Archive for July, 2012

Video: Maholm, Johnson and the Braves’ chances in the East

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Braves trade! Braves trade! And it’s a pretty darned good one!

After midnight, Frank Wren briefs the still-assembled media. (Photo by M. Bradley)

After midnight, GM Frank Wren briefs the still-assembled media. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Well, the Braves landed a Cub after all. Two of them, in fact, neither being Ryan Dempster. But enough about him.

Just after midnight, the Braves announced they had acquired Paul Maholm, a left-handed starting pitcher, and Reed Johnson, a right-handed bat. Johnson will definitely help a bench that needs all the help it can get. Maholm can’t possibly hurt a rotation that wasn’t exactly brimming with excellence.

Maholm isn’t a No. 1 starter, but he was 9-6 with an ERA of 3.74 for a terrible team, and he has been really good of late: Over his past six starts, he has yielded one run at most. By way of contrast, Mike Minor is 6-7 with an ERA of 5.18, and Tommy Hanson, who’s 12-5, has an ERA of 4.29. Immediately after Hanson beat the Marlins on Monday, manager Fredi Gonzalez suggested the pitcher might need to skip a turn, which isn’t the most heartfelt vote of confidence.

Let’s be clear: This …

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If Braves don’t land a big arm, Hanson becomes the key man

Tommy Hanson on a hot Monday night. (AP photo)

Here's Tommy Hanson on a hot Monday night. (AP photo)

Asked for his Trade Deadline wish list, Chipper Jones said Monday: “I’d like Josh Johnson, [Ryan] Dempster and Cliff Lee. We could trade our entire Triple A team for those three.”

Jones was kidding, sort of, but he was reminded that in 1993 the Braves’ Class AAA affiliate fully expected to be ravaged at the deadline. Jones was then Richmond’s shortstop; Ryan Klesko was the first baseman, Javy Lopez the catcher. With the Braves gazing upward at the Giants in the National West, it was thought that general manager John Schuerholz would have to part with one, maybe two, of the prized prospects to land Fred McGriff. Instead Schuerholz hooked McGriff for Melvin Nieves, a Richmond outfielder, and two lesser lights.

In the history of deadline deals, that’s about the best. McGriff showed up, the press box at the old stadium caught fire and the Braves overhauled San Francisco, which would win 103 games but, there being no wild card …

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Heat Check: Braves, Falcons, Hawks, Tech, UGA – all HOT!

"Our team is red hot! Our team is red hot!" (AP photo by David Tulis)

"Our team is red hot! (Clap, clap.) Our team is red hot!" (AP photo by David Tulis)

Today we offer the (long-deferred if not necessarily long-awaited) return of the Monday Heat Check, in which we take the figurative temperature of our local sporting entities. And, in keeping with climatic conditions, I must note that every team is HOT!HOT!HOT!

BRAVES: They haven’t lost in a week, and the week ahead looks most inviting. They’re home for four games against the Marlins, who have given up, and three against the Astros, who snapped a 12-game losing slide Sunday and are the worst team in baseball by some distance.

And there’s every chance the Braves will make a trade by 4 p.m. Tuesday. Zack Greinke is gone to Anaheim, and the Braves claim to have moved on from their pursuit of reluctant Ryan Dempster, but I’m not convinced that ship has sailed. There’s no reason for the Cubs to keep Dempster — they’re not going to re-sign him — and the Dodgers’ offer hasn’t been convincing. (If it …

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Instructive win: Braves show their strength – and weakness

Mark Bradley is off for a bit. Normal service will resume soon.

Jason Heyward brings home the game-winning run. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

Jason Heyward brings home the game-winning run Saturday. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

Because there are so many baseball games, it’s tricky to ascribe any lessons to any single game. But the doings Saturday, I submit, showed us the 2012 Braves for better and worse.

For better: They won by scoring three runs in the eighth inning.

For worse: Their starting pitcher twice couldn’t hold a two-run lead, necessitating the late rally.

Even with their No. 1 shortstop hurt in the final game before the All-Star break and his understudy injured in the first game after, the Braves have one of the better everyday lineups in the National League. On Saturday, they scored five runs in five innings off R.A. Dickey, the knuckleballer who has been baseball’s best pitcher. When you score five runs and you have Craig Kimbrel to close, you should win.

Which the Braves did, but they needed three more runs — and a slew of unyielding …

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Dwight Howard has become a bigger meanie than LeBron

He's all smiles. The city named on his jersey is less sunny. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

He's all smiles. The city named on his jersey is less sunny. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This could all be moot within an hour of its writing, but here goes: What happens if Dwight Howard doesn’t get traded?

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel believes the thought of Howard actually playing for the Magic in 2012-13 “would be like LeBron making ‘The Decision’ and then having to go play another season in Cleveland.” But the way Howard is heading, any LeBron James comparison becomes increasingly inapt.

LeBron never demanded to be traded. LeBron never handed the Cavaliers a list of desired destinations. (Apparently Howard’s list begins and ends with Brooklyn.) More to the point, LeBron never prolonged any civic agony by waiving his option to become a free agent. Howard did that in March, and nobody could believe it. Today it ranks as the strangest decision ever made by a major player regarding his career.

All Howard had to do was let his contract expire and he’d have officially …

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Ferry on his remade Hawks: ‘Status quo wasn’t good enough’

Danny Ferry has made this a brand new ballgame. (AP photo by David Goldman)

New GM Danny Ferry has made this a whole new ballgame. (AP photo by David Goldman)

The Hawks had two choices: They could have kept what they had and continued to get the same results, or they could have done as Danny Ferry did. So long as the Core Four was intact, this organization had both a floor and a ceiling. The Hawks would be too talented to stink, too mismatched to win a championship.

Said Ferry, speaking Wednesday night: “The status quo wasn’t going to be good enough to reach our goals, and we weren’t even going to be able to sustain that.”

That’s a brutally accurate description of the Hawks before this general manager took hold of them. And where are they now, 2 1/2 weeks and two major trades later? Ferry again: “We’re in a situation where we made some changes, and hopefully going forward we can be more opportunistic — hopefully better and more sustainable.”

Thing is, “going forward” isn’t synonymous with “here and now,” and we live in an age where gratification …

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Is Richt still under heavy pressure? ESPN’s Haney says yes

"I was on the Hot Seat once, Mark. I survived." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"You know, I was on the Hot Seat once myself, Mark." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Mark Richt won the SEC East last season for the first time since 2005, did he not? Reversed a downward trend, did he not? Removed himself from the Hot Seat, did he not?

Yes and yes to the first two questions. To the third, Travis Haney of ESPN says, “Not so fast.”

Haney places Richt atop his list of coaches under most pressure to win. Others included: Mack Brown of Texas, Brian Kelly of Notre Dame, Bo Pelini of Nebraska and Bob Stoops of Oklahoma. (To be totally accurate, Haney doesn’t dub this his official Hot Seat list; it is, rather, “the precursor to the hot-seat list.”)

From Mr. Haney:

Richt is safe today, but with the expectations again high, that could quickly change. Such is life in the SEC, where the distance from the title game to the hot seat is seemingly never all that far. And the disciplinary issues only complicate that, because fans generally don’t want their school making …

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Video: On the Braves, their needs and their lack of an identity

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The NL East: Pholdin’ Phils, floundering Fish, Strasburg’s cap

Will Stephen Strasburg still be making deliveries in September? (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Will Stephen Strasburg still be making deliveries in September? (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

It’s not the best division in baseball — that’s still the American League East — but the National League East is the most intriguing. The reigning champ of five years’ standing is in last place. A franchise that has never finished above .500 since moving from Montreal holds first place by a four-game spread. A team that doubled its payroll is in fourth place and just lost its best everyday player to knee surgery. A team based in the nation’s biggest market bears the look of a plucky underdog. And then there are the Braves.

And everywhere there are questions. Will the Marlins give up on their season? Do the Mets have any money to spend? Will the Phillies trade Cole Hamels? Will the Braves land Zack Greinke? Will the Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg? A look at each team, starting at the bottom.

Philadelphia Phillies (37-50, 14 games behind): Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have finally …

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