Archive for February, 2011

Braves’ Heyward, Freeman make S.I. cover (uh, danger?)

SIcover

Let's hope this turns out better than the S.I. cover below.

Somebody must think the Braves are going to be pretty good, because Sports Illustrated just slapped them on the magazine cover.

Wait, is this good news?

Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward can be seen smiling on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated. The headline reads: “The Boys of Spring. Only 21, Freddie Freeman And Jason Heyward Are The Cornerstones Of Atlanta’s Brave New World.”

Let us hope this turns out better than the S.I. cover in August of 2005, when Jeff Francoeur was pictured holding a bat, with the headline reading: “The Natural. Atlanta Rookie Jeff Francoeur Is Off To An Impossibly Hot Start. Can Anyone Be This Good?”

0829_largeAnd then we found out. Also, the Sports llustrated “cover jinx” has become rather infamous through the years.

But I’ll take the Freeman-Heyward cover as good news for the Braves.

Here’s an excerpt from Ben Reiter’s story, “Brave New World,” which focuses on their age (21) and their …

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Carmelo Anthony goes to New York — will Hawks respond?

The Hawks will see Carmelo Anthony more often now that he's with the New York Knicks. (AJC file photo)

The Hawks will see Carmelo Anthony more often now that he's with the New York Knicks. (AJC file photo)

Now that Carmelo Anthony is in Manhattan, what will the Hawks do? And are they on the verge of sinking in the Eastern Conference standings?

We’ll soon find out about the first question, as general manager Rick Sund has spoken to Cleveland about Ramon Sessions and New Jersey about Devin Harris, according to our Michael Cunningham. But the fact is, Sund was pursuing a deal, anyway. The trade of Anthony to the New York Knicks doesn’t necessarily increase the sense of urgency for this season, even if it dramatically changes the big picture for future seasons.

Consider: The Hawks entered Tuesday at 34-21 and fifth overall in the East, 5½ games ahead of the Knicks (28-26). If they go 16-11 in their final 27 games, which seems reasonable, the Knicks would need to go 22-6 just to pull even. That’s not likely to happen — not with this New York team.

There’s a little too much early …

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Braves’ contract extension to Frank Wren well deserved

Frank Wren chats with Braves' latest addition, second baseman Dan Uggla. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Frank Wren chats with Braves' latest addition, second baseman Dan Uggla. (Jason Getz/AJC)

The Braves have given general manager Frank Wren a two-year contract extension. There was a time when that news might have led fans to storm Turner Field with torches and pitchforks, but now it’s perfectly appropriate.

I understand that Wren remains somewhat of a polarizing figure. But the moves he made last season to get the Braves back to the postseason — despite an inordinate number of injuries to the lineup — could easily have earned him Executive of the Year honors in baseball.

There were obvious mistakes early in Wren’s tenure, immediately after he replaced John Scherholz. He didn’t handle the exits of either Tom Glavine or John Smoltz particularly well, especially given that both were franchise legends. He overspent for pitchers Derek Lowe and certainly Kenshin Kawakami. The acquisition of Nate McLouth hasn’t worked out.

The winter he swung and missed when attempting to get Rafael …

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Former Georgia Tech assistant suspended for hitting player (VIDEO) (UPDATE: He’s gone)

Former Jackets assistant John Connor took a hard practice too far at Holy Family University.

Former Georgia Tech assistant John O'Connor took a hard practice too far at Holy Family University in Philadelphia. (MyFoxPhilly.com)

(UPDATE: John O’Connor has “resigned” from his coaching job at Holy Family University after video showed him hitting and knocking down one of his players. O’Connor will not face any criminal charges, according to the Philadelphia district attorney’s office. Here’s the link to the Associated Press story.)

Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt may lose his job after this season. John O’Connor, one of his former assistants, may lose a lot more than that: He has been suspended for hitting one of his players.

O’Connor, who worked at Tech from 2005 to 2010 as director of operations and then assistant coach under Hewitt, has been suspended from his first-year head coaching job at Division II Holy Family University in Philadelphia, after a player filed a police report claiming he was assaulted.

There is video evidence of the incident, via MyFoxPhilly.com. It …

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Hawks’ Sund puts onus on players: ‘Challenge is up to them’

Mike Bibby isnt always this overmatched, but it seems like it. (MCT News Service)

Mike Bibby isn't always this overmatched. It just seems like it.

Let’s dispense of the whines first, because it’s impossible to debate the Hawks’ future without the obvious elephant in the locker room, or in this case the entire herd:

♦ They have a slow and inefficient starting point guard (Mike Bibby) who averages 9.6 points and 3.7 assists, which would be fine if this was a 40-and-over league or a YMCA in Springfield, Mass., in 1891.

♦ They have an occasionally dominating forward (Josh Smith) who sometimes forgets that there’s a whole world of possibilities inside the paint.

♦ They have another forward (Marvin Williams) who was the draft’s second pick but has proven to be little more than a $7 million-a-year rotational player (if that).

♦ They have a roster resilient enough to record the third-best road record in the Eastern Conference (17-12) but schizoid enough to lose home games by 23, 41 and 34 points.

Now let’s discuss reality.

Whether or not general manager Rick Sund …

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It’s shameful to blame fans if Thrashers move to Winnipeg

The Atlanta Spirit pie chart never worked. The Thrashers' failures are not the fault of fans.

The Atlanta Spirit pie chart never worked. The Thrashers' failures are not the fault of fans.

(Updated: 2 p.m.)

Like warped kismet, the Thrashers were scheduled to face the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday night, the same week one of the Atlanta Spirit’s captains of disaster declared a relative state of emergency.

There should have been viewing parties in Winnipeg for this, because there’s a very good chance one of these teams is ending up in Manitoba. These rumors have been circulating for months, and not just from the usual Canadian chamber-of-commerce-type knuckleheads who have a vested interest. The rumors are like dominoes, and they fall like this:

♦ 1) The NHL has assured Winnipeg it is getting a team back.

♦ 2) The Coyotes, who’ve had financial issues since moving from Winnipeg in 1996, went into bankruptcy and now are operated by the league, would move back to Winnipeg if current arena refinancing issues can’t be resolved.

♦ 3) Should Phoenix resolve its problems and not …

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NCAA investigating Auburn again (not Cam Newton this time)

Cam Newton has left campus but apparently the NCAA is still snooping around Auburn.

Cam Newton has left campus but apparently the NCAA is still snooping around Auburn.

To the portion of the college football fan base that believes Auburn and Cam Newton got away with something this past season, this probably will come as sweet news: The NCAA is looking into recruiting issues at Auburn again.

According to stories on FoxSports.com and the blog site SportsByBrooks, NCAA investigators were in Thibodaux, La., this week to speak with Auburn recruit Greg Robinson and three others regarding how Robinson (an offensive lineman) and wide receiver Trovon Reed (a 2010 recruit also from Thibodaux) ended up signing with the Tigers.

Part of the investigation appears to be focusing on Sean Nelson, who lives in Thibodaux and was involved in the recruiting process.  If Nelson is some sort of street agent and compensation was involved in Auburn landing Robinson and/or Reed, that’s an obvious NCAA violation.

LSU fans aren’t happy about two home grown players leaving the state and …

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Roger Goodell should be negotiating, not Tweeting for clicks

Hello, I'm Roger Goodell. Follow me on Twitter. (AP photo)

Hello, I'm Roger Goodell. Follow me on Twitter. (AP photo)

With the potential of a $9 billion league blowing up in roughly a few weeks because NFL owners and players can’t figure out how to divide their gold bars and caviar, Roger Goodell just did the last thing you would expect: He Tweeted.

Never mind have a meeting with owners. Never mind having a meeting with players. Never mind the novel concept of setting up a meeting with owners and players . . . wait for it . . . together!

The absurdity of an NFL lockout just reached a new level because it’s clear now Goodell is worried only about winning a public relations battle. At 2:27 p.m Wednesday, he sent out a message on Twitter from @NFLCommish address: “Here’s why the status quo is not an option for the next CBA.” And then he added a link to an op-en piece that began running in media outlets last week, titled, “We need an agreement both sides can live with.”

Goodell presumably sent out his link for the same reason I send out …

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Dreaming of Albert Pujols as a Brave (but it’s a budget killer)

There goes another home run by Albert Pujols, who'll soon be up for bidding.

There goes another home run by Albert Pujols, who'll soon be up for bidding.

It appears the St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols will become a free agent after this baseball season, which almost certainly means we are on the verge of seeing a new record contract in baseball, as well as the next magazine cover: “Albert Inc. and the Lesser 499 of the Fortune 500.”

The other day, I threw out “a guy can dream” joke about the Braves making a bid for Pujols. Should’ve known but about a dozen folks sent me emails (and other notes on Facebook or Twitter) asking if I really th0ught that would or could happen. The short answer: no.

Pujols obviously is a great player, and first base has been a black hole for the Braves since I think Joe Adcock left. (Kids: Google). The latest hope is that prospect Freddie Freeman turns into the next great thing. If that happens, the organization is set at first for a while.

But this is Albert Pujols, the best player in the game. There aren’t that many …

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Braves’ spring training: What do you think is No. 1 issue?

Nate McLouth and the situation in center field is one of the Braves' questions.

Nate McLouth and the situation in center field is one of the Braves' questions this spring.

Spring training officially opened this week, and that always means two things: 1) Hope; 2) Questions.

I’ll be heading down to Orlando in less than two weeks to examine a few issues but I figured this blog would be more appropriate today. Some national media outlets, like FoxSports.com, are locking onto the loss of closer Billy Wagner as the No. 1 issue facing the Braves. It’s a worthy topic. But I figured I would let fans weigh in.

What is Braves’ No. 1 issue going into spring training?

  • 1. Replacing Wagner.
  • 2. Chipper Jones’ health
  • 3. Center field (Nate McLouth)
  • 4. Freddie Freeman’s readiness
  • 5. Overall defense

View Results

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Here are a few areas I believe most folks are looking at, along with my view. Let me know what you think and vote in the accompanying poll. That way we can come to some highly scientific conclusion, which I’ll pass along to …

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