Archive for October, 2011

Who’s at the center of Series snafu? A former Brave, naturally

"Maybe I shoulda borrowed Bobby Cox's iPhone." (AP photo)

"Maybe I shoulda borrowed Bobby Cox's iPhone." (AP photo)

We all know that the Braves have no equals when it comes to finding ways not to win postseason games. Call the roll: Lonnie Smith dallies at second base; Jeff Reardon is undone by Ed Sprague; Mark Wohlers throws a slider to Jim Leyritz; Bobby Cox starts a Class AAA lineup in Games 3 and 6 of the 1998 NLCS; Kyle Farnsworth yields two home runs in one appearance against Houston; Brooks Conrad commits three errors on one dark night against San Fran.

That said, even the Braves never messed up a game as completely as the Cardinals — who, as we’re aware, surged from 8 1/2 games behind on Sept. 5 to shade these Braves for the wild card — did last night.

The game’s key at-bat featured a game who throws with the wrong arm (in this case, his left) facing a hitter who destroys lefthanders, and even before Marc Rzepcynski had delivered his first pitch to Mike Napoli the guys on the Rangers’ radio crew were going wild over Tony La …

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A tale of two seasons: UGA rights itself; Tech is going wrong

Let's try this again, shall we? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Florida usually wins this game. But maybe not this time. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Seasons can be confounding things. Georgia lost its first two games and its coach was thought by some to be a goner. Now Mark Richt stands one game from solidifying his position once and for all. (Well, at least until 2012.)  The game will be played in Jacksonville, the place where Richt fares worst, but still: If the Bulldogs win Saturday, they’ll surely finish no worse than 8-4 and they could well win the SEC East, and either way significant improvement will have been shown.

Consider, on the other hand, Georgia Tech. The Jackets won their first six games and rose to No. 12 in the Associated Press poll. They’ve since lost to two unranked opponents and figure to be underdogs in three of their remaining four games. What appeared to be a bounceback season could become something far less, and a 7-5 record wouldn’t satisfy anyone. Not after the 6-7 of 2010. Not after starting 6-0. Should Tech …

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Heat Check: The Falcons are warming up; Tech has the chills

Jacquizz Rodgers is given a different point of view. (AP photo)

Rookie Jacquizz Rodgers is offered a different point of view. (AP photo)

Our weekly Heat Check begins with a team that won a warm and fuzzy game in the warm and fuzzy city of … Detroit? (Just between us, sometimes these heat metaphors can get a bit strained.)

The Falcons: When they were trailing the Panthers a week ago, it was possible to look ahead and wonder if this gifted team could be 3-6 come Nov. 13. Not possible now. The Falcons are 4-3 with  two bye weeks upcoming — one where they play nobody, the other where they travel to Indianapolis, which has become nobody without Peyton Manning — before they hunker down in the Dome for a three-week homestand. Heat Index: For a team that hasn’t hit full stride but has the worst of its schedule behind it, this is suddenly a hot commodity.

Julio Jones: He was supposed to be the missing piece. He has missed two games due to injury, and his team is 2-0. It was 2-3 with him playing. Heat Index: A hot rookie is in cold storage, and his …

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A sobering truth revealed: Georgia Tech just isn’t very good

Oh, no! Zach Laskey after muffing a punt. (AP photo)

Oh, no! Zach Laskey after fumbling away a punt. (AP photo)

Miami — Georgia Tech has messed up its season, and not in the way you’d think. The losses these past two weeks haven’t been examples of a gifted team losing to its inferiors; they’ve been cases of a team that, on talent, shouldn’t have been 6-0.

Yet 6-0 Tech was, ranked No. 12 the land as late as eight days ago. Now it’s 6-2 and perhaps bound for 7-5 and another holiday in Shreveport. Which is another way of saying: Water seeks its own level.

We see now that Tech isn’t very good, and the schedule, which seemed to have done it a favor, might not have been so favorable after all. Had Tech lost a couple of games early, it might have had cause to deploy Vad Lee, the freshman quarterback who might be the most talented player on this roster, as opposed to letting him sit out as a redshirt.

Who makes major changes when a team’s 6-0 and climbing in the polls? Nobody. But now, his team climbing no more, Paul Johnson was asked …

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Live from Miami: Is Georgia Tech about to pack it in or what?

Lamar Miller against Tech last season. You'll hear his name today. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Miami's Lamar Miller against Tech last season. You'll hear his name again today. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Miami – Two schools of thought on this one. One is that the schedule is about to catch up with Georgia Tech and that the Jackets will do well to win two more games. (Duke being the gimme, and even that’s in Durham.) The glass-half-full outlook is to proclaim Tech’s loss at Virginia a raging blip that augurs nothing much at all.

I’m kind of split. I do think the schedule is toughening. (Don’t think anybody would disagree.) I don’t, however, think Tech is incapable of finishing strong and winning the ACC Coastal. I think Tech will beat Miami today, which would make the Jackets 7-1 and would render the next two games — both at Bobby Dodd Stadium — hugely huge.

I say this largely because I can’t tell what sort of team Miami is. Here’s its season: Lose to Maryland, beat Ohio State, lose to Kansas State, beat (but get outgained by) Bethune-Cookman, lose close at Virginia …

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Hindsight: What if Tech had hired Neuheisel over Johnson?

"And here the job I really wanted was the one in Atlanta." (AP photo)

"Hey, do any of you guys know if that job in Atlanta is still open?" (AP photo)

History lesson: Georgia Tech fired Chan Gailey after he lost to Georgia in 2007. It settled on Paul Johnson of Navy as his replacement and hasn’t been sorry. Johnson beat Georgia in his first season and won the ACC title, since vacated, in his second.

In sum: Good hire.

That said, there was another candidate who could have been described as the runner-up and of whom a few impressed Tech insiders would say later, “We hired the right person, but that other guy’s going to do well in his next job.”

That other guy: Rick Neuheisel.

He’s about to get fired at UCLA.

Tech liked Johnson because he seemed to fit the Institute. (Again, can’t argue that.) Tech was impressed by Neuheisel because he’s smart and innovative — not that Johnson isn’t — and glamorous. He played quarterback at UCLA and won the Rose Bowl, tutored Troy Aikman as an assistant coach, won as Colorado’s head coach and won the Rose Bowl …

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No longer at Tech, Paul Hewitt is aiming really, really high

One Paul to another: "Good luck in future endeavors." (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

One Paul to another: "Good luck in future endeavors." (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Faithful correspondent Wayne Brown of Tuskegee, Ala., passed along this nugget, and I must admit it made me laugh. The third paragraph of a Rivals post by Jeff Eisenberg contains this quote:

“There’s only one thing left for me to do in college basketball, and that’s try to win a national championship.”

The speaker? Paul Hewitt, formerly of Georgia Tech, now of George Mason.

I could be snide and say something like, “Well, you could also try to beat Georgia in Athens,” but I’ll let you read the article for yourselves. But I warn you in advance: There’s another quote that will give you pause.

Hewitt: “We had a pretty good run there at Georgia Tech in terms of player development.”

OK, enough from me. Read the article. You’ll enjoy it.

By Mark Bradley

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The Braves aren’t in this World Series, but they’ll make it soon

It didn't end well for Michael Bourn and the Braves, but there's always next year. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

It didn't end well for Michael Bourn's team, but there's next year. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

A World Series is set to begin Wednesday without the Atlanta Braves, which has been the case with every World Series this millennium. And I know some among you were so disgusted by the Braves’ collapse that you can’t see this team reaching the Fall Classic for the next thousand years, but that’s just disappointment talking. In truth, the Braves aren’t far away.

Last October, the Braves were one out from taking a 2-1 Division Series lead over San Francisco, which would win the World Series. This fall the Braves were two outs from forcing a play-in game against St. Louis, which just won the National League pennant. I know most of you wouldn’t have given a farthing for the Braves’ chances in such a game, but consider: The Cardinals would have started Kyle Lohse in Game No. 163, and in his two postseason appearances he’s 0-2 with a 7.45 ERA.

That said, the two seasons were different. In …

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Auburn to the SEC East? It’s a cushy move – for the moment

Howdy there, Tiger folks. Welcome back to the neighborhood. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Howdy there, folks. Welcome back to the neighborhood. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Provided Kenneth Starr and Baylor don’t get litigious again, Missouri is expected to become the SEC’s 14th member at any moment. And with Missouri and Texas A&M arriving as Nos. 14 and 13, somebody from the current SEC West will have to move to the East for the sake of balance. Most folks expect the mover to be Auburn — although Alabama, being its selfish self, is making noises about preferring that its arch-enemy stay put — and how would Auburn feel about upping sticks?

Pretty darn good.

Auburn is based in the Central Time Zone by the grace of 25 miles. It’s almost as close to Atlanta’s southern suburbs as to the capital of Alabama. The Tigers’ greatest rival has always been the school in Tuscaloosa, duh, but for most of Auburn’s existence its next-biggest rivals were Georgia and Florida and Tennessee. (And don’t forget Georgia Tech, which is now out of reach in the ACC, which will require …

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Heat Check: Grantham needs to sit; Johnson needs to chill

Todd Grantham: A case in point.

Todd Grantham is shown here debating the finer points of decorum.

Our weekly Heat Check arrives a day late due to Columbus Day. (Wait. That was last week? Never mind.) And we start at the obvious boiling-over point.

Todd Grantham, Georgia: He’s proving he’s a good defensive coordinator. (The Bulldogs rank eighth nationally in total defense.) He’s also showing he’s a bully. Giving the choke sign to an opposing player was bush league. Getting into it with the Vanderbilt coach — the Vanderbilt coach, I emphasize — after a victory tainted the whole winning effort and cheapened the Bulldogs’ brand, which had been in the process of undergoing some needed touch-up.

It’s one thing for players to get excited and stomp on a logo. (Georgia managed that trick at Vandy a while back.) It’s another for a grown man — Grantham is 45, which means he meets the Mike Gundy standard for grown-man status — to embarrass the program twice in 12 months. And I don’t buy the whole …

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