Posts Tagged 'Atlanta Braves'

#169: Some Advice to the Braves from a Fan…

Vox O’Reason Oct. 12, 2017

So how do the suits in Lake Buena Vista begin to wash away the ugliness that currently stains our formerly “gold standard” franchise?

I have a couple of thoughts on that. (Big surprise, right?) And I say this with the disclaimer that the investigation is still ongoing and that there could be more negativity coming.

So suits, listen up!

Terry McGuirk, this first part is addressed to you. You obviously have to hire some stable leadership and get this boat back upright again. We’re listing thanks to the current hierarchy, regardless of who knew what and who did what. Those at the top failed. I include all leadership in “baseball operations”. Anyone at GM level or higher has failed. Period. The venerable John Schuerholz can stay. After all, he’s really nothing more than a figurehead in the organization now, and hasn’t been for 3 years. He’s a HOF’er that makes for great PR on the speaking circuit. But his influence over the day-to-day operations of the Braves is long gone. He’s kind of like the Queen of England. Great history; no power.

When the house becomes unstable, you don’t go in and try replacing the framework a 2×4 at a time. You raze the structure and start from the foundation. That’s what we need to do here – clean house and start fresh.

Next, have to make sure you don’t lose the fan base that came out to see the shiny new ballpark this year. STP won’t be nearly as much a novelty in 2018, and this current blight will surely cement the cynicism among the fringe fans. In order to keep the fence sitters interested, you have to create some positive news and positive energy. The best way to do that is by showing them you are committed to winning NOW, and that you aren’t going to use this setback as an excuse to push the target further down the timeline.

They say that money can’t buy happiness, and that’s true. But it can buy you out of some bad press if you spend it correctly. You want some of the bad news to go away? Break out the wallet and go after a couple of key pieces in FA and prove to the fans that you want to step forward in 2018. How badly do you want to put this darkness behind us, and how quickly? Buy some big positive headlines. It’s not that hard… just expensive.

Yes, I know that you can’t buy World Series winner. Then again, CC Sabathia and Aroldys Chapman did play a key role in the Yankees beating the superior Indians in the ALDS. (And I kind of remember a FA laden Marlins team winning the whole shebang not just once, but twice. But I don’t advocate that method – the stock and purge method.) The Yankees example shows us that the best way for a young team to shine is to have some key veterans put them in that position. And there are absolutely a couple of positions on the Braves that glaringly cry out for a veteran to step in.

Todd Frazier

On the top of my list is 3B and starting pitcher. Is it prudent to roll out the armored car and land a guy like Mike Moustakas? Uh… probably not, especially since you have Austin Riley projected to be about 2 years away. Again, I point to the Yankees, who have gotten key contributions from 3B Todd Frazier down the stretch and into the playoffs. His powerful bat isn’t setting any records in post-season, but his steadiness and vocal leadership is proving to be the rudder that’s keeping the Yankees ship on course. His 27 HR’s over the course of the regular season didn’t hurt anything either. That would have been the 2nd highest total on the Braves this season, just 1 behind Freddie Freeman and way far ahead of the twin Matts’ 19 each. Want a steadier power bat behind Freddie in 2018? Todd Frazier is the guy. Want a guy that you can project into the lineup every day, unlike Matt Kemp? Todd Frazier is the guy. He’ll be just 32 and he played in 147 games in 2017. You can probably sign him for 2 years plus an option, so he fits the timeline nicely.

Jake Arrieta

Now you need a starter, and I mean a real one. Yes, I’m talking about buying one now. This whole Coppoloser mess gives us an excuse now to buy one, and I think we should take advantage of it. I’m not talking about Bartolo Colon or RA Dickey. I’m talking about Jake Arrieta. I’m talking about Yu Darvish. I’m talking about Alex Cobb. I’m sure there will be a couple of teams escalate the bidding on these guys, but if you get in on the right one – Cobb perhaps – you can still land your desired ace and stabilize a quite unstable rotation. And in doing so, you effectively strengthen your bullpen as guys like Max Fried and Lucas Sims can be counted on in a multi-inning role, much like the Yankees have done this year with Chad Green and Aroldys Chapman. Those guys are weapons.

Alex Cobb

Estimating arb salaries and pre-arb raises, the Braves have somewhere in the neighborhood of $90M committed for 2018 to the current roster. A non-tender here, or a buyout there and that total changes, but it still works as a reasonable baseline from which to work. The 2017 total payroll was somewhere in the neighborhood of $120M. The league average Opening Day payroll in 2017 was exactly $152,327,084. You’ve been telling us that The Battery is bringing in more more revenue that is to be turned around into the team. So use it. Increase the payroll to league average. Give your new GM some walking around money to improve the product on the field. Give him $60M or so to make real progress with the roster. But even if you don’t want to go that high in 2018, an increase of $40M would still spend nicely. Sign Alex Cobb for 5yrs/$125M or maybe 7yrs/$175M($25M yearly), Todd Frazier for 2 yrs/$25M ($12.5 yearly) and you’re in the ballpark, pun fully intended.

Hey, a guy can dream… can’t he?

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#146: A Dim Light in the Dark

 by Vox O’Reason  –  Northeast Georgia

OK… I tried to give up and check out, because the collective displeasure across all venues about the 2015 Atlanta Braves was becoming almost overwhelming. It’s not in my nature to cater to the dark side of things. I am a “glass half full” guy, and will give the benefit of the doubt to a fault. I know it and I admit it. And I refuse to change it. You see, I am just a sinner saved by grace. A humble and grateful man that looks at things in a unique way, because I have a perspective that looks at things in a unique way. I march to the beat of the proverbial different drummer. And I’ll eagerly crank my guitar up and play loudly right along with him. I am the classic non-conformist… but for good reason. I strongly believe in that reason, and have submitted to being a voice for that reason… so to speak.

So for that reason, I have something to get off my chest. I reached a breaking point yesterday. Don’t misread or ballthruwallmisunderstand me. It’s everywhere, not just here in our little corner of Stuffville. Everywhere. Maybe because my neighbor and fellow fan has already converted all his Braves swag over to Bulldogs and Falcons… maybe because it was a Monday… maybe because everything collectively had gotten too loud for me to tune it out any more. I don’t know.

But yesterday I slipped a groove and went sideways. And in the evening as I was pushing my old lawn mower around on my overgrown yard, exerting and sweating – purging if you will – it kind of hit me. I shall not be swerved. I shall not conform. I shall not be silent. And I will explain why.

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dizzydeanThis is a flippin’ game, folks. It’s a bunch of guys in pajamas playing a game where one team tries to keep another team from hitting a little ball and running around in a big circle back to where they started so that they can go into a clubhouse and hug each other. It’s a kid’s game that grown men get to play. It’s something I did when I was a kid. And when I watch these grown men play it, it still takes me back to that time when the only thing that mattered was if we had enough guys to be able to hit to all fields, or if we had to close off Right Field. Heck, sometimes we didn’t have enough guys to even have enough baserunners. Anyone else remember “imaginary man on first”? We met at the school playground, set out our small squares of cut carpet, and started tossing the ball around to get loose. I always pulled up on my bike with my well worn glove slipped over the handle bar. Carrying my bat on my bike was a little trickier, but it could be done. Half the bats had been cracked, but we just wrapped extra tape on it to keep it together. And when that battered old bat sent that marked up baseball over the fence and into the woods, it was magic. Not Harry Potter magic. It was Ernie Johnson magic. And in my own mind, I could hear Ernie making the home run call as I circled the makeshift bases. I loved playing shortstop more than anything else, even more than hitting. I loved making the plays. I loved fielding the ball and turning quickly to gun it to first. I was Jerry Royster. I just knew that one day I’d be pickin’ them at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. I just knew it. The closest thing we ever had to a fight was if the runner was safe at home or not. And we even managed to work that out without too much difficulty every time. Those were truly the golden days. I miss them. They are long gone.

Now instead of fighting over being safe or out, I have to fight to keep my clients happy or my business will fold. You see, the next vendor for them is just a simple turn of the Rolodex away. I‘m expendable. My ability to keep my creditors off my heels is at the whim and pleasure of someone else. There’s a lot of pressure in that. I have a family that depends on me. This is my adult reality. It’s a very real everyday fight. And the clients hold all the cards. All the cards… and they know it. I have to fight this fight. No choice. It ain’t easy.

My wife teaches in a broken public education system where “No Child Left Behind” means no child gets ahead. They are overcrowded and underfunded. It’s run by bureaucrats that couldn’t teach a fish to swim. The system has given all the power to the kids and stripped the teachers of any authority. The students won’t learn and their parents don’t care, if they’re even in the picture at all. Most of today’s kids are savvy enough to realize that the schools cannot afford to hold them back and must push them along, like cattle in a herd. These kids truly have checked out and don’t care. Yet the teachers’ very livelihood depends on whether or not these kids can perform on standardized testing. It’s no wonder that quality college students are fleeing from education in unprecedented numbers. Where will the next generation of real teachers come from? It ain’t easy.

My oldest kid is trying to figure out who he is and what he wants to do in a world that increasingly punishes accomplishments and rewards apathy. It encourages entitlement and quenches ambition. Most public universities will openly seek to change every moral convention under which he has been raised. And they are proud to do it. He has to hold strong to his convictions and try to navigate in hostile waters. It ain’t easy.

My youngest lives in a world of intense and extreme peer pressure that demands conformity into a socio-group that has no moral compass. If you don’t belong to the right cliques, you are shunned and cast in any number of negative stereotypes. Self-esteem is promoted as more important than discipline and respect, yet the kids themselves do more damage to their own peers’ self-esteem than any educator or administrator ever could. I cannot imagine the pressures that she lives under on a daily basis. And we parents have to walk a balancing act to demand discipline and respect without adding additional pressures. And often we fail because the cards are stacked against us. It ain’t easy.

This next generation of voters and leaders stands and cheers loudly as Kanye West announces, in broken English, at the MTV Music Awards that he is running for president in 2020. These same current voters are giving presidential candidateduh and avowed socialist Bernie Sanders more tread than any American should ever have to imagine. In South Carolina, some character named Deez Nuts is getting 9% of the votes in early polls. This is reality. We’ve reached the tipping point where those who can take have crossed the 50% barrier to those who produce. They know it and are doing everything inside – and outside – the law to keep it that way. And the current “leadership” supports it. It’s crazy.

This “leader” can shape and change this great nation into his own globally submissive vision with “a pen and a phone” and we the sheeple stand by powerless to stop him. Remember when his spokesperson said at his first coronation, er… I mean swearing into office that they were “ready to rule” right away? That wasn’t a slip of the tongue. It was deadly accurate. It’s insanity.

Immoral and evil men can shoot and assassinate innocent sworn officers of the law, and our “leader” remains silent. But our defenders under the rule of law can exercise their lawful authority over law breakers, and our “leader” makes a public statement that empowers radicals to create public uprisings and riots and that encourages more killings of innocent people. And that is supposed to be model “leadership”. It’s worse than insanity; it’s evil.

People are now allowed to “choose” their gender. A man in a dress changes his name and is considered a hero, worthy of Bruce-min1awards and accolades. A prominent American university has announced that the pronouns “he” and “she” are being replaced on their campus because they are considered offensive. Meanwhile, a public school in this very country of ours has taken the labels off their restrooms so as not to force children to have to make that gender choice. And if you dare speak out against it, you are considered to be “hating”, publically vilified, and subject to losing everything you’ve ever worked for. It’s darkness overtaking the light.

Here in the US, a country founded on Christian principals no matter how the “leadership” tries to rewrite history, my fellow believers in Christ and I are losing our rights to practice our faith more and more each day as darkness tries to silence us completely. In the Middle East, they are practicing an open and public jihad to exterminate us. Yet our “leadership’ makes a deal to give them nuclear capability and the funding to accomplish it. All the while, most of America is being indoctrinated to think that Christians are a hate group with the liberal media fueling the fire daily. The bible says that everything will flip, that what is evil will be called good and what is good will be called evil… and it’s happening right before our very eyes. It’s real, and it’s happening all around us. I know and believe that we will be the victors. Darkness cannot prevail as long as light exists, no matter how dim the light gets. But the fight is difficult and bears its own collateral damage. It’s here and it’s real.

So I come back to baseball, and to my team the Atlanta Braves because it is like a warm blanket on a long, cold night. It’s the Baseball_frogone thing I can sink into and temporarily escape this insane and evil world. To me, it just simply takes me back to being a kid, picking teams, lining up and stepping into the batter’s box, where the biggest thing I had to worry about was who was pitching. After all, it’s still just a kid’s game, even if it is adults playing it. It might not be Jerry Royster making the plays anymore, but Andrelton Simmons is just as good. Better, even.

Does it really matter that the Braves got drubbed by the Bronx Bombers in their own home park? Is it really all that serious that half our players, and most of our bullpen, wouldn’t make the 25-man roster in some cities? Does it really have a major impact on our daily grind that Shelby Miller hasn’t won a game in over 100 days? To me is doesn’t. To me, it really doesn’t mean a tiny sliver of a thing in the overall scheme of today’s reality. They can get beat 20-6 and still come back to the park for the next night’s Bulova Time of First Pitch. The only thing that has changed are the numbers in the standings. Maybe a bullpen arm or two. The world still turns.

Skip3On the day that the great Skip Caray passed away, one of the Mets broadcasters noted that during an extended losing streak back in the mid-80’s when the team was annually awful, that Skip once introduced the team at the start of a broadcast with: “Like lambs to the slaughter, the Braves take the field”. Skip never took the game too seriously, never lost his sense of humor, and never lost his perspective. Neither will I.

My team has warts… big’uns too. And I still love them. Hey, let’s play two!!

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144: Half Way Home & The Braves Are Caught In A Rundown…

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

By Gil In Mechanicsville

In a 162 game season, 81 games represents one half of the games necessary to complete the race to the play-offs. Once upon a time, the team in the American League with the best record would face the National League team with the best record and meet in a best of seven series for the title of World Series Champion. Then, the leagues grew and grew. First to two divisions, East & West, for both leagues. This meant games would needed to be added as the two division winners of each league would meet in a best of seven series for the privilege of playing in the World Series.

Then each league expanded again, now there we three division in each league but this meant an odd number of teams would vie for the right to become league champion and meet the opposing league for the opportunity to be the World Champions of Baseball. No problem, there would be one team from each league which would be designated as a Wild Card team. They would be the team with the best record who had not won their division. First it was a best of three, then expanded to a best of five. Now a best of seven. All the while, the season was getting pushed deeper and deeper into the fall.

Not to be deterred by all the hardships generated from playing a sport, clearly designed for summer being played in cities with wind chills in the teens at night on dates normally reserved for football, the major league owners saw an opportunity to add even more revenue by expanding the play-off to include two Wild Card teams. No matter how improbable it might seem, even teams with very so so records had a chance to get into the big dance. Not that they had a serious chance of actually winning, they still had a chance. So, with all the revenue being produced from television rights, the season has now become a marathon with the final month of October and shutter, November, being like the final mile of the 26 mile marathon, only it was uphill and into the wind. A very steep hill and a cold, cold wind….

So, what does the previous three paragraphs have to do with the Braves? Well, by all accounts, the 2015 Braves were going to be one of the worse teams in baseball. Likely to lose at least 90 games and possibly 100 with the midnight trade of Craig Kimbrel to the Padres by John Hart. After all, why would a team going nowhere need a luxury piece like Kimbrel? No use having an All-Star closer when you are only going to win 60 games. So, what is the dilemma? Well, it is a bit of good news, bad news for the Braves at this point. With a team going nowhere, the two Johns would pretty much have a free hand of trading and selling off players. Not like the fans would notice. They would have given up by the end of May. The Nationals, who were stocked to the gills with high priced pitching, would be going to the World Series this year. They would win the division by 25 games and with only token resistance from the Mets, should have things wrapped up by June 1st.

Only problem, the Nats were so busy reading their press clippings, they forgot they still had to play every game on the schedule. Now, to be realistic, the Nationals have played better of late but they are far from unbeatable. The Mets? They have some really good young pitching, good enough to be a Wild Card team and even challenge an under performing Washington for the NL East title. That is except they are struggling to find enough offense on a nightly bases to win consistently. This leads us to the Braves. At the half way point, the Braves are 40-41. One game under .500 and only 1/2 game behind the Mets and 5  behind the Nats. Okay, I know, it’s still a losing season at this point but the loss of Freddie Freeman for the past month has had a lot to do with the Braves’ recent woes offensively.

But, the Braves’ silver lining has begun to show through the clouds of doom and gloom. Pitching…. Despite the hic-ups incurred by Shelby Miller and Julio Teheran, the debuts of Matt Wisler and Manny Benuelos have given Braves’ fans a glimmer of hope for the future. That and the recent hardening of the relief corp has helped to diminish some of the angst felt by everyone in Atlanta when a starter had to come out of a game. Now, by no means are the Braves being mentioned as shoo ins for the play-offs but stranger things have happened. This is what makes this season’s trade deadline a real poser for Hart & Company. Can you really trade away your best catcher and best reliever for a couple of more prospects when you are not yet really out of the conversation?

What kind of message does it send to your team when you ship your spark plug and chief cheerleader, Jonny Gomes, off to another club. Are the Braves really going to trow in the towel when the fight could still be won? I am as realistic as the next guy, I know this year was all about transitions, a revamping of an under performing and underachieving team into a prototypical National League team built on pitching, defense and speed. Perhaps this year’s team was a little too good too quick. It is going to be tough to make choice between being buyers or sellers this year as long as the Braves are hanging tough. Lots of baseball still to be played this year. The Braves may well fade this year late like the last three seasons but I would not count on it. By all rights, the Nats should be winning going away but you never know. Lots of years the Braves were supposed to win it all too and got beat.

So, let’s keep watching and rooting for and enjoying one of the most interesting ball clubs we have seen occupying Turner Field in years. Good pitching, good defense and just enough offense to keep you in the game for the full nine innings. We still have 81 more games to play to prove if the Braves are contenders or pretenders.

#140: New Faces for 2015, Part V

By Gil in Mechanicsville

With only about two weeks left before games begin in earnest and the promise of a brand new season starts the long and rutted road to the World Series, the Braves still have spots open for the taking in their line up. The foot injury to Melvin Upton Jr. and the recurring shoulder problems of left handed pitcher Mike Minor has created opportunities for at least two more players to begin the season playing for the Big A.

Holdover players Freddie Freeman, Chris Johnson, Andrelton Simmons and Christian Bethencourt looked to have had a good spring training. While CJ took a while to heat up, he has suddenly returned to 2013 form but with more power. Allowing the home runs to come rather than pursue them looks to have allowed the Atlanta third baseman to stay on the ball longer and make solid contact with greater frequency.

Simmons, Freeman and Bethancourt all have looked comfortable at the plate and should provide steady offense this year. Newcomers AJ Perzinski and Jonny Gomes have done nothing to dispel the names they have made for themselves as professional ball players. The veteran leadership often needed in a clubhouse full of youngsters was sorely missing last year after the departure of Tim Hudson and Brian McCain have been replaced with the likes of Perzinski, Gomes and relief pitcher Jason Grille.

Nick “The Neck” Markakis has begun his long awaited return to the game after off season spinal fusion surgery and by all accounts will be a force in the Atlanta outfield, perhaps not as exciting Jason Heyward but no slouch. Understandably, it will take a few weeks for him to regain his full strength but his initial return against Astros showed him going 3 for 4 as the DH. A good sign for a guy who had not seen live pitching for five months. His reputation is as a solid outfielder who knows how to play the game. He does not make mental errors and always hits the cutoff man and throws to the right base.

The rest of the starting line up still appears to be in a bit of a flux. Alberto Callaspo, one of John Hart’s earliest off season signings and projected starting second baseman showed up overweight. The teeth gnashing and ash wallowing began amongst the Braves fans who follow the blogs. Fortunately, it appears the 31 year old Venezuelan has shed some pounds and has played regularly at both second and third base this spring. He began slowly but of late, his bat has heated up. The switch hitter has shown the versatility that would enable him to be part of a soft platoon with Chris Johnson at third. Perhaps urged on by the strong showing this spring by Jace Peterson, who came to the Braves as part of trade that saw Justin Upton depart for San Diago, to win away from him the starting job at second base gave him incentive. Peterson’s slash line of .341/.449/.390 in 41 at bats this spring and solid defense has been a very pleasant surprise. Project as a “super sub” type player, Peterson has taken a bit of the air out of the “Perazza Now” balloon. That and Jose Peraza’s youth becoming evident at the plate. While his glove is major league ready, his bat evidently can benefit from some more time in the minors.

The center field jobs looks to be won by an impressive showing by E Y Young Jr. EY Jr was released by the Mets and was signed to a minor league contract by the Braves. Initially he was penciled in as a possible utility, fourth outfielder but the foot injury to Melvin Upton has given him the opportunity to open the season with Atlanta manning the number eight position in the defense. The added upside to EY Jr is he is a natural lead-off man. While it does not look at this point Upton has been Wally Pipped at this point, he has at least given most Braves fans the sense that Upton should take his time getting healthy before he needs to return.

Todd Cunningham’s window of opportunity may be closing if he does not win a job outright this spring. He has the ability to play all three outfield positions but he may be the pro-typical Quad A player. The same may be true for Joey Terdoslavich. He has had a decent spring for the Braves, hitting .278 with seven extra base hits, he can play either corner outfield spot as well as first base. He worked with his dad during the off season to cut down on his swing. He is in the mix against veteran Kelly Johnson who has played everywhere the Braves have asked him to to display his versatility. KJ’s bat has begun to heat up of late and it appears he will be given every opportunity to win a spot as a utility/left handed bat off the bench for this year’s club.

The last players to be considered will be Phil Gosselin, Zoilo Almonte and surprising off season minor league signing Pedro Ciriaco who has 15 hits and 7 strike outs in 42 at bats this spring. A second baseman who has spent time with Boston and Kansas City, he has a strong accurate arm and some speed. While it would be a long shot to see him make the team this spring, he has opened some eyes. Phil Gosselin looks to have secured his spot as the utility infielder again this season after being the starting second baseman the latter part of the 2014 season. Zoilo is still vying for the spot platoon role with Jonny Gomes. It’s my opinion that he is on the bubble to start the season with the club.

The pitching is still to be discussed. I will do so in my final spring training blog.

#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

#133: The Future Is Now

Vox O'Raisins

Vox O’Raisins

 

2015 STARTS NOW

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

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

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

It’s mind-boggling.Upton-BJ.Wren

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

Fredi Gonzalez

Fredi Gonzalez

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

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

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves

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

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

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

~ Raisins ~

 

#132: PO-TEN-TIAL

Vox O'Raisins

by Vox O’Raisins

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

 

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

Dizzy Dean

Dizzy Dean

 

 

 

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

 

FredMcGriff3

 

 

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

 

Chipp4

 

 

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

 

 

Here’s a curveball for you…

Fredi Gonzalez

Fredi Gonzalez

 

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

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

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

~ Vox O’Raisins ~

#131: And away we go…

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil
Mechanicsville, VA

The proverbial second half of the the Major League baseball season has begun. I say  proverbial because the the real halfway point occurred several weeks ago. As I    hammer away at the keyboard, the Braves are in a virtual tie for first place in the NL  East with the Washington Nationals. Virtual because to date, the Braves are 10  games over .500 with a record of 54-44 while the Nats are also 10 games over .500 at  53-43 with two games in hand over the Braves.

 

Surprisingly, this has come when the Braves have been all over the map as far as their play this season, part great pitching, part timely hitting, they have also have suffered through some abysmal stretches when it comes to making contact with the ball and scoring runs coupled with some leaky defense and erratic relief pitching. For some reason, those last two seem to go hand-in-hand.

 

In the past week, the long awaited departure of Dan Uggla mercifully took place the first day back from the All-Star break. With the remaining balance of approximately $19 million still on the Braves books, Dan will likely now be offered a league minimum contract by a team looking to catch a little lightning in a bottle from the 3-time All-Star. My guess would be Dan’s best bet would be with an American League team looking for a guy who can serve as a DH and not expose him too often to the perils of using him in the field. I still think he could play first base on occasion but that is a thread to be discussed by Dan’s potential suitors.

 

Gattis

Gattis

The Braves look to regain the services of El Orso Blanco on Monday. What the Braves gain in offense, they will lose in the defense so ably displayed by young Christian Bethancourt. The 22-year-old back stop has quickly gained the confidence of the Atlanta Braves pitching staff and looks to be primed to play everyday for somebody in the majors. While Gattis is prized for his prowess with a bat, his glove work has appeared lacking this season. While defense wins championships, you need somebody to get you at least one run and Gattis has shown the ability to deliver when the chips are down.

 

Still, the Braves still are face with some needs, a reliable veteran situational lefty relief pitcher and a power bat for the left side bench. A good lead off man and center fielder would be very beneficial too but perhaps we can flog that dead horse another day.

BJ Upton

BJ Upton

Just as Dan Uggla’s $13m per year contract became Frank Wren’s albatross, I fear Melvin Jr.’s contract is bird of the same feather. Melvin’s defense is suspect at best and his bat hardly justifies his big payday but at least it did not also cost the Braves any of their prized prospects. That would only have made the deal worse. Well, no one forced the Braves into signing BJ, they did it knowing full well his pluses and minuses. I just don’t think they realized his minuses would be so large.

 

 

Phil Gosselin

Phil Gosselin

The Bravos brought up Tyler Pastornicky to fill Dan Uggla’s spot on the roster. Some have wondered why Philip Gosselin was not allowed to remain with Atlanta but because he had already been returned to Triple A, he could not return for 10 days. Time will tell if the Pastor sticks with the big club or swaps places with young Gosselin. One has to wonder why the Braves did not really see the impending release of Uggla sooner. I expect the shuttle will be rather active between Atlanta and the farm clubs until the Braves find the right mix.

 

So, looking forward, what can we expect of this very young squad who became even younger with the release of Uggs. August looks to be the make or break portion of this season’s schedule for Atlanta. Nothing but contenders lined up with the likes of Oakland, Seattle, the Dodgers and Pirates as well as the Braves’ nemesis the Mets. Time will tell if the Braves are still fighting to hold off the pre-season favorite Nats or trying to chase them down in September.

Gil2

#130: Time to pull the plug, Frank….

Gil

Gil in Mechanicsville, VA

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

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

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

Dan Uggla

Dan Uggla

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

Uggla

Uggla

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

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

Gil2

 

 

#127: A Farewell To Arms

by Gil Elliott 'Gil from Mechanicsville'

by Gil Elliott

So, in the past thirty days or so we have seen the number of healthy arms expected to fill out the Braves pitching staff diminish as fast as a spendthrift’s bank account. To be honest, I have not seen the Braves’ expected starting five so decimated since that fateful season of 2008. Y’all remember that don’t you? The year of Buddy Carlyle. Jorge Campillio, Chuck James and JoJo Reyes which led the Braves to go all in on Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami in 2009. It was during the Braves attempt to stay relevant and rebuild on the fly.

InsertThe projected starting five this season was sketchy to begin with. The Braves were counting on three pitchers who were rebounding from Tommy John surgery to lead the charge. “They” being Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy and off season acquisition Gavin Floyd. To my way of thinking it was a bit like drawing to an inside straight to cover a pretty large raise. It isn’t impossible but the odds are against you. Those odds reared it’s ugly head and bite the Braves in the butt when within 24 hours both Medlen and Beachy went down to arm trouble. Throw in Mike Minor’s inhibited return to full strength to a somewhat odd necessity to have surgery to his urethra in January and subsequently causing him to strain his shoulder in trying make up for lost time.

What the Braves were left with was going from an embarrassment of riches in the pitching department to an embarrassment of a pitching staff. Guys like journeyman Freddie Garcia moving from a guy who was trying to pitch his way onto the Braves major league roster as a fifth starter/long relief guy to now the number three guy on your staff. That is scary.

Santana

Santana

Fortunately, the best free agent starter still available, Ervin Santana was still mulling over offers from American League clubs, Toronto and Baltimore. Now, let’s be realistic, Erwin Santana is no Clayton Kershaw. In fact, he may not even be a Kris Medlen when it comes to talent but he is certainly a huge improvement over what the Braves were looking at before inking a one year deal with the 31 year old righty from the Dominican Republic for the amount of $14.1 million dollars. This is in essence the same amount of the qualifying offer he turned down from the Kansas City Royals.

Given the circumstances, the Braves got off cheap. Yes, they have increased their payroll beyond their budgeted amount and gave up a first round draft pick, They got off a heck of lot cheaper than if they had to make a trade for a front line starter. Didn’t the Braves just trade a first round pick, Sean Gilmartin, for a pitcher? There is no guarantee a first round pick is ever going to make it to the show. My take is the Braves view not just the cost of adding a guy like Santana but the potential loss of revenue that comes with a losing team. I have said many times, the Braves spend what they choose to spend. Their self imposed salary cap is just that, self imposed. I’m not saying they should spend like the federal government but they have to be realistic if they want to stay relevant.

Gil2

125: Hall Of Fame: Destiny Fulfilled

by Gil Elliott 'Gil from Mechanicsville'

by Gil Elliott
‘Gil from Mechanicsville’

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

Mad Dog

Mad Dog

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

Glavine

Glavine

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

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

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

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

Leo's Staff

Days of Glory

HOF2014

124: The players may change but the game remains the same.

by Gil Elliott 'Gil from Mechanicsville'

by Gil Elliott
‘Gil from Mechanicsville’

Dizzy Dean

Dizzy Dean

Hit the ball, catch the ball, throw the ball. Time honored axioms of the greatest game on earth. A game which is perfect for the haze of summer for when it is meant to be played. As followers of the game, we are all familiar with names like Cy Young, Dizzy Dean, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial and hundreds more who have graced the green fields of places known as Wrigley. Turner and Ebbets Field. Stadiums as cavernous as the Mistake on the Lake in Cleveland and as intimate as Fenway. Baseball fields which all have their individual quirks and idiosyncrasies but all have the same dimensions of 90 feet between each base and 60 feet 6 inches from the pitcher’s mound to home plate. But, even with these dimensions being the same, every field is unique in the way they play. Some teams let the grass grow long to slow the ball to allow for an infield comprised of slow-footed sluggers or lightning fast if the defense is stellar.

 Cy Young 1892

Cy Young 1892

Every season, one team remains as the winner of the ultimate prize in baseball, to be crowned world champions. Winners of a best of seven play-offs between the final teams left after a 162 game season to qualify for the play-offs and then to outlast the remaining qualifiers for the right to play for the championship. Not surprisingly, it is not always the best team, the highest paid team, the team with the best hitter, the best pitcher but most often, it is the team which is the most clutch, is best able to withstand the pressure of the moment who are victorious. Perhaps unfairly, it is the team which can get hot at the most opportune time who gain the glory.

 Avilan

Avilan

David carpenter3

Carpenter

This past season, we watched as our beloved Braves surprised most everyone in baseball by winning the National League East. Winning 96 games and beating the much ballyhooed Washington Nationals by ten games. They did this despite having their two highest paid players hit well below the infamous Mendoza line. Despite having one of the youngest teams in major league baseball. The Braves defied expectations by having a bullpen without the services of such stalwarts as Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flarety and Christian Martinez.

Ramiro+Pena

Ramiro Pena

Amazingly the emergence of Luis Avilan and a converted catcher by the name of David Carpenter, who by the way was released by Boston Red Sox after being traded from Toronto.

The 2013 Braves won 96 games despite having 20 players spend time on the disabled list at some point during the  season and others that missed significant time due to wear and tear. Amazingly, losing front line pitchers Tim Hudson, Brandon Beachy and Paul Mulholm. Losing the services of gold glove outfielder Jason Heyward not once but twice for what amounted to 1/3 of the season. The untimely loss of super utility guy Ramiro Pena and just about every back up infielder on the 40 man roster. Jordan Schafer, who finally showed flashes of the potential the Braves saw in him when he was drafted by the them in the third round of the 2005 draft. The 2013 Braves won despite having to insert Kansas City Royal cast off Elliot Johnson at second base because Tyler Pastornicky could not make it past one week as the heir apparent at second base after a collision with Jason Heyward in short right field.

Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson

Andrelton Simmons

With Chipper Jones now a memory, Chris Johnson, who will likely never win a gold glove at third base, became a wonderful surprise with a clutch bat and strong arm and a more than adequate replacement for the foreseeable future at third base for the Bravos. All-World Andrelton Simmons who will improve the stats of every Braves pitcher who can induce a ground ball by opposing hitters and will continue to improve at the plate as he accrues acumen with the bat. A first baseman in Freddie Freeman who by all rights should be the starting first baseman for the National League All-star game for the next several years and should garner MVP consideration not only for his prowess with the bat but for the number of errant throws from the other infielders he snares as they pass within the vicinity of his position.

Evan Gattis

Evan Gattis

Everyone’s feel good story of the year, Evan Gattis has become an Atlanta legend in the course of a few short months. Exceeding everyone’s expectations by not only hitting in clutch situations but taking to a new position in left field and showing better than average ability while donning the tools of ignorance. No doubt Brian McCann will be missed when he leaves for a big payday soon but the catcher’s position is not one for which the Braves will have to seek a replacement. Christian Bethancourt, the here-to-fore heir to McCann will have to wait a while longer before he becomes the Braves number one signal caller.

So, who will be the next ex Braves besides McCann this season? Both the Braves and Tim Hudson have indicated they would like to continue their relationship. It may be the bean counters who decide if it continues. Reed Johnson’s Achilles heel may be his Achilles heel. Never counted on to be an everyday guy, he still has value both in the club house and as a right hand pinch hitter. Dan Uggla’s ability to see the light, or anything else for that matter, will be determine if he starts next season in a Braves uniform. I cannot see any other team having value for a guy who cannot make contact no matter what the price. It is not like Dan’s glove is going to keep him line up. No, Dan will either hit this spring or end up being a $13 million dollar albatross around Frank Wren’s neck.

Eric O’Flarerty or Jonny Venters, take your pick. One will stay, one will go. Let’s hope the Braves keep the right one. Personally, I think O’Flarerty would be the safer bet to keep but that does not mean he will. Comes down to where the Braves want to spend their money. BJ Upton will still be in town but methinks that if Frank’s crystal ball had given him any indication of the emergence of Evan Gattis as a right handed power bat this season, the off season signing of Upton would never have happened and 75 million dollars would have gone towards front line starter like Zack Grienke or even extending Brian McCann but that ship has sailed. Let’s all hope that BJ doesn’t become the highest paid pinch runner in the league.

~ Gil~


Blog Birthdays

ChrisKlob: Feb 4

Raisins: Mar 13

Berigan: Mar 15

Gil: Apr 15

Salty: Apr 22

FloridaBravesGirl: Jul 8

Skip Caray: Aug 12

Miss Josie: Aug 18

Carolina Lady: Oct 7

BravesAndStuff: Dec 5, 2007


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