Posts Tagged ‘Atlanta Braves’

UGA, Tech and the Falcons as division champs? I called it

In 2012, there was much cause for local football celebration. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

In 2012, there was much cause for football celebration in these environs. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

For a while there, I had to ask myself, “Old son, did you really change your first name to ‘Homer’?” Because that’s what I was getting called by many of y’all. Prompting this charge was my stated belief that Georgia, Georgia Tech and the Falcons would all win divisions. But with 2013 near at hand, this Homer must confess that he considers his prognosticating work of 2012 a triumphant odyssey.

Because Georgia won its division. And so did Georgia Tech. And so did the Falcons. And who called it way back when?

The jinx of all jinxing. The archduke of addled thinking. Dumb ol’ MB.

Usually the annual Accountability Scoreboard serves a three-course dinner of Crow Soup, Crow Mignon and Humble Pie. Not this time. And yes, I’m as surprised as you are.

I predicted every Georgia regular-season game correctly. I did miss on the bigger part of my UGA prediction: The Bulldogs will not …

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Heat Check: Division-winning Falcons are in cold storage

Carolina coach Ron Rivera is peeved, while Mike Smith is perplexed. (AP photo)

Carolina coach Ron Rivera is apparently peeved, while Mike Smith is perplexed. (AP photo)

Our weekly Heat Check arrives, perhaps inappropriately, on a chilly morning.

FALCONS: The good news — well, to some ears — is that they’re getting a new stadium. The bad news is that they stunk out Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, losing by 10 points to the last-place Carolina Panthers. Atmospheric reading: The Falcons are in a really weird place, and by this we don’t mean Flowery Branch or the doomed Georgia Dome. They clinched the NFC South with a month to spare, which essentially thrusts them into another preseason. They know they’re going to the playoffs and they know they’ll need to play well once there, but the reality is that these final regular-season games mean next to nothing.

HAWKS: Had a chance to nose ahead of the Miami Heat in the NBA Southeast. Didn’t do it, losing by nine after a pretty stout first half. This came two days after an eye-opening road victory at Memphis. …

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Heat Check: Destiny’s Dogs? No-bowl Jackets? Whoa, Nelly

Surrounded by the enemy: Tech's band in Athens. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Surrounded by the enemy: The Georgia Tech band in Sanford Stadium. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Our Heat Check arrives just in time to warm what promises to be a chilly week. Face facts, folks: There’s not much happening in local sports.

Kidding.

GEORGIA: Will play for the BCS title — some guy I know predicted they would — with a victory over Alabama on Saturday. Barometric reading: Three weeks ago, people were saying the Bulldogs would have no chance against the mighty Tide. A lot of those same people seem to have changed their minds, and I’m not just talking about Georgia fans. I’m talking about neutrals who see the Dogs as no less talented as Bama. Just as Bacarri Rambo said.

GEORGIA TECH: Paul Johnson now believes his Jackets didn’t give much of an effort in Athens. (Who knew, huh?) But if Tech can rouse itself to topple Florida State — maybe the nation’s most overrated team — in Charlotte on Saturday, the Jackets will be headed for what Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports calls

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Heat Check: Hot ‘Dogs face a warm swarm of Yellow Jackets

This was the one time the Richt-coached Bulldogs didn't beat Tech. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

This was the one time the Mark Richt-coached Bulldogs didn't beat Tech. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Given that this is Thanksgiving week, our Heat Check begins about where you’d expect.

GEORGIA: Will play for the SEC title. Could play for the BCS title. First, however, the Bulldogs must win the state title. This hasn’t been much of an issue for Mark Richt — he’s 10-1 against the North Avenue crew — but the one blip (in 2008, in case you’ve forgotten) was monumental. Barometric reading: Remember when we wondered if things would ever again get really good for this coach at this school? Richt’s team has a chance to finish all drills.

GEORGIA TECH: Will play for the ACC title, thanks to Miami’s decision to remove itself from postseason play. For a team that wasn’t sure it could wangle even a trip to Shreveport, that’s a nice bit of rallying. Barometric reading: Chances are, Tech will be an underdog — the opening line for this weekend favors Georgia by 14 points — in every …

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Heat Check: Was cutting Ray Edwards a message sent?

"So, Brian, how's this Auburn gig working out?" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"So, former colleague Brian VanGorder, how's this Auburn gig working out?" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Our weekly Heat Check appears a day late but, one hopes, not quite a dollar short.

FALCONS: Lost for the first time this season against the rival that has become an abject nemesis and, in losing, saw their biggest weaknesses – can’t run the ball, can’t stop the run — exposed. And what were the two things Mike Smith, after taking this job in January 2008, said a good team had to do? Run the ball and stop the run. Barometric reading: Barely 24 hours later, the Falcons cut defensive end Ray Edwards, who had little to do with Sunday’s loss but who did little after signing as a big-ticket free agent. Students of Falcons history will note that, after the first loss of the 1998 season, Dan Reeves cut cornerback Juran Bolden for messing up a coverage in San Francisco. Those Falcons would go 14-2 and make the Super Bowl.

(Please see my video chat with Brian Clark of CineSport, …

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Heat Check: Falcons and Bulldogs and Hawks, oh my!!!

Michael Turner is pumped after scoring on Big D. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Michael Turner, who can still play a bit, is pumped after scoring against Big D. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Our weekly Heat Check begins with the hottest team around. No, not Georgia State.

FALCONS: Made it to 8-0, disappointing Al Michaels and especially Cris Collinsworth in the process. Stacked 453 yards on Rob Ryan’s star-spangled Dallas defense. Next up is New Orleans in the Superdome, site of last December’s Drew Brees rub-it-in record-breaking. Barometer reading: Some in the national keep saying none of this matters if the Falcons don’t win a playoff game. When last I checked, there are no playoff games scheduled until January. Bradley’s Rule: Can’t win in January unless you qualify for the postseason, and being 8-0 makes qualification one less thing to sweat.

GEORGIA: That wobble at South Carolina aside, the Bulldogs are almost exactly where we figured they’d be. Picked to win the SEC East, they’re in position to do just that. Ranked No. 6 nationally in preseason, …

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Remembering Pascual Perez, the Brave who made us smile

Pascual Perez delivers in Philly in 1984. He could throw that fastball. (AP photo)

Pascual Perez delivers in Philadelphia in 1984. He could really throw that fastball. (AP photo)

He wasn’t the best Brave (although for 2 1/2 seasons he was pretty darn good), and he wasn’t, goodness knows, the most reliable, but Pascual Perez was the one most apt to make us smile. His enduring gift was that he, without appearing to try, made people happy. He made us happy when he ran from the dugout to the mound, happy when he pitched and won, happy that day in 1982 when he got on I-285 and just kept going.

That was the year a lot of folks fell in love with the local nine, and not just those who lived within spitting distance of Pascual’s Perimeter. It was a time when much of the U.S. first got cable, and the SuperStation staple began the season by winning 13 in a row. Then the Braves started losing, and folks from Montgomery to Missoula started agonizing for this suddenly beset crew, and lo and behold …

Pascual Perez, recently acquired from Pittsburgh and just up from …

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The Braves’ OF took one Gold Glove. Shoulda been three

This was one of the few balls these outfielders couldn't snare. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

This was one of the few balls these outfielders couldn't snare. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

There can be, I’ve come to learn, beauty in numbers, and the beauty in advanced baseball numbers is that they can reveal something we saw but didn’t quite see. (If that makes any sense.) For instance: If you asked, “Which Brave was more likely to swing at balls out of the strike zone — Martin Prado or Freddie Freeman?”, I’d have recalled all the times I saw the latter swing really hard at the first pitch and said, in a heartbeat, “Freeman.”

And, at least on this point, I’d have been right. According to Carson Cistulli of the ever-useful FanGraphs, 31.6 percent of Freeman’s swings came at pitches off the plate. (In sabermetric argot, those are known as “O-Swings.”) Prado swung at 26.8 percent of pitches off the strike zone. But if we ask, “Who was the more selective hitter?” … well, here’s where we’d have been fooled.

Cistulli reveals that Freeman swung at 75.4 percent of the strikes he …

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Heat Check: Dogs and Falcons are smokin’; Tech’s a-mopin’

Who's sitting pretty now? Alexander Ogletree, for one. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

Who's sitting pretty now? Alexander Ogletree, for one. His team, for another. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

Our weekly Heat Check was set back a day due to logistics (delayed-but-thankfully-not-canceled flight from Philadelphia on Sunday night), fatigue (mine) and breaking news (Dan Radakovich). But we’re up and running again. And we begin with:

GEORGIA: The Bulldogs won the game they had to win. (Some nut predicted as much, I do believe.) They’re exactly where I expected them to be, albeit not quite in the manner I expected. The question now becomes: Can they beat Alabama/LSU? Forecast: The same nut who liked Georgia to beat Florida sees no reason why the Bulldogs can’t give the West champ a run in the Dome come Dec. 1.

FALCONS: I put a 50 percent premium on road victories. (Even a lousy team, I figure, can luck out at home.) Sunday’s performance under ominous skies in a city that has never been kind to the Falcons was the most impressive regular-season road victory I’ve …

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The Cardinals refused to lose. So how come they just lost?

Matt Holliday walks away as the triumphant Giants march onward. (AP photo)

The Cardinals' Matt Holliday walks away as the triumphant Giants march onward. (AP photo)

It was only yesterday that many among us saw the St. Louis Cardinals as The Perfect Postseason Team. The Redbirds never got rattled, went the party line. (And there was, we concede, reason for such reasoning.) They knew how to manufacture runs. They’d be down to their last strike and still Find A Way To Win.

This just in: The Perfect Postseason Team lost.

Ahead 3-1 in the NLCS, the Cardinals were outscored 20-1 over the final 27 innings. Of the 35 runs the Giants scored in the series, 10 were unearned. The team that overcame staggering odds to beat Texas in the 2011 World Series and the Nationals in the NLDS had three chances to close out the unassuming Giants and didn’t come close in any of them. Yes, there was one massive fluke — the Game 7 double struck by Hunter Pence that actually was struck by Pence’s breaking bat three times! — but that only proves the greater point. Which is:

Even …

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