Archive for braves

New Blood

Posted in MLB with tags , , , , , , , on October 8, 2008 by nathanjzacharias

The Yankees haven’t missed the postseason since 1993.  Until 2006, the Braves hadn’t missed a post-season since 1990.

Which means for 11 seasons, we knew at least 2 of the 8 teams that were going to make the playoffs.  We knew 3 for some of those years because of the Red Sox.  That tends to take away a little from the anticipation.

The only prediction we probably could have made about this year’s LCS teams is the Red Sox.  The Phillies had a shot, as did the Dodgers, but they weren’t a given.  And none of us saw the Rays coming.  Well if you did, please write me and let me know because I would like you to pick out some lottery numbers for me.

So as we look at the final four teams, only the Red Sox have made it to the LCS recently. As I mentioned the other day, the Phillies haven’t been there since 2003.  The Dodgers haven’t been there since 1988, and the Rays were so far removed from the playoffs most of their players probably thought LCS was something that could only be examined with an MRI.

Which means the new blood has assured MLB of some great ratings this year right? Ok, maybe not.  According to TBS, the Divion Series ratings were down 20% from last year.  But they attribute it to a perfect storm of factors: the quick series, the presidential debate, and the lack of  New York team.

Well, the New Yorkers may not be watching, but regardless of what the ratings do I think the infusion of new teams is great for the game.  It gives more exposure to other teams, and in the process gives them something to build on for next year.

A lot of the fans may be disappointed that there won’t be a millionth chapter of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.  But seeing as Fox and ESPN show us every single match-up between them during the year, I’m ok with not seeing it in October.  To me, it’s more exciting to see a classic franchise like the Dodgers get another shot.  It’s more fun to see the Rays finally put it together after 10 years of misery.  And it’s more entertaining to see the Phillies push through after a few years of always being right on the cusp.

This year’s final four may not grow the ratings, but it will grow the game.  The more fans that are able to watch their team contend, the better the game will do.

So good luck to all four!

Tough Times in the South

Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , , on August 22, 2008 by nathanjzacharias

Ok, who did it?

Which Atlanta sports fan spotted a black cat while walking under a ladder and then opened up an umbrella inside the restaurant they spilled salt in?  Because I’m beginning to think that has to be the explanation for what’s been happening to sports here.

It hasn’t been this bad here since Sherman rode through.

It all started last year with Michael Vick. He had multiple off the field incidents that finally culminated in his imprisonment.  Their season and clubhouse were fractured by injuries, big mouths, and overmatched coaching.  Head coach Bobby Petrino resigned abruptly and in a matter of hours was in Arkansas doing the somewhat strange “Woo Pig Sooey” chant with his new employers.

The season mercifully ended a few weeks later, and the team managed to pull out another win by the end.  But the overhaul of the team and franchise began shortly thereafter.

That was a rough season – probably the roughest ever seen by a sports team.  But the Braves have certainly done their best to add more frustration to the Atlanta sports scene.

Coming out of Spring Training they were considered the team to beat by many analysts.  Their veteran rotation was older but very strong, with 22 year old Jair Jurrjens being at least a decade younger than any of the other starters.  The offense was one of the best in baseball last year, and a full year with Teixeira was expected to propel them into the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

It’s safe to say things didn’t go as planned.

4/5 of the starting rotation has spent significant time on the disabled list, with 3 of them undergoing season ending surgeries.  In a matter of a few months Jurrjens went from promising rookie to staff ace. (He’s pitched like it, it’s just that no one thought he would have to fill that role) By my count, the Braves have placed 17 different players on the DL this year, with several players making a couple of trips.  They’re not quite up to the Nationals level, who have DL’d 22 players, but it’s close.

Amidst the injuries, the team has been marred by inconsistent play in every area.  When the bats come alive the pitching fails.  When the starting pitching holds up, the offense makes the opposing pitcher look like Cy Young.  Defense has hurt them from time to time as well.  On paper, this should have been a great team.  But between injuries and frustrating stats, they haven’t been what people thought.

Meanwhile, the Thrashers failed to build on their playoff appearance the year before, and while the Hawks made it to the postseason and played well, they still finished under .500 for the season.

It’s tough to explain how this all happened, but I’m inclined to blame it on oil prices.

Ok, maybe not, but I do think 3 of the 4 teams have struggled largely in part to ownership situation.  The Atlanta Spirit has been disappointing in their handling of the Hawks and Thrashers.  And while the Braves used to be one of the highest spending teams in baseball under Ted Turner, they are now considered middle of the pack.  But they have some large contracts from the previous financial era and with athlete salaries skyrocketing, it’s been tough for them to go out and get the big name player they need when that player will take up 1/4 of your payroll.

So is Atlanta destined to dwell in sports mediocrity? I don’t think so.

The Hawks have a good young foundation that has improved steadily the last couple of seasons.  The Braves should have a little extra cash to spend this offseason and their farm system has several potential superstars just a couple of years away.  The Falcons also have some good talent, but equally as important, a solid coaching staff and front office.

And of course, the number 1 ranked Georgia Bulldogs are 8 days away from kicking off their run at the Championship, and Georgia Tech has a new coach that should help the program.

What’s the purpose of this article, you may ask? Well, there really isn’t one other than to console myself and any other Atlanta fans reading this blog.  So to us I say, hang in there.

What’s Next for Smoltz?

Posted in MLB with tags , , , on June 6, 2008 by nathanjzacharias

The Atlanta Braves announced yesterday that John Smoltz was going to have to undergo season ending surgery. Players and coaches alike agreed that his loss to the team is devastating. On and off the field he is the leader of that team, and he has given everything to the team and the fans. So much so that it took the inability for him to even use his right arm to drive home after pitching this week to agree to the surgery.

So what’s next for 29? Will he be able to return to the mound next year? Or was his 9th inning appearance on Monday the last chance we had to see him take the mound? And if he has thrown his last pitch, was his career enough to punch a ticket to Cooperstown?

Let’s handle the last question first. In short, there is no doubt that Smoltzie should be and will be in the Hall of Fame. Most of you have probably heard that there are only two pitchers in the history of the game with at least 150 wins and 150 saves. Smoltz is one of them; Dennis Eckersley is the other, and he is in the Hall. So how do the two match up?

 

Wins

Losses

Saves

ERA

K’s

BB’s

Batting Average Against

WHIP

Smoltz

210

147

154

3.26

3,011

992

.245

1.17

Eckersley

197

171

390

3.50

2,401

738

.246

1.16

Smoltz has the edge in winning percentage, ERA, strikeouts. Eckersley obviously had more saves and fewer walks, and the two are pretty much even in BAA and WHIP. Eck deserves to be in the Hall. So does Smoltz. He’s dominated as a starter and as a reliever. Even with his shoulder causing chronic pain the last year he was flat out nasty and he was pitching the best baseball of his career, which is saying a lot.

Smoltz is also one of the best big game pitchers of all time. His 15 playoff wins are a record, and it seems like the bigger the stakes the better he pitches.

He is one of the premier pitchers of his era, and one day he will be giving a speech from Cooperstown.

The bigger question at this point is if he will have a chance to add to those numbers or will he half to retire? Ultimately, that will come down to what they find when he has his surgery. But I, for one, will not bet against him returning. Smoltz has been written off by the press a number of times over the years. They said he wouldn’t be able to overcome the numerous surgeries on his elbow. He did. They questioned whether he would be able to close. He did. They said he couldn’t make the switch back to starter again. He did. And in every time, not only did he prove them wrong but he was still one of the best in all of baseball.

Smoltz knows his arm and his abilities better than anyone, and if he says he can stil come back then I believe him. If the surgery proves more complicated then they’re anticipating, then he’ll let us know if he’s going to call it a career. But until he says otherwise, I believe the Hall of Fame bound face of the Atlanta Braves will be back on that mound next year.