Archive for July, 2009

Weigh in: Should Braves buy or sell at deadline?

Frank Wren has some tough decisions to make -- again.

Frank Wren has a tough decision to make — again.

The Braves have won seven of their last 10, which qualifies as a hot streak for a .500 team that hasn’t been north of break-even since June 9 (they were 29-28 after a 4-3 win over Pittsburgh).

It’s a good sign for a team that has had to blow up the blueprint more than a few times this season. But with the trade deadline (July 31) just 11 days away, their post-season chances aren’t any clearer than they were weeks ago. Consider:

National League East: It’s not concession time yet. But Philadelphia leads the Braves by 6 1/2 games and, more importantly, by eight in the loss column. The Phillies have won eight straight and 12 of 13 since being swept at Turner Field. Logic says they’ve already gone through their funk and they’re not going to go through another. The lineup is too good. The pitching might be getting better. They’ve taken a low-cost flier on Pedro Martinez and they’re probably leading the Roy Halladay sweepstakes. …

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Thrashers ready to give Kovalchuk the hard sell

Other moves notwithstanding, Ilya Kovalchuk remains the only player on the Thrashers' roster most people can identify. (AP photo)

Other moves notwithstanding, Ilya Kovalchuk remains the only player on the Thrashers' roster most can identify. (AP photo)

In the past several weeks, the Thrashers have signed a free agent forward (Nik Antropov), traded for a top-four defenseman (Pavel Kubina) and drafted potential top scorer (Evander Kane). Whether they keep the only player that most people walking around the streets of Atlanta can actually identify is another matter.

Negotiations are expected to heat up this week between general manager Don Waddell and Ilya Kovalchuk’s agent, Jay Grossman. The two sides aren’t saying much publicly that they haven’t said before. Waddell sent me an email Monday, saying: “It’s our goal to sign Ilya to a long-term deal.” Grossman declined comment. (He’s known as a tough agent, but issuing negotiating rhetoric to the media isn’t his thing.)

Kovalchuk has a year left on his contract at $7.5 million. Theoretically, his new deal could pay him up to $11.2 million per season (20 …

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Deny, deny, deny: But don’t be surprised if Meyer leaves

Just a hunch: Meyer takes his trophies and moves on after next season.

Florida's Urban Meyer is just like every other coach: At some point, he's going to need a new challenge.

If Urban Meyer wants to clear the air again about rumors that he’ll become Notre Dame’s next football coach after the upcoming season, he’ll have an opportunity this week at SEC media days in Alabama.

Will it make a difference? No. But at least everybody will have something on tape for reference, just like all those clips of Nick Saban saying: “I guess I have to say it. I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.”

I know. Meyer is different, right? That’s what Florida fans say. That’s what Meyer suggests. So when he all but slammed his fist on the table the other day and said, “I’m not going to Notre Dame. Ever. I’m going to be the coach at Florida for a long time, as long as they want me,” we had to believe him right?

Uh, no.

I don’t know Meyer but I know coaches. Never met one — in any sport on any level — who didn’t at some point need a new challenge. This isn’t to say …

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Greene shows Stafford what happens when things go wrong

If Matthew Stafford feels overwhelmed early in the NFL, he wouldn't be the first rookie quarterback. Ask David Greene.

If Matthew Stafford (pictured with Lions assistant Scott Linehan) feels overwhelmed early as a pro, he wouldn't be the first rookie QB to struggle. Ask David Greene.

Five years ago, David Greene was college football gold. He broke the NCAA record for most wins. He threw for more passing yards than any quarterback in SEC history (including Peyton Manning). Maybe he wasn’t projected as an NFL star. But he was drafted in the third round by Mike Holmgren, who had made a career of molding quarterbacks into Super Bowl champions, so that had to mean something.

Today, David Greene sells insurance. “We’re in the risk-management consultant business,” he said. Yeah. Sounds better.

He spent four NFL seasons with four teams and never played in a regular-season game. The systems were different. The terminology was different. The playbook read like Latin. It was year one and, “There I was being re-coached on a three-step drop. I felt like I had zero carryover from college.”

David Greene was …

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Can Stafford learn anything from Greene?

Here's David Greene in an NFL exhibition. He never made it to a real game.

This is an exhibition. David Greene never played in a real game.

( UPDATE: New Greene-Stafford column now posted. Here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/ldjg6u But feel free to read the warmup too. I get residuals. Kidding.)

ATHENS — COLLEGE FOOTBALL!!!

Sorry. Cheap page view trick.

Also, it’s a little bit of a lie. I’m actually sitting in the Five Points Deli in Athens right now and soon will head out to the Georgia golf course to catch some players as they finish their 18 holes. You’ve probably heard of a few: David Greene, Matt Stinchcomb, Jon Stinchcomb. A bunch of former Bulldogs are in town for the fourth annual “Countdown to Kickoff,” a fanfest that takes place Saturday on the practice fields. The benefit event kicked off Friday with a golf tournament.

Why am I here? It’s not to talk to Greene about his chipping. Rather, with the start of NFL training camps only two weeks away, I wanted to get his perspective on Matthew Stafford. Greene didn’t have nearly the physical …

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Next up for Cooperstown: Chipper, then, well, um…

This guy is swinging toward the Hall of Fame. But who's next for the Braves?

This guy is swinging toward the Hall of Fame. But what Brave would come next?

As the Braves prepare to honor former pitcher Greg Maddux tonight – retiring his number and beating Cooperstown to the punch by inducting him into their own Hall of Fame – I thought this would be a good time to evaluate the Braves’ roster for individual greatness.

Used to be you looked at the pitching rotation and saw Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and thought: Hall of Fame, Hall of Fame, Hall of Fame. Now, the only likely player on the team who figures to be enshrined after his career is Chipper Jones.

Which of these Braves do you most see as a future Hall of Famer?

  • Brian McCann
  • Tommy Hanson
  • Tim Hudson
  • Yunel Escobar
  • Jordan Schafer

View Results

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As former Braves go, Glavine and Smoltz both will get in. We can safely assume at this point that Dale Murphy will not get in.

But just for chuckles, here’s my unofficial Hall odds list from the current roster:

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Francoeur makes his strange (and hitless) return

See? And I bet you thought Francoeur didn't talk to Braves coaches. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

See? Francoeur talks to Braves coaches after all. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Two weeks after he left Turner Field, not realizing he wouldn’t be back for a while, Jeff Francoeur was relieved Thursday when a friend dropped him off at the stadium and his car was still there in the players’ parking lot.

“I was hoping when I got here that it hadn’t been towed,” he said.

Yes, of all the underhanded things Braves general manager Frank Wren has been accused of doing this season, it’s safe to assume that having Francoeur’s car towed following a trade during a road trip would have established a new low. Fortunately, having the bottom fall out of his career didn’t strain relations. Francoeur didn’t anger the Braves, he merely frustrated them.

“It’s hard,” Bobby Cox said, as he looked into the opposing dugout, “because he’s over there and you’re pulling for him.”

After a meteoric rise and a spectacular crash, Francoeur returned home Thursday. He wore a New York Mets uniform. He was …

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Francoeur returns! (and he shouldn’t have ever left)

How much do you think this guy wants to homer tonight?

How much do you think this guy wants to homer tonight?

Getting ready to head out to the stadium for tonight’s big grudge match: Ryan Church vs. the Mets. (Hah!)

Seriously, I’m curious: When Jeff Francoeur steps to the plate tonight, what will you do? Boo? Cheer? Wonder how this affects Willie Martinez’s plans in Stillwater?

For those of you who chose “boo,” that’s certainly your right as a fan, although I’m not sure the kid deserves it. But I’ve got to be honest: I didn’t really like the trade when general manager Frank Wren made it just before the All-Star break, and I still don’t like it. I still believe Francoeur — for as stubborn as he is taking advice and as much of a head case as some think he has turned into — can turn out to be a pretty special player.

I realize I’m weighing in late on this. But , hey, I was on vacation when the trade was made. And so, well, here we go:

Our scrappy baseball writer and maniacal blogger, David O’Brien, approved of the trade in his blog …

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News and Views: Williams just another busted Hokie

Here's Jimmy Williams when he wasn't on drugs -- as far as we know.

Here's Jimmy Williams when he wasn't on drugs, as far as we know.

Welcome back for another edition of News and Views. Today, we asked the question: Who will be the next Falcons’ scout to dare step foot in Blacksburg, Va.?

♦ News: Colossal draft bust Jimmy Williams is suspended for a year by the NFL for using some kind of drug.

♦ Why should you care: Because Williams now resides in Falcons’ lore as one of their great day-one draft disasters, along with (you might want to cover your eyes for this): Aundray Bruce, Marcus Cotton, Steve Broussard, Mike Pritchard, Bruce Pickens, Tony Smith, Devin Bush, Nathan Davis, Michael Booker, Reggie Kelly, Bryan Scott … OK, that’s all I can do without falling over. But there is good news. The Falcons will never draft another Hokie! (we can only hope)

Views: It’s scary to think about it, but at one time in 2006 the Falcons had five Virginia Tech players on their roster: Williams, Michael Vick, cornerback DeAngelo Hall, guard Matt Lehr and …

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Working on a dream? These five can get Braves there

A lot has to happen for this scene to be replayed (without Jeff Francoeur leaping in middle).

A lot has to happen for this scene to be replayed (without Jeff Francoeur leaping in middle).

Let me start by saying I don’t think they can do it. It’s not that I don’t want them to do it. Because really — despite what some Fan Boy Underpants in the cheap seats might believe — sports writers really don’t root for or against anybody. (OK, Bobby Petrino. Him I don’t like.)

But when I tell you that I don’t think the Braves will win the National League East, it’s not that I’m pulling against them. Fact is, it would be a great story: “Frank Wren dumps on Smoltz, Glavine and Francoeur! Overcomes catastrophic Mark Teixeira trade by his predecessor! Shakes fist at critics and shouts, ‘Sweet victory is mine!” I’d actually like to write that. Hey, it’s all about the stories.

But do I think that will happen? No. Can it happen? Well, yes: If Philadelphia becomes pedestrian again and if the Braves take off. But for the latter to occur, they need heroic efforts from these five players. …

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