Fort Lauderdale – A figurative fist-bump to all as we prepare for tonight’s Braves-Marlins series finale while also listening to televised fallout from news that the heart of the 2004 World Series champion Boston lineup was (allegedly) ‘roided up at least during the previous season.
As you’ve surely heard by now, The New York Times reported today that Manny Ramirez (no surprise) and David Ortiz (mildly surprising, given his strong aniti-roid comments) were among the 100 or so players who tested positive in 2003, a list that was supposed to remain anonymous, but of course has not.
That’s four named so far, Manny and Big Papi joining A-Rod and Sammy Sosa. Maybe they’re being leaked by nationality, with all the Dominicans up first? No? Hey, just a reckless, unsubstantiated theory (those are big these days on blogs, Twitters, et al).
(Timeout: I keep getting asked if I think any Braves will be on the list. Hey, just over 100 players on the list, and there’s 30 major league teams, so there’s certainly a reasonable chance that EVERY team had at least one on the list. If there were one or more Braves on it, it also wouldn’t surprise me if those players have moved on to other teams since. But again, nothing is going to shock me anymore regarding positive steroid tests. Well, nothing except Greg Maddux or David Eckstein being linked to ‘roid use. Beyond that, nothing.)
Where were we? Oh, yes. Red Sox Nation weeps a bit today, right? Or mourns. Or, maybe it says “To hell with it, the Evil Empire was [allegedly] ‘roided up, too.” I don’t know. Probably some of all those reactions.
I’m also wondering if a few of those formerly long-suffering Red Sox fans who were said to have died content in the months after that Red Sox finally won the World Series, if some of those good folks are rolling over in their graves today. Or maybe they won’t believe the news unless it’s confirmed by NESN broadcasters?
These are the questions that linger in the air. But that’s in the New England air.
Here in the thick, humid air of South Florida, the questions we have are: 1. Will the Braves feel urgency to make a move given the losses the past two days and the fact that both NL leader Philly and wild-card leader San Fran made significant trades yesterday; and 2. Is Bill Hohn the Braves’ own Snidely Whiplash? Or is the ump with the bushy moustache just an irascible sort who doesn’t care that Bobby Cox (also irascible, occasionally) is going to the Hall of Fame someday, and isn’t going to give him or his Braves an inch of leeway when it comes to arguments, whether or not Hohn was picking a fight with a good Irish lad (Eric O’Flaherty) on June 21, or calling a pitch a strike last night against Brian McCann that appeared to be six to 10 inches outside?
Whew, that was quite a long question. As for the first question, I don’t know if the Braves are going to do a deal, but it sure sounds like they’re prepared to stand pat unless one really strikes them as something that could help put them over the top while not forcing them to mortgage the future. I talked to Frank Wren this afternoon, and here’s what I wrote for a story on our website while ago:
With the Friday trade deadline looming and division leader Philadelphia having bolstered its pitching staff, the Braves seem prepared to stand pat and see if they can make a postseason push without spending more money or dealing away more prospects.
On Wednesday, the Phillies traded four minor-leaguers to Cleveland for left-hander Cliff Lee, the 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner, and NL wild-card leader San Francisco traded for Pittsburgh second baseman Freddy Sanchez, a former batting champion.
The Braves believe their recent resurgence – despite losses the past two nights at Florida – was an indication of what they’re team is capable of doing the rest of the season. But they haven’t stopped looking, just in case a deal pops up in the next 24 hours or so.
”We continue to look at trade possibilities,” general manager Frank Wren said, “but with the return of [Tim] Hudson and [Omar] Infante and the way our club is pitching and swinging the bat, we haven’t found a move that would make an impact for us.”
The Braves are counting on Hudson (elbow surgery) and utility man Infante (broken hand) returning from the disabled list in mid-August, with Hudson expected to move back into the starting rotation. Infante hit .349 in 86 at-bats before he got hurt, including .385 against lefties.
Despite a lefty-heavy lineup, the Braves are 15-10 against lefty starting pitchers. They have a 7-2 record against the Phillies, who now have four lefties in their starting rotation.
The Braves lead the NL with a .293 batting average in July and trail only the Phillies in runs scored for the month. Braves pitchers are tied with the Phillies for the third-best July ERA (3.30) in the league, and their 15-10 record is tied for third in the NL this month behind the Cubs (17-8) and Phillies (19-6).
I f the Braves make a move before Friday’s 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline, it might be to pick up another reliever. Their bullpen has been solid, but there’s been a lot of mileage put on the top four contributors this season: Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzalez, Eric O’Flaherty and Peter Moylan.
The Braves’ confidence climbed while winning eight of their first 11 games after the All-Star break. But since then they’ve lost the first two games of a three-game series against the Florida Marlins that concludes tonight in Miami.
Those losses dropped them to 8-1/2 games behind the Philadelphia and two behind Florida in the NL East standings, and to four games behind San Francisco in the wild-card standings. The Braves are tied with Houston for fifth in the wild-card race.
Now, as for the Hohn question, I really don’t know what’s up with that dude. He’s thrown out five Braves in two games (well, that includes Cox twice) in the past six weeks, and he had a memorable toss-a-thon on a hot day in Atlanta a few years back. (Maybe is the heat and humidity that triggers him? No, wait, it wasn’t hot and humid in Boston on June 21 … when he threw out an Irishman in freakin’ Boston!)
Hey, maybe he just doesn’t care that Cox is nearing the end of his career and that some umps might give the venerable manager a little more leeway when he comes out to, uh, discuss matters.
Whatever it is, we’re going to see today if any Braves were offended after they either saw (Chipper saw it) or heard about the fist-bump that Hohn did with Marlins catcher John Baker after Nate McLouth struck out to end last night’s 6-3 Braves loss.
My guess is that Baker initiated it and surprised Hohn when he turned around with his fist out, so much so that the ump reacted without thinking and gave him a fist-bump that was caught on TV. I’m also thinking that Hohn probably regrets doing it, whether he’ll say so or not, especially since it was shown on the broadcast and much has been made of it in places like this since last night. And it won’t surprise me if he declines to talk about it tonight, either.
I asked a Braves official about it in an e-mail today and got no response. It’s one of those touchy subjects where you want to watch what you say publicly, and instead address the matter privately through proper channels, such as the league’s supervisor of umpires.
But just so you guys (and ladies) know, it’s common for catchers and other players to talk to the umpires. You see them doing it on the bases all the time, and between innings. It’s just that usually, a catcher might say behind his mask, at the end of a game like last night, “Good job” to the umpire, or whatever. Nothing scandalous, just letting Blue know you appreciated his work, etc., and staying on his good side for the future. Happens all the time.
But Baker was out of line, if you ask me, in doing it via a fist-bump that was seen by TV viewers and at least one Braves player, and has probably been relayed to other Braves players and the coaching staff since last night.
Hohn should have said thanks and waved off the fist-bump gesture. But then, that moustache might be evidence enough to suggest he’s not a man obsessed with presenting a good-guy image.
– It’s not been a good trip for Brian McCann. He went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a homer and two RBIs on Sunday at Milwaukee, but is 1-for-18 with one double and no walks in the other four games vs. the Brewers and Marlins.
— After going 10-3 while averaging 5.7 runs during July 7-22, the Braves are 2-4 with 26 runs in their past six games, and 19 of those runs came in the two wins in that stretch. They scored 1, 0, 3 and 3 runs in the four losses.
– Garret Anderson has hit .346 with seven homers, 24 RBI and a .934 OPS in his past 42 games, including .418 (23-for-55) with four homers and 10 RBI in his past 15 games.
— Since returning from the minors, Kelly Johnson is 5-for-6 with two doubles, a triple, a homer and two RBIs, with one walk and one strikeout.
OK, gotta get to the multi-purpose facility known as Land Shark. Here’s a great old tune that I was thinking about only because The Pogues do a great cover of it on the box set that I’ve been listening to in my rental car, a four-disc set filled with outtakes and unreleased Pogues gems (it’s f called Look Them Straight In The Eye and Say … Pogue Mahone.)
“MAGGIE MAY” by Rod Stewart & Martin Quittenton
Wake up Maggie I think I got something to say to you
It`s late September and I really should be back at school
I know I keep you amused but I feel I`m being used
Oh Maggie I couldn`t have tried any more
You lured me away from home just to save you from being alone
You stole my heart and that`s what really hurt
The morning sun when it`s in your face really shows your age
But that don`t worry me none in my eyes you`re everything
I laughed at all of your jokes my love you didn`t need to coax
Oh, Maggie I couldn`t have tried any more
You lured me away from home, just to save you from being alone
You stole my soul and that`s a pain I can do without
All I needed was a friend to lend a guiding hand
But you turned into a lover and
mother what a lover, you wore me out
All you did was wreck my bed
and in the morning kick me in the head
Oh Maggie I couldn`t have tried anymore
You lured me away from home `cause you didn`t want to be alone
You stole my heart I couldn`t leave you if I tried
I suppose I could collect my books and get on back to school
Or steal my daddy`s cue and make a living out of playing pool
Or find myself a rock and roll band that needs a helpin` hand
Oh Maggie I wish I`d never seen your face
You made a first-class fool out of me
But I`m as blind as a fool can be
You stole my heart but I love you anyway
Maggie I wish I`d never seen your face
I`ll get on back home one of these days