Ok, this is getting a little ridiculous. The Braves offseason has been a rollercoaster ride to say the least. First it was the blockbuster trade for Jake Peavy that never happened because the Padres were asking too much (they coveted the Braves’ #1 pitching prospect Tommy Hanson). Then it was AJ Burnett, who went with the big bucks in the Bronx (like everyone else) rather than go to the dirty South. After that it was the Rafael Furcal fiasco, where GM Frank Wren felt Furcal backed out on him the night before the prom because he couldn’t resist going to the dance with the starting quarterback instead.
As if that wasn’t enough, the face of the franchise for the past couple of decades and a future Hall of Famer, John Smoltz is tired of living off food stamps so he decides to go with the Boston sugar daddies to dine on clam chowder. Andruw Jones also seemed to be headed to Atlanta after recently being spotted at a Georgia Tech Basketball game in a Braves hat. The worst of them all (kidding of course) was George Michael look-alike Mike Hampton, who actually took less money to live close to home to play in Houston.
So now it’s Ken Griffey’s turn to reject an offer from the Braves. Some blame Frank Wren. Some blame the AJC’s Terence Moore who published an article saying a source close to Jr. made it clear that he was going with the Braves, which upset the free agent. Some even blame Willie Mays for calling Griffey to convince him to finish his career where it started. Regardless of what happened and why it happened, Griffey picked the Mariners because they wanted him more and they showed it by sweetening the deal with a lifetime position for him in the Seattle front office after his playing days are done.
Needless to say fans, players (especially Chipper Jones), and coaches are pretty annoyed at this point. A constant weekly dose of superficially guaranteed free agent signings have given me a bad case of “Braves blue balls” this offseason. But I again return to this question: who’s to blame? Not surprisingly, BOSTON RED SOX pitcher John Smoltz (I threw up a little typing that) has an opinion about this: “It’s a philosophy for the Braves that worked for 14 seasons in the middle of a run to division titles. I just think that, now that it isn’t their automatic right to go to the playoffs anymore, it’s not as attractive to people to always take less.”
The only factor that seems to intice players to come to the Braves anymore is their legendary coach Bobby Cox. That was the big reason why Smoltz and Chipper have always given Atlanta the hometown discount and taken millions of dollars less every time free agency has come around. Money is apparently the simple reason why only one member of Mound Rushmore (Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine) still remains in a Braves uniform.
So are Wren and the owners (Liberty Media) being cheap? Yes. Liberty Media just bailed out Sirius XM Radio for $530 million dollars yet they somehow can’t cough up a couple more dollars to keep Smoltz in Atlanta, nor can they spend any money on some power-hitting free agents to help out the dismal outfield. Of course we did squeeze out some dough for Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami after blowing the Smoltz signing, which were much needed additions to the rotation to join Jurrjens and Vasquez. Even though some of the players the Braves missed out on in free agency were overpriced (Burnett) or a waste of time and money (Andruw Jones), they aren’t doing enough.
I’m not saying we need to spend our way to a World Series ring like the Yankees, but being #10 in payroll in 2008 behind the Seattle Mariners isn’t going to cut it anymore. However, we do have some promising young talent coming up through the Braves minor league pipeline like P Tommy Hanson, OF Jordan Schafer, 1B Freddie Freeman and OF Jason Heyward. With the exception of maybe Hanson, these guys may not pan out. Hopefully they do, but Freeman and Heyward probably won’t be promoted until another year or two. The recent Glavine signing has been a plus to take some of the pressure off Hanson to get to the 5th position in the rotation.
But in the meantime we need a proven slugger. Francoeur can’t get any worse, but I doubt many World Series champions have been won by teams with rookie platoons in two-thirds of their outfield. Let’s get it done Braves. Otherwise we’ll be “building for the future” forever.
UPDATE (2/22/09): Braves have just signed free agent Garret Anderson. I guess Frank Wren is a fan of the blog. Looks like Matt Diaz finally has a partner in the left field platoon. Great move Braves. This move looks very promising because he had much better stats and is probably less of an injury risk (knock-on-wood) than Griffey. Kudos
Love him or hate him (most people are the latter), Jose Canseco was right about Alex Rodriguez. We scoffed at his allegations in Juiced. We rolled our eyes at his accusations in Vindicated. But we once again have to give props to the “Steroid Pimp” for being right again even if we don’t like the sleaze ball.
A-Roid is now officially inducted into baseball’s hated steroid era class with the likes of McGwire, Clemens, and Bonds. Sadly it took a leak in court documents to uncover the urine sample results (no pun intended) from the 2003 survey test by MLB to get him to fess up. He has done one thing right– he admitted to Peter Gammons that he did indeed take performance enhancing drugs after getting caught with his pants down (something he probably learned from Roger Clemens’ mistake). However, he had his chance (see below). . We all knew something was off with the eerie look on A-Roid’s face even though we couldn’t get any solid evidence on him …until last Saturday.
This now begs the question of we the fans would rather this stop now and assume most of the guys in baseball in the 90’s and early 00’s were using performance enhancing drugs, or would we rather find out the names of every single player that doped? Would this somehow help the healing process to know who did and who didn’t get caught? Nothing surprises us about these “new” steroids reports. The sad thing is these reports are not really “new” baseball gossip to us. Even the Braves’ hot CF prospect Jordan Schafer was busted for HGH last year even if he denies he ever used it. Maybe we should expect that this stuff will never end and just hope that the majority of players are clean.
But at the end of the day we gotta give Canseco our kudos. He is helping to clean up the game–even if he did rat out his teammates to make a few bucks.
Mike Hampton finally made his long-awaited return to the mound after almost a three year absence. Despite my prediction that he’d still find a way to miss the start by pulling a pectoral muscle or breaking a nail during warm-up, he managed to avoid injury long enough to give up six earned runs in just 4 innings of work. Even with loads of run support (9 runs scored in the 4th inning), the Braves bullpen also did their part in blowing the 6-run lead in the 5th frame.
After the disastrous 5th, the only thing that could make me smile now was just thinking about how much Mike Hampton looks like George Michael (it’s only fitting that he’s coming to the Philips Arena in a few days). I hate to give up on my Braves, but it’s obvious that this season isn’t going to be the year they win a World Series title. Mark Teixeira is picking up his game as he always does in the second half of the season, so it’s time to trade him before the Braves won’t get anything but a few meaningless homers each week for a team that isn’t healthy enough to win the division. Let’s be real here: With an agent like Scott Boras, there’s no way Tex is going to give Atlanta a discount and there’s no way GM Frank Wren will pay that kind of money to keep him.
There are just lots of needs that need to be filled. Our outfield is dreadful. Our pitching is old. We need to build for the future and a good way for the Braves to do it is to make a splash before the trade deadline and get some solid prospects or high draft picks. I doubt very seriously that a team is going to give up a solid pitcher for Teixeira since pitching is at such a premium nowadays, but we need to take what we can get. Once Hampton’s $15 million is off the books at the end of the season, the Bravos will have some money to play with to pick up a big time pitcher or outfielder in the free agent market. So let’s get it done Frank. I give you my blessing.
Let’s start you off with the accommodations–Ron Burgendy would have lived it up big here at the Ramada where renovations have been non-existent since the disco era. But that gives it character.
Today was a day game with Jair Jurrjens taking the mound for his second start of the spring season. He looked solid, only giving up one hit in 4 innings. Detroit is going to be sorry for giving up this guy. He’ll be a part of the 5-man rotation for sure.
Other things of note include old timer Javy Lopez getting his second homer of the spring…which also happened to be his second hit of the season. If he only gets homers for hits, that might be enough to give him a backup spot behind McCann. But that’s probably unlikely at this point because he is hitting below .200 and his defense has been shakey. He admitted that he’s pressing, but maybe Frank Wren will throw him a bone and give him a minor league contract in the meantime.
Jordan Schafer also is continuing to impress. He ended up with a double and two walks today, so the pop in his bat is continuing to…well, pop. Yes. Pop. He’ll still play behind Kotsay this season, but he’ll definitely be the starting center fielder in a year.
We were fortunate enough to sit behind the rarest of all baseball fans – the fan of both teams. He routinely would cheer for each batter, yelling “This is our inning! Get some RBIs!” only to cheer when the opposing team made an out. And as you would expect of a man of 60+, he was wearing his vintage Atlantic City hat sideways. Good thing the stereotypical Braves fan is apathetic, otherwise there would have been a bloodbath.
There was also the obligatory drunk and obnoxious Cubs fan there wearing Top Gun style mirrored aviators. Not sure if he knew where he was or who was playing. There was a “Massh*le” sitting in front of us (pardon the french) wearing a Red Sox shirt. Maybe those two guys were going to Epcot together tomorrow.
Words of warning to those of you wanting to come catch some spring training action. 1) Wear sunscreen and apply it evenly. Tim has a phallic looking sun burn running the length of his arm. He’s not pleased. 2) If you are looking to try any local brews here in Florida, you are SOL. We’ve been to two bars/restaurants and the most eccentric beer choice is a Boston Lager and a Corona Light (this sadly includes the ESPN Club). Score dudez! Who wants a Bud Heavy and watch some NASCAR??? 3) If you really think there is some chance in this world that a hot trio of blonde females between the ages of 18-25 will be at spring training baseball games, you are going to be extremely disappointed. Women like Erin Andrews don’t actually exist in the real world.
So tomorrow night, we’ll shamelessly compete with 12 year-olds for autographs as we continue bringing you the inside scoop from Disney’s Wide World of Sports. We’ll leave you with a few pictures that I hope you’ll enjoy.
Tim and Ryan