Braves Journal Glossary

Base12: Local nickname of reliever Antonio Alfonseca, given because he (a) has 12 fingers (also 12 toes) and (b) because even calculated in base 12, his ERA is very high. Generally known as “El Pulpo” (The Octopus) for similar digitary reasons.

Boom-Boom Bobby: 2003 bullpen pyromaniac Roberto Hernandez, given the nickname because every outing seemingly led to offensive explosions featuring lots of extra-base hits. (Nickname stolen from Boom-Boom Beck, a pitcher of the thirties.)

First Names: Some players are known by their first names here. I usually call Andruw and Chipper Jones by theirs for reasons of differentiation. Julio Franco is often “Julio”, a residue of the days when Matt Franco was also on the team. If a guy is around long enough, I usually start calling them by their first name at least part of the time, but not always. John Smoltz is usually “Smoltz”. Among non-players, the manager and pitching coach are usually “Bobby” and “Leo”.

Free (Player Name): First there was the Free Marcus Giles campaign, which eventually succeeded more than a year after he was demoted to Richmond for hitting a game-winning grand slam homer. There will be others; a Free Juan Cruz movement is gaining strength.

Merv: The site’s host, BravesBeat’s Michael “Merv” Belmont. If for some reason any former hitting coach need to be referred to it will be by a sneering nickname such as “Perv Rettenmund”.

Pictures: The photographic evidence of Bobby Cox and/or John Scheurholz that Keith Lockhart must have had to keep coming back to Atlanta year after year, despite never playing well. Passed on, seemingly, to Henry Blanco; their current location is unknown but I’d check DeWayne Wise’s locker.

Rally Twins: Kevin Gryboski and Ray King, often used in tandem in 2003 to great effect by the opposition. Generally, King would come in to face a couple of lefties, and walk them. Gryboski would come in to get the double play and only get the “double” part right. Also, part of the supergroup “Boom Boom and the Rally Twins”. (Thanks to Clarke for reminding me.)

Suits: The geniuses at AOL-Time Warner, who can’t leave well enough alone. Set aside their penny-pinching and trying to cut back on the farm system (the first goal of any corporate owner). Their biggest disaster was the 2003 attempt to remake Braves Baseball into “MLB on TBS”, removing the Braves logo and demoting Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren to radio. The attempt to attract more national viewership (inevitably) failed, while at the same time it drove off Braves fans, and ratings went down. Skip and Pete were back at the All-Star Break and the deBravifying of TBS broadcasts soon died a quiet death.

25 thoughts on “Braves Journal Glossary”

  1. Well, for one thing, he tried to make Rafael Furcal stop switch-hitting. For another, check out the Braves’ runs scored ranks. They were nearly always in the top five before Merv came along, collapsed after one year under his tutelage, and rebounded a year after TP came in. I figured it took that long to get rid of the rot.

  2. I know it’s a little premature and possibly quite harsh, but is it too early to consider Erosa as a nickname?

  3. Forgive me if my memory is faulty here, but wasn’t it Rettunmund who once claimed that Travis Wilson was the Braves best hitting prospect?

  4. In addition to “free Juan Cruz”, I also propose “free John Smoltz”. He is just about the most wasted combination of $11m and talent in the majors.

  5. Colin, why do you say that about Smoltz? Is it because 11m is too much to pay a ‘closer’.

  6. I’ve thought for years that $11m is too much to pay a closer, and this season just exemplifies that – the team has only had 5 real save opportunities so far (a few middle relievers have been credited blown saves for blown leads in the 7th or 8th innings, but those aren’t real save chances). So overall, Smoltz has pitched in games that ended with leads of more than 4 runs 5 times, 3 runs twice, and one run three times (blowing one of those). He hasn’t pitched in a close game since April 18. Antonio Alfonseca’s seen more close game action since then.

    Moreover, think of the postseasons in which Smoltz has been closer – he’s one of our best pitchers, in the last three postseason series lost he’s pitched 3, 3.1 and 3 innings.

    Last year to some exemplified to some why he shouldn’t be starting, since he got hurt down the stretch. Well, I’m not convinced he can’t stay healthier with regular work than with this sporadic work. But let’s forget that for a moment and ask ourselves this – how is this team better off – with a healthy John Smoltz pitching with 5 run leads and getting into close 1-run games only 3 times over the last 5 weeks? or with Smoltz in the rotation, with increased risk, but doing what he likes, and with a higher upside than just about anybody else there?

    Overall, I just don’t see where the current usage pattern on Smoltz is helping this team as the best use of our best pitcher. Rather than squander him waiting for leads that never occur or get blown with Alfonseca comes into a close game, I’d prefer to have Smoltz out there trying for leads. If he gets hurt, so be it, at least we’ll have tried to get something useful out of him.

  7. Assuming Smoltz can stay healthy, it is hard to see why you would not want you best pitcher pitching 200 innings rather than 70. The first inning counts as much as the ninth, and Reitsma can handle the “pressure” of the closing job. Wright was good in the 8th last year, no reason to believe he wouldnt be fine this year. If Smoltz could be an ace, the rest of the rotation falls into place nicely.

  8. I agree whole heartedly with the above analysis. For whatever reason the Braves think that they need a closer in the LaRussa mode. Heck if Tony is so smart how come he hasn’t won a World Series with the Cards? If Smoltzie aint a 200 inning pitcher anymore they should at least use him in those game in the balance situations where a dominating pitcher can be the difference between a loss and a win. As much as I like Bobby Cox he is not a real big innovator when it comes to personnel usage. Of course this wouldn’t be an innovation its how Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers etc were used in the past when a save was a save.

    If Reitsma continues his success this year watch to see what the Braves do with Smoltz’s option at the end of this season. Next year they actually have to start paying Hampton.

  9. A lot of this is not Bobby’s fault, folks. He didn’t give Smoltz the contract that gives him several million more bucks to be a starter than a reliever. While I assume he’s given pretty much free reign on the use of his players, I’m guessing that, due to the money involved, Smoltz is the exception. Smoltz as an $11M starter would be nice, but that’s not something that is available to the Braves right now. He’s something like a $15-16M starter if I remember correctly.

  10. I suspect that the best use for Smoltz at this point is 40-50 games with 90-120 IP. Fewer games, but more innings per outing. Close game in the 7th inning and he hasn’t worked in 3 days, in he comes to finish it out. Basically the Rollie Fingers useage pattern, but more limited in the frequency with which he comes in. I also would make sure that he doesn’t finish enough games for his $12m option to kick in.

    I just don’t see him going 6 innings every 5th day and lasting a month.

  11. Craig, Smoltz gets $100k for each start, possibly $3 to $3.5m more for the year. But which is more expensive, adding $100k to each start or vesting his $12m contract for next year that only kicks in if he finishes 57 games this year? At his age, with his injury history, and with a limited market for closers, no way, no how does Smoltz get $12m on the open market after this season. But if he is used as a closer this year, that is what the Braves will be on the hook for next season.

  12. I knew about the 100k per started game but didn’t realize that there was an automatic vesting option based on appearances. Wow, I guess that they will have to pay Smoltz and Hampton big bucks next year.

    I realize that the contract isn’t Bobby’s fault but gee wouldn’t be cool to see him use Smoltz to come in and slam the door on a potential rally rather than Grybowski or heaven forbid Base12?

    What the heck, I’m looking forward to tonights game. I just couldn’t bear to watch much more of the debacle in Coors last Sunday. I’m sure that game was an anomoly.

  13. True, it’s not Bobby’s fault, but he’s the one responsible for managing the team on the field. If Jimy Willaism was able to start steve avery over Dan Duquette’s objections, kicking in an option, then Bobby should be able to do this. What’ll they do, fire him?

    And as others have pointed out, if Smoltz has to be a reliever, there are better ways to do it. Save Alfonseca for the 5 run lead, pitch smoltz when it’s close. Because what Smoltz has done so far this season could have been pulled off by any number of $300k relievers with no detriment to the team’s record.

  14. fwiw, hampton’s not getting paid by us until 2006.

    re: smoltz – bobby seems to be real big on guys knowing their “roles”, apparently believing this increases their confidence. the braintrust (that’s bobby, leo & john) clearly believes that smoltzie’s arm would not hold up under starting – i don’t think it’s the money since as someone pointed out next year’s option wouldn’t vest if he were starting. while it would make sense to use smoltz for 2-3 inning outings, i think bobby’s feeling is that if he used smoltz in that way, it would hurt reitsma, base12, etc. in that they wouldn’t know their “roles”. while that’s easy to make fun of, since ballplayer’s are human and their emotions affect their job performance like the rest of us, i’m not sure bobby’s wrong about the usage patterns, but it sure is frustrating watching smoltz be underutilized.

  15. chanimal, I can’t PROVE that you are wrong, but for decades, pitchers didn’t have such firmly entrenched roles. And yet Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers, and others excelled. Just look at Cox’s championship club in Toronto — four relievers with between 8 and 14 saves. Or his early (and more successful) years in Atlanta, with closers going into and out of roles rapidly. Or look at John Schuerholz’s first championship club, the 1985 Royals where Dan Quisenberry pitched 129 innings and others were shifted around to maximize Quiz’s usefulness. I think there is a huge chasm between the better relievers (Smoltz, Reitsma and possibly Cruz) and the rest on this club. I think we should do what ever it takes to maximize the productivity of the best. If it means El Pulpo doesn’t like his role — tough doodoo.

  16. I don’t like the current overspecialization and low inning counts for closers myself, but look at it this way:

    1. Bobby has always had defined roles for his players, going back at least to the Toronto days if not his first Atlanta stint. Even when he used multiple relievers to close games, there was usually some sort of pattern to it.

    2. Bobby has had more regular season success than any manager since Joe McCarthy.

    I think you have to defer to his judgment. The interesting question is if the defined roles hurt the team when the rules change for postseason. I think on a couple occasions they have. Wohlers in the eighth inning (after being used as a one-inning man all season) in 1996 comes to mind. Again. Jim Freaking Leyritz…

  17. Sorry, I just don’t want this string to end with the word Leyritz – hearing it drives me into a semi-David Banneresque rage. Serenity now, Serenity now.

  18. Look at the ESPN clubhouse page for the Braves. It has the city of Atlanta’s biggest sports dissapointments. Just for y’all that like more torture.

  19. I don’t think a better usage pattern for Smoltz precludes defined roles for the others. A defined role sure ain’t helping Alfonsucka so far. Reitsma has been a swing man the last few years, demonstrating a strong level of performance in a relief role that included both setup and occasional closing. Smoltz is professional enough that he’d damned well better be able to handle any role. I think these guys are more flexible than they might get credit for.

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