Archive for July, 2012

Braves look good now, but what can we expect next?

Kris Medlen represented another good sign for the Braves with five solid innings before the rain delay. (AP photo)

Kris Medlen represented another good sign for the Braves with five solid innings before the rain delay. (AP photo)

(Updated: midnight)

On this day a year ago, the Braves were 17 games over .500 (63-46), continued their ascent to 26 over in late August, flashing the look of a legitimate contender, and muted almost every remaining skeptic when even Dan Uggla rediscovered the art of hitting (the assumption being that his 33-game hitting streak had followed the laying of hands). Then came the fall.

After the Braves’ 7-1 win over the Miami Marlins Tuesday night, giddiness abounded once again. They have won seven straight. They are a season-best 59-44. Everybody is hitting. (OK. Not Dan Uggla. The hands thing wore off.)

So. Is it safe now to project something special?

Uh … no.

There is a lot to like about this team. They score runs. They deliver timely hits. They rank second to St. Louis in the National League in runs scored. The overall team batting average (.257) doesn’t look …

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Countdown: Tebow’s abs, SEC’s goof and an angry hooker

Core, core, core ....

The Count has been doing P90X, hours of core and drinking yak-liver-and-wheat-grass shakes. Can you tell?

Notice how the cape fits a little looser. The face is slightly thinner, and is a brighter shade of slurple. The fangs no longer drip with bacon grease.

It’s necessary for that mid-summer, buff-for-the-beach look, especially in an Olympic year. There are too many great physical specimens around the world on display right now in London, and maybe we’ll even get to see them one day on NBC’s national, tape-delay-delay-delay, oh-look-Nero-is-going-to-win-his-chariot heat broadcast.

It’s late July, which also means NFL teams are training camps and the buff Tim Tebow and 3,000 lesser football players are hard at work, glistening with sweat in the mid-day sun.

Yeah. I went there. We count down . . .

10. Oh, he’s a perfect 10 . .

OK. The Count tries to be judicious when it comes to Tim Tebow items, because, really, we have nothing against the young man. It’s not like he’s …

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Video Blog: Talking ’bout Braves’ (non-)trades at deadline

If the Braves can't get Ryan Dempster, can they get Will Farrell? (Brian Kersey/Images)

If the Braves can't get Ryan Dempster, can they get Will Ferrell? (Brian Kersey/Images)

It’s the day before the MLB trade deadline, and here’s a few things worth mentioning before bringing you this week’s video blog starring CineSport’s dashing Noah Coslov and I. (See below: He’s the one with hair.)

The Boston Red Sox want to dump pitcher Josh Beckett, which isn’t surprising considering his fastball isn’t that fast anymore, he has two years and $31.5 million remaining on his contract after this season and he was one of the guys stuffing his pie hole with chicken and beer during Sox games late last season. They’ve reportedly phoned the Braves (and Texas) to gauge interest. I’m guessing it’s non-existent. Yahoo quoted an executive as saying Beckett is “too hittable,” so it doesn’t make sense that the Braves would want him, even if Boston agrees to pay a chunk of Beckett’s remaining salary.

Chicago STILL hasn’t traded Ryan Dempster to the Dodgers, so of course everybody …

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Braves win again, now hope fallback plan can carry them

Mike Minor pitched his fourth straight strong outing for Braves, giving rotation hope. (AP photo)

Mike Minor pitched his fourth consecutive strong outing for Braves, giving rotation hope. (AP photo)

(Updated: 9:35 p.m.)

When this season started, Ben Sheets was a youth-league coach in Louisiana and Kris Medlen had pitched 2 1/3 innings in 20 months, the byproduct of Tommy John surgery. They now comprise 40 percent of the Braves’ starting rotation.

So much for the blueprint.

The Braves made official Saturday what can best be described as the backup plan: Medlen, who has been impressive out of the bullpen, will return to the starting rotation Tuesday against Houston barring an unlikely turn of events (completing a trade for a starter). Medlen joins Sheets, who hadn’t pitched a game in two years before signing with the Braves and immediately becoming subject matter for a power point at the next AMA convention.

This is the rotation that likely will guide the Braves down the stretch. It’s not quite what anybody envisioned in the spring and may not be the ideal five to get the …

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Braves, Wren whiff on Greinke — and this is getting old

Zack Greinke is on his way to the Angels. (AP photo)

Zack Greinke: On his way to Angels. (AP)

Frank Wren is trying to swing a deal. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Frank Wren: Looking for help. (Curtis Compton)

(UPDATED: 9:10 p.m.)

The first pitcher they went after (Ryan Dempster) said no. He prefers Los Angeles.

The second pitcher they went after (Zack Greinke) was traded to Los Angeles (no, not that L.A. team, the other L.A. team).

The Braves are trying to get better before Tuesday’s trade deadline. We think. But this journey is turning into some weird nightmare, or at least a Randy Newman retrospective. (“I Love L.A.!”)

Remember when the Braves used to get what they want? Remember when 90-plus-win seasons and playoff games seemed as plentiful as potato chips?

General manager Frank Wren said Friday night that he didn’t believe the Braves were close to a trade for a starting pitcher of significance. No kidding. I’m not sure how many are left.

When Wren was asked if he was balking at parting with a coveted prospect like Julio Teheran for a rental player like Greinke, he responded: “I …

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Ryan should benefit from arrival of Koetter (and Samuel)

Matt Ryan likes the approach of new coordinator Dirk Koetter. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan likes the approach of new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

FLOWERY BRANCH – The Falcons’ acquisition of Asante Samuel this offseason might prove to be more than just an upgrade of the team’s secondary. He also opened Matt Ryan’s eyes a little bit with some analysis.

“Yeah, he crushed me,” Ryan said, laughing. “But he has a way of crushing everybody. We played against him four times, and I think he had like three picks against me.”

The Falcons opened training camp Thursday. Ryan had just finished talking about his revised offseason workouts (increased weight-lifting), his new approach to practices and meetings (maintaining consistent focus, discipline and intensity through the year) and the hiring of a new offensive coordinator (Dirk Koetter), all of which he hopes will result in something significantly north of another playoff shutout.

It’s no secret that Ryan hasn’t been good in his three playoff games. It …

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Hawks’ Ferry doesn’t foresee Josh Smith going anywhere

Danny Ferry envisions his new team with Josh Smith on it. (AP photo)

Hawks general manager Danny Ferry envisions his team with Josh Smith on it. (AP photo)

In his first few weeks as general manager, Danny Ferry has managed to exorcise the Hawks’ franchise of two mistakes (Joe Johnson for his contract; Marvin Williams for the assumption he had a pulse), acquire nine new players through trades and the draft and live in three different Atlanta hotels.

On Wednesday, he exhaled and we had breakfast (in a hotel).

“I really haven’t lived in Atlanta yet,” he said. “When I’ve been in town, I’ve spent most of my time on the 19th floor [at the Hawks’ downtown offices]. But I’ve enjoyed the challenges.”

The new Hawks haven’t played a game. Yet, Ferry enjoys a level of popularity that Pete Babcock, Billy Knight and Rick Sund never attained. Locating a Russian billionaire to assume $90 million of your team’s payroll can do wonders for a general manager’s Q score.

At least in the short term — and assuming Dwight Howard isn’t walking …

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Teixeira trade shouldn’t stop Braves from dealing prospects

Ryan Dempster leads the National League with a 2.11 earned run average and gives the Braves the No. 1 starter they need for the pennant stretch. (AP photo)

The trade for Ryan Dempster gives the Braves the No. 1 starter they need for the pennant stretch. (AP photo)

Five years ago, in a trade that some fans now believe can only be explained by temporary insanity, John Schuerholz dealt seemingly every embraceable prospect in the Braves’ organization to Texas for Mark Teixeira. Teixeira played well (even homering in his Atlanta debut), but it didn’t matter because the Braves missed the playoffs in 2007 and were in mid-flounder again in 2008 when they traded him to the Angels for, if memory serves, a cheeseburger.

What has followed near the trade deadline seemingly every year since is some sense of fan and media panic that the Braves are going to deal “the next great thing” yet again (even if the next great thing more often than not turns to be a pile of stock options that makes wonderful kindling).

Please. Stop already.

There was nothing wrong in 2007 when Schuerholz intended to elevate his team to a title contender again, any more …

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Mark Richt says Georgia may pursue Penn State players

Mark Richt said he and his assistants already have gone over Penn State's two-deep roster. (AP photo)

Mark Richt said he and his assistants already have gone over Penn State's two-deep roster. (AP photo)

Penn State avoided the “death penalty Monday,” but NCAA sanctions were so severe — including a four-year bowl ban — that players are being allowed to transfer to another school without having to sit out a year.

Will Georgia pounce? Possibly so.

Coach Mark Richt said at a fans’ “UGA Day”  Monday night, “Some colleges are going to be interested in some of their players, and we’re one of those schools. It’s pretty well-documented that we’re under our 85[-scholarship] limit. We’ll try to get in touch with some of these young men and see if they’re interested.”

Approached by a few media members following the event, Richt said he and his assistants already have gone over over Penn State’s two-deep roster. But he was vague — probably intentionally — on what (or how many) players Georgia would pursue.

“We do have some space available and if somebody fits a need and they’re excited …

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NCAA hits Penn State hard, but ‘death penalty’ appropriate (UPDATED with video)

Mark Emmert moved fast and hit Penn State for their actions (and inactions). (AP photo)

Mark Emmert moved fast and hit Penn State for their actions (and inactions). (AP photo)

(See video blog with CineSports’ Noah Coslov below)

(Updated at 6:40 p.m. with comment from Penn State president that school accepted penalties to avoid death penalty)

Let’s start with this: NCAA president Mark Emmert acted swiftly and justly. That’s a rarity for the NCAA.

Emmert didn’t need a 17-month investigation by an overworked and underpaid staff to unearth something that we didn’t already learn from prosecutors and witnesses in the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse trial, or from the exhaustive, 267-page Freeh Report, conducted by a former director of the FBI. Anybody who believes Emmert moved too quickly on Penn State without the NCAA doing its own leg work must not having been paying attention for the past several decades, when policing college athletics became far too big of a job for that relative mom-and-pop organization.

The NCAA appropriately slammed Penn State Monday …

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