Archive for June, 2011

The next sound you hear will be snoring . . .

on-vacation

The workout is tomorrow. First, I nap.

Will Josh Smith be traded?

Will the NFL lockout be settled?

Will the Braves pass the Phillies for first place . . . or the Mets for third?

Will Dan Uggla hit above .200?

Will the Atlanta Spirit locate their conscience?

Will Gary Bettman locate his soul?

These are some of the questions that may be answered while I park this blog for a couple of weeks. Just taking a little down time. I trust some of the above issues will still be unresolved when I return. Anybody care to venture a guess?

Until next blog, be good.

Continue reading The next sound you hear will be snoring . . . »

Johnathan Taylor’s courage, spirit is inspiration for all of us

Johnathan Taylor is determined to join his new Texas Rangers teammates one day.(Jason Getz/AJC)

Johnathan Taylor is determined to join his Texas teammates one day. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Three draft picks sat in front of a room for a news conference.

Two of them were in folding chairs, wearing Texas Rangers hats, looking at their jerseys that were draped on a table in front of them and talking about their futures in baseball.

The other was in a wheelchair and wearing a black polo. No hat and no jersey in front of him. He also talked about baseball.

“It’s still at the center of my life,” Johnathan Taylor says later. “I can’t let go of it. … I’m focused on getting better, on my rehab, getting my legs under me again. I’m going to walk, then run. Then I’m going to get back on the field again, just like before.”

Amid the drivel of contract squabbles, collective bargaining issues and what cyclist might have doped when, it’s easy to lose sight of the truly important stories in sports. One of them took place Saturday. Taylor, the Georgia player who has suffered from partial paralysis …

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Gonzalez: Braves not considering sending Uggla to minors

This pitch in Houston almost hit Dan Uggla. He needs a few more to hit the bat. (AP photo)

Dan Uggla managed to dodge this pitch in Houston but he needs several more to start hitting the bat. (AP photo)

Dan Uggla is less than three months into a five-years, $62 million contract — and he’s not going anywhere.

I normally wouldn’t be passing along something that should seem obvious. But with the backdrop of Uggla’s struggles, I’ve had so many readers ask me, “Why not just send him down to the minors?” So it seemed time to address it with someone on the Braves.

I posed this question to manager Fredi Gonzalez following Thursday’s win over the New York Mets: Is it too early to even consider something like sending him to Gwinnett?

“We haven’t reached that point,” he said. “We haven’t even had a conversation about that. This is the first time anybody’s even mentioned it.”

And then this: “We’re trying. He’s trying. He’s battling. The season’s not over with.”

For what it’s worth, even if the Braves believed that sending Uggla to Triple-A Gwinnett could help him get his …

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Braves’ Schafer gets his chance and makes most of it (5 hits)

Jordan Schafer, here congratulating Chipper Jones after his three-run homer, had four hits Thursday.

Jordan Schafer, congratulating Chipper Jones after his three-run homer, had five hits Thursday.

(Last update: 11:15 p.m.)

Jordan Schafer has speed, bats leadoff and plays center field. If you put those three together, he probably fills the team’s greatest need – or at least ranks a close second to an oracle who can answer pesky questions like, “Should we really give this $23 million contract to a pitcher from Japan?”

For the past three years, there has been reason to wonder about Schafer. Given he carried a .211 batting average into Thursday’s game against the New York Mets, a case could be made there was still reason to wonder.

Not anymore.

After taking the plunge from a potential organizational centerpiece to a guy known for a 50-game suspension, injuries and maybe being just a little too cocky, he’s turning into a major league player — an impact one. He is saying and doing the right things. You hear about the work ethic, the humility. He showed some toughness after taking …

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Atlanta Spirit hammered again in all-sports franchise rankings

Braves fared well in rankings, current problems notwithstanding.

Braves fared well in rankings, current problems notwithstanding.

I acknowledge that we don’t need any more affirmation of the pecking order of Atlanta’s major pro sports franchises — or more specifically, their owners. But it’s always comforting when a national publication echoes the same sentiment.

And so, we give you ESPN The Magazine’s ninth annual “Ultimate Standings” of 2011. The magazine ranked all 122 sports franchises, including those who might be moving to Winnipeg. Their eight criteria were bang for the buck (wins vs.

Guess which team ranked No. 122 (last) in ownership?

Guess which team ranked No. 122 (last) in ownership?

revenue in the last three years); fan relations; ownership (the word “honesty” was invoked); affordability; stadium experience; players (effort and likability); coaching; and title track (championships won or expected in lifetime of current fans).

The Braves and Falcons fared well, ranking 19th and 20th, respectively. You’ll have to go lower to find the Hawks and Thrashers.

Lower. Still lower. Almost …

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ESPN says Isaiah Crowell not among SEC’s top 10 backs

Isaiah Crowell's shadow looms large in the SEC next season. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Isaiah Crowell's shadow looms large in the SEC next season. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Possible unrealistic expectations notwithstanding, we’ve noted several times that incoming Georgia freshman running back Isaiah Crowell could have the greatest impact of any player on the Bulldogs next season. ESPN’s Chris Low echoed that sentiment when he told me on Wednesday, “If Crowell can have three-quarters of  the impact that Marcus Lattimore had at South Carolina, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Georgia playing in Atlanta for the SEC championship.”

But here’s what Low didn’t do: Name Crowell one of the 10 best running backs in the SEC.

ESPN’s SEC blogger just came out with his list of the 10 best backs in the conference, and Crowell, the jewel of the Dogs’ incoming class, didn’t make the cut.

When I asked Low about it, he laughed.

“I have him at 10A,” he said.

He said he struggled with the rankings because of the SEC’s depth of talent at running back and considered five players for the last …

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Jurrjens can’t give Braves the great start they need

It was a rare bad night for Jair Jurrjens, and the Braves didn't have a lineup to make up for it. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Braves didn't have lineup to make up for rare bad night by Jair Jurrjens. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Updated at 11:15 p.m.)

On a night when Jair Jurrjens attempted to continue his season with an arm that has seemed just this side of bionic, the Braves supported him with a starting lineup that seemed just this side of Gwinnett.

Three starters (Martin Prado, Jason Heyward, Nate McLouth) were on the disabled list. Another one (Freddie Freeman) was scratched just before game time with an oblique strain. A fifth regular, Brian McCann, was just being rested – presumably in a protective bubble.

This isn’t the ideal way to attack a division race, but then probabilities seldom entered the equation last year.

Here’s the issue: The Braves have left themselves little margin for error. So on nights when one of their pitchers proves to be less than spectacular, which was the case Tuesday with Jurrjens, they’re pretty much sunk.

They opened a nine-game homestand with a 4-3 loss to the New York …

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LIVE BLOG: Braves hope they’ve reached turning point

Flags aren't quite in the order of the standings: Phillies-Braves-Marlins-Mets-Nationals.

Flags aren't quite in the order of the standings, which read: Phillies-Braves-Marlins-Mets-Nationals.

So. Is it soup yet?

For those younger than, well, me, there was a Lipton instant soup commercial back in the 1970s in which a son kept asking his mother that question. That’s sort of what we’ve been asking about the Braves most of the season. Are they the Braves yet?

Finally, maybe yes. After a bumpy first 60 games, the Braves won six straight at Florida and Houston before closing the road trip with an 8-3 loss to the Astros. They’re nine games over. 500 (38-29) and start the night 2½ games behind Philadelphia despite injuries and all of their offensive problems this season.

“You’re like, ‘OK, we’ve taken off a little — and now we have a chance to really take off,’” manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

The Braves open a nine-game home stand tonight against the New York Mets, but their home record (17-13, .567) isn’t any better than their road mark (21-16, .568).

There also are signs …

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Countdown: Vote LeBron, someone else in Count’s hate poll!

The Count was always lovable ...

The Count was always lovable …

. . . even when he and his twin, Count Floyd, were babies.

. . . even when he and his sister (left) were babies.

The Count believes hate is such a strong word. The Count doesn’t hate. He mocks, he clowns and he occasionally dislikes. But he certainly doesn’t hate. There was that one full moon when The Count was strolling through a bad neighborhood and he needed a quick fix. So he bit some lady as she was leaving the Quik Trip, and she claimed to be European, but The Count was pretty sure she was from Secaucus because he just remembers this dreadful aftertaste and pronouncing, “I would not wash the feet of my pigs in your plasma!” (Say it with an obnoxious French accent, s0unds better.) Anyway, back to this hate thing. A lot of people seem to hate LeBron James. So The Count was thinking, “Hey, how ab0ut the first ever Count Poll?” Sharpen your cuspids. We count down . . .

10. So many choices, but here’s a worthy “Sweet 16″

Sorry. Pick only one.

  • Barry Bonds.
  • Roger Clemens.
  • Kobe …

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Miami Herald Macy’s ad declares Heat ‘NBA champions’ (UPDATED)

Here's a better photo than earlier version. (Courtesy: Miami New Times.)

Here's a better photo than earlier version. (Miami New Times.)

(Last update: 4:40 p.m. Added an anecdote Falcons’ fans should remember from the Super Bowl season.)

And now, from the, “Dewey Defeats Truman” file, we give you: “Congratulations Miami!”

In the mother — or maybe that should be “King James” — of all mistakes, the Miami Herald ran a near-full page Macy’s ad in Monday’s newspaper, announcing that Heat “championship” T-shirts and hats were going on sale.

This represents the closest LeBron James and the Heat actually will get to the title this season.

Miami lost Game 6 of the NBA finals and the series to the Dallas Mavericks Sunday night. It’s common for print publications to have two display ads ready to go after championship events. T-shirt manufacturers operate similarly (and then either destroy the shirts for the losing team or send them to charities overseas). What made this mistake unusual was the Heat trailed the series three games to two before

For those who didn't catch the historical reference.

For those who …

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