Archive for Atlanta Braves

Destined for the Punchbowl?

Posted in MLB with tags , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2008 by nathanjzacharias

So Frank Wren and his staff must be starting to get a complex.

First there was the Jake Peavy situation.  It was widely known that the Braves were one of five teams that Jake Peavy would wave his no-trade clause for.  They were also the team that had the most valuable pieces to offer.  But Padres GM Kevin Towers kept coming back for more and more and the Braves finally said enough.  Towers now claims that Peavy likely wouldn’t have waived the no-trade clause for the Braves after all.  Shortly after that was the bizarre story that Peavy wanted to be a Cub so much that he was heard chanting “Go Cubs, Go!” at a restaurant.  That deal of course fell through, but one gets the feeling that perhaps the Braves were just being used as leverage to get the Cubs more involved.

Next came the AJ Burnett sweepstakes.  The Braves made their strongest push for a big free agent in years.  So much so that they virtually matched the Yankees offer, which is not easy to do these days.  But Burnett eventually chose the Bronx.  To his credit, the main reason he did so is that it’s closer to his offseason home and that would make it much easier for his wife to come see him in New York.  I respect that decision tremendously and commend him for it.

But that made it another swing and a miss for the Braves as they try to fill their needs this offseason.

That brings us to the Furcal situation.  By all accounts, the Braves had a gentleman’s agreement with Furcal’s agents that they had a deal pending a physical.  But they have continued to negotiate with the Dodgers anyways, using the Braves agreement as leverage to get the folks in LA to up their offer.   Furcal will probably still end up with a tomahawk on his uniform, but the Braves can’t at all be happy with the way these negotiations have gone.

The Braves have been in the thick of some very high level negotiations this offseason, but they’ve come up empty handed.  Some say players don’t want to come to Atlanta anymore because of their losing season last year, or because there’s no assurance of how long Bobby Cox will be the manager.  And that’s probably true.  But regardless of the reason, they’ve been the victim of some dirty dealing this offseason.

Certainly it’s normal for GM’s and agents to do as much as they can pay less or get more, but it seems as though there is usually some kind of code that’s followed in the process.  And this year, that hasn’t been the case.

The Braves basically had to have their negotiations for Peavy with the general public thanks the Padres – who made the hole in the Titanic look small compared to the information leaks they had going.

With AJ Burnett, they weren’t really used, but they are still the only reason his contract went as high and as long as it did.  So he can thank them for his payday, even if he’s not playing for them.

And now with Furcal, his agents apparently hold to the “our fingers were crossed so it doesn’t count” argument.

So in the prom of life, the Braves have spent a lot of this offseason being the back up date.  And if things continue to break against them, they could end just dancing alone awkwardly by the punchbowl.

It’s frustrating to see the way things have played out so far, but whatever happens, Wren and the front office are doing a great job in my opinion.  They’re getting creative and trying everything possible.  And if they come away empty handed it’s through no fault of their own.

Trading Intangibles

Posted in MLB with tags , , , , on November 14, 2008 by nathanjzacharias

You just gotta love the trade rumors.

The Braves are close to acquiring Peavy.

Oh wait, no they’re not.

The Cubs are now the favorite.

Ok maybe they’re just talking.

The Padres are going to keep Peavy.

But that would be tough to do considering he would take up more than a quarter of their 2009 payroll.

Makes you wonder if we just can’t completely trust the media anymore. Weird.

With all that in mind, I’d like to piggyback on one of the other Nate’s posts a few days ago.  He and Jen had a great discussion about the importance of character and if or why it should be considered when a team makes a personnel decision.  By the way, appreciated the great feedback on that post, Jen, so thanks for the input.  Hope you all will feel free to do that anytime you have some thoughts on a post.

Now that’s not the first time we’ve discussed the character issue and so I don’t want to beat a dead horse but…..I’m going to anyways. That’s completely a figure of speech. Don’t want PETA banging on my door for horse abuse. Or maybe it would be hate speech towards horses. Anyways…

I’m going to try and approach the issue from another angle, though.  The one we’ve already talked about is how an athlete’s character effects the fan.  If they’re perceived as role models, whether they want to be or not, then shouldn’t that be considered when they’re given a public platform?

But the question I want to cover is one that was raised to me today by someone who’s very much in the know about such things: does character it effect the team?  The answer I got was a resounding “yes.” And it’s something that needs to be thought through very carefully.

Look, I don’t think there’s any denying that what happens in the clubhouse has a huge impact on how the team performs on the field.  I’ve heard players from various sports at various levels say the same thing.  Time after time we hear individuals from a successful team say that one of the huge keys to success is the clubhouse chemistry.  That’s why the Sox unloaded Manny.  He was becoming such a distraction that it was disrupting the clubhouse and having a negative effect on the team.

No, good chemistry doesn’t guarantee a winning season,  just like bad chemistry doesn’t guarantee a losing one.  But most players and management will admit it’s a huge factor.

So with the trade winds blowing stronger every day, I got to thinking: is this something that GM’s should be taking into consideration?  Gaining a star player can help your team immensely on paper.  But giving up a popular clubhouse presence can take away from the statistical advantage.

That’s why as a fan, I’d like to see the Braves tread carefully with the Peavy deal. in terms of who they give up in return.  Most will say I’m crazy because Peavy is one of the best in the game. And I’m not saying he’s not a good clubhouse presence at all.  I don’t know anything of the guy but I have no reason to think he’s not a great teammate.  The question comes in what they give up in return.  The latest rumors have the Braves possibly giving up Blaine Boyer in the 4-5 player package they would need to get Peavy.  And from what I know and what I’ve observed, Boyer would be a huge loss to that team.  He’s a solid guy and a great teammate.

Another disclaimer – I’m not saying that’s not true of any of the other players involved.  You can have a team full of great guys, but that doesn’t mean that they all have an equal impact on the clubhouse.  Some personalities just play that role more than others.  So I’m just highlighting Boyer’s place with the team, and and I believe losing him would be a big loss for the team.

Yeah, you have to give up a lot to get a lot.  But I do believe that character counts when you’re building a team of guys who will spend most of their time together.  So all I’m saying is it’s an intangible detail that GM’s need to keep in mind.  When you have the camaraderie, guys are more likely to play as a team.  They’re less likely to go up there and think of how they can pad their own stats.  They’re going to go up there and do whatever it takes to make the team AND the teammate a success.

What To Do About Chipper?

Posted in 1, MLB with tags , on September 24, 2008 by nathanjzacharias

The theories are already swirling about Chipper Jone’s future with the Braves.  With his contract ending at the end of the 2009 season, many are wondering if the Braves will try to resign him.  Team President John Scheurholz only fueled the speculation when he said recently (about the Jones situation) that “the reality of our business begs that we recognize the fact that it would be a really unusual development if he were to remain here.”

Now, Schuerholz has never been one to tip his hand on what he’s thinking, so it’s tough to know how much of that is posturing and how much is their position.  And from the very first day that Frank Wren replaced him as GM, he has insisted that this is Wren’s show so he makes the decisions.  But that creates an added degree of uncertainty since we haven’t been able to see yet how he would normally fare in this situation. 

The arguments on both sides are pretty easy to guess.  Those in favor talk about how his production only gets better with age.  He was hitting over .400 for the first 2 1/2 months of this season and is on the verge of winning his first batting title.  His knowledge of the strike zone, the game, and his own abilities make him one of the toughest outs.  

Those against refer to the fact that he will be 37 at the end of next season.  Between fluke accidents and some nagging injuries he has been limited to an average of 124 games a season the last 5 years.  While he’s a bargain in today’s market at an annual salary of $11 million, we don’t know yet but kind of money he’ll be looking for in a year, or how long of a contract he’ll want.  Some would say it’s unwise to invest significant money in a player who is nearing the end of his career and missing roughly 1/4 of the season.  

It will likely come as no surprise to you that I completely disagree.  Being a fan, obviously I don’t want to see him in another uniform.  But my reasons for saying they should keep him go far beyond that.  

The fact is, he dramatically improves the line up when he’s in it.  Several players on the team have commented this year about the value of his presence in the lineup, and the fallout when he’s not. While the team certainly had their struggles even when he was in the game, they were noticeably worse when he was out.  

In the first seven games he missed this season, the team went 0-7. Before the All-Star Break when they were still in contention and desperately needing wins, they were 5-11 without him and 40-39 with him.  Bottom line is, Chipper is still one of the best hitters in the game, and having him for 3/4 of the season is better than not having him at all. 

Chipper is certainly not hurting financially, but in recent years he has also done a lot to make his contract more team friendly.  I don’t see him asking for a ridiculous amount of money on his next contract.  He’s made it clear he would like to stay, and I think he’ll go out of his way to give the Braves every chance to resign him.  

I don’t think a team should handcuff themselves with one contract.  Nor should they resign someone simply out of nostalgia.  But guys like Chipper Jones and John Smoltz aren’t just familiar faces.  They’re still some of the top performers in the game, and I don’t see either one of them asking for so much that it would hinder the rest of the team construction.  They want to be in Atlanta and I hope that’s what happens.  

As far as I can tell, they’re definitely worth the money.

Our Hats off to You, Skip

Posted in MLB with tags , , , , on August 5, 2008 by nathanelwell

 

Atlanta Braves play-by-play announcer Skip Caray passed away on Sunday at the age of 68.  Caray had had some major health issues within the last year, and said that he almost passed away last October 2007.  Caray is survived by his wife and four children, one of which has been a play-by-play announcer for the Braves, Chip Caray.

Not everyone enjoyed Skip Caray, but I thought he was great.  Skip’s one of a kind dry sarcasm set him apart from other play-by-play announcers.  Once during a game in which Greg Maddux was pitching, the mic caught a rather loud swear word, and Skip said “Maddux evidently not happy about that pitch”.  During the terrible 1980’s where the Braves were a losing team, Caray had this to say when the Braves took the field: “And, like lambs to the slaughter, the Braves take the field”.  He also had fun with former Braves pitcher Jung Bong and his name.  Everytime an opposing hitter got a hit off of him, Caray said: “that’s another hit off Bong”.  Former Sportscenter anchor Rich Eisen was well known for imitating Skip Caray during Braves highlights.

Skip Caray grew up in the shadows of his father Harry Caray.  He started his broadcasting career calling the Saint Louis University and St. Louis Hawks basketball games.  Back when the hockey team was the Atlanta Flames, Caray also called their games.  Caray has been in Atlanta for 32 years calling games for the Braves.  He called the exciting 1992 NLCS against the Pittsburgh Pirates when Sid Bream slid into home for the winning run.  He also called the 1995 World Series, the only World Series won by Atlanta.

Our hats off to you, Skip, you were great!

Who Won the 90s?

Posted in MLB with tags , , , , on May 28, 2008 by nathanjzacharias

I don’t care what ESPN says, the Braves were the team of the 90s.  That crown was placed on the collective heads of the Yankees at the end of the decade as they won their third World Series.  Yes, that’s impressive, and as much as it pains me to say it,those Yankee teams were great teams.  Those were the days before George Steinbrenner decide to “make it rain” with huge contracts for big time free agents.  But I digress…..

 

The world series titles are a compelling argument, and it would seem as if the debate comes down to simple math: Yankees won three titles, the Braves won one.  But if you’re going strictly by championships, that means the second most successful team in the 90’s was the…..wait for it….Toronto Blue Jays.   The Blue Jays won back to back championships in ’92 and ’93 and won 90+ games three seasons in a row. But from 1994-1999, they only had a .477 winning percentage.  I’ve never heard anyone argue that the Blue Jays should be considered runner up for bragging rights in the 1990s.  So perhaps the decision should be made with more evidence than just the titles. 

 

With that in mind, let’s look at some stats for both the Yankees and Braves from 1990-1999.   

 

 

Team

Winning %

Playoff Appearances

Division Titles

League Pennants

WS Titles

Braves

.595

8

8

5

1

Yankees

.548

5

3

4

3

 

 

The Braves have better numbers than the Yankees in each of those categories except the World Series Championships.  Critics will also point out that that the Braves lost to the Yankees in both of their postseason matchups, compiling only a 2-8 record in the two series.  But most players will tell you that it’s harder to win over a 162 games season than it is to win a best of 7 series.

 

As I said before, the Yankees had some great teams and there’s no doubt they had historic success in the last half of the decade.  But the Braves won more games, won their division every year, and made it to five of the eight World Series played in the 1990s.  Their success each year became assumed. 

 

That’s dominance. 

 

They may not have the rings, but they have the stats.  They were the team of the 90s.