Archive for the 'St Louis Cardinals' Category

#135: What Should Braves Fans Really Expect in 2015?

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil
Mechanicsville, VA

With the trades of Jason Heyward and Justin Upton this winter, the new Braves President of Baseball Operations/General Manager has sent a message that the future is still in the future. Although the Braves surprised everyone in the baseball world by winning the 2013 NL East pennant sprinting past the Washington Nationals who quite frankly, under performed the first five months of the season. The Nats only became relevant the final month of the 2013 season but it was too little too late and the Braves held on to win the flag.

2014 started off like gang busters for the Braves with a pitching staff that surprised everyone by posting a combined ERA of 1.50 for the month of  April.  Everyone in Braves Country was giddy with the surprise success of this team. Alas, it did not last and when the pitchers began to flag under the unrealistic pressure of maintaining such an other-worldly mark, the offense failed to pick them up. Anyone who knows anything about baseball knows it is not just pitching that wins baseball games, you need to put some runs on the board too.

There is a huge difference in being able to pitch with a three or four run lead than having to worry about one pitch, one mistake, one hanging breaking ball being the difference between being on the winning or losing end of a baseball game. It is often said that it is not just the number of pitches thrown in a game by a pitcher but the amount of high stress pitches thrown. Give a pitcher a five run lead and he can relax a little bit and challenge opposing hitters and not worry about being so fine with his pitches he starts trying to hit the corners with every pitch. Unfortunately for the Braves’ offense, their hitters were not only were fooled by pitches out of the strike zone, they also did not make opposing pitchers pay for their mistakes either.

Other than April of last year, the Braves posted only a .500 or sub .500 record. The worst month was September when they simply folded like a cheap suit after the Nats caught them and then never looked back. Washington finally woke up and realized they were as good as advertised.  They were, however, eliminated by the Giants who were on their way to their third World Series Championship in five years.

So, what do we have to look forward to for 2015?  To begin with, the Braves brain trust has determined they were not going to beat out the Nationals with the talent already assembled by since-departed GM Frank Wren and company. Perhaps the lingering bad taste of having to eat bad contracts to under performing second baseman Dan Uggla and the five year contract of B.J. Upton outweighed the single pennant won in 2013 and the miracle pick up of Arron Harang and Ervin Santana to replace injured Chris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. More telling is beyond Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Aderlton Simmons and Julio Teheran, the Braves scouting department had little to show for their efforts during Frank Wren’s tenure as GM for the club. That and the fact he was running off some of the Braves’s best scouting talent, the total collapse of the Braves in September appear to be the final straw to break the camel’s back. Perhaps the only real surprise was that Freddie Gonzalas remained at the helm of the team as manager.

It appears that Bobby Cox, who himself appeared at odds with since-departed GM Wren and may have even hastened his own retirement, likely saved Freddie’s job. After all, if you don’t have the horses to begin with, it’s hard to win the race.

Now, what do we have to look forward too? Interim GM John Hart and his staff have made the conscious decision that the Braves were faced with three realities:

1: they were not going to get any better with the current team assembled.

2: they desperately needed pitching to stay relevant in 2015.

3: there was no help on the horizon coming from a severely depleted minor league farm system.

There are lots of reasons for the third but the most likely suspect is the robbing of Peter to pay Paul theory. That is, in order to keep corporate owner happy with the bottom line, they cut corners in their minor league system  to stay within a budget set forth by team owner, Liberty Media. That was made even more severe after the negotiation of what appears to be an under valued TV contract. While teams like the Dodgers are reaping billions from their contract, America’s team got pennies on the dollar. After all, the Braves are still rated as the third most popular franchise in America following Ted Turner’s brilliant decision to buy both the team and a little known local UHF station in Atlanta and market them nationally via cable.

Tyrell Deon Jenkins Born: 7/20/1992 in Henderson, TX  Bats/Throws: R/R  HT: 6'4'' WT: 204

Tyrell Deon Jenkins     7/20/1992 Henderson, TX
Bats/Throws: R/R
HT: 6’4” WT: 204

Shelby Charles Miller Atlanta Braves – No. 17 Pitcher Born: October 10, 1990 (age 24) Houston, Texas Bats: RightThrows: Right

Shelby C. Miller (P)
Born: October 10, 1990 
Houston, Texas
Bats/Throws R/R

John the Elder made two trades to address the problem by first trading Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to St. Louis for rising star Shelby Miller and prospect Tyrell Jenkins.

He then traded soon-to-be free agent Justin Upton to the Padres for a bevy of young talent in a minor-league haul, including two former first-round picks:

 

 

 

 

trades

MAX FRIED (P)

age 20, b.  Jan 18, 1994
Ht/Wt: 6’3’/180
Bats/Throws:  Left/L

 

 

JACE RYAN PETERSON

Born: 5/9/1990 in Lake Charles, LA
Bats/Throws: L/R HT: 6’0″ WT: 210
Debut: 4/25/2014 College: McNeese State

 

 

DUSTIN ALLEN PETERSON

Age: 20 (September 10, 1994) in Phoenix, AZ
Bats/Throws: R/R Ht: 6′ 2″ Wt: 180
Draft: Round 2 (2013, SD)

 

 

MALLEX LYDELL SMITH

Born: 5/6/1993 in Tallahassee, FL
Bats/Throws: L/R
HT: 5’9″ WT: 170

 

MANNY BANUELOS

Born: March 13, 1991 (age 23), Gómez Palacio, Durango, Mexico
Height: 5′ 11″
Weight: 198 lbs
Bats: Left-handed

Banuelos is now into his second year of recovery of Tommy John surgery and is expected to vie for the fifth starter’s spot in the rotation.

Alberto Callaspo

Alberto Callaspo

The Braves had already signed journyman second baseman Alberto Callaspo, late of the Athletics as a place holder for Braves prospect Jose Peraza but the acquisition of Jace Peterson from the Friers may have pushed young Peraza down a spot on the depth chart.

A J Pierzynski

A J Pierzynski

The Braves also have inked veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski to serve as the backup/mentor for young Christian Bethancourt at the catcher’s position and allow the Braves to move slugger Evan Gattis to the left field position so his bat can be added to the everyday line up for the Bravos.

Nick Markakis

Nick Markakis

The Braves also signed free agent Nick Markakis of the Orioles to a 4 year $44 million dollar contract to play right field in place of the since traded Jason Heyward. Markakis has a couple of gold gloves to his credit himself and is known to be a contact type hitter. While he is probably better suited to hit second, he will likely be drafted to take Heyward’s spot as the lead off man in the line up given the Braves lack of other likely candidates for that position.

So, as it stands, with the Nationals pretty much standing pat and the Marlins vastly improving their club from last season, the Braves look to fight it out with the Mets for third place in the division ahead of the aging Phillies. Never say never however, after all, the 1991 Braves were picked by one and all to finish last in the National League West then dominated by Dodgers. A lot has to go right for the Braves this season and a few things have to go wrong for the Fish and the Nats but baseball is a game played on the field, not on paper. Now if only Hart and company can figure out some way to either trade the other Upton brother and his over the top contract away so they can have a little financial flexibility or somehow BJ himself take personal responsibility for his poor play and learns how to hit again so as not to be a drag on the club, the 2015 Braves might just have a chance to be more than just a footnote on the way to the 2015 World Series.

Gil2

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87: The 2009 Braves – or ….

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

by Savannah Guy

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

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

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

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

Jair Jurgens

Jair Jurrjens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medlen

Medlen

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

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

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

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

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

managers1

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

~SG~


Braves And Stuff - Blogged

47: the broadcaster I grew up listening to

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

by Berigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broadcaster Marty Brennaman on that moment:

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

some quotes by Jack….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Francis Buck

John Francis Buck

1924 – 2002

~Berigan~

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