Diaz keeps on hitting with Braves

Throughout the off-season, into the first breath of spring, Matt Diaz was sort of like little Jack Horner, sitting in a corner. The 2008 season had been a virtual wipe-out for him. He had been the left-fielder at the start, and it went without notice that he had the Braves’ highest career batting average (.320). Then came the stop in Milwaukee late in May and the crash into the wall in left-field foul territory, and there his season took a harsh, bruising turn

Braves outfielder Matt Diaz waits his turn to take batting practice. RICH ADDICKS / raddicks@ajc.com

Braves outfielder Matt Diaz waits his turn to take batting practice. RICH ADDICKS / raddicks@ajc.com

In his two seasons with the Braves, Diaz had hit .327 and .338, with a modest number of home runs and RBI, mainly as the starting left-fielder. Came the injury, a shattered shoulder and a constant series of visits to the medics, and Diaz lost his place in the mind of the fans. Throughout the winter, when the outfield became a sports page topic, it read as if left-field was barren territory. That Diaz was a blurred name of the past, if even considered at all.

Diaz had come to the Braves from Kansas City in exchange for Ricardo Rodriguez, a pitcher with a fractured past and no future. The first thing about Diaz was his name — it was pronounced “Dye-az,” not the generally Latino “Dee-az.”

“My grandfather did come over from Barcelona, and he and my father used their own pronunciation,” Matt said. His father is a non-denominational minister in Lakeland, Fla., where Matt grew up. He played on two College World Series teams at Florida State, and was signed by Tampa Bay.

Diaz had developed as a somewhat surprise to the Braves. “He gives you a good bat off the bench,” Bobby Cox said. “He is a man with an attitude — a good one.”

“What happened last year was that I turned a six-week injury into a lost season,” he said. He was standing by the team bus waiting for the day trip to Bradenton, for a game with the Pirates. (Bradenton, ah, a name richly familiar in the mind of the Braves, who trained there in their glory days at Milwaukee.) “I hadn’t done my rehab the right way and it never healed properly.”

Which, probably, accounted for some of the off-season indifference to his status. Did that bother him? “No, no, I’m in the major leagues. I’ll never complain. I’m not worrying about playing time. I’m just going to do my best,” which was rather impressive those first two seasons.

Now that signing Garret Anderson is done, and it appears he’ll be doing part-time duty, the Diaz patience comes through again. “Platooning doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I’m the kind of guy who looks at a base on balls as a victory, not a tie. I’m in the major leagues. What’s better than that.”

So the team that muddled through the ‘08 season on a makeshift outfield now finds itself handsomely stocked, especially with Brandon Jones offering power (to go with the “new” Jeff Francoeur, but as much as anything else, the certainty of a Matt Diaz back at full strength and an attitude any manager could love.

41 comments Add your comment

CharlieAlphaBravo

February 28th, 2009
5:39 pm

You’re the Furman.

Bobby Sox

February 28th, 2009
7:15 pm

The Braves are going to stink up the grapefruit league and then they’re going to stink up the regular season going into the all star break, then they’re going to stink up the dog days worse than they’ll stink up September. They stink.

I like to win. I need to win. You journalists don’t seem to care. Worse, you have no idea why we lose, or why we win. Then you write in a lazy fly ball to right field mentality that ruins what little fun an aging man can glean from a baseball game. Baseball is not a lazy fly ball to right field. Baseball is what if, what would it take, how many men……..

You, Furman, forgot about the game of baseball, and all you think about is the uniforms, the bats, and the forgotten wave, which I loved but then it went the way of disco. Why? The wave, properly done by experts in the sport of baseball is the grandest spectacle ever created by mankind, man.

This piece reads like Furman had been chewing pine tar.

Why cant anyone write a piece about baseball’s law of averages, or the quantum randomness of which direction the ball goes after contact. How can one player hit four home runs in one game? Then strike out fifty two times in a row.

The Law of Averages.

cvbraves

February 28th, 2009
7:40 pm

Nice article. Diaz is one of the good guys!

Kurt

February 28th, 2009
7:56 pm

What the hell is Bobby Sox talking about?

Good article, Furman.

Justincredubil

February 28th, 2009
7:56 pm

FB, congrats on writing an article like this. Your past few articles that concern the Braves were lacking in the “makes sense” department. There is one flaw that I find with this one. You write as if Diaz was our everyday leftfielder for the past few seasons. This is a false premise – he just became the regular last year (and did so very ineffectively). His problem wasnt that he was hurt. His problem is that he cannot hit RHP as well as he can LHP. His average drops nearly 50 points against RHP. Until Diaz can hit RHP, he will always be a platoon player, or a bench bat.

THIS he does exceptionally well. He is one of the best pinch-hitters in the game, and I look forward to having that valuable asset on our bench this year.

Bobby, if you think this Braves team will stink, then please, jump off the bandwagon and go write about the science behind the sport.

indybravesfan

February 28th, 2009
8:04 pm

Wow…someone is a little upset tonight about a team that has obviosusly upgraded from last year. The Braves will challenge the division this year! Good luck to Diaz and Anderson…The issue is not left field…it is right field…and good luck to you Frenchy! OUr pitching will keep us in games now our bats need to step up. Go wash your sox Bobby we WAVE goodbye to you!

Gene

February 28th, 2009
8:40 pm

Good luck to Diaz and the Braves. I think that they will surprise us this year.

Tomas

February 28th, 2009
8:55 pm

Hope for the best for Diaz. Hopefully he could find the 2006-2007 Matt Diaz, not the 2008 Diaz.

spotts

February 28th, 2009
9:30 pm

I don’t know if I’d say Brandon Jones will bring the power.

I love Matt’s “I’m in the majors, I can’t complain” attitude. It seems mostly lost in pro sports. I’m kind of against the GA signing. Diaz has a career .288 average against righties (including .357 and .317 in 2006 and 2007). Why put him in a platoon? I’d want him in the lineup every day.

ColaCOL

February 28th, 2009
10:05 pm

Matt Diaz is, indeed, one of the good guys. I met him in Spring Training a couple of years ago and was very impressed by his attitude–gracious, humble, and approachable. I’d love to see him get the chance to hit more against both LR & RH pitching–he’s earned it!

johnf

February 28th, 2009
10:58 pm

I love Matty Baseball. We can not win the NLE or a WS with out him.

President of Matt Diaz Fan Club

February 28th, 2009
11:07 pm

Now you guys know – there is absolutely NO irony in my name!

Uri Kirshstein

March 1st, 2009
12:23 am

The Braves have anb auwsome outfield, amazing starting pitching, and of course Chipper Jones. The Braves are gonna fall behind the Mets, who will win the division, and the phillies who will win the wildcard. I don’t think we are going to the playoffs, but we will have a winning record, and we will have a good season. We just have to get our young players, like Tommy hanson, developed. Once we do that we’ll continue our streak of division titles.
GO BRAVES!!!!!

bravesnfalcons

March 1st, 2009
1:48 am

I really do like the articel, but we didnt trade for Aderson we signed him as a free-agent.

LivininAL

March 1st, 2009
6:38 am

Diaz should also work some in RF. After watching Frenchy go out there day after day with no production, seeing a lineup with both G Anderson and Diaz on occasion would be fun. HOwever, I do wish Francour well this year, but that iron man role has ended. Diaz is a great team guy, love Diaz being Diaz as opposed to …the likes of Manny being Manny!

larry r

March 1st, 2009
7:35 am

Frenchy is very important if we are going to make a run this year. Should he falter look for Schaffer or even Heyward inright by July.
Saw Heyward Fiday in Bradenton,very impressive and 19 years old.

TommyP

March 1st, 2009
8:31 am

“Trade for Anderson?”

Diaz was our starting LF the past few years?

B.Jones offering power. (chuckle)

Choo-chooooo!

jch67

March 1st, 2009
9:27 am

Nice piece on Diaz. If he can hit like he did in 06-07 he’ll be very valuable to the team on the field and/or in a trade if need be. However, you seem to have overlooked the 40 or so games he did play in ‘08 (all but 1 before his injury) where he hit a very pedestrian .244 far below his lifetime .320. Looks like opposing pitching figured him out…

The rest of the article is a bit far-fetched in my opinion. The only thing the Braves outfield is “handsomely stocked” with are questions.

Will Franceour get back to form?
Will any of the young guys prove they are ready for the bigs?
Will G. Anderson be able to hit NL pitching as well as AL?
Wlll G. Anderson be able to play decent defense?
Will Diaz get his stroke back?

I’ll agree we have tons of potential and reason for optimism but, realisticly, we don’t yet know what to expect from this group.

Uri Kirshstein

March 1st, 2009
11:14 am

jch67. Franceour is coming back, and is going to have an amazing season, the young guys like Hanson ARE ready for the bigs, Garret Anderson has never in his career hit below 280, and Diaz is going to sparkle. I don’t know why, but I feel like this is the new start to the Braves.

Uri Kirshstein

March 1st, 2009
11:17 am

Oh yeah Bobby Sox. You have no earthly clue what you are talking about. The Braves are going to rock it up this year. P.S. Bobby Cox is one of the best managers of all time.

cityofdecatur

March 1st, 2009
12:44 pm

thanks Mr. Bisher hope Diaz can rebound …… but the fact is is that he’s shown he’s better in a platoon or off the bench. Much success to both Diaz and the Braves!
Bobby Sox chill man who you really mad at go talk to them. Just had to rip somebody huh?

Keeping It Real

March 1st, 2009
3:06 pm

With all due respect, good attitudes do not win games. Talent does. Put Mr.Diaz on the bench for pinch hitting and put Brandon Jones in the everyday lineup.

LindaC

March 1st, 2009
4:53 pm

Has anyone else noticed that Mattie injured his left knee, and not his shoulder? I suffered through his knee injury just like I suffered through Mark DeRosa’s several years ago.

DMBJAMS

March 1st, 2009
5:32 pm

Thanks for the great read, Mr. Bisher.

I love Matt Diaz!

jch67

March 1st, 2009
6:47 pm

Uri, I hope you’re right!!!

Martin JAcobson

March 2nd, 2009
6:55 am

Diaz injured his knee, he did not “shatter his shoulder” last year. What a dumb article.

Christine Peters

March 2nd, 2009
9:59 am

Mr. Bisher, THANK YOU for writing about one of my favorite — and not-forgotten — players! Matty has the right attitude and gives 200 percent always. I agree he has not gotten the press he deserves. I can’t believe more wasn’t made of the terrible ‘metal in the wall’ where he slid and was injured making one of his trade-mark, all-out catches. It was a terrible accident that didn’t need to happen.

Ross

March 3rd, 2009
11:41 am

Agreed – and hey Furman, you look great! In the pink we hope!

-drl

Brian22

March 3rd, 2009
12:02 pm

Mr. Bisher, you and DOB keep me coming back to the AJC Sports page.

Burman Fisher

March 4th, 2009
4:19 am

Nice Braves minor league blog-

http://minorsandmajors.com

BravesFan

March 5th, 2009
12:53 pm

Joel McKinzey

March 6th, 2009
9:51 pm

THank you Mr B. (belatedly), Matt Diaz has been the MOST under-rated Brave since the beginning of the 06 season, including by the management !! He comes to play every day.

BA

March 10th, 2009
12:47 am

richbrave

March 16th, 2009
10:33 am

My man DYEaz. Go get ‘um.

Wilburn

March 17th, 2009
8:45 am

It’s a shame that the World Baseball Classic (WBC) will end after this year. It’s seems that Chipper (Lareee) won’t go back and play next year;so they will have to cancel it. Right???? That darn OBLIQUE muscle that caused him to go 0 for 10 (5 strikeouts)… Everybody knows that if Lareee Jones can’t play the U.S. doesn’t stand a chance. Poor guy-it’s not his fault he’s so GREAT…

elliwg6

March 22nd, 2009
10:51 pm

A. He was a platoon player before the injury. He became the “everyday” left fielder to start to 08 season, but was quickly put back into a platoon after it became clear he was more valuable there paired with a guy like blanco.

B. He hurt his knee not his shoulder

Will

March 24th, 2009
12:35 pm

Great Article, Diaz deserves the spot over anderson. I believe diaz can produce way more at the plate and will have a better glove than anderson will. Anderson will be a backup, hes old, time for Diaz to shine.

Roy Tucker

April 6th, 2009
8:33 pm

Furman Bisher is still the best writer on the staff. His prose is never boring.

Ben

April 19th, 2009
10:01 am

I guess we’re not watching the same player. I saw him strike out against the Marlins on balls that were in the left handers batter box on two pitches. I don’t think he could have hit those balls with a fishing pole.

Godzilla

April 23rd, 2009
5:14 am

Furman Bisher is a great man. I remember back in the seventies when the Braves were horribile, Furman had some extra braves tickets. He went to cumberland mall and put the tickets under his wiper blade. He left three, when he came out he had about ten more! And then he wrote about it. It was about the time everyone started putting bags on their head. Furman got us through it. He is a real Georgia treasure. Just like the Braves.

Acworth Don

April 27th, 2009
7:54 am

Hey, what’s with the anti – Furman comments? Why, what would we be without Chipper?
Glav? (Unfortunately we may find out too soon) and Bish?! Players come and go just as writers
do but great writers like Furman are why we older guys and gals stick around during good and bad times with the Braves. An old Dodger fan I came to Atlanta in ‘68 and it took me a while to come around to the Braves. Ted recruited me into the 400 Club and the days of 1000 fans per game
came and went. Finally….1991 and the great run of 14 straight for the Bravos….who was our inside man? …why Bish, of course. Long may he write and long may I enjoy to read a master who I picture still using an old typewriter. Thanks for the memories and inside views of a real pro.