Archive for June, 2012

A warm and fuzzy result on a hot day: Minor beats Strasburg

Mike Minor gave the Braves a major lift Saturday. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

By winning Saturday, Mike Minor gave the Braves a major lift. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

This being baseball, there are no must-win games in June. There can be, however, need-to-win games. For the Braves, Saturday’s encounter rose to the latter level.

They’d fallen 4 ½ games behind Washington in the National League East and to fourth place in the wild-card standings. They’d followed a 14-15 May with a 12-12 June, which meant they’d been mediocre for two solid months. And here, on the hottest day Hotlanta had ever known, came Stephen Strasburg to bring the big heat.

Strasburg is the best young pitcher in baseball. His opponent was Mike Minor, who had, according to FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement index, been the worst starting pitcher in the National League. Seeing those names, the mind ran through a set of chilling calculations: “So Strasburg beats Minor and the Braves are 5 ½ back and they’re facing Gio Gonzalez, who’s 10-3, on Sunday, and this could be out of hand by the …

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Crowell gets the boot, and we ask: Why is it always Georgia?

A farewell salute to Isaiah Crowell, Bulldog for a year. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

A farewell salute to Isaiah Crowell, Bulldog for a year. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

No program holds the patent on decency. Didn’t Penn State tout itself as an example of Success With Honor? The fan who chortles over the moral missteps of a rival is sure to be weeping tears of shame tomorrow, for that’s the way it works in big-time football. Every coach at every school is only waiting for the other shoe to drop — on him.

So no, Georgia players aren’t alone in messing up. Pick another campus — Florida, Auburn, LSU — and you’ll find similar examples of excess. In sum, it’s not only Georgia. That said …

Why is it always Georgia?

We’ve heard the excuses made by loyalists: That Athens is too heavily policed, that UGA’s drug policies are stricter than other SEC schools’, that the local media is too vigilant, that nobody in power ever cuts a Bulldog any slack. But when guys from the same program at the same school keep getting arrested year upon year, there has to be more to it …

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Update: After arrest, Crowell is dismissed from UGA squad

Feb. 2, 2011: Isaiah Crowell and sweatered canine chum. (AP photo)

Feb. 2, 2011: Isaiah Crowell brings delight to Bulldog Nation. Alas, that was then. (AP photo)

At 5 p.m. Friday, Georgia coach Mark Richt announced that Isaiah Crowell has been dismissed from the squad. More to come.

Here they go again. Four summers after a team that would be ranked No. 1 in preseason saw its summer so roiled by player arrests that 16 of the first 20 questions asked of Mark Richt on Media Day involved discipline (or the lack thereof), the Georgia Bulldogs are about to embark on another season of great expectations, and again we’re talking less about football than foolishness.

Four defensive starters have managed to get themselves suspended for the start of the 2012 season, forcing the Bulldogs to move Malcolm Mitchell, their best wide receiver, to defensive back. That was bad. This is worse: Isaiah Crowell, the 2011 SEC freshman of the year, was arrested in Athens early Friday on three weapons charges, two of them felonies.

According to Athens-Clarke County …

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The Hawks draft a shooter, and now the real work begins

John Jenkins: From Commodore to Hawk. (AP photo)

John Jenkins: From Commodore to Hawk. (AP photo)

It’s an Atlanta tradition, just like lousy weather for the old Peach Bowl was. The NBA draft rolls around, the Hawks make their first pick … and we all say, “Really?”

Yes, there have been exceptions. Namely, Al Horford and … er, Al Horford. But we only have to call the roll of infamy – Keith Edmonson, Dallas Comegys, Roy Marble, Adam Keefe, Priest Lauderdale, Ed Gray, DerMarr Johnson and the Williamses Marvin and Shelden – to feel bad all over again.

Most franchises look on the draft as the quickest way to improve themselves. More often than not, the Hawks’ draft has reminded us why we’ve come to distrust this organization. But this draft, I’m happy to report, had taken on a shiny glow long before Thursday night’s doings commenced. And by that I mean: In the grand scheme, this draft suddenly didn’t seem so important.

The Hawks announced Monday they’d hired Danny Ferry as their general manager. It was such a shrewd move you had …

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I didn’t think I’d see it, but here it is: A college football playoff!

These men look as if they'd just done something historic. They had. (AP photo)

These men look as if they'd just accomplished something historic. Which they had. (AP photo)

I’d given up. I’d gone from believing a college football playoff was inevitable to believing it was … the opposite of inevitable. The bowls were too powerful, I conceded. There was no belief among the movers and shakers that any moving and/or shaking was warranted. What we had was, give or take the occasional BCS tweak, all we’d ever get, and what we had was awful.

My surrender came in January 2008. The BCS had been more of a mess than usual — two-loss LSU wound up playing for (and winning) the national championship in a sport where every game was supposed to matter — and, bang on cue, the Georgia president Michael Adams went public with a plan that made sense: an eight-team playoff overseen by the NCAA.

I had some small part in this: I wrote the story for this newspaper that outlined Adams’ proposal and rationale. It appeared Jan. 8, hours after LSU had won the BCS title in New …

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Video: On the Hawks, the draft and new GM Danny Ferry

Continue reading Video: On the Hawks, the draft and new GM Danny Ferry »

Having hired Danny Ferry, the Hawks must be taken seriously

Words not often heard: An impressive Hawks hire. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Four words not often heard: An impressive Hawks hire. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Three cheers for the Atlanta Hawks, and not just puny “hip, hips,” either. Make these full-throated “hoorays.” A franchise that has chosen wrong so often has finally done it right. It has hired a basketball man of impeccable pedigree and plans to get out of his way.

Danny Ferry has done two tours with the San Antonio Spurs, the gold standard of NBA organizations, and in between he was general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who played for the NBA title in 2007 and won 66 games in 2008-2009. That Ferry has chosen to become GM of the Hawks says he’s sold on an organization that has, to be frank, been the toughest of sells.

Bruce Levenson, one of the Hawks’ many owners, introduced Ferry on Monday by saying, “For every question we asked Danny, he asked 10 of us.” That was a polite way of noting the interviewee was actually the interviewer. At issue wasn’t why the Hawks should hire him — that …

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Danny Ferry: He’ll do well for the Hawks – if he’s allowed

Danny Ferry: A good man for a big job. (AP photo)

Danny Ferry: He's a good man for a big job. (AP photo)

The Hawks have hired a good basketball man. They might even have hired the absolute right man. But the issue here won’t be whether Danny Ferry knows his business — obviously he does — but whether his new bosses will allow him to conduct that business as he sees fit.

As we know, this ownership hasn’t always acceded to the recommendations of its general manager. Billy Knight wanted to fire Mike Woodson as coach at the 2008 All-Star break, and the owners said no. (Given the unerring view of hindsight, they were probably right.) Knight quit as GM three months later. It is widely believed that Rick Sund, Knight’s successor, recommended that the Hawks hire Dwane Casey to replace the fired-for-real Woodson in June 2010, only to see the owners promote assistant coach Larry Drew instead.

With Ferry, control isn’t just a talking point. It’s a deal-breaker. He left the Cavaliers in 2010 because owner Dan Gilbert fired coach Mike …

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So does UGA always fall flat when much is expected? Well …

Sept. 27, 2008: Alabama sneers at the black jerseys, squashes Matthew Stafford. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Sept. 27, 2008: Alabama sneers at Georgia's black jerseys. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

One guy I know — actually, I’m the guy — has picked Georgia to play Southern Cal for the BCS title. That prompted the usual round of carping from those who don’t care for the Bulldogs: “Georgia thinks it’s going to win the national championship every year, and it never does.”

Neither point is technically true — Georgia claims five national titles (two consensus, three iffy), and I don’t recall anyone seriously believing Ray Goff’s last team and Jim Donnan’s first team were bound for glory — but recent history does suggest that the Bulldogs do better when less is expected.

In the three Herschel Walker seasons (1980-82), UGA finished higher in the final Associated Press poll than in the preseason edition. The same was true for the first post-Herschel year, which yielded a giddy run to the Cotton Bowl. But Georgia has been ranked in the top 12 of the AP preseason poll six times since 1983, …

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Koetter is out to upgrade the Falcons, one explosion at a time

Dirk Koetter at work: He likes the job, the screen and Matty Ice. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Dirk Koetter at work: He likes the job, the screen and Matty Ice. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Flowery Branch Dirk Koetter doesn’t come across as a guy who plans to reinvent the wheel or the screen door or even the screen pass. There’s not one whiff of Boy Genius about him, probably because he’s not a boy (he’s 53) and surely because a coordinator who at his last stop presided over the NFL’s lowest-rated offense has been served a heaping helping of humility.

But that’s OK. In football, “geniuses” tend to flame out quicker than you can say, “Mike Martz and His Greatest Show on Turf.” Koetter knows he’s not here to rip up everything; his job is to nip, tuck and tweak. As he said Wednesday, speaking after the morning session of Falcons minicamp: “Atlanta has won a lot of games the past few years. I’m in no position to second-guess anybody.”

So don’t expect him to bad-mouth his predecessor, the unlamented Mike Mularkey, or to proclaim that the Falcons’ offense, which under …

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