Review: Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend

Recommended. I sat on this for a couple of weeks, partly to let things settle after the bizarre review in the New York Times Book Review, partly out of laziness, partly because I like to think things through. This is a baseball biography — not just in the sense that it’s a biography of a baseball player, but in the sense that it focuses very heavily on Mays’ baseball career to the exclusion of other things. There’s some material about his early life; his life after his retirement is confined to a longish epilogue. This may be a disappointment to some; Mays’ baseball career is well known, but he’s been private since he stopped playing. On the other hand, his withdrawal from public life means that there really isn’t much to tell. It is, nonetheless, a fine and entertaining book, and worth reading.

From here on out, I’m going to talk about Willie Mays the player, with Willie Mays, the book, coming up as needed. So it’s not a standard book review; I don’t really want to write one.

The shadow that haunts Willie Mays is, I feel comfortable in saying, Birmingham. It probably isn’t news to most of you that Birmingham was a pretty horrible place to be black in the middle of the last century. My guess is that it was probably the worst place to be black in the country; the standard Jim Crow practices, which were bad enough, were only enhanced in a city known as “Bombingham” well before the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was attacked. Black-owned businesses and homes were frequently targeted, and of course the authorities had little interest in solving these crimes. If you were black, and you put your head up, you were fair game to be attacked, or killed.

Mays was not from Birmingham proper; he was born in a US Steel company town, Westfield, that no longer really exists (it’s just a name on the map) and grew up in Fairfield, the main USS company town in the area, dominated by the massive USS works. (One of the major images of my own childhood — even then, they were mostly shut down, but I well remember riding by the huge buildings, which are still there, still visible from the Interstate.) But the aura of Birmingham pervaded his childhood, and it was made clear to him that whatever he did, he better not anger the white people.

A story from the book… soon after Mays made the majors, and became one of baseball’s brightest stars, there was going to be a Willie Mays Day in Birmingham, complete with a parade and and exhibition game at Rickwood Field. It never happened. Bull Connor, who needs no introduction, cancelled the parade permit, and apparently also killed the game (at least Mays doesn’t remember it, and there’s no record of it being played). Connor couldn’t so much as accept the idea of a black man being honored in his home city, and Mays — a man so popular at the time that as a New York Giant he had a day held for him in Philadelphia — was shown, in no uncertain terms, what his place was in Birmingham’s grand scheme.

And that, basically, is I think the first major reason Willie Mays would not get involved in the Civil Rights movement, a decision that made him the target of criticism, particularly from Jackie Robinson. There was only one Jackie Robinson, which I think is something that the man himself couldn’t accept. People are the result of their experiences, and Robinson’s Pasadena — or even Hank Aaron’s Mobile — were far cries from Mays’ Birmingham.


The other part of it is that Mays wants to be liked. I think that’s nearly universal, but it’s a particularly strong feeling for him. And since he was well-liked, he didn’t want to do anything to disrupt it. This may not be a particularly admirable trait, though there are a lot of things much worse.

Related to this… Mays may be the only person, at least the only person in public life, I’ve ever heard of who really does follow the idea that if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all. It’s not necessarily a good thing for a book (though author Hirsch works around it, he repeatedly notes when Mays won’t talk about someone he had problems with) but it’s a trait I have to respect. Mays won’t say anything bad about Connor, though it’s not like that’s going to get him in trouble at this point. He won’t say anything bad about Yogi Berra, his manager with the Mets, who spent two years attacking him in the newspapers and has never really stopped. He won’t say anything bad about Alvin Dark, his teammate and later manager, who is widely considered a racist, feuded with his Latin stars Cepeda and Marichal, and cost himself a Hall of Fame managerial career due to his congenital inability to keep his mouth shut. Mays won’t discuss the later life of OJ Simpson, whom he mentored as a teenager when Simpson’s life was on the verge of going off the rails long before it actually did. And that’s Willie Mays for you. He will praise someone he likes all day — this book is probably the greatest collection of nice things said about Leo Durocher that will ever exist — but he will remain silent on those who hurt him. And he would never say anything bad about Jackie Robinson, even as Robinson was calling him an Uncle Tom.


As for Willie Mays, the player… well, I don’t have to tell you that he was something. Mays was probably the closest thing to a perfect player that there has ever been. (Well, maybe Honus Wagner, but that was a long time ago in a very different game.) I’ve seen it written — I want to say by Bill James, but it might have been someone else — that Mays so affected the way that outfielders were thought of that instead of having any number of different standards for outfielders there was only one standard, Mays, and all outfielders became compared to how they measured up to him, and were in some way found wanting. It was definitely James who wrote that in the sixties and seventies the Giants, who were producing a huge amount of talent and not doing that much with it, had a “Willie Mays standard” for their outfielders. Every outfielder was supposed to be Willie Mays, and when it turned out that they weren’t, the Giants would deal them.

Hirsch writes a couple of times about Mays as the first “five-tool” player. (To be fair, some of that’s a result of time and place. Dimaggio certainly could have stolen a lot of bases if he had played in a basestealing era, and while Cobb played in a low homer era, he led the league in slugging eight times.) Leaving aside that I thought we’d gotten beyond the five tools idea, that’s basically what I’m talking about. Mays was the player who could do everything, and did them all pretty much better than everyone else.


Was Willie Mays the greatest player of all time? He’s on the short list. Statistically, you probably get Babe Ruth, with Ted Williams and Mays’ godson Barry Bonds as the other main candidates. Of course, we’re mostly talking about hitting when we talk about statistics (and Ruth’s pitching) but as the years go by we learn more about defense, and how much of “pitching” was in fact defense, and Mays was, of course, a phenomenal defensive player. Moreover, I have a mystical/traditionalist enough streak in me to think that “greatest” also includes a certain idea of completeness to it that Mays, as stated above, came closer to than anyone. If pressed, I think I would say that Willie Mays was the greatest player of all time, though I reserve the right to change my mind.


Could Willie Mays have set the career home run record? Well, certainly, given the right circumstances, say spending his entire career with the Cubs or something. The idea that he was particularly hurt by Candlestick Park doesn’t really hold up, but there’s another circumstance to take into account. Mays missed all but 34 games in 1952, his second season in the majors, and the whole season in 1953, because he was in the Army. (He was playing baseball for the Army, but it was wartime. For some reason, he doesn’t get the sort of credit for serving that those who served in World War II did, even the many who didn’t see combat.) He’d hit 20 homers as a rookie in 1951, and would hit 41 in 1954. Split the difference, give him an average of 30 each year, take out the four he actually hit while trying to get a draft exemption in 1952, that gives him 56 more homers. Add that to the 660 he actually hit, and you get… 716 homers. Mays retired in 1973, when Hank Aaron finished at 713. It certainly would have been interesting.

106 thoughts on “Review: Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend”

  1. Actually, Posnanski (like all of his ilk) feels compelled to play Iago. What a horrible psychosis that must be – to find the negative in everything. Pulling the scab off of that which is healing is a rather demonic compulsion and one of which I’ve had my fill.

    Amphetamines? Please.

    Ban them all for coffee and beer.

    Posnanski, et al, would deny it until the end, but they are the ones who wished to burn Hester Prynne at the stake.

    Willie Mays was a great player, a great and humble man and worthy of his legendary status.

    Was he perfect? Of course not. Was baseball perfect? Of course not. Was America perfect? Of course not.

    But all of the above have the elements of greatness and the heart and demonstrated will to self-correct. As humans, that’s about all we can ask.

    And that beats the living stew out of those who get paid to condemn. May they wither like the circulation of the outdated organs they represent.

  2. Oh, the Pete Hamill piece. The previous NYT review was two weeks previous, by Dwight Garner, and it basically says that the book was somewhere between okay and pretty good: “The result is an authoritative if sometimes listless book, one that’s less “Say Hey” than so-so. Like a long out to center field that scores a runner, however, it’s a book that gets the job done.”

    Would you disagree with that?

  3. Quote of the day from Brian McCann about spring training stats “Pitchers aren’t throwing their best stuff down here yet…. Brett Myers didn’t throw one curveball today.” Heyward watchers, take notr.

  4. Thanks for the review, Mac.

    Was killing time in the Union Square Best Buy the other day & almost bought the book. But it was big & clunky (almost 650 pages) and just a little annoying to tote onto an airplane or a train (where I do most of my reading).

    Lame excuse, I know, but, considering how much stuff I’ve read about Ruth, Aaron, Cobb, etc., it’s something I know I should read. Paperback, baby.

    BTW, the Kentucky/MSU games were 2 of the best ones I saw all year, and they played out almost identically. Both times the poor Maroons blew good leads in the last minute, had a major player foul out at the end of regulation & ended up getting beat on a couple crazy plays.

    Really hope MSU gets a bid. I wanna see them play again.

    I know that any fascination with Kentucky basketball is akin to consorting with the mob or the devil or a corrupt cop, but this group is kind of incredible. It’s scary to think that guys like Wall & Cousins can play as badly as they did today & still make game-winning plays.

    I wanna watch ’em play as much as I can, so I hope they rip through the NCAAs then maybe gag at the end like Memphis did a couple years ago.

  5. #7 – what should think about McLouth then? Either way, Heyward is still one of the best 25 that we have to choose from

  6. #7 – what should think about McLouth then?

    The same – nothing. Nate’s got 2000plus PA at 109 OPS+ in MLB. He’s also got a new set of contacts. I’ll take the over on that .045 BA, if you’d care to bet.

  7. Except that every year, several players who really don’t belong make major league teams because they hit .425 against all fastballs in spring training.

  8. Interesting review, Mac. Interesting take on Birmingham, although you could easily see it going the other way–ie, that since B’Ham was so awful, Mays would have felt compelled to get involved in the Movement. Of course, maybe he just wanted to get the hell out of Dodge. Can’t blame him for that.

    I never saw Mays in his prime, but I did see the catch live on TV he made when he went up over Bobby Bonds. Pretty amazing.

    I meant to read the Hamill review but haven’t so far. But it’s not unusual for people to mourn for the “good old days” that weren’t so good. But you would expect better from someone like Hamill. In general, I think it’s people mourning their lost youth.

  9. Mac–I really enjoyed your book review. In fact, it adds another dimension to Braves Journal.

    Two quick points–I like your observation about May’s lost time in military service.

    For my money, I would find it hard to argue with Ruth because of the way he could pitch, but Mays strikes me as the best to ever play in the post-war era…

    I hope that you are feeling better as well….

  10. #8–Absolutely right. The Braves should have known better last year with Schafer….

  11. From previous thread.

    Duke basketball did not suck from the late 1960s until “Coach K came & turned it around in 1985.”

    Fact is, Coach K took over a team that had been pretty successful just prior to his arrival.

    They were good under Bill Foster (1975-80), who won 2 ACC tourney titles, a regular-season title & took them to the Final 4 in 1978. They beat Notre Dame in that game (ND’s only Final 4) & lost a relatively close final to a great Kentucky team. They were pre-season #1 the next year.

    In fact, Coach K’s teams weren’t very good until Johnny Dawkins was a sophomore. In total, they were sub.-500 his first 3 years.

    I know Carolina people hate Duke & all, but facts are facts.

  12. really?

    ububba, the issue is that bubbas was horrible towards the end (from 71-75) and thus, duke sucked.

    foster was good in 78 and 79 but 75-77 was bad.

    K didn’t take over a team that was good, necessarily, as their records were:


    So, put in context, the facts tell me that Duke was VERY inconsistent (and often times sucked and often times were good) between 71-85. UNC has had one losing season in the past 50. my point is that, when you think of “Best Programs”, putting Duke ahead of anyone (UNC (especially), UCLA or Kentucky and Kansas) is short-sighted.

    i know some basketball fans are blinded by ESPN’S fantastical obsession with all things Duke, but facts are facts: Duke has only been a CONSISTENT basketball power the past 25 years. and while i am a UNC fan and alum, i respect K for keeping the rivalry alive and the best in sports. however, seeing that facts are what they are, putting Duke as college basketball royalty is jut wrong.

  13. #21–Nice post–remember when Eugene Banks and Albert King were going to play college basketball and then take the NBA by storm?

  14. @20, the Braves did know better with Schafer. They just didn’t know he’d get injured immediately.

    At the time Schafer was tearing up ST pitching, they said stuff along the lines of “He’s here for defense, and if he hits a little, great.” They at least tried to temper offensive expectations from Schafer. He never got the kind of ringing endorsement Heyward’s getting–not that I think we shouldn’t stash Heyward in AAA for ten days.

  15. Anyone going to the Nationals/Braves game tonite? Its at my hometown park, hope to see some of you there. Email if you are, I’ll buy the beer!

  16. @22 – and I thought I was cranky – is there anything that doesn’t count as a slight against NC Basketball to you? I mean this is your response to someone simply writing down a list of good teams that didn’t start with UNC for goodness sake.

  17. Since Heyward’s team won in the split squad game – Does anyone have an over/under for when the AJC or mlb does an article on the Braves’ ST record with and w/out Heyward? My guess is we’ll see something by Thurs 3/18 – if not before.

    On a serious note, I’m optimistic about the ST that Freeman has had. Not that he has a chance to make the team this year (he doesn’t), but with continued improvement this spring and throughout the year in AA/AAA, he’s looking better and better for 2011.

  18. Chris,
    You wrote that Duke sucked between the late 60s until Coach K turned it around in 1985.

    That’s just not true. Again, they made the Final 4 during that time, plus 2 ACC tourney titles & a regular season title. That counts as not sucking. You re-arrange the window dressing anyway you like, but I’ll stand by those facts.

  19. (UNC alum here as well, but I’ll try to be fair. ;)

    From 1906 through 1959 Duke was nothing special. Never went to a post-season tourney, and won 4 of the old Southern Conference titles and no ACC titles. Had a sprinkling of 20 win seasons. I’d characterize them exactly as above – Nothing Special.

    From 60 through 66 Duke was VERY good. Art Heyman and Dick Groat led Duke to 4 ACC titles, 3 Final Fours (2 Runner-ups) and an Elite Eight.

    Duke was, from ’66 until about ’84 an inconsistent team. I’d say there were 4 distinct periods during the 18 years:

    ’67-71 92-47 (42-26 ACC) Bubas/Waters as head coach. Good period.

    4 NITS – a good stretch considering that only the ACC tourney champ went to the NCAAs. This coincided with UNCs three Final Fours with the Miller-Scott teams.

    ’72-77 76-80 (19-53 ACC) Waters/McGeachy/Foster head coach. Putrid period.

    No post-season tourneys, and they were the doormat of the ACC. Of course, with NC State (the Thompson/Burleson teams), Maryland (McMillan/Elmore/Lucas), UNC (Bobby Jones/Walter Davis/Ford), it may not be surprising that Duke was suffering in league play. undoubtedly the Dark Years for the Devils.

    ’78-’80 73-24 (24-12) Foster “The Revival”

    Runner up in ’78 and an Elite 8 appearance in ’80. ’79 was the infamous (in North Carolina anyway) Black Sunday when both UNC AND Duke lost in Raleigh in back to back games in the NCAA tourney. Foster left after the ’80 season.

    ’81-83 38-47 (13-29) Coach K “The Early Period”

    Went to the NIT in ’80, but dropped off the map for two years. Had to compete with the Jordan/Worthy UNC teams and Ralph Sampson’s UVa teams. The dark before the dawn. Hard to believe, but by the end of ’83 some folks were calling for K’s dismissal.

    But in ’84 he had the nucleus of the ’86 Final Four team in place (Dawkins/Alarie/Amaker), and hasn’t really looked back since. Has had an occasional hiccup (’95 the Bad Back year, and a ‘slight’ downturn between the graduation of Redick and S. Williams and this year. (Although 95% of any D1 school in America would kill for those ‘down’ years).

    Historically speaking, they have been one of the NCAA’s top programs ever. In my opinion, they’d rank behind UCLA, Kentucky, UNC, Kansas, and Indiana. Although, it is very close between Duke and IU. So, they are arguably a Top 5 program of all time. The reason I’d place Duke 6th is that the majority of their success (not all, as the early ’60s years were good) occurred in the last 25 years. The other teams have sustained a level of success over a longer period of time.

    Anyway, that’s my take on the Duke situation – for what it’s worth.

  20. Where is Schafer, I noticed he has no ST ABs, is he hurt again or was he just not invited to major league camp?

  21. As of 3/13/10, most wins by Division I men’s basketball program all-time:

    1. Kentucky 2019
    2. Kansas 2002
    3. UNC 2000
    4. Duke 1905
    5. Syracuse 1781

    I don’t think it’s a stretch to call Duke a top program. Sheesh.

  22. @32, He’s still rehabbing the wrist. He took BP last Tuesday, I think, and hasn’t done much of anything since.

  23. How could they cut Sweet Jesus? Two more times, and they’ll be in trouble.

  24. Yeah, I know. Its funny how threads get hijacked, morphed and twisted, especially in the off season.

  25. ryan c,

    interesting stats. Did you notice that the Braves are #1 in OBP but ony in 13th place (out of 16) in SLG? That’s our Braves!

  26. Stu,

    Am I crazy for thinking Vandy has legit shot to make the Elite Eight (if not the Final Four)? Their draw doesn’t look that bad especially if Syracuse is still missing that player who’s name escapes me.

    Tennessee got a pretty raw deal as they deserved at least a 5 if not a 4 but instead get to play an 11 seed who’s RPI is 18 followed by Georgetown who’s RPI is like 9 in the second round. No way we make the Sweet 16.

  27. Did some1 say they were going to the games this week in Jupiter?

    I suspect I will be at both, though I will be working / with clients Wednesday.

  28. Dusty,

    UT got the shaft, for sure. Can’t say that upsets me, however…

    I think Onuaku is supposed to be back by the Sweet 16, and if he’s healthy, I think ‘Cuse is the best team in the field. VU’s best bet might be Gonzaga or FSU upsetting the Onuaku-less Orange in the second round. If we made it past Syracuse, I’d actually like our chances at making the Final 4.

    Gotta get past Murray State (a pretty darn good 13) and the Butler-UTEP winner first, though, and I’m not taking either round for granted.

  29. I know, I know, spring training is meaningless…

    with that out of the way. Lowe looking much better tonight with 2 hitless, scoreless innings (with 3 k’s). I guess it really was the toe blister. I was a bit skeptical after reading about him barely hitting 80 on the gun in that start.

    Also, Prado hits his first bomb of the spring. And Heyward, Yunel, and Melky followed by connecting singles for a 2 run, 4 hit first. It’s spring training and it’s the Nationals, but a good day at the office tonight for the Braves.

    I know spring training numbers are meaningless, but it’s worth pointing out that Heyward has now hit .474 BA/ .615 OBP/ .842 SLG (1.457 OPS) in his first 26 spring training plate appearances, all in the first half of the games, so against predominantly MLB level pitching. Getting hard not to drink the Kool-Aid. :shock:

  30. pretty sure, D Lowe has 5 ground outs and 4k’s tonight. Thats what we need to see, tailing fastballs with tons of movement

  31. Lowe now 4.0 IP, 0 hits, 0 walks, 6 k’s, 6 groundouts. Part of it is that the Nationals suck, but Lowe looks much, much better. Nasty sinker sitting in the high 80s, but mixing in a slider that has been confusing the hell out of hitters. Dunn looked downright stupid on a slider after a steady diet of sinkers in the last AB of the 4th.

  32. I wasn’t going to watch any until the regular season… but I saw a couple of innings this evening. Lowe was looking alright. Good to see. Can’t wait for real baseball.

  33. latest on Sheets…

    Sheets (elbow) gave up 10 runs (nine earned) on eight hits without recording an out in his start against the Reds on Monday.
    Spin: “When you can’t get out of the first inning, it’s ridiculous,” Sheets said. “To not get an out is embarrassing. But I felt great. It’s going to get better. My second start, I felt the worst because I couldn’t get loose. Today, I felt like the velocity was there.” Sheets’ ERA is now 31.50 as he’s allowed 14 earned runs in 4.1 innings (three appearances) thus far. He’s expected to be the A’s Opening Day starter, but he’ll need to have a couple of decent outings to get fully stretched out and make that happen in the coming weeks.

  34. Hey look – MARCEL likes us to win the division –

    # Pos Name AVG OBP SLG wOBA
    1 CF Nate McLouth 0.264 0.352 0.461 0.352
    2 2B Martin Prado 0.303 0.360 0.458 0.349
    3 3B Chipper Jones 0.296 0.399 0.490 0.375
    4 C Brian McCann 0.287 0.354 0.492 0.359
    5 1B Troy Glaus 0.257 0.354 0.456 0.351
    6 SS Yunel Escobar 0.294 0.369 0.428 0.345
    7 LF Melky Cabrera 0.271 0.331 0.403 0.319
    8 RF Matt Diaz 0.294 0.352 0.445 0.344

  35. Great game tonite, D-Lowe looked great, mid-season form, no obvious problems with the toe, and to my surprise Jo Jo was effective. And to top it all off, Joe Thurston went yard. I got a chance to stand next to J-Hey, I’m 6-4 220, and I felt small. Hope to have the pics ready in a day or so, I left my camera in my friends car. Mac, do you want me to email them to you?

    All in all, great game, team looked good top to bottom, Prado looks like he is ready.

  36. I decided to get out of a braves fantasy league and get in a mixed fan league. it paid dividends because it seemed as though noone wanted braves players.

    In the draft, I was able to pick heyward, hanson, jurrjens, hudson, wagner, prado, glaus, escobar, and diaz. i guess i’m being a homer, but i really feel like i had a good draft (especially for a 12 man league). the only homer pick, imo, is diaz, and i just couldnt help myself. he was my final addition. most people dont care but here is the rest of my team from the 11th Draft Position:

    SP: Lincecum, David Price, Brian Matusz (kid can throw)
    RP: M. Gonzalez, Qualls, Dotel, Wood (i like to hoard closers b/c they’re worth there weight in gold on the trade market)
    Around the Horn: V-Mart, Berkman, Zobrist, Beltre, Kemp, Ichiro, Baker (catcher from Marlins).

  37. ryan c, Im a huge braves fan just like anyone else here, but you kill any fantasy team by drafting that many players from the same team. Three should be about the max…trade some if they start off strong

  38. Ryan, I agree with CSG. I think you should try to hedge your bets and figure out which players you’re willing to swallow the risk on, then get rid of many of the rest. Wagner, Hudson, Glaus, and Diaz might have more value to you than to others, especially if you think that they’re not injury risks and will be able to stay on the field all year, but some are clearly better trade chips than others. And Escobar tends to be serially underrated by non-Braves fans, though he doesn’t give you SB or a ton of power. In addition, because Jair isn’t much of a strikeout pitcher and is almost certain to see his ERA go up by a run, Jurrjens may be overrated in some formats.

    Hang onto Hanson and Heyward like your life depended on it, though.

  39. Parish,

    I fly out tomorrow and have tickets for Wednesday’s game against the Marlins. I couldn’t find cheap tickets online for the Thursday Cardinals-Braves games, but I’m staying with my best friend who lives 5 minutes away from the stadium so I may try my luck with a scalper (unless you have some other advice).

    Hit me up at if you want to meet up and grab a beer during a game. I’m dragging my friends who don’t really like baseball and I’ll probably be on my own Thursday if I end up going.

  40. well, here’s my thinking…
    I have
    5 valuable SPs and 1 risk
    4-5 valuable closers
    I will probably win Ks, saves, and wins almost every week
    My everyday starters will be:
    V-Mart, Berkman, Zobrist, Escobar, Beltre, Kemp, Ichiro
    My DH will probably be heyward because he will give me the most opportunity to be productive across the board.

    Prado, Diaz, and Glaus will probably not be used that often…

  41. csg,
    can you explain your logic behind the 3 player max? i understand that it’s not wise to hoard a ton of offensive players from one team, but pitchers? they’re going to pitch the same amount as any other pitchers in the leage…once every 5 days. i’ve looked at other rotations in our fantasy league and i’ve got the strongest (most guys only have 3 SPs).

  42. AAR — wow, CHONE doesn’t like Seattle this year. Too little offense? (I haven’t looked into it yet at all.)

  43. @61

    While theoretically the pitching performances are independent of each other, it’s all about risk management. Let’s say the worst-case scenario happens and Chipper doesn’t rebound, Glaus can’t stay healthy, and McCann goes out for a prolonged period of time. That can very easily knock a run and a half off our daily total over a prolonged period the way the offense plays, so you can very easily lose 2-4 wins per pitcher. The same concept plays for defense.

    Or if Atlanta has a rainy streak and miss three games in a week unexpectedly. In a H2H, that’s deadly. In roto, it’s not as bad, but some/most of those guys won’t play both games of the ensuing doubleheader, so you’re still losing stats.

  44. I tend to actively avoid Braves players in serious fantasy leagues. I don’t trust my own judgment of their abilities.

  45. I grab a couple so I have some rooting interest on my fantasy team as well… but only if they’re a decent value. I’m also probably going to take A-Rod at number 3 overall. No rooting interest there.

  46. Ryan, the way I see it, the problem is that in a 12 team mixed league many of those Braves will have little or no value, even if they perform they way we as Braves fans hope they might (Diaz, Prado, Glaus). Even guys like Jurrjens, Hudson and Escobar are only likely to have limited value relative to the very deep pool of players available in a mixed league, and Heyward is only a worthwhile gamble if you get him in a mid to late round when proven OFs are already off the board. I find that when I draft Braves I tend to be blinded to the opportunity costs involved, i.e. I underestimate the potential value of the player I might have drafted instead. A good example is taking Escobar at SS. I suspect that the other Escobar (Alcides) will have been available in a later round and while he is more of a risk in BA and RBI and will certainly cost you in HR, his potential for 30 or possibly even 40 SBs makes him a superior gamble, given that you can get off the FA wire a fairly solid guy like Felipe Lopez as a backup in the event that Alcides is a bust. With SPs I consciously avoid Jurrjens and to a lesser extent Hudson (his ADP is too low to pass up in some drafts) even though I love them both in real life, because there are so many pitchers with high K upside available.

  47. I’ve been playing fantasy baseball with the same core group of guys for about 10 years now, and they are all big Braves fans, as am I. But I have basically never had many Braves players because I don’t trust my own judgement and when I am ready to take a Braves player they are normally already gone.

    That said, we play a straight points league (not roto) and because he doesn’t hit a lot of homeruns, Escobar is underrrated even by Braves fans. I’m hoping to be able to pick him late as hardly any of the “good” SS’s this year (outside of HanRam) are worthy of the high draft position where they will be taken. I’d love to have Heyward too, but he will almost assuredly not be around when I am ready to take him (15th-20th rounds in a 12 team league).

  48. @67
    while i agree in part about diaz adding no value, glaus and prado will be batting in the top 4 for the braves and will have plenty of opportunities to create runs.

    let me also say this. i have played in 3 fantasy leagues and have finished 1st, 2nd and 5th. however, this is my first year picking a lot of braves. i’ll keep you guys updated.

  49. Because of where they are initially ranked, I could see Wagner, Hudson, and Prado easily ending up on my team. (Prado’s position eligibility can be useful if I can get him late.)

  50. @70
    Couldn’t agree more. I normally end up with very few Braves players because I don’t trust myself to be objective but I’m definitely seeing those 3 guys being under-valued a lot this year. Wagner in particular.

  51. Breaking news…

    The Braves official twitter feed just tweeted:

    “John Smoltz will join Joe Simpson in the Peachtree TV booth for 2010 Braves games.”

    A google search reveals he will also be joining TBS’s weekly weekend broadcast team as well…


    Even though it has not been announced yet, it would appear John Smoltz is retiring from baseball. The last of the big 3 appears to have hung them up. The end of an era. I barely remember life before Maddux – Glavine – Smoltz.

    Kind of odd that this announcement would come before a formal retirement speech announcement, but pretty great that we’re gonna get to listen to Smoltz call some Braves games this year. (As well as Glavine.)

  52. The Braves twitter feed now updates:

    Turner Sports press release didn’t indicate that Smoltz had officially retired.

  53. ryan c, Im not saying you wont do well in your league, you may actually win it and it appears you may know what you’re doing. I just think the Braves are still a mediocre to good offensive team and you limit yourself by starting to many players on the same team who at times may struggle on offense. In a mixed league there are too many good players that can be overlooked who offer later round offensive production.

    Just a drafting strategy that Ive seen work over the years is to try and take some big power guys early and then try adding good leadoff hitters who can win several categories by themselves (runs/avg/sb/obp). People like Denard Span who offer about as much value that Ichiro does because he’s in a better lineup. Or as mentioned earlier, Alcides Escobar over someone like Yunel/Reyes. Drafting/Focusing on one team may cause you to overlook some of these types of players.

    Just seems like most of the good fantasy teams/owners have a great mix of power and speed. Something that the Braves dont really offer in either category.

  54. Hey, I am moving to Clarksville, TN in May and I was wondering if someone here knew whether or not they get Braves games on television there…thanks

  55. The games on Peachtree TV definitely won’t be available there. (They’re not available her in Nashville.) Dunno about the other channels.

    DirecTV should give you access to all of them, though.

  56. If you are in the Braves zone in the mlb blackout map, your cable company can patch through peachtree tv on a back channel in your basic cable package. That’s the case here in Birmingham and at my parents house in Dothan, AL. The state of Tennesee is in the zone. Call your cable company and ask about it. They’re supposed to do it because there’s no other way around the blackout policy.

    And yes, FSN and SS in TN carry Braves games. (Except for some areas that carry Reds games from what I remember. Went to school at Sewanee.)

  57. why is there no real reason to pick heyward? noone has any clue what he is capable of in a full season. with his extreme upside he’s worth a spot on my fantasy.

    My strategy, on offense, has always been to not try to win every category. i have a few guys that can run, but overall, i dont have any 40-50 steal guys. i could easily win 4 categories with pitching (wins, era, saves, k), and 3 on offense (avg, rbi, hr).

    i’m really not trying to say i know what i’m doing, because i’m not sure i do, but dont get me wrong in thinking that i’m going to start all of my braves picks on offense. the day that diaz, glaus, and prado start over berkman, beltre,and kemp will most definitely be the day that i hang up my fantasy spikes.

  58. why is there no real reason to pick heyward? noone has any clue what he is capable of in a full season.

    History says that even the best of the best 20-year-olds do well to be league-average, offensively.

  59. @83-

    Another reason to not pick Heyward is because when most fantasy players worth their salt are ready to pick him due to the fact that you mentioned (league average ceiling 90% of the time for 20 year olds), he’s already gone because every fantasy “expert” and their grandma can’t go to sleep at night without mentioning his name 20 times in a blog post. Hence, your average fantasy joe has his name at the top of his mind on draft day. Same thing happened with Wieters, Cueto, et al…

    Heyward will be good. If he’s there at the end of your fantasy draft, by all means take him. But I would imagine he will not be on many championship winning teams.

    P.S. – Disregard everything I just said if you are in a dynasty league.

  60. I think the best thing all along for Smoltz would be to sit out the first three months, sign for a contender and hope to pitch the last two months and the playoffs.

    His body can’t take a full season, plus he has no need to sign for anyone now when they might turn out to not be a contender.

    If I had to guess, I’d say that during the first half of the season there’ll be a few stories that Wren and Smoltz have discussed what happened and cleared the air, and then he’ll sign for us “because he couldn’t resist playing for Bobby one last time and going out at the same time”.

  61. @84

    Well, I live in Arizona now, so I will be enjoying another trek across the country. I am excited to be within a relatively short drive of Atlanta once I move..

  62. ryan c, I took Heyward only because Im in a mixed league where I can keep up to 10 keepers. Seems like a guy that will sooner rather than later become a top 30 fantasy player. However right now you can add or get him around the 15th=16th round range. I think he’s a good value there, but not before that point. Depends on your league though

  63. I have only three Braves….Hanson, Heyward, and Prado. Only reason I took Prado is because he’s 1B,3B,2B eligible. Those players are very valuable to stash on the bench for a while

  64. Ryan, actually you may end up starting Glaus over Beltre, because Beltre simply isn’t a very good fantasy 3B. His 2010 projections:
    CHONE: .270-19-70-68-8
    BILL JAMES: .269-17-68-61-10

    Likewise Berkman is still a top 12 1B but he is getting old and injury prone, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he falls short of his 2010 projections:
    BILL JAMES: .283-31-104-96-8
    CHONE: .278-27-89-79-6

    Kemp is a stud of course, but I think you might struggle in the OF categories. Here’s hoping Heyward is another Pujols.

  65. I’ve got 6 Braves on my team, which is 1 or 2 too many. I’ve got McCann, Chipper, Prado, Yunel, Hanson, and Hudson. Probably could do better than Prado at second, but guys like Hudson, Chipper, and Prado were available late in the draft. Hudson was there in the 18th round, I got Prado in the 17th, and got Chipper in the 12th, so I wasn’t reaching too much on any of them. I’ll probably end up dropping Prado before the season, though.

  66. I took in the game against the Marlins today. Good time–other than my kid being grumpy about having an adult snag a foul ball that was headed right for him. The older guy didn’t do anything nasty, he’s just taller so he got the ball and my kid didn’t.

    Other observations–

    Jurrjens got hit hard–I wonder if there might really be something wrong with his shoulder.

    Heyward had a good day–two walks and a smoked liner. Also a runner thrown out at third. He did seem to lose track of the number of outs in one of the early innings when he started to run off after a deep fly to center.

    Kudos to Scott Proctor for doing some autographs. He’ll debut Friday and I hope it goes well for him. I think I’ll be at that game too.

    I wanted to razz Chip Caray while he was doing some pregame from the field but didn’t b/c my kid was with me. “That ball is crushed … to the pitcher …”

    Ticket prices are fairly steep. Probably due in part to much smaller stadium and also to lots of folks with both time and income to attend games. Concessions, though, seem cheaper than Atl.

  67. I finally got to watch part of a game! I was working from home yesterday and had the game on the TV upstairs while I was working downstairs… and may have snuck up for a couple minutes here and there. I didn’t get to see much of Heyward. It was nice to hear Tommy on the mic.

  68. Jurrjens got hit hard–I wonder if there might really be something wrong with his shoulder. – Frank

    I dont think so. Velocity looked fine and he was perfect after the 1st inning. I guess we’ll hae to wait and see about how he’s feeling this morning

  69. Buster Olney:

    The velocity of Baltimore closer Mike Gonzalez has been down noticeably this spring, according to evaluators — in the range of 85-86 mph. “He touch 87 once on my gun,” said an evaluator, “but that was as high as it got.” Power pitchers like Gonzalez build velocity throughout spring training, but it’s unusual that a pitcher who throws in the mid-90s would at that current range at this time in camp.

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