Archive for July, 2011

Heat Check: Zaza’s bound for Turkey; Caleb King to the NFL?

Caleb King on Signing Day 2007. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Caleb King on Signing Day 2007. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Because all politics are local (or something like that), but more precisely because not much has changed since last week — Falcons and Hawks! Still locked out! — this Monday’s Heat Check casts its cold eye on individuals across the local sporting scene. First up is …

Scott Proctor, Braves: In the span of eight days, the reliever proved he couldn’t pitch with a lead (against Baltimore on July 3), a tie (against Philadelphia on Friday night) or a nine-run deficit (against Philly on Sunday). This would not seem to augur well for long-term roster presence, especially with Peter Moylan and Kris Medlen rehabbing from surgery. Heat Index: There’s a definite chill in the air, or maybe it’s just the breeze from another home run.

Caleb King, Georgia Bulldogs: He’s academically ineligible for the fall semester and, according to Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph, could be bound for the NFL’s supplemental draft. Truth to tell, …

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The Phillies won the series, but the Braves aren’t going away

Might as well get used to seeing this, although not these uniforms. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Better get used to seeing this, although not these uniforms. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

OK, so the Braves lost the series and Game 3 came undone near the end, but until then they’d underscored the greater point: They’re good, too. They’ll be seeing the Phillies for six more games in September, and surely in a best-of-seven come October.

The Phillies: Best team in baseball.

The Braves: Second-best team in baseball.

And now for the really good news: Those rankings are subject to change.

More than halfway home, the Braves have already passed the eyeball test. Can we look on this team and visualize it celebrating a World Series clincher? Absolutely.

In all candor, we couldn’t have said as much about the 91-game-winning Braves of 2010. Yes, they made the playoffs, but by the time they got there they were running on fumes. (Chipper Jones hurt. Martin Prado hurt. Billy Wagner about to get hurt.) This year is different. This time we can say: As good as they’ve been these first 3 …

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How to tell the difference between the NFL and NBA lockouts

"What I did while I was locked out," by Matt Ryan. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

"What I did while I was locked out," by Matt Ryan. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

It can get confusing, trying to differentiate between the leagues that aren’t functioning. But if you look hard, it’s possible to tell them apart.

• The NFL lockout is an elective lockout. The NBA lockout is an essential lockout.

• The NFL isn’t in real trouble. The NBA is.

• The NFL probably won’t miss much of anything, exhibition games included. The NBA might miss an entire season.

• An NFL owner cannot lose money. Most NBA owners apparently can.

• The NFL already had a hard salary cap. The NBA is desperate to adopt a hard salary cap.

• NFL players aren’t apt to go play in Europe if the lockout doesn’t end soon. NBA players are.

• The NFL did the NBA no favors by locking out its players first. The NBA lockout will be seen by many as just another bit of managerial maneuvering, but it’s more important than that.

• When the NFL lockout ends, the Atlanta Falcons will be among the …

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This week’s Braves trade rumor: Beachy to the Pale Hose

Brandon Beachy and his peachy arm. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Brandon Beachy, shown demonstrating his peachy arm. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Last week Buster Olney of ESPN Insider wondered if the Braves would trade Jair Jurrjens, who just might be the National League’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game. This week Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe asks if the Braves are interested in trading another good  young starter. No, not Tommy Hanson. Brandon Beachy.

Cafardo’s rationale:

[Beachy's]  success — 20 strikeouts, two earned runs in his last 12 innings –  since returning from the disabled list may accelerate a possible deal to improve the Braves’ offense. Whether Beachy would be trade bait is anyone’s guess, but his emergence could make a veteran such as Derek Lowe available. The White Sox recently sent Dave Yokum , their fine assistant general manager/pro scout, to watch Beachy and Braves’ pitching, so we’ll see if there’s any match, and whether the White Sox would ever consider dealing Carlos Quentin.

About …

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Guess which team that played for the BCS title is in trouble

Cliff Harris intercepted a Cam Newton pass in January. He has since been suspended. (AP photo)

Cliff Harris after intercepting a Cam Newton pass. He has since been suspended. (AP photo)

It has been a bad summer for championship-caliber football programs. Southern Cal, the 2004 BCS winner, has been stripped of its title. Ohio State, the 2002 BCS winner, has seen its coach resign under duress. And one of the schools that played for the 2010 BCS title has been rocked with allegations that indicate its presence in Glendale, Ariz., might not have been the feel-good story of the winter.

And no, that school is not Auburn.

The Oregon Ducks lost the BCS title to Auburn on a field goal. In the run-up to the game, the scrutiny fell on Cam Newton, the Auburn quarterback from Atlanta. In the months since, no evidence has come to light to indicate that Auburn broke any rules in its recruitment of Newton. (Yes, Mississippi State sources have said Cecil Newton wanted money for his son to play – for Mississippi State.)

As for Oregon … whoa, Nellie.

Eyebrows were raised when Duck …

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Heat Check: The Braves are hotter; Tech has a spiffy cistern

Georgia Tech's new indoor practice facility. Cistern not shown. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Georgia Tech's new indoor practice facility. Cistern not shown. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

One day late — hey, Monday was a holiday, though not for me — we offer our weekly Heat Check of the local sporting entities. Given that two of our professional teams are locked out, maybe we should rename this feature Slim Pickin’s. (Not to be confused with the gifted thespian Slim Pickens. Definitely to be confused with former Falcons No. 1 pick Bruce Pickens, who was much less gifted than Slim.)

The Braves: They’ve won six of seven, and they should have won seven of seven. The Sunday loss to Baltimore was a case of bad luck, iffy umpiring and one lousy pitch from Scott Proctor. They’re still not hitting for average (.237), but they’re pitching like champs (ERA of 3.04, best in the business). Imagine if they’d hit just .250, which really wouldn’t be asking so much. The National League average is .251. Heat Index: Not quite scorching, but temperatures are definitely above …

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The Peachtree Road Race: ‘Bigger and hotter’ but unchanging

That's Blanche Roberts on the left, Joan Ingram on the right. (Photo by M. Bradley)

That's Blanche Roberts on the left, Joan Ingram on the right. (Photo by M. Bradley)

For a rookie watcher, Jeff Smith picked the ideal spot — on the shady side of Peachtree Battle, seated on a brick pillar. Then again, he did have some feel for the AJC Peachtree Road Race, having run the event 20 or so times.

But not on July 4, 2011. Smith’s foot had been hurting, and he was a spectator at the 2 1/2-mile mark awaiting his wife and his 12-year-old daughter, who were running/walking the Peachtree. And already Smith, an Atlantan since 1988 who’s a technology manager, had seen something new.

“Those guys up front,” he said. “They really run fast.”

Such is the scope of the Peachtree that you can run the race and see a couple hundred thousand folks along the way without ever espying the elite runners, who start first and are long gone by the time the masses begin their trek. “Those guys finished 40 minutes ago,” Smith said, and still the 42nd Peachtree was in its nascent stages.

The …

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Tommy Hanson not an All-Star? That’s no San Francisco treat

Towering Tommy has trumped NL hitters but couldn't sway the NL manager. (AP photo)

Towering Tommy has trumped NL hitters but couldn't sway the NL manager. (AP photo)

What should have been a happy day turned sour. Chipper Jones told Scott Proctor to try and throw off Mark Reynolds’ timing, and Reynolds timed Proctor’s second pitch so precisely it rocketed over the left-field fence. Brian McCann hit a ball 389 feet and got thrown out at second base. And the aforementioned Mr. Jones took lengthy issue with the game’s final two deliveries.

“The officiating in this league is substandard, for the most part,” Chipper said, speaking of the pitches called Strikes 2 and 3 by plate umpire Mark Ripperger. Also this: “I busted my can out there from 1:30 to 5 o’clock trying to win a ballgame, and I wasn’t allowed to do my job.”

Said Fredi Gonzalez, the Braves’ manager: “I looked at [the two pitches] on replay. They were awful [calls].”

The Braves lost to last-place Baltimore for no real reason, and even the day’s All-Star announcements — four Braves made the team, …

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Falcons and Hawks locked out. Thrashers gone. What to do?

Surely these teams won't get locked out. Surely, I say. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Surely these teams won't get locked out. Surely, I say. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Even in the swelter of summer, it’s possible to envision — borrowing from that noted meteorologist George Harrison — a long cold lonely winter. Let’s call the roll.

The Atlanta Falcons? Locked out.

The Atlanta Hawks? Locked out.

The Atlanta Thrashers? Long gone.

Isn’t there anybody here left to play our reindeer games?

The Thrashers have rolled north to Manitoba. Some Falcons are tossing a football around on a high school field in Buford. The Hawks just got started doing nothing. Reading from the NBA’s official release:

During the lockout, players will not receive their salaries; teams will not negotiate, sign or trade player contracts; players will not be able to use team facilities for any purpose, and teams will not conduct or facilitate any summer camps, exhibitions, practices, workouts, coaching sessions or team meetings.

How have we come to this? Blame the economy. As an NBA executive …

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