Posts Tagged ‘Atlanta Braves’

Heat Check: UGA isn’t exactly the hot choice in Jacksonville

Mark Richt poses with the only Gator coach against whom he has a winning record. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Mark Richt with the only Gator against whom he has a winning record. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

The weekly Heat Check commences with a team that frankly didn’t look so hot Saturday night. But you’ve got to start somewhere.

GEORGIA: Picked in preseason to repeat as SEC East champs, the Bulldogs are a 6 1/2 point underdog to Florida on what is technically a neutral field. This tells us that the Gators have had the more impressive season to date, but you knew that already. Forecast: This doesn’t mean Georgia can’t win. On the contrary, how many times have the Bulldogs gone to Jacksonville with the better-looking team and lost?

FALCONS: Didn’t lose for the seventh consecutive Sunday. (Ha! Little joke!) But now the schedule gets intriguing, if not necessarily untenable. The next four opponents: Philadelphia (3-3), Dallas (3-3), New Orleans (2-4) and Arizona (4-3). Forecast: Win three of those four and the Falcons are looking at the NFC’s No. 1 seed come the playoffs. Win ‘em all and …

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Empty seats? Team choking? This time it’s NOT Atlanta

National Anthem, Yankee Stadium, ALCS Game 1. Note the unpacked pews. (AP photo)

National Anthem, Yankee Stadium, 2012 ALCS Game 1. Note the unpacked pews. (AP photo)

Well, this sounds familiar. Empty seats at postseason games. Team not hitting in the clutch.

Talking about the Atlanta Braves, right?

Wait. One more clue.

Superstar flirting with women from the dugout during an extra-inning game.

OK, not the Atlanta Braves. (At least so far as we know.)

Answer is: The New York Yankees.

Pardon me for being provincial, but how long have we Atlantans been told, often by New York-based media types, that we’re a lousy sports city because we don’t — or at least didn’t; the Braves’ wild-card game was sold out — pack the house for playoff games and that our team pretty much stinks anyway because it won Only One World Series and that hard-bitten New Yorkers would Never Stand For That Sort Of Thing and that All Any Yankee Cares About Is Winning? Pretty much every day for the past 15 years, right? Well, here’s where we get to say …

Heh, heh, heh.

The Bronx Bombers’ …

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Should the Braves keep Brian McCann? For one year, yes

Brian McCann packs his gear, but probably not for good. Not yet, anyway. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Brian McCann packs his gear. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Brian McCann underwent shoulder surgery Tuesday and is expected to miss four to six months. This came at an awkward moment for both player and club. The Braves have until three days after the World Series ends to exercise their option to keep McCann for the 2013 season at $12 million. Should they decline, McCann would become a free agent.

To allow McCann to walk away — it’s doubtful he would be responsive to any Braves’ overture to re-sign at a lower price — is within the Braves’ contractual rights. Letting him leave, however, would not be in their best immediate interests.

Even as we stipulate that the McCann of the past 15 months has been a shadow of the man who made the All-Star team six years running, we must also acknowledge that, assuming a return to health, he’s an above-average catcher. The worthy backup David Ross notwithstanding, the Braves will need a No. 1 catcher in 2013.

Asked Wednesday if McCann’s surgery …

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Heat Check: Falcons are unbeaten; Georgia State’s on a roll!

Sean Weatherspoon leads cheers: "Our team is red hot!" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon leads the cheers: "Our team is red hot!" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Truth in advertising: This week’s Heat Check isn’t the most scintillating, given that the bulk of our local teams didn’t actually play. But we press on nonetheless.

FALCONS: They’re the only NFL unbeaten remaining, and here I offer the boldest prediction of my so-called career — they won’t lose next Sunday, either. Forecast: They’ve got a bye, and they could use one to refocus and recalibrate. When you’re 6-0, there’s obviously nothing grievously amiss. But the past three games weren’t nearly as emphatic as the first three.

GEORGIA STATE: The Panthers won a game! And won it big! Thank goodness for Rhode Island! Thank goodness Bill Curry won’t ride off into the sunset on an 0-11 nag of a season! Forecast: OK, back to reality. They play 5-2 Villanova in the Georgia Dome on Saturday.

GEORGIA: The Bulldogs got what they wanted even as they weren’t playing. South Carolina lost to …

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Baseball’s postseason: It’s fun, but what does it all mean?

Here they go again, the wild-card Redbirds refusing to lose. (AP photo)

Here they go again: Wild-card Cardinals refuse to lose. (AP/Post-Dispatch photo by Chris Lee)

Time was, the World Series represented and rewarded excellence. At worst, the champion of baseball was the team that finished first in its league over a six-month season. Even when there was a perceived upset, it wasn’t Douglas over Tyson. The 97-win Giants unhorsed the 111-win Indians in 1954, but the Giants had Willie Mays.The Pirates won in 1960 despite being outscored 55-27 by the Yankees, but Pittsburgh had won 95 games to New York’s 97. Heck, the Miracle Mets were 100-game winners.

But the playoffs expanded in 1969, the year those Mets won it all, and baseball’s postseason changed. From 1944 through 1968, the team that had baseball’s best record won the World Series 13 times in 25 years (52 percent). After the two league championship series were added in ‘69, the World Series was won by the team with baseball’s best record seven times in 25 years (28 percent). And then, once the …

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A chilly Heat Check: Bad losses, bad behavior, bad times

Visual verification that happy days aren't here again. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

We offer visual verification that happy days aren't here again. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

We begin our weekly Heat Check by noting that the Falcons are 5-0 for the first time in franchise annals and that the Hawks opened their exhibition season by beating the reigning NBA champs, and then we turn to more dire matters. Which is to say, everything else in local sports.

GEORGIA: Played its biggest game of the season and lost by 28 points, and that only after what even the head coach conceded was a “consolation” touchdown. Linebacker Christian Robinson took to Twitter to report that the house he shares with quarterback Aaron Murray had been “egged and rolled.” Chill Factor: There have been more depressing weekends in the long history of Georgia football, but not many.

BRAVES: Played its biggest game of the postseason and made three errors that generated four unearned runs, thereby ensuring that this would be their only game of the postseason. Also messed up a strange safety …

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Lousy call, lousy game, lousy system: A lousy Braves’ exit

This was a warm and fuzzy moment. The rest of the night stunk. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This was a warm and fuzzy moment. The rest of the night stunk. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Why to hate baseball’s newly minted play-in game: Because you can be, as the Braves were over the course of six months, the demonstrably better team and still give a performance that fuses the three-error Brooks Conrad game of October 2010 and the Epic Collapse of September 2011. Because you can go home having sipped from the postseason cup for all of 189 minutes. Because you can put yourself in position to be rooked by those darn replacement umps.

Wait. These aren’t replacements? These are the real umpires? Is this a real sport?

Had Andrelton Simmons’ pop that dropped been allowed to stand, the Braves would have had the bases loaded and one out. When you’re trailing by three runs in the eighth inning, that’s rather different than having men on second and third with two out, which is what they wound up having. But not before the game was halted for 19 minutes as the field was cleared …

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More ESPN: Somebody believes the Braves will win it all!

At least one ESPN expert thinks this cat will go out on top. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

At least one among ESPN's experts thinks Chipper will go out on top. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Speaking of the Worldwide Leader and its many voices: ESPN has polled its baseball writers, and one of them believes these Braves are bound for glory. Good news: Enrique Rojas of ESPN deportes picks the local nine to beat the Yankees in six games in the Fall Classic.

Bad news: Twenty-eight other ESPNers feel otherwise.

The breakdown: Twenty-five of the 29 see the Braves prevailing in the play-in game against St. Louis today; 11 of those 25 have the Braves beating the Washington Nationals in the Division Series; four of those 11 have the Braves handling either the Reds or the Giants in the NLCS, and good ol’ Enrique Rojas has Atlanta going the distance.

For the record, here’s the breakdown on the predicted-by-ESPN champ: Tigers seven votes, Yankees and Giants and Nationals five each, Reds four, Texas and Oakland and Atlanta one apiece. That means nobody is picking St. Louis or …

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Braves-Cardinals: Who holds the play-in edge? Flip a coin

Michael Bourn after a circuit clout against the Cards back in May. (AP photo)

Michael Bourn after a circuit clout against the Cards in May. Circuit clouts never hurt. (AP photo)

If the playoffs are a crap shoot, the newly minted play-in game is a coin flip. There’s really no handicapping the Braves-Cardinals game. There’s only “heads” or “tails.”

And yet: We wouldn’t be doing our duty if we didn’t make the attempt at determining what might (and might not) be important. So here, as the saying has it, goes nothing, even as we know full well such factoid-finding might indeed amount to nothing.

Hitting: This isn’t close. The Cardinals lead the Braves in runs, batting average, home runs and on-base percentage. The Cardinals have also struck out 99 fewer times than the Braves, which might sound like a big deal but probably isn’t. (It means St. Louis batters have whiffed, on average, .61 fewer times per game.)

The Braves have drawn 43 more walks than the Cards, but since Kyle Lohse, who has walked only 38 batters over 211 innings, is scheduled to start Friday, …

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Heat Check: Braves lose the NL East; Falcons haven’t lost

If you're not going to win something, the division title is the thing not to win. (AP photo)

Well, if you're not going to win something, the division title is the thing not to win. (AP photo)

The regular Monday Heat Check was delayed because of logistics. It arrives today, and we can only hope that absence really did make the heart grow fonder.

BRAVES: They can’t catch Washington. They were eliminated from the divisional chase last night. That’s a disappointment, but — speaking of logistics — it might not be the worst thing in the world. The thought of having to play a division tiebreaker in D.C. on Thursday and then, if they were to lose, play the wild card elimination game here on Friday and then, if they were to win, start the best-of-five NLDS here on Sunday was rather daunting, not to to mention confusing. Forecast: The play-in game is a coin flip, but if the Braves prevail — and Kris Medlen hasn’t lost since May 23, 2010 — they’ll be a tough out. And I say that knowing full well they managed only two hits against Pittsburgh on Monday.

FALCONS: You can’t really …

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