Archive for June, 2010

As a Braves’ trade target, I’d hustle after B.J. Upton

See? B.J. Upton hustles sometimes. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

B.J. Upton hustles on occasion. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The Braves’ starting outfield for the first two games against Washington: Eric Hinske in left, Gregor Blanco in center, Melky Cabrera in right. Blanco began the season in the minor leagues, while Hinske was imported primarily as a pinch-hitter and Cabrera as a fourth outfielder.

The Braves’ outfield health: Lousy. Jason Heyward (bum thumb) just went on the disabled list. Matt Diaz (ditto) just exited the DL. Nate McLouth (sore head) is still there.

The good news: The Braves remain in first place.

The reality: They’ll need more outfielders to stay there.

The rumor: Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com reports that the Braves are seeking a right-handed outfield bat before the July 31st trade deadline. Morosi names three names: Josh Willingham of Washington, Corey Hart of Milwaukee and Jose Bautista of Toronto.

The caveat: All three will become free agents after the 2011 season, and we know how well the Braves do at …

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SI.com: The Knicks want Joe, but not as their main man

The Hawks plan to offer $20 million per season, plus a nifty hat. (AJC photo by Louis Favorite)

The Hawks will offer $20 million per season, plus a nifty hat. (AJC photo by Louis Favorite)

July is nearly here, which means … well, you know what. According to Ian Thomsen of SI.com, it means the New York Knicks will seek to construct an NBA champion by signing half the big name free agents, Joe Johnson among them. But not, we must point out, chief among them.

The Knicks, Thomsen writes, are looking to land Johnson and either Chris Bosh or Amar’e Stoudemire and also LeBron James. And here we pause to ponder: Would Joe, accustomed to taking nearly every big shot, consent to becoming a third option? Would he take significantly less money — Thomsen says New York plans to offer the three big names a base salary of $11.5; Johnson made $14 million as a Hawk last season — to become a ride-along?

I can’t envision it. For all the discussion about free agent “summits” and package deals, I still believe the driving forces for these men are money and ego, not necessarily in that order. …

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Five more years for D-Rad, the Tech AD who’s a true ’star’

You knew Dan Radakovich had won over his constituency when, only months after he’d arrived, Georgia Tech folks were worried he’d leave to go back to LSU. You knew he’d swayed the electorate when Taz Anderson, the former Jacket football captain who’d campaigned hard for fellow alum Bill Curry as athletics director, said of D-Rad the AD: “We’ve got ourselves a star.”

There might be better ADs in this land of opportunity, but there are no better fits. Radakovich is a man who fuses number-crunching — “If there’s one thing Tech people understand, it’s business,” said Chan Gailey, who never quite understood Tech people — with grass-roots politicizing.

“No e-mail goes unreturned,” said Wayne Hogan, Radakovich’s able aide-de-camp. “No phone call goes unanswered. And in this age, that takes some real doing.”

But D-Rad does it. He works 14-hour days as a matter of course. He sees not only the bottom line but the Big Picture. He defuses issues before they become issues. He connects in a …

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A special Braves’ season is unfolding before our very eyes

Win, win, win: It's not exactly boring this time around. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Win, win, win: It's not exactly boring this time around. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

You felt it first on Opening Day, and again in the back-from-the-dead rally against the Phillies in April, and again and again in the last-at-bat victories since. And you felt it Monday night, when a big crowd showed up to behold Stephen Strasburg and saw the home side win again. You felt, for want of a better word, electricity.

Electricity at Turner Field. Electricity at a Braves’ game. Electricity not felt at this venue this millennium. Electricity for a Braves’ club unlike the Braves we’d come to know and take pretty much for granted.

Larger gatherings. Tougher-minded players. And — oh, yeah; this, too — more victories.

It began with Jason Heyward hitting a three-run homer on his first big-league swing, but it has become a roster-wide thing. From Martin Prado hitting everything to Troy Glaus crushing everything to Tim Hudson re-inventing himself to Derek Lowe finding himself to Eric Hinske …

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Strasburg in Atlanta: Hoops-like hysteria at the ballyard

Stephen Strasburg throws a 98-mph fastball to Martin Prado. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Stephen Strasburg throws a 98-mph fastball to Martin Prado. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

On this matter, Stan Kasten has standing unlike anyone else in his sport. Because the president of the Washington Nationals didn’t start in baseball — he was general manager of the Atlanta Hawks when the NBA got big because of big names. So when Kasten says, speaking of Stephen Stasburg, “I’ve never been through this” … well, you listen.

After his first big-league start, Strasburg had a sandwich named after him. BGR The Burger Joint concocted the Strasburger, complete with 14 pickles. (He’d struck out 14 — Pirates, not pickles — in his debut.) By his second start, Strasburg regalia was flying off the racks at concession stands at Progressive Field in Cleveland, which isn’t his home ballpark.

“That’s something you never see in baseball,” Kasten said. “That’s something you see in the NBA … That happens to Jordan.”

(Do we need to mention that Kasten wasn’t referring to Jordan Schafer?)

Turner …

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Live from Turner Field: Strasburgers for everybody!

Stan Kasten had a question: Did I, semi-professional sports scribe, watch Stephen Strasburg’s first big-league game?

Being semi-honest, I admitted I hadn’t. Which prompted the president of the Washington Nationals to say: “Then you’re No. 1. Everybody in my circle saw it.”

Bobby Cox, who once worked under Stan Kasten, saw it. And had, you’ll be shocked to learn, an issue with the plate umpire. “Second pitch of the game,” Cox said. “Kid [Stasburg] throws this huge curveball and everybody buckles. Down the middle of the plate. Called a ball.”

Stephen Strasburg, as you may know, now works under Kasten. Strasburg pitches for the Nationals and has made a fairly positive first impression. He has 41 strikeouts in his first 25 1/3 big-league innings. He has yielded four earned runs. He’s set to pitch against the Braves tonight at Turner Field, and a goodly crowd is expected.

And the true measure of Strasburg’s stunning success: He has prompted the creation of the Strasburger, which is …

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Whoa! Orlando Sentinel ranks UGA 64th-best in the land

"Will you still need me, if we're 64?" (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

"Will you still need me/feed me, if we're 64?" (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Just what we need on a(nother) hot June day: A topic to make things even hotter. And here it is.

The Orlando Sentinel ranks the Georgia Bulldogs No. 64 in its preseason listings for college football 2010.

I say, channeling my inner Keanu, “Whoa.”

From Jeremy Fowler of the Sentinel, who likewise seems incredulous at his paper’s appraisal:

I have a hard time believing the Bulldogs would implode under [Mark] Richt, one of the country’s most consistent coaches who faces a crucial turning point in his career. And Georgia benefits from a down year for the SEC East. But there simply aren’t any guarantees for UGA right now.

And that’s true. There aren’t. Me, I’d be willing to err on the side of optimism for the coming season regarding Richt and his team. (Indeed, I believe I already have. I’ve said Georgia will go 9-3.) And I have a hard time envisioning any scenario that would make these Bulldogs the …

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Would you say, ‘Yahoo!’ to a Dallas sign-and-trade for Joe?

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that Mark Cuban, of whom you’ve heard, wants to land free-agent-to-be Joe Johnson via a sign-and-trade. This makes sense. Dwane Casey, whom the Hawks should have hired as their coach, works as an assistant for Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks, and in conversations Casey has stressed how difficult a matchup the Mavs consider Johnson.

Of greater interest (at least to me) than Cuban’s interest in Johnson is this: What Mavs would be apt to be available to the Hawks via a sign-and-trade? Dirk Nowitzki is a free agent, but he’s going to command max money himself and isn’t apt to leave Big D.  Brendan Haywood has long been mentioned by you folks as a center of interest, and he’s a free agent, too. So let’s say Joe-for-Haywood … and who else?

Jason Kidd is on the Mavs’ roster, but he makes too much and is too old (37). Jason Terry is another option, but the Hawks have been there and done that. Shawn Marion is 32 and isn’t the player he was. But …

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Does anybody in Atlanta actually want Joe Johnson to stay?

And this gentleman, oddly enough, is a Hawks' fan. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

And this gentleman, oddly enough, is a Hawks' fan. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The city of Cleveland, such as it is, is pleading with LeBron James to stay. My question today: Is anybody in Atlanta doing the same with Joe Johnson?

It’s a strange dynamic, J-J-J-Joe and the A-T-L. Fans have ripped him for shooting too much and for not being LeBron or Kobe. He ripped Hawks fans after Game 3 of the Orlando series. And now, with free agency set to commence, I ask: Do you folks really want Johnson to re-up?

I’ve made the argument before, but here it is again: If Johnson leaves, the Hawks will get a lot worse in a hurry. He might not be LeBron or Kobe, but he’s one of the NBA’s 15 best players. Unless you believe the Hawks will then land one of the 14 or so greater talents — and Jordan Crawford, the 27th selection in the 2010 draft, isn’t such a talent — the team can say goodbye to winning 50 games and probably to reaching Round 2 of the playoffs.

The Hawks surely realize as much. …

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That’s the Spirit! Let Drew coach both Hawks and Thrashers

Hey, how hard could coaching be if Teflon Don Waddell did it? (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

How hard could coaching be if Don Waddell did it? (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Fact: The Hawks just hired Larry Drew, the cheapest option available, as their head coach.

Fact: The Thrashers have been without a head coach for 67 days.

Fact: The Atlanta Spirit, which owns both clubs, conceded Friday that it is seeking additional investors while insisting the teams aren’t for sale, which is kind of like saying, “We’re not selling — but we’d love it if you’d make us an offer.”

Conclusion: The Spirit, its protestations notwithstanding, is strapped for cash.

Solution: Have Larry Drew coach both teams.

I know, I know. You’re saying, “It’ll never work.” But you, I contend, are the same sort of stick-in-the-muds who told Ben Franklin not to bother flying his kite in the thunderstorm. Me, I’m Mr. Outside-The-Box. And Mr. Thrift, too! (Think of me as a cross between MacGyver and Clark Howard.) I really feel this is a dollar-stretching no-brainer, and I demonstrate by anticipating your …

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