Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

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02 Sep

Different Series, Same Result

The Braves are on quite the roll! Today’s game marked the fourth time in their last five series they have been swept, and during that stretch they are sporting a cool 1-15 record. I am a little embarrassed for the Rockies, the victims of the Braves lone win. I can’t help but think derisively of them, “you lost to THAT team?!?”

With today’s outcome final, I officially retract my petition to the commissioner’s office to let the Braves play only the Fish for the rest of the season. It really doesn’t matter who this team plays. Watching them for the rest of this season really will be about as much fun as writing an alimony check.

This entire game in a nutshell:
The Williamses were called back up to make an emergency start in place of Folty, who was DLed with the virus that forced Shelby Miller into his 194,573,982 consecutive start without a win on Monday night. The Dynamic Duo showed some improvement, only giving up 6 runs and 9 hits while remaining in the game long enough that they could have picked up the win if their team had been facing the 1930 Phillies. Edwin Jackson took care of the next two innings and did what he does bast in a Braves uniform—surrender a run. I don’t know how his ERA is still in the 3.60s. I feel like every box score I see has runs next to his name. The Braves offensive hero on the afternoon was not Alex Wood, who somehow got a grounder through the left side of the infield to knock in two runs. His batting average is now up to .143, so I think it would be a good time to reevaluate that trade to determine the winner.

To paraphrase a recent DOB tweet, if the Braves play baseball and there’s nobody there to see them, did it really happen? I vote no, which would mean this series must be struck from the official record.

One small favor to ask of the Bad News Braves as they make their way to Washington for a 4-game set: please, for the love of all that is good about baseball, forget who you are for the next four days and play the spoiler. There are plenty of baseball games left this month for you to lose to get a good draft pick. But please, for now, kick the Nats while they are down.

Natspos delenda est.

01 Sep

Marlins 7, Braves 1

Miami Marlins vs. Atlanta Braves – Box Score – September 01, 2015 – ESPN

Hector Olivera made his debut and did absolutely nothing of note, which means he is already more competent than the average Braves player, these days. Banuelos wasn’t good, but at least he’s back on the mound. Some other guys did some stuff. The team lost again.

(Full disclosure: Before tonight’s game, I hadn’t watched a single live pitch this year. Additional, equally-full disclosure: After tonight’s game, I still haven’t watched a single live pitch this year. The Internet, and occasionally Jim and Don, keep me updated.)

So, you know, whatever. Anyway! I’m pretty excited about the 2016 chapter of The Great Farm System Rebuild, so I’m just going to ramble on a bit about that.

At this juncture, it’s hard to imagine the Braves not finishing with a bottom-five record (and top-five pick). It’s early, but while the upcoming draft class appears to have good depth, it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a David Price/Stephen Strasburg/Bryce Harper type at the top — I think that’s a good thing for the Braves. As with this past draft, the teams with the top few picks are going to be able to save a million or two on signing bonuses in those top slots. So, given the aforementioned draft-class depth and the probable savings on their first pick, the Braves should be able to add a second elite talent with that supplemental pick they acquired in the Wood, Olivera, et al. deal.

(Way-too-early favorite pitcher for the Braves’ first pick: AJ Puk, power lefty from – gross – the University of Florida. Way-too-early favorite hitter for the Braves’ first pick: Kyle Lewis, power-hitting corner outfielder from Mercer. [It’s a miracle that I’m not mentioning anyone with any ties to Vanderbilt in this paragraph.])

And then, beyond the draft, there’s the whole July 2nd period, which looks . . . promising.

I’m also still foolishly hoping for a David Price signing to speed up the rebuild — and even more foolishly hoping for a Yoenis Cespedes signing to really speed up the rebuild — but those are major-leaguers and therefore not part of what I said I was going to talk about, so I’ll stop.

01 Sep

Nothin’ Oh Nothin’: Miami Sound Machine 4, Atlanta Rhythm Section 0

Nothin’, oh nothing is something.
Braves don’t get anything, so we want them to leave.
Nothin’, oh nothin’ almost everyday.
You gotta score something, if you want fans to see.

No Braves hitter’s a hero.
So zero, is what we do see.
OWAR’s a big fat minus,
Jonny Gomes got lucky enough to leave.

Shelby Miller’s still a pitcher.
Here’s a glass raised to you.
Chris Narveson giving up no runs,
But that’s easy against Braves’ zoo.

“O” highlight went to Ciriaco,
He’s walked once in this century.
This team is so dreadful,
It’s like Hamlet, “not to be?”

Hector shows up for tonight.
But even a hero of Troy can’t fix this.
We are striving hard for pick 1,
And this team will still likely miss.

Nothin’, oh nothing is something.
It’s something, just the only thing.

30 Aug

Braves 4, Yankees 0

After eight dominant Greg Maddux innings and some timely hitting, the Braves are up 2-0 over the Yankees in this World Series and are heading home. They just have to win two of three games in Fulton County Stadium to secure their second straight world championship. What an amazing time it is to be a Braves fan!

After winning Game 1 by a 12-1 margin, Atlanta wasted no time jumping on Jimmy Key and the Yankees. In the top of the first, Mark Lemke lined a one-out double to the left-field wall. He was driven home by Fred McGriff, who lined a single up the middle.

It was just one run, but it was all the support Maddux would need. He threw all but one Braves inning, recording two strikeouts, two flyouts, and 20 (!) groundouts.  At least five of those were of the “chopped off the plate, back to the pitcher” variety. If you’ve been watching Maddux since he signed with the Braves four winters ago, it was a familiar performance: changing speeds and locations, sawing batters off, getting a ridiculous number of weak grounders. Tim McCarver, part of FOX’s new baseball broadcast team, said Maddux “thinks with his fingers.” Phrasing, Tim. Are we still doing phrasing? But the underlying point was correct: Maddux’s control was the story of this game.

The story of the last game, Andruw Jones of the two Game 1 homers, continued to impress. Just 19, lithe, and athletic, Jones evaded a tag on a pitchout in the second and I’m still not sure how he did it. Just an impossibly athletic play. If this kid stays in shape, he could be a franchise mainstay for the next 20 years.

The Braves doubled their lead in the third, when Marquis Grissom doubled into right field, Lemke advanced him to third on a sacrifice bunt, and McGriff lined a single up the middle to drive him in. McGriff was an RBI machine this game; in the fifth, he brought Lemke in with a sac fly to make it 3-0.

The Yankees never really mounted any sort of sustained offensive rally. Paul O’Neill hit a double in the second to the delight of the fans in the right field bleachers, but that was about the best chance they had. But seriously, Yankee bleacher fans, are we not doing “phrasing” anymore?

Mark Wohlers came in to pitch the ninth and threw a filthy inning, striking out the first two Yankees he saw and pitching his seventh straight scoreless inning of these playoffs. I doubt the Yankees can touch him this series.

If there was a negative in this game. it was the FOX broadcast. Buck and McCarver are an awkward duo; Buck sounds like he’d rather be somewhere else, while McCarver talks to you like you’re six years old and watching baseball for the first time. Bob Brenly was in the booth with them, but didn’t have much room to speak. And the producers spent a lot of time on extraneous things like network TV stars in the stands and Maddux’s wife (who was for some reason split-screened with Maddux through the entire seventh inning.) But it’s the network’s first postseason, and they’re working out the kinks and learning from their mistakes. I’m sure they’ll sign up a better announcing team for future postseasons.

They did notice and point out that Bud Selig, the interim commissioner, had put his signature on the game ball; it was the first commissioner’s signature on the World Series ball since Fay Vincent’s in 1991. Since he’s just an interim commissioner, Selig won’t be in office for much longer, so it’s a nice touch to get him a World Series signature ball.

But seriously, what a great time to be a Braves fan! Assuming they can go home and win two of three in Fulton County Stadium, the Braves will go into their new Olympic digs as two-time defending world champions. (And that stadium looks like a jewel! It’s state of the art and looks like it should be the “home of the Braves” for the next 50 years or more.) The roster is a great mix of veterans (Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, McGriff) and homegrown kids (Chipper, Andruw, Javy, Dye).

The dynasty has begun, and the Braves fans of NYC doing the Tomahawk Chop in the ninth as Wohlers mowed the Yanks down knew it. Ted Turner’s only 57 years old, so presumably he’s got another 20 good years of overseeing this team in him. The only question is, how many championships will they win in that time frame? I wish I could fast forward a couple decades and find out. Suck it, Yankees!

30 Aug

Auburn Preview (by spike)

I don’t much feel like recapping today’s game for obvious reasons. Wisler pitched pretty well, but the offense couldn’t score if you spotted them a thousand bucks and dropped them off in Bangkok. Here’s an Auburn preview instead.

“Farthest from your mind is the thought of falling back; in fact, it isn’t there at all. And so you dig your hole carefully and deep, and wait” – 506 PIR Currahee Scrapbook

To be an Auburn man is to understand that you are forever surrounded by bigger, more prominent, better funded state-name schools on all sides. It’s the kind of thing that begets patience, paranoia, and a bit of a mean streak. Last year’s season was a setback, no doubt. But you’ve come a long way baby when a setback is 8-5 as opposed to what would’ve been considered pretty good not too long ago. It does feel like the spring is back in their step this season.

They are a sexy pick for the playoff and widely considered to have a very good chance at another SEC title. There is still a schedule that has LSU, Georgia, Alabama, and the Mississippis on it every year, as well as at least one tough OOC foe in Louisville. The team looked pretty good through seven games last year only to come apart at the end, giving back all the luck they got in 2013 along with a less than stout defense.

The offense:
For a guy who started only a couple of games last year, Jeremy Johnson sure is well thought of. I suspect that’s because he looks quite a bit more like the prototypical quarterback than most. Big, tall, rocket arm and can move around in the pocket but not a run first guy like Marshall. Similarly, he’s got a lot of respected but less than fully vetted talent in the backfield with him.

Roc Thomas is explosive and Jovan Robinson was the top rated JUCO running back last season. Either is a threat to maintain Auburn’s run of SEC rushing leaders. Kerryon Johnson is an intriguing talent and an Alabama Mr. Football that looks to come in as a change of pace playmaker. The receiving corps is anchored by veterans Duke Williams and Ricardo Louis with plenty of depth.

Despite losing one of its historically great players in Reese Dismukes, Auburn’s o-line figures to be as good or potentially even better and a lot deeper. Avery Young figures to be a potential first round pick at tackle, and Kozan, Golson, and Coleman all have experience. Guard Braden Smith has been a beast this spring. I think we can all agree that a Gus Malzahn offense figures to be a good to great one year in and year out at this point.

The defense:
Well this is where it all went pear-shaped last year. And yet having said that, there is plenty of reason to think things will be much different. Will Muschamp has earned his rep of being a defensive guru, and bringing along Travarious Robinson and luring away Lance Thompson from Alabama will help.

As with the offense, the talent is already there. The big name of course is Carl Lawson, all-SEC freshman DE who was lost last year to injury. He has looked every bit as good post rehab. DTs Montravious Adams is an NFL lock when he decides to go, and redshirt Dontavious Russell also figures to start upfront. Bluest of blue chips Byron Cowart may well see significant time this year. Auburn gets back it’s best two linebackers in Kris Frost and Cass Mckinzey. Auburns secondary got torched regularly last year, but brings in experienced newcomers Tray Mathews formerly of Georgia and Blake Countess, all big 10 from Michigan to shore things up immediately. There’s not much depth in back, but the starters look a lot better.

Special teams:
Auburn routinely has a very good kicking game which dropped off a wee bit last year as Daniel Carlson had to do the punting as well as placekicking and field-goals. Ian Shannon figures to take over the punting this year and lighten the load. They have plenty of talented open field runners to get a return game going again, but fumbles killed them last year. That has to change.

Outlook:
Most Auburn fans can’t wait for the season to start, but then again we felt that way last year too. Still, scheduling favors us, as much as it can anyway, getting Georgia and Bama at home. Couple that with an offense that should be as good as ever and a defense that figures to improve a ton, and you get a great chance of going a long way. Too much has to go right for Auburn to go undefeated, but 10-1 should get them to Atlanta, and that’s what I’m going with. If that pans out, I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t win two more and carry on with their every year or so appearance in the national championship.

It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger these days – feels like the program will be elite for a long time to come. And if it doesn’t work out this year, well, we will dig our hole carefully and deep and wait.

29 Aug

Good Team 15, Not So Much 4

All you need to know is that Jonny Gomes pitched the ninth, and pitched better than both of our starters.

28 Aug

Series Preview: Slumping Yanks @ Bad News Braves (by Ububba)

This weekend’s series finds the suddenly stumbling New York Yankees at Turner Field for a trio of games with the following pitching matchups:

   • Friday night: Masahiro Tanaka (9-6, 3.61) vs. Williams Perez (4-4, 4.76)
   • Saturday night: Luis Severino (1-2, 2.74) vs. Matt Wisler (5-4, 5.43)
   • Sunday afternoon: Nathan Eovaldi (13-2, 4.00) vs. Julio Teheran (9-6, 4.29)

Make no mistake: Our team sucks out loud & it can lose to any club anywhere at any time —€“ for several games in a row, for a week straight, or certainly often enough to make one wonder if we’ll ever win again. At this point, with the Braves plummeting to their worst finish in a quarter-century, it’s hard not to merely root for draft position and against injuries. That’s all we have, really.

But for me, a native Georgian/lifelong Braves fan who’s lived in New York City for 25 years—see the symmetry?—these are the games that’ll get some attention. (Confession: I’ve been a Yankee season-ticket holder for two decades.) The rest of the season will be kinda like one of those odd years when my Georgia Bulldogs stagger down the stretch without a chance to win an SEC football title—in those cases, you just want to beat your rivals, maybe ruin someone’s season, if you can. “Hey, let’s trip up Auburn before we stick it to the Humble Bumbles, and then let’s win the bowl game.” So, what I’m really saying: At this point, I just wanna beat the Yanks & the Mets.

But before we look again at those pitching matchups and mentally punt the entire series, it should be noted again that, right now, this Pinstriped bunch is reeling a little bit. Yes, the trade-enriched Blue Jays are rampaging thru the AL & have passed the Bombers in the division—the Yanks are not hitting much these days. But a little bit of perspective might be in order for this particular Yankee club.

Coming in to the season, a Wild Card berth might’ve been considered the club’s ceiling. Why? There were just so many what-ifs & maybes—essentially, a lotta best-case scenarios had to happen if this club was going to contend.

For starters, Teixeira & A-Rod, their two main power sources, were returning from various injuries & a notable year-long suspension. Brian McCann was coming off the worst season of his career. Although Jacoby Ellsbury had a good, though certainly not great, first season (and a full one), his history told us that it could be tough to keep this very expensive player on the field. In 2014, Carlos Beltran looked occasionally crippled & perhaps washed-up. Ditto for C.C. Sabathia. (It was a bit strange to consider that, of all the high-priced talent the club had acquired for its lineup, the one guy Yankee fans could probably count on for a good 2015 was Brett Gardner.)

But, back to the rest of the potentially rickety rotation: After a blazing start, Tanaka went down in mid-season ’14, then eschewed surgery, so he remained a huge question in ’15. Ivan Nova & Michael Pineda had also been injury-prone —€“ who knew what they could give? Swingman Adam Warren looked promising, but had never pitched big innings. And Eovaldi, whom they plucked from South Beach for Martin Prado, remained a power pitcher with an upside, but a guy who’d never really put it together. The bullpen, however, looked pretty bad-ass by teaming Dellin Betances with free-agent Andrew Miller, who replaced closer David Robertson.

The first four months of the season were more than hunky-dory in YankeeLand. They hit a gazillion home runs, mostly fueled by Teixeira and A-Rod, whose comeback was considered a redemption by some fans, thoroughly fishy by others. (With him, the drama never ends.) The rotation mostly held up and the bullpen was lights-out. Until very recently, they stayed in first place.

At the moment, however, they’re 1.5 games behind Toronto & more than a few fans believe that this is an old club that’s breaking down before our very eyes, wilting in the depths of summer. Their two most valuable offensive players for the year have seemingly hit a wall and one has suffered “the inevitable injury.” Outside a game-winning GSHR last week vs. Cleveland, A-Rod (26 HRs) has been mired in a deep slump for nearly a month. FWIW, we won’t see him this weekend, unless he’s a PH. He no longer wears a glove.

Teixeira (31 HRs) suffered a “deep bone bruise” on a foul ball off his leg this past week. If he plays at all at The Ted, watch him try to run —€“ he couldn’t beat Haystacks Calhoun in a 40-yard dash right now. I’m guessing we’ll see more of Greg Bird at 1B instead. On a team that’s relied heavily on the long ball all year, those 2 guys really carried the Yanks to August. But now they’re truly struggling and/or playing hurt.

The rest of the offense? McCann’s been better than last year—his counting numbers (23 HR, 75 RBI, etc.) are already the same as ’14 with 6 weeks to go in ’15—and his rate stats are up noticeably (.245/.314/.469 from .232/.286/.406). Didi Gregorius, who was a real disaster (mostly offensively) the first couple months seems to have shaken it all off & he’s begun to hit. His range remains good, even if he’s muffed some routine balls & had a few bad throwing errors.

It must be noted that Ellsbury is practically stealing money this year. Look up his salary, then look up his ’15 stats & you’ll see that $21M isn’t exactly a bargain for a .714 OPS/101 OPS+ in limited play. (Hey, only 6 years & $127M more to go on that contract, and guess what? He’s hurt again.) Gardner, a fan favorite who earned his first All-Star berth this summer, is hitting about .200 since that All-Star Game.

The only guy who’s really hitting right now is Beltran, who got off to a terrible start & had an injury- riddled 2014. (What’s new with this bunch?) He seems likes he’s in a groove —€“ that easy stroke is really stinging the ball these days. A Bad Note: He might be the AL’s worst RF. He’s had some adventures out there, and a couple of them have really hurt the club —€“ but you can’t DH him, unless you’re also going to sit A-Rod. Beltran just cannot move anymore out there.

At 3B, it’s hard to figure what’s happened to Chase Headley this year. At the plate, he’s been OK— league-average, exactly—if a bit of a disappointment following his $52M extension thru 2018. But he’s been less than great in the field —€“ 20 errors & some really shaky moments along the way. At 2B, Stephen Drew has been feast-or-famine at the plate—sub.200 BA, but 15 HRs—still, he plays a solid 2B. If the other guys hit, he doesn’t kill you. And FWIW, he’s gotten some really big HRs for them this season.

Overall, their pitching is middle of the pack in the AL. Their starters are nothing terribly special outside Tanaka on a good day —€“ though Severino appears to have really good stuff thru his 3 starts. Eovaldi has a gaudy record and has pitched well lately, but he’s benefitted from run support & he’s gotten touched up a bit throughout the year. Nova is OK, but doesn’t strike fear in anyone—I saw him get blasted by Houston the other night—and it always appears that the ever-fragile Pineda will have a good outing, then they’ll skip his next start or give him an extra day to recover. Before he reinjured his knee & went on the DL this past week, Sabathia was pitching a little better —€“ but for most of the season was a bit of a disaster. It was charitable to call him the world’s most-expensive 5th starter.

If they do escape or get past the Wild Card round & into the ALDS, don’t be surprised to see a rotation of Tanaka, Eovaldi, Severino & Nova (or Adam Warren). Scary? Not really. The relievers have been a real strength and the back of their bullpen (Betances & Miller) has been as good as any combo in baseball this season. LHP Chasen Shreve has been terrific as well, boasting a crazy reverse split (a .580 OPS for right-handed hitters). They just haven’t had too many late leads to protect in recent times.

For the Yanks to be a post-season force, once again, a lot will have to go right for them—and that includes basic health. Doesn’t mean they won’t thump us this weekend in our own ballpark, but this is not your older brother’s Yankees. Right now, they’re kinda held together with duct tape, chewing gum and baling wire—though it’s certainly the best such materials money can buy, purchased from the highest-end boutique.

27 Aug

Rockies 6, Braves 3

This game could have gone better.

Shelby Miller channeled his inner Harry Houdini in the first two innings when he got himself into and then promptly out of some sticky jams. In the first the Rockies got runners on the corners with one out, and then loaded the bases in the second with no outs. They Barved both situations up by getting exactly zero runs. In the midst of a season full of great futility, it is quite refreshing at times to see other teams squander golden opportunities.

To reward him for his efforts, the Braves offense gifted Miller with one run in the bottom of the second. Their generosity is to be applauded. If Shelby knew how to win, that lead would have been all he needed.

That run seemed to give Shelby the spark he needed, and he got on a roll, retiring Rockie after Rockie. Then the Braves sixth inning happened. Jonny Gomes and Adonis Garcia led off the inning with back-to-back jacks to give Shelby a three-run lead. Jace Peterson followed with a ground-rule double on his way to a three-hit, two-sacrifice night. He’s been scuffling so much, that offensive production was a sight for sore eyes. The Braves couldn’t scratch across that fourth run, though, and left Jace stranded at third with the bases loaded. You can’t really blame them, though; getting three whole runs for Shelby Miller was already quite the undertaking.

The last time Shelby was the beneficiary of that kind of offense was around the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and he was overwhelmed by it all. He immediately gave up the first Rockie hit since the second inning, then gave up another, and another, and another, and another, and before the dust had settled and the Braves had the chance to grab their bats again, Shelby was out of the game and the Rockies had the lead. His winless streak now ranks #1 in Atlanta history.

Edwin Jackson put the icing on the cake with a two-run eighth, ensuring that any crazy thoughts the Braves might have entertained about coming back to win the game were promptly squashed.

The positive that came out of this series is that it took place at Turner Field, so the Braves only lost the series and did not get swept. Dare we hope for a similarly good result for this weekend’s series against the Yankees?

26 Aug

Rockes 5, Braves 1 (by coop)

To err is human.

Divinely named, Adonis Garcia was human tonight. He erred. He erred three times.

Four runs resulted. None were earned, but all were counted; and Mike Foltynewicz was charged with them all. Folty pitched well. He went five innings, allowed five hits and a single walk and nary an earned run.

The pen stopped the hemorrhaging. Sugar Ray Marimon and Peter Moylan blanked the Rockies through three solid innings of relief.

In the ninth, Matt Marksberry was the pitching equivalent of Garcia. He walked three, threw two wild pitches but gave up only one run. It really didn’t matter, because the Braves were done after the first. Rockies win 5-1.

25 Aug

Rocky Whoop Ass High: Appalachians 5, Rockies 3

I have had a dread summer in this 57th year.
Braves gone back to twenty five years before.
Looking at yesterday and more, never seemed to find a win.
But this one night was a win once more.

When I first followed the A Braves, Hank had no gray hair.
In ninety one we changed the chart to wins.
But that string of crowns is broken, and went to who knows where.
We got a glimpse of Hart’s plan and we hope it comes along.

It’s a Colorado Rocky whoop ass high.
Johnny Gomes raining a homer from the sky
(with Adonis Garcia). We saw those balls fly.
Rocky whoop ass high, in Atlanta.

Home Julio Teheran was back o.k. to help us.
Michael Bourne took one out at home.
Arodys Vizcaino slammed the door in inning 9.
Christian Bethancourt is not just a memory.

Nick Markakis had 3 hits and always gets on base.
10 hits 5 walks and you ought to score at least 5.
But twenty fifteen Braves are subject to Episodes.
But serenity, at the park known as the Ted.

It’s a Colorado Rocky whoop ass high.
Rockies also had homers raining from the sky
But when you get more runs, you’re the team that wins.
Rocky whoop ass high, in Atlanta.

Now Fredi Gonzalez’ life is full of wonder, but his heart still has some fear.
There are simple things he cannot comprehend.
He switches bad players erratically,
But tonight, it worked with Gomes and Bourne.

It’s a Colorado Rocky whoop ass high.
Sometimes you can win if you try.
Tonight we got more runs, so Braves were the team that won.
Rocky whoop ass high, in Atlanta.

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