Archive for June, 2010

Given the chance to change, the Hawks opt only to tweak

Rick Sund with the Hawks' new coach, who has been here since 2004. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Rick Sund with his new head coach, who has been here since 2004. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This feels like a Falcons move, and not the newly clever Falcons. This feels as if the Smiths were still in charge, still firing Dan Henning only to promote the overmatched Marion Campbell. (Or, to cite a more recent precedent, dumping Jerry Glanville to elevate June Jones.)

Stan Kasten, once the Hawks’ general manager, used to say: “If you’re going to make a change, make a change.” The current Hawks had the chance to do it and passed. They found their new head coach in an assistant who has worked here for six seasons, an assistant whose most persuasive argument was, in essence, “Mike Woodson never listened to me.”

Maybe Larry Drew will work out. But what does it say about the Hawks that their far-flung search only led them across the hall, that the most dramatic upshot of swapping Woodson for Drew is that the Atlanta Spirit will be paying its head coach less money? What does it say …

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Troy Glaus: The new Chipper Jones or a one-year wonder?

Like I said all along: Frank should have given Glaus five years. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Like I said all along: Frank should have given Glaus five years. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Troy Glaus was supposed to be the one-year bridge to Freddie Freeman, but he has been much more. He leads the National League in RBIs. He has 13 homers. He’s hitting .290 for the season, which is astonishing given that he was at .194 on May 1. Over the past six weeks, he has been the dominant player on baseball’s hottest team.

And now for the bad news: His contract expires at season’s end.

I know, I know. I’m the guy who thought a one-year deal for Glaus was one year too many. (What can I say? I’m an idiot.) But now Glaus is hitting his way out of the Braves’ financial ballpark: They signed him for a base salary of $1.75 million, and at his current rate he might command 10 times that come November.

And here’s the twist: The Braves could well need Glaus even after Freeman is primed and promoted. Because the one-year bridge could also be the new Chipper Jones.

There’s no guarantee the …

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In this zero-sum game, Slive and the SEC need Oklahoma

The Big 12 is down to a Lesser 10, and within days it could be reduced to Iowa State and Baylor. Nebraska has joined the Big Ten, which technically numbers 12. The Pac-10 has picked off Colorado and is hopeful of adding five more Big 12 expatriates, flagships Texas and Oklahoma chief among them. But the Pac-10 would seem to have less in common, both geographically and philosophically, with Texas and Oklahoma than would a certain other conference.

The SEC plays better football than the Pac-10. The SEC plays better football than anybody. The SEC includes schools based in the Central Time Zone, which the Pac-10 as yet does not. The “SE” stands for Southeastern,” which could be applied, albeit loosely, to Texas and Oklahoma, neither of which abut the Pacific Ocean.

The SEC with Texas and Oklahoma would be a killer conference. (Not that the SEC isn’t already. Four consecutive BCS titles, you know.) But the Pac-10, which at the moment numbers 11, seems to have stolen a march on the …

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Should the Hawks wait to see what’s up with Doc Rivers?

The Hawks have been without a head coach for 3 1/2 weeks. That could change soon. Michael Gearon Jr., the principal basketball voice among ownership, was due back from Russia on Sunday — no, he didn’t go offer the coaching job to Sasha Volkov — and a decision would seem to be forthcoming.

Rick Sund, the general manager, has handled the search process, but ownership was involved in the second interviews with Avery Johnson and Dwane Casey, who are considered the two favorites. The only other candidates whose names have come to light are Larry Drew, the Hawks’ assistant who has never served as a head coach, and Mark Jackson, the ABC analyst who has never coached at all.

That said, there’s one name out there that could change the dynamics of this search and maybe the balance of power in the NBA East. That name: Doc Rivers.

He coaches the Celtics, who are playing for their second title in three seasons. It has been rumored that Rivers, a Hawk from 1983 through 1991,  wants out of …

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College football 2010: Georgia wins nine, Tech loses four

Washaun Ealey's team will again run this state. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Washaun Ealey's Bulldogs will again run this state. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

It’s time — actually, it’s a week past due — for our annual Memorial Day college football predictions, and I begin with a word in my defense: I actually got a few things right the last time around. I said Georgia Tech would go 10-2 and win the ACC, which it did. I said Georgia would lose four games, inducing many among you to cast aspersions; the Bulldogs actually lost five games. Against that cheery backdrop, we begin:

Georgia will go 9-3 but will finish third in the SEC East. Todd Grantham represents an upgrade. Given time, Aaron Murray will represent an upgrade. Thing is, the Bulldogs’ second game is in Columbia, and that seems a bridge too far. (More precisely, a bridge too soon.) The guess is that Georgia will be rolling come November, but that Sept. 11 loss — and one the next week against Arkansas in Athens — will keep the Bulldogs from a true breakthrough.

Georgia’s true …

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Bud Selig gets one right: The imperfect call stands

Bud Selig just announced he will not overturn the blown call that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game. Bud gets a lot of things wrong. This one he got right.

As bad as Jim Joyce’s on-field decision was, the consequences of reversing a call a day after it was made would be far worse. Because why stop at one game in Detroit? Why not go back to October 1985 and strip the Kansas City Royals of the World Series they won after Don Denkinger ruled Jorge Orta safe at first base in the ninth inning of Game 6? (If that happened, John Schuerholz, then the general manager of the Royals, would file a protest of his own.)

Different dynamics, I realize. The St. Louis still had a chance to escape that ninth inning, and they had shot to render Denkinger’s call moot in Game 7. Galarraga will never have another chance to work a perfecto. Sure, it’s a shame. But it’s also part of the game.

“The human element has always been an integral part of baseball,” Selig said today, and humans are …

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Paul Johnson on the hot seat at Tech? Not this century

Paul Johnson: He's the people's choice. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Five out of five Tech fans agree: Paul Johnson is the man. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

While kicking around the Mark Richt question — his seat: hot or not? — I got to wondering. What exactly would it take for Paul Johnson to plop himself down on the baking bench? (He has, after all, lost two of his past three games.) And here’s what I’m thinking:

Paul Johnson could lose the next 12 and get drubbed by Georgia 51-7 and punch Dan Radakovich in the face and it wouldn’t much matter. Because Georgia Tech fans love the man. They love him more than they loved George O’Leary, which is saying something. They love him because he’s not only a really good coach but because he carries himself exactly the way Tech people believe a Tech person should.

Meaning: He’s not deferential to the state school. (Quoth PJ: “What’s the last thing they won?”) All their lives Tech people are outnumbered by Georgia backers, and Georgia backers aren’t just many — they’re loud. Tech people feel no need to …

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UGA’s Richt isn’t atop the hot seat yet, but it’s getting warmer

"It's hot, but it's a dry heat." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"It's hot, but it's a dry heat." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Some in the media — first the Orlando Sentinel, then the Mobile Press-Register — have suggested Mark Richt sits atop the ol’ hot seat. Esteemed colleague Tim Tucker quotes both Damon Evans and Michael Adams as saying it’s not true.

Very rarely, however, do such men say such a supposition is true. For one thing, it hurts recruiting, and as we know recruiting means more than actually winning games: How else to explain Lane Kiffin making $4 million to coach USC?

For another, admission of displeasure with a coach generally leads to a coaching change. See Vince Dooley’s call for “significant improvement” in 1995, which led him to fire Ray Goff that November and then led him to hire first Glen Mason and then Jim Donnan — on Christmas night! — as replacements.

The belief here is that Richt can remove himself from heated-seat speculation with a nice 2010 season, and the belief here is also that Georgia is capable of such, …

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A sunny Braves’ homestand ends, and now it gets tougher

Omar Infante: Off the bench, he wins the game. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Omar Infante: Off the bench, he wins the ol' ballgame. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It was a homestand from heaven: Six games, six victories, two of them in the final at-bat, three against the reigning National League champ. The temptation is great to say, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” But making such a pronouncement in early June is also an implied threat.

The Braves are going great, yes. They also have 109 games remaining. These next 14 — the first 11 on the road, seven against winning teams, and then three here against Tampa Bay, which has baseball’s best record — could tell the tale of 2010.

“This is a very, very, very important road trip,” Chipper Jones said, and when an analyst as clear-eyed as Larry Wayne Jr. attaches three “verys,” attention must be paid.

Chipper again: “It’s important we got out and get W’s. If we come out of this trip with a winning record, it validates the fact that we’re for real.”

This isn’t to suggest the Braves aren’t bona fide: They …

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Live from Braves-Phillies, where the magic number is 110!

The new Sultan of Swat. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The new Sultan of Swat. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Any combination of 110 Braves victories or Philadelphia losses, and the Braves are National League East champs. Just thought you’d like to know.

We around here got spoiled by first place. When a team finishes first over 14 consecutive completed seasons, you figure it will never end. When finally it did, it hit with a thud. But now it’s June 2010 and the Braves are leading the East and the  team that has won this division three seasons running is the one looking feeble.

And Charlie Manuel, the Philly manager, is getting antsy. For today’s game he has moved Jayson Werth to the leadoff spot. Last night he had Shane Victorino in the No. 1 hole; on Memorial Day it was Ross Gload. The point being: Nothing’s working.

Not so long ago, we Atlantans regarded the Phillies’ lineup as the epitome of balance. Now, with Jimmy Rollins still hurting, the Phils’ order seems to pale alongside the Braves’. Fancy that.

Troy Glaus in this …

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