Archive for February, 2012

Needed reminder: Jason Heyward isn’t a finished product

Jason Heyward said this isn't the first time in his life he has had to overcome obstacles. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Jason Heyward says this isn't the first time in his baseball life he has had to come back from failure. (Jason Getz/AJC)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – This is what we do, and by “we,” I mean everybody – fans, media, ex-athletes who now clutch microphones, the occasional bitter coach or scout, certainly that anonymous subculture that exists behind wacky screen names and disseminates wonderful new damning statistics that were invented, like, seven minutes earlier.

In Year 1, we embraced and celebrated.

“Hitting a home run on Opening Day — that was awesome,” Jason Heyward recalled Wednesday.

In Year 2, we questioned and trashed.

“Unfortunately I got hurt and I can’t control that,” he added moments later. “And as far as fans, media, whatever — I can’t control that, either.”

Why do we do this?

Jason Heyward is 22 years old. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that. Were you a finished product and ready for public consumption/dissection at 22? We watch and hear about athletes from the time …

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Braves will be better off if they’re more aggressive on base

Michael Bourn will be doing a lot of running for the Braves this season, but the entire team needs to be more aggressive on the bases. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Michael Bourn will do a lot of running for the Braves this season, but the entire team needs to be more aggressive on the basepaths than last year. (Jason Getz/AJC)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Braves believe one thing that gives them hope this season is that, no matter how many knocks and pings they encounter over 162 games, the road can’t possibly be littered with as many engine parts as we witnessed during last rites last September. But what if it happens again?

What if Jason Heyward in Year 3 isn’t much better than Jason Heyward in Year 2. What if Dan Uggla flails for too many weeks, Brian McCann wilts and this time Martin Prado develops, I dunno, gout? The Braves need a safety net. Actually, what they need is a new mindset.

Most expected this club to become more aggressive last season under manager Fredi Gonzalez. That didn’t happen. If the Braves’ offense wasn’t quite the sit-back-and-wait-for-the-long-ball team we had come to know in the 1990s, they certainly didn’t …

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Chipper takes shots at drug cheaters (though he considered it)

Chipper Jones is in his 20th and possibly final spring training. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Chipper Jones knows when his career is over, he will have done it right way. (Jason Getz/AJC)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – There was a time when he considered it. Chipper Jones thought about taking a pill, sticking a needle in his arm, doing whatever it is cheaters do in hopes of gaining an edge and fooling us into believing the mutant statistics all came about from hard work and whey shakes.

“Yeah. I mean, definitely,” the Braves’ almost-40 third baseman said Monday when asked if he ever considered using performance-enhancing drugs. “You see peers doing it. You see contemporaries on other teams doing it and putting up [big] numbers. But at that point in my career, while I didn’t have kids yet, and I thought, I don’t want to jeopardize their lives [with the backlash] one day.”

On Monday, Braves players were given a presentation from a team doctor on what substances to stay away from.

“I can pretty much recite it from year to year,” Jones said, and the banned list didn’t include …

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Hanson ready to move on with new delivery (and new car)

Tommy Hanson, potential staff ace, has been most a spectator so far in spring. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Tommy Hanson has been mostly a spectator so far in Braves' camp. (Jason Getz/AJC)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – This was a good day for Tommy Hanson. He jogged, and his head didn’t explode. He played catch, and his shoulder didn’t throb. His car – still not so good. It remains on the disabled list. But relief is on the way.

“I bought a truck – so if something else happens I should be OK,” the Braves’ pitcher said, managing a smile.

Would you like to own a 2007 Infinity M45? If you order the CarFax, you’ll find it was in a significant accident in February of 2012. But the current owner is taking care of all repairs, and he says he can be talked into a few incentives to close the deal, maybe even a signed ball or a jersey.

“They said repairs are going to be at least $8,000,” said Hanson, believed to be the first Brave in history to arrive at spring training via tow truck. “The car’s pretty messed up. I’m going to sell it.

“If you know anybody who wants to buy it, tell them to contact …

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Braves convinced everything can’t go wrong again

Fredi Gonzalez went over his checklist before the first full-squad workout of spring training. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Fredi Gonzalez address team before Braves' first full-squad workout of spring. (Jason Getz/AJC)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – They’re all here, a rare thing in these panic-and-detonate times in pro sports. Late-season collapses generally are followed by somebody in the front office looping wire around several big toes, running it to a wooden box that reads, “Acme TNT,” and pushing down on the plunger.

Not with the Braves. There was no kaboom in the winter.

On the first day of full-squad workouts in spring training Saturday, almost every player from a year ago, save the anchor, Derek Lowe, was there: Dan Uggla, who was hitting .173 on July 4; Jason Heyward, who messed up his shoulder and then everything inside his head; Martin Prado, who struggled and added staph infection to his list of career ailments; Brian McCann, who went into a slump and, for the first time in his life, couldn’t locate a solution; Jair Jurrjens, who followed a 12-3 first half with a 1-3 second half and a …

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Off to spring training, and I’ll take your Braves’ questions

You can only find this scene at spring training in Florida. (Jason Getz/AJC)

You can only find this scene at spring training in Florida. (Jason Getz/AJC)

We start with an affirmation that even one of the most corrupt individuals in American history had at least one good (legal) idea.

William “Boss” Tweed, best known for orchestrating the Tammany Hall scandal — an estimated $200 million swindle, and this was back when $200 million got you more than Prince Fielder — also owned an amateur baseball team, the New York Mutuals. In the spring of 1869, Tweed had the idea to move the Mutuals to a warmer climate than Brooklyn. So the team loaded a train and headed south to New Orleans to play a series of exhibition games against the hometown Pelicans.

The seed for one of pro sports’ greatest traditions was planted.

It’s true that baseball’s spring training has lost some of its charm in recent years, some of its uniqueness. The stadiums are closer to the downsized palaces of the majors than they are to the upsized softball fields of the neighborhood park. Ticket …

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Smith jobbed again: Stern picks Rondo for All-Stars

Josh Smith has been a force at both ends of the court this season. (AP photo)

Josh Smith has been a force at both ends of the court this season. (AP photo)

(Updated)

On Monday, NBA commissioner David Stern suspended Rajon Rondo two games for throwing the ball at a referee. On Wednesday, he named him to the All-Star game.

Too bad Rondo didn’t also throw a shoe, or he might’ve clinched the MVP award.

Who gets jobbed again? Josh Smith, of course. On the same day Hawks guard Joe Johnson pulled out of All-Star weekend in Orlando, Stern, who makes the call on replacements, picked Boston guard Rondo over Smith to replace him.

It’s the second time Smith got bypassed as an Eastern Conference reserve. I guess he should just get used to the fact that nobody likes him.

Smith should have been named to the squad two weeks ago. He had a case for playing in his first All-Star game either of the last two seasons, but his exclusion this season was the biggest pratfall of all. This seems to be a case of conferences coaches, who chose the reserves, still having this vision …

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Joe Johnson should skip All-Star game for Hawks’ sake

If Joe Johnson bows out of All-Star Game, it could open door for Josh Smith.

If Joe Johnson bows out of All-Star game, it could open door for Josh Smith. (AP photo)

(Updated at 2:05 p.m. with news that Joe Johnson will miss the next two games.)

Six-time All-Star Joe Johnson hasn’t often been given a warm embrace by the sports fans of Atlanta. That’s because no matter how many times he is referenced by team officials as “the six-time All-Star Joe Johnson,” significant matters keep getting in the way. Like his contract, his aloofness, his seeming lack of leadership and his team’s general shortcomings.

Well, here’s one way “six-time All-Star Joe Johnson” can score some points with the general populace: don’t play in his sixth All-Star game.

The Hawks are on a slide. They lost more games in the past 10 (3-7) than they did in the first 22 (16-6). This isn’t completely unexpected. They’re banged up. They’re worn down. They’re starting to play some better teams. They’re missing their starting center (Al Horford) and his backup (Jason Collins), and this was …

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Report: Marvin Williams wants out (OK, what’s the joke?)

There haven't been enough moments like this from Marvin Williams. (AP photo)

There haven't been enough moments like this from Marvin Williams. (AP photo)

The Hawks have enough other issues now, with injuries to Al Horford, Jason Collins and Joe Johnson (who couldn’t finish Monday’s loss at Chicago because of a knee injury).

But here’s one more problem — or maybe it’s actually comic relief.

According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard — and I caution all to not treat this with Woodward-and-Bernstein reliability — Hawks forward Marvin Williams wants out. Quoting directly from Broussard’s “True Hoop” blog: “Frustration abounds in Atlanta right now, and sources say Marvin Williams wants out because he wants to play somewhere where he’ll have an increased role offensively. Williams is averaging just 9.6 points per game, his lowest since his rookie season.”

Let’s assume for a minute (or as long as it takes to finish this blog) that this true. Question: Seriously? I know Broussard covers the NBA but this items cries for some context.

This is Williams’ seventh NBA …

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Georgia not giving any hints of another miracle run

Gerald Robinson goes up for an easy two points against Vanderbilt. If only every play was that easy for Georgia this season. (AP photo)

Gerald Robinson goes up for an easy two points against Vanderbilt. If only every play was that easy for Georgia this season. (AP photo)

ATHENS – The coach of a team that’s struggling to just stay out of last place is always looking for positives to disseminate, anything to keep players motivated and fans clinging to hopes of a miracle 180.

Mark Fox appears to be well-practiced in this art.

“We’ve played 12 league games and we’ve made more baskets than our opponent,” the Georgia coach accurately pointed out Sunday. “We’ve had fewer turnovers in league play. We have more offensive rebounds. We’re getting beaten at the foul line — we’re not physical enough to draw free throw attempts but we’re close. If we make free throws and finish better around the basket, this game comes down to the wire.”

So he’s saying they’ve got a chance . . .

Actually, maybe they do. After the tornado-dented SEC tournament of 2008, can anybody really state with certainty that Georgia has zero chance to …

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