Last week Mark Bowman, who covers the Braves for MLB.com, speculated openly about the need for the Braves to upgrade their outfield and that Jeff Francouer could soon be on an outbound plane. Included was Bowman’s sobering appraisal: “The Braves aren’t going to get much in return for Francoeur. But they need to at least explore the possibility of moving him before they reach a point during the offseason when they might non-tender him and get absolutely nothing in return for a former top prospect.”
Note the “ouch” phrases: “Aren’t going to get much” and “non-tender him” and, worst of all, “former top prospect.”
About Mr. Bowman: He’s a good guy and a good reporter. He’s not given to flights of fancy. (Unlike, say, me.) If he’s broaching the topic on MLB.com, it stands to reason there’s chatter ongoing within the Braves’ organization. And that might not be a bad thing. As much as I like Francoeur, I think we’re approaching the point where it makes sense — for both parties — to take divergent paths.
Bowman suggested Texas might be a destination for Francouer, given that the Rangers have had immediate success with Andruw Jones. (Heck, Francoeur is already working more closely with Rudy Jaramillo, the Rangers’ batting coach, than with Terry Pendleton.) Me, I’d just as soon the Braves never again mess with Texas, trade-wise. But maybe that’s just me.
Esteemed former colleague Mark Schlabach presents his updated preseason Top 25 on ESPN.com, and he has Georgia Tech (No. 15) rated one spot ahead of Georgia (No. 16). That sounds about right for the latter but too low for the former.
In a companion piece, Schlabach analyzes how each of his ranked teams can improve its standing. He says Tech needs to throw the ball better and Georgia needs to run it more. Me, I suggest the Bulldogs might tighten up the ol’ D as well, but again … maybe that’s just me.
As for Georgia’s opening-game opponent: Schlabach has Oklahoma State ranked No. 10, and Matt Hayes of Sporting News Today lists the Cowboys among his four teams on the rise. OSU, Hayes avers, has “three legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates.” But you know the old saying: Give Willie Martinez eight months to prepare …
Writing for ESPN.com’s Insider, Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders — an outsider on the inside; is that even allowed? — counts the Falcons’ outside-linebacking crew as No. 9 on his list of unfilled roster holes. (Link requires registration.) Writes Barnwell: “They wrapped Band-Aids on the problem with converted safety Coy Wire and former Jacksonville middle linebacker Mike Peterson, who will be 33 and hasn’t played outside since 2002. Those aren’t solutions. They’re prayers.”
And, according to Gare Joyce on ESPN.com, the Thrashers will spend the fourth overall pick on Evander Kane (requires registration), a center from Vancouver of the WHL. This sounds OK to me, center being a key hockey position and all. But I still haven’t gotten over the Falcons’ failure to draft Evander “Ziggy” Hood, and I fear the presence of another Evander on the Atlanta sports scene would only deepen my depression.
My personal issues aside, here’s a capsule rundown of Kane from Hockey’s Future. And below, from NHL.com via YouTube, is a video feature.