Archive for October, 2010

Live from the Linc: The Falcons look to deal Philly another ‘L’

The Linc: You have to like a stadium named after a "Mod Squad" character. (M. Bradley photo)

The Linc: You have to like a stadium named after a "Mod Squad" character. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Philadelphia – Father Anthony of  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in Essington, Pa., admitted at 8 a.m. Mass he’d been depressed by the Phillies’ loss last night. But the folks outside Lincoln Financial Field — the Linc, in local parlance — this morning didn’t seem too devastated. Indeed, today offers a case study in the sporting dynamics of a city. To ask a question often asked: Who owns Philly — the Phillies or the Eagles?

The Eagles play the Falcons at the Linc today. The Phillies play the Giants in Game 2 of the NLCS at Citizens Bank Park, which is just across the street, at 8 p.m. tonight. (Traffic alert!) And the Phillies have become the hottest Philly team at the moment — 134 consecutive sellouts at CBP. But the Eagles were Philly’s team way before the Phanatic was hatched from his egg. (Or his pod. Not sure about the gestation process of Phanatics as a species.)

The Eagles are …

Continue reading Live from the Linc: The Falcons look to deal Philly another ‘L’ »

Will Michael Vick start vs. the Falcons? Nobody’s saying no

At some point Matt Ryan and Michael Vick are going to start against one another. But it didn’t happen last December — Ryan had turf toe and Vick was Donovan McNabb’s backup — and it might not happen Sunday.

Then again, it might.

Vick got hurt two Sundays ago against the Redskins. He didn’t play Sunday night against the 49ers. When his injury (rib cartilage) was diagnosed, it was pretty much assumed he’d miss two games. But the Eagles haven’t yet ruled him out for Sunday’s game against the Falcons, and he’s officially listed as “questionable.” In NFL parlance, “questionable” means “flip a coin.”

Did you see that? That was me flipping a figurative coin. And it came up …

Heads. Meaning, “He’s going to play.”

This is a guess, nothing more. Vick didn’t practice Wednesday. But he threw for the first time since getting dinged, reports Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and McLane quoted Vick as saying he’s “got a shot’ at playing Sunday.

Eagles coach Andy Reid said Vick had …

Continue reading Will Michael Vick start vs. the Falcons? Nobody’s saying no »

Fredi Gonzalez: The best choice as manager, or the easiest?

From one manager to another. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

From one manager to another. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

“Good organizations don’t make changes just to make changes,” Fredi Gonzalez said. Then, scanning the room: “All the faces are the same.”

And that’s the part that worries me. Fredi Gonzalez is a good baseball man, but he’s a product of The Braves’ Way Of Doing Things. “This organization, the past 25 years, they win,” Gonzalez said Wednesday, but even Bobby Cox, the man Gonzalez succeeds, was moved to correct the new manager.

“We haven’t won as big as we’d have liked recently,” Cox said.

Over 14 completed seasons the Braves finished nowhere but first. Since 2005 they’ve made the playoffs once as a wild card. They haven’t won a playoff series since 2001, haven’t graced the World Series this millennium. The Braves we see now aren’t quite the Braves we beheld.

In many ways Gonzalez is the ideal person to follow Cox: He’s a former Braves’ third-base coach who still lives in Marietta and who happened to be out of work when …

Continue reading Fredi Gonzalez: The best choice as manager, or the easiest? »

Fredi Gonzalez, the only real choice? Not so fast (UPDATE)

UPDATE: The Braves have scheduled “a major announcement” for 2:15 p.m. today after Bobby Cox’s already scheduled valedictory at Turner Field. Sounds like Fredi will be introduced today, as opposed to tomorrow.

The last time the Braves held managerial news conferences on consecutive days — one to bid farewell, the next to say hello — it didn’t work out so well. They fired Joe Torre in the press lounge of the old stadium in October 1984, and the next day we were back to greet …

Eddie Haas.

Who lasted 121 games.

Yes, there’s a huge difference this time. Fredi Gonzalez has been a big-league manager; Haas never had. (And, after being canned by the Braves, never would again.) But the Braves back then were so certain Haas, who’d been their Class AAA manager, would be the man to improve on what Torre had started that I developed a kneejerk response to kneejerk promotions. I’m leery of Perfect Choice successions because they so rarely turn out to be.

Everyone in baseball was so …

Continue reading Fredi Gonzalez, the only real choice? Not so fast (UPDATE) »

A ‘great ride’ ends for Bobby and his Braves, and we applaud

We'll never see his likes again. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

We'll never see his likes again. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The great manager said it after Game 3: “We’re not the best team in baseball, OK?” But you know what these Braves were?

Pound for pound, they were the most entertaining aggregation we’ve seen around here. And you know what the great manager also called this band of Braves? “The hardest-working team I’ve ever had.”

It ended for both parties Monday, for Bobby Cox and his final ballclub. It ended because these diminished Braves weren’t good enough to deliver big hits or field their positions in the crucible of October. It ended not because they didn’t give it the ol’ professional try after the abject disappointment of Sunday’s Game 3. On the contrary, it ended because a true professional pitcher talked the departing manager into letting him go a batter too far.

Seventh inning, one out. Working with a one-run lead, Derek Lowe walked Aubrey Huff, then yielded a swinging-bunt single to Buster Posey. It was just the …

Continue reading A ‘great ride’ ends for Bobby and his Braves, and we applaud »

Live from Game 4: After a restless night, Cox pulls Conrad

Still thinking optimistic thoughts, this man. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Still thinking sunny thoughts, this man. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

He said he’d sleep on it, but he didn’t. Addressing the media Monday afternoon, Bobby Cox looked all of his 69 years — plus  40.

“I didn’t sleep very well last night,” Cox said. “We came within one pitch of winning a huge ballgame, and we let it slip away.”

And now it was a new day, and the first thing he had to address after coming to work was the hot-button issue of Brooks Conrad, who had made three errors in Sunday’s Game 3. It was clear from Cox’s words of the night before — “I’ll have to sleep on it,” he’d said — that the Braves’ manager had essentially made his decision, but still he had to tell Conrad.

Said Cox: “I talked to Brooksy at length this morning. And you know, he needs a day off. He needs to get away from it for a day … This shouldn’t happen to anybody in the game of baseball, but it’s happened to Brooksy and he needs a day off. I told him to hold his head high and maybe pinch-hit and win …

Continue reading Live from Game 4: After a restless night, Cox pulls Conrad »

Why Bobby Cox can’t (and won’t) start Conrad in Game 4

There's no reason to inflict further indignity. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Managerial mercy required. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Well, I’ve slept on it (though not well), and I’ve decided: Bobby Cox cannot start Brooks Conrad in Game 4 of the NLDS tonight. This has nothing to do with baseball strategy. It has everything to do with human kindness.

Brooks Conrad is a journeyman whose journey has led him into the wilderness, and he can see no way home. It’s incumbent on someone (meaning Cox) to come rescue him. It isn’t that Conrad has developed Steve Sax/Chuck Knoblauch Disease, where he can’t throw straight. Poor Brooks is so confused he can’t even think straight.

We saw it last night even at those times he wasn’t making an error. He looked to second base before throwing — accurately — to first base, and in the game’s strangest moment he called off Derrek Lee to run over and catch a pop that should have been the first baseman’s all along. It isn’t that Conrad isn’t trying. On the contrary, he’s trying so hard he can barely remember where to …

Continue reading Why Bobby Cox can’t (and won’t) start Conrad in Game 4 »

Game 3: As tough a loss as I’ve ever seen, Leyritz included

This is Brooks Conrad. No other words are required. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This is how it felt to be Brooks Conrad. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

There’s no cheering in the press box, but I have to admit: When the ball went through Brooks Conrad’s legs, I gasped. Not because I care who wins or loses — I get paid not to care who wins or loses — but because, even though these are highly paid professional athletes, they’re people, too. And on a human level, this was as excruciating a loss as I’ve ever seen.

And yes, I covered the Jim Leyritz game in the 1996 World Series.

A third-string infielder pressed into service because Chipper Jones and Martin Prado went down committed three errors. The second cost a run. The third cost the game and maybe the Division Series. And this is how some of those in the massive crowd at Turner Field reacted to Conrad’s wretched night:

When the clip of his walk-off grand slam against Cincinnati was played on the message board before the bottom of the ninth, some people had the gall to boo.

What, the Braves’ manager was …

Continue reading Game 3: As tough a loss as I’ve ever seen, Leyritz included »

Live from Game 3 of the NLDS, and the Giants are panicking!

For once, the Braves' house is rockin'. (Photo by M. Bradley)

For once, the Braves' house is actually rockin'. (Photo by M. Bradley)

I guess this is what happens when you’re undone by Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth: You depress the nearest panic button.

The Giants have benched third baseman Pablo Sandoval for today’s Game 3, replacing him with the legendary Mike Fontenot. This is the same Sandoval, nicknamed Kung Fu Panda, who hit .333 last season but who has withered (figuratively speaking; literally he’s still rather rotund) of late. “It’d be nice to have Pablo where he was last year,” said Bruce Bochy, the Giants’ manager, “but we don’t.”

More from Bochy. (Less, actually.) The Giants won’t designate their Game 4 starter until Game 3 is done. The thinking is that San Fran will throw Tim Lincecum on short rest if they lose today and Madison Bumgarner if they win. But they’re not saying.

The Braves have already said what they’re doing: Derek Lowe will start Game 4 on three days’ rest, and he’s happy about it. “Adrenaline kicks in,” Lowe …

Continue reading Live from Game 3 of the NLDS, and the Giants are panicking! »

An inspired UGA goes to 2-4 and ponders ‘running the table’

Proving he's the Alpha Dawg, Mark Richt leads Georgia onto the field. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

The Alpha Dawg: Mark Richt leads Georgia onto the field. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

ATHENS — The best 1-4 team in the land was so excited to be 1-4 no more that it did a victory dance in the locker room. Chief among the celebrants was the head Bulldog.

“Coach [Mark] Richt was the main one,” said Demarcus Dobbs, the defensive end. “He loves to get crazy after games.”

The past four Saturdays had yielded only a crazy sorrow. Indeed, as tailback Caleb King noted, the Bulldogs reacted with such fervor to Saturday’s thrashing of woebegone Tennessee team because their dancing had been so long deferred.

“It’s a silly dance,” King said. “But we hadn’t been able to do it for a while.”

Dobbs again: “It’s a lot different when you win. When you lose, everybody’s hanging his head and people are asking what went wrong. Today everybody’s vibrant.”

Not since Sept. 4 had the Georgia Bulldogs won a game. Not since Nov. 21 had they taken a lead against an SEC opponent. And the worst part of …

Continue reading An inspired UGA goes to 2-4 and ponders ‘running the table’ »