Sunday, March 19, 2006

Catchers, Catchers Everywhere

A few years ago I almost cried when the Braves let Javy Lopez go to the Orioles. He had just come off an excellent year at the plate and he wasn't the worst catcher in baseball. But the Braves had Johnny Estrada coming up from the minors and he was forecasted as one of the best catchers in the minors. And while Johnny never had the personality that Javy did, he did a solid job as a hitter and an excellent job behind the plate.
Then last year Johnny struggled with injuries and along with a bunch of other rookies Brian McCann came up and established himself as a major leaguer. So in January Estrada found himself on the way to Arizona, and McCann is the Braves starting catcher this year.
But McCann better not get comfortable because there is another minor leaguer in the Braves' system biting at his heels.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Ok so I can't say it either, but his stats speak for themselves.
His homerun on March 3rd was what the Braves needed to beat the Dodgers and he is making quite the impression on Bobby Cox and catching veteran Todd Pratt.
Did I mention he is only 20. Yeah, he can't even legally drink. This kid should be sitting in class next to me, not being the topic of my blog.
Braves' rookies proved last year that age really ain't nothin but a number. But I want to know that the Braves are doing in their farm system with all these catchers... and can we get some of that depth at 1st base?

Things you never knew

All obsessed fans know things that the random person would never know about their teams. But it isn't just the random stats or knowing that Chipper Jones' real name is Larry and he got the nickname Chipper because he was 'a chip off the old block' and very much like his father that the truly obsessed fan knows. So here is a blog post that has four things that many Braves fans won't know... or don't want to acknowledge. And since it is one in a series they may have unknown facts on your favorite team too.
Four Tiny Tidbits

TICKETS!!!

This isn't really news, just very exciting! As of about 15 minutes ago I am the proud owner of two tickets to the Braves v. Mets game on April 30th in Atlanta. My Dad scored us tickets so I am going to go visit him for a week after finals and go to Atlanta to see my boys! It is a TBS televised game so check it out, I have made the camera once before while in Atlanta at a game, I think I can do it again.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Starting Pitcher

Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Russ Ortiz.
They have all started Opening Day for the Atlanta Braves. And this year Tim Hudson gets the honor. My heart goes out to John Smoltz who in a perfect world would get the start. But it isn't perfect and Smoltz will be 39 in May and has been resting this off season after hurting pretty bad after the Braves lost to the Astros last year. He even said that if the Braves had advanced over the Astros he would not have been able to pitch. He also passed on the World Baseball Classic to be ready for this season. So the torch is being passed to Tim Hudson, and he will start Opening Day for the Braves, with John's blessing.
So far this Spring Training Hudson has been nothing but spectacular this spring. He has given up minimal runs and performed well. He has been unhappy with his stats, but very happy with his mechanics. Smoltz calls him the future of the Braves pitching and Bobby Cox thinks he can win 30 games this year.
Hudson went 14-9 last year, so 30 wins would be amazing. One can only hope. With Hudson's '30' wins and Smoltz at the number 2 spot the Braves have a good starting rotation. Add Jorge Sosa, John Thompson and either Horatio Ramirez or Kyle Davies and this rotation will be great. Even without Leo Mazzone.

My new favorite

Scott Miller is my new favorite journalist.
Ok so maybe he can never replace Peter Gammons but he has carved himself a little place in my heart lately.
Reason 1
Reason 2

First of all he is sarcastic, which I love! I don't think there has been any sarcasm ever in this blog...
And in his sarcasm he points out that the Braves have been, are, and will continue to be the team to beat in the NL East. He points out why none of the other teams can take them down.
The Mets are relying on some old pitchers, Pedro Martinez, Steve Trachsel and former Brave Tom Glavine.
The Phillies don't have any pitchers, not even old ones.
The Nationals have already lost people this spring and well, they don't have anyone to lose
And the Marlins are young and inexperienced, and well they are the Marlins

Miller says all of that much better than I just did plus he adds all the reason the Braves are still amazing...Both Jones', Brian McCann, Tim Hudson and Kyle Davies, just to name a few

Reason 2 really makes me happy- 5 Things to Know About the Braves! Know them- there will be a quiz.

Reality TV

There are few Atlanta Braves, past or present, that I truly detest. If they wore the Tomahawk on their chest then I can usually find something I like about them. There is one glaring exception.
John Rocker
I was at Shea Stadium when he pitched against the Mets and got batteries thrown at him. In fact my sister got her picture taken with him before he ran his mouth to Sports Illustrated. My mom still has the ball he signed.
But the guy is a one of a kind, and I mean that in the least flattering way possible. But he has gone where all has-beens in need of another 15 minutes go- Reality TV.
Now SportsCenter is as real as I want my tv, but the masses seem to like it so I will leave that for Meg's blog.
Rocker pitched to a bunch of average people for the Spike TV show Pros v. Joes. And he did well.
So Congrats to you Mr. Rocker, you can't handle the majors anymore but you are an ace against your everyday American, the exact ones you didn't want to sit next to on the subway. But I am begging you, stop grasping for another shot at the spotlight!

Kirby Puckett

I was 5 years old in 1991, when the Atlanta Braves faced the Minnesota Braves in the World Series. Now I was in my footy pajamas and fast asleep when the games were being played but I know the details of those games as well as if I had been watching them instead of doing my homework like I did in 1995 when the Braves actually won.
So Kirby Puckett is a name I am all to familiar with, and despite dashing the World Series dreams of the Braves that year he was an amazing ball player and when I heard that he had passed away I was extremely sad. Here is one of the many stories that came out after he passed away about what a great guy he was, they always come out even if someone wasn't that great a guy. And while Puckett does have some marks on his record, that isn't what most people remembered.
Braves fans remember his damn homerun. Baseball fans remember everything else. This reporter remembers that same home run. His kid remembers Halloween.

There is no Crying in Baseball

I grew up in a small town in New York and went to Webutuck High School. Our mascot was the Warrior and I can not tell you how many time they talked about changing the mascot because it was deemed offensive. It has been a debate country-wide. Are mascots like the redskins, indians and.... braves.
Now a church in Richmond, Va has taken up the argument that the Braves mascot is offensive. The catch- Richmond is the home of the Atlanta Braves Double-A affiliate. The United Methodist Church has decided not to hold a convention in Richmond in protest of the name.
Boo Hoo.
Sorry, but as I have been directly involved in this argument while I was in HS I just don't care that they are having there convention in Tampa instead of Richmond. I honestly don't see how the mascot is that offensive. We live in a society that is so concerned with being politically correct that if the mascots were really that offensive they would have been gone a long time ago.
So, seriously if you don't like the team name, that is your opinion. I am sure the Devil Rays appreciate you coming to town.

WBC

USA is out the the World Baseball Classic. It is unfortunate, but the WBC is less about who wins and more about the global experience. And while reviews are mixed about how effective it has been one thing is obvious, despite all the whiny ball players who were just too cool to play in the Classic the ones who did are acting the way baseball players should, like people who love the game and are 12-years-old at heart.

"I had more butterflies today than any playoff game or other game I've ever been in," said Team USA third baseman Chipper Jones. "And I wasn't even starting. I was just hoping those guys could get a cushy lead before they let me in there to mess it up."


Now that is what I want to hear. There are very few things that Chipper Jones could do to make me dislike him. He has been a fixture of my summers for 11 years but that quote simply reinforces why, despite the less than admirable things he has done in his personal life, he is one of the good guys in the game.

Here is one more things, the transcript of an interview with Chipper, Buck Martinez and Jake Peavy....pretty interesting

Lets play a game

Do you remember that game 'One Of These Is Not Like The Other?' When you were a little kid you had to choose which one in the group didn't belong, like
blue
yellow
house
red
Well when I was in Florida I experienced a big-league version of this, excuse the pun. When I was sitting in the press box, I looked around at reporters from MLB.com, the Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and a number of Florida paper and the reporters were all middle-aged men. Wow did I feel out of place. But I know that is a feeling that is not going anywhere because I love what I do, and it is primarily a job filled by men.
And all the reporters were extremely nice, and treated me with respect, but it was very obvious I was the Northeastern kid. The Globe reporter even introduced himself and asked if I planned on trying to co-op at the Globe.
The crowning moment of my press box experience was when Emanuele hit his homerun and four 'professionals' turned to me and asked me who that kid was and about his stats. It was a little satisfying... hey, I knew something they didn't.
So here is to a career of two childhood games: baseball and one of these things is not like the other.....

Spring really is the best time of year

I am learning more and more every day that this journalism thing is what I was born for...
On March 3 the Northeastern University baseball team played the Boston Red Sox in an exhibition game, and the Northeastern News sent me down there to cover the game. The game was the second in a college doubleheader. The Sox played Boston College and with Curt Schilling on the mound the Eagles were shutout 10-0. But after all the A-listers went back in the clubhouse, the B grade names and non-roster spring training invitees came out to play NU.
With Matt Clement on the mound the Sox beat the Huskies 9-2, but even though the Huskies got the loss, they definitely made their mark.
Northeastern's centerfielder and leadoff hitter Chris Emanuele took Clement, a 2005 MLB All-Star deep over the left field wall. Clement only gave up 21 homeruns last year, but Emanuele took him yard on the third pitch of the game. Even though they only scored one more run in the game that homerun solidified Emanuele as a Major League prospect, and it made it way more fun to write this story for the NU NEWS
Last year's America East Pitcher of the Year, Dave Pellegrine started the game for the Huskies but only pitched one inning before taking to the clubhouse. Every NU pitcher took the hill for about an inning to keep everyone fresh for the regular season.
After the exhibition game the Huskies went 4-4 on their 8 game southern swing before returning home for their first home game. The two home games were cancelled due to weather and the Huskies hit the road again to face Savannah today.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Random

So this has little to do with the Braves specifically, although Chipper Jones is mentioned. I just want other people to read something that literally made me laugh out loud and is a testament to how much sports can bridge gaps between people.
It isn't very often I read the Falls Church News Press (ok so maybe this is my first time) but in my daily search ( it is only not stalking because I am a journalist) of Chipper Jones his name came up in this website and when I read the opening, I didn't care what came after, the guy had me hooked.
And he went on to make some pretty good points on a wide variety of sports topics.
So I hope the 'Power of Christ compels you' or at least makes you smile.

Another rumor in the ring

There have been a few rumors floating around about who will buy the Braves now that Time Warner has put them on the block. Previously the only interest seemed to be coming from Home Depot founder Arthur Blank but he has yet to make a move, or an offer and so another rumor has entered Turner Field.
Last month, Time Warner sold Turner South a regional network that carries Braves' games, to News Corp.'s Fox Cable Networks.
And now John Malone's Liberty Media is in talks with Time Warner to exchange its 4 percent stake for some of the companies assets, specifically the Atlanta Braves.
While I was all in favor of Blank and I not a fan of the newest rumor. I don't feel like Liberty Media will take care of the team. To them it will just be a business, and baseball teams need a bit of love and care to succeed. But again it is just another rumor. I will get upset when something real happens.

BOOOOOO TED TURNER

Ted Turner is infuriating!
So I may love the man for bringing me the days of TBS the Spuerstation and putting hundreds of Braves games in to my NY living room, but right now I loathe him.
He stepped down as Vice Chairman of the Time Warner company in 2003 and has been slowly relinquishing power ever since. And with him gone the Braves have been put up for sale while slowly losing money the past three years, despite continued success.
Then he announces that he is 'disappointed' that Time Warner is selling off assets, most specifically the Braves.
Well then don't leave! DUH!
If he is so worried about the fate of the Braves and sad to see them go, then keep them.
He bought them for $12 million and they are now worth $382 million.
Maybe, just maybe, they are worth keeping. At least he showed that he cared about the team and that is more than some owners which was a huge part of their success.
But I really don't want to listen to how sad and let down he is when he is retiring with all the revenue from the team and his other investments.
Boo Hoo....
Yeah I would cry myself to sleep every night if I was retiring with that much money, and just selling my baseball team because I felt like it.

Smoltz v. A. Jones

Teammates since 1996 John Smoltz has never thrown a pitch to Andruw Jones outside of batting practice, and those don't count.
That all changed March 5 when Smoltz started for the Braves against WBC team, the Netherlands, for whom Andruw is the starting center fielder.
Bobby Cox knew what he was doing when he announced his starting pitcher and he also knew the guys would not give up a chance to earn bragging rights.
Before the game Cox said "With Smoltzie going you know damn well he will go after him."
And that's exactly what he did.
Smoltz told Andruw what was coming. Two fastballs.
What he didn't tell him was that he was going to ask for a new ball and toss the old one back, but not to the umpire. Instead it went right back at Andruw... who was one step ahead and preceded to tip the ball into the Braves dugout.
Unfortunately, there was no clear victor as Jones grounded out to third base. No strikeout. No homerun. No bragging rights.
But at least they had fun, and isn't that what both the WBC and spring training are about?

The right way to train

Bobby Cox has clearly been doing something right. You can't really argue with 14 straight division titles. But an AP Wire story gives a slightly different perspective on what Cox is doing right.
apparently it is all in the spring training.
Cox has always been a no nonsense guy but he runs his camp in the same way he runs his locker room, which is not the norm in baseball.
Instead of having his players doing a ton of drills and trying to get them in shape, he expects them to be in shape already and then just has them work on baseball drills. And when they are done they are told to get off the field, instead of hanging around on the field for hours.
The players are expected to already be in shape and he will work on their mechanics, and if you don't get in shape so he can do that, then you don't make the team....
Maybe more teams should give it a try.