Archive for February, 2010

The background (and some video) of a hot Braves prospect

You’ve doubtless read, courtesy of colleague Dave O’Brien, that the Braves have signed shortstop Edward Salcedo, an 18-year-old from the Dominican Republic. The team likes Salcedo enough to have given him a $1.6 million signing bonus, which is fairly big money for the organization that wanted Johnny Damon, who’s twice Salcedo’s age, to accept deferred money.

As DOB notes, the Braves could afford to invest in a young free agent because they have no first-round pick in the June draft, having forfeited theirs after signing Billy Wagner. And Salcedo has been the apple of teams’ eye for a long time now: He was reported as having signed with Cleveland in 2007 — the figure mentioned was $2.9 million — but the deal, for reasons still unclear, never went through.

For a detailed look on the curious non-contract with the Indians and questions over Salcedo’s age, read this informative assessment from Ben Badler of Baseball America. And here, from the Cleveland perspective, was Anthony …

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A coach tells SI: Lawal and Favors don’t play well together

Gani Lawal gets a shot blocked. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Gani Lawal gets rejected. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Not that I’m smart or anything — we all know better than that — but I suggested almost two months ago that Georgia Tech’s Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors hadn’t yet formed a mesh. Indeed, I typed as much (at 9:25 p.m., if you care to check) in a live chat off the Tech-North Carolina game last week: “Favors looks so much more comfortable when Lawal’s not in.”

Being all too human, I’m always encouraged when someone happens to agree with me. (Which almost never happens.) Here, from an unnamed opposing coach as told to SI.com’s Seth Davis, is an outsider’s look at Tech:

The biggest problem with Georgia Tech is that the Jackets invent turnovers. They play faster than they need to play at times, and that’s why they turn it over. They’re playing [Gani] Lawal and [Derrick] Favors, who are two mountains masquerading as men, but there’s not a lot of room when you play those two guys because they’re both low post players. They’re …

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Playgirl wants Vick to apologize to dogs by … posing nude?

According to Life & Style Magazine — a publication with which I’m unfamiliar, perhaps because I have neither a life nor a style — Playgirl has offered Michael Vick $1 million to pose unclad. But if you’re thinking the overture might be a tad tawdry … no worries! The million dollars will go to PETA!

Understand: This wouldn’t be one of those “I’d-rather-go-naked-than-wear-fur” ads for which celebs have posed. (One of them being Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez. Another being, interestingly enough, Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas, who has been suspended from the NBA for being overfamiliar with guns, none of which apparently were used to hunt animals.) The results of any Vick disrobing would run in Playgirl, which would then donate the money to PETA.

According to Life & Style, a Playgirl spokesperson said:  “I sent the request to Michael Vick on Wednesday. But we haven’t heard back yet. I figured he paid back society for dogfighting, but what about the animals? This way he could …

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Hank Aaron on Mark McGwire: It’s time for forgiveness

Hank Aaron signs baseball at Braves camp Monday. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Hank Aaron signs autographs at Braves camp Monday. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Hank Aaron was in Lake Buena Vista on Monday. He met with reporters and spoke about several topics, but his thoughts on Mark McGwire had particular resonance. Here, as reported by the Associated Press, were Aaron’s comments:

“I think baseball is cleaning up its act a little bit, I really do. I’ve said this and I’ll say it again, over and over again, this is the most forgiving country in the world. If you come through and tell the truth, then you’re going to be forgiven. The kid with the Yankees, [Andy] Pettitte, came out and it was a week of news and after that it was over.

“We all make mistakes. If they ever did enhancing drugs, whatever they did, they should come clean and be able to sleep at night.”

Speaking specifically of McGwire, who last fall admitted his use of performance-enhancing drugs:

“I would have loved to have seen him do it a long time ago, but since he did it, I think that he …

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After an egregious loss, we ask: Have the Hawks hit a wall?

Twelve days ago Mike Woodson said of his Hawks: “We’re right where we want to be. We’ve closed the gap on the top three teams, and now we’ve got to make a serious push and be committed. After the All-Star break, we have to really concentrate on trying to win our division … Somehow we’ve got to try to get the second spot [in the East].”

File that under “message not received.”

The night of Woodson’s call for commitment, his team lost by 18 points at home to the sub-.500 Miami Heat. The Hawks have since lost two of three on their Western swing, which can happen. But it shouldn’t happen when the second of those comes against a lousy Golden State team missing Corey Maggette on a night when the Hawks hold an 18-point lead. And now we have to ask: Has this club hit the wall?

After Jamal Crawford beat Phoenix at the buzzer on Jan. 15, the Hawks were 26-13. They’re 8-7 since. They’ve dropped from first place in the NBA Southeast to fourth in the Eastern Conference, which is where they …

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Memo to the Braves: $95 million doesn’t go as far as it did

Johnny Damon has signed with Detroit. This should surprise no one,  least of all us Atlantans. Damon will make $8 million for one season’s work, and ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports that none of the money is deferred.

The Braves made an overture toward Damon. They offered rather less than $8 million, with some of the money believed to be deferred. This is the way the Braves have come to operate.

They traded Javier Vazquez because he was due to make $11.5 million. They signed Troy Glaus because he was available and has a history of being productive, but also because he came cheap. They re-upped Tim Hudson because he seems healthy, yes, but also because he offered a hometown discount.

If we credit the Braves for resolutely holding their payroll under $100 million — Baseball Prospectus projects it at $95 million for this season, though other estimates put it around at $90 million or less — we must also debit them for slipping further behind the ol’ curve. Times change, and $95 …

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Presenting the thumbnail guide to the 2010 Atlanta Braves

This was Ejection No. 150 for Bobby Cox. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This was Ejection No. 150. There has been one more since. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

One more season for a club, one last ride for the Thumb King. Bobby Cox is retiring as manager after the 2010 Braves, who are congregating for spring training, finish playing, and one of the summer’s subplots will be to see  if the all-time ejection leader can lay claim to being the first (and surely the last) man ever to be thrown out of a full season’s worth of games. (Meaning 162.)

It will take determination and stamina and some luck, but I’m thinking Cox can do it. (He’s at 151 ejections and counting.) As for his final team … well, let’s let our own thumbs do the work.

Thumbs up for youth. Jair Jurrjens is 24 and nearing All-Star status. Tommy Hanson is 23 and finished third in the 2009 Rookie of the Year voting. Jason Heyward is 20 and might be named the 2010 Rookie of the Year. Freddie Freeman is 20 and might be named the 2011 Rookie of the Year. Arodys Vizcaino is 19 and might …

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Audience participation time! Rate Braves’ offseason moves!

This was where we left the Braves. Two of these guys play elsewhere now. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This was where we left it. Two of these guys play elsewhere now. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. Those words make some folks get all misty-eyed, but I have to confess they leave me unmoved. Probably because I hate watching teams practice in any sport. Give me real games!

But I digress.

The offseason is almost officially over. The Braves made some moves, as you know. (Say this for Frank Wren: He’s a movin’ man.) Here’s what I think of this club as currently configured, but I’d like a little audience participation, too. Tell me which transactions you liked, and which you didn’t. Unless you happened loved them all, which I guess would make you Frank Wren.

You’ll note that Johnny Damon’s name is not included below. Speculation is rampant that he’ll sign with either the Tigers or the White Sox, though speculation has been known to be wrong. He still might land here, I guess, but I’d be surprised. Though I’m often surprised.

And I didn’t include …

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Ouch, Bay-Bay! Tech’s Thomas breaks foot as stock soars

Demaryius Thomas shakes hands, but not with Mel Kiper. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Demaryius Thomas shakes hands, not with Mel Kiper. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

File this under really lousy timing. On the same day Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius Thomas saw his name listed on Mel Kiper’s mock first round on ESPN.com, he broke his foot while training in Scottsdale, Ariz. So reports Tony Pauline on SI.com.

Thomas, known as Bay-Bay, broke his left foot in a three-cone drill. He’ll miss next week’s NFL combine. More from Pauline:

His agent, Todd France, told SI.com that it was a clean break and doctors expect a recovery time of four to six weeks. “There are no longterm effects from the injury and Demaryius will be 100 percent by the time OTA’s begin,” said France, who added that surgery is a possibility. “If surgery hastens the healing process, that is something we will consider.”

According to observers at Athletes Performance, where Thomas has been training, the 6-foot-3, 227-pound receiver had been turning in sensational workouts in preparation for the …

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Bradley’s Buzz: Baseball Prospectus has Braves finishing 2nd

Would you remember Nate McLouth if he signed a baseball for you? (AJC file photo)

Would you remember Nate McLouth if he signed a baseball for you? (AJC file photo)

I’m a little confused. In his ESPN.com Insiders preview of the National League East, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus describes the Braves as “resurgent.” (Link requires registration.) But here’s the weird part: BP’s PECOTA ratings — no relation to Bill Pecota, a Brave of no great distinction in the ’90s — project the Braves’ record as 83-79.

The 2009 Braves finished 86-76. That’s resurgence?

PECOTA puts the Braves second in the division, five games behind the Nationals. (Ha! Just seeing if you’re paying attention. Behind the Phillies, natch.) Goldstein offers this breakdown:

Why They Might Win: Jason Heyward is the top position player prospect in the game, might be the right fielder on opening day and one of those rare talents who could make a big-league impact from day one. Their rotation could be outstanding, as Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens are both good young pitchers who could be …

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