Archive for June, 2009

Smoltz: Facing Braves might’ve been too much

John Smoltz had his eyes on facing the Braves, but now that's up in air (AP photo).

John Smoltz will be back in Pawtucket tonight, then debut for Boston next Thursday — against the Nationals, not Braves.

John Smoltz is set to prove everybody with or without a medical degree wrong again. The fact his first start for Boston probably won’t come against the Braves is OK because, well, apparently even the man who lives for such moments wonders if that one would’ve been too much.

“I was working out, preparing for that possibility,” he said by phone. “But this is probably the best scenario for me just because there would be so much surrounding that game that it wouldn’t be just a game. I’d prefer my start be as normal as possible, even though at the beginning I know it’s not.”

He acknowledged: “The reality is, [facing the Braves] would’ve been one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. But now it’s probably not going to happen.”

He’s trying to make another comeback, this from shoulder surgery. He will pitch four innings of another rehab start tonight for …

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Study says Braves not going to academic playoffs, either (and Hudson reacts!)

The Wall Street Journal would have you believe that this is the poster child of the Braves? But how do you explain the "smart" Washington Nationals being 16-45?

The Wall Street Journal would have you believe this is the poster child of the Braves? But how do you explain the "smart" Nationals being 16-45?

The Braves haven’t played the smartest baseball of late, with the recent mental and physical miscues of shortstop Yunel Escobar being prime examples of that. But how does the team really rank in overall intelligence?

Well, according to the Wall Street Journal, dead last.

The Journal — apparently taking a break from stock market analysis and fluctuating values of the Euro and the Yen — did an academic analysis of major league baseball rosters. A reporter checked how many players on each team attended a university, whether that was a “top 15″ university (according to the U.S. News and World Report rankings), whether they graduated and whether they currently start. Each was assigned a point value.

Guess what’s coming?

The Braves’ finished with four points. Unfortunately, the WSJ did not grade on a class curve. The next closest team from …

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With 100 to go, numbers say Braves in trouble

 

So who wants to tell Bobby Cox what the numbers say?

So who wants to tell Bobby Cox what the numbers say?

The Braves have 100 games left in the season. This isn’t the time to make declarations. Usually.

But given what we’ve seen this season, and really since the last post-season in Atlanta in 2005, this seemed like a good time to do a little math.

First, the numbers: The Braves are 30-32 going into tonight’s game at Cincinnati. They are 6 1/2 games back of Philadelphia in the National League East and in eighth place in the N.L. wild-card race (3 1/2 back of San Francisco, although being eighth is more significant).

To turn things around, they’ll need to start winning games where they haven’t been, but should: At home (where they’re currently 15-17) and in meetings with sub-. 500 teams (16-18) — although I guess you can make a case that if you’re a sub-.500 team yourself, maybe that should not be expected.

But here are the most daunting numbers: Over the last 10 seasons, the winner of the National League East Division has …

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Tuesday Countdown: So at 50-1, should Hawks just forget about next season?

Once more with feeling: Trading Josh is not the answer.

Once more with feeling: Trading Josh is not the answer.

I always figured if money wasn’t an issue for me, my vice would be sports gambling. There’s no off-season. There’s always something new to interest you. And every Las Vegas sports book is within 10 feet of a $7.99 buffet. You know how cheap those 127 items come to at $7.99?

Only in sports gambling can a season end one night and you already have a chance to “invest” in the next season at breakfast the following morning.

Which leads to this week’s Tuesday Countdown. Did you know somebody’s already not projecting greatness for your Atlanta Hawks — and general manager Rick Sund hasn’t even made a roster move yet?

10. Psst. But what if Shaq goes to Cavs?

Just got word from Bodog.com, which actually isn’t a casino but rather an online sports book. They’ve just put out their odds to win the 2010 NBA championship and — the LeBron James muppet may not want to hear this – the Los Angeles Lakers are a slight favor to repeat as …

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Georgia Tech still fighting to be heard over the barking

Tech drew a nice gathering of 8,500 for its spring game. That's about 34,000 less than what Georgia drew for its game, which was live on ESPN. (Johnny Crawford/jcrawford@ajc.com)

 

Despite the nine victories, the thumping of Georgia in Athens, the post-game mass twig-snapping of the hedges, the universal admiration for head coach Paul Johnson and the real possibility that things could get even better next season, Georgia Tech finds itself in a familiar position these days:

Yelling from the rooftops, “Watch me! Buy me! Pay some attention to me!” And what do they hear in response? “Woof!”

As Wayne Hogan, the school’s associate director of athletics, said of Georgia’s long shadow: “The sheer numbers are overwhelming. But I went through the same thing when I was at Florida State. No matter where you went, there was a Gator standing in front of you.”

This is nothing new for Tech. When the Jackets won a share of the national championship in 1990 under Bobby Ross, they weren’t even …

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So when does Atlanta get a victory parade?

 

This is the trophy representing Atlanta's only major pro sports championship in the last 25 years (or ever). I'm not sure who the old guy is, but I think he used to be in TV.

This is the trophy representing Atlanta's only major pro sports championship in the last 25 years (or ever). I'm not sure who the old guy is, but I think he used to be in TV.

There’s a victory parade in Pittsburgh today for the Penguins’ third Stanley Cup since 1991.

There’s a victory parade in Los Angeles Wednesday for the Lakers’ seventh NBA title since 1985.

I think there was a victory parade in Atlanta once. But I guess because of construction and traffic on Peachtree, we just don’t have room for them any more.

I did a little research. (It happens sometimes.) This is one of those things you kinda know the answer to even before you look it up. But here goes: We stink.

Giving away the ending to this blog: Atlanta is not among the leaders in victory parades. The good news is, we’re ahead of Cleveland, which hasn’t won bupkis, thanks to a David Justice home run 14 years ago.

The Penguins’ Cup win means Pittsburgh will hold its second parade in about five months. This follows …

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Escobar and the “next wave” are killing Braves

 

This is caption. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

I hope the ball isn't coming at him, because it looks like Yunel Escobar isn't paying attention again. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

A few days ago, Yunel Escobar forgot to throw the ball to home, allowing a run to score against Pittsburgh.

On Sunday, Yunel Escobar botched a double play and a run-down play in the first two innings, leading to several runs at Baltimore. Braves manager Bobby Cox became so incensed that he benched his starting shortstop — in the third inning — and later referred to him as lackadaisical.

It was right about this time when I started wondering: “Is there some reason why Jeff Francoeur is the only Brave who is central to trade rumors?

We’ve heard a lot about the “next wave” of Braves players. It’s normal any time an older and high-payroll team releases veterans or lets them sign elsewhere in free agency. A transition to younger players make economical sense. The problem is when the “next wave” of players look flawed. And these Braves have been …

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News and Views: Smoltz-Braves iffy (and 3 teams for Vick)

 

John Smoltz had his eyes on facing the Braves, but now that's up in air (AP photo).

John Smoltz had his eyes on facing the Braves, but now that's up in the air.

Welcome back to another edition of News and Views, the latest online sensation that has swept the nation and has the entire blogosphere Twittering, or something like that. (Pope Benedict XVI: “I never miss a day without it. But I wish he would write more about soccer.”)

Where was I?

♦ NEWS: John Smoltz’s final scheduled rehab start for Pawtucket was rained out in Syracuse Thursday night and has been rescheduled for tonight. (UPDATE: I copy/pasted a couple of stories from Smoltz’s Friday start down in the comments section.)

♦ WHY SHOULD YOU CARE: Because this could affect whether he faces the Braves next week in Boston.

♦ VIEWS: Pawtucket is a really dumb name for a city. Just saying.

♦ OTHER VIEWS: This is the way the math worked out in a five-man rotation before Thursday’s rainout: Smoltz would be activated by the Red Sox Friday. He’d make his first start for Boston against Florida next Tuesday at …

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Blank was never going to allow Vick back

 

Given what Michael Vick did to the Falcons franchise, owner Arthur Blank never wanted him back. (AP photo)

Michael Vick did too much damage to the Falcons to ever expect he would be brought back.

It’s only a bookkeeping detail. But it’s a significant detail.

No more looking at the bottom of the roster and seeing, “Suspended. Michael Vick. QB.”

No more questions to the owner or the general manager or the coach, “So, when are you going to trade Michael Vick?”

No more discussion about the implausible but lingering possibility that owner Arthur Blank would somehow change his mind and still bring back the quarterback who both saved the Falcons’ franchise but then leveled it  – at least by the small percentage of people who still wear No. 7 jerseys, scream his name and hold a candle for him.

Goodbye, Michael Vick. Finally.

I’m all for his return – somewhere else.

I’m all for him rehabilitating his image and his life and reviving his career – somewhere else.

He has served his time. He has thought about where he went wrong and where he needs to go from here. Now comes the really hard …

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If Bama doesn’t clean up, it can say goodbye to Saban

 

I can read sign language. Nick Saban: "Back off people or I am so gone." (AP photo)

Hey, it's cool. I can read sign language. Nick Saban is saying, "Back off Bama boosters or I am so gone, so fast." (AP photo)

Let’s start with the obvious at Alabama.

There was no academic fraud. There was no cash exchanged between a coach and a player or a booster and a recruit. And nobody representing the university snuck an outside linebacker onto the roster with a swimming scholarship, so help me Bear Bryant.

So really, obtaining and distributing free textbooks barely cracks the school’s NCAA violation depth chart.

  But somebody had better wake up in Tuscaloosa — Nick Saban will be gone before lunch tomorrow.

  Saban might be the best coach in the SEC (I say might because I figure that debate’s for another blog.) He wins. He doesn’t cheat. He’s in demand. The fact he’s a liar is just a byproduct of that because, well, he can get away with it.

The point is, Nick Saban doesn’t need Alabama. It’s the other way around.

But as much as everybody wants to classify athletes …

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