Tag Archives: Braves

What To Do About The Atlanta Braves?

It is a rebuilding year. We knew going into the season that Atlanta would take its lumps under new leadership and their sights fixated toward 2017, but did we really think it would get this bad? A once proud franchise that has recently been mired in mediocrity has officially hit rock bottom, losing 12 straight games and an unfathomable 19 out of 20 games. Atlanta holds just a one-game lead over Philadelphia for the worst record in the entire Major League.

It has gone from bad to worse. A pathetic effort on the field, now fans falling to their death in the stands. Just brutal.

The Braves are void of talent, but it is nearly impossible to play as bad as they have. Where is the heart? Where is the effort? Most importantly, where is the pride? This team does not compete at all. They take the field, take their whooping – and their pay check – and go home. Journeymen and young players liter the field, given a golden opportunity to seize the moment and jump start – or revitalize – their careers. Nah. Instead this group of taxi-squad players just disappoint aside from the few professionals that have busted their butts all season.

Nick Markakis has been zapped of all his power after offseason surgeries and rehab, but he has still managed to hit a team-high .295. A.J. Pierzynski has been a leader in the clubhouse and has hit .294, but hasn’t been dealt to a contender yet to help add to the farm system. The 38-year-old is on his last wheels and this will likely be the last productive season of his long career as he won’t be able to help the club much moving forward.

Cameron Maybin was off to his best season ever, but has tapered off. Freddie is still Freddie and Nick Swisher has played well and hopefully has gained some value on the trade market even with his inflated contract.

The rest of the offense hasn’t done much of anything. Atlanta has hit an MLB-low 83 homers, 18 less than the second-to-last place Marlins and also have the fewest runs scored. Only Freddie Freeman and Maybin have cracked double-digit long balls.

Jace Peterson ran into a hot streak and looked like the second baseman of the future, but after a .174 month of July and .238 August, he is hitting just .236 on the year.

Not Your 90’s Braves…

The pitching, like the hitting, has been just as bad. Atlanta’s 4.58 team ERA ranks 27th out of 30 teams. Shelby Miller is 5-13, but sports a 2.81 ERA and hasn’t won a game since May 17th when he almost threw a no-hitter and advanced to 5-1. Alex Wood was shipped away in a 13-man deal that netted Atlanta Hector Olivera, a 30-year-old Cuban rookie that hit .178 in the Braves farm system. Olivera has subsequently hit .133 so far with the big league club. Swing-and-a-miss.

Another big miss has been Julio Teheran. Former General Manger Frank Wren inked the 24-year-old to a long term deal. Teheran has been the gift that keeps giving as he has rewarded the since fired Wren and current GM John Hart with a 4.51 ERA.

The bullpen was steady early on, but Jason Grilli tore his achilles and Jim Johnson was sent away for prospects which was the correct move. Atlanta has run out slop that even I have never heard of, with ERAs so astronomical, you would think it is a misprint.

In Atlanta’s inspiring 15-1 loss to Washington last week in which they collected two hits, here are the ERAs of the Braves pitchers that appeared: 5.97, 6.05, 6.23, 7.00, 7.07, 6.00, 5.06 and 5.82.

A ghastly sight for any pitching coach

Important rookie pitchers and hitters that were expected to help the team out in the long run have flamed out spectacularly so far. Top infield prospect Jose Peraza was given up on and shipped to Los Angeles. Matt Wisler was supposed to be the gem in the Craig Kimbrel trade, but has a 5.81 ERA in 15 games. Williams Perez? 5.65. Flamethrower Mike Foltynewicz? 5.71 ERA. Manny Banuelos’ stock is still down with a 5.13 ERA.

Patience is paramount with a rebuilding team, but it has gotten out of hand and new blood might be needed to lead the Braves next season.

The Atlanta Braves: Buy or Sell?

It’s July 7 and the Braves are only five games out of first place. Would you believe me if I told you that in April? Would you buy into the team being a postseason contender? Atlanta is 41-42. The division-leading Washington Nationals are 46-37 after slumping badly out of the gates. The Mets are currently in second place at 43-41, but have no speakable offense and rival the 2014 Braves in terms of offensive incompetency.

The plan under new General Manager John Hart was to rebuild and he has successfully done that by shipping off nearly every recognizable name from last year’s train wreck of a team. But now, Hart finds himself seemingly in the middle of the playoff hunt halfway through the season. Should he make a move to strengthen the team? Something Frank Wren tried to do every season but never resulted in a playoff series win. Or does Hart stand pat and let the chips fall where they may?

Once again, it’s more of the same with the Braves. Fool’s gold. Atlanta should continue to stay the path and look to rebuild. No one would have expected the Nationals to start off so poorly and basically give the rest of the division a month head start on them. Even with that stumble out of the gate and injuries to key players, Bryce Harper and now Max Scherzer have lifted the Nats to the top of the division and have begun to look like the 100-win team people thought they would be.

The Braves still would have to leap the Mets before they could challenge the Nationals. If Hart tried to make a move, it would be division or bust. There is a slim chance they would be able to grab one of the two wildcard spots. The Pirates (48-34) and the Cubs (44-37), yes, the Cubs, have a hold onto the two spots with the Mets (2.5) and Giants (3.5) trailing by a few games.

Atlanta has played admirably and hasn’t tanked completely, which is great news for John Hart not only for the future of the team, but for his goodwill with the fan base after trading away fan favorites. The Braves stole an All-Star away from the Cardinals in the Jason Heyward trade, acquiring young ace Shelby Miller (5-4, 2.07 ERA). Julio Teheran has flopped miserably as the assumed ace heading into the season (6-4, 4.60 ERA) and has a contract extension already inked thanks for former GM Frank Wren. Alex Wood has been steady when healthy and the rotation has gotten a lift from surprise minor leaguer Williams Perez (4-0, 2.88 ERA).

One of the most important things to remember this season is that it is a precursor to success that will follow. The Braves have struck gold on some veterans and would be wise to trade them at the deadline. Yes, Atlanta should be sellers, not buyers this July. The bullpen has been atrocious at times, but it has also had its moments. 38-year-old Jason Grilli has been great for Atlanta, notching 23 saves after compiling an ERA of 4.00 last season. 32-year-old set up man Jim Johnson has a 2.14 ERA in 43 appearances after a sparkling 7.09 ERA in 2014.

This is the definition of buying low and selling high. These two veterans don’t have a place with the team in the future. By the time Atlanta intends to compete again, 2017, Grilli will be 40 and Johnson 34. Contenders at the deadline are always looking for bullpen help and if Hart can swing both players for C-level prospects, he will have done a great job after they entered the season with limited value.

It’s tough to swallow punting on a season after seeing some success, but at the end of the day, Atlanta is still under .500 and chasing too many teams. They found a winning lottery ticket in Cameron Maybin who is having a career season, but may revert to his old ways (.252 career BA) any second. It would be a prudent decision for Hart to continue to sell as the deadline approaches. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Wrapping Up A Historic Weekend

The weekend has come and gone, but it was one not soon to be forgotten—for better or for worse. The mega-fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao headlined the weekend and grossed enough money to make you sick to your stomach if you watched the fight. The 141st running of the Kentucky Derby was another spectacle to behold. The NFL Draft made for good TV and the Atlanta Falcons seemingly put together one of the strongest drafts in the league. Game 7 of the Clippers-Spurs series was everything fans could have hoped for. The Braves hosted the Cincinnati Reds and on Sunday the Hawks welcomed the Wizards for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

From a local standpoint, there were some good moments and some bad moments for Atlanta teams. Let’s start with the positives. The Braves came away with a split in their four-game series with the Reds. Atlanta’s No. 3 ranked prospect Mike Foltynewicz made his first career start and helped the Braves win 4-3 with both his arm and bat. The 23-year-old who was acquired from the Houston Astros in the Evan Gattis deal, pitched five innings and allowed two earned runs. Foltynewicz settled down after a shaky 28-pitch first inning which saw two Reds cross the plate to gain an early lead. In the fourth inning, Foltynewicz stepped to the dish and delivered a two-run double to help spark the offense.

The Falcons had a well-liked draft and picked up some good value in the later rounds. Grady Jarrett is the son of former Falcon great Jessie Tuggle and will look to bring the same hardworking mindset his father had that made him a five-time Pro Bowler after going undrafted. The first round selection of Vic Beasley filled a glaring need for a pass rusher and gives Falcons fans an exciting player to look forward to seeing on Sundays.

One Atlanta team however, did lay an egg this weekend; your Atlanta Hawks. An energized team came out and held a 37-26 lead after the first period and looked as if they were ready to run the Wizards out of the building. Atlanta entered the half up 63-53, but the wheels would fall off. Bradley Beal took over the game and poured in a game-high 28 points to lead the Wizards to a 104-98 win. After struggling to close out Brooklyn in a timely fashion, Atlanta fans might be ready to hit the panic button after blowing Game 1.

On the national stage, the Kentucky Derby went chalk with the favorite, American Pharoah, pulling away down the stretch to hold off Firing Line. The pomp and circumstance was a sight to behold as the graceful power of the horses was on full display. American Pharoah will now attempt to be the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.

Game 7 of the Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs was the most exciting event of the weekend hands down. A hobbled Chris Paul with just one hamstring willed the Clippers to victory and stunned the defending champs with a 111-109 victory. Paul finished with 27 points including the game-winner with one second remaining over Tim Duncan; a shot even the Russian Judges would give a 10-out-of-10 in difficulty. The incredible performance was meant to serve as the ultimate appetizer to the biggest boxing match in history, but the main course didn’t please everyone’s pallet.

Mayweather beat Pacquiao by decision in a match that most were let down by. Being an avid boxing fan year round, this was exactly what I thought would happen. The casual fan who thought there would be some sort of knockout got their hopes up for nothing. These two fighters aren’t guys who try to knock you out anymore. Mayweather is the greatest defensive fighter of all-time and always looks to hug and slither his way out of trouble. People can’t say the fight was a disappointment because this is what was expected going in. Pacquiao hadn’t scored a knockout since 2012 and Mayweather, 2011. The villain might have won the fight, but overall as sports fans, we won this weekend.

Saturday’s Sports Lineup One For the Ages

If you’re a sports fan, this Saturday is the type of day you live for. Clear your schedule, grab a cold drink, order a pizza and enjoy a plethora of sporting events to choose from.

The action begins at high noon with the NFL Draft kicking off. The draft has outdrawn NBA Game 7s in years past and will likely put up another big number in the Nielsen ratings this weekend. The Atlanta Falcons are holding a draft day party at the College Football Hall of Fame and will have attendees’ eyes glued to the big screen to see who Dan Quinn and company decide to bring aboard alongside No. 8 pick Vic Beasley. Rumors have swirled that the Falcons would be active during the draft and trade talks have floated around Bruce Irvin of the Seattle Seahawks as being a potential fit to rejoin coach Quinn in Atlanta.

Is football not for you? Well, maybe some hockey will whet your appetite. The New York Rangers host Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals and will look to avenge a stunning Game 1 loss to the hands of the Washington Capitals. Hockey is understandably not big in the South, but one cannot argue the intensity and excitement the playoffs bring. The Rangers finished the regular season as the top team in the league and recorded their best season in franchise history. The visiting Capitals stole Game 1 with a game-winning Joel Ward goal with just two seconds remaining. New York failed to clear the puck out of the zone and Ward slipped a shot past Henrik Lundqvist to silence the home crowd.

At 4:00 P.M., live coverage of the 141st Kentucky Derby kicks off. “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” is a spectacle to behold at beautiful Churchill Downs. Fancy wardrobes, floppy hats, mint juleps and heavy gambling are all in abundance at the track. Celebrities and athletes both make it a point to attend the historical event. Last year, some drama occurred involving Denver Bronco receiver Wes Welker, who was shown making it rain $100 bills while at the track. Months later, it turned out Welker was under the influence of the drug Molly, and was subsequently suspended for four games after testing positive for amphetamines.

Last year’s on the track action featured California Chrome, who won the Derby and the Preakness Stakes before falling in the Belmont Stakes. California Chrome fell short of becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Around 7:10 P.M., the Kentucky Derby will be wrapping up. At that time you will be able to switch over to the Braves-Reds game, or if you want, you could even make it to the game in person as it will be played in the friendly confines of Turner Field. Eric Stults will do battle with the ageless Jason Marquis. The Braves have held their own this season and have proven to be a competitive team.

Things start to get serious in primetime with the Los Angeles Clippers welcoming the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs for Game 7 of an epic first round playoff series at 8 P.M. There has been no momentum with both teams picking up wins on each other’s home court after suffering grueling losses to one another. Unsung heroes and three-point shooting have been the story. Patty Mills, Boris Diaw and most recently Marco Belinelli have all played the games of their lives as they have propelled the Spurs’ bench. Belinelli drained seven threes and finished with 23 points while Diaw scored 17 in Game 6, but somehow, the Clippers managed to stave off elimination and force a deciding Game 7 with a 102-96 win on Thursday. Four of the six games have been decided by 10 points or less and has given fans a Western Conference Finals worthy performance.

You can find great sports action on any given weekend, but the straw that stirs the drink and makes Saturday one of the greatest days in recent sports history is the legendary boxing bout featuring undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. The fight will likely start around 10 or 11 P.M. depending on how the undercard goes. The two most recognized figures in the sport finally meet after a decade of Mayweather dodging Pac Man. The fight will be the highest grossing pay-per-view of all-time, surpassing the mark set by Canelo Alvarez and Mayweather in 2013.

The fight is going for $90-$100 and will earn Mayweather up to $180 million just for taking the fight. Tickets to the fight did not go on sale until the week before and only 1,000 tickets were available to the public and sold out within 60 seconds. Tickets have gone for $40,000 upwards to $300,000. This fight is the most decorated match in over 30 years and will continue to put boxing on the map while the UFC has been on a steady decline. The UFC suffered a big blow with Light Heavyweight Champion and most popular fighter Jon Jones being stripped of his belt and facing a prison sentence.

Whatever event you choose to watch, you can’t go wrong. The marathon of sports will span nearly 12 hours and will give die-hard sports fans everything and more they could ever ask for in a day.

Takeaways From MLB Opening Week

With the 2015 MLB Opening Week in the books, there have been some early surprises and early disappointments. However, as we all know, it’s a long season so don’t get too excited or fret too much with over 150 games remaining this year. To me, there have been four storylines that have caught my eye so far: 1. Atlanta starting 5-1. 2. The Royals and Tigers combining to start 12-0 in the AL Central. 3. The NL-favorite Nationals struggling. 4. The lackluster Cubs.

The Braves, whom many expected to be in tank mode this season (including myself), have shocked the league by winning five of their first six games. Is it because the Miami Marlins and New York Mets aren’t as good as many predicted? Possibly, but not probable. General Manager John Hart and Manager Freddi Gonzalez have to be given credit for their hot start. Atlanta could have easily limped out to a one or two-win start to the season and no one would have batted an eye, but instead, Gonzalez has a plucky Braves team playing hard and winning with small ball and strong pitching.

Out of everyone from Atlanta’s depleted offense, who would have predicted journeyman Alberto Callaspo would lead the team in hitting out of the gates with a .538 batting average? And who would have thunk that the mixture of rookie relievers and well-traveled veterans in the backend of the bullpen would combine for a 0.44 ERA in 20.1 IP while striking out 22 and allowing a MLB-low .097 batting average to opposing hitters? Definitely not me. Enjoy this recent run of success, it may not last much longer or for all we know, the Braves might be the Hawks of baseball.

On the flipside of the NL East, the Nationals, who some picked to win 100-games, have fumbled their way to a 2-4 start. Ian Desmond has already committed four errors in his first six games; two of which helped the Mets take two out of three games in Washington. The Nationals’ pitching hasn’t been as dominant as predicted but has been good enough to win games. It’s been their offense which has faltered scoring just 13 runs thus far–least in the division. It is a long season, but every single game counts as the wins and losses begin to pile up. Washington fans shouldn’t worry about the slow start yet.

The AL Central race has already begun with the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers both 6-0. The Royals just completed a statement sweep of the Angels in Los Angeles. Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez and new additions Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios highlight the success of the Royals’ offense. The pitching staff without James Shields has flourished as well with Yordano Ventura looking like he might be ready to take his game to the next level at the tender age of 23. The Tigers already boast a +31 run differential and have clicked on all cylinders. Miguel Cabrera is coming off a ho-hum 11-for-14 weekend series against the Indians in which he drove in six runs. Justin Verlander is on the 15-day DL with a triceps issue, but it hasn’t affected the team at all now that David Price is in the Motor City for his first full season. The 2012 Cy Young award winner has yet to allow a run in his first 14.1 innings pitched.

The Cubbies (3-2) took the stage in the first game of the season and proceeded to lay an egg. Jon Lester’s arm already looked dead as he was rocked for eight hits in 4.1 innings. The Cubs have rested him eight days before his next start this week. The 31-year-old signed a six year, $155 million dollar contract this offseason and if he can’t find his form and his age catches up to him, it is the type of contract that can cripple an already cursed franchise. Also, the renovations of Wrigley Field have been a disaster. Toilets did not work and lines lasted nearly an hour for the bathroom. Fans had to pee in cups and one concession stand ran out of hotdog buns but not hot dogs. Just another year of the Cubs being the Cubs.