Archive for the 'Braves' Category



Braves Midseason Update: All Stars, Clutch Play, and Mea Culpa

As of today, the Braves sit 3 games ahead of the Mets and 5.5 games ahead of the Phillies.  This weekend, the Braves trot out Hanson, Hudson and Lowe, so the prospect of coming out of the Big Apple with another series win is very good!  This could also give the Braves the opportunity to have the largest division lead in baseball. 

The Braves are well represented in the 2010 Midsummer Classic.  5 All Star selections is the most for the Braves since 2003, when 7 good guys were chosen.  Jason Heyward (who will more than likely not play), Brain McCann, Tim Hudson, Martin Prado and Omar Infante have all had tremendous seasons and will represent Atlanta well.

All the selections have good stories.  For McCann, the home town boy who will undoubtedly take over as the Clubhouse leader when Chipper retires, it is his 5th selection in 5 major league seasons.  Hudson makes his 3rd career appearance, but first since 2004 with Oakland.  He has been a great story for Atlanta.  A local guy also, Tim and his wife Kim have undertaken many charities in Atlanta and have done a great job of giving back to the community.  He is having a tremendous come back season from his Tommy John surgery, ranking 6th in the NL in ERA, posting a 2.44 ERA. 

We all know about the man child Jason Heyward and his stellar rookie year.  When he gets healthy, he will provide a jolt to the Braves offense that has slowed down the last couple weeks of June.  He leads all Rookies in HR and RBI.

Martin Prado has had an outstanding year.  He leads the NL in batting average. He has also shown his power stroke, hitting 10 HRs.  This has been a pleasant boost.  I heard Don Sutton interview him Wednesday during 680 The Fan Braves’ Clubhouse report, and to hear a humble young guy who is close to his momma makes you want to root for him even more.  He is the epitome of a team player, waiting his turn last year behind Kelly Johnson.  Once he got his opportunity when Kelly went down with injury, he has definitely made the most of his chance to shine.  

Omar Infante was chosen with some controversy, but if Charlie Manuel was tasked with picking a “Utility” player, Infante is as good as any.  He can play practically anywhere on the field, and bats .300.  Players like Infante are an invaluable resource.

The most remarkable thing about this ballclub is their DESIRE to win.  This team, around this same time two years ago, was staggeringly bad in one run games and had its worst season since 1990 and when they started the unprecedented run of Division Championships.  The Braves were 5-21 in one run games!  

This year, there is a desire to win.  The Braves are second in the NL with 156 runs after the 7th inning, and are tied with the Reds for 15 last at bat wins.  This ballclub is finding ways to win the close games, something that has plagued the franchise since its last postseason appearance in 2005. 

I thought the Braves would get into the postseason and make some noise, but do so via a Wild Card Berth.  They seemed poised to not only win the NL East, but could also have the best record in all baseball.

Mea Culpa, Frank Wren*

I have had some not nice things to say about Braves General Manager Frank Wren early this season and during spring training.  Last December, dishing away one of the best pitchers in baseball and signing a slugger who may or may not have been on the juice and was coming off a second injury ridden season in three years did not sit well with me.

Well, I was incorrect about my above criticisms.  Wren has made shrewd moves to assemble a talented team.  Though there are still some moves that could be made, notably getting another bat, the team assembled now seems good enough to win all the marbles. 

Though I am still not real sure about Frank Wren, and I stand by my earlier criticisms, he has proven why he is the General Manager of a professional baseball team and why I write a blog as a hobby.

Corbindawg

*That was for you, Reptillicide

 

Braves Review: Summertime Feels Right

It is said that history repeats itself.  If that’s the case, we have just relived 1991, at least in the baseball world.

In May the Braves went from worst to first, and did so in commanding fashion.   This, in baseball’s toughest division.   To the dozen or so readers who’ve missed a review last week, please don’t think we’ve been ignoring you or the Braves.  Memorial Day being a holiday messed things up for us.  Then the Braves swept the Phillies and took Game 1 against the Dodgers; Ucheedawg suggested I wait until the Braves lose a game as not to jinx the team’s streak.  I thought of this exchange from Bull Durham being appropriate:

Crash Davis: I never told him to stay out of your bed.
Annie Savoy: You most certainly did.
Crash Davis: I never told him to stay out of your bed.
Annie Savoy: Yes you did.
Crash Davis: I told him that a player on a streak has to respect the streak.
Annie Savoy: Oh fine.
Crash Davis: You know why? Because they don’t – -they don’t happen very often.
Annie Savoy: Right.
Crash Davis: If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you ARE! And you should know that!

So, I would like to think my silence on the Braves helped them win 9 games in a row.  You’re welcome.

Pundits say to wait until Memorial Day to size up the team’s situation.   The Braves are sitting pretty good right now on top of the NL East.  As good as things are, we know that baseball is a long season.  The proverbial well could run dry, but right now things are looking good.  The great streak that the Braves went on in May, going 20-8 (.714) completely washed away April. Nothing that happened in April matters anymore. 

Reading some of the AJC hacks, they will try and belittle this streak.  The Braves had series with the Pirates (twice), Cubs, Marlins, Diamondbacks and Brewers.  Yes, those are some of the worst teams in baseball.  But that shouldn’t be taken as a negative; if the Braves stunk it up against the bad teams then that would be bad.  If the Braves are going to make a postseason run, they must beat up on the bad teams.  Which they did.

You could nit-pick and say the Braves were able to sweep the Phillies without facing Doc Halladay.  I say the Braves made the most of the opportunities presented.

Martin Prado leads the NL in batting average.  Troy Glaus is leading the way in RBI with 44, and the J-Hey Kid is not far behind with 39.  Just look how the team has  improved from one month to the next:

  April NL Rank  May NL Rank
R 85 14 163 1
HR 15 15 27 7
RBI 78 15 157 2
Avg. .227 16 .279 2

I was pretty hard on the team in April, but in all fairness, I had a really good reason.  Look at those numbers.  Those aren’t just bad, they’re really bad.  Bad in epic proportions.   

All along the month of April, I said  that if the Braves can start to hit, with the pitching they have, they will be a hard ballclub to beat.  Bobby has the lineup fixed, Glaus is absolutely killing it, Prado continues to hit well, McCann can see now and Chipper is, well…Chipper is drawing a lot of walks!

A quick note about Chipper:   a swollen ring finger?  Come on.  

The Braves knocked off division leader Philadelphia and took two against the Dodgers.  Thae Dodger series reminded me when the Joker said “… an unstoppable force meets an immovable object” from The Dark Knight.  The hottest teams squared off and the Braves split the series, losing two close games.   Don Sutton said yesterday on the radio that teams aim to play .500 on the road and win pennants at home.

The schedule now gets to be a booger bear.   After playing the streaky Diamondbacks again out West, the Braves gear up for interleague play for the next two weeks.  The only easy series in that mix is the one with the Royals.  The Twins, Rays , Tigers and White Sox look to be very tough. 

Sweet Georgia Peaches are now abundant.   Now that the rain has passed through, the heat and humidity will come in on cue.  Summertime in the south feels right again with the Braves at the top of the National League standings. 

Corbindawg

Tom Glavine to have number retired

Braves great Tom Glavine is having his number 47 retired this year on August 6.  Last year, Greg Maddux had his 31 retired in a ceremony before a Mets game.  I went to that game to see the ceremony, and it was very cool.

I was always a bigger Maddux fan growing up, although a strong case could be made that Glavine is the #2 all time Brave behind Hank Aaron.  He was the MVP of the only World Series title and was chiefly responisble for the organization’s turn around in the early 1990s. 

He lost several points with me when he turned his back on Atlanta and went to the Mets.  I am still angry at him for leaving for the money: of all teams to go to, he had to go to the Mets.   It would be like Mark Richt going to coach at Florida.  

Despite my anger and resentment towards Glavine for leaving, I appreciate his contributions to the Braves and if I didn’t have to go to a stupid wedding rehersal dinner that Friday night, I would be in Atlanta to see the ceremony.

The ceremony honoring Maddux last year was very cool.  Don Sutton was the MC and fellow Braves Hall of Fame Members were on stage.  The whole team came out of the dugout and stood around the portable stage.  Even better, Jurrjens pitche a gem against the hated Mets.  I hope the same special moment can happen for Glavine.

We’ve played this before, but in honor of this announcement (with Smoltz to come next year I am sure), here is the best Nike commerical of all time:

Come on, Alice!

Corbindawg

Going Through the 5 Stages of Grief With the Braves

The Braves are  staring 10 losses in a row right in the face. 

I don’t think the Braves were destined to win a game in St. Louis.   On a day when Albert Pujols was taking a breather, the Braves had arguably their best pitcher going.  It was a win-win?  Not so fast, my friend.  One two out, 3 run home run that bounced off the foul pole and a pulled hamstring later, the game was over really before it got started.

This is a dark spot on the Braves franchise.  The Braves have seen some very dark times.

The Braves send out stud Tommy Hanson tonight, but that hardly means anything anymore.  I am hoping the Braves lose one more tonight before they turn it around, so on the ESPN standings column that says “Last 10”, you’ll see 0-10. 

It is said that there are 5 stages of grief.  I believe I have gone through them all sufficiently over the two weeks, and have moved on to the final acceptance stage.

Here is my thought process during each of the five stages when it comes to the Braves:

1.  Denial: “The Braves offense can’t be as bad as this,” I would often think to myself. “I mean, they have been no hit by a hard throwing up and comer.  The Braves had clutch hitting when it counted late in the game, so it’s not so bad. Roy Halladay is the best in the business.  The Phillies are just good. ”

2.  Anger:  “Why isn’t Yunel Escobar running out a close ground ball harder? Four errors in one game? Why is Yunel not tagging up?  Chipper is hurt again?  Come on!   Why does Bobby Cox feel it necessary to pull out his starters when they get in a little bit of trouble? I mean Hudson is pitching a gem.  Don’t you think the ace of the staff has earned the right to get himself out of a jam?  Who would be better to get out of a pinch: former All-Star Hudson or Peter Moylan?  Oh my, Peter Moylan just gave up the tying run.  See! Unbelievable.  Only Frank Wren could find a way to mess this up.”

3.  Bargaining:  “Ok, look, I know I was angry and I am sorry.  Listen, if the team gets it turned around, I promise I will not say mean things about Frank Wren anymore.” 

4.  Depression:  “Why am I watching this? I know what is going to happen.  This 3 run lead won’t last.  It physically pains me to sit here and watch this.  What is the bother anymore?” 

5.  Acceptance:  “Well the Braves just suck.  Let’s face it:  they are a mismanaged franchise that makes poor personnel decisions.  How long until football starts, so I can go through this process all over again?”

Corbindawg

Braves Are a Bunch of Lolligaggers

The Braves now sit at 8-12…how they won 8 is a miracle.

Bobby needs to send everyone in the shower. 

Corbindawg

I Now Have J-Hey Kid Fever

I must admit, I’ve been a sour-puss this spring.  It must be the pollen.  Perhaps I’ve been reading the best pessimist in the Bulldog Nation post-Munson, T. Kyle King , too much. 

Ucheedawg and I have had been debating on the blog and in person on Jason Heyward.  I have been guarded in my enthusiasm about the J-Hey Kid.  I know he is a stud.  I know he is a man child.  I know he is a true ballplayer.

And I know he is different than Jeff Francoeur.  But from 2008 until last July 10th of last year, Jeff Francoeur was a BAD cuss word in the Corbindawg household.  If you mentioned his name in my presence, you would have to literally and figuratively pardon your French.

February and March were insanely busy at work, and it required a lot of traveling.  I got to listen to a lot of 680 The Fan, and in case you haven’t heard, they are the new Braves flagship station.  Those of you in Middle Georgia that listen to Bill Shanks know he talks a lot of Braves.  All I heard was how great Jason Heyward was going to be.  He was becoming something of a tall tale, and each story seemed as if it were larger than life.

 Bobby Cox compared him to Hank Aaron.  Hank Aaron gushed over him with praise.  Chipper Jones and Derek Lowe praised him.  While these men have forgotten more about baseball than I will ever know, I thought to myself, “No player can live up to this much hype.”  All I heard for weeks was how great he was going to be, and all I could think about was this:

 

Francoeur: The “F” word in my house

Even last Wednesday, while traveling and listening to The Buck and Kincade Show, I cringed when I heard Buck Belue announce that there was a glowing article about Heyward written by Tom Verducci in this week’s Sports Illustrated.  Heyward maybe good, even great, but the hype that was being made about a 20 year old was so extreme, I didn’t think anyone could live up to it.

I have been a Braves fan longer than a Bulldog Fan.  Some of my earliest memories of elementary school was Braves Day.  Mom made Tomahawk sugar cookies with red sprinkles.  The Dawgs had Ray Goff.  I was allowed to stay up and watch the World Series against those bastard Twins. 

But being a Braves fan, even with the success of the 1990s, there were great moments of disappointment thrown in. 

Like a lover scorned, I refused to let myself get sucked into the Jason Heyward hype.  Partly because I didn’t think he (or anyone, for that matter) could live up to the lofty expectations.  But it was partly because I didn’t want to subject myself to the  pain of disappointment again. 

All that changed Tuesday night.  That homer he hit in the bottom of the 9th did it for me. Running the bases in 18 seconds, acting like he had been there before, was truly amazing. 

I am a believer.  I caught J-Hey Kid Fever.  He is, for lack of a better word, awesome.  Just AWESOME.  What impresses me the most is he looks like a 10 year veteran out there.  The J-Hey Kid is becoming the J-Hey Man before our very eyes.

The next time I walk past the Heyward t-shirts in the store, I’m not passing it by.

I'll take one in an XL

 

 

 

I am sorry I doubted you, Jason Heyward.

Corbindawg

Braves Review and Preview

Well, it was a successful week for the Braves, winning its two series against NL West teams, going 4-2.  I thought the Braves would sweep the Padres, but you can’t turn down a series win and clutch hitting with lights out pitching. 

The wins were as impressive as you could ask for:  two victories against the Padres that had clutch hitting late in the game; a decisive rout of the Rockies and an exciting walk off single by the rising star Jason Heyward in the rubber game Sunday.

The losses however, were about as ugly as you could ask for.  The Braves get creamed 17-2 Monday and got no hit Saturday night.  Not really any such thing as a good loss, but those losses were about as bad as a loss could be. 

A few notes:

*There is still trouble with the lead off position.  Matt Diaz got a leadoff triple yesterday to squelch any talk of back to back no nos for the Rockies. Aside from that, though, the lead off position is one that has GOT to get more production.  You can’t manufacture runs and drive home batters if there is no on base.  McLouth would be ideal, because he has the threat of stealing bases. 

*As I have said numerous times, the Braves needed to acquire a power bat this off season. There is a lack of pop in this lineup right now

The Braves are slugging a pitiful .348, only have 6 HRs.  That puts them ranking 27th in slugging percentage and 24th in home runs hit (and are next to last in both categories in the NL, only ahead of the terrible Astros).  Jason Heyward can’t do it all by himself. 

 The caveat here, though, is right now.  I have been as hard on Frank Wren as anyone.  But this is only the second week of a long season.  With the Braves pitching, they only have to improve slightly.  Glaus hit a monster homer on Wednesday.  When he gets settled in and gets swinging, these numbers should improve.  This ballclub has the opportunity to be special.

 *Also, it was very nice to see Jurrjens rebound yesterday from his terrible outing on Monday.  Too bad for him (and my fantasy team) he couldn’t get the decision.  Overall, great pitching performances for the week.  Hanson, Hudson and J.J. pitched well in key rebound games.  Also, Derek Lowe is bound to get a loss for his poor outings, isn’t he? 

***

Looking ahead to this week, we play divisional foes for the first time.  The Bravos have a key matchup in Atlanta Tuesday –Thrusday in Atlanta and host the red hot Phillies.  We couldn’t get a break and avoid Roy Halladay.  He may get to 25 wins this season.  I think it is realistic to expect, with our offensive troubles, a long night Thursday evening.  Seriously: the Braves have had to play Lincecum and Halladay in a week and a half?  Talk about a bad draw.

Before we run into the buzzsaw that is Doc Halladay, we do get the bottom of the Phillies rotation.  Kyle Kendrick has been rocked by the Nationals in his two starts against them this season, only lasting 1.2 innings and giving up 6 runs in his last start.

J.A. Happ has pitched well this season, but has done so against the Astros and the Nationals.  I know statistically we are not much better than the Astros and worse than the Nats offensively, but I know we are a better ball club.  This could be an opportunity to get right on offense before we face the Doc. 

After the Phillies, we go on up to face the hated Mets. 

Let’s win two more series before a tough 4 game series against St. Louis.

 Corbindawg

Braves Review: April Showers Bring May Flowers

I am going to attempt each Monday or so to look back at the previous week and look ahead to the week up coming for the Bravos.  No promise on the consistently, but I’ll give it a shot.

The Braves were 3-3 this week, playing two close series with the Cubs and Giants.  I didn’t really expect to win the series in San Fran, and the fact the Braves got 2 against the long haired freak Lincecum is an accomplishment in itself.

I must first say that if you want first rate Braves coverage and don’t already check out Dave O’Brien’s blog, you should do so.  Also, if you are on Twitter, follow him at @ajcbraves.  He updates so frequently it is annoying. 

Pitching was outstanding:  JJ, Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson all pitched outstanding this week.  Kawakami got some unfortunate luck in the loss yesterday with a fluke play at the plate leading to the go ahead run.  If Kawakami can pitch that well all season long things will be special. 

Baseball is a funny game, and the fact Derek Lowe is 2-0 and Tommy Hanson has a loss illustrates that.  Lowe got roughed up pretty bad on Monday and still got the W. Saturday, he got real lucky.  Issuing a career high 7 walks, and only giving 1 run while getting the decision is about as odd as you’ll see.  If Lowe can get his control issues under control the top 5 will certainly be the best in all of baseball.

The bullpen is playing well also.  Kris Medlen gives a quality option at long relief.  He was the pitcher on record Friday night, pitching 1.2 innings and not giving up an earned run.  Moylan, with his funky side armed delivery, scares me every time he pitches.  He is doing fine thus far at setting up.  Wagner brought the heat against the Cubbies!  It was disappointing to see him get the blown save Friday night.  However, Edgar Renteria has been swinging a hot bat of late.  I am not concerned. 

Offense: Jason Heyward has an impressive stat line from his first week in the Show, (5 runs, 3 HR, 8 RBI and .292) but lost in the stat line was an 0-11 stretch.  He cemented his legend by hitting a monster homer on his first big league swing.  There are going to be ebbs and flows in his rookie season, but I think he will continue to be a player.  If anything, he will take pressure of McCann and Chipper to help them see some better pitches. 

I was not happy with the decision to get Glaus, but it was due to his uncertainty surrounding his comeback from injury.  I think if Glaus can manage to stay healthy he can tear it up like he was doing in the spring.  He will break out of his little slump.

I never would have thought that Martin Prado would lead the majors in batting. 

After the explosion on Opening Day, the Braves were confused by the Cubs pitching.   The bats fared better against the Giants.  Still early on; I’m not concerned with the bats. 

April Showers Bring May Flowers:  This week they the Braves take on the lowly Padres in beautiful San Diego before heading back east to face the Rockies this weekend.  While the Braves trot out JJ, Hanson and Hudson, the Padres send out Kevin Correia,  Clayton Richardson and Mat Latos.  The three Padres starters the Braves will face are 0-2 with an average ERA of  5.29. 

The Braves should put some runs on the board this afternoon and give Bobby a chance to work out the lineup before the series with the Rockies and the Phillies next week. 

There is a tough stretch with these games out West and then coming back to play the Phillies  next week.  After a series against the Mets, we have to travel to St. Louis.  If the Braves can get past this tough stretch and get into an easier May 14-9,  there are series against the lowly Astros, Nationals, Reds and two series against the Pirates waiting for them.   

Spring time is exciting.  Though Ucheedawg thinks I am constantly pissing in the Braves’ Cornflakes, I think this year’s team will be a fun group to watch!

Corbindawg

Monday Re-Cap

What a great day of sports yesterday!

The legend of J-Hey Kid continues to grow. If the poor kid ever lives up to these expectations, he’ll go down as one of the greats. When he ripped that ball over the right field fence, deep into the bullpen, I’m not sure Turner Field has ever been louder. I was listening to the call on the radio (103.9 FM if you’re in the mid-state) and it sounded like pandemonium had broken loose. Later, when I caught the replay on television, the place was bananas. And yes, I’ll admit, he’s got me giddy too. Kid can play. I think my favorite part was the greeting he got from Chipper. Don’t you love baseball?

Lost in the madness of all that is J-Hey Kid, the Braves went on to rout the Cubbies by a count of 16-5! I couldn’t have scripted a better opening day game. Well, maybe I could have. Derek Lowe could have not given up 5 ER, but other than that, what a game! And Yunel is on my fantasy team this year, so the 5 RBI sure were helpful.

Finally, and then I’ll quit talking about the Braves (do I sound like your preacher on Easter morning?) I have a question. Corbin- how do we curb our enthusiasm when J-Hey looks so dadgum good? It’s impossible not to be excited about this kid!

On to basketball: The Dukies broke the hearts of many Americans last night with their thriller over Butler. This was one of the best Nat’l Championship games I have seen in quite some time. Mike Golic quoted someone (I can’t remember who) best this morning when he said “When the basketball didn’t go in, Duke won one of the best Championship games ever. Had the basketball fallen, Butler would have won The Best Championship game ever.” I have to agree. A thriller to the end. And you have to give it to the kids from Butler. They never let Duke intimidate, and they gave the Blue Devils all they wanted and more. In the end, Duke was just too good. This was a year when we didn’t have any really great teams, but a lot of good ones. It was a great ending to a great tourney. But it would have been even better had the Bulldogs, the Butler Bulldogs that is, had won.

Tiger.

I love Masters week. It’s one of my favorite weeks of the year. I hope my fiance hasn’t read this far, so I’ll say it. I hope Tiger wins this week. I’ve never pulled for Tiger in the Masters once. I’m a Lefty fan myself. But Tiger needs this. Yeah, he screwed up. He made a mistake a lot of mistakes that most of us will never make. But I feel like he truly regrets it. He’s not an actor, he’s an athlete and a businessman. If he’s got me fooled, then kudos to him. But I think he realizes the magnitude of his mistakes. He’s the one who has to live with them, not me nor you nor the TMZ’s of the world. Frankly, I’m sick of hearing about the sex scandal. I want to see Tiger play golf, make birdies, and ignite the crowd with a Tiger Pump after a birdie on #16.

Speaking of the Masters, here’s a fun little game to play while at work.

And there was some news from UGA football in the midst of everything else too. The creeps in the taxi were not UGA football players. That makes me feel much better.

And Montez Robinson is no longer a Dawg. You know, this does anger me a little. PWD said it best. Maybe I’m wrong, but if God had blessed me with the athletic ability he did Mr. Robinson, I think I would have found a way to not be a screw up. Good riddance to you, sir. As SB said, it’s a bigger loss for him than it is the squad. Of course, if you read DH’s take, it may soften you up some. I get that some kids aren’t blessed with all that I was. I had two parents tell me they loved me every day, even when I was a major screw up at times. But I’ve also known kids who had drunks for parents or had no parents that turned out to be pretty decent people. And I’ve known folks who grew up with everything they could ever want and turn into scumbags. So, ultimately I think Montez should be held responsible for his decisions. He was surrounded by good people, and could have chosen to surround himself more. He wasn’t back on the streets. He was living in Athens, GA, and was living pretty high on the hog. So, in the end, I do find it hard to feel very sorry for him. He’s not the only kid on the team that came from a troubled past. Yeah, I hate that it happened, but we all have the opportunity to make our own choices, and thus, we are a product of those. He made some poor ones, and now what was once a pretty successful road has turned into a tough row to hoe for this kid. I do wish you luck, Montez, and may this be the wakeup call you needed, but I’m glad you’re not on our team anymore.

Ok, I’ve got that off my chest. Today won’t be quite the sports day for us. I guess you could watch UConn beat Stanford tonight, but is a 30 point win in a women’s basketball game that much fun to watch? The Braves are off, but there are some other games on. It’s probably a good day of rest for us though. Enjoy your Masters Tuesday!

ucheedawg

Braves Pitcher Gets Caught Stealing Second Base

I wouldn’t have thought a professional baseball wouldn’t have to restort to Craigslist. 

Corbindawg


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