Archive for April, 2010

Chipper in a nutshell: Three games, three RBIs, two ailments

Chipper Jones reacts after tweaking his oblique. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Chipper Jones reacts after tweaking his oblique Thursday. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Chipper Jones’ season to date:

Game 1: Drove in the Braves’ first run of 2010 with a bloop single.

Game 2: Hit the winning two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth.

Game 3: Left after three innings, having tweaked an oblique.

Games 4 and 5: Did not play.

Game 6: Did not play but suffered back spasms while taking swings in the cage.

Totals: Three games played, three games missed, three RBIs, two ailments.

Date to note: April 24. Chipper turns 38.

Early impression: Uh, oh.

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Watchwords for UGA football: Aggression and accountability

Todd Grantham: Not an advocate of bend-but-don't-break. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Todd Grantham: No advocate of bend-but-don't-break. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

The one good thing spring games do is remind us that college football isn’t played on paper or even in cyberspace. It’s a game of talent, and seeing firsthand is the easiest way to determine which team has it and which team doesn’t.

Georgia, as ever, has talent.

Georgia, as hasn’t been the case, now has the chance to maximize those resources.

At least on defense, Georgia football had become the equivalent of Georgia Tech basketball: Lots of players, not much coaching. It wasn’t so much that Willie Martinez didn’t know what he was doing but that what he was doing was out of step with the way college football in the 21st Century needs to be played.

Bend-but-don’t-break was so last millennium. If you’ve got top-shelf talent — really, when doesn’t Georgia have top-shelf talent? — you must be the aggressor. Indeed, the whole history of Georgia football is founded on the Bulldog defense being tougher …

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The No. 1 QB at G-Day can’t be No. 1 for Georgia’s opener

Aaron Murray hands off. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Aaron Murray eyes a handoff. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

ATHENS — If you wanted clarity, you came to the wrong scrimmage. The quarterback who looked the best at G-Day is the quarterback who cannot start against Louisiana Lafayette on Sept. 4.

“I think today was a big day toward determining who will be the starter,” said Aaron Murray, but it wasn’t.

Zach Mettenberger outplayed both Murray, who’s considered the front-runner, and Logan Gray, who’s the only Georgia quarterback to have worked in a collegiate game. But Mettenberger, because of his arrest last month in Remerton, must serve at least a one-game suspension.

“Well, he can’t play in the first game,” Mark Richt said. “So that would be a factor.”

Richt declined after the game to name a No. 1 quarterback, but Georgia plans to release a post-spring depth chart, perhaps within a week. And that will be a big deal. Because Richt isn’t in the habit of changing his mind about his quarterbacks.

In the 10 years this coach has …

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Live from G-Day: Who’s the QB? How’s the 3-4? Et cetera

A view from above during the alumni game. (Panoramic photo by M. Bradley)

A view from above during the dramatic alumni game. (Extremely panoramic photo by M. Bradley)

Athens — Murray, Gray or Mettenberger? The 3-4 as cure-all? And for Mark Richt on a sunny (but not all that warm) spring day, the key question: Sunglasses, hat or both?

We’re here at G-Day, where the masses — as of 12:30 p.m. — have yet to gather. There’s an alumni game ongoing before a gathering of family and friends, and the glorified scrimmage between undergrads is scheduled to commence at 2.

Of interest: Whether Aaron Murray, Logan Gray or Zach Mettenberger will stamp himself as the heir to Joe Cox as No. 1 quarterback, though it must be noted that Murray looked the best of anybody at G-Day 2009 and then didn’t play a real down. Also: Whether the newfangled 3-4 defense implemented by new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will look at all coordinated.

I mention the last part not because I’ve leery of Grantham — I think he’ll do fine — but because I well recall the Georgia Tech …

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6 out of 7 draftniks agree: The Falcons will take DE Graham

The Falcons were a lock to take a cornerback in Round 1, remember? Well, that changed with the advent of Dunta Robinson. The new consensus holds that the Falcons are a lock to take a pass rusher — I was saying they were going to take one even before Robinson signed — and not just any pass rusher. A specific pass rusher.

Brandon Graham, the defensive end from Michigan.

Checking seven updated mock drafts, I note that six have them grabbing Graham with the 19th pick of Round 1 two weeks hence. (The draft starts on Thursday this year.) Both Mel Kiper and Todd McShay of ESPN.com go with Graham. (Link requires registration.) So does Don Banks of SI.com, who says the Falcons “have been locked in on Graham ever since they added cornerback Dunta Robinson.”

Pat Kirwan and Charles Davis, both of NFL.com, both have Graham ticketed to be a Bird. (Here’s Kirwan’s mock, and here’s Davis’.) Ditto Rob Rang on CBSsports.com.

The only dissenter I found was Chad Reuter, also on CBSsports.com, who …

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The Boston Globe takes another swing at UGA’s Adams

I’m not sure what, if anything, Michael Adams ever did to the Boston Globe, but the flagship paper of New England has hammered Georgia’s president again. First it was a scathing Sunday column from the famous Bob Ryan. Now comes an actual editorial regarding the NCAA’s search for a new president — Adams says he’s not interested in the job, although almost nobody believes him — and the importance of graduation rates.

From the Globe:

Under the late Myles Brand, the NCAA nudged upwards the overall graduation rates of athletes in big-time men’s football and basketball to 67 percent and 64 percent, respectively. But the rates at many top powers remain appallingly low, and black athletes are graduating at far lower rates than whites. In seeking a new chief, the NCAA should be looking at campus leaders like Penn State President Graham Spanier, whose football team has an 85 percent graduation rate. Conversely, a name that should be crossed out is University of Georgia President Michael …

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Another Heyward hit, another win: The buzz keeps growing

He deserves a high five about now, don't you think? (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

He deserves a high five right about now, don't you think? (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

There’s something happening here. What it is, is crystal clear. Two days into a six-month season, a 20-year-old has stirred the masses in a way that hasn’t happened in more than a decade. Jason Heyward has whipped up a buzz.

On Monday the largest crowd to witness a day game in Atlanta (53,081) turned out for the rookie’s debut. As you know, he hit a home run his first time up, but those folks didn’t come knowing he would hit a home run. They came because the local baseball team has again grabbed our attention.

“It’s a good team to watch,” Bobby Cox said Wednesday night. “And Jason Heyward is really putting some people in the stands. There’s no doubt about that.”

On Wednesday the Braves played their second game of 2010. The Braves’ first weeknight game of 2009 drew 16,293. This gate more than doubled that. To watch the Braves beat the Cubs in pulsating fashion, a throng of 36,170 gathered. …

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Can cool Jason Heyward make the Braves hot again?

Is it time to break out the face paint already? (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Is it time to break out the face paint already? (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

It wasn’t as if the masses arrived sleepy and Jason Heyward served as an alarm clock. The buzz was noticeable before Heyward did what he did in the bottom of the first on Opening Day.

“I was here in 1991,” said Terry Pendleton, who wasn’t only here but was the National League MVP in the dizzying year the Braves went from last in the NL West to the 10th inning of Game 7 in the Metrodome. “And I couldn’t feel the buzz [for the 1992 opener] the way I could the other day. As a player and as a coach, I’ve never seen it like that.”

We live, as has been noted, in a peculiar city. Atlanta is often labeled a lousy sports town, but the adoration heaped on the Braves in 1991 until the players’ strike of 1994 was unmatched. There were foam tomahawks mounted in the back window of every vehicle and the tom-tom outside the old stadium beat 24/7 throughout the postseason, even when the Braves were playing in …

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Heyward’s homer: The coolest thing since Deion’s debut

Matt Ryan delivered a touchdown on his first NFL pass. Fred McGriff homered in his first game as a Brave on the night the press box at the old stadium caught fire. Jeff Francoeur homered in his first big-league game.

Those were big, I’ll grant you. But I wasn’t working those days/nights.  For sheer drama, I’ve covered only one moment of arrival in Atlanta professional sports — I’ve been here since March 5, 1984 — to compare with what we witnessed from Jason Heyward on Monday at Turner Field.

Sept. 10, 1989: The Falcons’ much-discussed No. 1 draft pick (No. 5 overall) had showed up only that week, having been off playing baseball for the New York Yankees. He made his debut against the Los Angeles — they were still California-based then — Rams. And here’s what one guy wrote afterward:

He felt like a deer, he said, “a deer with a hundred hunters out there.” From the second he set cleat upon the stadium turf, every eye was upon Deion Luwynn Sanders. Granted, he’d spent the summer …

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Bobby Cox on Jason Heyward: ‘Don’t expect miracles now’

He probably won't hit a homer every single game. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Jason Heyward probably won't hit a homer every game. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

The first thing Bobby Cox said to me after the game was, “Don’t expect miracles now.”

And part of me felt like saying, “You mean we shouldn’t expect Jason Heyward to hit 162 homers and drive in 648 runs this season? Why not? He’s on pace to do it.” But the bigger part of me said (grudgingly), “Yeah, you’re right.”

We waited long to see what the new guy could do, and with his first swing he gave us reason to believe. But baseball, as we know, is a game of failure. The best hitters make outs seven times in 10, et cetera. And Heyward, who’s the best-looking rookie any of us has ever beheld, is nonetheless a rookie.

He won’t hit 162 home runs in 2010. He might not hit 25. (He had only 29 homers in the minors.) We — and I plead guiltier than anyone — spent yesterday falling all over ourselves to gush, but in the cold light of Tuesday morning we — and I’m talking to myself here, too — have to remember: …

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