Archive for April, 2012

Braves’ bats come alive — is it all about Greg Walker?

Greg Walker has made an impression on Jason Heyward and Braves. (Jason Getz)

Greg Walker has made an impression on Jason Heyward and Braves. (Jason Getz)

After watching the Braves score 55 runs on 78 hits in the last eight games, there is a tendency to jump to rash conclusions, like: 1) How did Greg Walker get away from Mensa and; 2) Is Larry Parrish giving out the wrong change on the New Jersey turnpike?

So just a little perspective: It won’t always be this good. But Walker, the Braves’ new hitting coach by way of the Chicago White Sox, clearly has made an impression on players and it’s showing up in the numbers.

So I figured I would spend this morning’s blog on Walker. Let’s call it, the TalkBlog. What follows are nothing but comments from Walker and several players, gathered after Wednesday’s 14-6 win over the New York Mets.

First, from Walker, who spent almost his entire playing career with the White Sox and later served as their hitting coach for nine seasons:

(on connecting with players) “When I left Chicago I was pretty mentally beat up. I had …

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Spurrier says only SEC division games should count (really?)

Neither Steve Spurrier nor Rex Ryan have been known as coaches who conform. That can be good or bad. (AP photo)

Neither Steve Spurrier nor Rex Ryan have been known as coaches who conform. That can be good or bad. (AP photo)

Let me preface this by saying that I actually like Steve Spurrier. He is a great coach, he changed the SEC with what he accomplished at Florida and he doesn’t cheat (although “suspending” former quarterback Stephen Garcia five times without forcing him to actually miss a game certainly set new standards for enabling and being disingenuous).

But Spurrier’s latest idea is beyond looney.

The South Carolina coach is about to make a wonderful self-serving proposal. He believes the SEC’s division champions — the participants in the conference championship game — should be determined not by the teams’ conference records but by just results within the division.

I’m sure the fact that the Gamecocks will play SEC West teams LSU and Arkansas in 2012 while Georgia plays only Auburn and Mississippi has nothing to do with this brainstorm.

It’s shocking, really, that Spurrier …

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If Hawks lost and avoided Boston, would that be so bad?

Would the Hawks be better off avoiding another playoff series against Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics? (AP photo)

Would the Hawks be better off avoiding another playoff series against Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics? (AP photo)

After losing at home by 16 points to the lottery-bound Toronto Raptors one night and then body-slamming the very same team by 22 points the next, it’s less certain that the Hawks are a serious playoff threat right now than they are a case study for an abnormal psychology class.

Then again, every team is a little psychotic this season. This is the byproduct of a post-lockout schedule that allows for water breaks roughly every 27 quarters. Even the Chicago Bulls, the league’s best team, just lost at home to the 14-46 Wizards. (The box score now hangs in the Smithsonian, adjacent to a picture of Stonehenge.)

But let’s try to apply a little bit of logic here: The Hawks have clinched a playoff berth. They have five regular-season games remaining. They probably will finish fourth or fifth overall in the Eastern Conference. That would set up a likely first-round …

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Drew Brees looks like fool for not acknowledging bounties

Drew Brees' conflict of interest is undermining player safety issues. (AP photo)

Drew Brees' conflict of interest is undermining player safety issues. (AP photo)

Drew Brees has been one of the faces of the NFL, one of the best ambassadors the league has had. He is a premier player at the centerpiece position (quarterback) who led his team to a Super Bowl and also helped heal a city (New Orleans) after a disaster.

But the guy has lost it, and he should be removed from any executive board position he holds with the NFL Players Association. In short, Brees still refuses to acknowledge the New Orleans Saints had any bounty system, even though former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (who orchestrated the whole thing) admits it existed.

“We didn’t get any meaningful evidence, or any meaningful truth or facts,” Brees told NFL.com when asked about any discussion on the bounty program at Monday’s meeting between the league and union. (The league has yet to announce penalties for players involved.)

There are two problems here: 1) That Brees, probably out …

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Georgia ends spring — and needs a quiet summer

Like this photo, Mark Richt will be in the background when Isaiah Crowell and his Georgia teammates head into this summer. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Like this photo, Mark Richt must stand in background when Isaiah Crowell and Georgia teammates head into summer. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

ATHENS — On the day spring football came to a close for Georgia, nobody got arrested, nobody got high, nobody claimed to make the mistake of eating brownies baked by Dolly Madison’s Bohemian, hippie sister and certainly no coach yelled, “Wooo! Pig Sooie!” while exchanging 4,300 text messages with the nation’s best-paid, smokin’ blonde, student-athlete development coordinator.

Relatively speaking, Saturday’s G-Day game was nirvana.

But the annual spring game contrasted the past few months. A reported seven players (at least) were suspended or drop-kicked out of Athens for assorted legal missteps or rules violations. Coach Mark Richt appropriately called Saturday, “good medicine.”

Or a needed cleansing.

To suggest the Georgia program has jumped the rails would be overstatement. But Richt and his players know how this sort of thing plays …

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Bobby Petrino saga explained in Taiwan cartoon (video)

Oh, Bobby: You can run but you can't hide (even in Taiwan).

Petrino can run but he can't hide (even in Taiwan).

It’s not safe for Bobby Petrino to open his eyes yet.

I turns out Petrino is not only infinitely mockable here in the U.S. — and particularly Flowery Branch, where today has been declared a national holiday — but also in Taiwan. They’ve turned his story into a cartoon.

Next Media Animation has pieced together a hilarious animated summary of Petrino’s “inappropriate relationship” with Jessica Dorrell, his hiring of her in the athletic department (including a $20,000 payment) and his firing as Arkansas football coach.

It is possible to listen to the subtitles in English. But I think you will find it much more entertaining in Taiwanese.

Here you go . . .

By Jeff Schultz

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UPDATED: Arkansas had no choice but to fire Petrino

This would have been the face of Arkansas football if Bobby Petrino wasn't fired. (AP photos)

This would have been the face of Arkansas football if Bobby Petrino wasn't fired. (AP photos)

(Update at 10 p.m. This column is a rewrite of the previous version to reflect Bobby Petrino’s firing.)

(Update II at 10:45 p.m. I’ve added Petrino’s statement on his firing below the column. My standard reaction: I judge people by actions, not words.)

Once you get past the emotional side that says Bobby Petrino just got run over by the karma train, once you get past the misguided Arkansas fans who started a Facebook page in support of their morally bankrupt coach and carried signs such as, “What’s wrong with scoring in the offseason?” this much is clear: Arkansas had no choice.

Bobby Petrino went 21-5 in the last two seasons as a football coach in the SEC. He’s out of a job. What does that tell you?

This is a sport where college presidents and athletic directors have been known to give only lip service to matters of academic reform and ethics — and whatever flawed mindset …

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Arkansas fans, like Petrino, should be ashamed of themselves

This is how the world works in Fayetteville, and maybe anywhere a coach wins. (AP photo)

This is how the world works in Fayetteville, and maybe anywhere a coach wins. (AP photos)

(Folks. In the wake of Bobby Petrino’s firing, an updated column will be coming shortly.)

The great thing about sports is it turns normal everyday people into idiots, and I mean that in a good way. Nowhere else in society can we find white collar, blue collar and no collar somewhat spiritually united at football tailgates, wearing the same goofy fan wear, sharing conspiracy theories that they read on message boards (so they must be true) and waiting for their turn to vent on sports blab radio (between meetings).

The worst thing about sports is it turns normal everyday people into idiots, and I mean that in the worst-possible, blithering way. Nowhere else can we find people, regardless of race, creed, religion, economic level or social standing, spontaneously lose all sense of rational thought or perspective.

We see it often when an athlete is embraced as a hero, a need, regardless of his …

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Happy Georgia ending: Bulldog named Bubba wins Masters

Bubba Watson hugs caddie Ted Scott after winning the Masters in a playoff. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Bubba Watson hugs caddie Ted Scott after winning the Masters in a playoff. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

AUGUSTA – The Georgia feel to it all was slow in coming. There might have been a couple of audible, “Go Bubbas” at the first tee, but certainly no barking, no “Go Dogs,” not even a single Bobby Petrino joke.

But as Sunday at the Masters unfolded, it was easy to wonder, “Wait, are those azaleas or hedges?” Which way to Broad Street? Where’s the Varsity? Augusta National seemed to morph into Sanford Stadium. The galleries were covered in Callaway and FootJoy, not Bulldogs football jerseys, but there were two guys who gave an Athens feel to things when one turned to his friend shortly after Bubba Watson teed off and said: “OK, now. We’ve got five hours. I figure it’s about two to three beers an hour.”

Think Uga in a green jacket.

A Bulldog named Bubba just won the Masters. Who knew Georgia-South Africa could stir the emotions like Georgia-Auburn?

VIDEO: Bubba Watson …

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Forget the tease — Tiger Woods still pedestrian after all

A picture tells a thousand (curse) words: Woods drops his club after missing birdie putt on No. 15. (AP photo)

A picture tells 1,000 words: Woods drops his club after missing birdie putt on No. 15. (AP photo)

AUGUSTA – Expect the traditional Sunday red shirt. Just not the traditional Sunday drama.

This is when everybody who got drunk off that one victory at Bay Hill (guilty, as charged) has reason to wonder: Will Tiger Woods ever be really great again? Will he ever string together tournament wins like candy beads. Will he ever win another major?

It was Day 3 at the Masters on Saturday. This was the day Woods had to be Woods again. He started the day at 3 over, with a humbling third-round start time of 10:45 a.m., and needed to post a solid red number to make him relevant before the tournament’s final 18 holes. He needed something other than pedestrian, which is what he gave us.

If golf balls were pastel-colored eggs, it looked like an early Easter. There was Woods, hiding his golf ball in pine straw, in sand, behind trees. He made some great shots. But more often than not, all they …

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