Archive for the 'Spring Training' Category

#174: Words of wisdom

Vox O’Reason

$50M sounds like so much money to you and me, but it won’t even pay for 2 All-Stars for 1 year, much less over the long term deals they want. And any owner that “takes their $50M windfall and spends it all in one place” isn’t being fiscally responsible.

As to the Braves, I would love for them to have taken $50M and bought a pitcher and a hitter. Truth is, though, that it wouldn’t have paid for both Yu Darvish and JD Martinez. The cost of a player goes way beyond just straight salary. There’s stipends, food, hotels, travel, and very costly insurance just to name a short few. I cannot imagine the total yearly budget for operating a baseball franchise. It’s staggering to think about. So $50M in the total perspective isn’t as much a windfall as we might imagine.

As we all have hashed over time and time again, the Braves’ horrendous TV contract already puts them behind other teams… hence the genesis of The Battery, a very innovative concept that all 29 other teams are paying close attention to. That will help make up some of the difference, but it doesn’t just begin spitting cash on arrival. It has to be planned, built, occupied and operated. All that costs money and takes time. It’s already paying some dividends, but it’s just in its infancy.

Am I defending the tight-walleted Braves ownership, or ownership in general? Well, here’s the uncomfortable truth. They own the team; they can do with it as they please. We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking baseball owners – whether it be private or corporate – are in it just to build winning teams. They’re in it to make money. That’s how they are, and that’s how they can afford a baseball franchise to begin with. Obviously building a winning team helps bolster the bottom line, but it isn’t the #1 priority. And it doesn’t come quickly, easily or cheaply.

Overall, baseball owners are learning that the days of George Steinbrenner are long gone. There are so many examples of teams spending themselves into oblivion and still losing. And even “going all in” by overspending and trading away your farm doesn’t guarantee anything. Anyone remember Mark Teixeira? No, the new wave of team executives have earned their stripes by taking the long approach… by building the farm system and reaping slow long range benefits. It’s the Dayton Moore approach and its proven. And it’s not just in KC. Chicago did it; Houston did it; Minnesota is doing it. It works.

So that transitions to other major parts of the slow free agent market equation…

Let’s say we did buy Mike Moustakas on a short term cost-friendly 1-year pillow contract. The signing still would cost us a high draft pick. So even if the budget hit is positive, the impact on the farm system is negative. Team execs are beginning to place a much higher value on those draft picks and aren’t willing to just give them up easily.

Now, tack on the luxury tax and you really have a disincentive. Paying 150% on every $ you spend is bad business, period. It’s why the Dodgers took Matt Kemp’s albatross contract… to spread out their commitment over 2 years instead of 1 and avoid being hit with the penalty. The Braves could afford to absorb the cost in 2018 alone. (And the by-product is that it all comes off the books for 2019.)

All that adds up to a basic philosophy: unless your team is ready to win this year, it isn’t worth the negative effect on the future to buy high $ players. Who bought the big names? The Cubs, the Red Sox, the Angels… teams expecting to contend and win now.

I want the Braves to win this year. I really do. But I want them to win over the next 10 years too. Blowing a big wad in 2018 won’t give our young pitchers the experience they need, and it won’t guarantee us even a division title this year. But it will slow down the final lap of the long rebuild.

The smart executive will allow Nick Markakis to play out his deal this year and take what you get from him in RF. He will keep Ronald Acuna in AAA for April before starting his ML clock. He will allow his young pitchers to learn in the fire and take the hits this year. He’ll watch the team struggle again in 2018.

But in 2019, he’ll have young stud pitchers with real ML experience. He’ll have a budding star in the OF to go along with an established gold-glover. And he’ll have an opening, but he’ll also have means to fill out his young and talented roster with a that one complimentary player that will make the difference.

We somehow let Coppy and Hart sell us on the idea of retool, not rebuild, and “2 parallel paths*. But that was crap. It was a lie and it was false. There is only one way to rebuild, and it takes time. It takes 4 years of losing before you begin to emerge in the 5th. KC did it; Chicago did it; Houston did it; Minnesota is doing it. And the Braves will be doing it next year.

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161:Countdown to Spring

Gil

by Gil Elliott

chsbrownst2

In just about a month, baseball’s spring training begins. More than the return of the swallows to Capistrano or the first Robin appearing at your feeders, it is the true harbinger of the return of warm weather and the renewal of life in North America. No longer will we have to rely on reports from the far flung reaches of the world to stay abreast of the Braves hopefuls nor need translations from Spanish to English the progress of players in various winter leagues.

Spring ballpark errors.

We will again be able to watch some meaningful baseball with the World Baseball Classic scheduled to make its return this year. We will also hold our collective breaths as we hope and pray none of our players are injured in what is essentially a glorified exhibition series. The WBC is a step above spring training games where there will not be anyone getting in their cardio by running the outfield during the game.

EPSON MFP image

charlie-brown-the-rosterSo, we anxiously await the arrival of pitchers and catchers and shortly thereafter the rest of the more than 200 players who will participate in the Braves organization when they return to Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Most of the this season’s major league roster is already set but there are always question marks. The Braves’ outfield is set other than the fourth outfielder as well as most of the infield but last minute trades or heaven forbid, injuries.

chsbrownpitcher

Second and third base still appear the slots most likely to be the ones targeted for upgrades. The anticipated arrival of yet another Curacao product, Ozzie Albies, is eagerly awaited by the denizens of Braves’ Country who have followed the young phenom for years. The signing of three veteran pitchers to anchor the starting staff signals that the Braves want their bevy of young pitching prospects to develop in a less stressful environment.

chsbrownsnoopyatbatSo, let the games begin. I will concede the floor to football as the NFL winds down and March Madness and the NCAA basketball tourney take center stage. They only mean we are that much closer to our true passion and meaningful baseball returns.

However, we do reserve the right to interrupt the other lesser sports should Coppy & Co make additional moves!

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126: Ah, Spring, Renewed Hope

by Gil Elliott

by Gil Elliott

What an odd winter we as fans of the Braves have experienced. It began with the announcement the Braves would be moving into their own house beginning in 2017 to a location 17 miles north of the Ghetto. Away from the site of occupancy they have plied their trade for nearly fifty years now.

I guess when we think about a club making a “big move”, that is not exactly what most fans would let come to mind. Not that I blame the Braves organization for wanting to look at how they can stay relevant. They are saddled with what is considered one of the worse local TV deals in all of professional sports. That’s right, not just baseball but in all pro sports.

Well, if you are handed lemons, it is good to know how to make lemonade and a little lemon zest to get maximum return on your lemons. Maybe even plant a few seeds to grow your own lemon trees, too. Looks like the Braves may have done just that.

Huddy

Huddy

BMcCann

BMac

No big free agent signing occurred this season by the Braves. It was really more of a subtraction than an addition in that respect. Former Braves “Baby Brave” Brian McCann signing long term with Yankees for $85MM and mildly surprising bull dog and former staff ace Tim Hudson bolting to the west coast for a 2 year $23MM deal. I would suspect that is about double what the Braves were willing to risk for a guy who is in decline. I can’t really fault either party for that one. The Braves just did not value Tim that much and BMac’s departure has been long seen by many as a one-trick pony whose future is in a place where he needs to hit only four times a game to be successful.  Big Poppi in Boston has certainly been able to make a living doing just that.

In a real baseball league, everyone has to hit and play the field on a fairly regular basis. So, how do you stay relevant where your competition are getting 2 billion dollar local TV deals? Looks like the Braves have made a good start. They have taken a page out of the government’s play book and put in a bunch of back loaded contracts. Not that I don’t applaud Frank Wren and company for thinking outside the box a bit by locking up the core of their home grown talent that has some pretty significant balloon payments at the end. (Didn’t they outlaw those in the mortgage industry?)  Anyway, if it looks good and gives the Braves some stability in keeping their core players together, all the better.

Jason Heyward

JHey

It looks like a lot of money but the way the contracts are structured, it will be the problem of the next owner and General Manager when 2018 rolls around. The Braves will likely have to pay Heyward if he finally develops into another Freddie Freeman as far as a reliable, everyday player or super star. Other than Robinson Cano, I did not really see player contract escalating this past off season. Heck, in five years, who knows what the dollar will be worth?

So! Where does that leave us? The Braves had a surprisingly good team last year. They really were a .500 hundred team for the most part but they took full advantage of a couple of 14 game winning streaks and the too late surge by a disappointing Nationals team who for all intents and purposes took their pre season press clippings a little too seriously. What was their greatest weakness?  Their bullpen, and all of us have seen that movie before.

So, what to expect this season from the Braves? A lot has to go right for the Braves to repeat as NL East champions:

Evan Gattis

Evan Gattis

– An Evan Gattis who can continue to inspire blue collar guys everywhere by swinging a big bat and tape measure home runs. That and he continues to hold up behind the plate.

Freemanfirstbase

Freeman

– A Fab 5 who continues to be clutch at the plate and keeps saying infield errors with the incredible ability to snare baseballs off the deck and way off the mark at first.

Andrelton

Andrelton Simmons

– A super star shortstop who is beginning to look like the next Ozzie Smith, who shows a bit more maturity at the plate and improves his on base percentage with more walks and line drives and fewer pop ups.

Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson

– The Braves have to hope that the guy who was considered a “throw-in” for fan favorite Marteen Prado continues to amaze with a a hot bat and an improved glove at third.

For the Braves to stay on top, in addition to the above, two of the most disappointing players in Braves history have to at least be among the league average when it comes to hitting. They say strike outs are no worse than any other out. But, with automatic strike outs every at bat, far too often we see the bases loaded with no outs – yet no one scores.

A young pitching staff full of number twos and threes are going to have to step up and stay focused on keeping their team in the game and hope the good guys can hit a three run homer or two and not feel the need to be perfect every game. It is that feeling of continuous pressure which leads to ulcers and gray hair.

Kimbrel

Kimbrel

The Braves secret weapon still has to be their shut-down bull pen. That is the real reason the Braves finished where they did last season. No team outside the Yankees can bludgeon the opposition into the submission every game – and even they found out what it means to have a weak pitching staff.

The Braves may have lost O’Flararty to the A’s this season but they have been without him for quite a while. They still have the best closer in baseball and don’t ever think that the last 3 outs in a baseball game isn’t the hardest to get. The only people who don’t think so are the teams who don’t have that “go-to” kind of guy . Just like having an Ace at the top of the pitching staff who gives your team confidence they can put up a W whenever he takes the mound, having a shut down guy at the end of the game helps everyone on the team try to turn it into a 6 inning game.

SO LET’S GO BRAVES… LET”S REPEAT!!!

117: Will The Next Left Fielder Come Out Of… Well, Left Field?

hotstove

by Voice of Raisins

Northeast Georgia, God’s country

Will The Next Left Fielder Come Out Of… Well, Left Field?

20 years of Braves opening day LF:

2013: ????

2012: Matt Diaz, by default… Chipper on DL; Martin at 3B

2011: Martin Prado, a converted IF

2010: Melky Cabrera, having an atrocious season

2009: Matt Diaz, but Frank’s darkest moment Garret Flippin’ Anderson was penciled in as the regular starter… he had a boo-boo on his wittle weg on Opening Day

2008: Matt Diaz, who platooned with Gregor Blanco

2007: Matt Diaz, whom we picked up off waivers after KC dumped him

2006: Ryan Langerhans, whom we ended up trading for a PTBNL that never was

2005: an old Brian Jordan redux, soon to be booted in favor of Kelly Johnson, a converted 2BcJones

2004: Chipper Jones, but Charles Thompson was called up from AAA and played the most games there that year

2003: Chipper Jones

2002: Chipper Jones, for cryin’ out loud

2001: B.J. Surhoff, hanging on to collect one final paycheck

2000: Reggie Sanders, having the absolute worst season of his career

1999: Otis Nixon, on his way out… Gerald Williams played the most games thereRYAN KLESKO

1998: Ryan Klesko

1997: Ryan Klesko

1996: Ryan Klesko

1995: Ryan Klesko

1994: Ryan Klesko, a converted 1B

1993: Ron Gant, a converted 2B

In 20 years, the most consistent play we have had from LF is from 1B Ryan Klesko.

Let that one sink in a minute…

Next in consistency of appearances in LF we have Matt Diaz, who had been let go by perennial doormat Kansas City. We made him a starter. Next? How about HOF 3B Chipper Jones?

Do we not see a pattern here? Is LF cursed for the Braves? Can we not, for the love of all that’s good and holy, get a real LF to play LF for more than a year? And I’m OK with converted IF Prado as my consistent LF, if I have a real 3B. But the 3B market is maybe the thinnest in baseball right now.

For 2013, I saw a small ray of hope – not even a ray, just a flicker – that we’d have a real LF for the first time since the atrocious days of baby blue uniforms. Frank said he was focused. “Narrowly focused”, he said, and with “resources”.

Now we are hearing words like “comfortable” and “in-house options”. That is a stark contradiction to “narrowly focused”. They are talking names such as Constanza, Schierholtz (lost him to the Cubs), Reed Johnson (not yet an “in-house option”)… bench players all.

Who are our “in-house options”? Jose Constanza… the Braves “spark plug” and “high energy guy”. Those are terms used to describe players who don’t have the physical tools, but try really, really hard. Jordan Schafer, picked off the scrap heap from Houston, who had the worst record in baseball last season. He is currently listed only as the #3 CF on the Braves official depth chart behind BJ Upton – the high payed star who will play 155+ games – and Jose Constanza. Telling. And of course, currently the Braves official depth chart shows Martin as the #1 LF and Juan Francisco as #1 3B. Long Juan (great name, Gil) can hit ‘em a mile when he connects. He subscribes to the theory that you swing hard in case you hit it. Can’t hit RHP’s for squat.BrianJordan

I am not thrilled with our “in-house options”.

Maybe we should try v.3 of Brian Jordan. Is Langerhans still trying to eke out a living? Can’t be much worse than our other “in-house options”…

~VR~

 

110: 2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,500 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

103: Observations from 2011 Spring Training

by Gil from Mechanicsville, VA –

Viera, Florida – Greetings all!  While I touched on a few highlights about the game between Atlanta’s split squad and the Nationals in the previous post, I thought I would elaborate on some of my other observations.

First would be the noticeable difference in Nate McLouth.  Honestly,  it is nearly impossible to accurately describe the difference in the player I witnessed last year in camp and the one I  saw Friday.  It is not just the fact that he is hitting the ball the other way.  Where he was not making contact at all last year, he is now striking the ball with authority and without that exaggerated uppercut he has employed in the past.  Being a bit smallish in statue, McLouth is not a prototypical home run hitter to begin with.  He is, however, exactly the kind of guy you would want at the top of your line-up if he can get on base because he has great speed in addition to good base-running smarts.

Having guys like Schafer and McLouth available as table-setters for boppers like Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla and Brian McCann add so many possibilities to the Braves offense.  In addition, having a speed guy on base increases the likelihood of the latter seeing more fastballs and can be a huge distraction for opposing pitchers, increasing the probability of mistakes.  McLouth is also throwing the ball with greater ease.  Though I do not know the reason for the change and the big difference, I can only speculate that perhaps he was hampered by some type of injury last season.

Other players I observed who stood out were Brandon Beachy, Diory Hernandez, Freddi Freeman and Shawn Bowman.

Beachy was peachy.  He had the National hitters off balance during his entire 3 inning stint. He has a lively fastball which is complimented by a plus-change.  National hitters were doing the bunny hop trying to adjust for his change of pace pitches.  The only exception was Ed Merero who guessed right on a fastball and hit a ringing double down the left field line.

Diory Hernandez looked sharp both in the field at short and with the bat.  He is starting to reach the age where the term “prospect” no longer applies and will either make it or not at this juncture. With the trade of Infante’ to the Marlins, he has the perfect opportunity to move into a super-sub role. While he is mainly a shortstop/second base type of player, he has also taken a few turns at third and could play there if called upon.

Diory’s real shortcoming has always been trouble hitting major league pitching. He has shown the ability to hit at every other level he has played so perhaps it is now just his time.  I believe the biggest difference may be in his confidence level.  Spending some time with the big club last season may have allowed him to realize that he belongs at the major league level. While he has pop in his bat, he also has gap-to-gap hitting skills and very good speed.  He is going to stretch a lot of doubles into triples.

On Friday, he and Brooks Conrad turned two double plays against the Nationals.  While not called upon to make any spectacular plays, he made the plays he was supposed to make and that in itself could be a small victory. Kudos to Brooks Conrad, too, by the way.  He made a couple of very nice plays in the field and executed the pivot position at second with authority.

Freddie Freeman plays at a level that belies his young age.  He displays excellent glove work in the field and outstanding baseball sense when it comes to situational hitting.  It is so frustrating to watch many young – or old for that matter – players who possess power but who will always be swinging for the fences regardless of the circumstances of the at-bat.  How many times have we seen players go for the glory only to be struck out because the opposing pitcher knows that a power hitter’s weakness is change of speeds.

While we know that Freeman processes power, he can also hit to all fields and seems content to hit the ball the other way.  It is a lot harder to pitch to a guy who will hit the ball where it is pitched than to a player who is always trying to pull the ball.  One of the most difficult things for a first year player to do is to hit above .250.  It is just the nature of the game for a young guy to adjust to big league pitching because major league pitchers will get the book on you pretty quick if you have a weakness.  Remember Jeff Francoeur?  He would punish any pitcher who threw him a strike until pitchers quickly realized they did not have to throw a strike to get him out.  I’m not saying opposing pitchers won’t strike out Freeman but they are going to have to throw strikes to do it.

One last comment on Shawn Bowman – a young kid who plays third base – who will not likely be playing in Atlanta this season unless things do not go well health-wise for the club.  He is a good looking prospect with a decent glove and is a good hitter.  Again, not a guy who is trying to do too much but appears to know what he is doing in the batter’s box.  He has been a late-inning substitute this spring and I expect he will begin the season playing third-base in Gwinnett. Keep an eye on him though because he will definitely be playing in the big leagues somewhere one day.

~Gil~

A few photos from Gil:

Gil, Staff Reporter, Mayor of Stuffville

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

100: Is It Spring Yet?

by Gil

Mechanicsville, VA – Now that the baseball gods have been sated for another year with a vast array of broken bats, juiced baseballs, torn laburnums and torqued obliques, we can lament yet another year that the Braves failed to win a World Series.  The fact this year’s team may have been the epitome of over achievement, not withstanding.

Of course congratulations are in order for this year’s winner of baseball’s fall classic, the San Francisco Giants.  Who would have thought that the toughest challenge they would face in the post season would have come from our very own Braves?  So the Giants go on to  become the champions of the baseball world and alas, by the grace of God and a defense leakier than a shanty town roof, there goes Atlanta.  Then again, a few timely hits would have helped too.

But that is the past.  Now it’s back to the future, that ever renewing event we call a new season, a fresh start, a new beginning.  No time to stop and let the Giants enjoy their first World Championship in over 50 years.  No, we press on, anxiously awaiting the start of what will surely be the Fredi Gonzales era.  No need to fret that Liberty Media will tightly control the purse strings.  Hasn’t Fredi done more with less?  Can he find success in his adopted home town or will the first five game losing streak be met with shouts from the blogisphere for his immediate dismissal and angst about how he is a Bobby Cox clone?

I say let’s get the old hot stove glowing!   Time for all the fantasy team owners, deep in the bowels of their moms’ basements, to spend countless hours trying to get the jump on their brethren by scouring reams of stats, pounding away at the importance of WHIP, run differential, RBI with two outs and runners in scoring position and of course LSMFT.

And we can all hope Santa will leave  a Big Bopper to play left field under Frank Wren’s Christmas tree while we are at it.

~Gil~

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~

75:Thoughts Out Of Left Field… Sort Of

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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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73: An Angel in the Outfield

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Looks like we got ourselves an Angel in the outfield!

andersongarrett1

Garret Joseph Anderson
Born June 30, 1972, Los Angeles
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 225 lb.
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Position: Left Fielder

With Garret Anderson, I really think the Braves are in a much better position to make their presence felt during the season than they would have been with Griffey. Thank goodness, he went back to Seattle!

Garret has accumulated some good-looking numbers in his years with the Angles. According to CBSSportsWire.com:

A three-time All-Star, Anderson had spent his entire career with the Angels and holds several franchise records, including games played (2,013), runs scored (1,024), hits (2,368), doubles (489), total bases (3,743) and RBI (1,292). He ranks second in home runs (272) and career batting average (.296).

Anderson helped the Angels win the World Series in 2002, hitting .300 with two homers and 13 RBI in the postseason. Los Angeles declined to pick up his $14 million option after last season, instead paying a $3 million buyout.

I know next to nothing about Anderson, but this comment posted by someone on another blog says a lot, I think:

I can still remember seeing Garret play as a rookie for the Angels and being in amazement on how talented, humble, and professional this young man was. How was I to know that 15 years later we would be saying the same things about him. Braves fans should be ecstatic. He has so much more left in the tank then Jr and could really make a huge impact on the Braves title hopes for 2009. I have never been a Braves fan but I will be watching their box scores this season and pulling for them strictly based on their acquisition of Anderson. He plays the game the way it was meant to be played. He is one of those few players that would be successful regardless of the time period he played in.

I know the Braves are high on character and it sure sounds good to me!

I truly hope Francoeur can reverse his fortunes of last year – and I think he will. Chipper has given him pretty high marks this spring and he’s usually honest in his comments.

andersonjosh1

Centerfield?  Hmmm.  Anderson? Blanco?  Schafer?

Don’t know about Blanco. I think Schafer will probably be given a little more time in the minors to refine his craft. So that leaves Anderson. (Josh, that is.)

Anderson-Anderson-Francoeur? Not bad. We’ll just have to see how that one comes out of the wash.

Yes? No? Indifferent?

~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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71: Ah, Spring! part dux

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by Gil in Mechanicsville

As we approach that magic time when pitchers an catchers report, I thought I would throw (no pun intended) a few more names for the good denizens of our blog to ponder over. Now to be truthful, most of the players mentioned will most likely be spending time in Atlanta on the Gwinnett roster in 2009 but you know, it never hurts to be apprised of the talents waiting in the wings. Uh… another bad pun eh?

toddredmondTodd Redmond, age 23 appeared in 28 games for the Mississippi Braves in 2008 and was named the Southern League pitcher of the year. Todd, a right hander, put up a record of 13-5 with an ERA of 3.52 in 166.1 innings pitched. He gave up 164 hits, 65 earned runs and struck out 133 while walking only 33. Folks, that is better than a 4/1 ratio of strike-outs to walks and indicates pretty good control. He is said to have a low 90s fastball, a slider and a curve but his best pitch is a change. His weakness is his tendency to pitch up in the strike zone. Sounds a bit like a right handed Chuck James but I suspect he is better than that.

Redmond came to the Braves from the Pirates via a trade for Tyler Yates. One thing we have learned is the Pittsburgh organization seems to have a plethora of good young arms at their disposal. Makes one wonder why they can’t seem to climb out of the cellar of the N.L. Central but that is a discussion to be left for another day. Now most folks seem to covet the young stud who can bring it at 95-96 MPH but I remember a guy by the name of Greg Maddux who never possessed great speed but made a pretty good living by knowing how to pitch.

The one thing I like about this kid is he has a knack for winning. Funny how some guys can pitch great but lose games and other guys “just win baby”… I doubt he will be a number one but he projects to be a pretty solid 3 or 4 guy in the line up. That folks is enough for me. Some of you guys in the Atlanta area should make the trek to Gwinnett several times this year because I suspect they are going to have a dynamite pitching staff.

Luiz Valdez – not to be confused with Juan the coffeluisvaldeze guy and not the same Luiz Valdez who pitched in winter ball in the Dominican this year. I discovered that Valdez is Spanish for Doe…. Lots of them are playing baseball too. Anyway, Luiz was another Mississippi Brave last year. More of a relief specialist, he appeared in 55 games, amassing 65.1 innings and notching 28 saves and a record of 4-3. His ERA was a sparking 2.76. In 2008 he gave up 48 hits while surrendering only 3 home runs. His strike-out to walk ration was about 2 to 1 as he struck out 77 and walked 36. Luiz, another product of the Pirates organization, was signed as a minor league free agent in the fall of 2007. Valdez has a 97-98 MPH fastball so we can get an idea of what he brings to the table. A right hander, he projects to be a middle relief guy or possible a set up man. He is still pretty young at only 24, he has a chance to make it to Atlanta in 2009 as a mid-season call up.

cordier1I already mentioned Eric Cordier in an earlier post. He was not invited to the big camp this spring but folks, keep an ear out for that name. I predict he will be in the majors in the next couple of years.

I will leave it to some of you folks who actually live in Atlanta to evaluate some of the up and comers in the Braves organization this year. I regret I will not have the opportunity to actually see  these guys as they make their way up the organizational ladder but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

It is an exciting time to be a Braves fan as good young pitching is on the way. Just be patient and try not to get caught up in the hype. I don’t remember Tom Glavine, John Smoltz or Greg Maddux being phenoms either when they first came up but you can get a gist of what a young player is capable of if you look close enough.

~Gil~

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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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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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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 (well, a replay on TV the next day – I did hear it though) and other fair to pretty good players like Bob Forsch (2 no hitters in his career), Kenny Reitz AKA the Zamboni machine (great 3rd baseman, hence the nickname, but the slowest runner in the history of the game, and he wasn’t even fat!) and Gary Templeton, who was the most exciting player in the game…for a few years. Honest he was!!! A Coke habit and bad knees don’t go well together. Also on the team of my youth was Keith Hernandez and Silent George Hendrick (he didn’t talk to the media). And of course, batting cleanup, the swellest catcher not in the HOF, Simba, Ted Simmons!!!

Anyway, the team seemed to have more than enough talent to compete; in 1980 the team had 6 guys hit .300 or higher. But, apparently, you also need pitching to complement the hitting! So, one year we’d be a bit above .500, next year below it. And no wildcard back then. Wish there had been, when you know the team is out of it in June, sad to watch the rest of the way. Then I became a Braves fan in the mid 80’s! 😦

But, the real prize was David Green! He was the reason why you trade the best hitting catcher in the game and the guys that would win the Cy Young in 1981 and 1982 (Fingers, then Vuckovich) David Green, we Cardinal fans were told, was not merely the best prospect in the game, he was the best prospect scouts had seen in 15 years! That meant, he was better than Al Oliver, Dave Parker, even Reggie Jackson! You name it, he was better! 5+ tools, fastest guy around, power, just an uber stud. His best year was 1983, when he hit .284 with 8 HR’s drove in 69, and had 34 steals. Whoopty-freakin’-do. He was out of the majors at the age of 26.

So, what happened to these two teams??? The Brewers won their division in 1981 and 1982, going all the way to the World Series in 1982.

And somehow, the Cardinals, doing the new math of addition by subtraction, won the division in 1981 (even though they were in 2nd place in both halves of the strike plagued season) and won it all in 1982 against the Brewers!

So, Lil’ Berigan was a happy camper…right???? Nope!!! I HATED Whitey Herzog! He traded all the players I had grown up with! This wasn’t my team, this was some team calling themselves the Cardinals. He replaced Ted Simmons with Darryl Porter, he of the very thick glasses, and supposedly much better catching skills….and a batting average of around .230 while in St. Louis.

What we had was Whitey ball. It bored me to tears. Take an extra base, pound the ball off the hard astroturf, and beat out an infield hit. Steal a base. Make an out to move the runner to 3rd. Watch the runner score on a fly ball to right. Watching paint dry was more fun, IMHO.

There was no power at all on this team. In 1982, his Porters 12 homers were the second highest next to Hendricks 19! 3rd highest was 7 Homers. Mark McGuire and Bonds both out homered this team’s total of 67. Tommy Herr, the 2nd baseman didn’t even hit a homer til his 4th year with the team!

I became a traitor. My hatred was so complete, I wished, prayed, the Cards would lose, and that Whitey would soon be out of a job. That didn’t happen, but at least when the Harvey Wallbangers of Milwaukee met up with the Cards in the WS, they would show which way of playing was best….I was not happy to see my former team win the WS in 1982. I know, a traitor I was. I was a hurt 14 year old.

Funny, to look back on those teams so many years later. The teams I loved were not championship caliber teams. The teams that did make it to the playoffs and the WS in 1982 and 1985 didn’t look like one of the best teams in baseball (even the baseball pundits of the time said that) but they were. As much as I didn’t like it, Whitey ball DID work, it was winning baseball. As Braves fans, we all know how very important it is to be able to move runners over, then drive them in. If a few Braves teams had a few more guys who could do that we might have had more than one WS ring since 1991.

It also showed me something I love about the game now more than ever. You just never know what will happen! When Spring training rolled around in 1977, ’78, ’79 and ’80, I was sure the Cards would win it all. In ’81 and ’82, clearly those teams were weak hitting teams and ol’ Whitey made trades that looked terrible on the surface and below it as well. Still look like trades made at gunpoint. Yet, somehow, they worked for both teams. Some sort of math that I still don’t begin to get.

The good news for the baseball fan in me was since I was moving out of St. Louis in 1983, I wouldn’t been seeing Cardinal games much anymore, and I got to see the Cubbies, and the team that would become my team, the Braves, via cable.

In 2008, we all hope the trades and signings the Braves made work and we will get back to our rightful place, the playoffs. But, who knows?? Perhaps the weakest looking team in the East, the Marlins will make a run at it. Every team and it’s fans will feel some optimism during spring training. The worst teams will beat the best teams. And, as the season unfolds, teams no experts, no fans can imagine right now will become the Diamondbacks and Rockies of ’07. Reason # 459 baseball is the best sport in the world!!! 🙂

by Berigan

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21: Baseball is back! What about that elephant in the room?

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by SavannahGuy

SAVANNAH, GA – Spring is fast approaching and the excitement of a brand spanking new baseball season is upon us. Braves pitchers and catchers have reported and all other players soon arrive in camp. With great anticipation and high expectations we await news. It’s a great time for baseball fans.

Can’t wait…but before the southern Dogwoods and azaleas bloom and I once again become too enamored with real live baseball being played, I’ll get a few issues off my chest and put them on the table.

There’ll be plenty of time soon to get caught up in the games, the players, the teams, trades, stats and standings. Before all of that begins and we baseball fans become immersed in all that is good and wholesome and competitive I wonder: What about that other stuff that can turn good fans into cynics? You know, the baggage…the steroids, the allegations, the excess…the ugly stuff we ignore until it hits the headlines again.

Maybe it’s just my cathartic opine and statement of the obvious, but excuse me sports fans…uh, there’s an elephant in the room. Oh, I’d like it to go away but it won’t leave anytime soon. Perhaps by acknowledging its existence and calling it by name, it’ll at least be put it in its proper place, if but only for a little while.

This big, fat hairy elephant is not just steroids and the players that cheat. It’s the inept or corrupt trainers and team doctors. It’s the enabling owners, the unreasonable and elusive union, it’s the media and most of all it’s the MLB. It’s flamed by the always more, bigger, better, faster, further, stronger, never enough culture we live in.

Theatre of the absurd.

Off the field of play, baseball is seriously flawed. After years of the curse of steroids and a fundamentally rudderless, myopic MLB with a seemingly owner-managed, Howdy-Doody Commissioner, major league baseball has once again become tarnished. Oh, it’s happened before with the Black Sox and the strikes…but never quite like today. Sure, baseball will survive and thrive for the foreseeable future and we’ll enjoy the games themselves, but the gaps between the businesses of baseball, the game of baseball, the players and loyal fans continues to grow wider.

Baseball is in the midst of a perfect storm of steroids, outlandish salaries and payroll pressures never before seen or imagined. Each cascading wave of the storm has a cumulative effect on television costs, game broadcast times and coverage. During the regular season but particularly during playoffs, the games are being played later at night, ignoring an entire generation of youth…the next generation of future fans.

Hey Bud, it’s also the economy, stupid. If MLB leadership doesn’t take a good, hard, rational, big-picture, long term look at baseball then provide reasonably affordable, dependable and consistent access to its fans, they could be unwittingly reducing an American institution to just another reality television property. Our American pastime risks becoming an elitist stadium event and a mid-level television commodity, competing with an explosion of entertainment content choices today.

Don’t blame the players on baseballs economy. Sure, the phenomenon of super-rich players hoisted to the “stratusphere” of an athlete society elite make easy targets, but they are the game. They’re the only reason we watch. They are the content. They take the field and play the game. They are the talent. They play their hearts out. They hit, pitch, catch, throw, scrap and claw, run the bases, score the runs and entertain us with their valiant effort. Like film actors, artists and musicians, they deserve whatever the market will bear. They are the actors on the stage we watch, write about, talk about, measure and obsess over.

Our game is changing. Baseball is either evolving or devolving, depending on your point of view. Perhaps there’s a transformation…no, make that transmutation taking place, but it is in no way unique to our favorite pastime or even sports. The state of baseball is but a reflection of our society, an index to a larger, faster, bigger, better, “let’s see how big we can grow it and how far we can stretch it until we break” it American culture.

Media plays its part in our changing sport culture. Around the clock sports news and non-stop gossip, steroid and designer drug scandals, the he said-she said blather, the paparazzi-like, star-worshiping sports journalists, a “blog universe of rumors” may just mark a shift in sports to attract and appeal to a 24/7 generation of stat-obsessed, instant gratification hooked, win or you stink – lose and we’re personally miserable sports fan culture.

Now, back to that big fat hairy elephant. Wait, that’s no elephant. That’s a Tyrannosaurus rex and baseball may not be evolving…it may be knee deep and wading further into the tar pit of irrelevancy.

So, where does that leave us? Where is the good old inter-subjective, traditional fans game we can get behind and root for? Where are apple pies and the American flag? Where is the Star Spangled Banner? Where are the peanuts and Cracker Jack? Where are the Blue Angel flyovers? Where are the boys of summer? Who in baseball has the “right stuff” to fix it?

What would Tom Wolfe say?

With his “new journalism” style and his amazing ability to go instantly from tarmac to 30,000 feet and back like no other, Mr. Wolfe can delve into the depths of a subculture and emerge holding the beating heart and speaking the vernacular of a generation. Wolfe can coin a phrase, give title to a cultural movement and capture the behavioral, aesthetic essence of a particular group. With that talent, what would the esteemed author write about America’s traditional pastime, the game of baseball?

Tom Wolfe played baseball. In 1952 he earned a tryout as a pitcher with the New York Giants. His baseball career ended when he was cut after three days. A failing Wolfe attributed to his inability to throw good fastballs. Fortunately, for those of us who have long appreciated his social commentary and exploration of sub-cultures, Wolfe abandoned baseball.

How might Tom Wolfe describe the myopic MLB that allows the sport and many of the players to remain caught up so long in a self-perpetuating, ostentatious tsunami of excess, unreasonable expectations and illegal “drugs for enhancement” culture? What would he think of the lowered bar of personal integrity and sportsmanship of those that cheat and those self-serving enablers that look the other way? How would Mr. Wolfe illustrate the ignored health risks taken by drug taking players?

What would Wolfe write about a Player’s Union that staunchly supports excess and eludes drug testing? What of the owners that benefit from the “financial steroids” of a full stadium, big TV deals and enjoy the artificially “pumped up” long ball even more than the chicks!

Perhaps Mr. Wolfe might apply just one word to describe the dark side of baseball. Omerta.

Be wary of the strawberry Kool-Aid.

Perhaps there is an “electric Kool-Aid acid test” for traditional baseball fans. That is, after swallowing all of the news of controversy, steroids and financial excess of our great American pastime, we can still appreciate and enjoy watching the game itself. Despite all of the controversy, so many good, young athletes with God given talent still take the field and play the game.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis is gone and Bud Selig is entrenched at the fenceless zoo, so what can we fans do? We continue to watch the games and root for the old home team, but we have to speak out whenever possible and wherever appropriate. Oh, and give Bud a one-way ticket to Palookaville.

Where is Tom Wolfe when you need him? Perhaps baseball needs a high profile outsider with an understanding and appreciation of baseball that can do what the MLB and misguided Congress can’t do…capture the beauty and essence of the game, identify the threats to the game, magnify the problems, shine a light, put it all into perspective, write the book, make the movie, generate simultaneous love of game and outrage at the ineptitude and corruption around it, create a catalyst to change the culture of the game…and entertain us all at the same time.

C’mon Tom…you could do it.

~SavannahGuy~

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20: Driven by that championship moment

 

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by ssiscribe

ATLANTA – The ball hung in the air for what seemed like forever. It stayed airborne for just a few seconds, but those ticks of the clock felt like a lifetime.

 

Inside a stadium jammed full of people on a cold October night, throughout a sprawling metropolitan city, and around countless TVs and radios scattered far and wide, a fan base held its collective breath.

 

The moment – one born on sandlots and storytime and highlights of Octobers past, one forged through two heartbreaking near misses – finally had arrived.

 

And as Marquis Grissom gloved Carlos Baerga’s fly ball at 10:27 p.m. on Oct. 28, 1995, Braves Nation erupted in a joy that washes over only those who have just witnessed their team win the World Series. It is a moment I was so very blessed to experience in person, eight rows high in the upper deck, down the right-field line at old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

 

Every year about this time, as baseball players gather their belongings, end their winter slumber and head south for spring training, I think back to that magical moment that now is 12 years old. In some respects, it seems like yesterday; in others, it feels like an eternity.

 

That’s what they play this child’s game, for a chance to win it all, to run onto the field knowing the season is over and the pursuit is finished, and you have made it to the finish line. No more late-inning tension, no more clutch hitting needed, no more pleading for that ground ball to turn two and get you out of this bases-loaded jam.

 

It’s over. You’ve won.

 

You’re the champion.

 

It’s the moment fans long for, too, because a team’s fan base is an extension of the team itself. Fans live and die with every pitch. Fans hang in the balance as games go back and forth. Fans save money to take their kids to experience the game first-hand, just as their dads and granddads did for them. Fans forego sleep and rearrange plans and get in arguments with their best friend and their better half because of a team made up of people you may never meet.

 

And that’s OK. That’s what fans do. And when that team, the one that is among the few items consisting the center of your existence from February to October, wins the World Series, the euphoric feeling is one that never, every fades away. It warms the coldest winter morning. It burns deep inside your soul, and always will.

 

It’s moments like this that remind us of why we do this in the first place, why we come together with people scattered far and wide to stand united behind a jersey, a hat, a rallying chant, a manager and a franchise. It does not matter what color we are, where we live or how much money we have in the bank. Our political and religious preferences and biases are checked at the door. The day-to-day grind takes a back seat, if only for a few hours 162 times a year. Together, we stand as fans, and as the journey begins again, we know there will be heartbreak and ecstasy. We know there will be moments where we will swear off this ragged bunch of semipros forever and ever.

 

But there will come a moment when the team rallies for a victory it has no business getting, when Smoltz or Hudson or Glavine authors a masterpiece, when Chipper or Frenchy or McCann blast one 425 feet deep into the clear Georgia night, and we’ll remember why we fell in love with this team – and this game – in the first place.

 

I don’t know if the Braves will win the World Series this year. But I know I’ll be on board for every step of the journey. It’s now, in the midst of February, when the rush begins. It will end as the leaves change and the weather turns cold again. And when it does, somebody will be running onto the field, throwing their gloves high in the air like kids and celebrating a dream come true. Its fan base will jump with glee, shed tears of joy, hug total strangers and bask in the warmth of seeing their team win the world championship.

 

Here’s hoping this year, it’s our turn. Again.

 

–30–

~ ssiscribe ~

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19: oh, the humanity! baseball is the best!

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by journalist jimmy smith

CORDELE, GA – well, the super bowl was pretty special this year (as far as the super bowl goes) and jimmy smith watched every play. journalist was entertained – but jimmy smith felt no real passion for the contest. jimmy smith was never on the edge of jimmy smith’s chair and jimmy smith did not nervously bite jimmy smith’s fingernails. jimmy smith just watched. the grandest game in football was okay for a sunday night in february – but it might be only jimmy smith felt that way.

see, jimmy smith likes baseball. really likes baseball. baseball is the unchallenged favorite sport of this journalist. and football is no substitute for baseball. jimmy smith likes baseball so much that jimmy smith can hardly wait for the new season to begin.

jimmy smith is reminded of what bart giamatti had to say about the game of baseball:

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. ”

yes, it has been lonely without baseball. cold, disagreeable. full of winter sports, leotards, basketball, hockey, snowfall and misery. misery because there was no baseball.

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” ~Rogers Hornsby

bloggers here long for baseball. that is apparent. well, spring will soon be sprung. and jimmy smith reminds all that pitchers and catchers report in only 9 days at the time of this writing.

and, after bobby and chino and the boys hone this team to perfection in florida, the team will open the season in the nation’s capital and on national t.v.and everybody knows who will throw out the first ball, right? not archie manning. not eli manning. not cher. baseball is america’s pastime. america’s president will throw out the first pitch. as it should be. better arm than al gore or john kerry.

many will know that the braves home opener is march 31 versus the pirates and the feared adam laroche – well, maybe not feared early in the season.

fans can enjoy all the pleasures of baseball and a trip to the ol’ ballpark. and the trip to turner field remains special – though jimmy smith is no big fan of tooner field and other such amusements.

there is plenty of entertainment for youngsters on the baseball field if taught to properly appreciate. in fact, a day at the ballpark cures all ills and makes bread rise in the oven. a day at the ballpark is always special to this journalist.

“A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz.” ~Humphrey Bogart

then again, baseball is not everyone’s cup of ugandan ginger tea.

“With those who don’t give a damn about baseball, I can only sympathize. I do not resent them. I am even willing to concede that many of them are physically clean, good to their mothers and in favor of world peace. But while the game is on, I can’t think of anything to say to them. ” ~Art Hill

still, for many (including this journalist), “That’s the true harbinger of spring, not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball. ~Bill Veeck

pitcher versus batter. manager versus manager (oh, the humanity!). pick a winner.

and the challenges! the confrontation! the strategy! the execution (or lack thereof). the gamesmanship.

“The pitcher has to find out if the hitter is timid. And if the hitter is timid, he has to remind the hitter he’s timid.” ~Don Drysdale

baseball is a sport that makes you feel good. springtime. summer. outdoors (mostly). and national league baseball is the best baseball in the world – with strategy and abundant baseball skills on display. and braves baseball stirs passion. makes fingernails into nubs. creates havoc with dinnertime and with other pursuits. game time is reserved for watching the braves. and jimmy smith plans to be at the ted watching a lot of games this season. journalist hopes to see many braves and stuff bloggers there.

still, jimmy smith is struck by this last question and has no answer:

“Why does everybody stand up and sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” when they’re already there?” ~Larry Anderson

oh, the humanity! let’s play ball!

journalist jimmy smith

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18: Yin, Yang, Jerry Falwell and The Spiders From Mars*

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by Lew

RANDOLPH, VT – *The title alludes to an album by David Bowie, entitled “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars.” It tells the story of a fictional guitarist named Ziggy Stardust and his band The Spiders From Mars and their rise to stardom. It is a story detailing the detrimental effects of fame and fortune and what happens when one thinks they are greater than their bretheran. I know Savannah Guy and a few others may have understood the reference, but doubted that CL and Bob were listening to Glam Rock in the 70’s.

My little story also speaks to the duality of the universe and it’s often opposing forces. We all encounter this duality daily-Day and Night, Hot and Cold, Sunny or Rainy. Pitch and Hit. Home and Away. DH or no DH. You get the idea. The Yin and Yang of life-wonderful concept, that. We’ve all seen the collision of these forces-A pitching duel between Gibby and Koufax. A slugfest at Wrigley or at the Green Monster. Strikes when greedy players argue with greedy owners. We also see what transpires when hot and cold air masses collide-Thunderstorms which make Bob quit blogging and his computer to self destruct. Yes, much can happen when forces collide, but more on that later.

Much has been discussed on this blog about Heroes, Legends, Icons and Roll Models (don’t blame me for the spelling, I hang out with Beet Writers). With the recent steroid scandals, much has been discussed about their feet of clay (had to get at least one podiatric reference in, right?). We’ve also spoken much about our enjoyment of everything from baseball, to family and friends, to sci fi movies. I even talked about some of my favorites in my last blog.

My interest in all forms of science fiction and fantasy has by necessity, led me to attend Sci Fi conventions (Cons, as they are known). I’ve gotten some of my best art jobs at these events and made some pretty decent money along the way. I’ve made many friends there. I’ve also gotten the opportunity to meet many authors, artists and actors associated with the genre (note the alliteration, Oh Scribe). I’ve met R2D2 (Kenny Baker and his wife are nice people). I’ve met actors from Horror Films, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and Star Trek. I’ve seen numerous fans dressed as Fairies, Witches, Wizards, Barbarians, Hobbits and Elves. I’ve seen others dressed as Romulans, Cardassians, Vulcans, Borg and Klingons. Many Klingons. Multitudes of Klingons. Hordes of Klingons. They are actually a common sight at these cons. But not in Lynchburg, Va. in 1993, at Kaliedoscope, the area’s first sci fi convention.

This was a good event, as these things go. I made several life long friends at this one. It was also significant for me because it was the first time I had been invited as a Guest Artist-a pretty big deal all those years ago. I also got to meet with one of my own icons (some may only have cowboys as heroes, but I prefer authors and artists), the author Roger Zelazy, for the final time before he died.. It was also my first time in Lynchburg, an old southern town which is also the home of the Late Evangelist Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.

Now as discussed earlier, forces collide. Air masses meet and thunderstorms send Bob scurrying on Pruny Toes back to his hot tub. It seems that this particular September Sunday every year, was the annual brunch for the Reverend Falwell’s congregation-here in the very hotel where all these denizens of sci fi fandom frivolously frolicked and otherwise reveled. In the lobby (If I was a Prophet, I would Not have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, last night), a quartet of The Reverend’s choir gave a recital. The throng of Star Fleet Officers, Fairy Princesses, and Wizards listened intently. The singers were quite good and we are a cultured lot, after all, despite our various eccentricities. When they finished, we applauded heartily. The Reverend was not amused. Then the Klingons arrived.

Reverend Falwell stopped in mid sentence at the microphone. His eyes went wide and he turned ghostly white. He turned on heel and walked through the front door of the hotel, congregation trailing behind. They never returned, not even in subsequent years. Bob, though not even there, refused to leave his hot tub for a week. That is why Bob is wrinkled. He’s not really old, just Pruny.

Just a normal day in Dixie. Bob got old. Jerry met the Klingons. Cultures merged momentarily. I witnessed the Fall of Ziggy Stardust. Like I said, just an normal day.

17:NY Carpetbaggers Challenge Salty’s Bama Barnstormers

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by williamwallace

ATHENS, GA – The days of barnstorming during the offseason were thought to be long over. Then some enterprising Dixie whistler named Salty secured funding to start up his own barnstorming team from his bootlegging buddy Klobber. And, yes, Klobber, we know you are a bootlegger. We know this much discussed red velvet cake is mere code for one of your bootlegged products. Although I guess this would make sweet Flbravesgirl a bootlegger as well.

But, anyways, as Salty has previously announced in this here place, Salty has formed his own barnstorming squad of Bama greats.

Salty’s squad boasts an infield of Willie McCovey, Ted Sizemore, Ozzie Smith, and Joe Sewell; an outfield of Billy Williams, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron; Charlie Moore playing catcher; and a bench of Riggs Stephenson, Jim Davenport, Rudy York, Carlos May, Monte Irvin, Heine Manush, and Luke Sewell. His pitching rotation has Don Sutton, Early Wynn, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Key, Doyle Alexander, Bob Veale, Virgil Trucks, Rip Sewell, Jeff Brantley, and Clay Carroll. His manager is Gabby Street.

This barnstorming team from Sweet Home Alabama is taking the world by storm, going town to town, taking on all friends and foes, winning every game, while Salty pockets boatloads of money.

Of course, being the bootlegging, rum running shyster gangster that he is, Klobber collects kickbacks from the earnings of Salty’s team of Bama barnstormers.

Klobber is also using these games as a way to franchise his saloons. Klobber’s Knob Creek Saloons have been opening all over the country wherever Salty’s Bama Barnstormers leave the townfolk in their wake. The players are reportedly only being paid with the privilege of indulging in Knob Creek.

Many across the nation breathlessly await news of the daily exploits of this group of Bama Barnstormers. Some beet writer has been Johnny-on-the-spot and has capitalized on the success of the team and the demand for news about the team. This beet writer is being called a modern day Grantland Rice. Whether that is true remains to be seen.

But, recently, the beet writer has announced he is bored with the team. The beet writer has made a nationwide call to arms to come challenge Salty’s Bama Barnstormers. The beet writer is demanding a tournament be played. Many are reportedly too scared to take on Salty’s squad.

I decided to take the beet writer’s challenge to come conquer the unbeaten Bama Barnstormers. I secured some funding from the bootleggin’ Klobber myself, purchased a Juggs gun, binoculars, a stop watch, and a whistle. I was determined to go do some bird dogging.

Not knowing where to find players, I looked around locally here in Athens, Georgia. I only found 5 players who had played in the majors who could claim to have been born here in Athens, and only 2 of them are worth anything as ballplayers: Brian McCann and Jake Westbrook. That just wasn’t gonna work. So, I decided to head back to the place of my birth and raising: the Boogie Down Bronx.

So, I took the Amtrak up to Penn Station, did some sightseeing in Manhattan, and then headed over to Grand Central to catch the 4 train up to the Bronx. When the 4 emerged from the dark tunnel where the subway becomes an el, I knew I was back home in the Bronx because I could immediately see the splendid Yankee Stadium straight ahead.

I went all over the Bronx, from Fordham Road to Soundview to Morris Park to Gun Hill Road to Van Cortland Park to Webster Avenue to Broadway to the Grand Concourse to White Plains Road.

I was saddened to learn that Macombs Dam Park was no longer there. They were now building the New Yankee Stadium on top of the sandlot park where Rod Carew had learned to play baseball as a kid.

Searching here and there, near and far, I was bitterly disappointed there were not many more players who could claim they were technically born in the Boogie Down than could claim they were from Athens, Georgia. But up in the Boogie Down, I managed to find Ronnie Belliard, Bobby Bonilla, Frankie Frisch, and B.J. Surhoff.

Belliard is a nice little player and all but I can’t expect him to be able to touch the likes of Satchel Paige. Surhoff may have technically been born in the Bronx but, as we all know, he is more well known as the catcher from Rye, New York, not the Bronx. And, from his time with the Atlanta Braves, I believe B.J. to be a lil’ sourpuss. I didn’t want to bring B.J. along for the ride but he was a catcher and catchers are hard to find. So, I invited Bobby Bo, Frisch, and B.J. to open tryouts. Had to keep Bobby Bo.He was the guy, after all, who once taunted beat writers that he was gonna show the beat writers the Bronx. Love the spirit even if I don’t like the guy.

I decided to broaden my search to all the boroughs of New York. I next took the ferry over to Shaolin, a.k.a. Staten Island. Unfortunately, there was no one out there. So, I headed over to Queens. Same thing there. No one worth anything. Brokenhearted at this point but not broken in will, I made my way over to Crooklyn.

Over in Crooklyn, the first player I found was Ken Brett. I asked where his brother George was. Ken responded that unfortunately George wasn’t born in Brooklyn like Ken was. What good are you without George I thought to myself. Angry about it, I decided not to invite Ken to an open tryout.

I then found some interesting prospects such as Rich Aurilla, Shawon Dunston, David Dejesus, Sid Gordon, Joe Judge, Paul Loduca, Joe Pepitone, Rico Petrocelli, Eddie Yost, Richie Zisk and invited them to open tryouts. Nice little players but I can’t exactly take on Salty’s Bama Barnstormers with these little fellas.

Just as I was about to give up hope, I happened upon a sandlot where Lou Whitaker, Joe Torre, Sandy Koufax, Phil Rizzuto, and Wee Willie Keeler were playing. I didn’t invite them to an open tryout. I told them they were on the team, told Torre he was the player/manager, and told Sandy he was the staff ace.

After looking through 4 of the 5 boroughs though, my squad wasn’t looking too good. My search through Manhattan was gonna have to be very fruitful.

Puzzled about the lack of ballplayers born in the outer boroughs, I decided to check baseball-reference.com for how many prospects had been born in Manhattan. I didn’t want to just go wandering aimlessly from Battery Park to Inwood to the Upper East Side to Harlem to Hell’s Kitchen to Greenwich Village if there were no ballplayers there.

Much to my surprise, I found that most of the ballplayers from New York City had been born in Manhattan. Guess that is not so surprising since the best hospitals are in Manhattan. But I don’t think that is what the problem is. Pregnant mothers about to deliver babies are not exactly gonna hop on the subway down to Manhattan after their water breaks. And they are not likely to hail an expensive cab at that moment either.

Most likely what was causing the problem was laziness on the part of those listing the player’s place of birth on their birth certificates. When you list New York, New York as the birthplace, this is supposed to mean the child was born on the island of Manhattan. If you are born in one of the outer boroughs, it should be listed as Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, or The Bronx. But whatever. I finally found the prospects I needed to take on Salty’s vaunted barnstorming squad from south of the Mason-Dixon.

When the team finally took shape, this is what the barnstorming Carpetbaggers from New York City looked like: Joe Torre, Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg, Lou Whitaker, Frankie Frisch, Alex Rodriguez, Phil Rizzuto, Edgar Martinez, Rocky Colavito, Ken Singleton, Wee Willie Keeler, Bobby Bonilla, B.J. Surhoff, Rico Petrocelli, Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer, Ed Lopat, Whitey Ford, John Candeleria, Matt Morris, Dennis Leonard, Waite Hoyt, Larry Corcoran, John Franco.

My bird dogging complete, I turned the fellas over to our manager Joe Torre. This is the lineup card Grandpa Joe came up with:

AVG
OBP
SLG
1
CF
Wee Willie Keeler
0.341
0.388
0.415
2
LF
Ken Singleton
0.282
0.388
0.436
3
1B
Lou Gehrig
0.340
0.447
0.632
4
DH
Hank Greenberg
0.313
0.412
0.605
5
3B
Edgar Martinez
0.312
0.418
0.515
6
RF
Rocky Colavito
0.266
0.359
0.489
7
C
Joe Torre
0.297
0.365
0.452
8
SS
Alex Rodriguez
0.306
0.389
0.578
9
2B
Lou Whitaker
0.276
0.363
0.426

As you see, Torre is still trying to bat AFraud 8th. Joe really doesn’t like Alex, but who likes the $300 million dollar man anyway? As long as Wee Willie is hittin’ ‘em where they ain’t, I’ll be happy with whatever lineup Joe throws out there.

On the bench are:
AVG
OBP
SLG
C
B.J. Surhoff
0.282
0.332
0.413
IF
Frankie Frisch
0.316
0.369
0.432
IF
Phil Rizzuto
0.273
0.351
0.355
IF
Eddie Yost
0.254
0.394
0.371
OF
Bobby Bonilla
0.279
0.358
0.472
OF
Rico Petrocelli
0.251
0.332
0.420

The pitching rotation looks like this:
W
L
ERA
SV
1
Sandy Koufax
165
87
2.76
9
2
Whitey Ford
236
106
2.75
10
3
Jim Palmer
268
152
2.86
4
4
Waite Hoyt
237
182
3.59
52
5
Ed Lopat
166
112
3.21
3
6
Dennis Leonard
144
106
3.70
1
7
Matt Morris
121
88
3.91
4
8
John Candeleria
177
122
3.33
29
9
Larry Corcoran
177
89
2.36
2
10
John Franco
90
87
2.89
424

All in all, I think it is a team worthy of engaging in a war of northern aggression against Salty’s Bama Barnstormers. We’ll see. Torre might not be Sherman but Torre did a pretty good job of burning down Atlanta by winning 8 straight in the World Series against the Braves in the 1990s.

Let’s go old school and play a best of 9 series like they did back in the day. No night games under the lights. Only day games with a true doubleheader or two during the series. None of this day/night doubleheader garbage. We’ll have a hard time convincing Klobber of that though. Klobber wants to maximize profits. Lost profits due to true doubleheaders are certainly not in the plans of that crooked bootlegger.

Any other challengers out there? Do you dare take on the Bama Barnstormers or the New York Carpetbaggers?

williamwallace

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