The summer is almost over. That’s fortunate. I figure if I take another week off, there will be a three-car pileup in a Kroger parking lot involving Matt Ryan, Jason Heyward and A.J. Green and I’ll be off somewhere, sipping a drink out of a smoking coconut, thinking, “It’s a good thing I only take my vacation in the summer when nothing happens.”
I try to plan my time off carefully. I generally take it in the summer because: 1) That’s when my family can take it; 2) The other three seasons generally are filled with football, football, football, NBA playoffs, trade deadlines, drafts
and recruiting. So what happens? The last two times I closed my laptop for time off, Damon Evans blew up his career and Chipper Jones tore his ACL.
I wasn’t supposed to return until Sunday. But with Georgia naming Greg McGarity its new athletic director later today and Jones meeting with the media, I figured I would come back a little early. (On a related note, I have a week of vacation time remaining. I’m supposed to take that soon. So take cover. Some readers have suggested I hold off until LeBron James comes to town, hoping he gets caught in the aftershocks. But I’m soliciting suggestions.)
OK, so let’s get to an abbreviated catchup session here. I’ll be in Athens later today for the McGarity press conference. I hope to post a column before the press conference and update it later. But a few bullet points first . . .
♦ THE CHIPPER JONES AFTERMATH: I have no feel for what general manager Frank Wren will do. He might do nothing and Spackle the roster internally. Here’s my only hope: That money is not a determining factor in whether the Braves try to strengthen the roster down the stretch.
We all know how tight Liberty Media has been since taking over, but this season has a chance to be a special one and it would be unfortunate if budget concerns got in the way of that. Here are a few names the Braves can look at (understanding that these players would have to pass through waivers before being dealt).
1. Ty Wigginton: He has played mostly third base in his career and is in the last year of his contract ($3.5 million) with Baltimore. He’s hitting only .260 (with 18 home runs) but he’s actually batting .286 since the All-Star break and .311 with two homers and two doubles in 11 games in August.
2. Chone Figgins: The Braves would have to convince themselves Figgins is part of their plans for the future because he’s in only the first year of a four-year, $36 million contract with Seattle. I’m not sure they’ll do that. The upside is, he plays third base and center field. He also has speed. He can be their leadoff guy next season. He’s hitting only .253 now but he’s actually at .310 since the All-Star break and .405 in August.
3. Melvin Mora: I know. He’s old (38). But he would be a solid utility player off the bench and can play almost any position. He comes cheap (the remainder of his $1.275 million contract) and he’s hitting .275 (.317 since the All-Star break).
Any thoughts on those names, or do you have one of your own?
♦ McGARITY TO GEORGIA: It was the logical hire. It’s worth noting — I’ll get into this more later — that he is stepping into a much easier situation than Damon Evans stepped into in 2004. Georgia athletics (unlike the rest of the university) is flush with cash, facility expansion projects are either completed or well underway and even the basketball program is taking off. Come back later and I’ll also let you know just how significant a role Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley played in McGarity’s hiring.
♦ FALCON TO WATCH: WEATHERSPOON: When I spoke to Falcons rookie linebacker Sean Weathersoon a week ago, he mentioned the game that he was most looking forward to was the exhibition against Kansas City. Why? Because it was the first game. It’s dangerous to draw conclusions from preseason games. But tonight’s game against the Chiefs should provide a nice sneak preview for what we can expect from Weatherspoon this season. It’s also significant that coach Mike Smith is starting him in the game because it means he wants to see Weatherspoon in all situations and against the Chiefs’ starting offense. He alone makes the game worth watching tonight.
That’s it for now. I’ll check in later from Athens.