Archive for June, 2012

Video: On the Braves’ chances after Brandon Beachy’s injury

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Watch the NBA finals. You’ll see why the Hawks aren’t there

Westbrook, LeBron, Durant: All of them better than the Hawks' best player. (AP photo)

Westbrook, LeBron, Durant: All of them are better than the Hawks' best player. (AP photo)

I’ll admit it. I thought it, and I even wrote it. With Derrick Rose gone and with Chris Bosh hurting, the Hawks might have had a chance to make serious noise in these NBA playoffs — had they contrived to survive Round 1, which they didn’t. But now I’m watching the Heat and the Thunder have at one another in their made-for-the-Weather-Channel finals, and I’m thinking …

Nah.

I know, I know. The Hawks managed to beat Oklahoma City in their one meeting this regular season, and they even beat Miami in Miami on the second day of the calendar year. But could anyone — and here I’m talking mostly to myself — have seriously seen the local NBA franchise giving either of these a real postseason run? With all parties at full strength, could the Hawks have taken even a game off the Heat or the Thunder?

I know, I know. Here you’re saying, “The Hawks aren’t as good as the teams playing for the NBA title …

Continue reading Watch the NBA finals. You’ll see why the Hawks aren’t there »

After a wasted homestand, the Atlanta Braves are in trouble

This man isn't a bad manager, but his team is going through a bad patch. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This man isn't a bad manager, but his team is in a bad patch. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

If you check the standings, the Braves are still OK — four games behind Washington in the National League East, nicely positioned in the wild-card chase. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad:

If you watch them play, you see a team in trouble.

A homestand that began 2-0 wound up 3-6, with a week on the road — first the Bronx, then Boston — coming. “There are a lot of guys in here frustrated right now,” Chipper Jones said Sunday.

June began with the Braves wondering about their starting pitchers. The rotation has stabilized — although a rotation awaiting an MRI on its best arm can’t quite be described as stable — but now the losses are coming hand over fist. Randall Delgado yielded two runs over eight innings Sunday, and it mattered not.

This wasn’t one of those games where the Braves left a zillion runners at second and third. They pushed only two runners into scoring position, both of …

Continue reading After a wasted homestand, the Atlanta Braves are in trouble »

As conferences debate a playoff, we ask: Where’s the NCAA?

"We already run the world. Why should we care what the Big Ten thinks?" (AP photo)

"We already run the world. Why should we care what the Big Ten thinks?" (AP photo)

The best part of Georgia president Michael Adams’ plan for a college football playoff — issued at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 8, 2007, and hooted down by the powers-that-were shortly thereafter — was his desire to have the NCAA oversee it. “They’ve got a pretty good track record of running things,” Adams said.

But here we are in the year 2012 and a playoff is about to become a reality, and where is the NCAA? Observing from afar while the FBS conference commissioners hash it out. And now we wonder how this makes a lick of sense.

The governing body of intercollegiate sports runs the playoff for every intercollegiate sport at every level — except for big-time football, which is the biggest intercollegiate sport. But the NCAA has always been reluctant to throw its arms around big-time football: Indeed, there’s still no such thing as an NCAA champion of college football at highest level. The NCAA prefers to …

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Jeter on Chipper: ‘One of the greatest ever to play the game’

The Derek Jeter of the American League greets the Derek Jeter of the National League. Much respect all around.

The Derek Jeter of the American League greets the Derek Jeter of the National League. Much respect all around.

Sometimes familiarity really does breed contempt. Sometimes it takes a visitor to remind us locals how good we have it. This was Derek Jeter, speaking Tuesday about Chipper Jones: “A lot of time consistency gets overlooked. I’m not saying people in Atlanta don’t appreciate him, but you probably appreciate him a little bit more not being here.”

And maybe you do. If you judge by the squeaky-wheel comments on AJC.com, Chipper Jones has become the Braves’ albatross: Too old, too frail, too high-salaried. But here you had the most respected player in the sport addressing the man who might be, at least within baseball itself, the second-most respected. Here you had Jeter, who’s 37, fairly gushing over Chipper, who’s 40 and who will retire at season’s end.

Jeter: “I always admired Chipper. I followed him a lot in the minor leagues … I used [Chipper's early struggles] as …

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No-hitters all over, with former Braves doing daring deeds!

Jordan Schafer hit this ball. Making like Willie Mays, Gregor Blanco caught it.

Jordan Schafer hit this ball. Making like Willie Mays, Gregor Blanco caught it. (AP photo)

The San Francisco Giants, who began life in 1883 as the New York Gothams, had never seen one of their pitchers work a perfect game — until Matt Cain did the deed Wednesday night. It came very close to being the second no-hitter of the evening — the Met knuckleballer R.A. Dickey had yielded only one soft single in Tampa — and it underscored the growing reality that extreme pitching feats have become business as usual.

Think not? Well, the New York Mets, who opened play in 1962, had gone their entire existence without even a simple no-hitter until Johan Santana managed one on June 1. Not three weeks later, all that stood between Dickey and a second Mets no-hitter was B.J. Upton’s first-inning roller, which David Wright tried to bare-hand and dropped.

The play was ruled a hit, which seemed reasonable, but the Mets announced afterward that they would protest the scorer’s ruling, thereby …

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A call to all available arms: The Atlanta Braves could use you

Will we be seeing Mike Minor in the majors much longer? Probably. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Will we be seeing Mike Minor in the majors much longer? (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

A major-league roster includes 25 players. Custom now holds that 12 of those are pitchers, and you’d think devoting 48 percent of resources to one position would leave said position well stocked. Then you look at the Atlanta Braves, and you realize a dozen go as far as it once did.

The Braves entered Game 3 of their series against the Yankees with their pitching staff an amalgam of wellness clinic and departure lounge. Brandon Beachy, who leads the majors in ERA, was supposed to start Wednesday night but, owing to slight elbow soreness, was bumped back to Saturday. Wednesday’s starter thus became Tim Hudson, who’d missed his regular turn due to a tender ankle.

Reliever Eric O’Flaherty was unavailable again Wednesday after waking Monday with a sore elbow. “We’re trying to keep him off the disabled list,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. The rookie reliever Cory Gearrin was likewise unavailable for …

Continue reading A call to all available arms: The Atlanta Braves could use you »

A winless series concludes with a truly galling Braves loss

The Braves were ahead. Then the Grandy Man went deep. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

The Braves were ahead. Then the Grandy Man went deep. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

The Wednesday loss bothered me more than the one that preceded it. On Tuesday the Yankees had to do something outrageous — six eighth-inning runs in the span of six batters, with an historic grand slam included — to prevail. On Wednesday they had only to stand back and watch as the home side did everything except win.

The Braves mustered 16 baserunners Wednesday night. They managed two runs. The Braves left 13 men on base, at least one in every inning. They managed 12 hits, at least one in every inning except the seventh. They were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position, and one of the two was the rookie Andrelton Simmons’ bunt-for-a-hit single with Jason Heyward on third and one out, which Fredi Gonzalez conceded was “an aggressive mistake.”

This was a game that was harder to lose than to win, but lose the Braves did. They were swept in a series in which they made one error and outhit the …

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Mike Minor was mightily major, and still the Braves lost

One picture of Johnny Venters, worth several thousand words. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

One picture of Johnny Venters, worth several thousand words. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Before Tuesday’s game, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez noted that Kris Medlen, sent to Class AAA to “stretch out” his arm in case he’s needed in the rotation, was scheduled to throw 95 pitches in his next Gwinnett start. Meaning: Any more wobbles from Mike Minor could mean his last name becomes his next destination.

If that weren’t enough, Minor’s mound opponent this night was the heavyweight (word used advisedly) CC Sabathia. The massive Yankee — “He’s a moose,” Gonzalez said of Sabathia — had won seven games to Minor’s three, had compiled an ERA of 3.69 to Minor’s 6.57. Were this, er, a heavyweight bout, they’d have stopped it before it started. But this was baseball, and in baseball there’s no such thing as a sure thing.

To wit: The underwhelming Minor worked his best start since the second Saturday of the season, and he did exactly what Gonzalez had, speaking before the game, said he …

Continue reading Mike Minor was mightily major, and still the Braves lost »

Video: On the Braves and their key interleague stretch

Continue reading Video: On the Braves and their key interleague stretch »