Archive for the 'John Smoltz' Category

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.

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74: How’s it looking?

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

    

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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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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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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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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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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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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40: Greg Maddux: Best Postseason Starter Ever In His Prime?

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by williamwallace

ATHENS, GA – John Smoltz is rightfully regarded as one of the greatest postseason pitchers in the history of the game. Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, on the other hand, are generally considered postseason disappointments. Overall, for their careers, Smoltz has been superior to Glavine and Maddux in the postseason. Below are their career postseason records:

W

L

ERA

IP

Glavine

14

16

3.42

218

Smoltz

15

4

2.65

207

Maddux

11

14

3.34

194

Maddux and Glavine, however, were actually better postseason starters than Smoltz during the six postseasons in which they were members of the same starting rotation. The applicable period is from 1993 until 1999. Below is a grid with their performance and the average run support they received during those postseasons:

W

L

SV

ERA

WHIP

GS

IP

RS

Glavine

8

5

0

2.48

1.16

18

119.7

4.67

Smoltz

7

4

1

3.12

1.14

17

118.3

4.82

Maddux

10

9

1

2.39

1.11

21

150.7

3.86

Combined

25

18

2

2.64

1.13

56

388.7

4.41

Overall, the Braves were 32-24 when Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine started for the Braves during the postseasons from 1993 until 1999. Below is the overall team record when each started:

W

L

ERA

RS

Glavine

12

6

2.48

4.67

Smoltz

9

8

3.12

4.82

Maddux

11

10

2.39

3.86

Overall

32

24

2.64

4.41

Below is a table of the performance of Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine and the run support given to them in the games the Braves won when they started during those postseasons between 1993 and 1999:

G

IP

ERA

RS

Glavine

12

82.7

1.63

5.92

Smoltz

9

68.6

2.63

7.00

Maddux

11

84.7

1.60

5.36

Overall

32

236

1.91

6.03

Below is their performance and the average performance of the offense during the games the Braves lost when they started during those postseasons:

G

IP

ERA

RS

Glavine

6

37.0

4.38

2.17

Smoltz

8

49.7

3.80

2.38

Maddux

10

66.0

3.41

2.20

Overall

24

152.7

3.77

2.25

Maddux was not only the best postseason pitcher on the Braves during the era of The Big Three but, from the 1995 NLCS until the 1999 World Series, Maddux put together the best consecutive string of 120 or more innings of any postseason pitcher in the history of the game. Below are the postseason pitchers I could find that had the best consecutive string of 120 or more innings in the postseason and the average offensive run support provided them in their postseason starts:

Pitcher

Start

End

G

GS

W

L

IP

ERA

OOPS

RS

Greg Maddux

95NLCS

99WS

19

17

8

8

124

1.89

0.562

2.88

John Smoltz

91NLCSG7

97NLDS

18

18

9

2

125.3

2.01

0.573

4.78

Whitey Ford

50WS

62WSG4

18

18

10

4

124

2.03

0.586

4.50

Tom Glavine

92WS

99NLCS

19

19

9

6

129.7

2.22

0.590

4.37

Curt Schilling

93WS

2007WS

19

19

11

2

133.3

2.23

0.586

4.95

Dave Stewart

81WS

93ALCS

18

16

10

3

120.3

2.24

0.569

4.63

Orel Hershiser

85NLCS

97WSG1

18

17

8

2

121

2.38

0.575

4.35

Jim Palmer

66WS

83WS

17

15

8

3

124.3

2.61

0.640

4.67

Roger Clemens

86ALCSG7

03ALCSG3

22

22

8

5

130

3.05

0.562

3.82

Catfish Hunter

72ALCS

78WS

21

18

9

5

124.3

3.11

0.687

3.50

David Wells

89ALCS

05ALDS

26

16

10

4

120

3.15

0.647

5.44

Mike Mussina

97ALDS

06ALDS

20

19

7

7

121.3

3.19

0.660

3.26

Andy Pettitte

98ALDS

03WS

22

22

11

5

136

3.44

0.736

4.45

Randy Johnson

95ALDS

06ALDS

19

16

7

9

121

3.50

0.664

3.50

Mariano Rivera is currently at 117.3 innings and will jump to the top of this list once he surpasses 120 innings pitched in the postseason. Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Christy Mathewson and a few others had excellent runs that did not amount to 120 innings pitched prior to the dawn of ALCS, NLCS, ALDS and NLDS play. Greg Maddux, however, had the best string of 120 or more consecutive innings ever from a starting pitcher in the postseason.

~WilliamWallace~

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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