Live from Braves-Phillies: Guess who’s ‘tremendous-looking’?

Turner Field as of 5:30 p.m. EDT, April 20, 2010. (Gloomy photo by M. Bradley)

Turner Field as of 5:30 p.m. EDT, April 20, 2010. (Evocatively gloomy photo by M. Bradley)

Ryan Howard arrived in Philadelphia in September 2004. The next season he was the National League rookie of the year. Today he stands as the pillar of the club that even rivals concede is the model of excellence. As Brian McCann said Sunday: “The Phillies aren’t just the team in the National League East — the Phillies are the team in the National League.”

Charlie Manuel wasn’t managing the Phillies in 2004, but he arrived in 2005 and has been there since. And Manuel, who has become my favorite manager to hear speak, was asked today by an Atlanta correspondent (i.e., me)  if a big-hitting rookie can make a difference not just on a season but on the future of a franchise.

“A player like that brings excitement and energy,” Manuel said. “He brings a whole lot to a team and to a clubhouse.”

The obvious point of reference: Jason Heyward. He’s not yet Ryan Howard — there’s a difference of 222 big-league homers — but he’s the most exciting rookie to emerge since the Philly big man.

Manuel on Heyward: “He’s a highly talented kid. He’s a tremendous athlete. He can do about everything you want a guy to do.”

And he can: Heyward is, to use the scout’s jargon, a five-tool player. Howard, on the other hand, is the classic big-hitting first baseman: He can’t run much, but he hits ‘em so far he gets to trot. Heyward might never have a 40-homer season. (Howard has had four in succession.) Then again, Heyward isn’t apt to strike out 180 times a year, either.

They’re different kinds of players, but the Braves would be delighted if Heyward had a Howard-like effect. Since 1995 the Braves’ batting order has been anchored by Chipper Jones, and he’ll turn 38 this Saturday. The best-case scenario: Heyward and his minor-league buddy Freddie Freeman become to this organization as Howard and Chase Utley are for Philadelphia — middle-of-the-order fixtures.

Asked if, way back when, Howard energized the Phillies with both his production and his presence, Manuel said: “Without a doubt. And he still carries that.”

The Phillies and Braves embarked Tuesday on the first of their three-game set at Turner Field , and the home side having the point to prove. The Phils have won the NL East three seasons running; the Braves haven’t made the playoffs since 2005. The Phils have graced each of the past two World Series, winning it in 2008; the Braves haven’t reached the Fall Classic since 1999, haven’t won a World Series game since 1996.

The Phils still have a deeper well of big-league talent, but the Braves are perkier than they’ve been in year. And that, we must say, isn’t because of Troy Glaus. It’s due to No. 22.

This is baseball, where one player isn’t supposed to make a difference. But Ryan Howard showed us the right man can indeed make a difference. Through two weeks, Jason Heyward has made a difference here. He entered Tuesday’s game with 15 RBIs, one more than the fearsome Howard. (Who did, it must be noted, drive in his 15th run of 2010 with a fourth-inning hit off the mitt of the forlorn Glaus.)

Yes, it’s premature to liken any 20-year-old to Ryan Howard. But it’s almost inevitable, and it’s great fun. It has been more than a decade since the Joneses, Chipper and Andruw, made their debuts. We in Atlanta were way overdue for the next big thing.

And with that, we’ll open the floor for questions, comments and weather forecasts. The Braves believe they’ll be able to get this game in, but I should note that the ground crew put the tarp back on the infield after the home team took batting practice. (No live BP on the field for the visitors, in sum.) It’s not raining now, but the tarp’s advent generally means sprinkles are on the way.

Whatever happens, I’ll be here all night to discuss it. Though I sincerely hope I won’t be here all night, if you take my meaning.

UPDATE: At 5:39 p.m., it started raining. Hard.

UP-TO-THE-MINUTE UPDATE: At 6:12 p.m., the rain has ceased and the sun is shining and the tarp has been lifted. Yay!

628 comments Add your comment

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 20th, 2010
5:45 pm

Not Playing tonight

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 20th, 2010
5:46 pm

No Game tonight!

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 20th, 2010
5:47 pm

It is Pouring here in Palmetto. I hope it blows over, but I got lighting too.

nola braves fan

April 20th, 2010
5:49 pm

third? you going to be able to watch the hawks as well I assume Mr. Bradley? Hope they don’t repeat the let down from last year’s round 1

jaymin

April 20th, 2010
5:50 pm

what? no game tonight?

jay dawg

April 20th, 2010
5:51 pm

before you can piss on a dawg, you have to learn to stop pissing on yourself

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 20th, 2010
5:54 pm

Well, I guess jay it will be a few more years before you get in the BIG BOYS CLUB.

GT Anchorage

April 20th, 2010
5:56 pm

Is it letting up yet? I was really excited about watching this game tonight… Even though I have to stream it on the internet

GT Anchorage

April 20th, 2010
5:57 pm

Is it letting up yet? I was really looking forward to watching this game today… even though I have to stream it

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 20th, 2010
5:58 pm

jay can you Pi$$ in the halls, on the buildings, and generally anywhere on the UGA campus? DO you have season tickets or did you even go to UGA? Love your fans taking such good care of the campus on gameday.

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 20th, 2010
6:00 pm

Just finished here in Palmtto/ Fairburn. Sky Clearing and Sun. Maybe this will blow by fast and the game can be played.

TheAntiMe

April 20th, 2010
6:06 pm

Hey, Mark, you just may be in luck. I heard a rumor that the Braves have Rick Camp available tonight to pinch hit in the bottom of the 18th inning, if needed.

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2010
6:10 pm

Rain has stopped. Sun’s shining. Tarp has been removed.

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2010
6:11 pm

Can’t watch the Hawks, nola. Going to be watching the Braves.

yunel asscobar

April 20th, 2010
6:12 pm

“He brings a whole to a team and to a clubhouse.”

Mark – he brings a whole? A whole lot of….? Heyward has a bright future, is showing incredible maturity for a rookie and certainly has the potential to make a Howard-like impact; assuming Wren doesn’t trade him for two old relievers coming off Tommy John surgery and an aging infielder.

Go Braves.

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 20th, 2010
6:13 pm

Still raining some but sun is out and little lighting.

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 20th, 2010
6:17 pm

Mark don’t you think there is too much pressure being put on Heyward very fast?

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2010
6:18 pm

A whole “lot,” yunel. Unfortunately, I type a lot worse than Charlie Manuel talks.

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2010
6:18 pm

There’s a lot of pressure, yes. But Mr. Heyward seems to be bearing up.

jED cLAMPETT

April 20th, 2010
6:19 pm

Hey, Mr.A$s Hole, what do you know about baseball b!tch????

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 20th, 2010
6:21 pm

Now, wait the season isn’t even a month old. He is still on Rookie Juice. I hope he can keep improving and moving foward, I just fear when the slump hits the Fan will get on him.

jED cLAMPETT

April 20th, 2010
6:21 pm

Mark Bradley sucks! go join terrence moron at AOL, all you guys do is run down the Atl.

yunel asscobar

April 20th, 2010
6:21 pm

Mark – I hear ya, dude. I love listening to Charlie as well….he makes the language quite interesting. Thanks for your good work – I always enjoy reading you and Jeff. Enjoy the game.

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 20th, 2010
6:22 pm

Will follow you on the computer and watch the Hawks.

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2010
6:22 pm

Thanks, yunel. I’ll enjoy it much more if we start on time.

Allan LePits

April 20th, 2010
6:22 pm

Mark;

We’re going over to the Food Court. Want some froie gras again?

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2010
6:24 pm

Please, Allan. And something from Chick-fil-A, as well.

Someday I’ll tell you folks the tale of “Allan LePits.” It’s part of AJC lore.

Delbert D.

April 20th, 2010
6:24 pm

Mark – You are, of course.

jay dawg

April 20th, 2010
6:26 pm

hey pissonmyselfalot, what college or university did you attend? or did you even attend one? or are you just mad that you couldn’t get into UGA?

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2010
6:28 pm

Why, thanks, Delbert D. But obviously you’ve never seen me in person. (Few people have. I’m a hermit.)

GTFan1

April 20th, 2010
6:29 pm

Mark…what kind of crowd do you expect tonight? 30,000?

Allan LePits

April 20th, 2010
6:29 pm

We’ll be rooting for the Friars.

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2010
6:31 pm

“We’ll be rooting for the Friars”: Also a part of AJC sports dept. lore.

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2010
6:32 pm

I guess 30,000 would be a ballpark guess, GTFan1. (Get it? Ballpark guess?)

newman

April 20th, 2010
6:33 pm

Lets see how Hanson pitches against a loaded Philly lineup, he is crucial in the Braves playing in October. It is nice to say we really do not have one ace, but instead have three.

GTFan1

April 20th, 2010
6:34 pm

Thats what I thought….but Hawks, weather, etc could cut down on the walk-up crowd. Its a shame. There’s enough people in Atlanta to have 40,000 plus at the Ted tonight.

GTFan1

April 20th, 2010
6:34 pm

Yes I got your little pun! :)

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2010
6:38 pm

Sometimes I really amuse myself, I must say.

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2010
6:39 pm

You’re right about that, GTFan1. But it is a Tuesday night in April. I can’t recall the Braves having 40,000 on a weeknight in April since … what, 1993?

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 20th, 2010
6:44 pm

Jay I would never attend UGA. Yes, I probably could have attended UGA, but North Georgia College was a better fit for Military School. I received my MBA from the Coles Business School at Kennesaw State.

Dick Doss

April 20th, 2010
6:46 pm

How Bout Them Dawgs !!!

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 20th, 2010
6:48 pm

MB what kind of trun do you think the Hawks will get? The Hawks are in a weak series against the Bucks, but is is the playoffs. I think the Braves offer a bigger draw against the Phillies.

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2010
6:53 pm

Oh, there’ll be a bigger crowd here. Remember, Philips only seats 20,000.

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 20th, 2010
6:55 pm

Sorry I thought Philips was like 40K for basketball. Well you see how many Hawks game I have been to. Turner is what 48K?

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2010
6:57 pm

50,000 or thereabouts.

Guy

April 20th, 2010
6:57 pm

of course there will be a game. this is a small storm

Pi$$onaDAWG

April 20th, 2010
7:01 pm

Beautiful and Sunny now in Palmetto/Fairburn It is going to start a little later, but yes a nice night for a game now. Cool.

Mr. Turnip-Green Jeans

April 20th, 2010
7:03 pm

Heyward will hit 2 tonight.

Save this post and be amazed.

Joe

April 20th, 2010
7:04 pm

I guess 36k show up

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2010
7:05 pm

Braves lineup: Diaz, Prado, C. Jones, McCann, Glaus, Heyward, Escobar, McLouth, Hanson.

So Heyward DOES move up in the order. One spot to sixth.