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 prices have increased. Major league teams have made permanent homes in the two spring training states of Florida (Miami, Tampa) and Arizona (Phoenix), dulling the once-romantic notion of an entire sports league traveling to sunny remote outposts to practice. But it’s still cool.

My son wasn’t a huge baseball fan when he was young. But I surprised him one day when he was in the second grade by picking him up from school and heading to Florida. I wanted to visit different stadiums. He wanted to visit the beach. We reached common ground. We were both right.

For a Braves’ fan, going to Florida isn’t just about seeing if Jason Heyward has fixed his swing. It’s knowing you can get a little closer to the players at a time when they aren’t burdened by the stress of a playoff race. It’s knowing that if you’re at the Braves’ spring training facility in Lake Buena Vista, you can drive anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours to watch any of 14 other teams — Houston (Kissimmee), Detroit (Lakeland), Washington (Viera), Toronto (Dunedin), the New York Mets (Port St. Lucie), the Yankees (Tampa), Boston (Fort Myers), Baltimore (Sarasota), Florida (Jupiter), Minnesota (Fort Myers), Philadelphia (Clearwater), Pittsburgh (Bradenton), Tampa Bay (Port Charlotte), St. Louis (Jupiter).

Visiting spring training should be on everybody’s bucket list. Not every fan’s. Everybody, period.

OK. I’m done waxing.

I leave for Braves’ camp Friday morning, just in time for the first full-squad workout on Saturday. I would’ve left earlier, but I had no idea that Tommy “Crash” Hanson was going to get squirrely in the turn (NASCAR term), bang his head, get a concussion and add a little bit of drama to pitchers-and-catchers reporting. (I’m driving, by the way, and it’s my plan to make it to the first workout without an incident.)

I’ll have new columns daily from my week in Orlando, the first posting on Saturday (Sunday’s newspaper) on whether we should expect better results this season from largely the same team.

If you’ve got anything you would like to read about, I’m always open to ideas. If you’ve got specific questions you would like asked, let me know. If I get enough of them, I’ll throw them together for a blog during the week.

That’s it for now. Just list your questions below and I’ll check back soon.

By Jeff Schultz

119 comments Add your comment

Vinny

February 23rd, 2012
4:47 pm

Hankie Aron

February 23rd, 2012
4:56 pm

Schultzie- What are they expecting or hoping to get offensively from Tyler Pastornicky?…. Thanks from the hank, Hankie Aaron.

George Stein

February 23rd, 2012
4:56 pm

Will Fredi get over his obsession with bunting and other small-ball tactics? Also, will he use his closer in tie games in the 9th inning on the road this year?

stevie zero

February 23rd, 2012
4:56 pm

hey jeff, any info on chipper’s knees, overall health, and what he’s feeling he can contribute coming into spring?

THE MAJOR

February 23rd, 2012
4:57 pm

Dang Second……

Vinny

February 23rd, 2012
5:00 pm

Why is the Braves’s highest paid player so fat?

Vinny

February 23rd, 2012
5:02 pm

Why did Frank Wren trade for Dan Uggla when the team already had TWO All-Star second basemen on the team?

Vinny

February 23rd, 2012
5:03 pm

Why do the Braves have eleventeen starting pitchers and zero shortstops?

George Stein

February 23rd, 2012
5:03 pm

Your first comment made laugh, Vinny. Let’s be real, though. Infante should never have been an All-Star.

Bob Gard

February 23rd, 2012
5:04 pm

What are your predictions for the World Series match up and the playoffs leading up to the WS

Steve

February 23rd, 2012
5:04 pm

Jeff, will you be retiring soon so that I can take your place? Would love to be headed down to Braves spring training!

Vinny

February 23rd, 2012
5:04 pm

Why does a millionaire have tires on his car that are susceptible to blowouts?

john

February 23rd, 2012
5:10 pm

Hey Jeff – You should ask Fredi if he plans on Heyward playing against Lefties and Righties this year. Supposedly Johan is scheduled to start the season opener. Imagine the shot to Heywards confidence if Diaz starts over Heyward. I’m sure Fredi will say he doesn’t know yet…

Eli Marrero

February 23rd, 2012
5:11 pm

If the Braves RF and left fielder bounce back, and if the highest paid player can start 120 games and if the 1,2,3 starters come back from injuries… WE CAN GET THE WILDCARD! YEAH!!!!

Yunel Asscobar

February 23rd, 2012
5:17 pm

Could we trade Fredi Gonzalez to an American League team who needs a DM – designated manager? They could use him as a back up when the real manager needs time away, becomes ill, is suffering from a hangover, etc., etc. This would free up vital roster space for the Braves to acquire a manager who understands the game, knows how to make the necessary changes on a team that is floundering, and doesn’t appear totally clueless in the dugout.

Herschel Talker

February 23rd, 2012
5:23 pm

Schultzie:

Please find out when they’re planning on firing Fredi Gonzalez. Many thanks for your hard work.

HT

Steve

February 23rd, 2012
5:27 pm

True question to the bloggers, why do you all hate Fredi so much? First, he had the pressure of replacing Bobby. Second, it was not his fault so many players were hurt or had bad seasons (Heyward and Uggla). Third, he still won 89 games in his first year with Atlanta and just missed the playoffs. Last time I checked, he is not the one out there pitching and batting. Yes, he may have used the bullpen a little too much but what do you expect after 26 extra inning games? Finally, if your wish came true and they fired Fredi tomorrow, who would you want in there that is available?

Richard

February 23rd, 2012
5:30 pm

Can we stop blaming Fredi for the collapse. It’s tough to win games when your rotation looks like this: Hudson, Lowe, Beachy, Minor, Delgado. 3 of those dudes were rookies. Plus, someone had to hit at some point to win a game. Last I checked, a manager can’t swing a bat or throw a pitch.

Herschel Talker

February 23rd, 2012
5:32 pm

Steve:

I would take pretty much anyone over that fool Fredi.

HT

Whopper Dawg

February 23rd, 2012
5:36 pm

Jeff,

Please ask about the health of the staff with the stalwarts coming off injury and surgeries.

Thanks,

Whopper

MatthewH

February 23rd, 2012
5:41 pm

Please make sure you do a Digi-Blog. I always enjoy those. Found your one from last year and the “We Bare All” sign. hmmmmmm

Ace

February 23rd, 2012
5:49 pm

Is anyone else a bit skeptical about the blown tire? Was Tommy texting while driving or nodding off (not used to being up that early)?

extremus

February 23rd, 2012
6:15 pm

I do have to admit it looks like Chipper has put on some serious weight in all the wrong places since September. I hope he’s able to work throughit, take off the extra pounds, and contribute while staying healthy…and that’s a lot of extra questions that a team already going into camp with so many doesn’t need.

So, Mr. Schultz,

1) From what you can see is Chipper physically ready or not?
2) We know the new hitting coaches (and Chipper) have been working with Heyward during the offseason, which is great. A) Is Heyward indeedlooking better? B) What about Uggla, Prado, and McCann, whose numbers all also fell off substantially last year (albeit after injuries to Prado and McCann primarily)?
3) Do you get the sense that Hanson will have no lingering effects from the concussion, or could this be one of those things that really derails a season for him?
4) Will O’Flaherty, Venters, and Kimbrel be scaled back on their appearances this year to save their arms for the pennant race/playoffs?
5) How do you feel about Freddie Freeman’s chances of avoiding a “sophomore drop-off”?
6) A lot of “experts” suggest that Tyler Pastornicky is NOT ready for the Major League level just yet, and perhaps never as an everyday starter at his position (doesn’t that fill you with confidence going in, by the way?). What’s the Braves’ “backup plan” if he falters?

You obviously don’t have to answer ALL these in one swoop, but please feel free to pick any that you’d like to address. Thanks!

George Stein

February 23rd, 2012
6:22 pm

It’s even more difficult to win when you’re bunting all the time, setting foolish lineups, diminishing the value of plate discipline, and abusing your bullpen, Richard.

msbrave

February 23rd, 2012
6:41 pm

Given Jason Heyward’s balky, oft injured shoulders, has the medical staff told him to minimize the headfirst slide, which orthopedic surgeons have told me heightens the chances of a shoulder injury? That is a Q that needs asking and a seed that needs planting. KeepJjason healthy, please!

DetroitBraves

February 23rd, 2012
6:50 pm

Will Fredi still fall all over himself to get his hitters that make the most outs to the top of the lineup so they also get the most at-bats (therefore making even more outs!!!)?

DetroitBraves

February 23rd, 2012
6:51 pm

Does Fredi intend to go to another SABR conference but hold his hands over his ears while yelling “I can’t hear you!!”?

Bill

February 23rd, 2012
6:52 pm

Glad you going Jeff. Looking forward to all your reports..Have fun.

DetroitBraves

February 23rd, 2012
6:52 pm

A question you may be more willing to ask, for the long-term do the Braves see Vizcaino as a starter or reliever?

DetroitBraves

February 23rd, 2012
6:55 pm

Richard, it’s not that the Braves don’t have other problems. They do. But Fredi is an obvious one, and one that can be corrected without touching the roster. Not doing so just because there are other problems is like saying “you might as well go ahead and punch me in the face since I’m already getting kicked in the groin.” Why would anyone do that?

Bill P

February 23rd, 2012
7:00 pm

Driving down tomorrow, and we have to wait until Sunday to see if we’ll win the pennant this year? You’ll need to watch the ENTIRE practice to tell! Slacker.

Sonny Clusters

February 23rd, 2012
7:12 pm

Do you like seafood as much as us and do you have a favorite seafood restaurant? Apparently Chipper has been eating extra hush puppies and washing ‘em down with milkshakes. Since DOP or whatever his name is took the offending photo of Chipper does that mean you will be the lead interviewer this spring whenever the ajc brings us Chipper’s insightful cliche riddled comments? Did Chipper catch anything during his fishing trip other than a red neck from too much sun? How many players are going to the Daytona 500 and how many are going to work on a little baseball this weekend? Do you think Dan Uggla has a future in the film industry and, if so, do you think he will play himself in the movies? If everybody has put the EPIC Collapse behind them what happens if they look back? And here’s one for Fredi . . . you said all your coaches would return and Parrish got fired the next day. You said Delgado or Tehran would go to the bullpen and the next day it was reported that would not happen. We was wondering if you are managing the team or not? And as a follow up . . . How much cap tipping is too much?

P-Man

February 23rd, 2012
7:18 pm

Can you find out when the Braves are going to get some real fans, instead of all these whiny-hinies on this board?

Seriously, I’m just excited baseball is in the air. I really miss the days when my kids were playing Little League. Sigh…

Trapper John

February 23rd, 2012
7:30 pm

Here, Jeff, in a nut shell is my question from a huge majority of die hard Brave fans. Why is Fredi Gonzales managing the Braves — if not for the “good ‘ole boy” reason? He is not a Major League caliber manager. He has never proved himself to be a Major League caliber manager on any team, anywhere.He will never, in the future, for this, or any other team — ever be a proven Major League manager — for the simple reason that after this season — he will not be the Brave’s manager after the Braves do not the playoffs at all this year! In the mean time, we are a slowly sinking baseball club on a downhill slide and all I can say to that is: “Well, you know…”

FL Jacket

February 23rd, 2012
7:32 pm

Jeff, are you and Bradley going to lay off the Braves for standing pat this offseason when it was pretty clear that slumps and injuries are what held them back?

A Father

February 23rd, 2012
7:33 pm

Question: Why did the ajc take down the story about our pitcher that had a wreck while reaching down on the car floor board to pick of the JOINT he dropped while driving. Come on guys, tell the truth to the fans.

"Chef" Tim Dix

February 23rd, 2012
7:40 pm

How much to keep Brian considering an AL team could give him the moon and stars?

Trapper John

February 23rd, 2012
7:48 pm

Question: “What do you think the Braves’ regular season record will be in 2012″. I predict 78 – 84. 3rd or 4th place finish in the division. Hope I am wrong. As a Chipper fan, I’d like to see him win MVP in the 2012 World Series, but know it could never happen. Winning it all in his rookie season will have to suffice. GO BRAVES!!

Dave

February 23rd, 2012
8:09 pm

Could you explain how the AJC actually covers the Braves among your staff. I’ve never quite understood you, the other opinion people, DOB and Carroll. Who does what and when? Thanks, assuming you answer.

FL Jacket

February 23rd, 2012
8:22 pm

Dave, it’s really quite simple…

DOB holds the mic under Fredi’s and the players mouths and reminds us that baseball athletes might be the dumbest of the lot. He then recaps the games and posts the quotes, and maybe is the only one that gives us interesting nuggets and rumors.

Bowman gives us pre-mature and erroneous trade news because someone tweeted to him that Zeke Spruill missed a start in High A Lynchburg.

Shultz and Bowman wait for something newsworthy to happen and then comment after it happens, makes irrelevant lists, and generally clog the blogosphere with the usual “afflict the comfortable, comfort the afflicted” type journalism we all love.

Yawn!!!

February 23rd, 2012
9:08 pm

After last season’s end of year debacle…..I have to admit I have no stomach to get excited about the Braves this year.

They’re like the Falcons and Dawgs, early season optimism followed by end of year swoons.

I’m no sucker, don’t care no more and ain’t gonna get suckered again. I’m keeping my precious dollars and saving for the beach instead……have fun Jeff. If I were you, I’d listen to your kid and hit the beach too!!

Yawn!!!

February 23rd, 2012
9:10 pm

Kudos, Sunny Clusters……your above rant was epic!!!

MattyB

February 23rd, 2012
9:39 pm

Jeff, I’d like to know of Fredi G. feels less pressure to be like No. 6 now that it’s no longer a transition year and will he inject more of his own style into managing this year’s team. I felt like last year he was trying to toe the line between his way and the old way. Looking forward to your reports!

bulldogbubba

February 23rd, 2012
9:48 pm

Will they use the Henry Grady statue @ 3rd if Chipper can’t go.I know Sonny I stole one of your questions.Thanks!

Felix

February 23rd, 2012
10:22 pm

When it comes to this bunch of chokers; I’m from Missouri…………talk is cheap. Now show me.

Dr. Phil

February 23rd, 2012
10:30 pm

I have gone to tbe Braves camp every spring for the last 10 years. I even saw the Braves at West Palm in the late 60’s and a few times in the early 90’s. Players would walk from the practice field to the stadium and chat with fans, if they were so inclined, which they usually were in the pre Chipper Jones days. One of my great baseball memories was talking to Felipe Alou. Disney is an awful place, and I try to avoid it. We have gone to several games at the Houston facility in Kissimmee, which is more like the old grapefruit-league. The Phillies stadium in Clearwater is not like Houston, but better than Disney. Both Houston and Clearwater have excellent fans, many of whom are retired and just appreciate good baseball. I did see the Braves and Yankees at Tampa last year. That was similar to a major-league park but comfortable just the same. Spring baseball is a great experience, when everybody is hopeful. I don’t think I will go this year because of last year’s lollygagging goat rope. I am just not that hopeful.

Felix

February 23rd, 2012
10:31 pm

My question is about the “letter”. Does Jeff think J.S. followed through on it?
Most Braves fans I know were hopeful after the letter; but now are very disappointed with the inaction and minimal steps taken to improve the Braves chances to compete for a WS….. especially the fact nothing was done to beef up the offense (except for a new hitting coach and more batting lessons for Jason).

tyler

February 23rd, 2012
11:07 pm

will u ask chipper if the lead singer of Rascal Flats has hairy nipples? Thanks….

The majority

February 24th, 2012
12:51 am

Jeff, I predict that the braves will go 12-150 this year and probably finish last in the NL East. I mean a team that won 89 games last year and came within one game of making the playoffs has no chance of survival in this league. We suck. Doesn’t matter that our entire offense had a dismal year, our bullpen imploded in September, D Lowe couldn’t buy a win and we still won 89 freakin games, we have no chance. You can tell everything you need to about a manager after one year and Freddy needs to be fired no doubt about it.Every great manager wins in year one.

ajc sucks

February 24th, 2012
6:33 am

“burdened by the stress of a playoff race”..yeah almost as bad as a normal person’s life, death in the family, cancer, those poor pampered babies with 200 million in their bank account. how do they cope?