Archive for June, 2012

In Game 1 against the Yankees, the Braves get outpitched

One of Randall Delgado's less-precise pitches allowed A-Rod to score. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

A-Rod scores after one of Randall Delgado's wilder pitches . (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The Braves lost eight games in a row. Then they won eight of nine, the final six in succession. Over those 17 games they went from leading the National League East by 1 1/2 games to falling into a tie for last place to reclaiming second  behind Washington. And if you’ve ever wondered — and this being baseball, you should never wonder — about the importance of starting pitching, that dizzying span left no doubt.

Over the eight-game losing streak, the Braves’ starting pitchers worked one quality start and compiled an ERA of 6.29.

Over the six-game winning streak, those starting pitchers worked four quality starts and mustered an ERA of 1.79.

Same team, same pitchers. But: Different pitching, different results. And now, 60 games into the 162-game season, we have our answer. If this rotation holds up its end, the Braves are a playoff team. (They entered Monday’s game against the imperial …

Continue reading In Game 1 against the Yankees, the Braves get outpitched »

Chilling stuff: Soccer’s Euro 2012 could be ruined by racism

Will Euro 2012 turn out to be a festival or a fiasco? (AP photo)

They're all smiles now, but will Euro 2012 turn out to be a festival or a fiasco? (AP photo)

Think of the soccer’s quadrennial European Championships as the World Cup without Brazil and Argentina but also without the lesser lights. Euro 2012 includes 16 teams — the World  Cup offers 32 — and at least 10 have a legitimate chance to make big noise. But the fear exists that Euro 2012, which commences today and runs through July 1, could make its biggest noise by becoming a cauldron of racism.

The event is being jointly hosted by Poland and the Ukraine. This month the BBC aired a Panorama documentary entitled “Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate” that, according to the Guardian, “showed Polish fans chanting anti-Semitic slogans and giving Nazi salutes.” UEFA, the governing body of European football, did the usual UEFA thing by first trying to downplay the report and then making assurances that racism would not be tolerated.

Sol Campbell was more forthcoming. He advised fans to stay away …

Continue reading Chilling stuff: Soccer’s Euro 2012 could be ruined by racism »

The Hawks were there first; the Thunder have done it better

The Hawks once thought they had the plan. The Thunder took it and ran with it. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

The Hawks had the plan. The Thunder took it and ran with it. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

On Jan. 18, 2010, the Hawks met Oklahoma City in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee. At the time, the Hawks had the better record and seemed the more advanced team. They won a playoff series the previous season, while the Thunder had gone 23-59. But OKC was clearly seeking to do as the Hawks had done: Amass a slew of high draft picks and let them grow together.

Mike Woodson, then the Hawks’ coach, called the Thunder “a mirror of our team.” Al Horford, drafted one spot behind Kevin Durant in June 2007, called OKC “definitely as athletic and as talented as we are.” Jamal Crawford, then the sixth man, said watching the visiting side “was like looking at the Hawks of a couple of years ago.” (For the record, the Thunder won that day 94-91.)

A couple of years later, the Thunder have crashed the NBA finals, while the Hawks haven’t gone beyond Round 2. (This year they lost in Round 1.) And now …

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A big Ay-Whoop-de-doo: SEC newcomers party in the A-T-L

Say howdy to the Missouri mascot, Truman the Tiger. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Say howdy to the Missouri mascot. His name is Truman the Tiger. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Kevin Sumlin, who coaches football for Texas A&M, entered the lobby of the JW Marriott and was swamped by humanity. “This is like walking into a bowl game,” Sumlin told Billy Kennedy, who coaches basketball at A&M. “Or the Final Four.”

Actually, the festivities Wednesday night in Buckhead were just that — festivities. The schools joining the SEC decided to throw a little party in the city where the league stages its football championship and, as is the case with anything involving SEC football, there turned out to be nothing little about it.

“They’re amazed,” Georgia president Michael Adams said, speaking of the delegations from A&M and Missouri and their reaction to the size of the throng. “I’m amazed.”

Estimates put the crowd at nearly 1,000 folks, most of them backers of A&M and Mizzou. (Speaking of which: A staple Missouri cheer goes “M-I-Z,” to which the proper response is “Z-O-U.” And …

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OK, this year it’s official: I DO feel sorry for LeBron James

Here's LeBron looking to pass again. Why doesn't he shoot? (AP photo)

Here's LeBron looking to pass again. Why doesn't he shoot? (AP photo)

A year ago I almost felt sorry for LeBron James. This time there’s no “almost” — I do feel sorry for him. He cannot simply play a game anymore, and woe be unto him should his team happen to lose one.

About playing the game: The general idea is to win by whatever means necessary, but LeBron and the Miami Heat are held to a different standard. They have to win in a way that satisfies their critics, which has become impossible because there are too many critics. (I know. Before my sympathy button got pushed, I was one.)

You can see it at the end of these games against Boston. The Celtics trust one another; they don’t care who takes the last shot. The Heat may profess not to care, but deep down they know that there’ll be hell to pay if LeBron James — or, failing that, Dwyane Wade — doesn’t take the last shot.

And then come the permutations: What if LeBron is triple-teamed (as happened in Game 4) and passes to …

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Video: On the Atlanta Braves, the Miami Marlins and pitching

Continue reading Video: On the Atlanta Braves, the Miami Marlins and pitching »

Why the Braves could still use the unlamented Derek Lowe

Twins Indians Baseball

Derek Lowe in his most recent start. He won it. He has won often since leaving town. (AP photo)

Bobby Cox used to say (and presumably still does): “If you think you’ve got enough pitching,  better go get some more.” This would seem to apply to the team Cox once managed, which believed it had so much pitching it could pay one  pitcher to go away.

Update: Derek Lowe, banished to Cleveland, has won seven games; no Braves starting pitcher has won so many.

I know what you’re saying: Lowe was terrible last season. No argument here. (He lost 17 games.) He wasn’t very good in 2010, either. (He won 15 games but had an ERA of 4.67.) But this year he has been quite good: He’s 7-3 with an ERA of 3.06. And here’s the worst part: The Braves are paying two-thirds of his salary.

Put another way, the Braves are paying a pitcher who pitches for someone else more than they’re paying any pitcher who pitches for them. (And Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.)

Lowe wasn’t the greatest buy …

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NFL players may hate Roger Goodell, but he’s their biggest ally

Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith: Who speaks for the players? (AP photo)

Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith: Who speaks for the players? (AP photo)

Weird. Even as the players’ association seeks to curb Roger Goodell’s power, the NFL commissioner is turning into the players’ best friend. The NFLPA just argued — and lost the argument — that Goodell lacked the authority to punish four New Orleans Saints in the egregious bounty program. In its defense of those four, the NFLPA overlooked a key detail:

The folks those Saints were trying to injure? They’re NFL players, too.

The Saints might not have been the worst offenders in the history of professional football, but they’re the best example available at a difficult time. The NFL is facing a torrent of lawsuits from former players who claim the league was negligent in its safeguarding of their health. Which leads us to note that the safeguarding of its membership’s health is usually the job of a union.

These class-action suits have the potential to damage the NFL in a way no strike/lockout ever …

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