Archive for November, 2012

Braves dump a pitcher (Hanson) they once viewed as gold

Tommy Hanson, once a touted prospect, leaves Atlanta without meeting expectations.

Once a touted prospect, Tommy Hanson leaves Braves with unrealized expectations. (Curtis Compton)

Three years ago, Tommy Hanson was viewed as a precious commodity. The Braves would tell other teams, “Don’t even bother asking about him.” When the San Diego Padres asked about him anyway, as the key to a potential Jake Peavy trade, the Braves laughed. Not Tommy, he’s our guy.

On June 3, 2009, Braves general manager Frank Wren unceremoniously cut Tom Glavine, a future Hall of Famer who was expecting a call-up following a rehabilitation assignment. Why? Because they needed the spot in the pitching rotation for Hanson, who was called up on the same day. The younger Tommy now was their guy.

He was the Braves’ future. He was young and personable, a towering power pitcher who would be a staple of the team’s pitching staff for years.

Now Hanson is gone. Funny how quickly an athlete can go from being untouchable to, “Please, just take him.”

The Braves traded Hanson to the Los Angeles …

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Falcons’ offense hits wall, but as usual it doesn’t matter (UPDATED)

After this beauty of a touchdown catch by Tony Gonzalez made it 14-0, the Falcons' offense fizzled against New Orleans, but it didn't matter. (AP photo)

After this beauty of a touchdown catch by Tony Gonzalez made it 14-0, the Falcons' offense fizzled against New Orleans, but it didn't matter. (AP photo)

(UPDATED: 12:30 a.m.)

They keep it interesting, don’t they?

The Falcons came out against the New Orleans Saints Thursday night as if determined to bury their recent nemesis’ playoff hopes six feet under (which at least has the advantage of being out of egg-chucking range).

They led 7-0 less than four minutes into the game and 14-0 just 52 seconds into the second quarter. Most impressive of all was their offense, which is the side of the ball that ultimately will determine how far this team goes in the playoffs.

They discovered a new wrinkle: The running play. Michael Turner had a 35-yard run on the game’s second play, and before the first quarter ended he had already rushed for more yards (67) than he had in all but three of the previous 11 games.

Then the Falcons’ offense did something uncommon for any New Orleans Saints’ …

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Braves need this free agent splurge on Upton to pay off

Frank Wren believes B.J. Upton will live up to the contract Braves just gave him. (AP photo)

Frank Wren hopes and believes B.J. Upton will live up to his $75.25 million contract. (AP photo)

This probably isn’t fair to B.J. Upton, an immensely talented player with power, speed and the motivation that generally accompanies an athlete looking for a fresh start with a new team. It might not even be fair to Frank Wren, who was staring at significant holes in his lineup this winter and had relatively few options in how to fill them.

But that’s a lot of money.

It’s a lot of money for a young player who may have wowed the baseball world in 2008, but, statistically at least, really hasn’t blown anybody away since. It’s a lot of money for a franchise that just cleared a ton of payroll space and can’t afford to take a wrong turn and clog the financial ledger with a big mistake again. It’s a lot of money for a general manager who too often has taken that wrong turn and smacked into a wall.

Derek Lowe. Kenshin Kawakami. Dan Uggla. We’re not talking the Apple-Home Depot-Coca Cola …

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Predictions: Georgia pulls upset, Tech goes down

chalk

According to various websites that I looked through while doing research for this final week of investments — not counting those that kept asking for a credit card number, age verification and automatically opened 27 new windows (Close! Close! Dang it, close!) while my wife screamed down to the basement, “Are you still looking at point spreads!?” — I came across some interesting statistics.

The chances of winning Wednesday night’s $579 million Powerball drawing were approximately 1 in 176 million. That was still far more likely than the odds of having a meteor land on my house: 1 in 182,138,880,000,000. Or about double that for the same meteor landing on the ACC championship game and hitting somebody.

Is that a meteor falling on my house, or Georgia going to BCS title game?

Is that a meteor falling on me, or Dogs going to BCS?

Other odds I came across: 1 in 3 million chance of spotting a UFO; 1 in 11,500 of bowling 300 in a game; 1 in 649,740 of being dealt a royal flush; 1 in 20 million of being canonized; about even-money that one of those …

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Georgia’s best chance vs. Alabama may be to step on gas

Aaron Murray has 14 touchdowns and no interceptions in last 17 quarters. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Aaron Murray has 14 touchdowns and no interceptions in last 17 quarters. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

ATHENS – When gazing at the nation’s leaders among college football defenses, Alabama doesn’t stand out statistically so much as it leaps off the page, stomps on cars, knocks over skyscrapers, swats away missiles and terrorizes women, children and offensive coordinators.

The Crimson Tide rank No. 1 nationally in total defense. Also No. 2 in rush defense, No. 3 in pass defense, No. 1 in scoring defense, No. 1 in red zone defense. It has shut out four opponents, held seven to 10 points or less and all except one to 17 or less.

Which begs the question: All except one?

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin relatively humbled Nick Saban three weeks ago with his hyperventilating, no-huddle offense. The Aggies upset then No. 1 Alabama 29-24, scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions, accumulating the second-most yards (418) and the most red zone possessions (five) of any Tide opponent.

The …

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SEC title would mean Georgia’s return to elite status (video added)

Mark Richt has Georgia in the SEC championship game for second straight year. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Mark Richt has Georgia in the SEC championship game for second straight year. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

(VIDEO ADDED BELOW)

This might stun starry-eyed middle-schoolers and high school players, who are otherwise oblivious to ancient history before 2006 in the SEC. But even the football Godzillas of this conference and, it follows, the globe, aren’t that far removed from humility (and Shreveport).

Before the last five seasons under Nick Saban, Alabama had an 11-year stretch (1997-2007) when it reached double digits in wins only three times, suffered through four losing seasons, four non-bowl years, lost to Auburn six straight years, went to the Music City Bowl twice and even was subjected to the Independence Bowl . . . three times! There’s your, “Roll Tide.”

Florida fans would like to forget the Ron Zook era of relative torment, sandwiched between Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer.

Auburn just fired a coach, Gene Chizik, who won a national championship two years ago.

LSU: You say …

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Georgia playing at level we haven’t seen under Richt

Dogs accept overnor's Cup for Saturday's win, but they're after bigger trophy. (Brant Sanderlin)

Dogs accept Governor's Cup after the win, but they're after something bigger. (Brant Sanderlin)

ATHENS – This is new ground. Or, more accurately, new air.

Georgia had never reached this elevation before under Mark Richt — not in BCS ranking at this point of the season, not in perception of championship potential.

It didn’t feel like this even during those two SEC titles early in Richt’s tenure, when Georgia already had been cropped out of the national pictured. It wasn’t this real when a Sugar Bowl win left the Bulldogs with a postseason ranking of No. 2, after they already had been leapfrogged in the BCS and left out of the national title game.

Never before in late November under Richt could we look at Georgia and legitimately think: That team can win it all.

Now we can.

Georgia didn’t just beat Georgia Tech on Saturday. It humiliated the Jackets 42-10. The tilt on the scoreboard would have been even greater if Richt hadn’t pulled starters with more than 10 minutes left in …

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Short takes (UGA): Rambo’s ascent, Gurley’s comfort

Bacarri Rambo (18) stripped David Sims' of ball returrned fumble to set up touchdown. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Bacarri Rambo (18) stripped David Sims' of ball, set up touchdown. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

ATHENS — I’ll be back with my column off of Georgia’s win over Georgia Tech shortly. Until then, here are my three “short takes” on the Bulldogs’ performance.

1. Bacarri Rambo is in a groove: The Bulldogs’ senior free safety was suspended for the first four games of the season and struggled along with the rest of Georgia’s defense when he initially returned. But he has been playing his best football of the season in the past five games. He had an interception and a sack against Florida, an interception at Auburn, and owned the first half against Georgia Tech: two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and 49-yard return to set up the Dogs’ second touchdown and an interception of Vad Lee followed by a 27-yard return to set up Georgia’s fourth TD. It’s no coincidence the improvement of Georgia’s defense has paralleled that of Rambo.

Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley and Georgia's offense seemed to be signaling "touchdown" all game. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley and Georgia's offense seemed to be …

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LIVE: Bulldogs, Jackets vie for more than bragging rights

The early scene from the final regular season game for UGA and Tech.

The early scene from Sanford Stadium, site for the final regular season game for Georgia and Tech.

ATHENS — Good morning. Before we get to the game, I have a small request: Let’s be civil.

I understand emotions (and beer) often cause sports fans to jump the rails a little bit. Because we will have both Georgia and Georgia Tech fans on this blog, the chance for a verbal inferno becomes even greater.

But the same rules apply: no profanity, no profanity that is cleverly disguised with punctuation marks, no racist comments, no sexual innuendo, no stealing of screen names to give the impression that somebody wrote something when they really didn’t, no … well, you get the idea. You can praise, mock, laud and criticize all you like. But let me share something an old editor of mine once told me: If you have to ask, “Can I write this?” the answer is probably no.

Fair enough?

OK, onto the game. Georgia and Georgia Tech is, first and foremost, always about 364 days of bragging rights. …

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Upsetting Georgia would give Tech needed boost for future

Roddy Jones (20), Troy Garside (33) and Marcus Wright (3) were among celebrating Jackets in 2008. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

From Tech's 2008 celebration: Roddy Jones, Troy Garside and Marcus Wright. (Brant Sanderlin)

During the course of a five-minute interview, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson referenced Georgia’s No. 3 ranking in the BCS three times, just on the chance that we didn’t know.

“It’s not often you get a chance to play the No. 3-ranked team in the country,” he said.

“We haven’t beaten them in three years — that should be motivation enough. And they’re the No. 3-ranked team in the country,” he said.

“It’s an important game — and we also know that it’s the No. 3 team in the country,” he said.

So, just for clarification, Georgia is ranked No. 3 in the country, correct?

“I think so,” Johnson said, smiling. “That’s what somebody told me.”

Welcome to the view from the other side. Johnson is perceived as the other coach of the other team in the other conference. On Saturday, his Yellow Jackets will face the Bulldogs in their annual feud in Athens. Johnson understands the backdrop. Georgia has …

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