Posts Tagged ‘MLB’

Braves’ Frank Wren needs to fix good, but not great, team

Michael Bourn may have played his last game for the Braves, who have some big decisions to make this offseason. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Center fielder Michael Bourn may have played his last game for the Braves, who have some big decisions to make this offseason. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Once you get past the fact that the Braves waited until game No. 163 to resemble baseball’s all-thumbs team, and that a major league umpiring crew just made the NFL’s replacement referees look fit to be air traffic controllers, this is what the 2012 season really comes down to: The Braves’ margin for error this season was just too narrow.

They won 94 games. That’s impressive. They went 20-9 down the stretch after it looked again like they were circling the drain. That’s really impressive. But what really pushed this team into the postseason were two unexpected occurrences: 1) A 40-year-old (Chipper Jones) unexpectedly hit .300 for most of this season, had two walk-off homers against Philadelphia (the second when the club looked comatose on Sept. 2), and finished second in game-winning RBIs (12) and third in go-ahead RBIs (18) …

Continue reading Braves’ Frank Wren needs to fix good, but not great, team »

Chipper Jones on loss in his finale: ‘Ultimately I’m to blame’

Chipper Jones. (AP photo)

Chipper Jones never imagined an error in his final game would cost his team a playoff game. (AP photo)

Bunting hanging from the rafters. Red tomahawks. An actual sellout for a postseason game (but then, it’s new again).

Ted Turner. Jimmy Carter. Bobby Cox (except in the stands, not in cleats).

Also, there was Chipper Jones. He was a 23-year-old rookie in 1995 when the Braves won the World Series. He was a 40-year-old, 19-year veteran when he was making his way from his home to Turner Field Friday for a playoff game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Perfect weather. Perfect backdrop. Perfect emotions.

“I told my dad, ‘This is why I know I’m ready to go. I’m not even nervous,” Jones said earlier Friday.

It wasn’t the perfect ending. No walk-off homer. No catching the final out. No fairly tale.

More like Stephen King.

Of all the endings Larry “Chipper” Jones envisioned for the final game of his career . . .

“This wasn’t one of them,” he said, completing a …

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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 …

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

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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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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Hanson not buying into talk of decline, looks to win spot

Tommy Hanson will come off the disabled list and start Friday against the Dodgers. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Tommy Hanson will be activated and start Friday against the Dodgers. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

(Hi folks. I’m ready to live blog off tonight’s Braves game against San Diego. It’s Tim Hudson vs. Clayton Richard. Following is a column I’ve written on Tommy Hanson, who will come off the disabled list after a back injury to start Friday’s game against Los Angeles. Hanson is in the unexpected position of trying to win a spot in the Braves’ five-man rotation down the stretch. The team currently is going with six pitchers.)


If there is one jolting reality about the blur surrounding the Braves’ pitching rotation these days, it’s this: Tommy Hanson is not a clear-cut No. 1. Or 2. Or 3.

This doesn’t mean Hanson is going to struggle over the next two weeks. It certainly doesn’t mean he’s not going to reaffirm his value to the Braves over time, nor that he isn’t destined to have a great career, presumably in Atlanta.

But there are doubts. There was the shoulder injury last year. The back …

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