Posts Tagged ‘MLB’

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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Ibanez flap: New Media isn’t at fault; dumb old baseball is

A blogger suggests a player’s late-career surge is suspicious because of you-know-what. The player — Raul Ibanez of Philadelphia — calls the blogger “some 42-year-old typing in his mother’s basement.” Old Media (meaning John Gonzalez of the Philadelphia Inquirer) takes Ibanez’s side. New Media takes a hit. And I say …

The blogger in question — Jerod Morris of Midwest Sports Fans, who says he’s 27, FYI — was clumsy in method but correct in thesis. This is baseball. Baseball has a steroids issue. Did Morris have a shred of evidence, other than generic numbers about hitting stats in certain ballparks and some data regarding Ibanez’s history of first-half hitting, to implicate this player? Nope. (So far as I can discern, Morris has never met Ibanez.) But is Morris accurate when he says baseball players are now guilty until proven innocent? Yes indeed.

How many happy baseball stories have soured? McGwire and Sosa were saviors. Now they’re pariahs. Barry Bonds was the greatest …

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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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When dealing with legends, there’s rarely an exit strategy

“It’s not how you go about it,” John Smoltz told reporters this week, but how do you go about it? If you’re suggesting, as Smoltz and others have, the Braves mishandled the release of Tom Glavine … well, how do you handle it? How does a team say goodbye to someone who isn’t ready to leave?

Joe DiMaggio retired at age 37, saying he could no longer “be Joe DiMaggio every day.” Today’s athletes are different. Smoltz got mad and left for Boston because the Braves had the gall to offer too little money to a 41-year-old pitcher — he has since turned 42 — coming off shoulder surgery. And now they’ve angered Glavine, who’s 43 and coming off shoulder and elbow surgery.

Two days after he was lopped, Glavine launched a counteroffensive. He accused the Braves of lying to him and being cheap. He said he merited special treatment for his years of meritorious service. Brett Favre felt the same. Brett Favre went from being the Green Bay Packers to despising the Green Bay Backers because they …

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It hurts to say it, but it was time for Tom Glavine to go

When Tom Glavine was allowed to leave for the Mets in December 2002, I was outraged. (At the Braves, not at him.) The same Braves released the same Glavine on Wednesday, and here’s what I say now:

Good move.

Tom Glavine is my favorite Brave ever, but it was time — past time — for him to go. I didn’t cheer when they brought him back two winters ago, and I was against giving him another chance in 2009. A 43-year-old coming off shoulder and elbow surgery? With Tommy Hanson waiting in the minors? Was this a big-league baseball season or a sentimental journey?

“This was not a business decision,” Frank Wren told the media Wednesday. “This was a performance decision.” And there should be no arguing with that.

Tom Glavine gave the Braves a lot. He gave them the greatest night of professional sports this city has known. (Game 6, 1995 World Series, eight innings, one hit.) But he has, sad to say, nothing left to give. Wren again: “Our evaluation [of Glavine's rehab starts in the minors] …

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The Braves do the right thing for Schafer (and themselves)

The Braves had no choice. Jordan Schafer was at sea. It made no difference if the team around him was steaming or sinking. A prized young property was in danger of washing out at age 22.

There’s a reason baseball teams try not to rush kids. They don’t want them to fail. Schafer was hitting .204 with 63 strikeouts against two home runs. That’s not someone who’s in a slump. That’s the sign of a young man who has lost his vocational way.

After two months it was clear the Braves could do nothing to help Schafer at the big-league level. Chipper Jones had been designated as his mentor, and even the counsel of one of the game’s finest hitters was having no effect. I asked Frank Wren last week how much longer the Braves could go with Schafer — Wren politely declined to answer — and when finally they demoted him they acted not a day too soon.

Baseball isn’t as much about speed and strength as technique and self-assurance. Schafer’s technique had deserted him, and how confident can …

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Wren on his Braves: “It’s obvious we need more offense”

Frank Wren knew he couldn’t fix all that ailed his 90-loss team in one offseason, so he prioritized. He started with the rotation and added three new arms. He stabilized the most egregious source of instability. He made the Braves competitive again.

But say this for Wren: He’s no Pollyanna. He sees the potential in his reconfigured team, and he also sees a ceiling. Just past the quarter pole, the Braves are very much in the NL East mix. To stay there, the general manager believes something has to change.

“I do think we’re going to have to perform better offensively,” Wren said Wednesday. “Our pitching is giving us a chance to win, but to be legitimate contenders we have to improve offensively.”

The hope when the Braves came north from Disney World was that many competent bats would override the lack of a true big bat. “We don’t have a big bopper who’s going to hit 40 home runs,” Wren said in April. “We might have seven guys who’ll hit 20.”

He meant 20 apiece. But if you take …

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