There’s a lot on the line for Braves CF McLouth

Even if Nate McLouth weren’t owed $7.75 million in the final year of his contract, if the amount were significantly less, he would go to spring training with a good chance to be the Braves’ opening-day center fielder.

So says Braves GM Frank Wren, who doesn’t seem nearly as concerned about the team’s projected center fielder as many Braves fans are.

The Braves don't want to put pressure on Nate McLouth by saying they're counting heavily on him. But we know they are, right?

The Braves don't want to put added pressure on McLouth by saying they're counting heavily on him. But...

Team decision-makers believe McLouth can bounce back from a concussed, career-worst 2010 season, when he hit an anemic .190 with 12 doubles, six homers, a .298 on-base percentage and a .620 OPS in 85 games (242 at-bats).

“We think he can do it,” Wren said. “I think we saw enough in September, and we’ve seen enough in his career. He’s a good player. I believe, and I think most people around here believe, that what we saw for that first year he was with us was an aberration. That’s not Nate McLouth. I mean, he’s too good a player, there’s too many teams that would love to have him. And he brings some things to the table that we don’t have.

“I feel real good about where he is now, both physically and mentally, to get the job done this year.”

So does McLouth, 29.

He’s gone from being a 2008 All-Star and Gold Glove winner with Pittsburgh – he had a league-high 46 doubles, 26 homers and 94 RBIs that year – to being a bust so far since a June 2009 trade to Atlanta. But the ever-optimistic Michigan native says he’s ready to get his career back on track.

“Last year when I went through such a tough year, your confidence does take a hit,” McLouth said this week by phone from his home in Grand Rapids, Mich. “But I’ve done it. I’ve gotten my strength back and my swing feels good this offseason. I’m as confident as ever.

“I’m not going to pretend like last year didn’t happen, but I think I can take positives form it, and hopefully when struggles come along, that can help me get through it.”

McLouth missed six weeks with a concussion from a June 9 outfield collision with right fielder Jason Heyward. But even before the collision and DL stint, he was batting only .176 with three homers, 14 RBIs and a .577 OPS in 57 games.

Still, Wren says it’s not the money that McLouth is guaranteed — $6.5 million salary in 2011, and a $10.65 million option for 2012 with a $1.25 million buyout – that stopped the Braves from acquiring another starting center fielder.

“No. The money never was in the equation,” Wren said this week. “The talent is what makes those decisions and drives those decisions. And Nate has talent.”

McLouth is probably tired of seeing this photo, but it does seem fitting for his performance in an injury-plagued 2010 season.

McLouth is probably tired of seeing this photo, but he had that kind of season.

After struggling for a week in his return from the DL in late July, McLouth was sent back to Triple-A to try to rebuild his confidence and his swing. He impressed teammates and Braves officials by how he responded to that demotion.

(Say this for the guy: teammates in Pittsburgh and Atlanta have always described him as a terrific teammate, a team-first guy.)

McLouth said the time he spent at Triple-A was productive.

“It absolutely was,” he said. “It couldn’t have been handled by the organization, by Bobby [Cox] and Frank, in a better way. I appreciated how they handled it. I tried to handle it as professionally and as well as I could, and to use my time in the minors as a positive, not be upset and bitter about it.”

After five weeks at Triple-A, McLouth was recalled Aug. 31, and in his fourth game back he began a 10-game tear that saw him go 11-for-30 (.367) with three doubles, a triple, three homers and 10 RBIs, and have two other would-be homers taken away by catches above the center-field fence, once with bases loaded.

“When he plays like he’s capable – and we saw it in September – he has an impact on the game,” Wren said. “He can drive a ball out of the park, he can run, he can do a lot of things on the field to help you win.”

The Pirates thought so when they signed him to a three-year, $15.75 million on Feb. 17, 2009, buying out his first three years of arbitration eligibility. They traded him four months later in what the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called a “stunning move.” McLouth had been one of the most popular Pirates in years, both in the community and in the clubhouse.

“I know how it’s going to be received back home,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told the Post-Gazette after the deal was announced. “Believe me, it was the most difficult move I’ve made, but we believe it was the right baseball move, and we believe it firmly.”

The Braves gave up three prospects in that trade, pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke and center-field prospect Gorkys Hernandez. Locke still hasn’t pitched above the Double-A level; Hernandez hit .266 with 11 doubles, two homers and a .668 OPS in Double-A last season, and Morton is 7-21 with a 5.91 ERA in 35 major-league starts for the Pirates.

So it’s not as if anyone the Braves gave up is threatening to haunt them for the next decade.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the Braves haven’t gotten anything close to what they expected from McLouth when they got him in June 2009 to replace their skidding, injured opening-day center fielder Jordan Schafer.

The Pirates immediately replaced McLouth with their top prospect, multi-talented Andrew McCutchen. That’s worked out well for them, to say the least.

In two seasons, McCutchen has hit .286 with 103 extra-base hits (14 triples, 28 homers) in 262 games, with 168 runs, 110 RBIs, 55 stolen bases in 70 attempts, and a .365 on-base percentage and .459 slugging percentage (.824 OPS). In 2010, he had 35 doubles, 16 homers and 33 steals in his first full season.

McLouth was one of the most popular and productive Pirates before the 2008 All-Star was traded to the Braves in June 2009.

McLouth was one of the most popular and productive Pirates before the 2008 All-Star was traded to the Braves in June 2009.

Pirates center fielders led the NL in average (.286) and OBP (.359) in 2010, and were fourth in slugging (.450). Braves center fielders? Well, they  were last in the NL in average (.232), 14th in slugging (.339), eighth in OBP (.329).

Ouch.

The Braves have paid about $9 million to McLouth already, and in 169 games for the Braves he’s hit .229 (133-for-581) with 32 doubles, 17 homers, 60 RBIs and 89 runs, with a .330 OBP and .379 slugging percentage (.709 OPS).

That’s quite a contrast from his last season-and-a-half with the Pirates, when McLouth hit .269 (205-for-761) with 52 doubles, 34 homers, 137 runs and 123 RBIs, with a .352 OBP and .482 slugging percentage (.834 OPS).

And get this: In his last 169 games for the Pirates, McLouth was successful in 28 of 28 stolen-base attempts. In 169 games for the Braves, he’s been caught eight times in 27 attempts.

Nor has his defense been up to its Pittsburgh levels. In fact, it’s been mediocre or worse at times with the Braves. His throws — or lack thereof — have been particularly baffling. McLouth doesn’t have a particularly strong arm, but too many times he’s opted not to throw at all when it appeared there might be a chance to throw out a runner.

After his encouraging 10-game surge in September, McLouth went 4-for-24 in his last 10 regular-season games, with seven strikeouts, no extra-base hits and no RBIs. He went 1-for-2 with a single in his only postseason plate appearances.

“Even at the end when I tailed off a little bit, I felt like I was hitting the ball hard,” he said. “The whole time I was back [from Triple-A] I felt like I played well.”

That said, McLouth realized he had a lot of work to do after he got home to Michigan and began his offseason workouts.

“One thing I really noticed — it kind of took me till end of year to notice – that in the time I missed due to the concussion I really lost a ton of strength. Because I couldn’t do anything after that concussion, as far as my normal weight workout. And when I got back from the DL I didn’t want to lift and go through that initial soreness you get when you come back from a layoff. I didn’t want to go through that soreness during the season, so I held off on the weights.

“When I got back in the gym after the season, I noticed how much explosiveness and core strength I had lost. That’s one thing that’s been encouraging this winter. It took a while to come back, but I’ve gotten most of my strength back. I feel good.”

He laughed and said, “I will not use the phrase, ‘I’m in the best shape of my life.’ I promise I won’t use that, because everybody uses that.”

But the implication was that he’s in his best shape, or at least getting there. And that’s important for the Braves and for McLouth, who realizes that, for all intents and purposes, the 2011 season is a like a free-agent walk year.

Barring some unexpected turn of events, the Braves will pay the $1.25 million buyout rather than pick up the $10.65 million option for 2012.

For this season, at least, they’re counting on him. If he struggles, next in line is Schafer, who finally seems healthy after missing much of the past two seasons recovering from surgery to repair a fractured bone near his wrist.

If they have to, the Braves could make another emergency trade like the one that brought McLouth, or could pursue another center fielder between now and opening day. But for now, the job is McLouth’s to lose.

He agreed about it being like a free-agent walk year, and called it exciting.

“I haven’t thought about it much, but it’s reality,” he said. “It’s an important year…. I’m back in the right frame of mind, confident and just ready to have a good season and get back to the playoffs.”

Former Cubs and Phillies manager Lee Elia, famous for his tirade about drunken Cubs fans, will serve as a special assistant to Wren. Elia will work as an instructor in the majors and minors, and will likely work plenty with McLouth.

Former Cubs and Phillies manager Lee Elia, perhaps most famous for his postgame tirade about drunken Cubs fans, will serve as a special assistant to Wren. Elia will work as an instructor in the majors and minors, and will likely work plenty with McLouth.

McLouth traveled to Atlanta a week before Christmas to meet Larry Parrish and work with the Braves’ new hitting coach. The Braves also plan to have McLouth work a lot with Lee Elia, the former major league manager hired this winter as a Braves special assistant to the GM.

“I haven’t had a chance to meet with [Elia]. But I came to Atlanta in December and worked with Larry, got to work with him and just chat. I liked that, he’s an old-school guy who likes to work. I came down to meet him, talk a little bit. That was the first time I hit this winter.

“I’ve actually cut back a little bit on my hitting this winter, as far as volume. Because I’m going down to Florida on February 1st, and I’ll wait till then to really crank it up. You get more swings in spring training than you can handle, so I’m just hitting two or three times a week right now.”

Elia will serve as an instructor in the majors and minors, focusing on hitting.

“The whole thought in adding guys like Larry and Lee to the staff is, hitting is hard,” Wren said. “It’s one of the hardest things in all of sports to do. And having veteran guys that have seen everything and been around good hitters and helped make good hitters better hitters, can only help us organizationally.”

♣The up-and-comers: In case you missed it, I mentioned in the comments section of the blog yesterday what an impressive group of young prospects the Braves have assembled for their inaugural five-day rookie development camp at Turner Field. I went down to check out a few of the players drafted last June, particularly the batch of college players that could reach the majors sooner than the younger players the Braves traditionally draft or sign as international free agents.

Wren said the Braves recognized a year ago that they had a lot of top young talent in the low minors and elite prospects in the high minors such as Jason Heyward, Mike Minor, Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters and Freddie Freeman.

But in the middle of the organization, they were light on prospects. So they targeted a lot of college players in the draft, guys who are 19, 20, 21 years old and could get to the majors in a year or two.

“That’s why we went out and got the Cunninghams [outfielder Todd Cunningham, second-round pick from Jacksonville State] and the Gosselins [second baseman Phil Gosselin, second-round pick from Virginia] and the Leonards [third baseman Joe Leonard, third-round pick from Pitt], and guys like that, who could jump into the middle.

“And now we’re back to where we have a good, consistent flow of talent again [throughout the organization]. But that was the strategy last year, to do that. Strategically we were trying to fill the middle gap, and it worked out.”

A couple of dozen players or more have filled the clubhouse each morning this week, and it’s odd seeing all these fresh-faced kids using the Braves’ lockers, lounging on the couches, hanging out between workouts and meetings, just cutting up and watching the overhead big-screen TVs.

The first thing I noticed was how comfortable they all seemed with each other and with team employees and media members. It was a great idea to do this thing, to give these guys a chance to experience some of this environment at the same time as so many of their peers, rather than as an isolated rookie called up from the minors and thrust into the major-league atmosphere in the midst of a regular season.

That's Lipka going up to make a catch as a high-school receiver in Texas, where he made the Dallas Morning News' 24-man all-area prospects team in football.

That's Lipka going up to make a catch as a high-school receiver in Texas, where he made the Dallas Morning News' 24-man all-area prospects team in football.

A lot of these guys are shy about being interviewed when they’re called up to the majors during the season, which, if you think about it, seems a natural reaction given that they are surrounded by veteran players in that situation. Many young guys are worried about saying the wrong thing in that atmosphere, or just being at the center of so much attention when others have been on the major league team since opening day, many of them slogging away without getting much attention.

Another thing I noticed: Julio Teheran’s not skinny like he was a couple years ago. The Braves’ uber-prospect pitcher, who’ll be 20 on Jan. 27, is wiry strong these days, and I can see where Wren is coming from when Wren says he reminds him physically of a young Pedro Martinez. (Although I don’t remember Pedro having biceps as big as Teheran’s.)

Shortstop prospect Edward Salcedo and Teheran are two of the youngest guys in the room, but both are confident guys, not shy about interviews at all. Both have swagger, particularly Salcedo, who’s still only 18 but acts like he was born to do this. Which, of course, he was.

You’ve gotta love the guy’s firm shake, and how he looks you in the eye when he’s answering a question, and that smile. He just always looks like he’s enjoying himself. Which is even more noteworthy considering he hit just .225 with three homers and a .307 OBP in 304 plate appearances in his first season of pro ball in 2010, including .197 with a .239 OBP in 209 PAs (54 games) for low-A Rome after being brought over from the Dominican Summer League.

That performance kept him out of Baseball America’s Braves Top-10 prospects list, but it did nothing to diminish the expectations of team officials. The rangy Dominican bonus baby is projected as a future major league standout, either at shortstop or third base.

“He’s young, and it was his first time competing at this level,” Wren said. “You can’t play on an emotional high every day. You’ve got to just play the game. He would have days where he played brilliantly, and then he would have days where he wasn’t as good. That’s the norm for an 18-year-old kid.

“He gets it. You don’t have to talk to him very long to understand that he’s pretty advanced. He knows what he wants to do. He knows exactly where he wants to go, what he wants to do. That’s pretty good.”

The Braves have a bit of a glut of shortstops in their minor league system, and Mycal Jones, who hit .262 with 31 doubles, 15 homers, a .327 OBP and 22 stolen bases last season at three levels in the minors, mostly high-A Myrtle Beach.

Wren said Jones would play a lot of center field this season at Double-A.

“We’re going to start transitioning him,” Wren said. “He’s played some second base in the instructional league. I think the next phase is to look at him some in center field, because he’s a really good athlete, he has explosive speed, and he’s always hit.”

Salcedo (left) has the best raw talent among several shortstop prospects in the Braves organization.

Salcedo (left) has the best raw talent among several shortstop prospects in the Braves organization.

The Braves aren’t moving a few other shortstop prospects to new positions, at least not for the time being. First-round draft pick Matt Lipka could eventually move to the outfield.

“Matt’s a great athlete,” Wren said of the former Texas high school All-State wide receiver. “We don’t predetermine those things coming out of rookie ball, where they’re going to play five years from now when they get to the big leagues. For now, we like his skills at short and we want to keep watching him play there.”

The Braves are also high Tyler Pastornicky, 21, the shortstop prospect they got from Toronto along with veteran shortstop Alex Gonzalez in the trade that sent shortstop Yunel Escobar north of the border.

Pastornicky hit .257 with a .343 OBP, eight homers, 50 RBIs and 35 steals in 115 games last season in high-A and Double-A, and also played some second base.

The Braves drafted shortstop Andrelton Simmons in the second round out of an Oklahoma junior college, and Baseball America rated him the best defensive shortstop in the entire draft. He also had a 97-98 mph fastball as a juco pitcher, which would be an option if he doesn’t make it as a position player.

“We’ve got a lot of good young shortstops,” Wren said. “That’s a good problem to have.”

♣ Cordier has elbow ’scoped: Right-hander Erik Cordier will be at least a few weeks behind other Braves pitchers at spring training after having arthroscopic elbow surgery on Wednesday.

Dr. James Andrews removed a floating particle that Wren said was possible calcified scar tissue that had broken away, a remnant of “Tommy John” elbow surgery that Cordier had three years ago.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound rookie had at least an outside shot at one of the final two spot in the Braves’ bullpen, after going 12-8 with a 3.82 ERA in 2010, including 25 games (23 starts) at Double-A Mississippi and two Triple-A starts. He allowed only 123 hits and three homers in 143-2/3 innings, with 117 strikeouts and 76 walks.

Wren said Cordier, 25, wouldn’t be too far behind other pitchers.

“Dr. Andrews found a little piece, either scar tissue or a small floater in the joint, and they just felt it was best to go in there and arthroscopically pluck it out,” Wren said. “He should be ready to start throwing when we get to spring training. So he’ll probably be a little behind. But it should eliminate having any further discomfort.”

♣ Wren on Chipper: The Braves GM insists he wasn’t worried about Chipper Jones‘ recovery from August knee surgery, even before January when he saw the veteran third baseman go through his first hitting sessions since his ACL surgery.

“I’ve seen Chipper hit three times, I think.” Wren said. “He looks great. That was always my expectation, that he was going to be fine. From the time I watched him get introduced in the playoffs, when he jumped up out of the dugout and ran out on the field, I thought he was doing well and would do well.”

When pressed, Wren did allow that he felt even better after seeing Jones hit.

Only about three weeks to go, folks....

Only about three weeks to go, folks....

“When I saw him him hit for the first time two weeks ago and really drive the ball, that was great,” Wren said. “That was great to see.”

Braves Caravan: Here’s the rundown from press release about the metro Atlanta area  stops on Braves Caravan:

(Participant schedules are subject to change & additional participants will be announced for some dates)

Thursday, January 27

Scheduled to participate: Brian McCann, Jonny Venters, David Ross, and Nate McLouth; and coach Eddie Perez

10:00 – 11:30 a.m. Meet and Greet with patients and staff at the Shepherd Center

4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Autograph Signing – Peachtree City, Publix Super Market at Wilshire Pavilion, 1200 Highway 74 South

Friday, January 28

Scheduled to participate: Brian McCann, David Ross, Brandon Beachy; pitching coach Roger McDowell, and GM Frank Wren

10:00 – 11:30 a.m. Meet and Greet with students and teachers at Creekland Middle School in Canton

4:00 – 5:30 p.m. Autograph signing at Academy Sports + Outdoors in Athens, 3505 Atlanta Highway (at Timothy Rd.)

Monday, January 31

Scheduled to participate: Chipper Jones, Peter Moylan, and Jordan Schafer; manager Fredi Gonzalez, GM Frank Wren, and Braves president John Schuerholz

10:00 – 11:00 a.m. Meet and Greet with baseball and softball teams from several Atlanta Public High Schools at The New Schools at Carver, 55 McDonough Blvd, Atlanta

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Surprise lunch stop at local restaurant

1:00 – 3:00 p.m. Surprise visit with customers and employees at a local business

Wednesday, February 2

Scheduled to participate: Jason Heyward, Mike Minor, Stephen Marek, and Scott Proctor; manager Fredi Gonzalez, and Braves president John Schuerholz

4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Autograph Signing – Roswell, Publix Super Market at 4401 Shallowford Road

Friday, February 4

Scheduled to participate: Martin Prado, George Sherrill, Craig Kimbrel, and Eric O’Flaherty, and bench coach Carlos Tosca

2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Meet and Greet with patients and staff at Piedmont Hospital

4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Autograph Signing – Lawrenceville, Publix Super Market at Old Peachtree, 2380 Buford Drive (Hwy 20)

♣ Etc. Three Braves spring training games will be shown on ESPN:  vs. Tigers on March 3, vs. Boston March 16, and vs. Philly on March 25. The Braves, Yankees and Red Sox are tied for the most scheduled appearances among ESPN’s 10 spring games. (Yes, it probably helps when a team plays its home Grapefruit League games at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.)

OK, that’s it for baseball news.  Stop here if you dislike reading about music and non-baseball matters….

I”m officially digging the upcoming Drive-By Truckers album Go-Go Boots, set for release Feb. 15. A friend had a hookup, and I’ve been listening to it a lot lately. It grows on you after an initial surprise at the direction the band has gone on this one. It’s got a lot more country and R&B flavor than their usual wall-of-squal guitar sound, and they do it well. (After all, they are based in soulful Muscle Shoals,  in addition to Athens.) Steel guitar, retro organ … We like. A lot.

And speaking of likes, if you haven’t seen Fred Eaglesmith live and ever get a chance to, you must. He’s a brilliant singer-songwriter and also one helluva pure entertainer, great stage banter and funny stories between his songs. And with the Fabulous Ginn Sisters as his opening act, then doubling as his band and backup singers, it was a memorable show Wednesday at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur. Quite a lineup coming at Eddie’s, by the way, with two of my favorites coming soon –  Alejandro Escovedo Jan. 30-31 and James McMurtry in March.

Let’s close with one of Fred’s gems, “49 Tons,” and here’s a video of him doing it live.

fred-what the

“49 TONS” by Fred Eaglesmith

There were seventeen cars out in my back yard,
The boys in blue are calling my name,
Semi-automatic up on the rooftop,
They just to want to talk to me,
I told them what they wanted to hear,
The only thing that I knew:
Forty-nine tons of diesel locomotive
Couldn’t drag me back to you.

Everywhere you look, there’s a train wreck, baby,
Everywhere you look, there’s a runaway train,
Play my heart like a bottleneck, baby,
Running up and down and pulling it’s strings.
Everywhere you go, everybody knows,
You’re looking for someone to do.
Forty-nine tons of diesel locomotive
Couldn’t drag me back to you.

If I was a switchman, if I was a brakeman,
If I was an engineer,
I’d point that train on down the track
And clear on out of here.
If I was the man swinging the lantern,
I’d swing it ’til it was blue.
Forty-nine tons of diesel locomotive
Couldn’t drag me back to you.

Forty-nine tons of diesel locomotive
Couldn’t drag me back to you.
Forty-nine tons of diesel locomotive
Couldn’t drag me back to you.
Forty-nine tons of diesel locomotive
Couldn’t drag me back to you.
Forty-nine tons of diesel locomotive
Couldn’t drag me back to you.

By David O’Brien, Braves blog

3,390 comments Add your comment

fleming

January 20th, 2011
3:51 pm

McFann O O

January 20th, 2011
3:53 pm

Thanks for the new Blog, Chief!

Turtsnap

January 20th, 2011
4:00 pm

Wow, tons of info in this blog. Fantastic!!! Man I can’t wait to head to the Ted!

Pierson Brave

January 20th, 2011
4:09 pm

Whew, great post O’great1. Lots to digest.

Trey

January 20th, 2011
4:11 pm

Good article, DOB. I am kind of scared about McLouth next season, but I think he is worth giving another chance. I don’t believe he can be any worse than last season. I could be wrong, but I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and just hope he finds his groove this upcoming season.

2 hot scott

January 20th, 2011
4:15 pm

DOB, 4 questions.

1. Has Wags filed his retirement papers yet or shall we read between the lines?

2. Has KK been told not to come to Orlando when the pitchers report?

3. Do you feel the team is set barring injury or injury setback?

4. Lastly, did you talk to Larry about my suggestions on correcting his swing?

Shake Tiller

January 20th, 2011
4:16 pm

Heck of a blog. With the good Nate this the could be really good.

TennesseePaul

January 20th, 2011
4:16 pm

Thanks for the work DOB

rr

January 20th, 2011
4:16 pm

Is Posendick not an option at all?

David O'Brien

January 20th, 2011
4:17 pm

1. Has Wags filed his retirement papers yet or shall we read between the lines?

2. Has KK been told not to come to Orlando when the pitchers report?

3. Do you feel the team is set barring injury or injury setback?

4. Lastly, did you talk to Larry about my suggestions on correcting his swing? — 2 hot scott

1. Yes
2. No
3. Probably
4. No

Snotboogie

January 20th, 2011
4:18 pm

Good stuff, DOB.

bruce

January 20th, 2011
4:19 pm

Thanks for the Nate update!! Dave
I am really hoping the best for Nate and Jordan…it will be a great improvment for them to be productive lead-off hitters this season. It will also be nice to see Freddie make the case for batting something other than 8th or 7th… real nice line-up “problems” to have. Gonna be fun.

McFann O O

January 20th, 2011
4:20 pm

Hi, bruce! How’ve you been?

MZ

January 20th, 2011
4:22 pm

DOB —–
You see the Jazz Fest lineup yet? Holy crap!!! Ain’t nothin keepin me from the Big Easy that weekend!!

b

January 20th, 2011
4:22 pm

And Dave, still not a word about Nate the carnival act’s throwing arm.
Why in the h— will someone not bring up Nate’s defense?
His poor year wasn’t only about offense.
I mean he practically became a psycho at times in the ouutfield.

Trey

January 20th, 2011
4:23 pm

I can’t wait to see how Robert will react next season when he has to bash someone else other than Cox.

ColoradoBravesFan

January 20th, 2011
4:24 pm

It’s really cold here in Colorado and I can’t wait for P&Cs to report. Man, if Nate can rebound it will go a long way in making our offense better an making our line-up deeper. I still am worried about the bullpen, losing Wagner and Saito will be hard to replace.

GO BRAVES

Josh

January 20th, 2011
4:24 pm

DOB, what would your lineup be for this season?

foultip

January 20th, 2011
4:25 pm

Oh, how many players have had their best year when it’s contract time.
Have that fantastic year, then sign a multi year big money contract and hit the tank again. The contracts are our form our winning the lotto. I always thought it would be a good idea to have a team full of players playing in the last year of their contract. Production would be outstanding and the possiblities of winning the World Series excellent.

bruce

January 20th, 2011
4:25 pm

or even more pertinent… will Nate get 13 back? Maybe he just was not cut out to be 24… even though is he a fan of that show.

Wyoming

January 20th, 2011
4:26 pm

Good stuff. Nice work.

fleming

January 20th, 2011
4:28 pm

Josh

Too early in the new Blog to do lineup discussions. Wait a couple days.

Nova Scotia Steve

January 20th, 2011
4:28 pm

Nice read. Great update on McLouth DOB. He sounds confident and that’s a positive – one of the first big steps in baseball is to head to the plate with confidence.

If you don’t believe in yourself who will.

ChillyMutt

January 20th, 2011
4:28 pm

Oh in that collision with right fielder Jason Heyward, McLouth made no attempt to call off the right fielder. I don’t know how he ever won a Gold Glove. I’ve seen just miss and easy soft liner in the gap and take bad angles on balls multiple times. If all these other teams want him, I say let them have him.

the real Old Gold

January 20th, 2011
4:29 pm

Too much information at once. Overload.

Lew

January 20th, 2011
4:29 pm

I’ve pretty uch said all I need to about Nate. I truly hope he has a huge bounce back season.

Good to hear about Teheran and Salcedo’s confidence. I always liked Teheran ever since he was signed and I’m sure that he will be fine and hope Salcedo’s development continues in a more positive manor this year.

Sounds like Wren and the scouting department drafted some real athletes with the potential to diversify defensively. That’s always a good thing. Looks like Lipka can take a hit.

braves4ever

January 20th, 2011
4:29 pm

DOB, good stuff thanks

DAP

January 20th, 2011
4:30 pm

how many cunninghams, gosselins, and leonards did we draft?

bruce

January 20th, 2011
4:30 pm

Hey McFann — I’m doing pretty well… thanks for asking…. not working for Cuccinelli anymore, he has all the resources he needs as AG. Have a snow blower now after the depths of last winter, and will be perfectly happy to not use it… looking forward to opening day (and PCR for that matter).

Piedmont Blues

January 20th, 2011
4:33 pm

Thanks, DOB. Great to hear about all those shortstops!

DAP

January 20th, 2011
4:34 pm

I’ve pretty uch said all I need to about Nate.

you have some opinions on mclouth, lew? do tell. :- )

cheshire

January 20th, 2011
4:34 pm

Obviously all Braves fans hope McLouth comes back and has a great year, but I don’t really see where Wren’s optimism is coming from here.

40yrBravesFan

January 20th, 2011
4:36 pm

Thanks DOB. Good to hear about the youngsters. Spring CANNOT get here fast enough.

GO BRAVES!!

Trey

January 20th, 2011
4:40 pm

40yrBravesFan, yeah I am ready for the boys of summer to get back on the field where they belong. Speaking of Boys of Summer, does anyone know where I could find that old Braves “song/commercial”, Here come the boys of summer rollin on back in town, tomahawks will be choppin now, pitchers gonna shut ‘em down?

David O'Brien

January 20th, 2011
4:41 pm

Three Braves spring training games will be on ESPN: vs. Tigers on March 3, vs. Boston March 16, and vs. Philly on March 25

Chip's Caray

January 20th, 2011
4:41 pm

I personally ragged on Nate a lot last season for… well, sucking. But he does seem like a nice guy that deserves another chance to succeed again in 2011. I think he can do it.

Chip's Caray

January 20th, 2011
4:43 pm

I’m still wondering who’s going to be calling the Peachtree TV games this season. I figure Joe Simpson will be one of the announcers.

nolie

January 20th, 2011
4:44 pm

Yup. I’ve seen Polar bears, caribou, wolves, foxes, moose, seals – you name it basically. Problem is many communities actually is climate is warming and polar bears are beginning to roaming the street in search of food NSSteve

hah, shades of Northern Exposure, a great series IMO….well maybe not the last season

Hillbilly

January 20th, 2011
4:45 pm

He laughed and said, “I will not use the phrase, ‘I’m in the best shape of my life.’ I promise I won’t use that, because everybody uses that.”

He reads the blog comments. There’s no doubt about it.

McFann O O

January 20th, 2011
4:46 pm

bruce not working for Cuccinelli anymore, he has all the resources he needs as AG.

Oh, I’m sorry! Every time I’ve seen him on TV, I’ve thought of you.

Have a snow blower now after the depths of last winter, and will be perfectly happy to not use it…

Ha! Yeah…we had a big snow/ice storm (by our standards, anyway) last week. It’s weird to think that this time a week ago we were venturing outside for the first time since it all fell, and there was still ice and snow all over the place, and now today it’s in the 40’s…craziness…

looking forward to opening day (and PCR for that matter).

Me, TOO! 8O January always drags on forever. Just under 4 weeks, though, and catchers and pitchers will be reporting! Can’t wait…once they report it won’t be long till the games start up! Spring Training games are fun to follow, I think.

McFann O O

January 20th, 2011
4:47 pm

Three Braves spring training games will be on ESPN: vs. Tigers on March 3, vs. Boston March 16, and vs. Philly on March 25

YAY! Thanks, Chief!! :)

Eeerrrg…I’m gonna make it…I’m gonna make it…!

McFann O O

January 20th, 2011
4:49 pm

February 26th is the first game!!

Chris from the Rock

January 20th, 2011
4:49 pm

I’m smelling another Braves dynasty. The decade is ours, my friends!

K.C. Frenchy

January 20th, 2011
4:51 pm

26 homers & 94 rbi, WOW anything close to those numbers, what would that do for the Bravos chances??? Lets go Nate, we NEED you to come thru! Going to be a interesting year huh DOB?

David O'Brien

January 20th, 2011
4:51 pm

Braves games are on ESPN three times in spring training, tied with Yankees and Red Sox for most appearances. (Helps when you play home games at “ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.”)

Snotboogie

January 20th, 2011
4:52 pm

Obviously all Braves fans hope McLouth comes back and has a great year, but I don’t really see where Wren’s optimism is coming from here.

If it helps, you can go ahead and imagine him disheveled, bug-eyed and chewing out his fingernails.

MFin04

January 20th, 2011
4:53 pm

McLouth deserves another shot next year, but Frank Wren is out of his mind if he thinks this decision didn’t have a lot to do with money. It certainly had a lot more to do with money than McLouth’s supposed talent.

The guy was one of the worst CFs both offensively and defensively last year and he is going to make almost 8 million bucks this year.

And the reason they didn’t go out and get another CF is purely based on money. They couldn’t afford to go out and get another CF. Especially not when they were paying 8 million for McLouth to then sit the bench to be a very expensive pinch runner.

Snotboogie

January 20th, 2011
4:53 pm

He reads the blog comments. There’s no doubt about it.

Uh oh! That cant be good for his confidence, can it?

nolie

January 20th, 2011
4:56 pm

like watching someone order Filet Mignon in restaurant cooked well done, then smother it in Ketchup Snot

tell me about it. while in college I worked part time running a pool hall, an older student I was friends with was a pretty fine pool player. we would play straight pool to 150 for dinner. Every time we went no matter who paid that was exactly what he did, ordered a filet mignon well done and put ketchup on it. Since he usually won more often that I did at that time, I found it even more depressing to have to watch him do that. wasn’t bad enough that I had lost I had to pay for that mess too :roll: .

O-me

January 20th, 2011
4:56 pm

Play my heart like a bottleneck, baby.
Everyone knows your looking for some one to do!
49 tons…………Well said.

Lew

January 20th, 2011
4:58 pm

Trey – You’re assuming that the Cox bashing ever stopped.

Joey

January 20th, 2011
4:59 pm

Nate,

I watched you with the Pirates and know what you can do. A player just doesn’t lose the ability that you have.

You just put up your career averages, and the Braves will be in the thick of the pennant race this season.

Go Braves!

bschro3000

January 20th, 2011
5:01 pm

Damn thats a long post. Great job DOB.

Also – i second your reviews of the new DBT. It’s great. Very mellow. I think the songwriting takes center stage on this album – and from all three songwriters. This is an album where they miss a few old band mates . . . their sound would have been great here.

Jason Isbell would stand out on this album.

cricket

January 20th, 2011
5:04 pm

Stankees signing Andruw – one-year deal worth $2 million plus $1.2 million in performance bonuses

McFann O O

January 20th, 2011
5:06 pm

DOB Helps when you play home games at “ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.”

Ha! For sure…

Of course those other two didn’t need any help, though. :roll:

N8

January 20th, 2011
5:06 pm

“Heck of a blog. With the good Nate this the could be really good.”

That’s what is kind of intriguing about this team. On one hand you have 3 “mysteries” (4 if you’re concerned about Prado adjusting to LF). They are as follows:

1) How will Freeman handle the everyday role?

2) Will Chipper remain healthy enough to contribute?
2A) If Chipper can’t go, who plays LF when Prado moves to 3B?

3) How will Nate rebound?

My on Freeman is simple. I think he’ll hit and produce close to what LaRoche did his 1st full season in 2005 (140 games, 20 HR, 78 RBI). Worst case scenario, he’s a great glove and Hinske can spel him if needed.

My take on Chipper is a bit more sketchy. If he’s healthy, it will be a big boost. I’d still like to have another veteran infielder to spell him so when he needs a day off, Prado can stay in LF. And perhaps even if he’s injured for an extended period of time, Prado could remain out there as well. Either way, Wren needs to find a reliable 4th OF (could be Hinske if Freeman is fine at 1B?), or another utility type guy for this purpose. Doing so would also solidify the bench in the event they aren’t needed to start too many games.

Then there’s Nate. Too many people dooming and glooming the fact that he’s still out there. I say hogwash. Our LF/CF combination was so bas last year, half of that is now taken care of with Prado in LF. While not a prototypical power corner outfielder, he’ll provide a great improvement over what we had in LF last year. Add to that, adding Uggla at 2B now solidifies some more power in the lineup.

To me it doesn’t matter where the guys play and provide the power. If it makes you feel better, pretend Prado is still at 2B and Wren adding Uggla essentially gives us a 30+ power guy in “LF”. The end result on the lineup is the same.

Back to Nate… what nobody is really talking about is the fact tha if for some reason, Nate does rebound to his 2008 (or even 2009), form? This lineup will actually be pretty damn good. With no real weak links anywhere.

We have 4 of the 8 guys that are REALLY good hitters. Uggla, Mac, Prado and Heyward. All have been All-Stars. Uggla was the 2010 silver slugger award.

Then we have two guys that likely will at the very least provide decent production in Freeman and Gonzo. Leaving Chipper, who if healthy should give us 15-20 HR and 75-80 RBI. Not what he once was, but no slouch at the plate, especially with all his walks.

Again, leaving Nate. So what if he doesn’t rebound to 2009 form. If he doesn’t it leaves one weak link in the lineup. Perhaps Schafer takes over at some point. Perhaps Wren finds another option for CF (Mather?). Perhaps even Andruw or somebody like him is picked up to even platoon with Nate in CF (or play LF if Prado is needed at 3B).

Lot of “ifs” on this team. But really when you look at it, there is fewer question marks for the lineup going into 2011, than there was going into 2010.

Those questions were:

1) How would Glaus rebound and handle 1B?

2) How would Prado respond given the full time 2B job?

3) How would young Heyward handle ML pitching?

4) Could Escobar take the next step?

5) Could Diaz handle everyday duties in LF?

The pitching is a whole other matter, with “different” questions (but similar ones) that we had going into 2010.

Bottom line from my angle is that this team should be good enough to win around 88-91 games even if some of the question marks don’t pan out. And possibly more if guys like Nate, Chipper and Freeman produce.

Enough to catch the Phillies or keep up with them? Likely not. But certainly enough to be in the running for the wild card again.

Anybody assuming we’ll win the East is being optimistic. Anybody assuming this team has no shot at the wild card is being pessimistic and not realistically looking at things.

The 2011 Braves will be a good, competitive team. For right now, that’s good enough, and enough reason to be excited for the upcoming season.

cricket

January 20th, 2011
5:08 pm

McLouth deserves another shot next year, but Frank Wren is out of his mind if he thinks this decision didn’t have a lot to do with money.

He’s not out of his mind. Given the situation, you just can’t expect him to come out and say that this decision has a lot to do with money – even if it is.

Soph

January 20th, 2011
5:08 pm

Dammit Andruw, anyone but the Yankees.

cricket

January 20th, 2011
5:10 pm

Damn thats a long post. Great job DOB.

That’s not a post buddy, that’s the blog. Long posts always belong to Nye8.

Lew

January 20th, 2011
5:11 pm

The Good Nathan finally showed up. I agree pretty much with that assessment.

N8

January 20th, 2011
5:12 pm

Well, I guess that takes Andruw off the platoon/4th OF list, huh?

NY is a good fit for him actually. He can play all 3 OF spots and DH if they need him to. Good RH bat off the bench for Girardi.

I’m really suprised Wren didn’t think harder about that one. Then again, not really.

Trey

January 20th, 2011
5:13 pm

Lew, nooo, I just want to see who will get blamed for the loses next season.

justafan

January 20th, 2011
5:13 pm

hate long blogs..we are excited..take a breath N8……play ball!

N8

January 20th, 2011
5:14 pm

“The Good Nathan finally showed up. I agree pretty much with that assessment.”

LOL! I never went away. Just because you don’t agree with me on a topic, doesn’t make me “bad”. I just figured the Bobby banter had run it’s course. I actually had calmed down and started chatting in a civil manner with nolie late last night. Too many take my rants as angry rants. My BP didn’t rise once last night while discussing Bobby. Just got a little long winded with it.

nolie

January 20th, 2011
5:15 pm

I’m not too surprised either N8.
NY is a homer park which is what Druw has specialized in the last few years. Prolly a good idea since that’s about all he can do any more as a hitter.

Skeezix

January 20th, 2011
5:15 pm

While wishing we still had Wagner…………Why Wren, oh why? Why did you lock us in at big dollars for so long with KK and McLouth? Is there anybody in this whole wide world who can make sense out of those two trades?

Oh well, what’s done is done, we are we we are, etc. I hope for the best for Nate.

But please, Frank/Fredi–no more K.K.

Tim B.

January 20th, 2011
5:16 pm

I hate this time of year. Basketball sucks. Football is winding down. And we are still a few weeks away from spring training. HS baseball starts the week after next and the colleges are already going. So it should be spring, right? Bring on the 70 degree temps. and some spring training baseball to warm us all up and get excited about the season ahead. Thanks DOB for getting us thinking a few weeks ahead. Can’t wait to ready your blogs from spring training.

Travis

January 20th, 2011
5:16 pm

DOB, you put some serious time and effort into that blog!! Very much appreciated. Sounds like you enjoyed that meet and get to know em at the Ted as much as the kids did.

Abwright

January 20th, 2011
5:16 pm

Nolie … NE season six was actually pretty good. When the actor who played Fleischman left, they had to make some midseason corrections which weakened the end of the season. But some of the series best eps occur in the last year.

N8

January 20th, 2011
5:16 pm

“Lew, nooo, I just want to see who will get blamed for the loses next season.”

Trey, there are 27 options on any given night. The 25 players on the active roster. Fredi and of course Wren if the guys he give Fredi to go to battle with don’t produce, while other options he could have had do for other teams.

For instance, if a guy like Andruw tears it up against LHP pitching for the Yanks, and Nate fails miserably again? Wren will take the brunt of that “choice”.

But I’m an equal opportunity griper. Nobody is off limits to being blamed for a loss. :-)

Abwright

January 20th, 2011
5:18 pm

I’m going to blame Robert for everything that goes wrong in 2011. Makes as much sense as blaming the manager.

Clarence

January 20th, 2011
5:20 pm

Where can I go to buy World Series tickets?

Murph

January 20th, 2011
5:21 pm

McLouth should have quite a year… if you look at him from the right perspective:

- He’s lowered expectations enough to where hitting above .215 would be a big deal
- He’s going to be a free agent after the season and he’s playing for his career. Another sub .200 season and he’s off to the Royals to join Melky in 2012
- There’s not a single qualified prospect who can come up and take his spot, so he’s your starting CF on opening day no matter what

I expect big things from Nate this season. My prediction: .235, 11HR, 62RBI

7-11

January 20th, 2011
5:22 pm

Go to the City Of Brotherly love…….clarence

Paul Hewitt

January 20th, 2011
5:23 pm

Did all you negative bloggers and carping ajc sportswriters see me crush that mighty Wake Forest team?

Trey

January 20th, 2011
5:23 pm

“But I’m an equal opportunity griper. Nobody is off limits to being blamed for a loss.”

Well, at least you are fair with your blame on players and coaches! I’d probably blame the worst person on the team, heh.

Clarence

January 20th, 2011
5:24 pm

Oh, okay, thanks…..

Quicherbichin

January 20th, 2011
5:24 pm

Trey.. I’d figure that Robert, better known as Donkey in the blog, probably has an edited copy.. I thought that commercial had Bobby in it as well and we all know that Robert couldn’t have that in his stall.

Trey

January 20th, 2011
5:25 pm

Abwright, I will blame this fortune teller down the street. She told me the Braves would win the World Series in 2011. Got my entire fortune riding on that.

Trey

January 20th, 2011
5:28 pm

“Trey.. I’d figure that Robert, better known as Donkey in the blog, probably has an edited copy.. I thought that commercial had Bobby in it as well and we all know that Robert couldn’t have that in his stall.

Oh, that was just a seperate comment of the comment of Robert. I was just trying to find where I could find it. I haven’t seen it in years and that song was in my head.

Abwright

January 20th, 2011
5:29 pm

Trey … Did you give the FT any money on that bet?

Trey

January 20th, 2011
5:31 pm

Abwright, she told me it would be in my best interests to and to trust her. :)

Mitchie-san

January 20th, 2011
5:31 pm

I like the smell of a new blog in the morning. Smells like victory.

Trey

January 20th, 2011
5:32 pm

Nah, there aren’t any fortune tellers around here. Well that I know, at least. You got these roadside fortune tellers like Miss Violet that I don’t trust. I really don’t know why anyone trusts them.

Lew

January 20th, 2011
5:33 pm

Nathan – Nah, you’ve got little angels and demons that look like the Guitarist from Stryper and Keith Richards that whisper all sorts of crap in your ears.

Trey

January 20th, 2011
5:36 pm

Mitchie-san, finally got things situated with my detailer.

"Chef" Tim Dix

January 20th, 2011
5:39 pm

The pic of Lee Elia looks like it was drawn by a MAD Magazine artist.

Just saying.

Abwright

January 20th, 2011
5:40 pm

There’s an ad on the top of the page that says “snoring is the silent killer.”

That’s just wrong. The missus isn’t silent as she blows your head off … You couldn’t hear her coming over all that dayum snoring.

Skeezix

January 20th, 2011
5:41 pm

Thanks DOB:
Right now this MLB fan lives in a vacuum. I find the NFL boring. The NBA drives me nutty cause so many players get away with walking, the foul calling makes no sense from game to game, and the season never ends. Then my wife hears me complaining so she takes the remote away and the next thing I know–she’s turned to one of those syrupy Hallmark movies. I enjoy NCAA basketball, but it’s still not the Braves.

So, your Braves updates are all I got to hang onto and help me survive the sucking action of this “MLB/Braves” vacuum.

Curse of the Flat Billed Cap

January 20th, 2011
5:44 pm

“No. The money never was in the equation,” Wren said this week. “The talent is what makes those decisions and drives those decisions. And Nate has talent.”

Yeah and Wren has some fine Florida Swampland he will sell to you for a song!

Murph

January 20th, 2011
5:47 pm

I like the smell of a new blog in the morning.

Hey, that’s my new blog line.

Pete*

January 20th, 2011
5:47 pm

May already be posted, but A. Jones signed with Yankees.

http://www.ajc.com/sports/andruw-jones-tries-to-810349.html

Farnsworthy

January 20th, 2011
5:47 pm

At least Andruw didn’t turn traitor and go to the Mets.

Navigator

January 20th, 2011
5:50 pm

I’m astonished the management keeps saying this, are they this far from reality or the owners told them to make it work or lose their own jobs. The guy was a cancer to the lineup, automatic out, bigger hole than the pitcher.

Mitchie-san

January 20th, 2011
5:52 pm

Sorry, Murp. Didnt mean to steal it.

Mitchie-san

January 20th, 2011
5:53 pm

Oh yeah, Trey? What did you decide?

Trey

January 20th, 2011
5:54 pm

Charlotte, NC.

Mitchie-san

January 20th, 2011
5:55 pm

nolie

January 20th, 2011
5:56 pm

automatic out, bigger hole than the pitcher Navigator

exaggeration is always interesting

Bat Masterson

January 20th, 2011
5:58 pm

Thanks for the new blog, DOB.

Good stuff on Nate, beyond the obvious benefit to the team, he’s easy to pull for. Interesting bit on the kids too, let’s hope a handful pan out.

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