Gwinnett’s hopes for Hanson are tempered by reality

A relocated minor-league team is about to open in a major-league market at a time of economic uncertainty. Does that team, Bruce Baldwin was asked, spend its days and nights praying the ballyhooed pitcher Tommy Hanson winds up the 26th guy on the Atlanta Braves’ 25-man roster?

“No,” said Baldwin, the general manager of the brand new Gwinnett Braves. “I read what a great talent and a great young man he is, and I hope he is able to serve the Braves and himself in the way that will be best for them and for his career.”

OK. Enough boilerplate. Baldwin again: “Would I like to see him [in Gwinnett]? Absolutely.”

The G-Braves will start their inaugural season with eight road dates. They’ll christen their new stadium April 17. (Baldwin: “First pitch is at 7 p.m. Gates open at 4:30.”) Having the most heralded Braves pitching prospect since Steve Avery on the hill that Friday would be the sweetest reality possible, but Baldwin, who spent 22 seasons as GM of the Richmond Braves, knows the drill.

The minor leagues serve at the pleasure of their parent club. As much as the organization wants its Class AAA affiliate to have a rolling start, Tommy Hanson will be where he’s most needed.

And where might that be? Speaking Monday from Florida, Braves GM Frank Wren said he doesn’t yet know. “It’s still too early. We’ve still got three weeks. But he has thrown the ball well.”

Indeed, the April destination of the 22-year-old Hanson figures to hinge on the March performance of a somewhat older Tommy. The Braves re-signed Tom Glavine, whose major-league debut came 11 days before Hanson’s first birthday, to be their fifth starter. They don’t want Hanson in the bigs if he’s not going to take a regular rotational turn, and the Braves’ No. 5 starter isn’t scheduled to work until April 18.

This is Tommy Hanson. (AJC photo by Rich Addicks)

This is Tommy Hanson. He is 6-6 and is wearing pants, even though they're not shown. (Rich Addicks, AJC.)

If you’re betting now, you’d bet Hanson will begin the season in the minors. But Glavine is coming off surgery — he threw two innings in an intrasquad game Monday — and there’s never a guarantee with post-surgical 42-year-olds. And the Gwinnett Braves … well, they’ll wind up with whatever players the big team sends.

“[Hanson’s] name comes up,” Baldwin said, “but so do many others. [Our roster] is a moving target, and it will always be a moving target.”

Baldwin ticks off the names of big-name prospects who came through Richmond: Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez, Mike Kelly, Tony Tarasco, Vinny Castilla. By the nature of the minor leagues, a big-name prospect will never stick around long. “We’ve got two business models,” Baldwin said. “One is inside the white lines, and the other is outside the white lines.”

The G-Braves are endeavoring to work outside-in. They’re finishing their stadium — Baldwin: “The county has done an amazing job; it’s a nice-looking place; it looks a little different” — near the Mall of Georgia. They’ve printed schedules. They’re selling tickets. They’ve got their mascot, a 6-foot-2 groundhog of uncertain orthodontia named Chopper. They’re going to field a team and play a season even if Tommy Hanson never once toes the slab in Gwinnett County.

“Don’t think I’m blasé,” Baldwin said. “I’m excited about being here. I’m passionate about this organization and the opportunity to bring baseball to this community. … But I can’t control what I get . … If certain players don’t wind up here, then they don’t.”

But if Tommy Hanson does alight in Lawrenceville … well, that would be just dandy. To borrow a word from the famous Gwinnett water tower, that’d be great.

41 comments Add your comment

ValdostaMike

March 17th, 2009
10:30 am

Chipper and Glavine are all that is left from the glory days, with all due respect to Bobby Cox.. Both are hurt. If Hanson does wind up on HWY 20 along with Schaeffer they may outdraw the Big League team.

stamper

March 17th, 2009
12:28 pm

thats just silly and naive.

ndadome

March 17th, 2009
2:48 pm

Mr. Baldwin may not be praying for Hanson to open the season in Gwinnett, but all us local residents are. In fact, we’re having a special time of fasting and prayer at the First Freewill Baptist Holiness Church all this week.

Mark Bradley

March 17th, 2009
3:36 pm

spotts

March 17th, 2009
4:09 pm

And success lives in Gwinnett

spotts

March 17th, 2009
4:10 pm

As a Gwinnettian (is that how you spell it?) who lives about 5 miles from the new stadium, I would absolutely love to go to the home opener and see Tommy Hanson there. But as a Braves fan, I’d much rather see him helping out the ballclub

PTC DAWG

March 17th, 2009
4:13 pm

I’ve thought from day one that the Gwinnett Braves AAA team is a DUMB idea. Not sure what clown thought this up.

ugacpa02

March 17th, 2009
4:26 pm

Why in the world is that a bad idea? Do you not realize that fans in Gwinnett currently don’t like making the several hour drive to the ballpark? However by getting them hooked on the kids at the AAA level, they’ll be much more likely to make the trip downtown.

Basically you get them hooked and then you double your market. If the big team is home and the AAA on the road, those folks might just make the drive. Same for downtown residents who want to go check out whether the hotshot prospect should already be downtown.

Also, I’m a downtown guy who plans to be in Gwinnett to see Hanson and likely Schaefer on opening night.

Mark Bradley

March 17th, 2009
4:37 pm

This is just me talking, OK? And I’m not an economist, OK? But I think Gwinnett will do all right this season even with money tight. When money’s tight, cheaper is better. And minor-league baseball offers entertainment for a fairly reasonable price point.

BF Dawg Fan

March 17th, 2009
4:52 pm

I’ll attend both ballparks

Mark Bradley

March 17th, 2009
4:55 pm

Actually, I think it’ll be an instructive side-by-side comparison. Minor-league baseball is a completely different product with a much more down-home vibe. Some people really, really like it.

Chuck

March 17th, 2009
6:19 pm

Something similar works w/the Bowie, MD, minor league team in suburban DC and the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nats. A lot of people who live in the northern suburbs of Atlanta (Gwinnett, Hall, N Fulton) may be more inclined to stay in the burbs, especially w/cheaper tix, a shorter drive, etc. And it likely won’t hurt the major league team unless they really suck.

Gil In Mechanicsville

March 17th, 2009
6:46 pm

You folks don’t have a clue as to how lucky you are to have some much talent close at hand. Richmond went through some pretty lean times but boy, can you still enjoy yourself at a game. My advice, Pay the $12 for the box seats at Gwinnette and buy a big screen HDTV to view the Atlanta games. You will enjoy both experiences on a much greater level…

Fought for the #3 jersey as a kid

March 17th, 2009
7:42 pm

Mark,
From a business and baseball standpoint, I think it makes sense for him to start in Gwinnett. Isn’t it correct that if he starts the season in the minors then it would add a year where he would be restricted to only being arbitration eligible? I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but if I’m the Braves and this kid is going to be as good as every scout gushes, I would try to keep him as a Brave… and as affordable as possible, for as long as possible.

Mark Bradley

March 17th, 2009
11:57 pm

If I had to guess — and I don’t, but I will anyway — I’d say Hanson will start in Gwinnett but finish downtown.

Coach (Skip and Pete will be missed)

March 18th, 2009
1:11 am

Agreed on Bradley’s last statement.

But I will take it one step further. Tomorrow afternoon’s game will be televised by the MLB channel. This is two nationally televised spring training games with Tommy Hanson on the mound.

Coincidence? I think not. The Braves have a meal ticket in Tommy Hanson bound for Gwinnett and then on to Turner Field sometime in the near future.

Joannah

March 18th, 2009
7:11 am

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Joannah

http://2gbmemory.net

Najeh Davenpoop

March 18th, 2009
7:29 am

Maybe the fans in Gwinnett wouldn’t have to drive several hours if they got their heads out of their asses and approved Marta’s expansion. Ain’t no sympathy from me.

//my only semi-political statement of the year

marseilles mutt

March 18th, 2009
7:48 am

In a major market like Chicago, it is amazing what the Kane County Cougars have acccomplished. They are located in the heart of Cub/White Sox country, and enjoy a truly significant following. Their family style entertainment, picnic area, fireworks, box lunches and post game festivities, have created a local legend. I can certainly envision much the same with the Gwinnett team; and I don’t think their stadium is built on a land fill!

The Braves have already set numerous precedents in bringing up a pitcher from the minors to pitch a single game. The new location of their AAA franchise certainly makes that a great deal easier. All things considered, including the reasons given by previous contributers, this move seems to make a great deal of sense. Bet it will be a load of fun!

Mark Bradley

March 18th, 2009
8:04 am

If I’m not mistaken, the Mets have a minor-league team in Brooklyn.

ChillyMutt

March 18th, 2009
9:06 am

What the heck! We already have a mascot … and its not a lame cartoon gopher with a ridiculous name. Its an indian – a BRAVE to be specific. An image to be feared …. and proud of not hugged and cuddled. My god what has this world come to?

Mark Bradley

March 18th, 2009
9:16 am

Let me be the first to come to Chopper’s defense. I think he’s cute.

Tech sucks

March 18th, 2009
10:22 am

Valdosta Mike…. That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve read yet.

Jeff R

March 18th, 2009
10:36 am

We’ll see what Tommy Glavine does, if anything. As Mark, said, to paraphrase, a 42-year-old comig off injuries ain’t a sure thing. I’d bet Hanson begins at Gwinnett, but winds up in the rotation before the sunner.

Jerry

March 18th, 2009
11:25 am

The Bravos make the playoffs and smoltz doesn’t.

What a great problem the Braves have.

As we get closer to opening day we will see more veterans and lets see how Rooster fares. If he earns the chance then you give it to him. If Rooster pitches in Gwinnett until August then that means the Braves are doing good.

I wonder what Wren has up his sleeve.

Braves win 95 and win the east. All just so smoltz can watch from home.

Ted Striker

March 18th, 2009
11:30 am

My favorite minor league baseball team names:

Casper (WY) Ghosts, Tri-City (WA) Dust Devils, Frisco (TX) RoughRiders, Lehigh Valley (PA) IronPigs, Portland Beavers, Hickory (NC) Crawdads, Batavia (NY) Muckdogs, Albuquerque (NM) Isotopes, Montgomery (AL) Biscuits, Modesto (CA) Nuts, Visalia (CA) Rawhide, Jupiter (FL) Hammerheads, Fort Wayne (IN) TinCaps, Great Lakes (MI) Loons, Lansing (MI) LugNuts, Reno (NV) Aces

marseilles mutt

March 18th, 2009
12:09 pm

And who could ever forget the Albany (Ga) Polecats.

And whatever became of all of the “Frank Wren is an idiot!” crowd in light of what is happening in spring training. I realize it means little or nothing, but it is wonderful to see the Braves on the long end of the score for a change. It is kind of reminiscent of 1991, isn’t it? Well, I can dream…..

Mark Bradley

March 18th, 2009
12:16 pm

You’re right. By minor-league standards, Gwinnett Braves is unbelievably pedestrian. How about the Gwinnett Spaghetti (as in Junction)?

Marc

March 18th, 2009
1:00 pm

I miss Spaghetti Junction (Florida resident now).

I just happen in live in Central Florida. I’ve seen a lot of spring training games this year (a lot of them Braves games of course). I see three things:

1. Better chemistry (seemingly) in the Braves dugout.
2. An excess of talented outfielders (seriously, trade one or two of these guys for something, good lord we’re overflowing with them and Blanco isn’t even with the team right now).
3. A pitcher that before this season is over will be the biggest flop in recent Braves history, or, a pitcher that will nail our postseason picture on the wall. It should be noted that the first half of that statement is under the assumption Francour hits at least .260 this year.

Should be a fun season to watch

Mark Bradley

March 18th, 2009
1:11 pm

There’s a sentence I’ve never read/heard: “I miss Spaghetti Junction.”

marseilles mutt

March 18th, 2009
1:50 pm

Well, I kind of do too; if I was going to the lake at 7;00 or 8:00 A.M.,or headed south at 6:00 or 7:00 P.M.! Did I get that right?

There are many things to miss about Atlanta when you’re not there. Although traffic is certainly not one of them.

Mark Bradley

March 18th, 2009
1:55 pm

You got that right.

Jared

March 18th, 2009
3:37 pm

folks from gwinnett want to see hanson? drive into town. its 20 freakin’ miles and the traffic on the connector is not even as bad as the traffic around the Mall of Georgia.

as for cheaper baseball… you can go to a game for $5 any night you want and you can actually get decent seats for $11. eat before you come to the Ted.

I’m sure I’ll check out a G-Braves game or two, but there’s nothing comparable to the show, especially if the real Braves are winning. (I expect by July most of the big names [schafer, heyward, hanson, freeman] will be with the big club anyways.)

Hillbilly Deluxe

March 18th, 2009
5:11 pm

I’ll probably try to take in a game at Gwinnett this year. It’s actually just about as easy for me to go to Chattanooga. Tickets at Chattanooga are $8 (unless they go up this year) for a front row seat. You’re only about 40 feet or so from the baseline and the speed of the game at that angle and distance is amazing. Even AA players can fly when they start turning a double play. You can’t get that kind of experience at most Major League parks.

Ted Striker

March 18th, 2009
5:28 pm

MLB lost it’s cachet with the last players strike. What’s really changed since? Steroid scandals, spiraling salaries, an even greater sense of disconnect between players and fans. Lots of folks who were once long-time fans can now take MLB — or they can leave it.

Me? Give me Crash Davis over Tom Glavine any day.

Mark Bradley

March 18th, 2009
5:34 pm

Uh, Ted. I hate to tell you this, but Crash Davis was played by Kevin Costner, millionaire movie star.

Ted Striker

March 18th, 2009
5:54 pm

That’s true, Mark. But I respect anyone who can leave Susan Sarandon speechless when saying goodnight.

Tron5000

March 18th, 2009
7:38 pm

Mark, I have a question. How is a player’s salary affected by going back and forth between the minors and the big leagues? Is the player paid differently for the time that he is with the big club than he is for time spent in the minors?

Mark Bradley

March 18th, 2009
8:30 pm

Great question, Tron, and I think — I think — it works like so: The minimum major-league salary for 2008 was $390,000. If a player is promoted to the majors and isn’t making that much (and most minor-leaguers wouldn’t be, at least in terms of base salary), he’s bumped up to that level. If he goes back to the minors, his salary would be pro-rated in terms of days in the majors.

I could be wrong on that. But try the link and see if you can figure it out any better. And let me know if you do. http://tinyurl.com/dzyqo8

martin fartburg

March 18th, 2009
8:54 pm

My guess is Hanson will dine at Fatt Matt’s, ride the pine in A-town down till union man collapses, then vacation in the redneck riviera followed by a dominant post-season performance resulting in a championship, 4shizel!

Nitmar Odarp

March 19th, 2009
3:24 am

Nice Braves Minor League site-

http://minorsandmajors.com