Archive for the ‘Braves / MLB’ Category

Hometown hero’s story twists into unhappy end

Sad to say, that in this fairy tale, nobody lives happily ever after.

“The Natural” has been cast off by the team that brought him in from the suburbs, gloated over him through those first two seasons when he was a steady producer, and then, suddenly, when he lost his game, there was no one to help him.

So Jeff Francoeur went searching on his own. I don’t understand how it came to that. Neither do I understand just why a hitting slump can’t be cured like the common cold.

At any rate, as the season ended last year, Francoeur had made arrangements to go to Texas and spend some curative time with Rudy Jaramillo, the Rangers hitting coach. No guarantee came with it, but Jaramillo had worked wonders with some of Francoeur’s friends and Jeff was in a listening mood.

Mark DeRosa was one, rejected by the Braves, signed by the Rangers and under Jaramillo, as the story goes, found a swing that eventually led to a $13-million contract with the Cubs. Then Mark Teixeira passed …

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Braves’ talent on the farm has dried up

 

Pitcher Kenshin Kawakami is the Braves' latest addition over a product from the "farm." (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Pitcher Kenshin Kawakami is the Braves' latest addition — not from the "farm" system. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Once upon a time, as fairy tales usually begin, the Braves were a baseball team that was home-bred, carefully incubated in the farm system, and nurtured all the way up to the major league level. There they won championships and pennants and played in the World Series, one of which they won. And they left their names scrolled on the walls of the ball park where they played, and in team and league record books. Then something began to change after the season of 2005, and the once-flourishing franchise has been groping ever since.

Now, the Braves’ “farm” system reaches from Venezuela to Japan. Deals are made, faces change, and only this season have they reached deep into their jeans to play a hand in the free agent rat-race. A payroll that once was held around the $80-million level, by order of the McScrooge ownership, has now zoomed to about $97 …

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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 …

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