Archive for the ‘The Hot Button’ Category

Hot Button, Part 2: Where would UGA rank in the ACC?

Remind me again. What happened when Georgia last played an ACC team? (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

What happened when Georgia last played an ACC team? (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

A screaming comes across the sky. (Props to Pynchon.) Much of the sound emanates from the rejoicing of Georgia Tech fans, but the real wails stem from the anguish of Georgia Bulldog backers, who have just learned that their beloved team would …

Rank fourth in the ACC Coastal, second in the ACC Atlantic, fifth in the ACC overall.

That’s my opinion, anyway. I’d put Georgia behind Tech, Miami and Virginia Tech in the Coastal; behind Clemson in the Atlantic; behind all four in the overall power rankings.

A word of explanation: This whole thing got started, as whole things will, when I posed the question: Where would Tech rank in the SEC? (Fourth behind Florida, Alabama and LSU, I said.) One or two of you suggested an even better idea would be to ask the same of Georgia and the ACC. So I have. And here it is.

My rationale: I consider the 2009 Bulldogs a shade above mediocre. (Subject to change with …

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The Hot Button: Where would Tech finish in the SEC?

There's a difference between ACC speed and SEC speed. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

There's a difference between ACC speed and SEC speed. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It’s clear – to me, if not to C.J. Spiller and Dabo Swinney — that Georgia Tech is the class of the ACC. But the ACC is often described as the least of the six BCS leagues, and another conference in the neighborhood is regarded as the best. So now, today’s question:

Where would Tech rank in the SEC?

My first inclination is to say the Jackets would finish wherever Mike Slive’s refs got together and decided they should be, but that’s my little joke. Getting serious, I’d say …

Second in the East behind Florida. Third in the West behind Alabama and LSU. Fourth overall.

That wailing you hear are the cries arising from the confluence of North Avenue and Techwood Drive, but hear me out. As good as Tech is — and it is very good — there’s still a difference between the personnel of a top-shelf SEC team and of everyone else. (Ask Jim Tressel.) This doesn’t mean Tech couldn’t up and beat Florida or …

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Hot Button: Have Falcons found their Cox and Schuerholz?

The way it is. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

The way it is: Smitty and TD. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

We stipulate by saying this is way, way premature. Under Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith, the Falcons haven’t yet won a division title, let alone 14 in succession. That said …

Those of us who were here in 1990 and 1991 can recognize some of the characteristics and more than a hint of the same overall feeling. The Braves were terrible. Then they hired John Schuerholz from Kansas City to be general manager and left Bobby Cox, who’d been the GM, in the dugout. And they finished first over each of the next 14 completed seasons, a run unprecedented and apt to be unmatched in North American professional sports.

The Falcons were terrible. Then they hired Thomas Dimitroff as GM on the strength of a webcam interview, and he hired Mike Smith as coach on the strength of long discussions at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. The Falcons were 11-5 last season and are 2-0 now.

The question, then: Have the Falcons found their Cox and …

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The Hot Button: Did Falcons redo too much of their defense?

Here's why they needed to get younger and faster. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

And here's why they needed to get younger and faster. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

He could have taken half-measures: Dump three guys in one offseason, two more the next. Instead Thomas Dimitroff, who doesn’t eat meat, went whole-hog.

Five Falcons starters were cast off or allowed to leave. We knew such movement would yield growing pains, but events of the preseason suggest orientation might take a while longer. Already Dimitroff has had to make last-minute acquisitions to prop up a shaky secondary, importing cornerback Tye Hill and safety Brian Williams.

So, then, the question: Did Dimitroff overreach by changing so much? His e-mailed response:

“Absolutely no regrets as per our offseason defensive moves. Our desire at the outset of the 2009 offseason was to get younger, faster and increase our level of urgency. Our aim is to build for sustainability”

And that was always the key. The Falcons cut ties with four of the five starters because of that …

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The Hot Button: Who’s the biggest dud in local sports?

Eddie Haas, who was a megaton dud, relieves Gene Garber. (AJC photo by Calvin Cruce)

Megaton dud Eddie Haas pulls Gene Garber. (AJC photo by Calvin Cruce)

Again, I have you folks to thank — or blame, as the case may be — for this entry. This tangent arose on Saturday’s live chat off the Falcons’ defensive collapse, and I thought it would make a nice Hot Button. (Or Cold Button, as the case may be.)

The question: Who’s the biggest dud in local sports?

Parameters: It has to be someone currently employed locally. Meaning: No Len Barker, no Aundray Bruce, no Eddie Haas, no Ron Jirsa, no Bruce Pickens, no Jeff Francoeur, no J.R. Rider, no Jeff George, no Priest Lauderdale, no Ray Goff, no Corky Miller, no Marion Campbell, no Peerless Price, no Damian Rhodes, no Bill Lewis, no Albie Lopez, no Robert Fick, no Shelden Williams, no Jimmy Williams, no Bobby Petrino, no Dan Kolb, no Steve Broussard, no Adam Keefe, no Brad Komminsk, no Reggie Kelly … enough already!

I’ve taken the liberty of nominating one deserving — or undeserving, as the case may be — candidate from …

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The Hot Button: Can Bobby Cox handle a pitching staff?

You know, I don’t just write these little posts. I listen to what you folks have to say about them. And in the wake of the Mets’ eight-run inning against Derek Lowe on Tuesday — not to be confused with the Braves’ eight-run inning against Bobby Parnell on Wednesday — the matter of Bobby Cox and his pitchers arose yet again.

I would suggest a check of the Braves’ team ERA over the fullness of time stands as powerful evidence that Cox does indeed know how to wrangle pitchers. From 1991 through 2002, the Braves finished first, second or third in the National League in ERA every blessed season. The only way that happens is if a staff stays healthy. The only way a staff stays healthy is if the guy in charge doesn’t overwork his men.

I know, I know. Cox had Leo Mazzone rockin’ beside him back then, and it was only after the 2002 season that the Hall of Fame rotation came unstuck — Glavine left for the Mets and Millwood was traded to Philly — and the Braves’ pitching hasn’t been …

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The 2009 Georgia Bulldogs: They’ll go 8-4, it says here

Joe Cox takes the reins: It could be a bumpy trip. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Joe Cox takes the reins, and it could be a bumpy trip. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

As rallying cries go, this one is a bit weird: “We’re better off now because nobody thinks we’re the best team in the country.” But this is college football, where anything is grist for the motivational mill.

A year ago the Georgia Bulldogs found themselves ranked No. 1, and they didn’t like the way that turned out. So now they’ve decided it’s better not to have drawn a single vote to finish first in the SEC East. (Florida was a unanimous choice at the conference’s Media Days.) It’s better being considered not nearly as good.

Mark Richt told the Greater Atlanta Bulldog Club last month that he feels he “has a lot more juice” going into this season. Last year, he recalled, he’d gone on a mission trip and had returned to face a barrage of questions on two fronts – the number of off-field incidents involving Georgia players, which hasn’t been an issue this time, and being the first team in school …

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The Hot Button: Will UGA win a BCS title under Mark Richt?

What once seemed inevitable remains an unanswered question. In 2002 or 2004 or even 2008, Mark Richt was primed to guide his program to a national championship. But he’s about to enter his ninth season as Georgia’s coach and the Bulldogs haven’t gotten there yet, and only once in 11 years has the BCS title been taken by a coach who’d been in place that long — Bobby Bowden of Florida State in 1999.

That Richt is a good coach is beyond dispute. He has won at least 10 games in six of the past seven seasons. He has led Georgia to three SEC East titles and two conference championships. He recruits at the highest level and just saw two Bulldogs taken among the top dozen in the NFL draft. Georgia has finished in the top 10 of at least one major poll five times and in top five twice. But it hasn’t won, or even played for, the BCS title.

Last season was supposed to be the breakthrough. Georgia had finished No. 2 in the AP poll after the 2007 season and was ranked No. 1 last August. It …

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Hot Button: Is Hanson the best Atlanta rookie pitcher ever?

Your attention, please: No Braves pitcher has been named the National League’s rookie of the year. Only two were awarded the (since-discontinued) rookie pitcher of the year award given by The Sporting News: Steve Bedrosian in 1982 and Craig McMurtry in 1983.

At this moment, Tommy Hanson must be considered no worse than the league’s second-best rookie, behind only fellow pitcher J.A. Happ of Philadelphia, who’s 7-0 with an ERA of 2.68. (Colby Rasmus of St. Louis, considered the ealry leader, is hitting .265 with 34 RBIs.) Hanson is 5-0 with a 3.00 ERA. He yielded six earned runs in his first big-league start, 12 in the seven starts since. On Monday he struck out 11 Giants in seven innings. He is, in a word, good.

But even good rookies, as we know, are rookies. Hanson hasn’t hit his rough patch yet, and we’ll see how he fares when he sees an opponent a second time. (His first eight starts have come against eight different clubs.) So there’s your boilerplate disclaimer. And now …

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The Hot Button: Glavine, Maddux or Smoltz – who was best?

Tom Glavine was the one who got it all going and who was MVP of the only World Series the Atlanta Braves won, and John Smoltz was the one who saw the run of excellence through until its ridiculously delayed end. They were great pitchers, first-ballot Hall of Famers. Greg Maddux was more than just a great pitcher. He was the greatest of his era — yes, this includes Roger Clemens — and among the five greatest ever.

Glavine had more 20-win seasons (five to Maddux’s two, and one of the two was as a Cub). Smoltz was more utilitarian (a 24-win season and a 55-save season). But Maddux stands above his longtime companions — first among equals, if you will — because of his matchless consistency.

The Braves will induct Mad Dog — or “Doggie,” or, as Bobby Cox sometimes had it, just “Mad” — into their Hall of Fame tomorrow, and such a designation for this particular pitcher seems slightly off. Maddux was never really “famous” in the way Clemens was famous. (Then again, Clemens is now …

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