Category Archives: Welcome

2009: A Time to Rebuild?

While watching the Braves battle it out against the very young and very talented Diamondbacks and Brewers this past week, my mind kept returning to the same thought over and over again: where is the young Baby Braves talent?

It’s not something I’m used to worrying about as a Braves fan, but after spending several months mulling through the Braves minor league rosters and stats, I’m about 95% positive that there just isn’t enough talent in the farm system to sustain a run at the division title (and definitely not a World Series title) after the current regime calls it quits. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Bobby Cox knows what I’m talking about, as do Frank Wren and John Schuerholz, and even guys like Chipper and John Smoltz are probably somewhat aware of the situation. It’s a sad thing to accept, but we’re going to lose Glavine, Smoltz, Chipper, Teixeira, and Bobby Cox all within the next year or two, and we simply don’t have the talent to replace them.

Braves fans all over the country will tell you that we’ve got plenty of young talent, and guys like McCann, Escobar, and Frenchy will dutifully carry on the torch once their comrades have retired and moved on, but what most fans are forgetting is that none of them can take the mound and pitch a quality start every fifth day. Right now our number one young pitcher is Jair Jurrjens, and after him there is a huge drop off in talent among the Braves minor league pitchers, and statistically speaking, Braves fans can only look forward to more guys like Jo Jo Reyes and Kyle Davies over the next several years.

If you look around at some of the other major league teams, it becomes very obvious that the Braves are severely lacking quality young arms. The Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics, Arizona Diamondbacks, Florida Marlins, San Francisco Giants, L.A. Dodgers, New York Yankees, and Cleveland Indians all have a level of pitching talent in the minors that is far superior to what the Braves have. It’s not even close. I wish I could say that I’m exaggerating just a little bit, but I’m not. Conservatively speaking, I would estimate that our pitching depth in the minor leagues ranks us somewhere in the area between 20th and 25th among all major league clubs, which means that unless we can stumble across some real gems in the next year or two, we’re gonna’ be toast until 2012 at the very least. It’s that bad.

So where does that leave the Braves? We haven’t done well drafting pitchers over the last decade, and quality arms are hard to come by in the free agent market (not to mention incredibly expensive), and we’ve already traded away most of our top minor league talent to land Tex (who will probably walk away this off season leaving the Braves with nothing and no one to replace him). If we can’t draft, sign, or trade for pitching talent, what else is there left to do?

Unfortunately, I think the only thing the Braves can do is start all over again. We’ve got talented hitters coming up through the system, but most of those guys are 3-5 years away from being productive major league starters, so maybe while we wait for them to come around the Braves can spend every other resource they have on acquiring and building up a talented bunch of young starting pitchers. They’ll probably need to refine/overhaul their scouting approach, dig down deeper when researching for trades, and set up a payroll that can support a major off season free agent acquisition. Starting in 2009, we’ll have to suffer through losing seasons, say goodbye to old friends, and worst of all we’ll have to accept the fact the the Atlanta Braves are no longer part of an unheralded dynasty. It will take time, and it will probably be very painful for Braves fans to watch, but if done correctly, the Braves could come away with a solid rotation capable of carrying them through to 2020 and perhaps beyond. Just thinking about it hurts my soul, but it has to be done.

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The Mets Still Don’t Get It

With school finals and then the beginning of my short summer break, I haven’t spent much time thinking about anything worth while to write about, but the sweep over the Mets this week got me pretty excited. Right now the Mets are a mere one game ahead of the Washington Nationals in the NL East, and Manager Willie Randolph is a few losses away from getting the proverbial ax. When asked about the lack of Mets mojo this season, David Wright insisted that it was in fact the players that were to blame and not Randolph. Obviously, David Wright doesn’t read this blog, otherwise he would realize by now that the Mets are suffering from the Curse of Pedro, and neither Willie Randolph nor David Wright can do anything about it. Bad mojo is bad mojo, and the Curse of Pedro will not be ignored.

Meanwhile, Chipper Jones is still hitting over .400, and the Braves are only 1.5 games behind the Marlins in the standings, despite losing John Smoltz. Chuck James and Jo Jo Reyes continue to be major disappointments, but the Braves are finding ways to stay afloat, and Jair Jurrjens is quietly turning into a very good pitcher. To give you an idea of exactly how good he’s been, here’s how he stacks up against Johan Santana so far in 2008…

There’s still a lot of baseball to play, but I like the way things are going for the Braves right now (as long as they can win this series against the Diamondbacks).

Pitching Problemas

There were a lot of people during Spring Training that picked the Braves to win the World Series, and they all said the same thing: Pitching is deep, the offense is loaded, the Braves are back.

Only problem with that argument is that the pitching isn’t really back. When the Braves of the 1990’s were winning behind guys like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, all of those pitchers were in their late 20’s, an age at which 99.9% of all baseball players hit their statistical peak. Fast forward to the 2008 season, and the Braves are now dependent on 32 year old Tim Hudson, 41 year old John Smotlz, 42 year old Tom Glavine, and 22 year old Jair Jurrjens. Beyond those 4 are Mike Hampton, Jo Jo Reyes, Chuck James, and Jeff Bennett, all of which have either demonstrated a limited amount of talent, or a limited ability to stay off the DL, meaning that the following image will be a familiar sight for Braves fans this year:

Obviously Smoltz, Hudson, and Glavine have plenty left in the tank, but time is catching up with all 3 of them as was evident in Glavine’s latest start against the Nationals when he pulled a hamstring in the 1st inning. Minor injuries, aches, pains, and the effects of a long season are going to take their toll on the Braves pitching staff, and there will probably be very few times this year when the Smoltz/Hudson/Glavine trio is healthy and at the top of their games. The situation is far improved over the 2007 season when the Braves were forced to hand the ball to guys like Mark Redman and Buddy Carlyle, but the pitching staff is not ideally suited to withstand 162 regular season games, as well as a deep run through the play-offs.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many talented arms coming up through the Braves farm system, and the best chance at attaining another ace pitcher may not come until the off-season. Even then, free agent pitchers are going to come with a hefty price tag, which would likely mean that the Braves will be forced to choose between trying to resign Mark Teixeira, or try and land some pitching talent. Hopefully, with the weight of Andruw Jones’ and Mike Hampton’s over-inflated salaries out of the way, there might be a way to reestablish a dominant rotation, while retaining or acquiring the talent necessary to keep the offense going. Until then, this season is likely to be full of many more frustrating 1-run-losses, and thoughts of “what if?”

Johan Santana Gets Hammered, Francoeur Goes Off

After a really nice performance by Tim Hudson last night, the Braves made it 2 wins in a row today behind another great outing by John Smoltz and a 7 RBI, 2 homer day from Jeff Francoeur.  Meanwhile, Johan Santana gave up 3 home runs in a loss to Milwaukee, making April 12th, 2008 an exceptionally good day.  All those prospects and all that money the Mets gave up over the off-season are simply no match for the Pedro Curse.

I knew Hudson and Smoltz would come up big against the Nationals, but I was actually getting a little impatient with Frenchy, who is holding down an outfield spot on my fantasy baseball team.  Up until today, Francoeur was hitting .262 with just 1 home run, and I was contemplating digging through the free agent pile for a stand-in player until Jeff got on a roll, but luckily I stuck with him and he came up big today.   During the 1st inning, Francoeur hit a 3 run homer to left, followed by a 2 RBI single in the 4th, and a 2 run homer to left in the 6th inning.  In all, that gives Jeff 3 home runs, 11 RBI, and a .298 average for the season.

It’s possible that Frenchy could follow up today’s performance with an offensive drought, but I like to think that this is just a sign of things to come for the 2008 season.

The One-Run Blues: Week 1 in Review

Even though the Braves got blown out by the Rockies last night, every other loss this season has come down to a matter on one measly run that the Braves either gave up in the field, or failed to bring across the plate in a critical offensive moment. Losses like that could be seen as simple bad luck, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there’s something else at play here, but I’m not sure if it’s a club house issue, or if it’s a weakness in the line-up.

On paper, the Braves look good, and the starting pitching has usually been very solid, but the team has put together only a couple of great offensive games, and the bullpen looks like it’s got a flat tire or two that need immediate patching. April is always a slow month for the Braves, as they often treat their first 30 or so games like extended Spring Training, ironing out wrinkles and dead spots in the rotation and batting order, but like I said before, I have a bad feeling about the losses we’ve seen so far.

Last night was perhaps the most aggravating game I have watched all season, as hitter after hitter came up empty against none other than Mark Redman, a guy who gets paid to throw batting practice during games. Last year Redman gave up what seemed like 1,000’s of runs during his time with the Braves, only to shut down almost every Braves hitter almost exactly a year later. His “curveball” came in around 64 or 65 mph last night, and literally had no curve to it, and he wasn’t exactly painting the corners with solid strike to ball ratios, but no one in the Braves dugout seemed inclined to get into a hitter’s count, and subsequently spent most of the night flailing at outside pitches, or coming around to early on Redman’s “fastball” (82 mph? Are you kidding me?), hitting choppers to the shortstop all night. Very disappointing.

One of the biggest highlights of the past week was the Braves performance against the Mangy Mets. Though one of the games got rained out, taking 2 wins from the Mets and putting Johan Santana in his place was very gratifying, and watching Smoltz mow down all those Mets players was a great sight to behold. I thought it was funny that the Braves were saying they pitched Smoltz over Glavine last Sunday so that Smoltz wouldn’t have to make his first start in Colorado, where the cold weather might have caused him to tighten up. In reality, the Braves, the Mets, and just about everyone else knew that Glavine has a snowballs chance in hell at getting through a Mets line-up that knows him better than almost every player in the Braves dugout (including pitching coach Roger McDowell). Jose Reyes and David Wright spent the last few years watching that Glavine circle change-up, and they know exactly when it’s coming and what it looks like. If Bobby Cox can avoid it, I think he’ll change up the rotation to keep Glavine off the mound anytime the Mets are in the opposing dugout.

The season is still young, and there is still a lot of baseball to be played, but I really hope we don’t spend the remainder of the year watching the Braves lose in close ball games. Kotsay looks pretty good in center, and Escobar looks fabulous at shortstop, so there are some things to be optimistic about. I’ll keep watching and waiting for the offense to hit it’s stride, and hopefully we’ll be able to plug in that pesky #5 spot in the rotation soon (I’m talkin’ to you Mike Hampton!).

-Adam G.

Atlanta Braves Autograph Tips At Turner Field

Even though it’s still early in the season, it’s never too early to start planning to add to your autograph collection. If you weren’t able to head down to Spring Training, then you can always grab some autographs of your favorite players right here in Atlanta once the regular season starts, and it can be easy to do if you know where and when to ask.

I’ve spent many afternoons and evenings at Turner Field watching the Braves, and as an avid autograph collector, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to get autographs while there. Here’s a quick list of tips to help you increase your chances of getting an autograph:

  1. Before the game, you can wait outside the gate at the players parking lot and snag a few autographs. Bring one of those fold-up camping chairs, a book, some snacks, and your gear to get signed, and be sure to show up about 3 hours before game time. If you’re unsure about where the players parking lot is located, you can see it just behind the stadium at the corner of Bill Lucas Drive and Hank Aaron Drive on Google Maps. Usually 3-5 players will sign before a game.
  2. If you want to get autographs from the visiting team, go to the players entrance along Pollard Boulevard (see the Google Map if you don’t know where that is; it runs parallel to the 3rd base side of the field). Usually several players will show up in taxis, and there’s just a small police barrier between players and fans, so I generally have better luck getting autographs there than at the Braves parking lot.
  3. Inside the stadium, you can only get autographs before or after the game. According to the Braves website, fans can ask for autographs along the outfield side of each dugout from the time the gates open until 1 hour before the game starts. Gates open about 2.5 hours before the game, and you are allowed to go down to the field level exactly 2 hours before the game, leaving you with about an hour to get autographs. It’s usually pretty difficult to get autographs this way, but if you have field level tickets around home plate then you can hang out along the dugouts up until the game starts and you might be able to pick up an extra autograph or two.
  4. After the game is over, head back to the players parking lot and you might grab a few more autographs before it’s time to go home.  Some players will stop and sign on a good night, and you’ll usually have a small crowd on hand so you won’t have to fight for autographs.  I haven’t had a lot of success getting autographs after the game, but right after the game you’ll be stuck in traffic if you try and leave, so why not wait around and try to snag a few more autos?
  5. The last tip I have is probably the best, so pay attention!  When the Braves wrap up a home stand and are headed out of town on a road trip, they always exit the stadium and get on the team bus just past the players parking lot.  The entire team rides to the airport together, and they all board the bus at about the same time, so if you plan ahead and get tickets for the last game of a home stand, wait behind the stadium towards the end of the game, and you should see a barricaded walkway leading to the team buses.  Hang out there with your gear and guys like Chipper and Teixeira might be a little more willing to sign than they normally would be.

As always, be courteous, say “please” and “thank you”, have several good pens and your stuff ready to be signed.  Also, be kind to other fans, take your turn, and let the kids go first.  If you have any other tips, feel free to post them here, and as always, good luck and let me know how it goes!

-Adam G.

Pedro Martinez to DL, Braves Thump the Bucs

I don’t mean to brag, but I gotta’ say that I saw this one coming. Pedro Martinez has been placed on the DL for 4-6 weeks, with a mild hamstring strain that he suffered last night against the Marlins. It’s a sad turn of events for Mets fans, but the nature of The Curse means that it’s just the beginning. It’s a lot like karma, and it’s a pain in the you-know-what. When Pedro originally had surgery back in 2006, the Mets were able to win the division soon after because they’re karma was so bad, but now that Pedro is making a comeback, the Mets have to pay up. Like I said, it’s just the beginning, and I think it has a lot to do with these 2 pictures:

In other news, the Braves pounded the Pirates, while enjoying a very nice start by Jair Jurrjens. He’s got great downward movement on several of his pitches, coupled with excellent control. He should be a great commodity for the Braves this year. Matt Diaz, Mark Teixeira, and Yunel Escobar all hit homers, and the defense generally looked better than it did in the previous 2 games. The bullpen also nailed down the last 3 innings without any major hiccups. I think what we saw tonight is what we’re likely to see from the Braves for most of the season (barring injuries of course).