Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Mark Richt gives a doubting Bulldog Nation reason to believe

Lots of Georgia folks still like this guy. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Bottom line: A lot of Georgia folks still like this guy. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Here’s one case of goodness being its own reward. The events of this offseason have reminded us that it was never this coach Georgia fans had come to dislike; it was only this coach’s diminishing record. Mark Richt has given those folks reason to believe the record is subject to sudden change, and the cloud of gloom that figured to shroud the 2011 season has all but lifted. (At least for now.)

Georgia folks are optimistic. Cynics among us will insist that Georgia folks are always optimistic until reality descends — then they’re ready to fire their coach. After the Bulldogs lost to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl to finish 6-7, there were a couple of anxious days when some who know the inner workings of the program weren’t certain Richt would keep his job. But here he is, and he’s not acting like a coach about to get canned.

He’s cheerful, almost aggressively so. “I plan …

Continue reading Mark Richt gives a doubting Bulldog Nation reason to believe »

The Braves prove the old saw: Can’t have too much pitching

"I won't talk about my shoulder. So don't ask." (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

"I won't talk about my shoulder. So don't even ask, OK?" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Bobby Cox, who had some idea of how to handle pitchers, used to say of pitching: “When you think you’ve got enough, go get some more.”

If any team looked to have too much pitching, the Braves were it. Their rotation should have produced two All-Stars — still can’t get over Tommy Hanson not making it — and most teams would kill to have Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe and Brandon Beachy as their Nos. 3, 4 and 5 starters. And this isn’t to mention Kris Medlen, who’s rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, or the bountiful farm system that counts Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Mike Minor and Randall Delgado as gold-plated prospects.

So deep was the Braves’ well of arms that even someone who hates the idea of trading young pitching – i.e., me — was ready to part with Minor for a deadline bat. But Frank Wren held the line and wound up getting Michael Bourn anyway, and now we see the wisdom in the GM’s …

Continue reading The Braves prove the old saw: Can’t have too much pitching »

Hawks’ Meruelo wants to earn our respect, and he’s on track

See this picture? I'm tired of seeing this picture. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

See this picture? Me, I'm darn tired of seeing this picture. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

In his public introduction, Alex Meruelo used that word again, used it four times. That word: Respect. As in, “I want to earn the respect and loyalty of the Atlanta community.”

Then, significantly, he said this: “It’s not something that’s given. I’m not entitled to it.”

Sometimes a guy buys a team and figures the fans come with it. Alex Meruelo seems to grasp that the job only begins when the sale closes. He can’t just say, “These are the Hawks, and we expect you to come watch them.” He has to give folks a reason to spend money on his product.

That, as we know, has been an ongoing disconnect. The Hawks have become a pretty good team — three consecutive winning seasons, three consecutive Round 1 series victories — that our city hasn’t fully embraced. There was a time in the late ’80s when NBA basketball was the hottest ticket in town, but that was before John Schuerholz arrived from Kansas …

Continue reading Hawks’ Meruelo wants to earn our respect, and he’s on track »

As the trade deadline nears, we offer a defense of Frank Wren

Eventual NCLS MVP Mike Devereaux delivers the winning hit in Game 1. (AJC file photo)

Mike Devereaux, eventual MVP of the 1995 NLCS, delivers the winning hit in Game 1. (AJC file photo)

Even as Braves fans scream, “Do something!”, it’s worth noting that the test of a general manager isn’t to do just anything — it’s to do the right thing. And sometimes what seems the right thing turns out to be …

Mark Teixeira.

The approach of another trade deadline takes us back to July 2007. The Braves made a big move, sending five prospects to Texas for the first baseman Teixeira and the reliever Ron Mahay. On the night Teixeira joined the Braves, Tim Hudson said, “Seems like they’re trying to make us win the World Series around here.”

That night Teixeira hit two home runs. Soon, two giddy fans from Auburn, Ala., had written a ditty and slapped it on YouTube. Sample lyric: “The National League it just ain’t fair-a/The Atlanta Braves got Mark Teixeira.” Also this: “The side effect is mild hysteria/The medical reason in Mark Teixeira.”

The reality, alas, was less scintillating. …

Continue reading As the trade deadline nears, we offer a defense of Frank Wren »

Just call Auburn coach Gene Chizik the chairman of the bored

"Anybody here heard any good Nick Saban jokes lately?" (AP photo)

"OK, show of hands. Who here has heard any good Nick Saban jokes?" (AP photo)

Hoover, Ala. – Know what one coat of paint says to the other when both are drying? “Oh, this isn’t so bad. We could be listening to Gene Chizik.”

I know, I know. Chizik’s job is to coach football at Auburn, and he’s obviously pretty good at it, having won the BCS title and all. He isn’t paid to entertain us media folks. And that’s a good thing. Because Gene Chizik is to entertainment as Jim Belushi is to method acting.

I’ve been — irony alert! — privileged to sit through a few G-Chiz briefings, and they aren’t just dull. They’re oppressively dull. They’re dullness deployed as a weapon of mass tedium. I can understand if a guy has nothing to say; what I can’t abide is if a guy acts as if he has a lot of things he might say but chooses to share none of them.

In my view, that’s not just being dull. That’s being dull and smug. (”Smull,” to coin a lousy word.)

I mention this because Chiz the Whiz had his …

Continue reading Just call Auburn coach Gene Chizik the chairman of the bored »

UPDATE: Tech vacates 2009 ACC title, gets 4 years’ probation

Let the record reflect that Buzz the Bee declined to comment. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Let the record reflect that Buzz the Bee declined to comment. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

UPDATE: Georgia Tech has to vacate its 2009 ACC championship and has been placed on probation through 2015 by the NCAA. Tech has also been fined $100,000.

First, let me emphasize that Georgia Tech folks are being very quiet about this. Nobody in any official capacity wants to speak ahead of the NCAA’s teleconference at 3 p.m. (Tech president Bud Peterson and AD Dan Radakovich will offer the Institute’s response at a 4:30 briefing.) That said …

I have attempted to sniff around. And here’s what I’ve been led to believe:

• Nobody is getting fired.

• No scholarships will be lost.

• There will be no postseason ban.

Let me also emphasize this: Tech folks are expecting a significant hit. And now you’re asking: If the significant hit doesn’t take the form of firings/scholarships/bans, what could it be?

The only things that spring to mind — and let me stress this is me speculating — are …

Continue reading UPDATE: Tech vacates 2009 ACC title, gets 4 years’ probation »

NCAA to Auburn’s Chizik: ‘It ain’t over until we say it’s over’

"Hey, wait a second! I have a bunch more questions to ask!" (AP photo)

"Hey, wait just a minute! I have a bunch more questions to ask the speaker!" (AP photo)

Perhaps you’re wondering about the state of the NCAA’s investigation into Cam Newton’s short time at Auburn. Apparently the Auburn coach is, or at least was. According to Pete Thamel of the New York Times, Gene Chizik has been given cause to wonder no longer.

Writes Thamel:

Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA’s vice president for enforcement, made a presentation to the group [of SEC coaches at their convocation at Destin, Fla.], which included every men’s basketball coach, football coach and athletic director in the conference. When she opened up the room for discussion, Auburn’s football coach, Gene Chizik, raised his hand first.

He peppered Roe Lach with a flurry of questions about the NCAA’s investigation into Cam Newton and why the NCAA had not publicly announced that the investigation was over. Chizik complained that the inquiry’s open-ended nature had hurt Auburn’s recruiting …

Continue reading NCAA to Auburn’s Chizik: ‘It ain’t over until we say it’s over’ »

Former N.C. State QB Wilson picks Wisconsin over Auburn

Russell Wilson: He'll be wearing red for the Badgers, too. (AP photo)

Russell Wilson: He'll be wearing red as a Badger, too. (AP photo)

Well, here’s one one-year quarterback Auburn didn’t get. Russell Wilson, formerly of North Carolina State, committed Monday to Wisconsin, which was big news, since the last Immediate Impact Free Agent in college football landed at Auburn, where he stayed a few months and left with a BCS title and a Heisman Trophy.

This isn’t to say Russell Wilson will make the same splash as Cam Newton. (I say again: Cam Newton was the second-best collegiate player I’ve ever seen, trailing only Herschel Walker.) But Russell Wilson has already done far more as a collegian than Newton had upon his Auburn arrival, and he could have been the difference between the post-Cam Tigers falling from 14-0 to, say, 7-5.

But Wilson, who visited Auburn, opted to go elsewhere,  and there’s now a chance the Badgers will enter the season as Big Ten favorites. Michigan has a new coach, and so does Ohio State, and Nebraska is still in relocation …

Continue reading Former N.C. State QB Wilson picks Wisconsin over Auburn »

Fredi Gonzalez: The new manager gets a surpassing grade

If Fredi can get Nate McLouth going, we'll name him valedictorian. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

If Fredi can get Nate McLouth going, we'll name him valedictorian. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Bobby Cox said this week he’d give his successor “an A-plus,” but Cox has always been given to bouts of irrational exuberance when it comes to the Braves. Still, we thank the former manager for broaching the topic, and we welcome this opportunity to cast a cold eye on Fredi Gonzalez’s job performance and award him a totally rational …

A-minus.

The new man has been really good. The numbers are one powerful indication — the Braves awoke Friday with the fourth-best record and the best ERA in baseball — but the numbers don’t tell the entire tale. To say everything has broken right for Fredi’s club would be to ignore a run of injuries that sent the starting outfield to the disabled list and the ongoing flailings of Dan Uggla, whose batting average hasn’t topped .200 since May 16.

Uggla didn’t arrive as just another in a series of Frank Wren’s impulse buys: He was a calculated acquisition …

Continue reading Fredi Gonzalez: The new manager gets a surpassing grade »

Now working at Turner Field: The best pitching staff in the biz

Tommy Hanson: He has been great. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Tommy Hanson has been great. But almost every Braves' pitcher has been great this season. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

We’ve been going about this the wrong way. We’ve been too busy gnashing our hands and wringing our teeth — or is it the other way around? — over the Braves’ lack of hitting that we’ve missed a fairly remarkable thing. We’ve missed what has the potential to be …

(Pause for effect.)

The best pitching staff in Atlanta Braves’ history.

These words aren’t rendered lightly. The Braves’ pitching the 1990s and into the new millennium was magnificent: The finest rotation ever ate inning upon inning year upon year, and soon three of those luminaries will be summoned to Cooperstown.The Braves led the National League in ERA 10 times from 1992 through 2004. Fabulous stuff. That said …

The 2011 Braves entered play Wednesday night with a lower ERA than any of the Glavine-Maddux-Smoltz staffs posted. Indeed, this ERA — 3.05 — would match the 1974 Braves for the lowest in …

Continue reading Now working at Turner Field: The best pitching staff in the biz »