Archive for July, 2009

Message heard: Welcome to the 2010 season

See this flag? It's not that the Braves don't want another one. It's just not Frank Wren's highest priority right now. (AJC photo)

Two years ago at this time, when the Braves were coming off a non-playoff season and so many of us believed it had to be some aberration, the team’s front office had a similar delusion.

“We thought, ‘This is our opportunity. We have the assets to get arguably the best offensive player in the game — let’s make it happen, let’s go for it,” Frank Wren recalled of the Mark Teixeira trade. “Obviously, things didn’t work out.”

The ripple effects of that deal — five prospects for a star first baseman who led them to third- and fourth-place finishes — were still being felt Friday.

This was Wren’s second trade deadline as general manager since taking over for John Schuerholz (who pushed the button on the Teixeira deal). At no time has he been tempted to repeat an all-or-nothing deal.

He showed it by his actions this week. He confirmed it with his words.

Continue reading Message heard: Welcome to the 2010 season »

Picture this: Stafford still has something to learn

Matthew Stafford is learning a valuable lesson: Absorbing a new offense is only half the key to success in the NFL. (AP photo)

Let me start this by saying if I was 21 years old with a contract that guarantees me at least $41.7 million and I had a chance to go on a boat ride with several beautiful blonde women, I would be doing EXACTLY what Matt Stafford did this summer.

Well, I would change one thing: The yutz with the camera goes overboard.

Stafford just learned another lesson about the downside of public life. Pictures of him simply enjoying life have surfaced on the Internet. They’re all fairly innocent, even if they do make the average male envious. The closest thing to scandalous is one of him giving the unwholesome “No. 1″ sign to the camera. (Insert joke: That’s something he could never do at Georgia.)

None of this means Stafford: 1) Isn’t mature; 2) Isn’t talented; 3) Can’t lead; 4) Won’t be an outstanding quarterback for the Detroit Lions; 5) Won’t have a solid NFL …

Continue reading Picture this: Stafford still has something to learn »

Deadline (the other one): White’s justified if he holds out

It's easy to tell this photo is from 2008 and not 2006 because Roddy White is celebrating. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Since we’re about five hours from the baseball trade deadline and I hear only crickets, I wanted to weigh in on something before players are scheduled to check in tonight for Falcons training camp: Lay off Roddy White.

Honestly, of all the things I’ve anticipated writing one day, defending White’s position in contract negotiations wasn’t one of them. He wasn’t a bust in his first two NFL seasons — he was whatever is south of that. A bust is someone who was thought to be able to play but can’t. South of that is someone who can play but just seems to have brain lock or keeps tripping over his own ego.

Case in point: DeAngelo Hall.

For his first two seasons, that was White. He was lazy. He was immature. He lacked focus. He dropped passes. He had 29 passes in his first season and 30 in his second, and for a while there I wasn’t sure if the Falcons would give …

Continue reading Deadline (the other one): White’s justified if he holds out »

Deadline report: Braves have stood out by doing nothing

Yunel Escobar seems like he's looking at the standings, but he just got hit on the wrist by a pitch Thursday night.

Good morning. The Braves haven’t made a trade yet. Why do I get the feeling I’ll be able to type the same thing after breakfast?

Did something a little bit different last night, while switching between the Braves-Marlins and the “The Doors” movie on HBO (and by the way, it turns out Jim Morrison was kind of dark and had a drinking problem). I arranged all of the National League playoff contenders by winning percentage. The idea was to determine if only the best teams are being aggressive as they approached the trade deadline.

The maybe-not-so-shocking results: Yes.

As you go down the list, notice how as the winning percentages decrease, the lesser teams are napping. (This includes your Braves: No. 8 with a bullet.) Now, doing nothing isn’t surprising for a non-playoff contender, unless you’re the Pittsburgh Pirates and the idea is to see how much you can sell off …

Continue reading Deadline report: Braves have stood out by doing nothing »

Hank, here’s a start: Ramirez, Ortiz exposed

Ramirez: "Psst. Big Papi, you think they'll ever catch us?" Ortiz: "No, Manny. It's all good."

Ramirez: "Big Papi, you think they'll ever catch us?" Ortiz: "No, Manny. It's all good."

The greatest clean home run hitter in baseball history said last week he wanted the entire list of 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 exposed. I don’t know how much Henry Aaron’s comments weighed on authorities but we can scratch two more names off the secret list.

The New York Times reported that Manny Ramirez — who already has sat out a 50-game suspension this season — and his former Boston Red Sox teammate, David Ortiz, tested positive in 2003. And for those deluded fans who still believe performance-enhancing drugs do not hugely impact the game, Ramirez and Ortiz were big reasons the Red Sox won World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. So Ramirez and Ortiz join previously outed druggies Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa. I guess this thing is being released piecemeal.

Attention Braves fans: If you’re interesting in venting on this subject in some place …

Continue reading Hank, here’s a start: Ramirez, Ortiz exposed »

What not to expect: Falcons vs. Vick in 2009

Falcons coach Mike Smith and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder probably won't have to devise a way to stop No. 7.

(UPDATE: An online sportsbook, Bodog.com, has just established odds on Vick’s next team. Feeling lucky? See below.)

When I caught the tail end of the Falcons’ luncheon for select season ticket holders Wednesday — ostensibly to talk to coach Mike Smith for a column –I mentioned to a few people that at least 18 teams already had indicated they weren’t interested in signing Michael Vick. But all anybody seemed to want to know was: Are any in the NFC South?

Well, here’s some news that even most Falcons fans who don’t want any more local coverage of Vick should be interested in: The Falcons will not have to play Vick twice a season because it seems no NFC South team is interested. (And he may not appear on their 2009 schedule: see below.) That’s something I would’ve never guessed. But here’s the UPDATED breakdown:

NEW ORLEANS:The Saints are out (unofficially team …

Continue reading What not to expect: Falcons vs. Vick in 2009 »

Braves’ problem is they can’t afford even one bad week

This is umpire Bill Hohn, who doesn't seem to like Bobby Cox much (he ejected him again Wednesday) and doesn't care that the Braves have slipped in the wild-card race. (AP photo)

This is what happens when you dig a hole in June.

Over the last the seven days, the Braves have two wins, four losses and an off day. That doesn’t qualify as a major slide. But the results illustrate how difficult of a position they’ve put themselves in. Philadelphia has blown open an eight-game lead in the National League East. The Phillies also just added Cy Young winner Cliff Lee to the starting rotation in a trade with Cleveland.

I guess getting a Cy Young winner instead of Roy Halladay qualifies as a consolation prize. Folks, that ship has sailed.

The wild-card race is almost as daunting. The Braves are only four games back of wild-card leader San Francisco. That wouldn’t be a big problem if the Giants were in first and the Braves were in second. But it’s not that simple.

Before losing four of …

Continue reading Braves’ problem is they can’t afford even one bad week »

After Mora, Petrino, Falcons found a coach they can follow

This is Mike Smith, celebrity. Amazing what happens when you go 11-5.

This is Mike Smith, celebrity. Amazing what happens when a team goes 11-5.

A year ago, when he met his players for the first time, Mike Smith was almost as much in the dark as we were. Oh, he knew what he wanted to say. How he wanted to act. What he wanted to do. But would they listen? Would they follow?

“You don’t get a feel,” the Falcons coach said Wednesday. “You’re basically just giving them your mission statement.”

They listened. They followed. When Smith meets with his players Friday night on the eve of his second training camp, nobody will be in the dark about the head coach with the generic name. We know Mike Smith now, even if, as he says, “It’s hard to be high profile with a name like Mike Smith.”

The Falcons won more than anybody expected last season, but Smith’s name tends to come up as the reason why long after the quarterback or the general manager. It shouldn’t.

Football teams are a reflection of their coach. The Falcons went to the Super Bowl in 1998, not …

Continue reading After Mora, Petrino, Falcons found a coach they can follow »

Vick Derby: 18 already have RSVP’d no

Here's what a contract looks like, but this one is from 1941 and I don't think Vick is that desperate yet.

OK. So you expected suddenly a dozen coaches were going to declare: “I want Vick!”?

If you haven’t noticed, NFL teams have fallen over themselves to declare their respective teams out of the Michael Vick derby. We’re up to 18. Now, none of this means Vick won’t be signed. Thirty-one teams can say no but it only takes one to give Vick a contract. But it does illustrate how quickly some coaches and front office executives wanted the Vick Distraction doused in their city.

So here’s the thing. There are 14 teams who’ve said nothing so far. Thanks in part to the aggregation of ProFootballTalk.com, you’ll see the 18 teams below that have publicly declared they have no interest in Vick. To make this easier to digest, I listed all 32 teams in order of last year’s standings. If there’s a line through the team, it’s out of the Vick Derby.

If there’s one safe bet, it’s that Vick …

Continue reading Vick Derby: 18 already have RSVP’d no »

Favre retires (again) as most selfish athlete in history

Good morning. Brett Favre is still retired.

Favre called it quits (again) Tuesday. He told his broadcasting arm, ESPN, that saying goodbye to the Minnesota Vikings “was the hardest decision I’ve ever made.”

And then we heard crickets.

I guess this was even harder for Favre than when he cried at his retirement press conference in Green Bay, claiming he was done with the game forever, absolutely, that’s it, which prompted the Packers to make an internal and public commitment to Aaron Rodgers. Then a few months later, Favre (not crying anymore) whined that he wanted back in, right before the Packers were preparing to go to training camp with the quarterback they had committed to (and not everybody breaks commitments).

And of course it was harder than this past February when Favre told the New York Jets he would retire, which prompted them to release him, which gave Favre the freedom to try to come back with the Vikings, which was the team he really wanted to play for this …

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