Lake Buena Dark Star, Fla. – OK, so where were we? Before the blog got hijacked by controversy and confrontations, I believe we were talking about … oh, I don’t even remember.
Did I mention that to get to the AJC rental unit here in picturesque Kissimmee, one must drive down highway 192, past Seven Dwarfs Lane, past Medievel Times and turn right at the massive Wal-Mart? OK, just making sure.
We should have a get-together by the lake behind the house, the lake with the “Do Not Feed The Alligators” sign, which beneath that top line has this “All small animals must be on leashes.” (We’re not making this up, by the way.)
Those who’ve lived in Florida know what that’s all about. When I lived down in South Florida, you’d hear about gators lunging out of the edge of a subdivision pond and eating some poor old lady’s little dog like you or I would eat a french fry.
But anyway, the outfield.
Oh, wait: Tom Glavine’s contract is supposed to be finalized Friday morning. But the lefty won’t be in camp until about March 1. Doc Andrews told him it’d be best to stay on pace with his throwing program another week in Atlanta, away from live batting practice where he’d be tempted to raise the intensity level and get hitters out a week or two before he’s at that point in his program.
So he’ll aim for getting in games late in the first week of March and being ready for the regular season, but won’t need to be activated as fifth starter until April 19, the first day the Braves need that last man in the starting rotation. Works out perfectly for Glavine coming off elbow and shoulder surgeries.
Now, the outfield: Perhaps you’ve heard the Braves tried to sign Ken Griffey Jr.? The old “Kid” returned to Seattle to be adored by fans of a lousy team three time zones from his family, a team that plays in a great ballpark in one of, to me, this country’s three most beautiful cities (others: San Francisco and San Diego.)
The Braves say they’re going to give the kids a long look this spring and a chance to fill the center- and left-field openings before deciding whether to pursue another veteran outfielder via trade or free agency.
That means at least four left-handed-hitting youngsters are going to get consideration: Jordan Schafer, Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco and Brandon Jones. Matt Diaz is penciled in as the right-handed hitting half of a left-field platoon.
If I had to guess, knowing the Braves would prefer the highly regarded Schafer at least a little more time in the high minors at Triple-A Gwinnett, If that’s the case, Josh Anderson must be considered the favorite for center, with Brandon Jones getting a shot at earning the left-hitting part of a LF platoon.
Not to say Blanco and Schafer won’t be in the mix this spring because they could be. But the Braves would really like to see B. Jones fulfill his potential after a lackluster ‘08 season when he showed flashes of brilliance, but not much in the way of sustained production. He’ll get a chance to win a job.
Schafer might just have too good a spring to keep off the roster. But its worth reminding that Josh Anderson has blazing speed and no options The Braves need his speed. Did I mention he’s out of options?
If Anderson is in CF, the Braves could use Omar Infante in a CF platoon (Anderson hit .341 in 91 at-bats vs. righties, and .200 in 45 at-bats vs. lefties), unless Anderson shows he can hit lefties closer to the way he did in the minors than what he did in the majors last fall.
But if Anderson platoons, they’d obviously have to have someone else bat leadoff vs. lefties.
If Anderson’s in CF, Brandon Jones could get a shot at platooning with Diaz. Blanco hit nearly 100 points higher this winter in Venezuela than his .251 average as a Braves rookie in 2008. But I don’t know, barring injury, how much shot he has at making this team. I could be wrong, of course.
“I think we have a variety of guys that can add something to the equation, whether it’s speed, defense, [power], or all-around play,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “Each of the guys who will be out there competing adds something a little different, which is all positive for us. I think at the end of [the spring], it’ll be a decision about who adds the most in that role.”
All Braves outfielders hit just 27 homers last season, worst in the majors. Their .367 slugging percentage was also the worst among major-league outfields, and their only outfielders with at least 350 at-bats had puny slugging percentages: Jeff Francoeur (.359) and Blanco (.309).
“I truly feel that as bad as were last year, we’ll be good this year,” Francoeur said. “I’d sure like to think I’m going to hit more than 11 homers this year.”
Frightening stat: Francoeur (11 homers) and Mark Kotsay (3) were the only Braves oufielders with more than three homers in 2008.
One more almost unfathomable number: Anderson led Braves outfielders with three homers after the All-Star break, despite playing only 24 games after the break. Francoeur had two in 244 at-bats after the break.
“SWEET JANE” by Lou Reed
Standing on the corner, suitcase in my hand
Jack is in his corset, Jane is her vest
And me, I’m in a rock’n'roll band
Ridin’a Stutz Bearcat, Jim
You know, those were different times
Oh, all the poets, they studied rules of verse
And those ladies, they rolled their eyes
Sweet Jane, sweet Jane, sweet Jane
I’ll tell you something, that Jack, he is a banker
And Jane, she is a clerk
And both of them save their monies
And when they come home from work
Ooh, sittin’ down by the fire
Oh, the radio does play
The classical music, said Jim, the `March of the Wooden Soldiers`
All you protest kids, you can hear Jack say, get ready
Sweet Jane, come on, baby
Sweet Jane, sweet Jane
Some people, they like to go out dancing
Other peoples, they have to work
Just watch me now
And there’s some evil mothers
Well they’re gonna tell you that everything is just dirt
You know, that women never really faint
And that villains always blink their eyes
And that, you know, children are the only ones who blush
And that life is just to die
But anyone who ever had a heart
Oh, they wouldn’t turn around and break it
And anyone who’s ever played a part
Oh, they wouldn’t turn around and hate it
Sweet Jane, sweet Jane, sweet Jane …
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