(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
So if a tree falls in the woods…..and the Braves keep winning….well, heck, if you’re reading this blog, you still care.
So that’s a good thing. Even if it’s bizarre that the Mets and Phillies are coming to town this week and there’s just no way to bill it as some “huge series.”
I have to say, some of the more interesting things going on at the ballpark this homestand are off the field: Dan Akroyd singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on Friday night, Matt Kuchar’s autograph session Friday, the minor league players and pitchers of the year being honored Friday, and Melanie Oudin throwing out the first pitch on Saturday night.
Oh wait, what about the purists? Well, judging from the way things have gone of late, there’s still some darn good starting pitching to be seen from the Braves. And maybe, at least, the Braves can make some teams ahead of them in the standings a little nervous, anyway. (Realistically, at 7 ½ games behind the Phillies in the East and six games behind the Rockies in the wild card with 19 games to play, there’s not much more to do.)
Maybe the Braves had best pretend this is like a Mets series of yore, like say ‘99, since we all know this team tends to play better against contenders, than say, Reds.
And hey, second-to-last homestand of the year. Better get out there while there’s still a chance. Odds are good, you’ll see a well-pitched game, starting tonight with Tommy Hanson.
Braves starters went 4-0 with a 2.32 ERA in six games on this recent trip to Houston and St. Louis. That includes Jair Jurrjens’ eight-inning masterpiece in a 1-0 win, Hanson’s eight-inning masterpiece in what should have been a 1-0 win, and Javier Vazquez kicking tail and taking names with seven shutout innings in Minute Maid to open the trip with a win and then close it with a complete-game effort at Busch Stadium.
That’d be Vazquez, Mr. National League player of the week.
Bobby Cox has insinuated he might give Hanson a rest, maybe the next time through the order, so tonight would be a good time to take in a game if you want to see him.
And we must mention, Jeff Francoeur will be back in the house tonight. And he’s swinging a hot bat, with three-hit games in three of his past four starts. His batting average is up to .275. Mind you, Chipper Jones’ is down to .269. Wouldn’t have seen that coming.
The Braves just released a tentative 2010 schedule. Braves actually open the season at home on April 5 with the first of a three-game set against the Cubbies. Then they hit the road for a west coast trip, playing three games in San Francisco starting on April 9. Interleague play is mostly against the AL Central, with home series against the Royals (June 18-20) and Tigers (June 25-27) and road trips to play the Twins (June 11-13) and White Sox (June 22-24). The other matchup is the Tampa Bay Rays who come to Turner Field June 15-17. The Braves close 2010 with a three-game series at home against the Phillies (Oct. 1-3). I’ll see if our guys can get the full schedule up online at some point.
Re-visiting the old maple bat issue
It’s been a while since we’ve talking about that, hasn’t it? It dawned on me recently that, at least anecdotally, it seems we haven’t seen as many broken bats this year, or flying shards of maple heading into the stands or at a third baseman’s eye or something.
I had Jimmie Lee Solomon on the phone yesterday for another story I’m working on. He’s the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations for Major League Baseball and he works closely with baseball’s new Safety and Healthy Advisory Committee. I asked him about maple bats, given the committee’s charge to study it and decide if change is needed.
He said they’re still studying the bats, doing analysis, taking data, but yes they see the numbers down this year too, and he thinks it’s because maple bat companies are making an effort to put out higher quality bats.
“Bat breakage is down,” Solomon said. “I think we’re getting better quality wood, manufacturers are focusing on their drying techniques and making sure they stay uniform. I think the grain issue, making sure there’s uniform grain so you don’t get the inferior pieces of wood, and that has caused the number to drop. We want it not to be an issue at all. We’re still studying it.”
Of course it’s in the maple bat companies’ best interests to see this issue resolved. Maybe this will be one of those deals where capitalism kind of solves its own problem? Well, I guess capitalism isn’t the right word, if we’re talking products in danger of being outlawed, but you know what I mean.
“”They’ve been great working with us on this,” Solomon said of the maple bat producers. “They’ve addressed every issue and concern that we’ve had, and they have been vigilant in making sure we get the best quality wood so we don’t have this issue because it’s become a safety issue.”
And finally, this extremely important nugget: Gotta love what I just heard Clint Sammons admit to on a “Know Your Braves” video. He watches Project Runway! Me too!
I’m doubting he was quite as concerned as me that the great-looking Logan didn’t get eliminated last week, but hey, he probably enjoys watching Heidi Klum, and anyway, I love that he can admit to enjoying the show.
More from the ballpark in a while.