Archive for the ‘Focal’ Category

Bourn back to Braves? Rumor mill gets a spin

After GM Frank Wren said during a satellite-radio interview Sunday that the Braves had not closed the door on the possibility of Michael Bourn returning to the team, reaction on Twitter and the blogosphere went about as you’d expect in this age of 2 + 2 = 10.

Bourn (above) is a former Gold Glove winner, but the Braves say B.J. Upton is also one of the best center fielders in the game, despite metric stats that suggest otherwise..

Bourn (above) is a former Gold Glove winner, but the Braves say B.J. Upton is also one of the best center fielders in the game, despite metric stats that suggest otherwise..

Within an hour, Wren’s rather innocuous and not exactly earth-shattering response to the Bourn question was twisted, re-tweeted and exaggerated enough times to turn it into a juicy rumor in which some characterized the situation as the Braves in talks to bring back Bourn at a discounted rate now that his market had failed to materialize.

Some fans even got indignant about the possibility that the Braves might opt to move Bourn, a former Gold Glove winner, to left field in order to accommodate offseason free-agent signee B.J. Upton in …

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On the Braves’ Indian-head logo, future catching and LF

The Braves GM is back in the office after a Christmas-New Year’s vacation, and so am I. So let’s start the new year with an update on the Bravos and the stirred-up controversy over new batting-practice caps that feature the old Indian-head logo.

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The logo some don't like.

Oh, the holidays? Well, I saw some great movies, ate some good food, got my snowboarding fix (quick trip to Eldora Mountain near Boulder while visiting my sister) and picked up a bunch of used vinyl (a guy was selling mint-condition collection of rock, country and soul at a flea market in Lafayette, Co.; best of all, someone special gave me a first-pressing Cash “Live at Folsom Prison” LP for Christmas).

How was your Christmas and the rest of the holiday week? Get what you hoped for, maybe a season-ticket package or a Heyward jersey?

OK, let’s get back to our subject.

The Braves, like most teams, didn’t make any moves or announcements since closing their office right before Christmas and re-opening …

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Who’s in LF? Plus, DOB’s Top 50 albums

We’re inside the last week before Christmas, Braves fans. Do you know where your left fielder is?

No, I didn’t think so. But at least you’re about to know the best 50 albums of 2012, as judged by your Crusading Everyman. The list is at the bottom of this blog.

Gattis, aka "El Oso Blanco," could compete at some point in 2013 for playing time in left field and as a third catcher.

Gattis, aka "El Oso Blanco," could compete at some point in 2013 for playing time in left field and as a third catcher.

As for left field, you’re not sure who it’ll be and neither is anyone else. The Braves say they continue to search the trade market for a left fielder or third baseman, but also insist if they don’t make another big acquisition at either spot and end up going to spring training or starting the season with what they have now, they’ll be OK with it.

Until proven otherwise, we’ll take them at their word.

Going into the season with what they have now seems a bit more feasible and less risky than it would’ve if they had stated that intention a few weeks ago, right after signing center fielder …

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In last year on HOF ballot, case made for ‘Murph’

Dale Murphy won back-to-back National League MVP awards in 1982 and 1983, something only Joe Morgan had done before him and only Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols have done since. He won as many MVP awards in two seasons as Braves greats Hank Aaron and Chipper Jones won between them in their entire careers.

“Murph” was a seven-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner, and he finished 12th or higher in the league MVP balloting six times during 1980-1987.

Fifteen of his first 18 seasons were spent with the Braves, a period when the ultimate Mr. Nice Guy played for a lot of bad teams and a few good ones. He played in front of a national audience that tuned in to watch the Braves on the cable SuperStation, most of it during a time when fans outside major league markets had only the choice of Braves or Cubs to view on TV on a daily basis.

And so he was a popular player not just in Braves Country, but across the country.

For a time, Murphy was one of the very best players in baseball, winning back-to-back MVP awards.

For a time, Murphy was one of the very best players in …

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While looking for bats, Braves fortify ‘pen

NASHVILLE — While the Braves still need to find a left fielder to round out their lineup, they’ve already made moves this winter to assure their bullpen remains one of baseball’s best. If they had gotten past the wild card game and into the meat of the postseason this past season, I think we would have seen how important that bullpen would’ve been in helping them advance.

In Walden, the Braves have added another to the collection of power arms in their strong bullpen.

In Walden, the Braves have added another to the collection of power arms in their strong bullpen.

Alas, the Braves kicked the ball around in a terrible inning and never recovered in a wild-card loss to the Cardinals. So the bullpen wasn’t a factor in the biggest game of the year.

But that shouldn’t make the ‘pen any less of a priority as they prepare for 2013, and it hasn’t.

The trade of Tommy Hanson for reliever Jordan Walden last week gave the Braves another power arm for back-end depth that should help manager Fredi Gonzalez and pitching coach Roger McDowell avoid overworking closer Craig …

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Bossman Junior, El Oso Blanco & other matters

While we wait for a decision as soon as this week from the guy with the second-best nickname currently associated with a Brave or potential Brave, free-agent center fielder B.J. “Bossman Junior” Upton, let’s consider the ongoing winter-ball performance in Venezuala by the guy with the even better nickname, Evan Gattis, aka “El Oso Blanco” (The White Bear).

Gattis, aka "El Oso Blanco" (The White Bear), in a recent Venezuelan Winter League game.

Gattis, aka "El Oso Blanco" (The White Bear), in a recent Venezuelan Winter League game. Notice the lack of batting gloves. (AP photo)

(Coincidentally and apropos of nothing, there are El Oso Blanco supermarkets in Miami and the Tampa area, where Bossman Junior has spent his major league career until now with the Rays.)

While we’re on the subject, just imagine a Bossman Junior and El Oso Blanco (along with a J-Hey) in the same outfield some day. Hey, it might not be so far-fetched, considering the Braves and Phillies are believed to be frontrunners for Upton, and considering Gattis is once again answering the …

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Braves target Upton, while weighing other CF options

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

The Braves are pursuing multiple options at center field, both through free agency and the trade market, but B.J. Upton has emerged as their top free agent choice.

Upton after one of his 28 homers in 2012

Upton after one of his 28 homers in 2012

Braves general manager Frank Wren said the Braves are still in on the biggest free agent names out there, including their own Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton and Angel Pagan, but they are making a strong push for Upton.

“We like him,” Wren said Monday. “But this time of year you’ve got a lot of lines in the water. You’re not sure which fish you’re going to catch. So you have to make sure that you have enough lines out there that you catch a fish. And we’re very much in that mode. We’re checking. We’re involved on just about everything, every center fielder that we like.”

The Braves invited the former Tampa Bay Rays center fielder to Atlanta last Thursday where team officials spent six hours with …

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Ross exit adds to Braves’ expanding to-do list

PHOENIX – Chipper is retired, David Ross is gone, Michael Bourn is likely leaving, Brian McCann is hurt, and Josh Hamilton isn’t walking through that door.

So I can understand why some Braves fans are getting anxious or downright worried.

The Braves will miss the veteran Ross, on the field and in the clubhouse.

The Braves will miss the veteran Ross, on the field and in the clubhouse.

But folks, it’s mid-November. Still weeks away from the Winter Meetings, which is usually when things really start heating up on the trade and free-agent fronts.

So before convincing yourself that this will be another Garrett Anderson or Raul Mondesi sort of offseason for the Bravos, I’d advise to take a deep breath and understand the team has both the cash and/or  trade pieces (which they now seem willing to part with) to assure they won’t have to settle for picking up a scrap-heap player for left or center.

No significant deals were struck but the hot stove was stoked during last week’s GM meetings near Palm Springs, and already we’re seeing things move …

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Braves GM on Gattis: “Very good prospect”

He’s 26 years old and has but 933 plate appearances in professional baseball, none above the Double-A level. But don’t for a second think that Evan Gattis isn’t considered a legitimate prospect by the Braves. The know they have a special case with the big Texan catcher-turned-left fielder, who keeps responding to new challenges by crushing baseballs.

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Evan Gattis came up as a catcher, but the Braves moved him to left field to help potentially get his big bat to the majors sooner.

The Gattis legend has spread to Venezuela this winter, where he’s picked up the nickname “El Oso Blanco” (White Bear) from his mostly Latin teammates on the Aguilas squad while hitting .324 with five homers, 16 RBIs and a 1.009 OPS in 18 games through Thursday. And can I just say, that’s a damn fine nickname.

Gattis was tied for fourth in the Venezuelan Winter League in homers, fifth in OPS, and had six doubles and a league-high 43 total bases.

After getting off to a torrid start at Class-A …

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Braves have 2 big needs, and the means to fill them

Their postseason lasted just one day, and the Braves enter the offseason with some high priorities: fill the void of retired icon Chipper Jones, decide what to do about banged-up recent franchise cornerstone Brian McCann, and determine whether to replace or overspend to keep free-agent center fielder Michael Bourn.

An option to consider: Prado (left) could replace Chipper at third base and the Braves could get a left fielder via trade or free agency.

An option to consider: Prado (left) could replace Chipper at third base and the Braves could get a left fielder via trade or free agency.

If I were making the decisions, I’d move Martin Prado to third base for 2013; pick up the option on McCann and decide later whether to offer an extension; acquire a left fielder via trade (Josh Willingham tops my list for performance and affordability) or free agency (Nick Swisher or Cody Ross?); and try to sign free agent Angel Pagan to play center field for less than what Bourn would cost.

But before getting into details about those moves, it’s important to consider how much money that general manager Frank Wren has to …

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