left fielder.

Admit it. We could not – Boston cannot – truly count on Smoltz to perform up to his legend, or even to perform at all. Reports say he’s progressing, but he’s been mostly reclusive, staying away from the media. Where have we seen that before? Oh, yeah… last spring when he covertly worked “his program” on back fields away from the media. That didn’t work out so well. Bobby Cox was quoted as saying John looked “terrific”. What do you expect Bobby to say, “John looked like crap”? I have a lot of concerns as to whether Johnny can perform at a major league level, and I would hope Frank Wren does as well. Boston can afford that risk. Atlanta cannot. Stick to the plan, Frank. Execute the plan, Frank.

Oh, I can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth. The blogs and radio shows are already rife with the talk of how the Braves are “cheap” – how the Braves “owe it to Smoltz” to basically give him whatever he wants to keep him here. Who owes who more? I think John Smoltz has the Braves to thank for a lot as well. Folks say, “It’s only two million dollars. He’s earned it!” I say, what if that $2M is the difference between Lowe signing with Atlanta or with New York? I’d rather have it to spend on Lowe. I say Smoltz has already been paid for what he has earned, and the Braves don’t really owe him any more than the opportunity to finish his career in Atlanta, if he desires to do so. The opportunity is there, folks. He desires to leave. Set the emotion aside for a moment and you will recognize this too.

In the end, it is John Smoltz’ decision, and Smoltz’ alone. If he really wanted to finish his career in Atlanta, it would happen. We don’t know, and we may not ever really know the factors that played into his decision to leave. But it was his decision to leave. “Leave” is an action verb, requiring a conscious effort. As for me, I wish him Godspeed and a full recovery and a successful season in Boston, except for June 26-28 when Boston comes to Turner Field.

Guess what… The Green Bay Packers didn’t collapse when Brett Favre, who had a bit of a dramatic off-season, decided to continue his iconic career in New York. In fact, Green Bay had a pretty decent season. Favre started well, but faded late and actually hurt his team over the last part of the season when he looked tired and was less than 100% physically. His play cost the Jets their division title and a spot in the playoffs. Anybody see the parallel?

When it’s time, it’s time. John says it’s time. I root for the team, not the individuals. I’ll root for the Braves and the players who choose to be here. It really is about choice, isn’t it?

~Raisins~

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66: Beneful? Caviar? What will it take?

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by Savannah Guy The Invisible Man

Now, baseball: maybe Frank Wren should start serving the Beneful equivalent to attract game. Seems what he’s putting out there is not attracting much. Hard to get the good critters with burgers when they’re used to steak.

If the Liberty strategy is to save money to get the balance sheet as profitable as possible to sell within a few years and, in the interim, placates the gullible fans with promises, wild goose chases and PR, then their strategy seems to be working pretty well.

If they are in a two or four year rebuilding mode, they should probably just go ahead and announce that. Reasonable and savvy fans would understand it and appreciate it. Judging from the general attitude of some hardcore fans (bloggers) around the county across the river, Liberty has already succeeded with willing or unwitting accomplices in the stewardship of their austerity program.

When fans start managing and hot-stoving to middlin’ budgets and looking for bargain basement prices and opting for Jair Jurrjens as staff ace, then we’re just contributing to mediocrity and wallowing in delusion. Methinks those fans get so caught up in the fantasy/Monopoly money side of baseball that they don’t see what’s actually transpiring in the real world.

Many things need to happen for the Braves to compete in 09.

Thing one: We need to close a deal. I don’t expect the Braves to spend like the Yanks or Bosox, but when there is such a brouhaha over a guy like Furcal… and then even HE turns us down, our bar is not set very high. I’m very pleased that we didn’t get Furcal. Never liked him or his attitude. The Peavy “negotiation” was a debacle. Braves need at least one bonafide ace.

Thing two: Did I say we need an ace? We do. Javier Vazquez is not Lowe and he’s certainly not Sabbathia. Heck, Lowe is not even Lowe any longer. But the Braves have Vazquez. Then, we all love Smoltz and want him to return healthy and able to pitch, but it is a fantasy to think he’ll solve any of our starter lineup issues. It’s a very long shot that he can even pitch through ST. It’s not his elbow this time, it’s the shoulder. Glavine is pretty much the same story, although his arm isn’t quite the problem. But either of our great (old) aces are at best a number four starter on a winning club. We currently have a SP lineup that will wear out our bullpen by the end of May.

Thing three: We seem to be getting caught on the wrong side of the door when it slams on the parity of MLB in this new economic era. With an individual owner that is willing to spend and compete, that door could be kicked open again, but it’ll take big spending. With the trend of Liberty, that door will stay shut until the team sells.

Thing four: The Braves need a big, dependable bat. The LF platoon won’t cut it. We don’t have a cleanup hitter. Kotchman isn’t my idea of the big bopper at first, and we have an outfield filled with question marks when it comes to power and average. We need a threat in the lineup behind Chipper and before McCann. Simple as that.

Personally, I’m of the mindset that the Braves will be in the lower to middle of the pack until the time comes that we can grow youngsters into aces, like in 91, or when Liberty sells to an owner that wants to win. Until then, Braves are still and always my team and I’ll always hope the hope of a sports fan… but my expectations are not for them to be playing ball in postseason.

Fantasizing about Wren and Company putting a championship caliber team together with balance sheet austerity, band-aides, tooth pics, bubble gum and second-tier players is not exciting hot stove material, not practical and not realistic by any stretch of the imagination.

Maybe I’m just jaded. Maybe I’m spoiled. Maybe it seems negative but it’s not. Just seems realistic. Spending time and getting all emotional and rationalizing about trades for mediocre players or has-beens just doesn’t float my boat when by doing so, I still can’t control the outcome. Braves will sign a few players. We’ll see what we have when it’s announced and the ink is dry. Braves will play ball in the spring. We shall see what we have when it’s time for them to suit up.

Until then, unless Wren and Liberty break the trend that’s become painfully apparent, the Braves will be haggling over the castoffs and second stringers and struggling to be in fourth place in the division this year.

~IM~

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65: What a revoltin’ development!

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by Carolina Lady

Stuffville, USA – Well, as Riley would say, “What a revoltin’ development this is!” (If you don’t know who Riley is, Google it.) High hopes and expectations thwarted at every turn, it seems.

Sheets, anyone?
Randy Johnson for one year?
Lowe? I doubt it.
Who else that would be an improvement over what we already have??

What about the outfield?
Pray for Frenchy! We need him to come storming back this year!
Who’s in left?
Center?

About the only positions fairly certain are Chipper at 3rd and McCann behind the plate.

Haven’t heard a peep about Kotchman.

Where’s Ohman? Didn’t the Braves make an offer? What’s up with that?

Will Bobby come back in ’10?
50/50, I think. He’ll hate to walk away from a challenge, but then maybe he’ll just be tired of it. Who will take his place?

We don’t even have the broadcast booth covered for this coming season!

OK – what do you think Wren will do? What will the roster look like at the end of ST? Will Smoltz be successful in his return? Will Glavine give it a go? Who is going to wash the dishes? (Never mind, I know the answer to that one!)

Don’t complain about the lead; it’s all I could come up with in :15! 😆

~CL~

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63: Throwing Caution To The Wind – part IV

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by Gil in Mechanicsville

To conclude my synopsis on the possible Braves bullpen for 2009, I will comment on the best of the rest and perhaps some other possibilities from the Braves system. Again, it is necessary to take all of what I say with a grain of salt because things can change in a hurry. A big trade, a breakthrough spring, an off-season injury can all have a profound affect on how things can shake out.

Let’s start with Manny Acosta. The tall lanky Panamanian can be a showacosta stopper at times and then “bad” Manny will make an appearance and give up five runs before he knows what hit him, or make that who. Acosta, I think, is well suited as a set up man. He still has not developed the killer instinct of a closer but he is just too good to bring in to face one batter. When he is on, he has a 95 mph fastball and devastating slider that brakes sharply away from right-handers. However, like many other young pitchers, he tries to get too cute and aims for the corners. Depending on the umpire’s definition of the strike zone, he is going to either catch guys looking or start walking people. For some reason, he will allow a few bad calls get in his head and the next thing you know, “bad” Manny shows up. Acosta had some injury issues last season which really hampered his development. Hopefully he will be ready coming out of spring training to finally become a fixture for the Braves. He has the potential to be a really valuable and dependable piece of the pitching staff as long as he can realize he really does belong on the major league roster.

bennettjeffJeff Bennett also had a bit of a Jeckle-and-Hyde personality in 2008. He was a shadow of his former self with his new and improved physic last season, he had flashes of brilliance along with just plain awful. Who is the real Jeff Bennett, inquiring minds want to know. I think Jeff was also facing some fatigue issues in 2008. I just could not fathom why Bobby Cox would call on the same guys repeatedly last year. It was like he would forget a guy had pitched 3 innings two nights in a row and then have him come in yet again. Now the last thing a fringe guy like Bennett would do is say he could not go again. No, he is going to suck it up and take the ball and pray the batter will get himself out. It’s my humble opinion the biggest thing missing in the Braves dugout is a guy like Pat Corrales to tell Bobby who is ready and who is not. I’m not sure Chino or Roger really feels comfortable enough in their roles to speak up tell the skipper he is hurting the team’s chance to win. Anyway, Bennett is a ground ball specialist as he has a nasty sinker and is a go to guy when a double play is called for. In addition, he is pretty versatile as he can also be used as a spot starter or long relief guy. He has the tools to be a reliable arm out of the pen; the question is how often should you use him.

Buddy Carlyle, honest folks, you got to love this guy. All those yearsbuddy_carlyle knocking around the minors, getting frequent flyer miles on Greyhound. He persevered and made it back to the bigs in 2007. I told folks when he came up from Richmond, way back when, that they should not expect too much out of the guy. He will never be confused with Tommy Hanson or John Smoltz but he is what he is and he can give you four or five innings of yeoman like baseball and by the time the sixth inning rolls around, you look up at the scoreboard and realize your team is still in the game. If you can just generate a little offense he stands a good chance of getting a win. The thing that puzzled me last year was he would languish for weeks out in the bullpen before Bobby realized he was still on the staff and call him in to pitch. Amazingly, he would get out of a big jam and put up a couple more goose eggs on the scoreboard and just wow the crowd with his resilience. Next thing you know, he is the pet pig and his arm falls off from over use. Now, it may not be fair to accuse Bobby of misusing his pen last year, after all, when your starting five are going three and out, night after night in April and May, it is inevitable that your bullpen is going to implode in August and September. There is a reason bullpen guys are not starters. During the course of their careers some sharp-eyed coach has figured out that some guys just have a marked drop-off in their effectiveness after a certain number of pitches. Some guys can go the distance and some guys are sprinters. It is up to the coaches to put guys in the situations from which they can glean the most success.

ridgeway Jeff Ridgeway, had an up and down year. Used primarily as a short relief, situational guy against lefties, he had some early success but really struggled towards the end of the year. He will be in camp but look for him to be on the bubble in spring training. I would suggest he get an apartment in Gwinnett for 2009 so he can shuttle between AAA and Atlanta without having to leave home.

johnstockman

Phil Stockman, big righty who has battled injuries for the past couple of years. His biggest obstacle will be overcoming the fear of getting hurt yet again. He possesses a good fastball and curve but until he can get himself back in shape, he will be a fixture in Gwinnett.

moylanPhil’s fellow Aussie, Peter Moylan, should be back next year about May. He will start some work in spring training but it will still be too early for him to do any serious work. I look for him to begin the year in Gwinnett if not on the DL until he proves he can once again get major league hitters out. The most telling thing about TJ surgery is not about the inability to throw a fastball but about hurling breaking pitches. It’s when they stop breaking that they end up in the bleachers.

Francisley Bueno and Jorge Julio are likely to be on the team next year unlessfrancisleybueno the Braves sign someone in the off-season. I don’t know who the Braves have in their system that could be called upon next year but the crop of pitchers at Richmond did not look ready for primetime. If the Braves do not trade JoJo, I would expect him to start the year in AAA. The Braves are not going to make him into a reliever. The same goes for Chuck James. Of course lots of things can happen between now and February so keep a sharp eye out for changes.

~Gil~


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62: Uh – Did Somebody Break Wind, part III

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Gil in Mechanicsville

Okay, continuing on with the theme of “Pitching, Pitching, Pitching,” I thought I would toss in my two cents on the 2009 Braves prospects for the bullpen.

Once upon-a-time, the bullpen was a place where you banished hurlers who were either washed up or just not good enough to be a starter. Boy, have times changed. Today, starters go five or six innings or one hundred pitches or their arm falls off, whichever comes first and then the specialists are called upon. A long relief guy, a situational guy for lefties, a ground ball specialist when a double play is needed, a set up guy, the closer and the ever present “why is this guy still on the team because no one ever calls on him” guy.

Just like the real “journalists” do, I will work backwards and start with the closer. You know who that is because he is the fellow who gets most of the press and contrary to popular notion, cannot walk on water but he doesn’t need to because it never rains on his parade.

Closer possibilities for Atlanta in 2009…. (disclaimer: things can change in a hurry due to the need to trade a player for a part you do not already have or doing something stupid like putting their hand in a meat grinder or enjoying the good life a little too much and showing up stoned….)

Mike “Gonzo” Gonzalez, this kid is going to be a great one because he thinks he is suppose to be. (The antithesis of Manny Acosta) After experiencing Tommy John surgery, he made a nice recovery. Not to say there weren’t some dicey moments but just because you comeback, it does not mean you can pitch to the same level you could before you were hurt. Velocity or lack there of appears to be the most telling sign there is something wrong. The up side of all this is Gonzo will be better in 2009. He will be stronger and his fastball should return to it’s 98 mph range. The best side of all this however is the knowledge he may have gained in finding out he does not have to throw it all that hard to get hitters out. Of course I am still waiting for someone to call a balk on him with all that rocking motion.

Actually, I worry more about the Rafael (see, I told you I was hurt) Soriano, I doubt anyone took more heat than Rafael did last year over his on again off again soap opera but mostly about his supposed lack of courage because repeated MRIs failed to show any cause for his loss of speed and recurring pain. After signing a lucrative contract prior to the 2008 season, much was expected of “Mr. Sunshine”. For those of you who believe in the absolute infallibility of the medical profession I have two words, Mark Wohlers. Wohlers was vilified for his seemingly unexplainable loss of control. It was not until the Reds took a flier on him that he decided to allow for an exploratory surgery and discovered he indeed have a serious problem. Soriano had an exploratory performed by Dr. Andrews and a pinched nerved was discovered and corrected. I predict next spring Rafael will again impress the Braves Nation and remind everyone why he was paid closer money.

John Smoltz will be at a crossroads next spring. While his spirit is willing, his body may not be. The surgery performed on his shoulder does not have a track record of affording good results. The main reason is the tissues that comprise the labium are not conducive to surgical repair. It would be great to have thunder and lightning available to come out of the bullpen in 2009 but I would not bet the house on it, even though the a fore mentioned house has decidedly less market value to everyone except the tax assessor. If John does return, I predict it will be late in the spring before he believes he is ready. I would expect it will be much later in the season before he could be effective. As Braves fans we can hope but the obese woman may be warming up in the wings for the curtain call of the bearded icon.

Will Ohman will most certainly be pitching for someone else next season? Not because he was ineffective last season but because the Braves will not want to pay a set up man more than a couple of million a year. Perhaps the Braves will concede the fact a reliable lefty out of the pen is a valuable piece needed if they are to be serious about beating the Phillies and the Mets in their own division next year. I don’t foresee either of those clubs being weaker next year. Sometimes a GM has to bite the bullet and realize the cost of doing business is greater than you want it to be. I don’t see anyone else on the horizon who could fill Will Ohman’s role as effectively whatever the price.

Blaine Boyer is not my favorite Brave. I hope he can change my mind next season. I cannot put my finger on why I have lost faith in the strapping young righty who burst on the scene with such promise with the rest of the baby braves. Perhaps it’s Bobby’s perchance for using a pitcher until his arm falls off and then being surprised at the drop in performance. I had the opportunity observe Blaine on numerous occasions while with the Richmond club and if I could figure him out I would send him a telegram to advise him I was holding his career hostage. Perhaps a change in scenery would help, after all, he has all the tools to be a great reliever. He just has not mastered his Zen.

I will conclude my assessment on the Braves potential 2009 relief corps in part four.

Gil

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61: I Approve This Message

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by Voice of Reason Raisins

Jefferson, GA – Yes, today I stand before you to talk about the issues. No beating around the bush (no pun intended) here. I’ll go straight to the heart of the matter. Let’s get to it, huh?

Economic Policy: The economy is on everyone’s mind right now, especially with the big losses recently felt in the New York markets. Yes, no New York team in the playoffs this year. Surely, though, given the current economy of Major League Baseball, those losses will begin to reverse. No bailout needed here. The pure free market economics of the sport will prove to rise above the critics as the New York teams outspend everyone else this offseason, making it difficult for the Middle Class teams to get ahead. Of course, as the Rays have proven this season, dumping good money after bad is not necessarily the answer. Judicious spending, and wise choices, always are the keys to surviving in the new age economy. We must take this lesson to heart.

National Defense Policy: I believe whole-heartedly in a strong National defense. Of course, you have to win the National League before you can defend it. I believe with a good economic approach, including the aforesaid judicious spending and wise choices, we soon could find ourselves once again defending the National League.

Health Care Policy: This year, a strong Health Care position has become a prominent part of shaping one’s platform. I believe in Health Care for everyone, and fully intend to make sure that the training room is accessible at all times. Dr. James Andrews phone number is, as always, prominently posted on the team bulletin board. Specifically, though, I believe in a more preventative approach. I believe in better offseason training and stretching. I believe that March 1st is too late to start. I believe that elite professional athletes should keep the tools of their trade, their bodies, in shape year round. I believe that, in the case of health related matters, less is more.

Foreign Policy: I believe that we should have a strong foreign policy. Whether it be in Central America, South America, the Dominican Republic, Canada, etc. I, for one, am happy that we are venturing into the Japanese market. We must, however, make sure we operate within the negotiated rules, lest we damage our relationship with our Far East brothers.

Energy Policy: I believe in alternative energy sources, as long as they are approved by Major League Baseball. No PEDs here. We have an abundance of natural energy resources, though, if our players will just take that initiative. Fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, etc. are all excellent fuel choices when used efficiently and wisely.

Homeland Security Policy: We must play better baseball at home. No doubt about it. If you can win 2 out of 3 at home, and split on the road, you will win 95 games and find yourself in the playoffs.

Trade Policy: This is an area of great concern and great discussion this offseason. Obviously, coupled with the Economic issues we face, our Trade Policy has to be one that is not only attractive to our Trade partners, but maintains our own supply integrity as well. The former Trade Czar was masterful in this area.

Education Policy: I believe that no player should be left behind. All players not only should, but must have access to the finest instruction, by qualified instructors. Any instructors deemed unqualified should be summarily dismissed. Unfortunately, Terry Pendleton will return for the 2009 campaign. I am currently huddling with my advisers over this development. Secondly, all players not only should, but must have access to the teams video and tape library, as well as the “book” on pitchers and hitters throughout the league. Our players must engage themselves in proper preparation for whichever new team they encounter. To me, there is no excuse for lack of proper preparation. Those who cannot meet the mark could find themselves expelled. Just ask Jason Marquis.

Immigration Policy: I am all for legal immigration. I believe in extending opportunity to all who seek it legally. To those who come into our country illegally, if you can chuck it 95mph+ or rake like Rod Carew, I’ll find you a good lawyer…and an agent.

Agriculture Policy: This hearkens back to the very fundamentals of developing a strong organization. To build a strong team, there must be a strong farm system in place. This team has a strong farm system, but the new harvest is not yet at hand. Oh, there’ll be a couple of ripe ones to pop up early, but the real bounty is still a couple of years away. Names like, Heyward, Freeman, Hanson, Medlen, Hernandez and Hicks. The future is indeed a bright one, as long as we do not allow the plague of impatience to ravage what could be a bumper crop.

Domestic Affairs Policy: They are wrong. Period. Marriage is sacred, even though a lot of players seem to forget that sometimes on those long road trips. Of course, it’s not like this is the NBA or anything…

View of the Current Administration: The current administration is under a tremendous amount of criticism right now. Even though there are many positive points racked up over the last several years, many seem to lock in and focus on the recent failures, some of which admittedly exist. However, remember that mistakes made in the 9th inning are always magnified more than successes found in the 1st inning, and that the media doesn’t always paint an accurate picture.

I am the Voice of Reason Raisins, and I approve this message.

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60: Winds of Change are in the Air – Part II

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by Gil in Mechanicsville

Continuing with the theme of pitching options for the Braves in 2009, I mentioned in my previous post that several young pitchers currently in the Braves organization could figure prominently in Atlanta’s plans. I’ll begin with a couple who spent time on the big league roster in 2008.

JoJo Reyes, the big young left-hander has all the tools to be a big time front line pitcher. Unfortunately, he does not seem to realize that as of yet. I think his biggest problem is he gives opposing hitters too much credit. Instead of challenging opposing batters, he tries too hard to nibble at the corners and ends up in trouble with guys on base via walks and instead of the occasional solo dinger, he will give up runs in bunches. Perhaps another year in triple A will pay dividends. After all, he is only 22 years old. Still plenty of time to develop into the player the Braves envision he will be.

Charlie Morton, another bright spot for the Brave this year, he has long had the stuff to be a major league pitcher but like many other young players, he was not sure he belonged. Guy Hanson, the pitching coach for the Richmond Braves had worked hard trying to instill the type of mental toughness required for him to be successful in the bigs. A tired arm slowed him down late in the season. After all,  those innings pitched in the Arizona Fall League and in Triple A counted too. He once again looked sharp when used for two innings of relief at the end of the season. I predict he will be one of the last pitchers to be cut at the end of spring training if the Braves make a few trades for a starter or sign a top line free agent. It should be a real dogfight between him and JoJo and Jorge for the final slots on the Braves staff.

Chuck James is still seeking the true meaning to life, or at the least his long lost ability to throw pitches that are not immediately struck with such force that his head snaps back as he watches the ball sail into the dark of night. If he was a golfer, you could describe his problem as having a case of the yips. A condition that arrives without warning and causes its victim to lose all confidence in his ability to play and makes even a two-foot putt an adventure. Chuck himself has stated he needed to re-learn how to pitch this year. From my observation his mechanics are so out of whack because he continues to try to throw across his body. It is really difficult to consistently throw a pitch to the spot you are aiming when you are changing the release point on every throw. Walks are a nemesis for him and when you combine that with his propensity to give up the long ball, an ERA that resembles the score of an Olympic gymnast is likely. He is still searching for that elusive third pitch that would prevent batters from waiting on his change-up. You can get away with only having two pitches if you also have the control necessary to keep the ball off the sweet spot of the bat but the inability to perform as needed usually results in a short afternoon for the starter and a long afternoon for the bullpen.

Anthony Larew, looked to have turned to corner and had a great future ahead of him with Atlanta. Unfortunately for him, his arrival in Atlanta coincided with a blown out elbow and the need for Tommy John surgery. Bummer…. I am happy to say he returned to the Richmond club late this season and looked good for a guy coming off rehab. he had a couple of shaky starts the first week in August but started to come around after that. I expect he will continue to improve his arm strength and be ready to challenge for the final spot in the rotation for the big Braves. If not, he will be a short cab ride away in Gwinnette and likely be one of the first call ups should the Braves staff revert to 2008 form next year.

Up and coming Tommy Hanson is going to be on a lot of Atlanta Braves fans’ short list next year. I would expect quite a few folks will want to rush him to the big leagues considering his good numbers in Pearl this year. More likely for him will be a year or at least beginning of his Atlanta stay in the yet to be named Gwinnette stadium. I would suggest that he be allowed to learn how to pitch before he is thrown into the lion’s den. After all, a mistake made in the minors is a life lesson not often repeated in the majors. No need to ruin him mentally when he has such a great future. Often folks forget that the quality of the hitting in the minors is much less than the majors. Instead of pitching around a good prospect, a pitcher is faced with a line-up of guys who can put the bat on the ball.

In part III, I will sum up my take on the bullpen prospects for 2009.

~Gil~

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59: The Change We Need, Change We Can Believe In, A Change For The Better… Part I

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By Gil In Mechanicsville…

In this season of political spin, as politicians once again play us for fools and subscribe to the old Lincoln adage that you can fool all of the people some of the time, or at least long enough to get elected, I thought we would turn away from the posturing and one-upmanship for a few moments and talk about something that really means something to us, speculation of how the Braves line-up might look in 2009.

Let’s start with that most critical element of any successful major league franchise, pitching. First let’s assume that the Braves will at least try to bring back some of the reliable arms of the past. Tom Glavin may once again be a part of the starting rotation; the surgery to repair his balky elbow may be a resounding success. We likely won’t know until late march if he can be relied upon for one final hurrah in a Braves uniform but I suspect he would like to make one more attempt at glory.

John Smoltz may be the biggest question mark. The type of shoulder surgery he endured has not been known to have a high degree of success. Only the grit and determination, which he has shown repeatedly during his long career with the Braves, makes him a possibility to be a part of the Braves staff. While he may or may not be able to perform as a starting pitcher in 2009, I doubt he would be willing to serve in a support role in the Braves bullpen and I further doubt he would sign a contract for less than real market value. We will know by next March if we will see John on the field or in the broadcast booth.

Tim Hudson will be a non-factor next year unless the Braves are still in the pennant race in September. It is unlikely he would return to form in less than a year and his spot in the rotation is one of the huge voids that Braves need to filled this winter. We shall see just how good Frank Wren is as a GM if he can duplicate the type of deal his predecessor put together when he brought free agent Greg Maddux to Atlanta.

Jair Jurrjens was a real bright spot for the Braves this year. A true gem, for one so young to become the ace of the staff is too great a burden. Hopefully the Braves will spring for a true front line starter so Jair can continue to progress and mature without over using his arm. Too many innings on a young pitcher has repeatedly been shown to be a precursor to a shorten career.

Mike Hampton… yes, I know, so many feel he has stolen the money paid to him for the last three years but look at it this way, he was hurt while pitching. He worked like a dog to get back to where he can be considered to be a major league pitcher. Well, after watching him for the past few months, I think he has proven himself pretty well. As he becomes stronger and he regains velocity, he is going to once again be a valuable addition to the staff. I have no idea the type of contract he might be offered by the Braves but I do know one thing for certain, he is going to be on someone’s big league roster next year and the Braves will regret it if they do not re-sign him for 2009. He is still fairly young as pitchers go and if you compare him to Glavin and Smoltz, he is a virtual teenager.

Others who have a real chance at making the roster next year…. Jorge Campillo appeared to fade a bit down the stretch this year but for a while he really was a lifeline for the Braves. While he will never be confused as an ace, he was quite serviceable and hopefully he will rest his arm some during the off-season and be ready for action next April. Now while I will admit he is more likely the type of pitcher to be found on the National’s roster than the Braves, he has been much more solid than some of the other experiments Atlanta has tried the past few years. If he can learn to keep his change up down in the zone, he could easily be a 15 game winner for the Braves.

There are some other young hurlers in the Braves organization who have a chance to break through next season, Charlie Morton, JoJo Reyes, Anthony Larew, and Chuck James all have an opportunity to step into a role next year. I will give my prospectus of them as well as other young Braves hurlers in the organization plus the bullpen in my next contribution.

~Gil~

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58: Just Wait Til Next Year!!

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by Berigan

My turn again???? Seems like I just wrote one of these…..6  months ago!!! 🙂

Well, it’s getting old saying next year will be a better year in braves land. What’s funny, and great about this game, is you just never know who’s going to win, their division, the wildcard, or the World Series. Well, we know the WS winner will come out of the AL, but other than that, it’s a semi educated guess. Can anyone remember who was picked to be winners this spring??? Detroit was going to be about the best team in  baseball, certainly the best offense in decades. And the Indians were supposed to have 7-8 ML ready starters. So, one of those two teams was surely going to win the AL central, with the other team winning the Wildcard. That’s what the experts, people who live and breathe baseball, have watched the game closely for many moons said.

And we all know the only team that might, just might top the Red Sox in the east was the Yankees. The Rays were at least another year away from competing.

Mariners were likely to win the AL west. Well, they may win the worst record in the west this year, that’s about all…

In the NL west, how many people projected the Giants to be in 3rd place, with 2007 NL pennant winner Colorado in 4th,  and the Padres in last place???

I believe the Cubs were projected to win the central, but who expected the Cardinals in be in the hunt for most of the year? A team most people saw  and predicted, after Spring training, as the worst in their division???

In our own division, who among the experts, or among us, could see the Marlins competing through August????

Which brings us to the Braves. We know most(but not all) the experts predicted us to be a 3rd place team. But, the beat writer and most of us could see this team seriously competing for the flag in ’08.

We started the year with an embarrassment of pitching it seemed. Tons of hard throwers in the bullpen, with Gonzo coming back in  a few months. Seemed like we had 6-7 serious contenders for 5 starting jobs. Frenchy really to move from an excellent right fielder, to one of the best in the game. Diaz finally getting the chance to play every day. Yunel ready to have  break out year, in his first year as a starter. Chipper was back, we had one of the best hitting and fielding 1st baseman for the WHOLE year, Kelly Johnson and McCann just reaching their prime years as well. With Infante, we finally had someone who was a true super sub, no need to cringe if KJ or Chipper had the day off, or even if they went on the DL.

Well, best laid plans and all that. You all know the rest by heart. You just can’t predict injuries. Well, we knew Chipper would miss a few weeks, but that’s about it. Glavine had never gone on the DL. Smoltz would be Smoltz, Hampton would be back soon…losing the closer, and the 8th inning guy??? Hard to win doing that. Yet, our bullpen really wasn’t a big problem for the first 4 months of the season. But, we still didn’t seem to really be in a race.

I know I have been just  a tidge negative about Bobby, and about our chances for next year. But, like I mentioned above, you never know! The Mets may get better, but if they go into next year without a closer, they will still be easy to reel in. The Phils are likely to lose their 2nd biggest bopper. That can’t help. Marlins will have to get rid of anyone making more than 6 figures.

So, IF we can sign a solid starter or two, IF we can sign a power hitting right handed bat, IF Frenchy reverts to the 2006-07 model, IF Chipper can play in 140 + games, IF Soriano can pitch like he did last year, IF Moylan is back to his great self(and he should be) We could, we should be the team to beat!!!!

You heard it here first!!! You’ll see, just wait till next year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

~Berigan~

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57: The Old Man and the Sea change

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by Savannah Guy

With Presidents and other leaders and good Samaritans, circumstances usually make them what they are in the public record. The Civil War made Lincoln, as did that unfortunate theatre visit. The Great Depression, WWII, TVA and the promise of a “chicken in every pot” made FDR. The Panama Canal, the hostage crisis and that attacking rabid rabbit made Jimmy Carter. Well, maybe Carter isn’t such a good example, but you get the point… circumstance matters.

Now, Braves. There is no doubt that Bobby Cox is a Hall of Fame manager. Bobby Cox managed most all of those titles under the fortunate circumstance of Glavine, Smoltz, Maddux and a host of good pitchers around them. That circumstance has changed (drastically).

Now, on the games we play. Sports have changed too. Coaching in today’s pro sports arena is becoming pretty sophisticated stuff. Management requires learned skills, techniques, tactics and technology on top of mental sharpness and great experience in the game. In the old days of baseball managing, when things were simpler (just a few years ago), technology was a pencil or a piece of chalk.

Managing a game was not nearly as statistically critical or access to information at our fingertips at the speed of technology as fundamental as it has become these days. Now, along with playing experience, the cost of entry for a manager should include being well versed in all of the tools to efficiently, effectively and successfully manage a modern sports team, including those without the highest payroll. If you can’t outspend’em you have to outsmart’em.

Like it or not, over the next few years we’ll see more and more of the old-time managers, particularly those that aren’t particularly strategic and/or ‘new era’ coaches around them, as they become more and more ineffective. We have greater access to information than ever before. How we gather, interpret and act on that information will tell the tale. Change is inevitable. Those that don’t change are doomed to failure and irrelevance.

Now, fishing. In the old days (also just a few years ago) a champion offshore sport or commercial fisherman relied on his experience and instinct to find fish and earn a living through years of trial and error. He relied on visually identifying weed-lines and bird activity. Every successful fisherman spent time logging time and tides, studying fish patterns and seasonal species, paying attention to wind direction and just applied good old common sense and dead reckoning.

Today fishermen use modern GPS technology and satellite linked charts displaying real-time water temp, Ph, currents, wind direction, baitfish schools and such. They are also outfitted with the most amazing sonar and transducers that pipe detailed digital images in on color video monitors for tracking the exact conditions for species of fish they seek.

Without all of the sophisticated technology and access to more maritime research and information than ever imagined, the old-style commercial fisherman simply cannot compete. Some folks that hold a glamorous view of the trade may pine for the ‘old salts’ and the good old days when things were simple, natural and not so complex… but come dinnertime we’d buy our fish from the guys that caught them.

Now, jumping back to baseball again. MLB managers and an increasing number of coaches will have to master new methodologies and become fluent in emerging innovative technology, Sabermetrics, employ ever improving management software, digitally recorded and analyzed player profiles and so forth. For the health care (and increasing investment) of athletes, breakthrough medical research, surgical techniques, rehab and prevention will continue. Proactive procedures, vitamins and physical conditioning will be much more personalized to each unique athlete.

Embracing and mastering these kinds of constantly improving ‘tools’ by managers and coaches is already critical and will only become more critical. The managers that don’t adapt will become painfully and glaringly evident. As with all sports and all business, the game of baseball will continue to evolve. The team that embraces change and strives to stay ahead of the tech and information curve will have a distinct competitive advantage in recruiting, coaching, maximizing talent and minimizing injury on the field, in the clubhouse, in the executive office and every other location and aspect of the franchise and the game itself… including one run wins.

The old managers will go the way of the old fisherman. We’ll remember them with fondness, we’ll place them on a pedestal or induct them into the Hall of Fame or we’ll just pine for them when they’re gone. We’ll remember them in the context of ‘the good old days’, when life and the game of baseball was simpler.

Let’s hope the good, old-time managers know when it’s time to go, especially if they are beginning to come back to the docks empty handed. If they don’t go gracefully when it’s their time, they may irreparably harm their own legacy, taint our fond memories of successes they’ve enjoyed and instead, write an unsuccessful, annoying and sad final chapter to an otherwise arguably brilliant career.

We want to smile and cheer for a job well done when our ‘skippers’ walk or sail off into the sunset, not cringe, feel embarrassment, annoyance or frustration when they stay too long. We certainly don’t want to watch the boat take on water because of a skippers waning ability to see the cracks in the hull, flounder because of their lack of self awareness or sink because of their stubborn refusal to moor the boat when it’s time. For the good of the boat and the crew, Skippers have to know when to turn over the wheel in a storm.

It’s too late for Bobby Cox to leave while the Braves are on top. It may be too late for him to leave on top of his own game. Let’s hope it doesn’t get embarrassing for the old skipper with the sea change going on around him in Major League Baseball.

~SG~

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55: Who ARE these guys?? … part 4

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by Carolina Lady

He’s been with the Braves since 1977. Bob Dider signed him after he graduated from the University of New Orleans as a non-drafted free agent to fill out a spot on the Kingsport roster.

Fours years later, after he had wrested the last possible drop out of his playing career, then-farm director Hank Aaron made a job offer.

He told Baseball America –

“I played real hard to be mediocre and I was fortunate when Hank offered me the coaching job. I was single and living out of my car, so I gave it a try to see what happened.”

Brian Snitker

Brian Snitker

Brian Snitker. Born 1955 in Illinois. He didn’t have an easy time of it either. Never made it to the majors, but has made the best of his talents and abilities as player, roving instructor, coach and manager in the Braves system for more than 30 years.

He coached, taught and managed for 20+ seasons in the minors, leading clubs from the rookie leagues to AA in Anderson, Sumter, Durham, Macon, Danville, Myrtle Beach, Greenville, and Mississippi before he was named manager of the Richmond Braves in 2006.

Snitker once said, “The players are the one thing that keeps you coming back. And that’s because we have good players. The Braves always get guys who are good people with strong work ethics and great makeup. They have the intangibles that make them the best players they can be. And that’s what makes it fun to go to work everyday.”

He said he never really developed a “style” of managing because a minor league manager never gets to pick his team; he just works with what he has.

And he did pretty well at managing the rookies and kids: 1,140-1,145 (.499). Five of his clubs advanced into post-season play and he won 2 championships (back-to-back titles with Myrtle Beach in 1999 and 2000) and 3 Minor League Manager of the Year awards – 1997, 1999, 2000.

He was managing the Mississippi Braves in Pearl in ’05 (Francoeur, McCann, Boyer, McBride, Lerew, James, et al) when an unprecedented 11 “Baby Braves” were called up to Atlanta. Still, Snitker led Mississippi to a 64-68 record in its first year, quite an accomplishment considering that they had just moved to a new city, most of the team’s stars were promoted to fill needs in Atlanta, and the last 8 games of the season were canceled due to Hurricane Katrina.

Snitker said, “It’s my job to hold things together and keep the best possible team on the field every day.”

When Dayton Moore was Atlanta’s farm director, he said, “Snitker is the most highly respected manager we have in our system.”

Year Team League Record Finish
1981 Roving Instructor
1982 Anderson Braves South Atlantic

72-70

5

1983 Durham Bulls Carolina

59-78

6

1984 Durham Bulls Carolina

68-72

5

1985 Atlanta Braves (Bullpen coach)

1986 Sumter Braves South Atlantic

77-60

3

1987 Durham Bulls Carolina

65-75

7

1988 Atlanta Braves (Bullpen coach)

1989 Atlanta Braves (Bullpen coach)

1990 Atlanta Braves (Bullpen coach)

1991 Minor League coach Macon

1992 Macon Braves South Atlantic

58-81

13

1993 Minor League coach

1994 Minor League coach

1995 Minor League coach

1996 Danville Braves Appalachian

37-29

5

1997 Macon Braves South Atlantic

80-60

1

1998 Macon Braves South Atlantic

69-72

8

1999 MB Pelicans Carolina

79-60

2

2000 MB Pelicans Carolina

88-52

1

2001 MB Pelicans Carolina

71-67

3

2002 Greenville Braves Southern

65-59

7

2003 Greenville Braves Southern

68-70

5

2004 Greenville Braves Southern

63-76

9

2005 MS Braves Southern

64-68

6

2006 Richmond Braves International

57-86

14

2007 Atlanta Braves (3rd base coach)

2008 Atlanta Braves (3rd base coach)

Brian was quoted as saying –

“You should expect your team to win. Winning needs to be a priority at this level. Results need to be a priority. You’ve got to have results to show you can play in the big leagues. Pitchers need to win games, and hitters need to produce in key situations.”

Mel Roberts, once Brian’s hitting/first base coach who has known him since the ’80s, said Snitker’s main strength is his communication skills.

He doesn’t do anything that’s just, ‘That’s the way we do it,’ Whatever it takes to get it done, that’s the way he’s gonna do it. When you relate that to these players, they relax, and they’re able to be a little more susceptible to what you’re trying to get them to do.”

After serving as Atlanta’s bullpen coach for parts of 3 seasons, he returned to the Minors in 1991. He didn’t know if he’d ever make it back the the Majors despite having accumulated 1,140 managerial victories with 9 different teams from Rookie level through AAA.

Guy Curtwright wrote for MLB.com:

After what amounted to a 16-year baseball road trip through the Minors, the 31-year Braves lifer is a full-time resident of suburban Atlanta again and no longer a far-away father.

“It was tough. Real tough,” the 51-year-old Snitker said of the strain that being a vagabond Minor League manager puts on family life. “You want to be there, but you can’t. Talking on the phone isn’t the same.”

When Snitker told his wife Ronnie last fall that he’d be home (in Lilburn, GA) the next year, she said, “What?? Were you fired?

Nope, Fredi Gonzalez went to Florida and Brian Snitker was back in the Majors again as 3rd base coach for Atlanta.

“Snit was like a father figure for us in the Minors,” Francoeur said. “Now he gets to be a real dad for his own family.” (He has a son and a daughter.)

“He’s had to miss a lot and I know that was difficult for him,” Ronnie said. “It isn’t easy to balance baseball and family, especially in the Minors.

“But it’s all worked out. He was a baseball player when I married him. We knew what we were getting into.”

'Snit'

'Snit'

Snitker always seemed to have a great relationship with his players and he’s said to be a great communicator. He’s coached or managed all the young players now in Atlanta – and, from what I’ve read, it seems to be accepted that one day he will manage in the Major Leagues. Along with Terry Pendelton, Brian was considered by the Royals for their manager’s position. Bobby’s successor??

It’s just my opinion, but I wonder if he wouldn’t better serve the Braves, Bobby in particular, as bench coach instead of Chino. Chino has managed but his strengths seem to be more in coaching, while Brian is clearly the better manager. That’s just my take on it.

Brian Snitker. He’s been there, done that, and got all the T-shirts. Got to respect those long, long years in the Minors, his perserverance and just plain old doggedness, as well as doing a really good job. Respect for a good guy.

~CL~

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54: Who ARE these guys?? …part 3

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by Carolina Lady

Bill James said of him, “He looks like a hobbit.”

Listed as 5’7″, Glenn Dee Hubbard was born in 1957 at Hahn AFB, West Germany, is married and has three sons.

Drafted right out of high school in 1975, made his major league debut in 1978 when he was promoted after being named Rookie of the Year in Richmond, Hubbard played for the Braves from ’78-’87, then signed as a free agent with Oakland for his final two playing years. (Others who debuted in the same year are Paul Molitor, Ozzie Smith, Pedro Guerrero, Mike Morgan, Dave Stewart and Terry Kennedy.)

Through 10 years with the Braves and 2 with the A’s, Glenn was better known for his fielding than his hitting, though he was an excellent bunter who led the National League in sacrifice outs in 1982. A steady glove and his willingness to stand his ground while turning a double play, even with a runner coming at him full tilt, made him a valuable asset.

A check of the records indicates that he holds the Braves’ fielding records for second basemen in all categories.

In 1981 he set a then Atlanta Braves’ record for second basemen with a .991 fielding percentage, but his most successful year was in 1983, when he hit .263, set career highs with 12 home runs and 70 RBI and was also named to the National League All-Star team.

He led all NL second basemen in double plays in 1982, 1985 and 1987. Post-Season play: 1982 NLCS, 1983 All-Star, 1988 World Series (A’s).

A couple of career-total numbers that stand out to me are:

– in the 1,354 games he played (11,206 innings)

– he had 2,795 POs (that’s more than 2 per game)

– 4,444 assists (more than 3 per game)

– committed only 127 errors in 12 years – or about 10 a year; that’s .06 per game. Or, just for fun, that’s 0.01 over the 11,206 innings he played.

– had 975 DPs

– and a .983 FP

Wow.

For that he was paid grandiose sums –

Year Salary
1985 $455,000
1986 $505,000
1987 $555,000
1988 $425,000

Before joining the Braves major league staff in 1999, Glenn spent the previous nine years coaching in the Braves’ minor leagues: Bradenton [’90], Macon [’91-’92, ’94, ’98] and Richmond.

Hubbard seems to have a gift for teaching. from an article at MLB.com:

Throughout the offseason, when they were targeting Kelly Johnson to serve as their starting second baseman, the Braves possessed a confidence that was created by the remarkable work Glenn Hubbard had done with Marcus Giles.

As Braves general manager John Schuerholz remembers, there was a time when “Marcus couldn’t catch a cold.” But Hubbard worked diligently with Giles at Class A Macon in 1999, and by the time the 2003 season ended, the young second baseman had become a Major League All-Star with Gold Glove potential.


“I think if Hubby can turn me into an average second baseman,
compared to where I was in the Minors, he could probably turn you guys (in the media) into a pretty good second baseman,” Giles said as he and his Padres teammates prepared for Monday night’s series opener against the Braves at Turner Field.


Johnson is certainly a better athlete than the media members that Giles was speaking to on Monday. But he had never previously played second base and thus it has been remarkable to see him evolve into a dependable defender, who has committed just one error in his first 141 chances of the year.


“Kelly Johnson has been brilliant there,” said Braves manager Bobby Cox, who last week said his new second baseman was playing the position as well as Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski once did.

Having seen what Hubbard, who was a sure-handed second baseman in Atlanta from 1978-87, has done with both Giles and Johnson, Cox thinks it’s time people realize the importance of his current first-base coach.


“I think Glenn’s name never gets mentioned, but it certainly needs to be,” Cox said. “He turned them into really great second basemen.”


Because Giles’ cost was beginning to surpass the offensive value he was providing, the Braves opted to not re-sign him after last season. He says that he understands it was a business decision that has given him the opportunity to play in his hometown of San Diego and with his older brother, Brian, who is a Padres outfielder.


“About the biggest thing I do miss over here is Hubby,” Giles said. “Just having him there to remind me of the tips of how to play defense and the room service (batting practice) that he throws, I kind of miss that, too.”

Hubbard isn’t very happy with the new edict that now requires him to wear a helmet on the field. This from an ESPN story:

Glenn Hubbard trotted on the field Wednesday wearing a helmet — and feeling downright ridiculous.

“You know what it feels like?” he asked before a spring training game. “Look at that kid over there.”

Hubbard pointed toward a young batboy standing at the edge of the Braves dugout, his head dutifully covered by a helmet.

“That’s what I feel like,” Hubbard said, not bothering to hide the disgust in his voice. “A batboy.”

Hobbit or not, helmet or not, Glenn Hubbard is a good man to have in your corner: unpretentious, hardworking, down-to-earth, steady. Somebody you can respect.

~CL~

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53: Who ARE these guys??? ….part 2

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by Carolina Lady

Continuing the thought – who are these guys we see on the field and in the dugout, anyway?

Who’s next?

Chino Cadahia

Chino Cadahia

Aurelio Cadahia.

Chino.

Born in Havana, Cuba on November 22, 1957 so he’s coming up on age 51. His playing info says “Hits right, Throws right, 6’0″ and 245 lbs” – that may have changed… 🙂 Attended and was signed out of Miami-Dade New World Center Community College. Lives in Peachtree City with wife Lynn and daughter Lauren.

Chino was drafted in the first round of the Jan 1977 amateur draft by the Phillies. Played seven years in the minors, started out mostly as a first baseman, but by his 2nd year was an All-Star catcher – despite a Appalachian League-leading 17 passed balls. He spent some time in the Twins chain and was the California League All-Star backup – even with 19 errors.

Cadahia came to the Braves in 1996 after serving in the Texas Rangers organization for 12 years as a pitching coach and manager in their minor league system. He began his coaching career as a pitching coach at Salem of the Carolina League from 1984 through 1985. The following year he managed Daytona Beach of the Florida State League, and in 1987 he managed at Gastonia of the South Atlantic League. From 1988 through 1995, Cadahia managed the Rangers Gulf Coast League rookie squad in Port Charlotte, Florida.

While in the Ranger’s system, Chino was the first manager of a 16-year-old kid named Ivan Rodriguez, is the one who nicknamed him “Pudge,” and is generally credited with Pudge’s development into a first-class catcher. From an MLB article:

He just called me that name,” Rodriguez said. “Now everybody knows me from that name because of him.”

Giving Rodriguez his famous nickname isn’t the only influence Cadahia had on the 13-time All Star’s career. When Rodriguez signed with Texas in the summer of 1988, he was sent to the Gulf Coast League, where Cadahia was managing a team in Port Charlotte, Fla. Cadahia showed Rodriguez the ropes, on and off the field.

“He always took me to work out and work on blocking and throwing and things like that to make me a better player,” Rodriguez said. “He helped me a lot to become a better catcher and a better player.”


Besides learning the game on a professional level, Rodriguez had to learn a new language after coming to the Rangers from Puerto Rico. Cadahia, who is Cuban, helped him with that. Cadahia also showed Rodriguez how to adapt to life on his own, giving tips on typical household chores.


“We had him at 16 years old and he was brand new to this game,” Cadahia said. “He didn’t know the ups and downs, the everyday grind and how to prepare. He didn’t know how to live on your own or how to do laundry or anything like that. He was just a baby, so he had to go through all those hassles.”

So what is a bench coach, anyway? I liked this description from an article I found:

The number of coaches used by big league teams has evolved over the years. Base coaches often double up as infield, outfield, and base-running instructors. There is also the pitching coach, hitting coach, and bullpen coach, who often oversees the catchers, too. And now you have the bench coach, which usually can be divided among those whose decades of experience – often as former managers – make them invaluable, and those who are managers-in-training.

Joe Torre believes the first bench coach was longtime manager Don Zimmer, who for a decade sat Yoda-like next to Torre on the Yankees bench.

“It started with me and Zim,” Torre said. “(Red) Schoendienst was the closest I had in St. Louis. He’d come up to me and remind me of something from time to time. When I sat with Zim, he sort of brought me along. I was a little bit more on the conservative side and he was more on the aggressive side. We met somewhere in the middle.

“You know what’s great about a bench coach? The fact you can bounce stuff off somebody instead of laying in bed at night, second-guessing what you did.”

“You know what’s great about a bench coach?” Zimmer once told Esquire Magazine? “Not much.”
😆

From a 2006 Baseball America interview with Dayton Moore:

BA: Whenever anyone mentions the Braves, the first thing they talk about is developing pitching. But, like we all started to notice with the emergence of Brian McCann and the development of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, you guys develop catchers too.


DM: We’ve got a great catching instructor here who’s also our field coordinator in Chino Cadahia. He does a tremendous job and has been working with catchers since he worked with Pudge Rodriguez when he was coming through the Texas organization.

Atlanta Braves catchers coach Chino Cadahia (52) goes over basic positioning at the team's spring training baseball camp in Lake Buena Vista Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)

Atlanta Braves catchers coach Chino Cadahia (52) goes over basic positioning at the team's spring training baseball camp in Lake Buena Vista Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)

Somehow I’ve lost the link to the next quote so I apologize to the original source while I continue looking for it.

Q: When the Braves win, do you experience a particular kind of satisfaction as a bench coach who prepares these guys every day?

CHINO: Having had a lot of these kids in the minor leagues, and to see where they are and to see them play in this environment in front of 30-, 40-, 50,000 people and get it done, you know, it’s a big satisfaction. You feel like you had a little bit to do with that, you know, and not just me personally, but – what’s the word I’m looking for – the whole program in the minor leagues, you know, all the steps that they took, and the instructional leagues, the spring trainings, you know, all the things we’ve done with them.

We’ve got them not only physically but mentally ready to be able to do this, so you feel like a part of it. In general we’ve (Atlanta’s organization) been very successful doing that with young kids. We take a lot of pride in doing it. A lot of organizations try to do it the way we do it, or, you know, try and copy our system or whatever and, you know, pretty much its black-and-white, but it’s the people that make it happen: the scouts, the coaches, the managers, the instructors, the front-office people, that’s what makes it happen.

And then the end result, you know, you see Brian McCann and Kelly Johnson and Jeff Francoeur and Chucky James and Yunel Escobar and all the young guys that have played here, you know, get it done on this level, it gives you an awful lot of satisfaction to see them, you know, perform at this level.

Every once in a while they’ll talk about stuff they did in Rome, Ga. (where the minor-league Rome Braves play), or in an instructional league, because it takes a lot for them to be able to perform at this level, even as talented as they are. It’s a lot of sacrifice.


Q: And to get where you are today, you had to go through a lot of the same kinds of things.

CHINO: Yeah, coaches are the same way. Brian [Snitker] was a coach up here in the ’80s; it took him 20-some years to get back up to the big leagues, you know, every coach. When I started coaching, this is what I wanted to do, I wanted to be a Major League coach. If I would have known it was going to take 24 years, I might have gone to another profession, but not really.

Q: Is the feeling you have now just utter contentment?

CHINO: No, I think, believe it or not, it’s just the satisfaction. Once I got into it, and you put both feet into it, you know, you feel like a part of something special. I never looked at it like, jeez, I’m on my 20th year now, or I’m on my 21st year or my 19th year, you know, I just did whatever my job was as good as I could do it, hoping that one day the opportunity will come up.

For some guys, it’ll take 24 years (to make it to the Majors), for most of the guys it never happens. So you know, you got to weigh both of them. There are five or six coaches for each team, you know, that’s 180 jobs. You’re looking to be one of 180, so, you know, percentages are not with you a lot of the time. You just hope that you make a difference in the minor leagues and you help a lot of young players and you do your work, your job, and you do it real good and somebody notices.

A lot of this is timing also. It’s just like anything else, you know, you gotta pay your dues, you gotta be a good guy, you gotta be able to do your work and your job and people have to respect you for that, and I’ve always taken a lot of pride, personally doing my job. And I’m surrounded by people that are, you know – I’ve had real good role models to follow. It’s a good combination, as far as that’s concerned.

Look closely at the cart!

Look closely at the cart!

Chino. We poke fun at him (probably too often) but he obviously has experience though somehow I just don’t see him being a ML manager. What do you think?

~CL~

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52: Who ARE these guys?? …..part 1

Comments and articles herein are the intellectual property and opinions of the writers and may not be copied without permission of the writers.

by Carolina Lady

We see them on the field, we know their names, we talk about what they do or don’t do, but what do we really know about them? The coaches?

This guy for instance. Back in 2005, he ran in Miller Park’s sausage race as the bratwurst (didn’t win.) I never knew! 😆

In a ten-year career, he was a .253 hitter with 40 home runs and 172 RBI in 564 games. His post-season credits include: 1996 NLCS, 1996 World Series, 1996 NL Div Series, 1997 NLCS, 1997 NL Div Series, 1998 NL Div Series, 1998 NLCS, 1999 NL Div Series, 1999 NLCS, 1999 World Series, 2004 NL Div Series , and was the 1999 NL NLCS MVP.

He made his MLB debut in Sep 1995, the same year as Ray Durham, Johnny Damon, Edgardo Alfonzo, Derik Jeter, Jason Giambi, Billy Wagner and Mariano Rivera.

Eddie Perez

Eddie Perez

Eduardo Rafael Pérez was born May 4, 1968 in Venezuela.

Here are some excerpts from a great article about Eddie, written by Jill Lieber of USAToday in 1999:

Braves backup catcher Eddie Perez has been reduced to a plodding, slump-shouldered, knock-kneed M*A*S*H* unit.

Name a body part, and the battered and bruised Perez has injured it in some way, shape or form. His shoulders, biceps, thighs and ribs have been tattooed with large, round, black and purple hematomas, the result of being the human backstop for hundreds of foul tips.

His jaw, now chronically arthritic, snaps, crackles and pops every time he speaks or chews, thanks to all those 90-mph fastballs that have ricocheted into his catcher’s mask.

His left index finger constantly swells and throbs, a 24-hour reminder of pitch after pitch having slammed into his mitt.

And a broken blood vessel in the middle finger on his left hand kept him out of Sunday’s World Series Game 2.

His knees are riddled with painful tendinitis, and let’s not forget those spike wounds, or that stunning concussion.

“Eddie’s like a magnet,” says Braves coach Pat Corrales, who

Making the tag

caught for four major league teams from 1967-75, including a stint as the backup to Cincinnati Reds’ Hall of Famer Johnny Bench. “I’ve never seen anybody take as many blows.”

……..

Mental and physical toughness, the patience of a saint and the dutiful prayers of his beloved family have carried Perez to the top of the baseball world this season.

It was only two weeks ago that the 31-year-old from Cuidad Ojeda, Venezuela, vaulted himself into America’s consciousness in the National League Championship Series. He hit .500 against the Mets and was named the NLCS Most Valuable Player.

…….

The second youngest of Salvador and Lila Perez’s six sons, Eddie grew up in the oil-rich region of eastern Venezuela. His father, recently retired, worked for 50 years in one of the local oil refineries.

When he was 7 years old, Eddie learned to play baseball from Salvador, a longtime catcher for several of the great local amateur club teams. The following year, inspired by his father’s passion for the position, Eddie, now 8, moved to catcher.

In September 1986, right before Perez was to graduate from high school, Pedro Gonzalez, a Braves scout and longtime coach in the Dominican Republic, plucked him out of a crowd of 62 players at a local tryout. Perez signed a $15,000 free-agent contract with the Braves and a $5,000 pact with the Venezuelan Winter League’s Aragua Tigres, which were managed by countryman Davey Concepcion.

I was rich,” Perez says.

…..

For the next nine years, Perez languished in the minors, playing winter ball in Venezuela to make up for all the time he spent on the bench, right up through this past offseason.

Tragedy struck in 1993. While sliding into home plate against Class AA Huntsville (Ala.) on May 23, Perez dislocated his tailbone. He flew home to Venezuela to recuperate and did not return to the team until Aug. 27. “The first day I got back, one of the coaches told me to get dressed, that I was taking batting practice,” Perez says. “It was raining, and he thought it would be a good chance to practice sliding. I was panicked.

“He said, ‘Run and slide in front of me.’ I was so afraid to try that I kept running and running, but I couldn’t ever find the courage to slide. Finally, he ordered me to do it. When I did, and I had no pain, it was the best moment of my career.”

Well, until he fought back from the emotional devastation of having been dissuaded by coaches from going to Venezuela for the birth of daughter Maried .

Until he was named the MVP of the Venezuelan Winter League in ’94.

Until he was called up to the Braves on Aug. 30, 1995.

And until he was named NLCS MVP last week.

“That’s the biggest thing to ever happen to me,” Perez says.

The new two-story Duluth, Ga., home he and wife Marisol, his childhood sweetheart, share with their two children, Maried, now 5 1/2, and Andres Eduardo, 17 months, is filled with bouquets of flowers from friends and Braves fans.

Salavador and Lila, who have been visiting Atlanta since late September, are caught up in the whirlwind of the postseason. Marcos and Jolanda Nava, Marisol’s parents, came along, too.

This is the first time Salvador and Lila have been able to attend Eddie’s games together since their son signed with the Braves back in ’87.

“This is too much, too exciting,” says Salvador, with Eddie translating.

Says Lila, who also does not speak English: “It’s an incredible dream. I’m crying all the time.”

Adds Salvador, “I cry, too.”

And so does their son. His tears come from a much deeper place than the delight of having won the MVP trophy and playing for the Braves in the World Series. The tears mean Perez finally has made it in America.

“My family never let me quit,” Perez says. “That they’re here to share in one of the most important moments in my life means so much to me.”

from The Sporting News, 1999:

“I’m a nobody,” Eddie Perez says. “Just one of the guys on the roster, doing his job. Javy (Lopez) will be back next season, and I’ll be on the bench again.”


Yes, Lopez will return as the Braves’ No. 1 catcher in 2000, healed from the knee injury that sidelined him in July for the balance of the 1999 season. But no, Perez does not qualify as a nobody.


Perez, best known as Greg Maddux’s catcher and an able fill-in for Lopez since becoming a full-time member of the Braves in
1996, has added to his resume the past 2 1/2 weeks. Against the Mets in the NLCS, Perez went 10-for-20 and hit two home runs, the second a game-winning shot in Game 2. Perez, a native of Venezuela, hit .500 in the thrill-a-minute series, with the rest of the Atlanta offense batting a composite .194.

…………..

“I’m not a good hitter,” Perez was insisting as he rocked the Mets time and again. “I’m just hot, I guess.”


True, Perez hasn’t exactly been a hitting machine in his four full seasons in the majors–as his career average of .259 attests–but he has made significant contributions. In 1998, he batted .336 in 61 games, and his grand slam in the division series assured Atlanta a place in the NLCS. This season, he hit .266 after the All-Star break.


Manager Bobby Cox, understandably, is high on Perez.

“He’s not an out guy by any means,” Cox says. “He’s a great defensive catcher, a skilled catcher who can catch and throw and work the pitchers.”

Perez, 31, was thrilled to be named MVP–the vote was unanimous–in this year’s NLCS. “I think this is the biggest thing that has happened to me,” he says. “Winning the World Series in ’95 was nice, but I didn’t have a chance to play.”

Perez, a late-season call-up four years ago after spending nine seasons in the minor leagues, was in the lineup for Game 1 of the 1999 World Series but didn’t start Game 2.


“I’m a backup,” maintains Perez, whose humility and disarming smile make him a favorite with Braves fans. “But I have to be ready because we don’t have Javy (a close friend). My main thing is catching. I try to take at-bats as they come.


“… (Pitchers) don’t want to pitch to Chipper (Jones). They don’t want to pitch to Brian (Jordan). They want to pitch to Eddie.”


Not anymore.

Doug Glanville wrote a really funny article for the NY Times called Lovers, Not Fighters in which he wrote:

The major leagues also had its share of comedy. Take the fight I was in with the Atlanta Braves, when I was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. Over the course of a week, my teammate Paul Byrd, a pitcher, had unintentionally hit Braves catcher Eddie Perez not once but twice in the back.

Perez and Byrd had once been teammates (and Bible study partners), but Perez had apparently left forgiveness at the door. When Byrd stepped up to the plate for his next at-bat, Perez hit him and then jumped him. Since I was on-deck and the closest player to the fray, I ran over to pry them apart.

The next thing I knew, I was at the bottom of a pile of players, my legs trapped, spikes barely missing my various body parts. The Braves’ Ozzie Guillen evidently decided that the best way to get out of the pile was to pull me out by the head. I had a stiff neck for three days.

What I found interesting was that instead of Perez and Byrd ripping each other’s hair out, they were locked together in a protective embrace, apologizing and praying to get out of this mass of humanity. Everyone within earshot was wondering why we all risked physical harm for a séance.

To add injury to absurdity, when our bullpen coach came running in from left field to join the fight, he pulled a hamstring halfway to the pile.

Then there is the video where Tim Hudson scares the daylights out of Eddie at the team hotel:

Just my opinion, but I think he’s a pretty neat person and I’m glad I know a little more about who is really is. Hope you enjoy it, too!

~CL~

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50: Tomahawk Choppin’ For the Politically Correct Braves Fan

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by JB

Before I start let, me say emphatically “No this will not be a politically slanted blog.”

I use the term “Politically Correct” as it refers to the general usage of the term and not as a forum to discuss liberal vs conservative, the 2008 election, or my opinion about rising gas prices.

As many of you well know by now, I’m a lifelong Braves fan that grew up in Atlanta and still reside here. I was born up the street from Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and my earliest memories developed out of that cavernous Launching Pad.

And since 1980, (the year of my birth) I never questioned the usage of a “Brave” as a mascot or even what it was. Thanks to Chief Nocahoma, Homer the Brave, and the joyously expressive early Brave logo,

I knew that we must be an “Indian” team. But I didn’t think much more of it.

Then came 1991.

Now bear in mind. The Braves are the oldest franchise in baseball. They’ve been called the “Braves” since 1912 and have had a tomahawk on their chests since Milwaukee and in Atlanta since 1987.

But with the arrival of Deion Sanders and some success for the first time since 1982, a new kind of excitement was forming around the team and a new phenomenon was sweeping Atlanta that year.

The Tomahawk Chop.

Because of his roots in Florida State, Neon’s Seminole/Braves fans brought with them a fixture that had been a part of Tallahassee Football during every first down at ‘Nole games for years. Now it had been transplanted in Atlanta to become the “Chop”. And with the Braves heading to the playoffs and then to the World Series that year, the nation was taking notice and the Nation (the Native American one, as represented by AIM) was getting mad.

As an 11 year old fiercely opposed to any kind of buzz kill that would dare put a damper on my Braves’ new found winning ways, I could not for the life of me figure out why oh why did AIM pick this year to stage a protest of the Atlanta Braves. I mean we’ve been Braves for … “since ever” my prepubescent my thought. Why now?

However untimely I found the protests, I did start to find their objections somewhat legitimate. Although as a southern white boy, I had never felt offended by the Atlanta Crackers, I did wonder what I would think of a bunch of white metro-Atlantans chanting and waving their arms during an eighth inning rally.

In truth, this blog post isn’t about defending their complaints or making a case that we stop the Chop. For that matter I’m not really trying to make a case either way. I mean we have a cow at Turner Field that now contributes for cryin’ out loud! This is more about coming to terms.

As a Braves fan that wants to respect other cultures, I look for dignity in the ways I talk about or interact with those cultures. But I’ve yet to consider myself “Politically Correct”. I think of PC as a bunch of hogwash because it’s not really respect for other cultures. It’s a paranoid way for us to feel good about ourselves for using terms that are as indirectly descriptive as possible. I mean I’m not trying to be sound like a southern jerk here but I myself am technically a Native American! I was born and raised here! But when I realized how the Braves’ depiction of Native American culture bothered some people I wondered if I was offending people by doing the Chop or wearing Nocahoma’s smiling caption on my chest.

So here’s my conclusion. Braves Nation, and every other baseball team for that matter, creates it’s very own culture. It takes many years to cultivate and it may borrow from the other cultures around it (as the Braves, Indians, Yankees, Brewers, Nationals… or even branch into the NBA and look at the “Celtics”) but simultaneously it develops something entirely unique. When you walk into a baseball stadium, you’re not walking into a mimic or a recreation of any other culture. You’re walking into a culture all it’s own. That’s why we blog about baseball, talk about it, live it and breathe it for 162 games a year. It’s our very own culture. That’s why we get dejected when “we” lose or elated when “we” sweep the Mets. That’s why we get in fights over baseball; it’s our culture against theirs, us against them. And that’s why I don’t think we Braves fans are intentionally or otherwise doing something to mock or defame another person’s culture. Because we’re not parodying someone else’s particular tribe or heritage. We’re celebrating our very own culture that doesn’t just exist at the game but still comes most alive when 50k+ of us are all together, setting aside our differences, and cheering for Our Team. We have also admittedly borrowed some elements from American lore (and yes even stolen from FSU) but it was all done as we created our own distinct culture in Atlanta that is being refined every year. Besides, even if you go back as far as the Ancient Romans, I think you’ll be hard pressed to find many cultures that are entirely made up of completely original elements.

I have observed this in every MLB stadium I have visited. In Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Houston, they all have a sundry of items that are distinctly “them” that the casual observer like myself finds fascinating. (I’ve noticed the Monkey Nation hasn’t gotten too upset by Anaheim’s use of the rallying simian they display.)

And yes maybe Nocahoma’s Teepee along with Big Victor, Homer the Brave, and the open mouthed, bald, elated Brave are all gone from site. But Atlanta and the Braves have an identity all its’ own. And that’s really all the Tomahawk is about. And maybe the Chop is goofy to you out-of-towners, but it’s a part of what’s unique to us and we’re not trying to offend anyone….Y’ALL!

by JB

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49: Fact or Fiction??

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By Voice of Reason Raisins

JEFFERSON, GA – I was talking with my 12-year-old son yesterday about this task of putting together a lead topic for the Braves and Stuff blog. He asked me, “What are you gonna write about?” My honest response to him was, “I don’t know. What do you think I should write about?” To this, he gave a couple of minutes thought and asked, “Does it have to be real?” I replied, “No, it does not.” Suddenly, a flurry of ideas for stories began to come forth out of the mouth of this suddenly released creative force. “The President is at the game, and Chipper Jones is batting. His bat breaks and a sharp piece barely misses the President and the Secret Service arrests Chipper and throws him in jail.” Or, “Mark Teixeira is really a spy from another country. He’s gathering intelligence from all over the country while posing as a baseball player.” I reminded him that Tex was from Baltimore, so he quickly said, “OK, it’s Escobar!” Then there was, “Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur discover Area 54 and are held captive 54 miles below ground in an underground bunker.”

Wow… I had unknowingly tapped into an endless resource of creativity all from the perspective of the 12-year-old world. So I thought, how about a little creativity from a middle-aged dad trying desperately to stay connected to a 12-year-old world?

How about: “The Braves break Spring Training with a pitcher who dominated the Grapefruit League. Amazingly, he had not pitched in a Major League game in 2 years, but his spring games were so awesome that the Braves, and the Braves fans, came to rely on him to be an important part of their plans for 2008. In the last 2 years, he had endured knee surgery, elbow surgery and a torn hamstring. He was practically like the Bionic Man. Local sports talk radio suggested he be placed in bubble-wrap prior to his first start. Ha-ha… that’s pretty funny. As the radio hosts signed off from their show on the evening of his first regular season start, they jokingly admitted that it looked like he was going to make it. 15 minutes later, this pitcher tears a pectoral muscle and can’t answer the bell. He has yet to toe the rubber again in a Major League game.” Nah…

I got one: “A future Hall of Fame pitcher enters into the season looking for one more run to the playoffs. He even implores the Braves management to bring back one of his good buddies to make the run with him. He enters into Spring Training, but disappears from sight. He trains by himself on back fields, like a ninja, secretly preparing his new arsenal so that he can unleash his final attacks on an unsuspecting league of batsmen. As the season unfolds, his team leans on him like never before. And he is good; I mean really good. He even reaches a career milestone. You’d never know that his elbow had ever been surgically repaired. You’d never know, in fact we didn’t know, that he had once had an unprecedented procedure to fix a hole in his elbow tendon. He was dominant… for about 5 innings at a time. Then 4. Then, without warning, his shoulder began to ache. It ached badly. It ached so badly that he couldn’t throw between starts… so badly that he couldn’t sleep. It ached. He was shut down, unable to help his reeling teammates – unable to right a listing ship. But he had an idea. “If I can’t throw for 5 innings anymore, maye again lead my troops to victory!” He prepared for his triumphant return to the hails of a loving throng of worshipers. But, alas, it was not to be. His return was not triumphant. And he ached badly. He would not pick up another ball this year, nay maybe never. His own shoulder had betrayed him, and perhaps this mighty warrior shall never again taste the sweetness of victory.” No, I don’t like it…

And then there’s: “The Prodigal Son returns. He returns after many years in the camp of the enemy. Yes, he wore the hated blue and orange, he wore the scripted NY, he fought with the rival. Many things were said of this once revered man. He was accused of having ulterior motives. “No!” he said. “It was just business. Things are not as they appear.” But his former faithful did not believe. But time has a way of healing wounds, and the Prodigal Son wanted to come home. Soon, many began to believe that all was truly not as it had appeared, and his former faithful began to also wish him home. He almost made it, but alas, it was not to be. But wait! A new season dawns and he has returned. Our grizzled veteran has come home to help propel his friends and teammates to another post-season. This man had seen many campaigns, some supremely successful, others not so much. But he could battle. He had never missed any portion of a campaign over his entire Hall of Fame career. He had come home to be a workhorse for a manager that he had loved and admired. But suddenly, the well conditioned workhorse pulled a hammy and found himself inactive for the first time. Yes, even the mighty fall sometimes. But he came back fighting. Ow! His elbow hurts! Dang… He has slightly torn something in his elbow. DL’d again…” No, I don’t like that one either…

Maybe: “Hot young prospect suspended for performance enhancing drugs?!?” Maybe not…

Or: “Replacement center fielder returns from back surgery to perform wonderfully… until he injures his back.” No…

Or: “Hot young pitcher steps funny in dugout and rolls his ankle.” Uh-uh…

I know: “Major free-agent-to-be can’t perform until the calendar says it’s OK.” Still not it…

“Sore armed closer lets manager know when he can pitch.” Crazy…

“Mexican League refugee finds himself an important piece of a Major League rotation.” Never…

“Rival base runner twice tries to implant his head into the shortstop’s thigh.” Funny, but no…

I got it!!! “Stud third baseman bats .400 well into June, but gets knocked outta service when he doinks a ball off the batting cage crossbar into his own eye.” That’s a good one! But it just won’t work…

I think I’ll just go back to “Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur discover Area 54 and are held captive 54 miles below ground in an underground bunker.” It’s more believable.

~Raisins~

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48: An Observation from an Interested Spectator

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By Gil

MECHANICSVILLE, VA – As we approach the magic one third mark of the season, most major league teams take stock of their situation to see where they stand as far as personnel and what is needed going forward. Often times this is the time when teams decide if they are buyers or sellers and if they have a chance to be serious contenders or view the likelihood of being an also ran and begin building for the next season.

The 2008 version of the Atlanta Braves had reason to believe they were a team with which to vie for the National League East and even a possible shot at returning to the World Series. Good pitching depth and a strong offensive line up was in evidence. The Braves only apparent weakness was a lack of bench strength. Funny how the wheels began to fall off even before the start of the season.

John Smoltz began the season on the DL with what we now know as likely a career ending injury. Perhaps we should think back to the night he pitched magnificently against the Astros in the Braves last appearance in the NL playoffs and a shirtless Smoltz revealed a tremendous amount of bleeding around his right shoulder. For him to pitch the past two years has been a testament to his grit but the ravages of time have apparently taken their toll and it seems to many that John has made his last pitch as a major leaguer.

Mike Hampton was never really counted on this year like he was in 2007 but all seemed ready for the stoic lefty to finally justify the $13 million due to him this year. Alas, it was not to be, another freak injury claimed him and who knows if he will ever pitch again effectively although the return of even a mildly capable Mike Hampton could yet salvage the season for the Braves.

Chuck James went down early. Never a pitcher with a large repertoire of baffling pitches to keep opposing batters off balance, his inability to keep pitches down combined with a diminished speed deferential between his fastball and his change up, he began giving up homeruns at an alarming rate. This led to his demotion back to AAA Richmond and a mind set that he has to reinvent himself as a pitcher.

The cause of Tom Glavin’s woes have finally surfaced: a sore elbow. Who else besides me sees this as a deal breaker for a 41 year old pitcher who has been know as an innings eater throughout his career? It also explains the loss of movement on his pitches and to me may be the harbinger of a season to forget for the Bravos.

The loss of Peter Moylan and the limited availability of Soriano have also put a tremendous strain on the Braves’ bullpen. There is a correlation between the effectiveness of a team’s bullpen and the number of innings they are forced to pitch. Manny Acosta is just not capable of pitching everyday and I don’t think any other pitcher on the Braves staff is either.

So, what do you have when 4/5th of your projected starting staff and three of your most effective relievers are out with injuries? A club that more closely resembles the Washington Nationals than one that resembles the Philadelphia Phillies. The Braves cannot afford to slip much further behind the front runners if they expect to have a chance this year but counting on young pitchers like Charlie Morton to come to the rescue may be placing too much of a burden on a young rookie who is only now finding success. Steve Avery comes to mind when making a comparison of expectations by the Braves Nation and the likelihood he will struggle in his début season.


~Gil~

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47: the broadcaster I grew up listening to

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by Berigan

JONESBORO, GA – I ain’t a beat writer….can’t get scoops from the players sitting in front of my computer in Jonesboro! Oh sure, I could make stuff up, like Dyan Perry does. 😉 Or you can just say something like some writers do but that ain’t write right.

So something I can write about, at least a little bit, is baseball broadcasters I have heard through the years. I have listened to Skip and Pete longer than any others in my life. They don’t work much together these days, but any time I hear them together, or separately, it’s like putting on a pair of very comfortable shoes. It just feels good! Even when you hear good ones you really don’t know how very good they are ’til you hear bad ones. And, boy howdy! (do the youngsters today still say that???), have I heard some bad ones! With the Yankees, you can hear John Sterling and some woman with a shrill voice convince millions that baseball is not a very good game….I really can’t listen to many people do baseball on the radio, that is a special talent few truly possess.

But, I’m not going to write about Skip and Pete, or the really bad ones today. Lately, for some reason I have been thinking back to the broadcaster I grew up listening to….the late, great Jack Buck.

Jack BuckI’m sure most everyone here has heard, or at least heard of, Jack Buck….but, unless you listened to him call Cardinal games while driving around at night (or doing Monday night football with Hank Stramm on CBS radio) you never really heard Jack in his element, at his best.

Something about him calling games on CBS TV seemed…subdued. Like some know-nothing kid producer had said “Jack, you can’t be a homer, don’t get too excited, just call the game. You ain’t just broadcasting to some hicks in and around St. Louis, this is the big time!” 🙄 Plus, with Tim McCarver never shutting up about all he could do is call balls, strikes and hits.

Which was a shame. Because Jack Buck was as funny as anyone, anywhere, when he got on a roll. So much great stuff he did (MC charities, host local roasts, had his own non-baseball show on KMOX) is just sitting, gathering dust, not likely to ever be heard again. Pre-Internet, pre-youtube. I’m curious if anyone here who heard Jack only on TV, even thought of him as a funny guy!

He had a great guy in the booth that he clearly felt comfortable with, Mike Shannon. If you like Skip and Pete, you would like Jack and Mike in their prime.

But, there were times when he was able to shine through on national TV, when something magical happened, and he couldn’t contain his excitement, like Kirk Gibson hitting a homer off Eckersley, and no one even thought it was possible he could play in the series.

Broadcaster Marty Brennaman on that moment:

“The thing that amazes me about him — and all of us have our own styles — he understated things to the extent that they more than adequately conveyed what people saw and thought. When Kirk Gibson hit the home run off Dennis Eckersley to win the World Series game, he said seven words: ‘I don’t believe what I just saw.’ And that conveyed everything that people in Dodger Stadium were thinking [and] people watching on TV or listening on the radio. He said it exactly the way it was. That’s a talent that very few people like us in this business have.”

some quotes by Jack….

“It’s such a beautiful sport, with no politics involved, no color, no class. Only as a youngster can you play and as a pro can you win. The game has kept me young, involved and excited and for me to be up here with gems of baseball”

“It (George Steinbrenner’s new yacht) was a beautiful thing to observe with all thirty oars working in unison.”

“The biggest kick I get is to communicate with those who are exiled from the game — in hospitals, homes, prisons — those who have seldom seen a game, who can’t travel to a game, those who are blind.”

“When Harry and I were doing the games together, we were as good as a team as there ever was. His style and mine were so different that it made for a balanced broadcast. The way we approached the job, with the interest and love both of us had for the game, made our work kind of special.”

Some quotes about Jack by the people who knew and loved him…and were helped by him.

From Skip Caray:
“It seemed like he took a liking to me right away. There were always people trying to warm up to me because of who my Dad was. Jack wasn’t like that. He genuinely liked me and wanted to help me with my broadcasting career.

He was doing play-by-play for St. Louis University basketball games and wanted me to come and do color analysis with him. There was a point that he thought basketball on the radio was boring. So we started taking turns doing the play-by-play. When St. Louis had the ball, Jack was talking and when the opponent had the ball, I was talking.

There was one game in which there was a loose ball after a rebound and neither of us knew who should be talking. There was silence for about 10 seconds and then we both just started laughing. So needless to say, our innovative idea ended there. The 10 or so games that I did with him doing SLU games gave me valuable experience and helped me get where I am today.

A few years later, there were some people with the St. Louis Hawks organization that remembered hearing those broadcasts and gave me the chance to do their games. When they moved to Atlanta, I went with the team and it helped me get the job with the Braves.”

And everyone’s favorite Chip Caray (hey, I like him, and that’s all that really matters! 😛 ) was helped by Jack as well. He talked about Jack just after he died:

“Jack is the voice of baseball in St. Louis. He was as big as Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray combined, and I really believe to this day maybe the best ever broadcast team in the history of this game was Buck and Caray in the old days on KMOX.Buck, Caray, Garigiola
I grew up in St. Louis and I was one of those typical kids who fell asleep with the radio on under his pillow listening to Jack and Jay Randolph and Mike Shannon broadcasting games from the West Coast.

I auditioned for one of the Cardinals jobs several years ago and I was sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Pittsburgh reading the newspaper, scared to death. This quarter comes flying out of the air and lands right on my newspaper and I look up and it was Jack and his wife. He came up to me and said, “Good luck.” He gave me a pat on the back and said welcome. He said, “I hope everything goes well.” And then he said, “By the way, don’t screw it up.”

…..Obviously, his health has not been very good [towards the end] and he handled himself with such great humor and great class. I wanted to interview him in the booth and talk to him about what he’s seen and he said, “Hey, guys, what’s shaking besides me?” He had Parkinson’s disease and he immediately made everyone else feel comfortable around him.

He was the voice of summer and a huge influence in my career. He went out of his way to make me feel comfortable and he always had a smile on his face and a song in his heart.”

Having listened to Jack Buck broadcast, I’d say you could see the smile on his face and the joy in his voice for the game. I think that’s why Chip’s style doesn’t grate on me, like it clearly does others. Chip needed to sound, and be, as different from his father and grandfather as he could. I hear a bit of Buck’s ‘hey, I’ve got the best job in the world’ in Chip’s voice….perhaps Jack sounded more sincere to others broadcasting that way.

Like Chip, I can remember staying up late, with a high tech transistor radio under my pillow listening to the Cards play past my bedtime. I’d swear Jack was almost as disappointed as I was that Willie Stargell had somehow bested us yet again late in the game, or when Manny Mota with a pinch hit, drove in the winning run for the Dodgers (when I really was staying up late!), though I don’t think he had tears running down his cheek, swearing I’d never listen to another Cardinal game like I was. But, like any true idiot fan of baseball, the dawn of a new day would make the reality that the Cards were not a very good team, somehow an insignificant fact, and I would be back for more….more close games, more losses, and more enjoyment listening to Jack Buck have a great time calling a game, and telling stories.

Of course, when I moved away from St. Louis in 1983, I was already on the outs with the team as well (as I have mentioned before, they traded darn near everyone off the team) and the KMOX signal didn’t always come in real well all the way down in Jacksonville, but….a taste of home was always there at 1120 on my AM dial any time I wanted it (and the station was coming in). And when I moved to Atlanta, it came in even better…and Jack was always there…..

Jack BuckBut I noticed around 2000, he didn’t sound quite the same. He was a longtime smoker, and it seemed to finally be taking a toll on the best radio voice ever, IMHO. He now sounded hoarse, like he had been screaming, and….old. I didn’t know how little time he had left. He was missing games, and in and out of the hospital. He had one more moment though left to give….he read a little poem he wrote that he spoke the day baseball returned after 9-11. I remember ESPN showing it and chills running up and down my spine…watch this! Once again, he brought me to tears with his words.

He died June 18th, 2002, at the age of 77. I wish I could tune in to KMOX, and hear him one more time mention Busch beer, and say one more time….. that’s a winner!

John Francis Buck

John Francis Buck

1924 – 2002

~Berigan~

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46: Daily Buzz Special: Braves Hall Of Fame Report.

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by Mr Fly

SAVANNAH, GA – In this special, two-part report, I’ll cover three surefire future Hall of Fame pitching aces, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and also the baseball legend and future Hall of Fame manager, Bobby Cox.

Between hanging with Mad Dog, Glav and Smoltzie when Greg was in town Greg Maddu xrecently… to sitting in on an executive meeting concerning Bobby Cox, it’s been busy. That and, well, its Georgia peach blossom season. Just, uh… got over all the spring orange blossoms in Florida and now, you know… so many blossoms, such little time… but enough about me. Wait, one more thing about me: thanks to a nice gentleman from Mechanicsville, I now have a new press portrait. Thanks Mr. Gil for taking my picture while I was on assignment in Richmond. I gave copies to all my blossom buddies.

The following are two recent unpublished reports from my Braves travels:

Part One:

The Three Amigos Weigh-in On A Reunion.

Logged Tuesday, May 6 – ATLANTA – In this first report, we’re in the Braves Tom Glavine weight room with ‘the boys’. I was invited by Tommy Glavine (my new cheeseburger buddy) to listen in on a conversation with Mad Dog, Glav and Smoltzie. So hold onto your seats… what you’re about to read is a first time, first hand, unedited and uncut documentation of a conversation between three of the top pitchers in the modern era. You just never know what exciting scoops and revelations might come from these rare, multi-Cy Young winning get-togethers when no holds are barred, anything goes… and yours truly had exclusive access. Now, in the weight room, Smoltzie chimes in first:

John SmoltzJOHN: Real good to see you Doggie. So, how do you like San Diego?

GREG: The weather is real nice.

JOHN: No, I mean the Padres.

GREG: The weather is real nice.

JOHN: Right… got it. Better than LA, though, huh? Alyssa Milano

GREG: Ahh… well, miss seeing Alyssa and all. You know…

JOHN: Milano? Sure, but she digs the long ball. Not your style, Dog.

TOMMY: Hey Doggie, have you been to Vigilucci’s?

GREG: What’s that?

TOMMY: The great Steak & Chop House over on Prospect.

GREG: Uh, no.

TOMMY: How about Soleil over on K Street?

GREG: Um, nope.

TOMMY: They’re good restaurants. Me and my little buddy, Mr. Fly, hit those places together when we’re in the area. Some good enchilada-cheeseburgers at the stadium too. Hey Dog, why are you grinning like that? Why are you and Johnny snickering? Ok, what’s up? Did you hang some dirty underwear on my doorknob or something? What gives?

JOHN: Teeheehee.

GREG: Snork…snork…chortle…

TOMMY: Alright dammit… what are you two up to?

MR. FLY: So Doggie, you coming back to the Braves? It’d be cool.

GREG: I’d like to Mr. Fly. We’ll see soon. By the way Tommy, didn’t you get a new set of pearly white choppers up in New York ‘cause’a that sudden stop in that cab and all?

TOMMY: Yes… why? What, is something stuck in my front teeth or…

JOHN: No, they’re fine. Do they chew pretty well Tommy? Hee hee…

GREG: That grill make pretty good headway with the fork and spoon? Yuk yuk yuk…

TOMMY: Yes they fit well and work just fine but what does that have to do with… hey, why are you yukking it up? What’s so damn funny? And why the hell are you guys both staring at my belly with those smirks?

GREG: Lots of good food up there in the Big Apple, there, Tommy?

JOHN: OK, let’s hit the links guys… we’ve got us a tee time.

TOMMY: You guys will never grow up.

Part two:

Braves Management Takes A Chance… Again.

Filed Saturday, May 10 – PITTSBURGH – In this road report, I was invited to sit in on a behind the scenes executive meeting between John Schuerholz, Frank Wren and Bobby Cox. Before you read my report, just know that me and Bobby go way back. We’re pals and all, but I do like to give him a hard time. Wish he’d retire and enjoy the HOF life, work in the executive suite for the Braves, enjoy his wife and grandkids and such. Moving along, this special report begins as Bobby and Frank enter Mr. John’s executive suite at The Gardener Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh:

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Good afternoon gents. Please have a seat. How’s life?

Bobby CoxMR. COX: It was a good game today but we just caught a few bad breaks. I thought Chucky pitched real good but it just didn’t go his way. Frustrating really. Left a few up is all. Pirates were tough. That wet weather made it tough too. Chucky’s coming around. One day soon he’ll be able to go 6 innings again. He’s working on his control right now and he has only two pitches and, oh, he has trouble remembering hitters he’s faced… even from inning to inning, but he’ll come around. Good kid. Hangs a hell’uva good window too. He just got through putting new windows in my day room at the farm. Kid did a nice job. Well, one was crooked and a few were hung too high, but he’s coming around. That one today just got away from Chucky but other than a few he left up, he pitched a good game. Dunno… scratchin’ my head over that game. He went 6, so that’s good. He’ll come around. Pirates played us tough and, boy…

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: You OK, Bobby? All well at home? How’s the wife, the farm, the grandkids?

MR COX: Oh, yeah, sure… fine. Jojo is coming around too. He’s got a few blisters and all, but he’s a good kid. Campillo’s looking good. He’s gonna be a solid pen guy. Good kid. Blisters, but good…

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: That’s fine, Bobby. Glad to hear everything’s OK.

MR. COX: Good kids. We’ll get’em tomorr…

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: That’s fine Bobby. How are you Frank?

MR. WREN: Doing great, John. Thanks. All is well on the home front.

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Good, good. Well now, what do you think we should do about starting pitching, Frank?

MR. WREN: I’d like to send Chuck back to the minors. He sucks.

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Yep. What do you think Bobby?

MR. COX: Good kid. Just a few hanging… pitched good today. He’s my boy. Hangs a good window too. Car detailing, runs the tractor…

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Uh, Frank, you want to lose him right?

MR. WREN: Yes sir. I’d also like to start Campillo. He can pitch.

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Your call Frank. Done and done then. Bobby?

MR. COX: I’m thinking about an extension of my contract.

MR. WREN: Bobby, since I’m new, I’ll let Mr. Schuerholz handle this.

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Bobby, aren’t you about ready to wind it up, take a bow, maybe come upstairs with me, assist with player recruitment, take your place as an all-time Hall of Fame manager and executive with the Braves organization and let someone else take the reins in the dugout? Don’t you miss your family, your farm, your animals and such?

MR. COX: I like to manage. Maybe sign me to another ten-year deal. I like the games. I like to watch. Good kids. Those Pirates matched up pretty well. Chucky’ll come around. Left a few up…

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Hmmm. Well, OK, Bobby, but let’s just do a one-year deal. You OK with that? Frank, are you good with that?

MR. WREN: Well, sir… it’s a bit, um, well… I was thinking that with Bobby’s historic run and everything he might want to slow down a bit. But I’d like it to be your call, Mr. Schuerholz.

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Bobby? What say you? Ready to hang’em up?

MR. COX: Dunno what happened today. Wet mound. Good kid, Chucky. We’ve had a few bad bounces lately. Bats have been quiet, but they’ll come around… it’s only April…

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: Uh, Bobby, we’re well into May. But OK, you can have a one-year contract extension.

MR. WREN: Uh, John, in that case, could we talk about a strategic bench coach?

MR. SCHUERHOLZ: I hear you, Frank. We’ll talk later downstairs in the Gardener Lounge. I know it’s a Chance we’re taking here.

MR. COX: I like to watch umpires.

Mr Fly

~by Mr Fly~

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45: Steering into the fast lane

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By ssiscribe

ATLANTA – Windows down. Sunshine gleaming. Radio cranked.

Two heads bob in unison to the music coming from the speakers, the melody and rhythm fighting for attention with the whirl of Interstate 75 on a perfect late morning in late spring.

In the back seat, a 5-year-old – dressed head-to-toe in Braves gear – enjoys the prospects of being out of pre-K for the day. Behind the wheel, his dad – sporting that pristine white Braves home jersey and Las Vegas-style Braves’ lid – sings at the top of his lungs, drawing both praise and laughter from the audience in the backseat.

“Life is a highway … I wanna ride it all night long!”

Rascal Flatts might not be my favorite musical group. Country music certainly isn’t my favorite genre, strange when one considers I’m from the South and listened to the rhythm of the steel guitar throughout my childhood.

But there’s something about that particular song that strikes me. Maybe it’s because that tune is on the soundtrack of the movie “Cars,” the wildly popular animated hit from a few years back that is a favorite of all four of us who reside in our humble abode. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because there is a message in the lyrics, one that applies in this case.

The highway zooms along under our tires as we navigate toward Turner Field. On this day, heading north for the opening game of a day-night doubleheader, traffic is moving along, the weather is perfect, and the setting is one that every father who so cherishes this game we adore hopes to have with his first-born at some point in time.

So, too, does it describe the baseball team who resides at 755 Hank Aaron Boulevard. Through the stop-and-go frustration of a lost April, May has brought spring flowers and sparkling baseball to the Atlanta Braves. The pitching staff, as stable as a pack of NASCAR wannabees racing down the back straightaway on a Saturday night at the local dirt track, has settled into a nice rhythm. The manager, asleep at the wheel for far too many nights the first month of the season, suddenly has realized the lineup can be adjusted and the bullpen can be used wisely (there still are moves like last night, when Jeff Bennett pitched in a nine-run game, but I digress).

And the offense, stuck in the far right lane fighting merging traffic in second gear, has wandered into the fast lane and put the hammer down.

All offseason, Braves fans salivated at the prospects of the best hitting team this franchise has fielded in years. All April, the good denizens of Braves Nation gnashed their teeth and chewed their fingernails as those not named Chipper Jones or Yunel Escobar sputtered like my old ’79 Silverado used to on the Downtown Connector.

But now, the Braves are hitting. Top to bottom, Atlanta hitters are producing, even when they don’t seem to produce. Several times during Tuesday’s opener, a father talked to his attentive son about the fundamental aspects of the game. The team wearing white provided plenty of good examples on this day, working deep into the count, hitting the ball to the right side to move runners along, getting the fly ball needed with a runner on third, and hitting in the clutch to turn an early deficit into a comfortable lead.

Baseball is a hard, hard game. I’ll never forget walking back into the newsroom one night as a young sports writer, ready to pound out my game story. Satisfied with my work, I shipped it to my sports editor, a fine man whose short lists of priorities include baseball … and perspective.

“Remember how hard this game is,” he asked after recrafting part of my story.

The game we watch seems so easy from the Terrace Level, the Sports Garage, the local watering hole. But on the field, it’s far from a stroll in the park. Still, when the talent is there, it’s frustrating to see your team muddle along like a used jalopy when you know down to the core of your being that team should be lapping the field, racing toward the postseason.

We’re seeing that now out of the Braves. Mark Teixeira is heating up. Brian McCann is having the best month nobody is talking about. Kelly Johnson is flourishing in the seventh spot. Gregor Blanco continues to impress. And, Jeff Francoeur got the day off he needed, then returned to wreck the Mets last night.

Life is a highway. So, too, is a baseball season. There will be traffic jams and construction ahead, for sure. But when you have a sports car, it’s a shame when you can’t get over to the left and roar past the potholes.

Hopefully, the Braves now have settled into the fast lane. And if they have, there’s nothing but open road between now and the checkered flag.

–30–

~Scribe~

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44: Greetings, bloggers and blogettes!

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by The Grinch


PALMETTO, GA -Having just gone through a bunch of nonsense, I’m having a difficult time getting into the mindset of telling a story, so with your permission I’ll just rant on the state of things and what might be done about it.

Let me start off by saying that I am not a fair-weather fan. I spent the 1980’s dragging coolers full of alcohol and food down to Fulton County Stadium to watch both the Braves AND the Falcons. If y’all remember how putrid both teams were during the ’82 to ’91 period, you’ll admit that this isn’t something a non-fan would do. While I wish the Braves would go back to the old stadium rules regarding coolers so that it didn’t cost me $150 to go to a game, they’ve at least put a better product on the field to partially make up for it.

However, here’s the problem I have with both the way the organization’s being run and the people they’re marketing it to: “better than it was” seems to be all anybody’s aiming for as well as all the fans need to be pacified. What’s missing? We have a great scouting department, a great farm system (the envy of most other teams), a large payroll, a large market that provides good revenue, a shrewd GM, a Hall of Fame Manager and a solid collection of veteran superstars, up and coming superstars, and solid role players. So, what’s the problem?

The problem is that this team should be ten games ahead in the division by now, even with all the injuries. The fact that they’re just tripping and stumbling along nonchalantly in third place like a Harley with a bad spark plug should be a major cause of concern for everyone. However, it isn’t for some reason. Sure, we get frustrated. Sure, we come up with ideas about what would help. Sure we keep the fires of hope burning that things will pick up and be all right. “Smoltz’s gonna come back and close,” we say. “Gonzo and Soriano are gonna shore up the bullpen and give others a rest.” “Chuck’s gone.” “We’ll pick up Maddux at the deadline and it’ll be just like old times again.” And a partridge in a pear tree.

The fascination with old times and memories are exactly what the problem is. It wouldn’t matter WHO we had on the team right now. The Braves are coasting, and getting by with it on the reputation of past laurels. Atlanta is the only major city I can think of that is so “neuvaux riche” that both the people and the baseball team can only think back a few years to capture their “tradition.” Look at the Yankees. We were essentially tied with them as the best team of the 90’s. Since then, neither team has done squat (though we’ve done less than them). The difference is the Yankees won’t continue to put up with being mediocre or even pretty good. That’s not the way they do things there. The organization won’t allow it because the fans and the media won’t allow it. They demand better, and better they will get or at least a damn solid visible effort at it. The fans and media know what good baseball is, and won’t accept less.

Atlanta doesn’t demand anything of anybody; as long as we’re at or above .500 and Bobby says “Aw, shucks” when interviewed, the businessmen in their Izod’s and loafers with no socks and silicone enhanced wives will continue to make deals on the cellphone at the park instead of watch the game and pay attention. If everyone else thinks its ok, they will too. I GUARANTEE you if the AJC would start doing its job (and we could force that by booing them; let ‘em know we can dang sure get another paper or two started here…they don’t have a monopoly) and Schultz and Bradley started ripping the Braves like they do the Hawks things would turn around quick. Imagine if there were two or three major papers and ALL of them were doing that. Creative Loafing, too. And blogs everywhere. And the evening news. Jerome Jurenovitch (?). Y’all, I love Brian Jordan but they have him on there for a reason; he doesn’t make waves. That must stop. The people would catch on that we don’t have to put up with all this failed planning, poor managing, poor effort, poor excecution, etc. When Bobby does something stupid, write about it. Talk about it. Yell about it. Boo at the stadium like other teams do. Boo bad bunt attempts. Boo rally-killing double plays. Boo ignorant lefty-righty bullpen moves. Boo Tex for talking like Boras and playing like Andruw. Other cities would. Boo poor effort. Make the Braves from the President on down to the bat-boys understand that we know what the heck is going on and we won’t put up with it. That if players are underperforming we want them benched or traded, or we’ll make a scene. That if Terry can’t help any of the hitters with fundamentals, we want someone who can. Boo them. Talk about it. Get the media going. If Bobby can’t motivate players anymore, promote him up or talk him into retiring. If you don’t, we’ll make a scene. Booooo! That’s the way others do it, and that’s why they’re “Baseball Towns” and we’re not. That’s why their teams may not always win, but they always look like they’re giving maximum effort.

People, the people who run this team are only there because we pay for it and support it. This team with its payroll just like it is now could be up there competing with the Yankees and the Red Sox every year. WE NEED TO BE TIRED OF PAYING NEW YORK CITY PRICES AND RECEIVING LAZY REDNECK RESULTS IN RETURN.

LET’S MAKE THIS A BASEBALL TOWN. POWER TO THE PEOPLE.

~Grinch~

42: Confessions of a Baseball Convert

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by FLBravesGirl

Bradenton, FL. – I never liked baseball as a kid. It was just that game my dad watched incessantly every summer. I think he got cable just so he could see the Braves, terrible as they were, on TBS. The game would start and I would stick my nose in a book. More often than not, he would start yelling and cussing at the TV and I would take my book and myself off to my room. Why did he watch this if it made him so mad?!

Then in ’91… something happened. He stopped yelling at the TV and started cheering. I had to see what had brought about this miraculous change. And just when I started paying attention those sneaky Braves grabbed hold of my heart. Suddenly I was watching every game with him while he explained what was going on. I was staying up for West Coast games and taking notes so he would know what had happened before he went to work in the morning. I nearly died of nerves during the ’91 Series. I was a FAN now.

Now came the first test of my fanhood: the offseason. Would this last or was it just a summer fling? But there I was, checking out spring training reports and counting down to Opening Day. This was the real thing. This was love. And they repaid that love in October with the single most exciting moment I have ever seen in a ballgame. I think I achieved human flight leaping off the couch when Sid slid.

Since then there have been times when the Braves have frustrated me, ticked me off and broken my heart. But it’s all been worth it for all the times they’ve made me so happy. They’ve given me something special to share with my dad and brought me many friends I would never have known otherwise. I’m so grateful I looked up from my book that day in ’91 and started this love affair that I hope lasts the rest of my life.

GLORY DAYS


~flbravesgirl~

39:Patience, Practice and the Past

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by Berigan

JONESBORO, GA – Patience is a virtue we are all told…seems to be a provable fact. And it’s always in style. Just like the bell bottoms I am wearing now.

Patience is a virtue in Baseball as well. Fielders learn to not charge every single ground ball. They learn that sometimes, you should let the ball come to them, instead of getting it on the in-between hop. Some teams appear to have a system wide policy of teaching patience at the plate. Teaching players that they don’t need to try to win the game on every pitch thrown near the strike zone. That not swinging against pitchers that walk a lot, might just get you that fat pitch you desire…if you are patient. AL teams in particular get that today, more than ever, teams that don’t swing at the first pitch, that work deep counts, wear down a starting pitcher, and can get to the weak underbelly of most teams, their middle relief.

Practice is also a virtue. The best musicians in the world practice for hours a day. Frank Sinatra saw a gray haired Benny Goodman practicing before a concert and said to him, “Benny, why do you practice so much? After all, you’ve been playing for decades!!!” Benny’s answer was “Because when I am not great, I am just good.”

Another example is WC Fields. Fields was a world class juggler before he was a world class comedian. He said this about the early days: “I still carry scars on my legs from these early attempts at juggling. I’d balance a stick on my toe, toss it into the air, and try to catch it again on my toe. Hour after hour the damned thing would bang against my shinbones. I’d work until tears were streaming down my face. But I kept on practicing, and bleeding, until I perfected the trick.”

Gil in Mechanicsville said on the 2nd of April on the B&S. “Practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect.”

I don’t believe players need to leave blood on the grass at Turner Field, but…do Braves players drill as much as the best defensive teams like the Rockies or Red Sox do??? It can’t just be dumb luck or the drafting good fielders that allowed the Rockies tied the NL record for fewest errors (68), right?

Does everyone on the team spend 5-10 minutes a day in the indoor batting cages working on bunting???

Since the Braves made a lot of errors in spring training, is it wrong to spend more time working on the fundamentals after a bad game once the season starts??? Surely you can say it nicely to the players, that right now they look more than rusty, lets spend an extra hour before a game working on hitting cut the cut off man, or practicing making deep throws deep in the hole, or digging balls out of the dirt at first. Isn’t a reason we have so many coaches, is to you know….coach???

I know, everyone is expected to be a professional at this level. They should know how to do the little things, like bunt and move runners over…but…when your team has had a nearly 2 decade long problem scoring runs in big games…don’t you work extra hard on bunting, base-running, trying to move runners over, outside of the month of March???

The Past has it’s virtues as well. Nothing wrong with the past. This team has a great past! But, a team should look closely at it’s past, to see what worked, and what doesn’t work anymore. Does everyone from the GM on down look to find ways to improve the way this particular team plays between the lines??? Are we playing “modern” baseball?? Or do we chalk up the problems getting deep in the playoffs to just bad luck???

As I mentioned before, teams like the Red Sox (2 WC sweeps in the past 4 years) and Yankees (13th straight playoff berths) today take a lot of pitches, yet you don’t seem to see their players take a lot of called strike 3’s. Haven’t heard, but I do wonder if they have meetings before games and run down a few basic stats with their players. Pitcher X, 72% of the time will start with a breaking pitch away. 59% are out of the zone. They are doing something this Braves team isn’t doing.

Sure, these teams have a lot of money, more than anyone else. But, that alone won’t win the World Series for you. All I know is, when we played teams like the Red Sox or Tigers last year, we didn’t look like we belonged on the same field with them. Was that only our starting pitching????

I bet teams like the Red Sox, that seem to have a forward look in their approach to bringing up young pitchers (and how to handle older ones like Shilling) are better at finding new ways of getting an advantage over their opponents than other teams in baseball.

The Braves of 2008 are a vastly improved team over the 2007 model, at least from a pure talent perspective. If the Braves don’t win it all this year, or don’t even get into the playoffs, it won’t be because of a lack of talent.

~Berigan~

38: Nobody’s Family is Going to Change

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by JB in ATL

KENNESAW, GA I’m a little new here at Braves and Stuff and this will mark my first lead post here. But I already feel I’ve carved out a little place for myself in this serendipitous sanctuary tucked away in a lovely little corner of the Braves blogosphere.

With that said, let’s get real honest with one another, shall we?

Who of us true baseball fans can admit to never, ever, not even once, trying with some sort of desperation to effect the outcome of a Braves game? I think you’ll be hard pressed to find many of us that have become involved in this sport and this team that we adore and have not at one time or another done anything we could think of at any moment to give our team a little edge in times of need.

I myself have been known to cast magic spells, pray without ceasing, sit motionless on the couch until an inning has come to an end, tap two fingers on my forearm repeatedly during a 2-2 count with 2 outs, or even flip my cap inside out and upside down when we really need a rally.

Why do I do these things? Why do I shout until I’m hoarse with men on base and our hopes on the line? Why do I rise to my feet with 2 outs in the ninth and a thin one-run lead clapping until my hands are lobster red hoping to inspire a strikeout, a save, and a win? Either I’m hoping to invoke change in the outcome of the game or I’ve become so involved with my team and each game my team plays in that I believe I’m somehow on the field.

Maybe it’s faith. Maybe my belief, rituals, and invocations have some impact on the game or maybe they don’t. I’m not entirely sure. Maybe the moves Schuerholz used to make and now Wren makes are some sort of predestination that will inevitably run its course and we the onlookers will revel in success or mourn in defeat. Or maybe it’s just baseball and we’re just fans.

However, when I wake up the next morning after a playoff loss I feel like I’ve let the Braves and the city of Atlanta down somehow. It’s not just a game. Maybe I didn’t support them enough. Maybe I should’ve gone to the game. Maybe I should NOT have gone to the game because they seem to lose each time I show up. Maybe I didn’t say the right prayer at the right time. Maybe God’s not a Braves fan this year or maybe God doesn’t even care about baseball and my prayers are in vain.

Point is, I often somehow feel responsible for not doing the right things to make the Braves win and I’ve got to do better next time.

Yet I’ve realized one thing in my nearly 25 years of following baseball. I will love the Braves whether they win or lose. Whether I’ve been able to “change” the outcome of the game or whether the Braves and I have failed together.

Now I’ll get personal on you.

I’ve spent years trying to change my family without really knowing it. I would refuse to accept the differences between us. Differences in our beliefs, viewpoints, attitudes were insurmountable. I also wanted to change all the many imperfections of my family members. I hoped I could inspire them to be better people. I hoped I could influence or even lead them onward to change. Yet when I realized I could not change them, I decided to love my family not in spite of their shortcomings (or ask that they love me in spite of mine) but simply for who they are. I then understood a little more about what it really means to love someone.

Now back to the Braves. You see, I’m a lot like Mr. Raisins, I don’t love them because they win. I love them because I always have. Since 1982 when I was a toddler attending my first game at the Launching Pad, I began to my love the Braves. I will continue to love them whether they are in first place en route to a World Series title or in last place wondering how to rebuild for next year.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate when the Braves lose and I love when the win. But I will not hate my team just like I will never hate my family. And whether my in-game séances and superstitions make any kind of change on the games and the players or not, I have learned to love them even if I can’t change them.

The Braves have been a part of my family for as long as I can remember.

…and you just can’t change who your family is.

~JB in ATL~

37: The Joy of the Game

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By Voice of Reason Raisins

JEFFERSON, GA – I am a sports fan. Period. What is fan short for? Fan is short for fanatic. I am a sports fanatic. I’ll watch ’em all on TV: baseball, football, basketball, hockey, golf, tennis… You name it, I’ll watch it. (Except bowling. I can’t watch bowling on TV.) As the years have gathered behind me, and a wife and two kids have gathered around me, I have had to learn to balance what I want to watch with what the family wants to watch. What? College wrestling on ESPNU? Awesome! Oh, wait… the kids are watching Spongebob. That’s OK, though. Life is essentially about balance, and the more you invest in family, the less you invest in other things. It seems, though, that there is still one area where I manipulate the scales of balance in my favor. Your Atlanta Braves! Mrs. Raisins and the young’uns all know that at 7:10pm, I’m looking for the Braves on the dial.

When I was a mere pup, my family moved to the suburbs of the big city of Atlanta from rural south Georgia. My Dad’s friend hooked him up with a night job selling tickets at Atlanta Stadium (as it was known before 1976) during the Braves seasons. For a couple of years, every time the Braves had a promotion, I got stuff. Cool stuff. Trading cards, miniature bats, helmets, caps… I got ’em all. I can still picture Marty Perez, Sonny Jackson, Davey Johnson and others staring back at me as I marveled at the cool stuff I got. I had a Ralph Garr bike license plate that said “Beep, beep” on it with a picture of the Roadrunner wearing Garr’s baseball jersey. Totally cool. I got to go to some games, too. I loved it. I loved the Braves. That was a happy time.

Growing up, I watched alot of baseball on TV with my folks. Of course, you only had the CBS games on Saturday and Monday Night Baseball. Then came Ted Turner and his little cable station. Before long, The good Lord above had graced us with the Atlanta Braves all during the week. And you can bet that if the Braves were on the TV, my Dad had the game on. It was simply a given. We watched alot of Braves baseball on that old 21” set. Those are happy memories.

When I’d get home from school every day, I’d slide my old worn out mitt over my bike handlebar and bolt down the street to my buddy’s house. We’d go out in his back yard and toss the ball around for a while. I could imitate every pitcher’s throwing motion! I could look just like Carl Morton. I could look just like Knucksie, too. (I could even toss a knuckler; just couldn’t do it consistently.) Then I’d take my old yellowed wood bat, with the tape wrapped around the handle, and settle in to the batter’s box. I could stand and swing like every one of my beloved Braves. From the right side, I could look just like Jerry Royster. From the left side, I was Willie Montanez. That’s how I became a switch-hitter! I emulated every nuance of my favorite players that I had learned from watching them almost every night on WTBS. I can’t tell you one score from any one game, but I can still see Willie slap that mitt down when taking Jerry’s throw from third. That was so much fun!

After I left the nest, my Braves watching habits followed closely behind. Every time Joe Torre, Eddie Haas, Bobby Wine, Russ Nixon, Chuck Tanner or Bobby Cox led their charges to the field, I was watching when I could. And I still do. Every pitch that I can witness, every hit that I can see, every throw that I’m around for, every double-play that I can tune in… they all take me back to gripping that taped bat. They remind me of toeing the rubber and floating my knuckler to my pal. They remind me of slapping my mitt down at first base like Willie. They remind me of all the cool stuff my Dad would remember to bring home to me, even after a long day and a long night. They remind me of why I love the Braves. They remind me of why I love the game.

So at 7:10, make room. I still watch every time that I can. And I hurt just like everybody else when our boys stumbled to 2 straight losses to open this season. But that didn’t really change anything. You see, I still can’t tell you any of the scores from any of the games, but I can tell you that Yunel keeps that shoulder dug in low! Diaz bends his back, then really get his hands through the zone. KJ taps his toe just like Chipper. And Moylan can throw some heat from down under! I watch the games to see MY players on MY team that I love play MY game that I grew up playing. I don’t watch to revel in the wins or to fret over the losses. I watch for baseball. I watch for my Braves. I watch for the joy of the game.

~Raisins~

36: Staying the course…

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by Gil

One of the hazards of being a fan of any team in any sport is the realization that the more you put into something the more you stand to lose. While the stock market as well as the black jack tables has been known to lighten one’s wallet with considerable rapidity, it is sports that take something even more dearly to us than money. It is the feeling of despair at watching your team lose games it should win, that exacts a huge toll on our well-being.

Now, I wish to put forth a theory that comes from many years of observation as well as my own personal experience with the matter. Those beings that people try to isolate themselves from the feelings of woe by one of several methods.

The first is apathy. The idea that if they don’t get involved, they won’t get hurt. This is often demonstrated by the abundance of empty seats often associated with losing teams. Despite the pleas of owners, players and erstwhile fanatics, venues go empty because people just don’t want to feel bad at the prospect of another loss.

The next is abandonment, many people will simply cut their losses and walk away despite the investment of time and energy thinking is no sense in riding a sinking ship to the bottom. Best to jump to the lifeboats while there is still time to save themselves.

A favorite approach by many is the front-runner syndrome. These are the shallowest of fair weather fans. They constantly will check to see which way the wind is blowing and quickly jump to whichever team is winning, claiming to be a lifelong fan and true supporter. This method assures them of the greatest amount of euphoria with the least amount of emotional involvement.

Of course, adapting these traits rob a person of the truest of highs which only comes with experiencing the lows as well as the highs. Supporting a team though it’s darkest times allows a person to savor the sweetness of victory. A bit of caution however in that one can find themselves resentful when the fair weather fans try to jump on the bandwagon to share the feeling of good times.

Therefore, I urge those good fans of the Braves to exercise patience. Do not despair with the short-term aberration of defeat but know the good times are coming!

~Gil~

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35: I was in a poker game….

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by Berigan

JONESBORO, GA – Big news everyone! I was in a poker game with the head of Liberty Media – whoever that is. And guess what???? He was out of money, so put the deed to the team on the table. He’s not a very good card player apparently, since I am now the owner of your Atlanta Braves!!!!!! 😆

There are big changes ahead:

1. Going to bring back the shorts the White Sox wore back in the late 70’s. Should make the players more angry and focused. I told them if they get in the playoffs, no more shorts! Win the WS and no more pink uniforms either!

2. I will be the 2nd lefty out of the bullpen. (Sorry, Ohman, but people didn’t laugh earlier when I said Oh man, Will – so out ya go!) I can give up a lot of walks just like the rest of the pen. Plus, I have a pretty good curve. At least I used to. I am sure I still do. We will soon find out!

3. No ticket will be above $10!!! We will sell out every single game since a family of 5 will be able to once again come to a game without having to get a loan or selling a kidney. Plus, no one will boo me if I have an off night on the mound!

4. Hot dogs and beer will only be $2 each! There will only be 400% profit on these staples of the ballpark, but I think we will be able to get by.

5. Plastic tubes will be attached under each seat, so men can relieve themselves without having to get up from their chairs! No more missing home runs because of a full bladder! (Women have bigger bladders then men and can wait ’til after the game.) Of course, there will be a modesty curtain you can bring up if one so desires.

6. Chief Nakahoma is back!

7. Half of all home games will be day games! (Don’t care what MLB has to say about this, it’s my team!) Too many kids can’t stay up late to watch games the games as it is. Plus, kids today have never experienced the pure joy of skipping school to see a baseball game!

8. Ted Simmons is the new GM! (Didn’t think I wouldn’t mention him at least once, did ya?) Sure, Frank Wren has done a good job, but Simmons was the GM of the Pirates in the early 90’s. Wren can do all the heavy lifting, but Simmons gets the title, and the chance to cut ribbons for new bridges and new Methadone clinics.

9. ESPN won’t be able to broadcast Braves games if Jon Miller and Clueless Joe are the broadcasters! (My team, my rules!)

10. No extra inning games at the Ted Berigan that end in the 12th inning! Unless we have the lead of course.

And finally….

11. Free season tickets too all members of the B&S blog!!! Even for the foreigners who live outside of Georgia.

But, that’s only the starting point! What changes do you all want to see?? The voice of Harry Carey singing “Take me out to the Ball Game” during the 7th inning stretch? (Skip or Chip can dub in ‘go Braves’ over ‘go Cubbies’) Black grass??? Disco demolition night??? AC for the bleachers?? You name it, it WILL happen!

Happy April Fools Day! 😆

~Berigan~

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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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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25: The Minor League Experience

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by Chrisklob

CHARLESTON, SC – As many of you know, I am a huge fan of minor league baseball. There is something special and different about the baseball experience at a minor league ball park that you just don’t get at a big league facility. The seats tend to be a whole lot closer to the field and even the worst seats in the house are generally pretty good. It’s an inexpensive night out too, with tickets at my home park as cheap as $4.00. Beers are $3.00 and even the food is “normally” priced.

Another great aspect of minor league ball is how close you can get to the players. In Low A ball, the kids are generally pretty young and are not yet tired of signing autographs for the kids or of their budding celebrity. As a frequent visitor to our local field I have struck up friendships with a couple of players that exist to this day. The likelihood of that happening with a big leaguer is virtually nonexistent in my experience.

Another interesting part of the minor league experience is some of the great characters that work in the stadium. The Charleston RiverDogs is owned in part by Mike Veeck, son of legendary HOF’er Bill Veeck. Veeck the Elder owned the St. Louis Browns, Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox at various times. Larry Doby, Satchell Paige and Eddie Gaedel were all signees of Veeck’s. He planted the beloved ivy at Wrigley Field and as owner of the White Sox snuck a microphone into the booth while Harry Carey sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, had it broadcast into the stadium and a tradition was born.

It is very safe to say that Mike is definitely a “chip off the old block”. Remember “Disco Demolition Night”? That was one of Mike’s ideas. Granted it wasn’t one of his better ones but it really got a lot of people’s attention. Among the more interesting and zany promotions dreamed up by Veeck and his team for RiverDogs promotions include Vasectomy Night (some lucky guy was going to get a free vasectomy but the Catholic Church complained so they cancelled it), Funeral Night, and Silent Night (no one aside from the players, coaches and umpires were allowed to make any noise at all, which was a blast, by the way). This brings me to what I believe might be Veeck’s best idea ever.

Whenever I hear “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, I am automatically reminded of two gentlemen: Don Wardlow and Jim Lucas. For twelve years, three of which were spent in Charleston, they called the games for the radio broadcast. Lucas did the play-by-play; Wardlow, the color commentary. To say that they were excellent would be an understatement. Lucas had a way with words that is simply indescribable. He painted such a fine picture of the game’s happenings that, quite frankly, made it unnecessary to actually be at the game. Close your eyes and listen and you’ll know how long the pitcher’s sideburns are, how many steps the left fielder took to catch the fly ball, the exact color of the visiting teams uniform tops. You’ll understand with as much clarity as the catcher what the home plate umpire’s strike zone looks like, which cheek the first baseman put his dip in and how big a lead the runner at first has taken. The guy was truly an artist in his ability to paint a picture.

Lucas didn’t provide this information just for the radio listeners. He did it because it was a necessity for his partner. Don Wardlow has been blind since birth and has never seen anything, at least not in the way that you and I can see. But his baseball vision is astounding. His knowledge of the game and its history is astonishing. After hearing Lucas’ description of what had just occurred, Wardlow invariably had something interesting to add. It might have been a bit of baseball trivia from 1893 or 1983. It might have been about an event that took place at a game he’d attended as a child. It could have been about anything, but whatever it was, it was always relevant and interesting to the listener.

I mentioned Harry Carey and we are all aware of the tradition of the seventh inning stretch that has spread throughout baseball. Don Wardlow carried that tradition on at our games, but he had a twist. While we all know the verse that starts out “Take me out to the ballgame”, few of us, myself included, knew that this is actually the chorus of the song. Like Caray, Wardlow wouldn’t make it far on “American Idol”, but he dutifully sang the first two verses nightly.

By the way, the lyrics were written by Jack Norworth in 1908 and the music was composed by Albert Von Tilzer:

This is the original version:
Katie Casey was baseball mad,
Had the fever and had it bad.
Just to root for the home town crew,
Ev’ry sou
Katie blew.
On a Saturday her young beau
Called to see if she’d like to go
To see a show, but Miss Kate said “No,
I’ll tell you what you can do:”

(chorus)
Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win, it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.

Katie Casey saw all the games,
Knew the players by their first names.
Told the umpire he was wrong,
All along,
Good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Katie Casey knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song:

(chorus)
Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win, it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.

If you’d like to hear the song performed here’s a link (requires RealPlayer).

Wardlow decided to retire a few years ago. His wife is also disabled and he felt guilty about being away on long road trips when she would take ill. The RiverDogs decided to perform only the “traditional” version during the seventh inning stretch the year after he left. That was a disappointing but understandable decision as performing the first verse was really his “thing”. Either way, whenever I hear that song, no matter where I am, I am instantly reminded of Jim Lucas and Don Wardlow, baseball announcers extraordinaire. Just a thread in the fabric of the minor league baseball experience!

~by Chris~

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24: The Danger of Daydreaming, May It Never Go Away

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By Voice of Reason

“Sweet dreams are born inside you.

Sweet dreams are born to last.

Sweet thoughts within your makeup;

These thoughts will always last.”

from Sweet Dreams by Yes, from Time and a Word (1970)

JEFFERSON, GA – As I sit to organize my thoughts, my mind is constantly aware that today is the first day of full squad workouts for my beloved Braves at Champion Field in the Den of Disney. Although I am the consummate compulsive multi-tasker, I find that I am having a great deal of difficulty peeling my thoughts away from what is surely Paradise in the heart of The Big Mouse. You see, there is one constant peril in the routine of the compulsive multi-tasker: daydreaming.

Daydreaming can upset the balance of a carefully crafted groove, a perfected program, an unspoiled scheme, a mastered modus operandi.

I daydream of all the sights and sounds that go along with a day at the ballpark. I cannot escape the fact that as I sit and navigate the water that is my daily duties, my beloved Braves are cranking up the machine that is the 2008 campaign. Ah, yes… Here in late winter, the Boys of Summer open their Spring Training. And I find my thoughts constantly drawn to this seasonal paradox. I can’t shake it. It is an imagination addiction.

A daydream is a wistfully pleasant visual vacation. It is a creation of the imagination with one sole purpose: escape from reality. In fact, it is in and of itself its own reality complete with a symphony of sensory delights. And I daydream of being there – there in the middle of the Disney juggernaut in a small piece of heaven that is a baseball park.

I hear the pop of freshly oiled leather. I hear the crack of white ash, as the bat meets the ball in a perfect union of two bodies in motion.

I hear the kids playing on the grass just outside the outfield fence. I hear the birds overhead, packed and ready for the journey northward.

I hear the ooohs and ahhhs as the hitters launch their rockets from home plate. I hear Bobby yelling, “Come on, Kid!”

I smell the freshly cut infield grass. I smell the popcorn popping in the vendor’s wagon just outside the gate. I smell the SPF 50 from the Vermont vacationers.

I see the players, playing a boy’s game with a man’s skill. I see the sun and the shadows painting the field with their contrasting ideas. I see the fans milling about, each with their own contrasting ideas.

I see that glorious “A”, gracing the brow of the caps worn by my beloved Braves. (I’m wearing one, too!)

I feel the warmth of the Florida sun. I feel the anticipation of fulfilling a dream. I feel the excitement of new opportunity. I feel the tension of jobs on the line. I feel the joy of simply being in the midst of it all.

And I can taste it, just as nourishment for the soul as it all comes together in the perfect recipe that is my daydream.

Yes, this dream is born inside me, indeed. It lasts from spring to new spring and is surely a part of what makes me who I am. No, I’ve never been to spring training, at least not yet. But, I can dream, can’t I?

By Voice of Reason Raisins

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23: It’s five AM and deadline approaches…

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by Gil Elliott

MECHANICSVILLE, VA – Isn’t is funny how we sometimes have so much to say and just when we come up with a gem of and idea, someone else scoops you? Alas, being a bit slow on the draw only worked for Marshall Matt Dillon as he drew a steady bead each week while his opponent fired quickly and off the mark.

Media types I think are a lot like the unseen gunslinger who was quick on the draw but off the mark in his haste to be the fastest. Making wild and often unsubstantiated predictions based on little fact and much innuendo. Chalk it up to the 24/7 world we live in when no news is bad news and rumor is often reported as fact and the absence of real information is filled with countless hours of speculation.

Could we be talking baseball here? For each of us who is an ardent follower of the game of baseball, we wait for news of our team, anxious to learn every thing we can about our favorites. How do they look, think they will hit 30 homers this year, play more than 120 games, or stay away from the juice and other temptations? Maybe we are looking for a spark plug, a guy who has marginal talent but gets the most out of what he has and brings his “A” game every night. Everyone knows the story of “Charlie Hustle” and his drive to become one of the greatest ball players of all time.

The coming season holds so much promise for so many clubs. Right now everyone has a clean slate. Granted, some have a bigger slate with which to work and better chalk with which to write but for now everyone is equal. All full of hope that this will be their season. For 29 teams, that hope will be crushed by October. Some sooner than that but surely the World Series will produce only one winner.

It is unfortunate that our society has become so jaded that only a world championship is used to measure success verses failure. Does losing the Super Bowl mean the 2007 Patriots are still not one of the greatest football teams to ever have played the game?

I can remember very vividly how I felt when the Braves lost the World Series to the Twins back in ’91. Disappointed to be sure but I refused to feel bad. I had witness so many Braves teams fail to get to the big show. I told my friends and co-workers that although I was disappointed the Braves had not won what I thought to be one of the greatest world series ever played, I could not be unhappy because for an entire season they had brought me joy, had entertained me and lastly had made me proud to be a Braves fan.

In subsequent years the Braves have only one Worlds Series Championship but by no means should they be considered losers. A medium market club that has competed consistently with behemoths that by rights should be able to outspend and out play the Atlanta club every day of the week but baseball can be a humbling game. The best team does not always win. Even the worst of clubs manage 60 wins per year.

So fans, we are all equal in the standings on this date, we will scan the internet and newspapers and other media for some words of encouragement that our team is the best, that the Braves are a lock to win another championship and will grouse and complain when all the ink goes to teams located in big markets. Do not despair my friends, in ’91 the Braves were picked to finish last by nearly everyone, in ’06 they were picked to finish first. So much for the experts, the game still have to be played on the field. Just ask the NY Giants about that one.

Regardless, this looks to be a good year for the Braves, a deep pitching staff, good defense and a potential powerhouse for scoring runs, the Braves appear ready to make a run. However, do not judge success solely on a World Series Championship, look instead to the fact of whether or not they achieve to their full potential and didn’t fall short through lack of effort.

Like our old friend from Mercer University has said, “a team that works hard can beat a team with talent that doesn’t”.

~Gil Elliott~

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22: 101 things you didn’t know about Ted Simmons!

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by Berigan

Ah, spring is in the air! Winter doth protesteth a bit, but soon, she will make way for the rebirth of….oh who am I kidding, I can’t write that kind of stuff! But, I can write of the eternal hope that spring and spring training bring! And I bet I will be the very first one here to do it!

Hard to believe at one time (back in the day to be precise) teams used to play spring training in south Georgia! Now, teams barely make it north of Orlando. At least, that is what I think is true, but I am far too much of a brick wall to look into it and make sure! Something else this baseball history proves to me is that global cooling is a fact, and anyone that doesn’t recognize that we are in the beginning of a new ice age and that its an indisputable fact, is worse than a Nazi who kicks puppies! Either that, or people were just tougher in olden times. Either way, it’s all good.

As you may know (you may not care, but may know) I grew up a Cardinal fan. That sort of thing happens being born 5 miles south of St. Louis. Missed the glory days of 3 World series in the 60’s, but as a boy in the mid to late 70’s, I got to see Lou Brock Steal 893 (wel