Archive for August, 2010

OK, folks, your wish is granted: Freddie Freeman gets the call

I mentioned yesterday that Freddie was almost ready. Today the Braves made it official: Freddie Freeman, the 20-year-old first baseman, will be promoted to the majors Wednesday, which is Sept. 1, which is the day big-league rosters can expand to 40.

I’m like you: I want to see the guy play. But I’m not sure how much we will. The Braves already have a new first baseman in Derrek Lee and a backup plan in Troy Glaus. But this has been, as we’ve noted a time or two, a stunning season.

Who would have predicted that Glaus, so bad in April, would be the National League’s May player of the month? Who saw Jonny Venters coming? Who envisioned Omar Infante as an All-Star? Who figured a career utility man might well lead the National League in hitting? Who guessed a team without Chipper Jones leading the reigning National League champion by three games with 31 to play?

So, as much as I’m trying to tamp down civic enthusiasm regarding Mr. FF, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say: Given the tenor …

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Nesbitt4Heisman.com? A great idea that, alas, won’t pan out

I yield to no one in my admiration for Joshua Nesbitt as a collegiate player. (No one, I tell you.) After the epic Florida State game last season I anointed him a folk hero. Last month I noted that I consider Nesbitt as valuable to Georgia Tech as any player is to any team on any campus. That said …

I don’t think he has a real shot at the Heisman.

Doing its job, the ace Tech sports information department is cranking the volume. It unveiled Nesbitt4Heisman.com today — he’s billed as “the most interesting player in college football”  — and I applaud the effort. I also know this:

Only one pure option quarterback — Eric Crouch of Nebraska — has won the Heisman, and that was mostly because the 2001 season wasn’t overrun with greatness. (Rex Grossman of Florida finished second, Ken Dorsey of Miami third.)

The best option quarterback ever was Jack Mildren of Oklahoma. He should have won the 1971 Heisman, but he didn’t crack the top five. (Pat Sullivan of Auburn won, followed by Ed …

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College football’s theme of the week: Sorting the suspensions

They’re waiting in Columbia. They’re waiting in Chapel Hill. They’re waiting wherever the NCAA has come calling this summer, which means they’re waiting a lot of places. Teams are waiting to see just who can actually play in the season opener.

This isn’t a Washaun Ealey thing. (Ealey has been suspended for Georgia’s opener after being arrested on two misdemeanor charges.) This is bigger, and it bears deeper implications.

For reasons involving the agent-funded party in Miami and an cheaper-than-Priceline hotel stay at South Carolina to possible academic shenanigans at North Carolina, high-profile programs have been given reason to believe that some of their bigger names might not be, shall we say, fully eligible.

The price of trotting out a player found ineligible ex post facto could result in a “vacated” victory. And nobody wants that. (Except maybe John Calipari, the Kentucky coach who’s the king of the vacates. But that’s a different sport.)

South Carolina opens against …

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There’s a new leader in the clubhouse, and he’s Brian McCann

B-Mac at work: A homer on Sunday, another on Monday. (AP photo)

Brian McCann at work: A homer on Sunday, then another on Monday. (AP photo)

A torch has been passed. It wasn’t supposed to happen quite so soon, but a grab-and-whirl-and-throw one dark night in Houston revved the timetable. We’re seeing the team that for more than a decade has belonged to Larry Wayne Jones Jr. being shouldered by Brian Michael McCann.

On Sunday he hit the walk-off homer against Florida. (OK, actually a stop-at-second-and-wait-a-bit walk-off. Still counted.) On Monday he hoisted another home run, this one a no-doubter, and also dropped an actual bunt single against the Mets. Since the All-Star break, McCann is hitting .311 with 10 homers and 33 RBI’s, as opposed to .267 with 10 and 37 before it. And his team has needed every blessed hit.

The guy who has carried the Braves for more than a decade was lost to a torn knee ligament. The guy who carried them through May and into June, the stopgap Troy Glaus, has been dispatched to Class AAA. Jason Heyward is an …

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Live from the ballyard: Call Thumb No. 158 and win a T-shirt!

I’d all but abandoned hope. There Bobby Cox was, 32 games remaining as a big-league manager, and he was stuck on 156 ejections. My sweet dream was that the Thumb King would reach 162 before he retires, which would make him the only man who could ever truthfully say, “I wasn’t around for the end a season’s worth of games.”

Forget Cy Young and his 511 wins. Forget Joe D. and 56 straight. I was thinking 162 ejections would be the standard to end standards. I was thinking 162 heave-hos would impel the folks in Cooperstown to waive the waiting period and induct the crusty skipper posthaste..

But I had, as noted, begun to doubt the great man. His once-furious pursuit of history had slowed to a crawl. He was tossed only three times through 129 games, and I’d begun to think our roaring lion had resigned himself to going out with a whimper.

Then he got tossed Sunday, which was nice. But even with No. 157 in the book, my spirits were so low as to be a flickering ember.

Then I walked …

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It’s almost September. Are Braves ready for Freddie Freeman?

Freddie Freeman: A very young man in a very big hurry. (Photo by Mike O'Day, special to the AJC)

Freddie Freeman: A young man in a hurry. (Photo by Mike O'Day, special to the AJC)

The guess here is that Freddie Freeman will become an Atlanta Brave sometime Wednesday, as opposed to waiting until Gwinnett’s season ends Sept. 6. Frank Wren suggested as much Saturday, telling esteemed colleague Carroll Rogers: “We want to be at full strength as soon as we can. Every game is important. You never know when a game could hinge on a player you want to bring up.”

The guess here is that Freddie Freeman will arrive not as the new starting first baseman — the Braves already have a new starting first baseman; his name is Derrek Lee — but as a bench player, a pinch-hitter, a guy who might deliver the same sort of race-changing hit that Ryan Klesko, another September call-up, did 17 years ago.

Sept. 15, 1993: The Braves trailed Cincinnati 6-2 headed to the bottom of the ninth. Damon Berryhill led off with a double. Chipper Jones, another September summons, struck out as a …

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Another Hawks dilemma: Pay Jamal Crawford or dump him?

Jamal Crawford in a moment of exultation. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Here we see Jamal Crawford in a moment of exultation. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

An unsatisfying offseason has the potential to turn unsavory. In the same summer the Hawks made Joe Johnson the priciest free-agent signing and Larry Drew the cheapest head-coaching hire, they must now deal with Jamal Crawford. This isn’t what any doctor — from Dr. J to Dr. Jack Ramsey — would have ordered.

According to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, Crawford and his agent are expected to meet with general manager Rick Sund this week. Crawford is thought to want one of two things: To sign a contract extension before the new season commences or to be traded forthwith. Given that his was the happiest Hawks story of a season that ended unhappily, Crawford must be taken seriously. Given that these are the Hawks, who are so cheap they haven’t yet fleshed out their roster, he shouldn’t hold his breath.

Yes, cheap. Even after sinking $120 million into Joe Johnson, the Hawks keep giving us reason …

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The Braves: Watching the scoreboard, then winning a big one

The man to have pitching when you need to win. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

The man of the evening. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

A strange race got downright bizarre this week. The Braves lost three times in Colorado and wasted a nine-run lead in the finale. The Phillies, with all their big names back from the disabled list, got swept at home by sub-.500 Houston, and the presumably bolstered Phils managed a total of seven runs in the four games.

As of Friday morning, the Braves were in the odd position of having not won since Sunday … and still padding their division lead by a half-game. Things changed Friday night.

The Braves trailed the Marlins 2-0 after two batters and lost 7-1. Tommy Hanson yielded four solo homers on the night before his 24th birthday. The Phillies managed their new allotment of two-runs-in-regulation and were one strike from victory in San Diego, whereupon Brad Lidge balked home the tying run. (”A bizarre thing,” Lidge told reporters afterward, fully in the schizo swing of this chase.)

To their credit, the Phillies won in 12 …

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The UGA season game by game: Nine wins, coming right up

Russ the Temporary Mascot is ruff and ready. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Ready: Russ the Temporary Mascot. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Sept. 4, Louisiana-Lafayette: The offense will look great. The defense will look ferocious. Aaron Murray will throw two touchdown passes, one to Logan Gray, whom Murray beat out for the quarterback job. Georgia fans will seize on this game as evidence that the Bulldogs are better than they’ve been at any time since 2002 if not 1980, but we have to remember the opponent. Prediction: Georgia 45, La-La 10.

Sept. 11, at South Carolina: Mark Richt hasn’t lost in Columbia, but he has had three very close calls. (The Pollack snatch-and-grab in 2002, the comeback in 2004, the narrow escape in 2008.) This is the biggest game of Steve Spurrier’s tenure in Columbia,and the Evil Genius surely has one last trick left. The Gamecock D flusters Murray on a day when neither team scores much. Prediction: South Carolina 16, Georgia 13.

Sept. 18, Arkansas: Through two games, Todd Grantham’s 3-4 defense has held up its end. Here’s …

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Another arrest: Embarrassing for UGA, but not humiliating

Washaun Ealey against LSU last season. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Washaun Ealey against LSU. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

In a world where games are played but nobody keeps score, this number would matter: Georgia had eight football players arrested over the offseason in 2008 and has had eight more in 2010.

In the real world, these numbers matter more: Mark Richt is 90-27 as Georgia’s coach.

Tailback Washaun Ealey was arrested early Friday on misdemeanor charges of hitting a parked car and leaving the scene, and also for that staple Bulldog indiscretion — driving with a suspended license. (Ealey also faces a warrant for failing to appear in court earlier this month on speeding and tag violations.) This arrest, it must be noted, all but clinches the uncoveted Fulmer Cup for UGA.

The Fulmer Cup was created by Spencer Hall of the Florida-friendly website EDSBS.com. Named after former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, whose Vols had a knack for the extracurricular, the Fulmer Cup recognizes the program with the most arrests in a given offseason. …

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