Archive for July, 2011

As the trade deadline nears, we offer a defense of Frank Wren

Eventual NCLS MVP Mike Devereaux delivers the winning hit in Game 1. (AJC file photo)

Mike Devereaux, eventual MVP of the 1995 NLCS, delivers the winning hit in Game 1. (AJC file photo)

Even as Braves fans scream, “Do something!”, it’s worth noting that the test of a general manager isn’t to do just anything — it’s to do the right thing. And sometimes what seems the right thing turns out to be …

Mark Teixeira.

The approach of another trade deadline takes us back to July 2007. The Braves made a big move, sending five prospects to Texas for the first baseman Teixeira and the reliever Ron Mahay. On the night Teixeira joined the Braves, Tim Hudson said, “Seems like they’re trying to make us win the World Series around here.”

That night Teixeira hit two home runs. Soon, two giddy fans from Auburn, Ala., had written a ditty and slapped it on YouTube. Sample lyric: “The National League it just ain’t fair-a/The Atlanta Braves got Mark Teixeira.” Also this: “The side effect is mild hysteria/The medical reason in Mark Teixeira.”

The reality, alas, was less scintillating. …

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Dimitroff propels his Falcons one step closer to a Super Bowl

Bill Belichick asks his former employee for managerial tips. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Bill Belichick seeks managerial tips from a former employee. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Flowery Branch — Assuming he hasn’t done so already, Thomas Dimitroff should take several moments to prop his feet on the nearest ottoman, pour himself a tall glass of cabernet and crank his main man Bob Seger to 11 on the hi-fi. Dimitroff has it coming.

The great general manager aced his greatest test. Half his offseason business had been left undone. He’d traded 21 spots upward to draft Julio Jones, the wide receiver of vast promise, but the still-sought pass rusher would have to come via free agency, which owing to the NFL lockout would be rendered a frenzy.

Speaking in his office shortly after noon Friday, Dimitroff said, “I feel calm amid this ostensible disarray.” An hour later, he felt positively serene. An hour later, the Falcons had their pass rusher.

They’d landed the free agent Ray Edwards, formerly of Minnesota. And here we stand back to assess what the Falcons have done over …

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The ace Dimitroff strikes again: Falcons land DE Edwards

At least one of these men is really smart. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

At least one of these men is really smart. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

For all those who thought Thomas Dimitroff bungled the draft by trading up to get Julio Jones and not landing a defensive end … well, the Falcons just landed a very good defensive end.

His name’s Ray Edwards. He’s a significant upgrade on Jamaal Anderson, the former first-round draftee the Falcons cut this morning. Same as Jones stands to be an upgrade on Michael Jenkins, the former first-rounder also cut this morning. Feel any different about this offseason now?

I’ve said it before, but here it is again: The Falcons are in good — nay, great – hands. This general manager sees, as is said of the best quarterbacks, the whole field. There was no defensive end in the draft the Falcons were apt to land at No. 26 who could have provided the immediate help Edwards will, and there was no wide receiver apt to be available in free agency who possessed the potential Jones.

Oh, and you know this already, but it bears …

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The Falcons open camp, having shed two former No. 1 picks

Jamaal Anderson, we hardly knew ye. And we weren't impressed. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Jamaal Anderson, we hardly knew ye. And we weren't impressed. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Flowery Branch — If you were worried that the end of the lockout caught the Falcons unaware, fear not. They know what they’re doing. And today Thomas Dimitroff made two moves that indicate he’s ready to move even more.

Michael Jenkins, a first-round draft pick from 2004, was cut. Jamaal Anderson, a first-round draft pick from 2007, was cut. They won’t be missed.

Jenkins had never become anything more than an ordinary wide receiver, and Anderson was a source of ongoing consternation — four seasons, 4 1/2 sacks. This tells us that Dimitroff has cut almost every tie — almost, because Roddy White and John Abraham are still here — with predecessor Rich McKay’s run as general manager, and also that the Falcons aren’t planning to be ordinary in 2011. (Not that being ordinary is every foremost on any team’s agenda, but sometimes it happens.)

The players who are left are out on the field in …

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ACC football: Does that ‘A’ stand for ‘awfully managed’?

Tech coach Paul Johnson: By ACC standards, he's an institution. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Tech coach Paul Johnson: By ACC standards, he's an institution. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Here’s a fun fact: Paul Johnson, who’s about to enter his fourth season at Georgia Tech, ranks fourth among football coaches in his 12-team league in on-the-job seniority, and the only reason he’s not third is that North Carolina State hired Tom O’Brien instead of PJ in December 2006.

Think about that. The ACC isn’t some fly-by-night conference. It has been in operation since 1953. And yet it has taken to operating as if it’s some geographically incorrect start-up.

North Carolina fired Butch Davis on Wednesday, two days after he was allowed to meet the media assembled in Pinehurst, N.C. This was but the latest in a series of weird ACC coaching maneuvers. Since 2007 the conference has seen two Bowdens nudged aside — one at Clemson, the other at Florida State — and one Fridge moved. (Ralph Friedgen was bought out by Maryland last December after going 8-4, but not before James Franklin, …

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The trade deadline nears. Will Braves GM Wren pay the piper?

Mike Minor could be the key man in a major Braves' move. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Mike Minor could be the key man in a major move. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Look on the bright side. If you have to put your catcher and your center fielder on the disabled list, better to do it four days before the trading deadline than four days after. Right?

“You didn’t give me the alternative of not putting anybody on the disabled list,” Fredi Gonzalez said, speaking before his Braves played the second leg of their odd Wednesday doubleheader. (The first part ended at 1:50 a.m.) But the DL has become to the Braves as the Downtown Connector is to the Georgia DOT — a place of high occupancy and much consternation.

Among other developments over the course of 19 innings Tuesday-into-Wednesday, the Braves lost their best player. Brian McCann went on the DL with what we like to call Braves Syndrome — a tweaked oblique. Jordan Schafer, who got plunked in the left forearm in the 11th inning, was disabled with a broken left index finger. (”Needs to take the target off his left arm,” …

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Rasmus gone. Beltran going. And the Braves get … Nieves?

A painful night/early morning: Jordan Schafer after getting plunked. (AP photo)

It was a painful night/early morning: Jordan Schafer after getting plunked. (AP photo)

Busy afternoon, eh? Colby Rasmus, often listed as a Braves’ target, has been traded to Toronto for Edwin Jackson, who’d just been traded from the White Sox and is now a Cardinal. ESPN is reporting that Carlos Beltran, listed as a target for every decent team, is all but ticketed for San Francisco.

And the Braves themselves? Well, they just bought catcher Wil Nieves from Milwaukee. For cash.

About Nieves: He’s 33. He’d made the Brewers’ opening day roster but got sent to Class AAA after hittting .140 in the bigs. He then hit .170 for Nashville. Which means he might wind up batting cleanup tomorrow night at Turner Field.

OK, I exaggerate. Actually, the Braves will send Nieves to Gwinnett. But this is getting grim.

Today the Braves placed both Brian McCann and Jordan Schafer on the disabled list, and Chipper Jones is again available only to pinch-hit. Tonight’s outfield: Martin Prado in left, …

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McCann’s on the DL. Do the Braves HAVE to land a big bat?

Rule of thumb: It's never a good thing when your best player gets hurt. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Rule of thumb: It's never good when your best player gets hurt. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

OK, so they probably shouldn’t run out and hire Johnny Bench. He retired in 1983. But the game that wouldn’t end — and by rights should have kept going — could well influence what the Braves do the rest of the week.

The trade deadline is Sunday. Brian McCann, the Braves’ MVP, will miss the next two or three weeks with a strained oblique. (By the way, there’s a move afoot to change the team nickname to the “Obliques.” Why is it no other club seems to have such trouble with that particular body part?) He’s the biggest bat on a team that has no other big bats.

It has been reported by ESPN’s Buster Olney that the Braves have said no to the Mets’ insistence that any trade for the two-month rental Carlos Beltran would have to include one of the organization’s four top pitching prospects — Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Mike Minor, Randall Delgado. Does this injury change Frank Wren’s …

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Georgia Tech fourth in the ACC Coastal? Sounds low to me

A new wrinkle: Paul Johnson plans to coach this season from the center of the field. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Crafty PJ plans to coach this season from the center of the field. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

The media assembled in Pinehurst, N.C., picked Georgia Tech to finish fourth in the ACC Coastal Division, which includes six teams. Me, I’d bump the Jackets up one spot. But maybe that’s just me.

My rationale: There aren’t many (if any) unwinnable games on Tech’s schedule. The Jackets don’t play Florida State, which stands to be the ACC’s best team. The toughest conference game — against Virginia Tech — will be played here on Nov. 10, which is a Thursday night. The second-toughest figures to be against Miami, and the Hurricanes are in transition yet again.

The ACC media picked the Coastal this way: Virginia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Duke. We can all agree that the Jackets, who play Duke in Durham, shouldn’t lose that game anywhere. Carolina remains under a cloud and has lost a ton of talent, some of which was ineligible last season. I like Virginia coach …

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Hot seat, huh? Says Richt: ‘I plan on having a hell of a year’

An action figure of Vince Dooley (middle) was on sale at the Galleria. (Photo by M. Bradley)

An action figure of Vince Dooley (middle) was on sale at the Galleria. (Photo by M. Bradley)

On the final day of 2010, Georgia lost to Central Florida to finish 6-7. If you’d asked then, or even a month later, what the mood of Bulldog Nation would be come July, I’d have said, “As grim as Nick Saban with an impacted wisdom tooth.”

Which shows, not for the first time, how wrong I can be.

The Bulldog Club of Metro Atlanta held its kickoff meeting Monday night at the Cobb Galleria, and I’ve attended this annual event — I saw Vince Dooley address these folks, or perhaps their parents, in his final season as coach — often enough to be attuned to nuance in the Red & Black. I’ve seen some tepid Bulldog Club gatherings. This wasn’t one.

Even Georgia’s coach conceded that things could have been different. “This room could have been empty,” Mark Richt told the throng. “Everyone could have said, ‘Georgia’s in the tank.’ ”

Last week Richt sat in Hoover, Ala., and said, “There’s no sense of …

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