Archive for July, 2009

Is this really the Mets lineup?

 Welcome to Turner Field, where it’s unseasonably comfortable (temp in low 80s, low humidity) and news organizations from around the world have sent reporters to watch the surging Braves take on the worst lineup in baseball, that of the injury-depleted Mets, in a nationally televised game on Fox.
 Actually, news organizations haven’t sent reporters here for that specific purpose.
 But it is a cosmopolitan crowd in the pressbox, what with the usual Japanese contingent that covers Kenshin Kawakami’s starts, plus a nice reporter from Holland — she told me she actually lives in the Red Light District, “but there are no whorehouses on my street” — here to do a 12-page story on Jair Jurrjens and the future of baseball in her country. (By the way, Jurrjens is scheduled to face Tim Lincecum next Wednesday at Turner Field.)

Kawakami faces Santana today

Kawakami faces Santana today

Uh, yeah, about our lineup….

 She seemed pleasantly surprised at how honest and engaging Jair was in interviews. I told her he’s …

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All hail Mad Dog … first unanimous Hall pick?

  A guy who hosts a Toronto radio show, a Blue Jays broadcaster, asked me during an interview this morning if Greg Maddux might be unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
  And before I could give my usual instinctive response, which has always been something along the lines of — No, because there will always be at least one or more misguided writers who reason that since Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Ted Willliams weren’t unanimous picks, then no one should or will be — I stopped to think about it. And gave a different answer.

Maddux at today's luncheon

Maddux at today's luncheon

  That’s wrong, the reasoning of those voters who said that just because some voters left off those legendary players and a few others who should obviously have been unanimous selections, doesn’t mean that every future player who warrants such consideration — and there have been and will be very, very few — should be punished for previous voting mistakes.
  But anyway, getting back to the …

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Kicking off the second half, and Maddux ceremony awaits

 (Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)

 

   Afternoon, denizens, and welcome to the second half of your Braves baseball season. Well, not second half, exactly, but the next 74 games.

   We’re giving DOB a day to catch his breath from his trip to St. Louis, and Denver, and Chicago, and we’ll be bringing you Derek Lowe tonight vs. Oliver Perez and the Mets.

   And oh yeah, we have Jeff Francoeur taking right field for the visiting team. Bizarre.

   As if we weren’t disoriented enough after three days away from the Braves (and for some of us, more like almost two weeks, amazingly), we have this awaiting us a Turner Field.

   On a personal level, I can say I’m very sorry to see Jeff go. He’s one of the best people I’ve ever been around in a clubhouse. Upbeat, friendly, thoughtful, honest, and as nice a guy as you’ll ever see. He managed to seem normal, in light of all his fame and success, and that’s a credit to him.

   I …

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Lincecum, duckwalks, and an NL All-Star win….

 

Lince… er, Spiccoli

 St. Louis — Greetings from the All-Star Game and The Lou, where I’m trying to comprehend two things: 1. How could the celebrity softball game have been more entertaining than last night’s Home Run Derby (it was, easily); 2. How can Chuck Berry still be playing rock ‘n’ roll (he is, barely — more in a minute).
  I said the NL would win this thing last year, and they almost did. Should have, in fact.
 I’m gonna go out on a limb and guarantee the NL wins it this year. And not because they have El Hombre, hometown hero Albert Pujols, playing in his home ballpark with all that Sea of Red fandom pulling for him. (Everything you hear about St. Louis as a baseball town is true, by the way. The best fans. The most heightened interest and passion. Boston’s the one place that’s really comparable, and Boston has the Celtics, Patriots and Bruins, so it’s different).
  Anyway, no, the real reason the NL will win tonight is pitching, beginning with Tim …

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They didn’t have to trade him, but….

 DENVER – So a couple of people e-mailed to ask me, did the Braves have to trade Jeff Francoeur? Well, no. They didn’t have to trade him. No one held a gun to Frank Wren’s head and demanded he make the move.
  But let me put it another way: Why wouldn’t they trade him, given the circumstances?
  Why wouldn’t they, if they could swap him for Ryan Church, a player who’ll give you quality at-bats and an on-base percentage at least 50 points higher than Francoeur’s, and has provided reason to believe he can give you plenty more — why wouldn’t they do it?
  Because Francoeur is a nice guy who was a terrific two-sport athlete in the Atlanta ‘burbs? Or, because he has a strong arm and landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated four years ago and had a couple of 100-RBI seasons in 2006 and 2007?

Where it all began....

Where it all began….

  Because really, outside of that, I’m  having a tough time coming up with reasons not to trade him. If this were a year ago, it’d be different. The backlash …

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Gonzo three in a row, oh-no

 DENVER – Don’t know what we’ll see tonight from Lowe, whose recent struggles were chronicled in yesterday’s blog (along with his recent woes at Coors Field).
 But I would be willing to bet we will not see Mike Gonzalez in tonight’s game.
  Not because he blew the game last night in the two-run eighth inning, but because he pitched for the third time in as many days.

Will bad back keep him out?

Will bad back keep him out?

  And even for a Braves reliever, pitching in four consecutive games would be highly unusual.
Perhaps having Gonzalez pitch on three straight days might not be such a good idea, either, at least for the time being. Because here’s the thing: Gonzalez has been lit up twice in his past six appearances, and I doubt it’s a coincidence that both times it was when he pitched for the third consecutive day.
  On July 4 at Washington, he gave up three runs, one hit and two walks in one-third of an inning, after pitching a hitless inning with one walk on July 2 vs. Philly and a perfect …

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Skidding Lowe at Coors (cover eyes?)

 

  Denver – You may have noticed, Derek Lowe’s had a fairly serious problem lately. The man’s ability to pitch at a high level suddenly deserted him. And it’d be one thing if this were just a couple of starts, but it’s been almost a month now.
   On Friday, Lowe will be pitching in a place where you really don’t want to be on the mound without something resembling your “A” game. Coors Field. Where ERAs go to die. Or rather, to balloon. Rookie Tommy Hanson gets the ball for tonight’s series opener, and he, as you probably know, ain’t skidding.
  Ball humidor or not, it’s still a place that decidedly favors hitters, who can hit balls to all the wide-open space in the outfield and run all day for extra-base hits.
  So anyway, Lowe’s got a problem, which means so do the Braves. Let’s face it, whatever hope they have of making a push for a postseason berth is tied directly to their starting pitching, and they need Lowe to be the pitcher he for the first two months of the …

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Will Braves take series at Wrigley?

 Chicago – On an cool, rainy day in the city where Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy and so many others made their bones, the Braves will try to shake their road blues today and finally get a series win away from home.

Kawakami faces Cubs in today's finale

Kawakami faces Cubs today

 OK, that was a reach. But we’re trying to crank out this blog quickly before the first pitch. Just got back from the clubhouse, and for those who didn’t see the lineup we posted earlier, Chipper Jones is not in it, but Brian McCann is.
 Chipper (sore groin) is out for the second consecutive game, as expected, since he felt a twinge while coming out of the batter’s box on a single in the series opener. He says he’s doing better and will try to play tomorrow.
  If I were him, I would probably try to play tomorrow’s series opener at Colorado, too. Chipper’s got a .327 career average with 21 doubles, 12 homers and 53 RBI in 52 games at Coors Field, with a 1.021 OPS.
  That’s in stark contrast to his numbers here at Wrigley, …

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Just pretend it’s San Diego….

Lee's a serious Braves nemesis

  Chicago – The weather’s been so perfect here today that, I swear, Chicago this morning felt like most days in San Diego. That said, perhaps the Braves should pretend they’re playing the Padres, a team the Braves have beaten 17 times in 22 games the past three seasons.
  Hey, they’ve got to do something; can’t wait for a trade to spark them, since a deal might not happen.
  If the Braves don’t win tonight in the second game of this series at Wrigley Field, they’ll have lost five consecutive road series and could fall to a half-dozen games behind the Phillies, who seemed to have recovered quite well from the trauma of being swept by the Braves last week in Atlanta.

What do you think about Braves’ chances of reaching postseason?

  • The sweep of Philly convinced me they’ve got a good chance.
  • The series loss at Washington reminded me they are still quite flawed.
  • If they get another big bat, they’ll probably make it.
  • Possible, …

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Braves at (un)Friendly Confines

 

  Chicago – We’re back on the case here in Chicago, where the weather’s beautiful (mid-70s, sunny, dry) and the Braves had best play with a sense of urgency. Because the Cubs are.
  The Braves obviously need to get back on track after their lost weekend in D.C., if they hope to go to the All-Star break with a positive outlook and the NL Least frontrunners a few games ahead of them instead of a half-dozen games.
  The tenuous nature of these Braves’ claim to being a contender was apparent in Washington, where the Nationals beat them Saturday and Sunday when the pitching the Braves rely on so heavily had a few bad innings at the worst times.

Wrigley's where Escobar debuted in '07

Wrigley's where Escobar debuted in '07

  Now the Braves go from playing the worst team in the NL, a Nationals team already out of playoff contention, to playing a Cubs team squarely in the NL Central race and excited about getting back third baseman Aramis Ramirez.
  He’s been out since May 8, and the Cubs managed to stay just …

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