Archive for December, 2011

Have Braves lost ground in ever-improving NL East?

The perception of many frustrated Braves fans is this: Their team went down in flames in September and hasn’t made any roster additions so far this winter, while the rest of the NL East has improved.

The first part is correct – the September collapse was epic, a 10-20 meltdown by the Braves that allowed St. Louis to erase a 10-1/2-game deficit and overtake Atlanta on the last day and win the wild card. And they’ve made no additions of note since.

But how many NL East teams have actually gotten better? Let’s examine.

Miami and Washington look significantly improved over last season. The Marlins went on a spending spree and the youthful Nationals get back ace Stephen Strasburg for a full season, recovered from  elbow surgery. They traded on Thursday for starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez from Oakland, upping the ante.

The Braves’ only moves so far were the salary-dump trade of pitcher Derek Lowe to Cleveland; picking up a reliever in the Rule 5 draft; and not …

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While waiting for Braves deal, my top 50 albums of 2011

As Braves fans get increasingly anxious over the team’s lack of moves since the Derek Lowe salary dump, this might be a good time to point out that Atlanta on Aug. 25 had the majors’ fourth-best record (79-53) and was on pace for a 96-win season.

Trading Derek Lowe (and eating $10 million of his $15 million salary) is the only significant move the Braves made so far this offseason.

Trading Derek Lowe (and eating $10 million of his $15 million salary) is the only significant move the Braves made so far this offseason.

OK, I just ducked to avoid a tomato.

But seriously, it’s understandable that many are unsatisfied with the thought of the Braves standing pat, more or less, if that’s what they end up doing  (I don’t think they will stand pat).

The concern stems from knowing that despite the Braves being one of the sport’s best teams for four-fifths of the season, they had a collapse of near-historical proportions in the last fifth of the season.

They stumbled and bumbled to one of the worst September blown leads in the annals of the sport, losing 20 of their last 30, blowing what had been an 8-1/2 game …

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Braves announce participants for Caravan stops

The Braves announced the complete list of players, coaches, alumni and front-office officials who are scheduled to greet fans and sign autographs during the team’s two-week caravan through the Southeast beginning Jan. 27.

The third annual event will include meet-and-greet events at schools, children’s hospitals, military bases and businesses, and autograph sessions at Academy Sports + Outdoors locations.

Scheduled stops and participants (some other community stops not open to general public are not listed):

Friday, Jan. 27 – Charlotte, N.C. (12-2 p.m. Power Lunch at Taco Mac at South Park) and Spartanburg, S.C. (4-5:30 p.m. Academy Sports + Outdoors) Tommy Hanson, Jonny Venters, Tyler Pastornicky, Frank Wren, Terry Pendleton

Saturday, Jan. 28 – Snellville, Ga. (4-6 p.m. Snellville Academy Sports + Outdoors) Jair Jurrjens, Eric Hinske, Eric O’Flaherty, Brian Snitker, Terry Pendleton

Sunday, Jan. 29 – Montgomery, Ala. (12-1:30 p.m. CST Montgomery Academy Sports + …

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For Jason Isbell, Braves fandom runs in family

Many Braves followers have been fans of singer-songwriter Jason Isbell’s music for a decade, first during his years as a guitarist with the Drive-By Truckers and then with his own band, the 400 Unit. What some folks might not know is that Isbell, a lifelong Alabaman, is a passionate Braves fan.

imagesWhen not on the road or recording, he’ll drive from his Muscle Shoals home to attend a game at Turner Field, where he might be spotted in the bleachers in a Chipper Jones T-shirt. In the song “Stopping By” off his recent album Here We Rest, Isbell sings, “Driving to a baseball game/on a Friday afternoon/hotter than hell in Atlanta, Georgia…”

I caught up with him recently between shows in St. Louis and Kansas City, during a long tour that’s taken his band across the United States and Europe, and will include stops in Australia and New Zealand in February and March.

O’Brien: Thanks for taking some time to chat in the middle of the tour, Jason.

Isbell: Thanks …

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Baseball’s a business — ask Moylan, Conrad

It was Tyler Pastornicky’s 22nd birthday Tuesday, the day the Braves announced that Brooks Conrad had been non-tendered along with Peter Moylan, making the two of them free agents. The Braves want a shortstop better than Conrad to back up the rookie Pastornicky if he’s to be the starter.

Few were surprised — or at least few should’ve been — that Moylan was non-tendered, because we’ve mentioned it could be coming since shortly after it was announced in September that he needed shoulder surgery. And since last week, it had been abundantly clear.

Conrad is congratulated by Chipper Jones after hitting a walkoff grand slam to cap a remarkable ninth-inning rally against Cincinnati in 2010.

Conrad is congratulated by Chipper Jones after hitting a walkoff grand slam to cap a remarkable ninth-inning rally against Cincinnati in 2010.

But Conrad? Most of us figured that after he survived his nightmarish three-error debacle of a division-series game in 2010, then remained on the 40-man roster and won an Opening Day spot again in 2011 — well, it seemed Conrad was probably safe until he started making too much …

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Braves non-tender Moylan and Conrad (updated)

Relief pitcher Peter Moylan and infielder Brooks Conrad became non-tendered free agents after not being offered contracts by the Braves, a move that doesn’t preclude returning to the team.

General manager Frank Wren said at last week’s Winter Meetings that the Braves could non-tender Moylan and re-sign him as a free agent later this winter if he continued to progress in recovery from late-September shoulder surgery.

“I was expecting the move,” Moylan said Tuesday.  “Hoping we can work out something to stay a Brave.”

Moylan is scheduled to begin throwing in January and said his goal was to be ready to pitch at the beginning of the season.

The Braves offered contracts to all of their other remaining arbitration-eligible players — center fielder Michael Bourn, left fielder Martin Prado, starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens and reliever Eric O’Flaherty.

Major league teams had a midnight deadline to tender contracts to unsigned players who were under team control. Non-tendered …

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Braves get lefty reliever in Rule 5 draft

DALLAS – When the Winter Meetings ended Thursday, it was uncertain who was more likely to be part of the 2012 Braves pitching staff — trade candidate Jair Jurrjens or Robert Fish?

The Braves picked Fish, a hard-throwing left-hander, from the Angels’ Triple-A roster during Thursday’s Rule 5 draft. He’s 23 and had a 2.97 ERA with 44 strikeouts and 18 walks in 33-1/3 minor league innings in 2011, 30-1/3 innings in Double A.

As a Rule 5 pick, Fish must be kept on the Braves’ 25-man roster all season in 2012 or be offered back to the Angels at half the $50,000 claiming price the Braves paid.

Meanwhile, Jurrjens’ name was bandied about frequently in the lobby of the Hilton Anatole during the four-day Winter Meetings.  Cincinnati and Colorado are known to be among teams that have trade interest in Braves’ All-Star right-hander.

Now that top free agents C.J. Wilson (Angels) and Mark Buehrle (Marlins) have signed, the market for Jurrjens and other starters …

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Wren not caught up in buzz at Winter Meetings

DALLAS – With the Marlins making headline trades and other NL East foes doing deals, Braves general manager Frank Wren was asked if he missed being in the buzzy center of activity at the Winter Meetings.

A few years ago, he was a high roller at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, courting big-ticket free agent pitchers such as A.J. Burnett before  signing Derek Lowe.

Which was more fun,  that situation or this year’s?

“We prefer to have the players we have,” Wren said. “We have a good club. I keep going back to this, and I’ll stand by this: On Aug. 26 we had the fourth-best record in all of baseball. So our team didn’t get bad in 30 days.

“Our team went through a bad streak for 30 days, but we have a good team.”

The Braves went 10-20 down the stretch and blew an 8-1/2-game wild card lead after Sept. 5, missing the postseason after a loss to the Phillies on the season’s final night.

The Braves are trying to acquire a backup shortstop and an affordable outfielder. …

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Fredi Q&A: Trades, Heyward, The Collapse and more

DALLAS — After their near-historic September collapse kept the Braves from the postseason, manager Fredi Gonzalez said he rarely left his suburban Atlanta home for a month because he felt as if he’d let everyone down.

Two months after the slide, which included 20 losses in 30 games, Gonzalez was back in his characteristically upbeat demeanor Wednesday during an interview at baseball’s Winter Meetings at the Hilton Anatole.

Gonzalez addressed a variety of topics ranging from trade rumors, the health of the starting rotation, and Jason Heyward’s upcoming winter workout schedule with the team’s new hitting coach.

Here were highlights of the interview, the full text of which can be found on the Braves page at ajc.com.

Q. When you look at the way your roster shapes up, what would you like to see happen before the start of Spring Training?

A.“I think if the season starts right now, you feel pretty good about your roster. You really do.  I’m sure in a perfect world, in a …

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Video: Braves wait as NL East foes make moves

CineSport’s Noah Coslov sits down with David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to discuss Braves news from the MLB Winter Meetings in Dallas.

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