Archive for the ‘Braves / MLB’ Category

After celebration, Chipper Jones admits he was ‘emotional wreck’

Chipper Jones acknowledges fans as he walks to plate for his first-inning at-bat. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Chipper Jones acknowledges fans as he walks to plate for his first-inning at-bat. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Updated: 11 p.m.)

The celebration Friday night wasn’t merely for a player and his career. It was for a player who in his final season had managed to will his team to one more postseason.

Imagine if the backdrop was similar to a year ago. Imagine if the Braves found themselves handing out gifts to a retiring legend before a game Friday night, mugging for cameras with forced smiles, knowing that when the ceremonies ended they would have to return to the reality of the standings, their fingers digging into the side of a cliff.

Imagine if Chipper Jones hadn’t ignited a city and a team on Sept. 2. He hit that walk-off, three-run homer against Philadelphia. It punctuating a five-run ninth inning that gave the Braves a miracle 8-7 win over the Phillies. It was like plugging a team into a light socket. The Braves had lost 10 of 14. They were on the verge of being swept at home …

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Chipper Jones: Treasure on field, wealth of material off of it

When Chipper Jones retires, the Braves will lose a legend and we'll lose the rarely scene honest and open athlete. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

When Chipper Jones retires, the Braves will lose a legend and we'll lose the rarely scene honest and open athlete. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(This is just one of several articles that will run in Sunday’s AJC special section on Chipper Jones. The section will be a collectors’ item so be sure to pick one up.)

Economics preclude me from following Chipper Jones into retirement. But there’s a side of me that wonders, “Now what?”

This column isn’t about Chipper Jones’ greatness as a baseball player (obvious). Or that he will end his Hall of Fame career with the same franchise that drafted him (reducing Todd Van Poppel to an amusing trivia question). Or that what we are witnessing in his final season seems pure fantasy: A 40-year-old athlete with creaky limbs manufacturing enough highlights to push his team into the playoffs.

Rather, this is about what really has set Chipper Jones apart: genuine, unfiltered, cold-slap honesty.

In the media, we tend to be drawn to the talkers. …

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Video blog: On Braves’ sweep of Nats and what it means

My rabbi permitted me the opportunity to break away from 10 days of reflection and repentance (give or take) so I could speak with the lovely and talented Tara Petrolino of CineSport about the Atlanta Braves, their sweep of the Washington Nationals and what it means moving forward.

And, action …

By Jeff Schultz

For previous CineSport video blogs, click here

And here are some things I actually typed

This Braves’ September isn’t anything like the last one

Georgia Tech shows its upside in win — and it’s impressive

Short takes: 3 thoughts on Georgia Tech’s win over Virginia

A Medlen start, a Braves’ win and finally a positive sign

Predictions: Falcons over 666, Tech wins, Pigs faceplant

Loss of Brent Grimes doesn’t have to derail Falcons’ season

Video blog: On Brent Grimes, Falcons’ offense and some early picks

Falcons finally show an offense worthy of their talent

Short takes: 3 thoughts on Falcons’ win over Chiefs

Short takes: 3 thoughts on …

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This Braves’ September isn’t anything like the last one

Jason Heyward scored in a two-run third when Braves jumped ahead 2-0, and they never looked back. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Jason Heyward scored in a two-run third when Braves jumped ahead 2-0, and they never looked back. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(UPDATED: 2 p.m., Monday)

Something became apparent about the Braves after they won their first two games against the Washington Nationals, and it wasn’t just the revelation: “Wait, they just won back-to-back games over the best team in baseball on a throwing error and a hit batter? Is this the baseball gods making up for Kenshin Kawakami?”

If you walked through the clubhouse, in the dugout or on the field for batting practice Sunday, a feeling of relative serenity for a stretch drive in September was obvious.

Nobody was stressed. Nobody seemed to be obsessing over first place  — or, more importantly, not first place. Nobody was thinking about injuries or losing streaks or .200 batting averages or the recent ugliness of a wrong-way series in Milwaukee.

“Somebody said yesterday we have a magic number or something,” Eric Hinske said Sunday. …

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LIVE: Will it be a sweep night for Braves over Nationals?

Closer Craig Kimbrel has a win and a save in the first two games of the Washington series. (AP photo)

Braves closerCraig Kimbrel has a win and a save in the first two games of the Washington series. (AP photo)

Welcome to the Braves-Washington Nationals series finale that few of us believed would mean anything,  and actually we’re still not sure if it means anything, but then again there is this thought: What if it means something?

After consecutive narrow victories Friday (2-1) and Saturday (5-4), the Braves go into tonight’s nationally televised game with a chance for their first series sweep over Washington in three years (Sept. 25-27, 2009). More significant than that historical moment (work with me here) is that the Braves have an opportunity to pull within 5½ games of first place in the National League East after going into this series 8½ back — and, depending on your perspective, seemingly comatose after being swept in Milwaukee.

Now, we learned last season what odds and percentages really mean. (Nothing.) The website Cool Standings calculates the Braves’ chances of …

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A Medlen start, a Braves’ win and finally a positive sign

Kris Medlen pitched yet another gem for the Braves, allowing just one run in seven innings but left without a decision. (AP photo)

Kris Medlen pitched another gem for the Braves, allowing just one run in seven innings, but he left without a decision. (AP photo)

(UPDATED 11:20 p.m.)

The problem with trying to project the Braves’ future is the struggle to assess the present. What are they?

Five months and 145 games after breaking spring training, they lack definition. They’re like a compass with a broken arrow that refuses to point north more than consecutive days. Or innings. Are they the team that went 18-8 in July, or the one that has been only Milwaukee-like since — well, except for the fact they just got swept by Milwaukee.

If we dare to look ahead to the postseason – and yes, that foolishly assumes no quicksand – what can the Braves hang their hat on right now? Other than pitcher Kris Medlen, who hasn’t lost a start since he was, like, 12, and closer Craig Kimbrel and maybe Martin Prado, can we be certain of anything? The lineup is full of slumps. The rotation is a row of question …

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Chipper Jones provides Braves with a needed miracle

Chipper Jones is greeted by teammates after his walkoff, three-run homer won it for Braves. (AP photo)

Chipper Jones is greeted by teammates after three-run homer won it for Braves. (AP photo)

(UPDATED: 9:45 p.m.)

They have given away bobbleheads of the old man. They have given away posters. I’m not sure what else the Braves can do to commemorate what Chipper Jones has meant to this franchise, except maybe provide a DVD of his ninth inning at-bat to the thousands of fans who weren’t around for the finish Sunday night.

What is it about these situations? Ninth inning. Men on base. Two outs. Not many athletes thrive when given an opportunity to turn desperation into miracle, but Jones is one and he proved it again. As he said earlier Sunday, “That’s just the mentality that I’ve always had. And that’s never going to stop. I don’t care if I’m 40 or 60.”

Staying with the age theme, Jones made 40 look like 20, just when the Braves were looking 60. He slammed a two-out, three-run homer off Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon to cap a five-run ninth inning, giving the …

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Gonzalez knows if Braves fizzle, he’ll be one to catch heat

Fredi Gonzalez knows criticism goes with the job, whether it's justified or not. (Hyosub Shin/AJC

Fredi Gonzalez knows criticism goes with his job, whether it's justified or not. (Hyosub Shin/AJC

(UPDATED: 11 p.m.)

One refreshing thing about Fredi Gonzalez, unlike so many in his position, is that he’s not going to try to project himself as someone who has all the answers.

He’ll listen to criticism. He’ll seek feedback from his Yoda-like predecessor, Bobby Cox. He’ll talk to former managers who are now long into retirement, and even managers on other teams. If ultimately Gonzalez fails as manager of the Braves, it won’t be because of ego, arrogance or obstinance.

“I talk to other managers all the time, people I respect,” Gonzalez said Friday. “Why not? I talk to them about dealing with different situations, dealing with crisis. But the bottom line, what most of them say, is you just have to be yourself. You have to be honest with players. You’re going to make decisions that are going to be second-guessed. That goes with the territory. But at the end of the …

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MLB’s drug policy too soft — teams should be docked wins

Melky Cabrera makes the boo-boo face after an out, which was more common before drugs. (AP photo)

Melky Cabrera makes the boo-boo face after an out, which was common before he juiced.

The objective of a drug policy in professional sports is to deter its use. And yet, there have been 80 violations of baseball’s drug program in the minor and major leagues in 2012 – including 20 alone in the month of August.

The objective of suspending players is in part to have them serve as an example for what can happen if somebody cheats, regardless of the potential rewards that await the player on the other side of the rainbow (and syringe). And yet, the San Francisco Giants’ Melky Cabrera chose to artificially inflate his muscles, which led to him competing for the National League batting title, launching his team into a divisional title race, winning the All-Star Game MVP Award, helping the National League claim home-field advantage in the World Series and setting himself up for the contract of his free-agency dreams.

This is when it’s easy to come to the conclusion that …

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If Braves serious about East, they need to beat Nationals now

You can almost see Jason Heyward say, "Uh-oh," as he lost two fly balls in sun. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

You can almost hear Jason Heyward say, "Uh-oh," as he lost two fly balls in sun in Braves' loss. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Three months ago, when the Braves were swept in their first season series against Washington (by a combined score: 22-10), the thought occurred (by me, anyway) that the Nationals were a nice little story that ultimately would spontaneously combust or do a slow fade into wild-card race oblivion.

That hasn’t happened. In fact, Washington has been in first place for all but 10 of 137 days since playing its season opener, and has been looking down on everybody in the National League East since May 22. (This for a franchise that hadn’t spent even one breakfast in first in five of the previous six years.)

First place used to be an afterthought for the Braves. They wiped their feet on the rest of the division. But they haven’t won a division title since 2005, and their chance to hang another flag — ignoring the misplaced wild-card banner at Turner Field – …

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