Belated Congrats To McCann

In my disgust, dare I say dismay, over the epic collapse down the stretch by the Braves, I wrote precious little about ATL. At some point, I suppose I will recover, but right now it will due to just offer the Braves’ McCann congratulations on yet another Silver Slugger award.

McCann became the first player to win five Silver Sluggers as a Brave and only the sixth catcher to win five or more in his career, and he’s only 27. Silver Sluggers are awarded to the top offensive players at each position as voted on by players and managers.

McCann led all National League catchers with 24 home runs and he drove in 71 runs, while hitting .270 with a .351 on-base percentage. He beat out Yadier Molina of the Cardinals who hit .305 with 14 homers and 65 RBIs, and Arizona’s Miguel Montero, who hit .282 with 18 homers and 86 RBIs.

Looks like McCann is in some pretty elite company.

Go Braves!


Braves – Historic Collapse

Speechless. Last year the Braves ran out of gas of injuries decimated their lineup. This year, injuries to their starting pitching, and an overtaxed bullpen that was brilliant just 6+ weeks earlier, failed the Braves.

For the Braves, this one might hurt as bad as all those postseason losses in the 1990s and early 2000s.

They were 10½ games ahead of St. Louis before play on Aug. 26. They were still up by 8½ games on the morning of Sept. 6. Instead of popping champagne for a second straight trip to the playoffs, they became the first team in major league history to squander a lead of at least eight games for a playoff spot in September.

They had some company a short time later when Boston did the same in the AL, also blowing a ninth-inning lead. But that was of little consolation in Atlanta.

Even if the Braves somehow managed to win, I think they still would have fallen today in a pre-Wild Card ‘win and you are in’ playoff against red hot St. Louis.


Braves Pick Up Michael Bourn

The Braves finally made a splash with a close of the deadline deal for the Astros Michael Bourn. According the ESPN’s Jayson Stark, the Braves came out a winner.

Enter Michael Bourn. Take a guy who has a .354 on-base percentage, add him to an offense whose leadoff hitters ranked 26th in baseball in OBP ’til he showed up and see what happens.

Now consider the lineup-changing effect of Bourn’s 32-SB wheels (injected into a roster that had swiped 42 all year). And, finally, add in his top-of-the-charts defense. And this was a monster of a deal, especially considering the Braves were able to make it without giving up any of the elite pitching prospects they had balked at trading for Beltran or Pence.

If Bourn fits in and does what he was imported to do, said one scout, “this team is going to be dangerous.”

Of course Stark also listed the Phillies, Giants, and Mets (addition by subtraction) as winners, so small consolation, but the addition of Bourn should be enough for the Braves to at least lock up the Wild Card slot.

From the perspective of Bourn being a finished product (compared to Jordan Schafer) the deal makes sense. The Braves get Bourn for one more year (arbitration eligible in 2012) before he hits the FA market without having to give up one of their top pitching prospects. Sounds like a win to me, especially if they are able to lock up Bourn for an additional 3-4 years at a reasonable price tag.

I think some of the guys over at the bleacher report are a little over optimistic; at least this guy that thinks the Braves are now destined for a World Series run.

Bourn is the speedy center fielder the Braves haven’t had in quite a long time. The speedster is leading all of baseball in stolen bases with 39. He is the type of base-stealer that I really want the team to just let him go. Let him pick and choose his attempts, because it could really help a stagnant offense.

Along with his speed, Bourn is hitting .303 this season, which is .032 points higher than his career average. He has two Gold Gloves to his name and is one of the best defensive outfielders in the league.

It has been a while since the Braves has had quality bat at the top of the order with true speed. The added bonus is that Bourn plays great defense in center, which will only help a strong pitching staff look even better.

Not that I pay that much attention to fantasy baseball (have not played in a few years) but I thought it was interesting that for most of the year Bourn has been better than average in points value. Not spectacular mind you, but hopefully well enough to translate into a NL East challenge and a deep playoff run.

Go Braves!


2011 Braves – Poor Defense, Lack of Speed

The ajc’s Mark Bradley posted a really good summary of the current state of the 2011 Braves – 5 reasons to be concerned about your 2011 Atlanta Braves.

1. The defense could be deadly.
2. Nate McLouth is again projected as the center fielder.
3. Craig Kimbrel walks people.
4. There’s still no speed.
5. Magic might not be transferable.

I don’t disagree with any of these concerns, but obviously I think that poor defense and lack of speed will keep the Braves from being a serious Wild Card contender. I think it will be so bad that the great starting pitching will be nullified due to poor defensive play (and of course the ability for the defense to make some “just go and get it” plays behind their pitchers).

It has been a while since the Braves have had any sort of table setter up front; once again the 2011 Braves will be lacking any sort of traditional (or even non-traditional) leadoff talent.

The biggest gamble of all is the dependency on Chipper. I love the guy; one of the all-time great Braves and I certainly wish him no ill will. The front office is going all in, expecting this 38 (almost 39-year old) future first ballet Hall of Famer, to make a decent recovery.

Go Braves! Just don’t expect them to go deep into October.


Chipper To Return By Spring Training?

When Chipper went down last summer, I thought that was the end for the Braves legend, but it looks like Chipper has a good chance to return by Spring Training. I just hope we do not see Chipper return too soon or see an aging star that is well past his playing days.

“He’s a big part of the lineup, no question,” Wren said. “He’s not the Chipper Jones of his MVP year in ‘99, we know that. But he makes a difference, and we saw that in August and September after we lost him.”

Injuries decimated the Braves last year, but even a healthy Chipper may not be enough to overcome the Phillies in 2011.


Sports Saturday: Braves Come Back, Dawgs Favored, and Falcons vs. Browns

What an amazing comeback by the Atlanta Braves; 5-4 over the Giants in 11 innings thanks to a blast by unlikely hero Rick Ankiel. This season has been magical thanks to the unsung heroics by a rag-tag list of unknowns and in the case of Ankiel, has-beens.

I’ll be honest; I stopped watching in the 5th … bedroom duties called. What can I say?

While the Braves celebrate this win, returning to Atlanta even at 1-1, Billy Wagner may have pitched his last game, going down in the 10th with a strained left oblique muscle. The Brave’s have a deep bullpen, but the lost of Wagner is another blow in a season where key contributors (Chipper and Martin Prado) keep going down.

Dawgs Favored?
Seriously? How are the woeful Bulldogs favored over the struggling Volunteers? I was shocked to read that some opening lines had Georgia by 13 points. Wow! WTF do those pundits know that I am missing? The current Sheridan odds have Georgia as 11.5 point favorites over Tennessee. Call it a lack of faith, but I really do not see this undisciplined team beating many teams this year including Tennessee.

Falcons Look to Overcome History
Who knew the Falcons so overwhelmingly sucked against the Browns? The 3-1 Falcons should dispatch an inferior 1-3 Browns team, even on the road.

To me this is a must win game. The Falcons need to keep the pressure on the Saints, assert themselves a NFC contender, and you just have to beat teams you are suppose to beat. I am surprised that the Falcons are only 3 point favorites. I expected the line to be 5 or 6 points.

Hopefully the Falcons take care of business, and continue a strong early season showing.


Braves Pissing Away Playoffs

Atlanta Braves 2006 LogoIf this is in fact how it will end; what an unbelievably disappointing way for the Braves to close out their last season under legendary skipper Bobby Cox. The Braves are now .5 back of San Diego in the Wild Card chase.

The Braves are in a major tailspin, which comes at the worst possible time. As the Phillies have been torching the competition, winning 11 in a row, and rising to the best record in baseball, the Braves have been beset with four straight loses, dropping 6 of 10, including three in a row to the before mentioned best team in baseball! Ouch. So much for the Braves having any shot at the NL East title.

What about the Braves’ Wild Card aspirations? Atlanta now has to overcome San Francisco and San Diego, one of which will take the NL West title, while the other has a real opportunity to muscle Atlanta right out of the playoff picture. Monkey nuts!

There is nothing left for the Braves to do except put on their cups, dust off their jerseys, and pull up their bootstraps to make a final surge at the Playoffs. If anyone can keep a team levelheaded and prevent panicking, it is Bobby Cox. The question is can the Braves send Cox off the right way, with one last gallop into the Playoffs? It will suck royally if Cox’s final campaign ends with the Braves falling flat at the finish line.

The good news is that the Braves only have two more road games at Washington, followed by three at home with Florida, and three at home with Philadelphia. The Braves have been horrendous on the road (34-45), so a trip back to Turner Field may be just what the doctor order. While Cox attempts to right the ship, the Giants and Padres will wrap up the season with a three game set in San Diego. Should make for some interesting drama.

Go Braves!


Braves and Phillies Deadlocked with 19 to Play

It’s hard to believe that after 143 games, the Braves and Phillies are knotted up at 82-61. There are 19 to play and at this point the Braves are just trying to hold on to a Wild Card spot; they are really been fumbling of late.

The Braves close out the St. Louis series today, followed by three more at home against Washington. Next up is a long road stretch with three in NY, three in Philadelphia, and three in Washington. The Braves then close things out at home hosting Florida for three, followed by a potentially for all the marbles three game set with the Phillies.

So nine on the road and ten at home, which include the last three against Philly. I think the schedule slightly favors the Braves. I like Atlanta’s chances at home, much better than on the road. If the East is still up for grabs during the final three game set, the pressure will be on the Phillies, not the Braves.

Can they close the deal?


Braves Return Home – Retain First in the NL East

After the longest road trip of the year, featuring a split of 4 games against the Dodgers, another split of 4 games against the Diamondbacks, and finishing up with 2 wins in 3 games with the Twins, the Braves are returning home with a 6-5 record.

I consider this a major victory after being so terrible on the road earlier this year.

As I wrote prior to this road trip, the Braves just needed to be up to the task in order to set the plate for the back half of June; of course some serious NL East head-to-head action looms in July leading up to the break.

While the Braves were out west they managed to put some distance in front of their rivals. The Mets are lurking and playing well, just 1.5 games back. The Phillies are stumbling, now 3.5 games back, but you know this is only a temporary situation.

Monday will be an off day before hosting Tampa Bay and KC.

Go Braves!


First Place – Who cares if June is still a day away?

The Braves just took care of the Phillies 9-3, to improve their record to 29-22, and more importantly Atlanta is now in sole possession of first place, .5 up on Philadelphia.

Troy Glaus has been crazy good in May, and Chipper is finally starting to come around. This team seems like they want to do something special. When was the last time the Braves were in first place this deep in the season? It seems like ages ago.

Quick Edit. Just read this on ESPN:

Improving to 16-4 since May 10, the Braves have made up 7 1/2 games in the NL East since May 17, when they were in last place. Atlanta hasn’t held first place in the NL East this late in a season since they won the last of 14 straight division titles in 2005.

The run has been impressive, but it is amazing that it has been this long since the Braves were on top in the NL East!


Braves Torrid Streak Continues

Thanks to last night’s 6-3 victory over the Pirates, the Braves are 1.5 games back of the Phillies. Atlanta has won 9 of their last 11 games, and is 18-8 in the month of May. Then again, the schedule has been fairly soft of late (Pittsburgh, Florida, and Cincinnati in the last 10 games) so you would expect the Braves to take care of business if they are a serious contender.

The favorable schedule does gets harder in the first half of June. This is good because it means the Braves will have a shot at overtaking the Phillies at home before traveling out West for a difficult road trip that includes the Dodgers, Diamonbacks, and Twins. The Braves have been ridiculously bad on the road, so this trip will really be their chance to turn things around. If the Braves are going to push forward, they will have to play at least .500 ball on the road.

Interleague play will continue at home with Tampa Bay, but the second half of June lightens up a bit with KC at home, followed by a road trip to take on the Chicago White Sox. The Braves close out June with home dates against Detroit and Washington.

If Atlanta hangs tough in June (I am still not sure why I am projecting things this far forward) I think they will make or break their season in the first part of July. Closing out the first half of the season, Atlanta hosts Florida, followed by a road trip to Philadelphia and New York. By the time those nine games are over, the Braves should know if they are a buyer or seller coming out of the All-Star Break.

Keeping my fingers crossed that the Braves are actually remain in playoff contention headed into the second half of the season!


Braves Back In The Hunt?

Are the Braves really only 1.5 out of first place, with a 25-22 record? The way things started, I thought the Braves were going to be in for a long, miserable farewell season for Cox. If Atlanta could just figure out how to win on the road (13-6 home vs. 12-16 road record), they may actually be a contender past the All-Star break.

The hitting has been miserable at best; thanks to some timely hits, and the emergence of soon to be Rookie of the Year Jason Heyward, Atlanta has been able to scratch out a few unlikely wins. If the pitching can hold up, and really if Derek Lowe can get into a quality form, I think this team just may be able to pull off something special.

Of course it is way early days to be talking playoffs and such, but it is encouraging to wake up on the eve of Memorial Day weekend and see the Braves well within striking distance of first in the NL East!


Glavine back with the Braves?

According to the, the Braves are in some sort of talks to bring Tommy Glavine back to the Braves organization. In what capacity remains to be seen.

The 305-game winner has been in discussions with the Braves about a possible position with the organization that could include duties ranging from front-office work to instructing players in the minor leagues and perhaps even some broadcasting.

“I’ve talked to Tommy several times since the season ended,” said Braves president John Schuerholz, who said talks were still in the preliminary stage. “It’s always been in our mind that ultimately, eventually something like this might be a possibility.

The unconscionable behavior by the Braves towards Glavine last season still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. No telling how Glavine feels right now about the way the Braves treated him; kicking him out of the organization, to the curb like a discarded tallboy can was simply unforgivable.

If Glavine wants to remain in baseball in some capacity, I hope the Braves will do the right thing this time, to make amends for the way they handled things last year. It would be too much for me to take to see Glavine show up as a pitching coach, consultant, etc for any team other than the Braves.


Braves take a chance on Glaus

While the pending signing of Troy Glaus is old news, he finally passed his physical, agreed to terms, and made his 1 year, $1.75 million contract official.

Glaus can make up to $2.25 million in incentives in 2010 that are tied to staying off the disabled list and in the lineup, including a $250,000 bonus if he’s on the roster 100 days. The rest of the incentives are triggered by plate appearances — $350,000 each for 400, 450 and 500 PAs, $400,000 for 550, and $550,000 for 600.

Glaus will play 1B, and most likely bat in the 4th spot between Chipper and McCann. The Braves continue to build their roster, attempting to save a nickel, by signing older, possibly injury prone players. Seems a tad bit risky to me, but if Glaus stays healthy, makes a decent transition to 1B, he could be good for 25+ HRs, which would make the middle of the order extremely potent.


Braves dump Vazquez

I am not sure what else to call this other than a salary dump. I really do not see how Melky Cabrera provides anything in the way of an upgrade for the Braves outfield other than a warm spot on the bench. I could do that, for a lot less money!

The only thing I can hold out hope for is that new Braves prospect Arodys Vizcaino is the second coming of John Smoltz. I assume that is doubtful, but according to Rowland’s Office, landing Vizcaino was a win for the Braves. Here’s to future days, but I’m not holding my breath!