Posts Tagged ‘Braves’

Smoltz won’t start against the Braves, and I am … not sad

I’ve been steeling myself since January. John Smoltz would make his triumphant return to the big leagues at Turner Field against the Braves in June and I’d be there to cover it and he, being John Smoltz, would throw a no-hitter and force me to write something nice about him and in the process grind my teeth to nubs. I’d even embarked on a course of meditation and aromatherapy to help me prepare for the moment.

And now comes word from Boston: No Smoltzie in the A-T-L.

And I say, “Whew.”

I’d borne my burden in silence for a dozen years, but two weeks ago I was moved to confess: I don’t much like Smoltz, and he really doesn’t like me. When duty called, I put aside my feelings and afforded him his due — I was there in 2007 the night he beat Greg Maddux and the Padres and there again 15 days later when he beat Tom Glavine and the Mets for his 200th victory — but those came when he was pitching for the Atlanta Braves. And I do cover sports for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

But …

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The Cubs fire their hitting coach. Should the Braves?

The Chicago Cubs led the National League in runs and on-base percentage in 2008 and were second in batting average. The same Chicago Cubs fired hitting coach Gerald Perry on Sunday because they’re not hitting as well.

And now you’re asking: Why don’t the Braves, who have scored only 10 more runs than the Cubs, do the same?

Answer: Because you never want to take your cue from the Cubs, who have been getting it wrong for more than a century.

Answer: Because the Cubs are, once again, wrong.

Gerald Perry — former Brave, good guy — is a skilled hitting coach. The Cubs, who know something about goats, needed a scapegoat. Are they hitting much this season? Nope. But they’re the same guys (minus Aramis Ramirez, who’s been hurt) as last season.

As Alfonso Soriano told reporters: “Last year, nobody said nothing. We had the best team offensively. He was the best hitting coach. This year, we have a little problem and now he’s the worst.”

In the same Associated Press story, Ryan Theriot …

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The highlight of my so-called career: I jinx Chipper Jones!

Last year I put the Bradley Whammy on the Braves and the Bulldogs. I’ve since done it to the Falcons in the desert and the Magic in the finals. I am, I think we’ll all agree, uncanny when it comes to affixing a hex. But I have, you should know, just attained a career acme.

I have chumped Chipper.

He was hitting .335 and leading the National League in on-base percentage when I endeavored to write a little something nice about him last week. He hasn’t had a hit since. He’s 0-for-21. The worst he has ever been at any point in his major-league existence is 0-for-23.

I knew I was really good. (Or, depending on your slant, really bad.) I had no idea I was capable of something like this.

So now I’ve decided to use my powers for good, not evil. I am hereby proclaiming — proclaiming, you hear? — that the economy will never, ever get better! Never! Ever! We’re all bound for penury!

I think that ought to do it. You and your 401(k) will thank me within the month. As for poor Chipper …

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All-Trade Friday: Should the Braves deal Jeff Francoeur?

I thought it would work. I thought Jeff Francoeur would remember how to hit and the masses would forget he’d forgotten and all would be bliss for the hometown kid and the team of his dreams. But it’s not working, and I’ve come to believe it won’t.

Too much has happened. He got too big too fast. It wasn’t his fault. He was great from the moment of his big-league arrival in July 2005 and we — meaning the fans and the media and the Braves themselves — loved him and reveled in every detail of his charmed young life. But then, after two mostly solid full seasons, he stopped hitting. And everything changed.

Francoeur was upset when the Braves sent him to Class AA on the Fourth of July. “I don’t think there’s any way I can [feel as warmly toward the organization] 100 percent,” he said in February. “I want to play here forever; I’ve said that all along. But the business part of it is different.”

The Braves weren’t thrilled when Francoeur went to Texas to work with Rangers …

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Behind The Curtain: In the Batcave with Bobby Cox

Sometimes — pretty much all the time, actually — we in the media take things for granted. We get to go to games for free and sit in the press box and guzzle free soft drinks and rub elbows with famous and exotic athletes. And sometimes we forget that you on the outside aren’t privy to what we are.

In the interest of audience enlightenment, I’m starting an occasional feature here on the ol’ blog. I call it, catchily enough, Behind The Curtain. I don’t know that this will become a weekly production on the order of Bradley’s Buzz, but we’ll start it off and see where it goes. And today’s first installment comes to you from deep inside Turner Field.

Bobby Cox has an actual office just off the clubhouse, but you won’t find him there before games. He’s either sitting in the dugout schmoozing — and you see a shot of Cox in the dugout 12 times an inning on TV, so that wouldn’t be a revelation — or he’s in his semi-secret lair, which is down the dugout steps to the right.

Cox usually …

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In a time of upheaval, a constant remains — Chipper Jones

For the first time since the spring of 1987, there’s not a Glavine or a Smoltz on the Braves’ roster. And no matter what you think of the manner in which their departures were transacted, you must admit it feels weird to see no No. 47, no No. 29.

But there is one number to keep us anchored, to serve as a touchstone to the Decade of Excellence and to point the way into the Twenty-Teens. It’s No. 10, and the guy who wears it is still in place, still as splendid as he ever was, and that’s plenty splendid.

Chipper Jones finished second to Hideo Nomo in rookie-of-the-year voting when the Braves won their World Series, and he was the National League’s MVP when last they won a pennant. Last season, at a time when there was no other reason to watch a decrepit team en route to 90 losses, he won a batting title.

And here No. 10 stands at age 37, having been contused more in an average month than a stunt man in a career’s worth of Michael Bay movies, and he’s hitting .327 and slugging …

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The Braves’ No. 1 pick: A Minor addition or a major reach?

Nobody would ever suggest the Braves don’t know what they’re doing — on second thought, that’s pretty much all anybody ever suggests on the ol’ blog — but taking Mike Minor with the seventh pick in Round 1 seemed, shall we say, unusual.

He’s a college pitcher. The Braves tend to prefer high school pitchers. (Fewer innings in the arm.) And it’s not as if Minor was considered the class of this college class. Indeed, Baseball America had him ranked a “second-round talent” and the 10th-best lefthander available in its pre-draft issue.

Baseball America’s capsule: “Minor could be the third lefthander drafted out of Vanderbilt in the past six years, and he’s more Jeremy Sowers [who's 13-22 with the Cleveland Indians] than David Price [the Tampa Bay phenom]. Like Sowers, Minor has more pitchability than stuff, with a fastball in the 86-89 mph range and a plus changeup that grades as his best pitch. His other strongest attribute could be his pickoff move … Minor’s success could depend …

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Draft 2009: Will the Braves take best available Georgian?

The Braves prefer homegrown. This we know. Consensus holds that they’d love to take Zack Wheeler, a right-handed pitcher from East Paulding High, in Tuesday’s baseball draft. But what if he’s gone when they pick? And what if Wheeler isn’t even the best Georgian on the board?

Jim Callis covers the draft for Baseball America, which covers the draft like no other publication. He calls center fielder Donavan Tate of Cartersville High – he’s the son of Lars Tate, who was the first Next Herschel Walker at Georgia a quarter-century ago – “far and away the best athlete in the draft.”

Baseball America has Tate going third overall to San Diego. (The Braves hold the No. 7 pick in Round 1.) But what baseball folks call a “signability” issue exists with Tate – he’s represented by the demon agent Scott Boras, and he has signed a football letter-of-intent with North Carolina – and Callis sees Tate’s circumstances as, shall we say, fluid.

“More teams question …

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Poetry corner: From Frost (Robert) to frosted (Smoltz)

(With apologies to Robert Frost, who once said: “Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things.“)

Dumping on Frank at a Moment’s Notice

Whose fault this is I think I know.
The one whose hair gleams white as snow;
He will not hear me creeping up
To give my whistle this shrill blow.

My little pal must think it queer
Having been tossed out on his ear
Without a pitch so much to make
The coldest day of Tom’s career.

He gives his ruffled pride a shake
And asks if there is some mistake.
But no, alas, it is too true;
He was wronged by some suited flake.

My wrath is mighty, dark, and deep;
The name’s Smoltz, and I do not weep.
But on Frank Wren this blame I heap.
But on Frank Wren this blame I heap.

The real thing: Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” which everyone should know by heart, can be found here.)

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McLouth: Did Braves seize a moment or squander the future?

The big trade inspires big discussion

Here’s the kind of sentence no fan likes to read: “Starting with the July 2007 trade for Mark Teixeira, and including the December trade for Javier Vazquez as well as Wednesday’s trade for center fielder Nate McLouth, Atlanta has made three prospect-for-veteran trades that would pretty much gut your average farm system.” That’s the appraisal (link requires registration) of Matt Meyers in ESPN The Magazine. But wait.

Meyers also writes: “Because the Braves are so good at developing their own talent, this trade doesn’t cripple them like it might other teams. However, they have given up a boatload of talent … and yet they haven’t been to the playoffs since 2005. Teixeira is gone, Vazquez is still inconsistent, and McLouth isn’t a superstar. It’s hard to shake the feeling that these three recent prospect-for-veteran deals won’t come back to haunt them in the next few seasons.” (Buzz editor’s note: Meyers writes “won’t,” but in context of the …

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