So here I go

I am posting at this ungodly hour as part of a psychological ploy. In case you have never had surgery, the doctors make you come in ridiculously early, after which you wait for several hours in which you are denied food and drink, even water. This is to soften you up so you’ll let them do anything to you as long as they give you drugs.

I probably won’t be available again until at least Thursday; I’ve asked someone to post Tuesday evening to let you guys know how things are going.

292 thoughts on “So here I go”

  1. This is terribly early to be awake in the central time zone. The best of luck to you, Mac.

  2. But normal office hours in the UK. Again, hope everything goes well and you return soon restored to full health

  3. The office admin here in London just ordered pizza for lunch. Not that Mac can have pizza. Or beer. Or water. Poor, poor Mac.

  4. Again, good luck, Mac! Tomorrow is my birthday, so good news about you will come.
    Then again, my last birthday was the 3-error game from Conrad against the Giants.

  5. At least Mac won’t have Weird Al as his surgeon–I hope.

    “There’s no doubt that the Phillies were the best team in the NL, and almost certainly in all of baseball, in 2011. The fact that they will not play for the “championship” this year isn’t a slight to the Phillies. It’s an indictment of the system that awards “championships” based on random luck and the occasional Yunisky Betancort homer.”

    I agree and, while it’s unrealistic to go back to the pre-1969 system, I think the current system really devalues the World Series (although it also mitigates the payroll disparities) because many times you don’t have anywhere close to the best teams. By all rights, the Braves should have been in the WS far more than they were–they were clearly much better than the Padres for example. When I was a kid the World Series was special and, in part, I think because, first, the teams hadn’t played in the regular season, and, sceond, you knew these were the best teams. Of course, if the Braves are in the Cardinals’ position next year, I will root for them.

  6. Damn, I hate that disease.

    Give it hell, Mac!

    If ever a team was built to make it to and win the World Series it was the 2011 Phillies. Dominant starting pitching / home field advantage / clutch hitters, many with power / enough speed and an aggressive nature to make it an asset.

    I guess you’re right – you really can’t construct a club for the postseason.

    Does this take Bobby Cox off the hook?


  7. So, is it more likely that the best teams will win if we do this:

    ~ Reduce the regular season to 154 games
    ~ Make the playoffs all best of seven

    Is this better than what we have? I tend to think so. (And, no, I’m not in favor of adding another wildcard team or two.)

  8. By all rights, the Braves should have been in the WS far more than they were–they were clearly much better than the Padres for example. When I was a kid the World Series was special and, in part, I think because, first, the teams hadn’t played in the regular season, and, sceond, you knew these were the best teams.


    From 1921-1932, the Yankees won their division 7 times (8 team divisions.) They went on to convert those 7 division into short-series wins 4 times, losing short-series the other three years.

    From 1991-2002, the Braves won their division 11 times (6 and 5 team divisions.) They went on to convert those 11 divisions to short-series playoff wins 8 times. They then went on to convert a SECOND short-series playoff in 5 of those years. They then went on to convert a THIRD short-series playoff once.

    Because they only had to win their division and then win one 7- or 8- game series to be “World Champions,” Babe Ruth’s Yankees are considered a dynasty of historical proportions. But once you get past the labeling of the series, once you realize that winning an LCS in the 1990s was actually more impressive than a “World Series” in 1922, you realize the Braves of the 90s were the more impressive dynasty.

    The only dynasty on par with the Braves of the ’90s is the Yankees of the Jeter/Mariano Yankees. But because the “World Series Championship” is awarded to the jackpot winner, the Braves of the 90s are considered something less than the absolute, sport-historical dominant dynasty it really was. Sad, really.

  9. From Heyman:

    “Manager Joe Maddon looks like a candidate for an extension in Tampa. He has one year to go (believed to be for about $1.4 million).”

  10. @13 – Better than we have? Yes. More likely that the best team wins? Marginally so, at best. Seven game series aren’t notably less random than five game series.

  11. @14

    Right. Those Braves are often derided as playoff chokers, having won only one World Series. Given the crapshoot nature of baseball playoffs, though, they would reasonably have been expected to win all of….two.

  12. My half-forward-thinking/half-backward-thinking solution that will never happen because going back is never allowed in these situations: eliminate the divisions and the Division Series. Balanced schedule with interleague play, but normalized interleague where you play everybody in the other league once. The top two teams in each league advance to their corresponding LCS. From that point, the playoffs are the same as they are now, with the lone exception that home-field advantage goes to the team with the better record, including in the World Series.

    This, to me, would provide the perfect balance of general playoff excitement with fairness to the teams who have been the best all year. Also, they would not have to scrap interleague, but again, they would make it sensible and fair.

  13. The problem with that solution, Nick, is that it counteracts the primary driver for all considerations from MLB’s front offices – money. There’s no way in, around, over or under Hell that MLB is going to eliminate 12 guaranteed gate receipts, and 12 guaranteed television dates, by eliminating the LDS. They’re never, ever going to cut back the number of playoff games. Ever. Thus, the likelihood of eliminating playoff teams is fantastically small.

    In order to eliminate the LDS teams, at the very least you’d have to expand the LCS and LCS to 9 or 11 game series. WHICH WOULD ROCK! THAT’S BRILLIANT, MAN!~

  14. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if we had Craig Kimbrel in the ’90s, we would have won more championships.

    We had Craig Kimbrel in the ’90s. We called him Mark Wohlers.

  15. I love the Braves and don’t think the organization has anything at all to be ashamed about during its 1991-2005 run as one of baseball’s all time dominant franchises. That said, it’s hard to argue, as sansho tries to in post #17, that their lack of success in the playoffs/WS is chalked up to being victims of a crapshoot when – at the very same time – the Yankees were racking up WS victory after WS victory.

  16. 21: P’shaw. There’s not a single season during Wohlers 8-year tenure for the Braves where he was nearly as dominating as Kimbrel has been in his 1.5 years.

  17. Two things, John. The Yankees got lucky. They had a roster better constucted for short-series success (three dominant relievers at their height.)

    It’s also worth noting that they got lucky. Especially in 1996. ’96 was almost all luck, in fact. Good luck for the Yankees (whose very presence in that WS was due to the seat location of Jeffery Maier more than anything else.) Bad luck for the Braves (umpires getting in the way of OFs, super-defensive glove men shortstops missing easy double play grounders.)

    And if you flip ONLY that result, the entire narrative changes, with the Braves’ dynasty winning back to back championship banners, then sliding as the dominant Torre Yankees break onto the scene in ’99.

  18. Gas throwing righty reliever with control issues. Marginal upgrade at best. Wohlers was Kimbrel in the 90s. It remains to be seen if Kimbrel contracts the Steve Blass Disease.

    The Braves of the 90s had very good bullpens more often than not, in fact.

  19. Sam, for someone as (seemingly) smart as you, you sure do engage in a lot of reductionist logic.

    Just like your comparison of Moneyball with Major League, your comparison of Kimbrel with Wohlers couldn’t be more simplistic while leaving tons of relevant details out.

  20. Pretty much what everyone hear has guessed.

    DOB – Not after way last negotiation ended. RT @tbtheman15: @ajcbraves do you see Furcal getting consideration for a 1 yr contact with #Braves? 30 mins ago

  21. Kimbrel’s career WHIP is 1.075. Wohler’s lowest of his career was 1995 when he hit 1.160.

    Kimbrel’s career K/9 is 15.4. Wohler’s best season in that regard was 1995 with 12.5.

    I watched just about every inning Wohlers ever pitched, including his first 1/3rd when he struck out Tim Teuful to get a save against the Padres in 1991. (Wish I had that game on tape, it was very exciting.) Kimbrel’s stuff is WAY better than Wohlers. Kimbrel’s upside is way better. And Kimbrel’s stats are way better.

    The best thing you can do to downgrade Kimbrel in a comparison with Wohlers is to say that one day, he too might contract a case of Steve Blass disease.

  22. Now, if the Braves of the 1990s had had “O’Ventbrel” – three shut down relievers who could be relied on to eat up any game that got to the seventh with a lead – in addition to the starting rotations that got them into the seventh with leads far more often than not – some of those teams would have likely won 110+ games during the regular season(s.)

    I don’t know that it would have converted well to the playoffs, though.

  23. Ya know what sucks? Derek Lowe’s September in 2010, that’s what. If he pitches just mediocre, we probably trade him that offseason by eating a bit of his salary. But no. He had to go “All World” on us and pitch lights out convincing every Brave fan and guru in the organization that he was “remade”.

    Thanks Lowe. Thanks for being amazing one month and below average the rest of your contract. Eat dirt.

  24. Wohlers was Kimbrel, in 1995, he was a little slower to develop than Craig has been, but a large part of that is due to the changing ways in which teams fill and manage their bullpens nowadays.

    Let us all hope that Kimbrel doesn’t follow the same path Wohlers took from there, but to suggest that somehow the Braves would have won more championships if we had Kimbrel is just silly.

    Obviously we would have won more championships if we had consistently had a closer put up a 2.** ERA a 1.0* WHIP and a 40+ saves… but it has yet to be seen if Kimbrel can actually deliver this. Neftali Feliz, last year’s Kimbrel Lite, did a great job avoiding a sophomore slump, but still saw his WHIP jump about 25%… all the way to 1.155.

    We did have a number of quality closers, and a few decent bullpens, but no team outside of the Bronx or San Diego had anyone who put up these kind of numbers consistently. Honestly, I agree with Mr. Hutcheson that it was the entire depth of the pen more than just Kimbrel at the end that gave us the boost this year. Lets hope we can keep this ‘pen together for the bulk of this decade!

  25. I watched Northwestern vs. Michigan over the weekend. Dan Persa is really good. Denard Robinson is electrifying. Something exciting happens just about every time he touches the ball.

    I am not sure why we would want Rafael Furcal anyway. He cannot stay on the field.

    @14 – I’ve never thought of it that way. Having to win two short series just to get into the WS should change things on how sports dynastys are evaluated historically. Unfortunately the sports press, which controls these discussions can only deal with the simple concept of who won the most championships.

  26. 30: I don’t know. Why don’t you enlighten me? So far all you’ve given me is Kimbrel is like Wohlers because he is right-handed and throws gas, which is hardly edifying.

    33: Don’t forget his first four starts of ’11, which continued his All World run.

  27. sansho1 @ 17,

    And the extra World Series the Braves “should have won” was 1991, when the Twins HVAC guys turned the wind back and forth to favor their team and they won 4 games at home, 3 by one run, and two of those in extra innings. Meanwhile, without the HVAC guys, they lost two 1 run games and got blown out once in ATL.

    Otherwise, throughout the “run” the Braves were generally the best team in the lesser league. Fundamentally, Toronto had a better team. The Yankees had a better team (but after being up 2 1 and ahead in game 4, we should have gotten 96). Some think (I disagree because I think the plus to the Braves for pitching and defense was bigger than the plus to the Indians for offense) the Indians had a better team.

  28. In September of 2010, Lowe pitched 5 games, all of which were wins, however none were really that close:
    W: 9-3
    W: 4-0
    W: 6-3
    W: 5-0
    W: 5-1

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, but just pointing out that his September wasn’t that miraculous. In fact, he only pitched deep into the game once, going 8 innings. The rest were between 5 and 6 innings. It also helps a bit that we were facing the Pirates, the Nats, and the Marlins, all of which were bad teams.

  29. Relating to Sam @ 32 (and others on the “can you build to win the World Series or is it a pure crap shoot”)

    I have felt for a long time that for post season play, it is more important who your 3 best relievers are than who even your # 3 starter is (let alone 4 or 5). You need at least one righthander and at least one lefthander and at least 2 of the 3 must throw hard. You can stand a Gene Garber type junkballer and still have the 3 you need.

    The # 3 through # 6 starters are more important to GET YOU TO the postseason, but not THROUGH the postseason.

    Another regular season / post season dichotomy that hurt the Braves of the “run” was the “Sain / Mazzone Pitching System.” Sain’s philosophy was great for taking poor pitchers and making them mediocre and for taking mediocre pitchers and making them good. And, that works better in the regular season when it is just one game of 162 and player’s pride and drive for statistics causes them to be unwilling to “take what they give you”. As an example, think back on Glavine’s All Star Game start (1996?). 7 of the first 9 AL hitters got singles hit to the opposite field off of his “low and away” pitching. You need to be able to throw a pitch in the strike zone that the hitters can’t hit to be effective in the post season.

    And then, there was what I think was the wrong part of the “Bobby Cox” style of managing. I remember in the early 70’s when Dick Williams had his A’s pitchers taking batting practice. Reporters asked why (because AL had the DH). Dick said “Because they will need to be ready to hit in the World Series.” Not only was that a great motivational or attitudinal saying, it was also important to have the players comfortable to what WOULD happen in the post season.

    For the Braves in the 94 to 2000 era, they should have conceded a game every other week if necessary, to pinch hit, double switch, defensive adjustment switch, etc., JUST LIKE THEY WOULD DO IN THE POST SEASON. If you let Mark Lemke bat against a righthander in the bottom of the 8th with a runner on and down by one when you could have pinch hit, you are putting a sense of entitlement in his head that was undeserved and creating confusion if you then pinch hit in that situation in the post season. I think the Braves players were unnerved by some of the switches in the post season and that Bobby didn’t do as many as he should have trying to be a “player’s manager.” This “set player” thing was actually greater in the 95 to 2000 era than in the 91 to 94 era (when you had Lemke and Treadway, Blauser and Belliard, etc.).

  30. @Sam(30) –

    2011 Relievers | Kimbrel (77 IP):
    k/9: 7.91 | 14.84
    bb/9: 3.63 | 3.74
    ERA: 3.69 | 2.10 (ERA- of 56)
    FIP: 3.83 | 1.52 (FIP- of 40)

    1995 Relievers | Wohlers (64.2 IP)
    k/9: 7.02 | 12.53
    bb/9: 4.04 | 3.34
    ERA: 4.30 | 2.09 (ERA- of 50)
    FIP: 4.44 | 1.88 (FIP- of 44)

    So…yeah, pretty close. Granted, that was Wohlers’ best year and 2011 was Kimbrel’s first year, so there’s plenty of time for him to post a superior line at some point. Kimbrel also pitched more innings. I must say though, I’m surprised. Kimbrell did strike out significantly more compared to his league, so his FIP- is a little better, but his ERA- is a little worse. I thought he’d blow Wohlers away, but not so (at least comparing their best years).

  31. they should have conceded a game every other week if necessary, to pinch hit, double switch, defensive adjustment switch

    Maybe it’s just my bad memory, but I seem to recall being pissed about the Braves doing exactly this — ridiculous unnecessary double switches, bunts, intentional walks, platoons, defensive replacements, and so forth, all those National League Manager™ things that Bobby Cox used to do that exasperated us for years, while he won 14 straight pennants.

  32. Any team would be better if you add a late inning clutch reliever and the Braves teams of the 90s certainly had our problems holding leads late in tough situations (most teams do.) We could have certainly benefited from Kimbrel, Venters and/or O’Flaherty who were all dominating in their own ways this season.

    I think there is a good case that a guy like Kimbrel could have lifted the ’92 team over the Jays, and he might have been enough to get us past the Phils in ’93 as well (of course we would have had to beat out Toronto [again].) In ’92 we had a closer by committee, Wohlers at 22 had loads of talent but wasn’t ready for the responsibility yet. In ’93, 26 year old rookie Greg McMichael took over the closing job in August and then went on to give up some critical runs, including taking the loss in Game 1 of the NLCS, in the postseason.

    Of course Kimbrel hasn’t exactly been lights out in playoff and playoff-type situations in his young career, giving up a run and taking a loss in a critical Game 3 last year, and blowing 2 of his 3 save opportunities over the season’s last 10 days, including the obvious.

    That said, Atlanta did benefit from a high number of quality arms out of their bullpen in the 90s, and these guys shouldn’t be overlooked. Adding Kimbrel to the mix in any season would have been a huge boost, but he’s got to take someone’s spot, right?

    ’91: Bullpens were entirely different in the late 80s-early 90s. Kimbrel would have been a huge boost over Juan Berenguer, who led the team with 17 saves, good for 7th in the NL, before breaking his arm in a mid-August wrestling match with kids. That said, Berenguer as well as Kent Mercker, Mike Stanton and Alejandro Pena were all very dependable out of the pen that year. So while Kimbrel would have been a great addition to what we had, and definitely an upgrade over Leibrandt in the 11th of Game 6, only 2 teams had more saves than the Braves that year.

    No series in ’94, Wohlers got it done in ’95, so on to ’96: Maybe Craig wouldn’t have given up the HR to Leyritz in ’96, but I really don’t think replacing Wohlers with Kimbrel would have gotten us past the Yanks on that occasion either.

    ’97: Kimbrel would have been a big upgrade over the ’97 version of Wohlers, but Mark was called on for 2 innings that postseason so I don’t think Craig would have got us over the hump that year either.

    ’98: Kerry Ligtenberg was by no means Kimbrel’s equal in “stuff,” but for a brief time the guy we got for a small truckload of equipment was able to put up some pretty great numbers. While he did have a few rocky outings in the NLCS that year, I don’t think he cost us any games, and I really don’t think that upgrading to Kimbrel gets us past both the Padres and the Yankees in the World Series.

    ’99: I really don’t think replacing ’99 John Rocker with Kimbrel is going to be the difference that gets us past the Yankees, and ditto for ’00 when Rocker was called on for 1/3 of an inning in the forgettable NLDS sweep.

    In ’01 Smoltz took over, and we’re not even going to go there.

  33. @22

    The idea that the playoffs are a crapshoot doesn’t mean that results will be evenly distributed in a limited sample. And there are certainly some things a franchise can do to load the dice a bit. Spending unending supplies of cash on talent would seem to be one way of doing so.

    As far as optimal playoff roster construction goes…I don’t know. It all smacks of ex post facto logic to me.

  34. Also, on Derek Lowe, no one was going to ever trade for him, no matter how “All-World” he was last September. He’s making way too much money, and at that time the commitment was still 2 seasons.

  35. @20

    I realize it’ll never happen for the very reason you stated, Sam. I do think it’s easily the best way to balance everything out, though, and it would raise TV ratings for the playoffs as a side benefit. But there is precisely zero chance of it happening.

  36. ‘For the Braves in the 94 to 2000 era, they should have conceded a game every other week if necessary, to pinch hit, double switch, defensive adjustment switch, etc., JUST LIKE THEY WOULD DO IN THE POST SEASON. ‘

    Surely you are being sarcastic. Concede games to prepare for the post season?

  37. Johnny,

    Not intended as sarcasm.

    Those teams were LOADED. There was no reason to figure that they would go down to the last week. they had some games to give.

    What I mean by “concede a game” is that if you were going to use John Rocker in the 7th inning to go after Jim Thome in the post season, then do it on June 6. If that means on June 9 you have to sit Rocker in the 9th with a 1 run lead to protect his arm, so be it. Rocker needed to know that is the way he would be used and be ready for it.

    Same with starting pitchers as bull pen guys. I think every 3rd day side session should occur around inning 3 of a game. it should go slow. Should the starter that day suddenly “hit the wall”, then the side session starter finishes that inning and the pen picks it up from there.

    In other words, get used to the kind of moves and situations that will be played in “desperation” or to “create a spark” in the postseason. I believe the Braves players tightened up because they were put in situations and used in ways to which they were not accustomed.

    Analgous to Major John Howard’s training methods in the ox and bucks for Pegasus Bridge (book by Steven Ambrose of that name is the BEST book on planning that I have ever read).

  38. #33 – “every Brave fan”

    Nope, you got one fan here that wanted him gone. One good month didnt change my opinion.

  39. I have been thinking about trading Lowe.

    Realistically, I can see a half decent team with big starting pitching holes paying $5 million for his one year remaining. That may be high. And that would be with no real prospect coming back.

    Another alternative is “bad contract for bad contract”. I am looking and not finding much. Most of the position player bad contracts I am finding have many years on them. Teh only one that might fit is Carlos Lee. Astros owe him 19 million next year. He actually has a pretty good 3 year average against lefties (around 850 ops). Righties have him below average for a player, let alone a left fielder (like 720) and he can’t field.

    Beyond Lee, you have the multi year problem children like Vernon Wells (with enough money, maybe) or Alfonso Soriano (only at Major League minimum).

  40. About Lowe, last year he wasn’t very good until September. Then he and McDowell worked on making an adjustment. I don’t know what it was, but it worked.

    As bad a Lowe was, the biggest problem was the offense down the stretch

  41. Pete @40

    Thanks for doing the legwork. That’s about what I thought it would look like. I agree that Kimbrel has the chance to get better – though I doubt there’s really much better he can get; he’s pretty near the peak value a reliever is ever going to have right now. But on the pessimistic side, he may never post that same season again. He won’t necessarily have to do the Wohlers-Ankiel tango with control to never again be as dominant as he was in 2011.

    Reliever usage has gotten a good deal better in the last 20 years. It’s an aspect of the game where even the stupid managers are doing better than their counterparts from the 90s, or the 80s, or even earlier. So I figured the raw stats would adjust out somewhat in Wohlers favor.

    This is not a take a crap on Craig Kimbrel or anything. But Mark Wohlers was pretty awesome for a while there. It’s unfortunate that Mike Stanton waited until he went to New York to become fantastic, because a Wohlers/Stanton pen, at their respective peaks, would have looked a lot like Kimbrel/Venters, and the starters of the 90s went more than 5.1.

  42. Acquisition for 2012: Carlos Beltran

    Between Chipper, Prado, Heyward and Beltran, you’re going to get three full seasons of pretty good at bats, right?

  43. @50 – Yeah can’t pin the September stench all on Lowe.

    Personally I don’t think he is tradeable. In the past the Braves haven’t done the trade bad contracts deal and I don’t want them to start. With our pitching depth you can hide Lowe in the bullpen and break glass in case of emergency. Carlos Lee isn’t a fit because he plays Freeman’s position.

    Every time I get disturbed about the Lowe contract I look at Vernon Wells. Egads, what were the Angels thinking? What was J.P. Riciarrdi thinking? I think Wells is owed north of 60 million dollars. One more year of Lowe. I can take it as long as he is moping up out of the bullpen.

  44. @52 – I would like to have Beltran. He’d be nice insurance for either Prado or Heyward.

    edit: I guess I mean he replaces either of Prado or Heyward as starters.

  45. One more year of Lowe. I can take it as long as he is moping up out of the bullpen.

    That’s exactly what I think. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that he could have a pretty good season coming out of the pen. I wish that was something we’d have explored in ’11, but we didn’t.

  46. I guess I mean he replaces either of Prado or Heyward as starters.

    I think we can make some reasonable assumptions.

    1. Chipper Jones will not play 162 games. Closer to 140 at best.
    2. Carlos Beltran will not play 162 games. Closer to 140 at best.
    3. Jason Heyward will not play 162 games. Closer to 140 at best.
    4. Martin Prado will not play 162 games. Closer to 140 at best.

    Four players, all of which will miss 22 or more games per year. Call it 25 missed per player, on average, and you have 100 games missed.

    Beltran is your starting LF vs RHP and/or when Chipper is out. Beltran is your starting RF vs tough LHP and/or when Heyward’s out.

    Between LF, 3B and the occasional spot start at 2B and 1B, Prado gets his 140.

    I like that actually. Should work well, and Beltran is a better hitter than any Braves OF we currently have, barring a leap forward by Heyward.

  47. Per Lowe’s own comments at the end of the season, his mechanics were screwed up all year. He admitted this and mentioned trying to fix them in season but having (obviously) little luck.

    I seem to remember issues with mechanics for Lowe being mentioned both in ’09 and ’10 as well. Does any of this lay at the feet of McDowell? I mean, I’m sure he worked with Lowe and all, but I would think mechanical consistancy would be pretty high in the pitching coach’s job description.

  48. Bad Contract swaps…

    Torii Hunter is owed 18 million next year. It might be possible to send them Lowe considering Trout is ready to take over in RF. They also have Abreu and a complete logjam at 1b in Morales and Trumbo.

    Lowe for Abreu and Fernando Rodney
    Lowe for Hunter

  49. The odds of a Georgia Tech national championship would sky-rocket in such a scenario.

    You’re right, of course. But there are a few key differences between a 4 or 8-team college football playoff and the baseball playoffs you have rightfully, understandably derided. Along the same lines, there are also differences between such a playoff and the NCAA tournament, which rewards mediocre regular seasons more than any other postseason.

    1. The better team in football wins more often than the better team in baseball. When college football is the football in question, this difference is even more pronounced: college football teams tend to have large discrepancies in talent that more than make up for randomness.

    2. Selecting the 4 or even 8 best teams from college football is considerably more selective than taking the 8 best MLB teams. There are many more D1 schools than there are MLB teams.

    3. The critical related point: you can have a college football playoff without seriously devaluing the college football regular season. The reason this season is a good one for a playoff is because there will probably be multiple undefeated teams, and of course a couple 1-loss teams from upper echelon conferences with impressive bodies of work. I love how every game matters in college football, but it’s a shame that such a small sample size of largely intra-conference games determines the national champion. We need a system that maintains the integrity of the regular season but also minimizes the flaws of the polling system.

  50. I went to the Falcons game last night. I hadn’t been to one in about 15 years. It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be.

  51. @61 Blaming Lowe’s mechanics on McDowell would be like blaming Raffy Belliard’s lack of power on Clarence Jones.

  52. So how long and big a contract do you give Beltran? I know we won’t but he solves a lot of problems.

  53. Surgery has been pushed back. I don’t really have anything to add yet. I’ll know more tomorrow. Thanks, everybody, for the kind words and thoughts.

  54. Godspeed Mac. Torii Hunter is a name I hadn’t considered. I’d be on board, but I don’t know why the Angels would want Lowe. Carlos Lee is also owed 18 MM next year and could be a candidate for a crappy contract swap.

  55. Get well soon Mac. All the best.

    Greg Walker sucks. Maybe Fredi wants to find someone who is not as smart as him.

  56. Lowe is just old and he just sucks. Mechanical consistancy is just an excuse. He is just getting too old to compete at the highest level.

  57. Many hitting coaches suck, then don’t, then do again. Others don’t, then do, then don’t again. A few don’t suck, then do. A few others suck, then don’t. A couple don’t suck. Larry Parrish sucked.

  58. It’s pointless to complain about “money” being the reason for the playoffs. Of course, it’s about money. The teams are in business to make money no less than Safeway. Baseball is a business and it’s bad business to have a system where, in many seasons, the pennant race is over by August–as often happend under the pre-1969 system. No one would tolerate a system like that today.

    I agree with Sam’s point about the Braves of the 90s and his general point about the Yankees of the 20-30s. However, the Ruth/Gehrig Yankees were far more dominant than the Braves were–or that it would be possible for any team to be these days. It’s certainly possible, though, that they would have lost some of those years if they had to win another round but they were so much better than the other teams that I’m not sure about that.

    A better analogy might be the 1947-1964 Yankees, who won 15 pennants and 10 WS. That team did lose a number of close WS–1955, 1957, 1960, and 1964 (and got swept in 1963). It was a much less dominant team, for the most part, I think, than the Yankee teams of the 30s and almost certainly would have lost in some of those years before reaching the World Series.

    Having said that, the Braves NEVER hit in the playoffs, even in 1995. I don’t think it was entirely bad luck and I don’t think it was necessarily the bullpen.

  59. @65 – I didn’t meant to imply that a NCAA CF playoff would be bad. I wouldn’t have a problem with it, for the reasons you cite. Football is better geared, structurally, to a playoff scenario, because football is not as random on a single game basis as is baseball.

    The reason I mentioned GT’s chances of a national championship skyrocketing is that a playoff scenario gives Paul Johnson the advantage of coaching.

    Tech has been a very good team, for the most part, during Johnson’s tenure. His system works well enough in major conference competition. But give an opposing defensive coordinator of any merit a month to prepare for the Wishbone and Johnson’s system isn’t nearly as dominant. Thus the bowl results, particularly vs LSU and Iowa, two defensively solid opponents who had ample time to prepare for the option schemes.

    In a playoff scenario, GT would have to 1) make the playoffs by winning the ACC, 2) advance from the first round (where opponents would likely have a couple of weeks to prepare at least). At that point, the likely schedule of a playoff scenario, with only a week between games, give Johnson and the option attack the advantage of ill-prepared defenses, again.

    It would be interesting, to say the least.

  60. KC @77:

    Lowe is just old and he just sucks. Mechanical consistancy is just an excuse.

    I don’t think these two things are opposed to one another. One of the *results* of getting old is that you lose fine muscle control that came more easily in youth. Getting old is *why* Lowe is having so much trouble with mechanical consistency. His body won’t do what he wants it to do any more.

    Age is the root cause. The knock-on effect of age is mechanical inconsistency. The final outcome of the mechanical inconsistency is poor results, i.e. “he sucks.”

  61. One more year of Lowe. I can take it as long as he is moping up out of the bullpen.

    Remember Kawakami? 2011 was the last year of his three year deal with the Braves, and it feels like he wasn’t mentioned here even ten times throughout the entire season. He was toiling away in obscurity in the minors all year. Lowe in 2012 should get the Kawakami treatment.

  62. My favorite Wohlers line when asked about his development as a pitcher:

    “Yeah, I didn’t want to be just a brain-dead heaver anymore.”

    Oh, if he had just heaved in a brain-dead manner one more time …

    College football postseason solved:

    Go to a Plus One system:

    ~ One plays Four
    ~ Two plays Three
    ~ Winners play each other for Championship
    ~ Colleges spread around the extra BILLION dollars
    ~ Bowls remain largely as they are
    ~ Fifth-ranked team whines but no one really cares

    Thank you, thank you very much.

  63. #82 – he will except they can’t option him to the minors. I am guessing that unless his ‘mechanics’ become better through some miracle he will be the most expensive mop up relief pitcher in baseball.

  64. @83: Everyone complains about Wohlers throwing the slider to Leyritz. But it wasn’t the fact it was a slider, it was that it was a bad slider. If it’s a good slider, he probably strikes him out. I understand the point about not wanting to speed up the guy’s bat, but, at some point, you have to try something different. As I recall, Leyritz had fouled off a bunch of fastballs.

    Anyway, the Braves had plenty of opportunities to win that game; all they had to do was score one run. As continues to be the Braves way, they couldn’t do it.

  65. Sam’s right about Johnson. The triple option is pretty much impossible to prepare for in a week. In a month, a good defense will be ready. Heck, Alabama had a big losing streak in bowls when they first went to the wishbone, until the last few years of Coach Bryant’s career when their talent was so overwhelming it didn’t matter — and even then, they usually won with defense.

  66. Everyone complains about Wohlers throwing the slider to Leyritz

    To preserve my holier-than-thou iconoclast status, I tend to complain about the botched double play grounder that Rafeal Belliard booted on the previous batter. Turn that damned double play, or just get the lead runner, and Leyritz has not chance to change the game significantly.

  67. @Sam(54) – Kimbrel showed flashes of really low walk rates (for him anyway) this season, though his overall line was right around average. If he could put up < 3 bb/9 for a season and keep his k/9 in the stratosphere, that could be an all time great reliever season. His BAbip wasn't anything special this year either. It's not necessarily likely that he'll improve on either of those (who knows?), but they are avenues of improvement that wouldn't be especially outlandish. One requires him to hone his control as he ages, and the other requires him to get more lucky (or good, but that seems less likely). Both seem reasonably possible.

  68. BTW, if people don’t like Greg Walker for hitting coach, who else is out there? I don’t know much about hitting coaches other than Rudy Jaramillo, I guess. Does anyone have any ideas (other than Chipper Jones becoming a part-time hitting coach)?

  69. I don’t think Lowe’s on the team next year if he’s not in the rotation. I think they’d release him before giving him a spot that would otherwise go to Martinez or Varvaro.

  70. Kimbrel has the chance to be a right handed Billy Wagner. That would be, notably, better than Mark Wohlers. *As a career value.* I certainly hope he achieves that. But relievers are fickle creatures, and one year’s super-stud, 100 MPH cheese flinging intimidation machine can turn into that idiot f*cker who couldn’t keep his mouth shut and seems to have Tourette’s on the mound virtually overnight.

    I like Craig Kimbrel a lot. I like having him, and Venters and O’Flaherty and Medlen and probably J.J. Hoover in the pen at pennies on the dollar for the next few years. I’m a big fan of the early-2000s Anaheim method of building bullpens (which was also the Cox/Mazzone method as well, for the most part.)

  71. Wren is on record as saying Lowe will either be traded or be in the pen. Those are his words. Traded, or in the pen. He is not currently considered an option for the rotation.

    The question comes down to Medlen, Jurrjens and Hanson, and health.

    If both Jurrjens and Hanson are healthy, the rotation will be:

    Hudson, Hanson, Jurrjens, Minor, Delgado*

    That moves Medlen to the pen, and Lowe to another team for whatever they can get.

    If either of those guys aren’t healthy, or if Delgado* doesn’t look good in spring training, you have the option of moving Medlen back into the rotation and sending Delgado* to AAA. In that option, Lowe is probably your RH reliever out of the pen, unless they still trade him and give that slot to Vizcaino.

    *Delgado looked far closer to being major league ready, as a starter, than either Vizcaino or Teheran

  72. Who among us would rather have Wohlers in his prime than Kimbrel in his prime? In my mind, Wohlers stuff wasn’t nearly as good as Kimbrel’s is, and Kimbrel’s numbers in his 1.5 seasons are so good that you can only cherry pick Wohler’s best season as roughly comparable to the totality of Kimbrel’s career so far.

    My point is that I think Kimbrel is going to probably be the best reliever the Braves have had since 1991.

  73. ‘@99 – You forgot Beachy’ What a luxury.

    Sam, I think that we are trading Jurrjens or Hanson. One of those two could be the sweetner for someone to take Lowe and say 5 million of his contract. I know I am being wishy washy as I just posted that I think he is untradeable. I still think he is. Especially if they attempt to trade him by himself.

    Or we could package Delgado or Minor and Lowe. I can’t recall the Braves ever doing that type of salary dump where a sweetner is used to trade the player away.

    I am ok with the scenarios as long as the return is a dang outfielder.

  74. I was thinking, while typing that, “I’m leaving someone out” but couldn’t recall who for the life of me, and didn’t feel like hitting B-REF. Obviously Beach slots into the rotation ahead of either Lowe, Medlen or Delgado. So…

    Hudson, Hanson, Jurrjens, Beachy, Minor; the three big name prospects at AAA and Medlen in the pen. I’d be shocked if, with all of those guys healthy going into ST, Lowe’s still on the team.

  75. Or we could package Delgado or Minor and Lowe. I can’t recall the Braves ever doing that type of salary dump where a sweetner is used to trade the player away.

    Yeah. It’s virtually unheard of to trade two starting pitchers for one OF, but if you could get a pretty good OF and get rid of Lowe’s contract, the Braves should do that. It’s sort of sick how deep their starting options go right now, without Lowe.

  76. Friendly reminder: Just before he was fired, Willie Freaking Martinez shut down Paul Johnson fine enough to win. Didn’t have the benefit of a month wait, either.

    Additional friendly reminder: I could coach a team to 8 wins in the ACC.

  77. Lowe will probably be gone (I’d say like 85% chance) I would also think we move one of the following: Beachy, JJ, Minor or Hanson.

  78. #106 – I think we can narrow that down to one of Hanson or JJ, preferably JJ. Wren has already stated that they wont be moving their cheap young pitching.

  79. @105 – That game was far more about the absolute sieve of a run defense we managed to field than Willie Martinez shutting down the offense. It’s tough to stick with a Paul Johnson gameplan when you’re giving up 8 yards/carry and playing catch-up the whole time.

    (Admittedly the option seemed less effective against UGA’s sad sad defense than it had against the gauntlet of ACC stalwarts we’d previously faced.)

  80. I’d rather move Hanson than JJ. I have nothing to support this purely personal preference other than my perhaps biased opinion that JJ goes deeper into the games he pitches.

  81. I’m just gonna go ahead and make my prediction: the Braves aren’t going to trade Jurrjens, Hanson, or any of their young arms. I think the rotation noted above – Hudson, Hanson, Jurrjens, Beachy, and Minor – is the rotation they plan to have. Teheran and Delgado will start in Gwinnett while Medlen will head to the pen.

    Think about it: the Braves can basically set their entire pitching staff right now for very little money (relatively). Those five starters, and then Kimbrel, Venters, O’Flaherty, Medlen, Martinez, Varvaro, and one of the AAA kids (Hoover, Abreu, or Gearrin), will make for a very good and cheap staff. Unloading part of Lowe’s salary, plus having another few million to play with, will leave them reasonably well positioned to deal with SS, OF, and MI.

    So my guess is that Wren has to find a taker for part of Lowe’s salary, and then shore up those three positions.

  82. Running through September in my daydreaming mind (again) and I remembered Bill “Paragon of Obnoxious Boston Fan” Simmons’ Levels of Losing column from a few years back.

    Listed as the 2nd most devestating way to end your team’s sporting season:

    Level II: The Goose/Maverick Tailspin
    Definition: Cruising happily through the baseball regular season, a potential playoff team suddenly and inexplicably goes into a tailspin, can’t bounce out of it and ends up crashing for the season. In “Top Gun,” the entire scene lasted for 30 seconds and we immediately moved to a couple of scenes in which Tom Cruise tried to make himself cry on camera but couldn’t quite pull it off. In sports, the Goose/Maverick Tailspin could last for two weeks, four weeks, maybe even two months, but as long as it’s happening, you feel like your entire world is collapsing. It’s like an ongoing Stomach Punch Game. And when it finally ends, you spend the rest of your life reliving it every time a TV network shows a montage of the worst collapses in sports history. Other than that, it’s no big deal.

    Best Example: The incredible collapse of the 2007 Mets. I have three buddies who root for them, so I was able to witness the emotional devastation firsthand: in five days, they went from planning for the playoffs to planning for a potential nightmare. Just when it looked like the ship had been righted, they were swept at home by the lowly Nationals, passed by the Phillies, given a second life on Saturday with a Phillies loss and Maine’s one-hitter and then, just as abruptly, everything ended when Tom Glavine got shelled by the Marlins. Win or lose on Sunday, the damage had already been done to the psyche of Mets fans. On Friday night, as Cole Hamels was pitching Philly to victory, my friend Paul Raff (a Mets fan) sent me the following e-mail: “Honestly, it’s such a betrayal by the team. They have ruined us fans this season and last October. I hate this sport now. They’ve violated and befouled every [expletive] nuance of the game, playoffs or no playoffs.” Now that’s a baseball fan with some healing to do.

    Personal Memory: The ’78 Red Sox. Good God. You have to survive one of these pennant-race meltdowns to fully understand how scarring and debilitating they can be. Obviously, you can only compare sports and real life to a certain degree, but watching your baseball team die over an extended period of time is almost like watching a family member die over an extended period of time — every day is worse than the last, you don’t feel better when it’s over, and afterward, you spend the next few weeks and months coming to grips with everything that happened and trying to make sense of it. Anyway, Mets fans, we’re all feeling for you this week.

  83. Given the Braves needs:
    1. Trade Jurrjens for a real outfielder.
    Downside – I know Jair has been hurt, pitching over better than his peripherals but when he is good he is really good. Plus his value now may not get us a real outfielder.
    Upside – He has been pitching better than his peripherals. He has been hurt for significant amounts of time. He is a Boras client. He is going to be expensive no matter how he performs in the next couple of seasons.
    2. Package one of the young guys with Lowe so that someone would take a decent portion of his contract. Get a prospect or a sack of rocks.
    Dowside – gotta make that a really decent part of 15 million bucks. Not sure if anyone bites on that. Do we really want to part with Delgado or Minor just to get rid of say 8 million dollars? Since its a salary dump I doubt we get a significant return player.
    Upside – Lose Lowe next season so there’s no temptation to, you know, actually pitch him.
    Really I think that we are better off keeping him than expending one of our bullets just to dump his contract. Sunk costs.

  84. Dont really think Id want to see Wren adding a good arm with Lowe in order for someone to pick up a portion of Lowe’s salary and getting nothing in return. Id rather just cut Lowe and eat the cost.

  85. Thanks, MikeM. I needed my blood pressure raised again.

    I think a collapse such as those mentioned by Simmons or, closer to home, the one we just experienced is closer to having to live with a lover’s infidelity. You can move on, even productively, but every now and then the memory flashes AND YOU GET PISSED!!

    My growing affection for Wren is due largely to what I perceive as his inability to swallow this bullshit and the vision of Fat Fredi posing for the cover of “Flummoxed Today” as we twisted ever so slowly into the abyss.

    I sense Wren is looking for something, anything that would justify canning Fredi.

    Anger is not often a productive emotion, but every now and then it can motivate one to do what must be done, no matter how difficult the timing.

  86. I agree. Lowe is sunk costs. I think he is on the roster though.
    I just postulated that the only way anyone takes any SIGNIFICANT part of Lowe’s contract will need a reasons to do so. Thus the sweetner. Other teams have done it, see the Jays this season but I cannot remember the Braves ever being involved in that type of transaction.

  87. There’s absolutely no way this could happen, but how good would Braun look in our outfield?

    I knew he was talented, but I had no idea …

    A five-tool player if ever there was one.

  88. Wren is on record as saying Lowe will either be traded or be in the pen. Those are his words. Traded, or in the pen. He is not currently considered an option for the rotation.

    No. He said that’s the way things look, as of today. (Well, as of two weeks ago.) If injuries happen, or if Lowe “rediscovers” something, he absolutely has a shot at the rotation. It’s beyond foolish to believe that the Braves are so rigid (and dumb) that they’d have their February/March plans set in September.

    As for a release, you think Wren’s going to break ground on that rumor in September? Obviously not.

    But you know all this…


  89. I know no one cares about this but me, but this statistic is just astounding:

    46.2 percent of Kentucky’s offensive plays have resulted in either:

    ~ no gain
    ~ negative yards


    ~ a turnover

    Sure hope Jacksonville State is overlooking us. Oy.

  90. And thank you, justhank, for:

    “…the vision of Fat Fredi posing for the cover of “Flummoxed Today”…”

    I think what made me most angry during game 162 was Fredi looking completely bewildered in the dugout, time and time again. Meanwhile, when I would flip over to the Rays game I would be greeted with the image of Joe Maddon in the dugout looking in control and wheels turning.

    By the way, you a UK grad? Class of ’07 right here.

  91. I think you have to trade Lowe and try to get a team to pay at least part of his salary. You can then move one of the tradeable pitchers for a left fielder and maybe add Prado to the deal and get a hndcuff for Chipper.

  92. Talking Chop just posted an article about where the Braves should look to improve offense. Several points were addressed. With these two I wholeheartedly agree:

    1. “While the Braves could re-sign Gonzo as a bridge to Pastornicky, with the intention of working the kid in during the season, Pastornicky himself would likely only be a bridge to another young Braves prospect, Andrelton Simmons.”

    2. “A Martin Prado who is not getting base hits is almost worthless at the plate as a left fielder. … Prado could be a valuable player on the Braves as someone who fills in for Chipper, Uggla, and Freeman from time to time, as well as playing some left field. I just want a player who can produce more offensive production on a regular basis in left field.”

    What think ye?

  93. @117

    Right — the idea that Lowe would be on the team but permanently consigned to the bullpen, regardless of rotation injuries or ineffectiveness, doesn’t make sense. If he’s on the active roster, I have to think he would be, at worst, the second backup starter.

  94. So, Tebow. I don’t like him. But I don’t begrudge people who do. Or, at least, not much. Point is, I’m trying.

    I’m a little mystified, though, that someone would look at his performance last Sunday and believe they were watching someone who can be a successful NFL QB. First, there was the difficulty with taking the snap. He struggled with that to an extent you don’t often see.

    Also, he was praised for being able to escape pressure and extend plays. Which is all well and good, except part of the reason there was pressure was Tebow’s inability to get off a quick throw. He double-clutched a few times, and it was as if he saw a receiver get open for a moment but doubted his ability to get the ball to him quickly enough. Some combination of his decision-making, his throwing motion, and his arm strength may conspire to prevent him from making standard throws, and so he’s forced to go into jailbreak mode. I don’t think you can succeed like that.

  95. It’s funny but Tebow seems to be in the category typically occupied by African-American quarterbacks, ie, can’t throw from the pocket and has to depend on his mobility and general athleticism to get by.

  96. But Mac, it was a different time. Back then, pot and beer were considered performance enhancers.

    I mean, ya gotta admit, some of the most creative moments in the history of quarterbacking came via Stephen Garcia.

    Btw, was Taneyhill actually “Sunshine” from “Remember the Titans”? Or vice versa. You know what I mean.

    We’re everywhere, Stu. Just a Big Blue Mist.

  97. Most of you can’t read, though, so I don’t have to encounter you on the internet.

    No, Ronnie Bass was the actual name of the QB who played at South Carolina.

  98. 124- I agree regarding Prado. He’s a great super-utility guy (and probably passable at 3B), but he was really exposed this year and it was crippling. Get a LF who can slug over .500.

    RE SS: I agree on AAG; mostly because outside Rollins/Reyes, there is nothing out there. Possibly Marco Scutaro if the Red Sox decline his option. I’m not sure Andrelton Simmons is the answer though. He made a ton of errors, doesn’t walk, and doesn’t hit for much power. His lack of strikeouts and high average are encouraging, but I’m not sold on the guy yet.

    Jair Jurrjens to the Royals for Alex Gordon?

  99. So if Theo pulls off the feat in Chicago, will he be regarded as the best baseball executive since Branch Rickey?

  100. @140

    But to pull it off with BOTH the Red Sox and the Cubs would be unreal. I would put him ahead of Schuerholtz at that point.

  101. The main difference between Garcia and Tannehill was Tannehill didn’t shave points. Just kidding Cocks fans.

    Am I crazy to think that Bobby was just as good of a GM as JS, because as the years go by I’ve kind of changed my opinion on this topic.

  102. AAR, that’s true. I should have stated ‘Braves GM’ instead of just GM. Clearly, JS is the better GM overall, but I was trying to say that as the years go by, I think JS gets too much credit as a Braves GM and Bobby doesn’t get enough.

    I would also like for somebody to explain to me how the Tigers can afford to have a payroll that has been $20-$30+ mill a year higher than the Braves over the last 5 years. I know Comerica’s newer, but this doesn’t seem right to me.

  103. @146,

    But the Tigers, even playing in a city with a sick economy, draw much better than the Braves. And, of course, they have an owner that actually cares about the team.

    Dumbest question ever: Ken Rosenthal asking Doug Fister after the Tiger win, whether he thinks the Tigers can come back. I guess he expected Fister to say, “no, we’re toast.” I mean, why ask questions like that exept to fill time?

  104. Marc, I think in the best of circumstances the reason to ask an obvious question is to try to see whether there’s any daylight between the answer you expect and the answer you get, whether in words or tone. Of course, most baseball players are so robotically programmed with respect to sideline reporters that you really can’t get anything useful out of them, a question like that serves absolutely no useful function whatsoever.

    The other thing about the Tigers: There has been a major league team in that city for more than 100 years. For better or for worse, Atlanta can’t say that.

  105. As good as Epstein was (and probably still is), those recent contracts handed out by the Red Sox look absolutely awful.

  106. Epstein joined the Red Sox in 2002. In that span, what are the acquisitions that have really set him apart from the crowd as a GM? David Ortiz was a clear win. He was waiver wire fodder from MN that only Boston recognized as valuable at the time.

    Johnny Damon played well enough in Boston.

    Curt Schilling did well enough, but honestly, the difference between Curt Schilling in Boston and John Lackey in Boston is probably the direction the wind was blowing off the harbor the night they arrived or something. Which is to say he got a little lucky with Schilling and a little unlucky with his pitching acquisitions after Schilling.

    The core of that 2004 WS team, other than Ortiz, Damon and Schilling, were already in place prior to Epstein’s arrival in Boston.

  107. Frank Wren, immediately after Philadelphia completed the collapse of 2011 and swept the Braves out of the playoffs:

    “It’s situational hitting, it’s not just settling for a good swing and then a strikeout,” Wren said. “That’s a bad at-bat in my mind. Philadelphia just left here. They battled every day, up and down that lineup. They’re going to make a pitcher work to get them out. Too many times if you made three or four good pitches against us it was pretty easy to get through our lineup. That needs to change.

    ‘That was probably our Achilles heel. We had a team that very easily could have won 95 games, but just …our biggest deficiency was our situational hitting.”

    Ruben Amaro, immediately after St. Louis eliminated Philadelphia from the 2011 LDS:

    “I think we have to go about it a little differently. And that’s something I’ve talked to GG [hitting coach Greg Gross] and also to Charlie [Manuel] about. I think we just have to have a different mindset, maybe a different approach offensively than maybe we would have had in ‘08 or ‘09.

    “I think it’s a different ballclub. In that regard, I don’t think we have nearly as much power. I think we’re going to have to rely on having better at-bats, being better with two strikes, being better situational hitters. And those are things, frankly, we’re going to have to change.”

  108. Theo put together two championship teams in a place that hadn’t won one in like 90 years. He also did it trading the most popular player on the team.

    Some of the recent deals haven’t worked out, but they can afford to make mistakes. No one thought Crawford would have as bad of a season as he did this year.

  109. The main thing is Theo is competent, won’t assume his team is on the cusp when they need good luck to get to 80 wins, and clearly favors solid player development in a way Hendry never did. The Cubs will get better in the next few years. They might not win it all, but with competent leadership and a big payroll, they’re going to help make the NL much more competitive.

    My bigger fear is that the Tampa brain trust moves on to Houston, which is where they’re from. Friedman is a great GM, and he’s the one I worry about getting a bigger payroll.

  110. @148,

    Alex, agreed, but why not at least have a point in asking a question? Is this the best that Rosenthal could come up with?

    Re Theo, I think the point is that he put a process for player development in place in Boston. It’s a joke that the Cubs haven’t been in the World Series-not to mention winning one-since 1945. My god, that’s at least five wars ago.

  111. What are the details of the “process for player development” Epstein put in place in Boston?

  112. per AJC…Heyward had an MRI on his spine. MRI shows no damage. He will now continue on his shoulder rehab program.

  113. Why does it seem like Jason is the only person in the Braves organization that thinks he’s hurt?

    Am I reading this incorrectly?

  114. Why does it seem like Jason is the only person in the Braves organization that thinks he’s hurt?

    Because Jason’s the only one in the organization who thinks he’s hurt. He’s fast becoming our own early-career J.D. Drew.

  115. I want to give Jason the benefit of the doubt here. However, part of me thinks he’s using this as a crutch to blame this years struggles on. I hope he either gets “healthy” or gets “the holes in his swing fixed” before next season.

    Im beginning to believe the Braves are slowly preparing me for the days without Jason Heyward.

  116. @161
    I, for one, understand Jason’s frustration. I have been complaining of back pain for about 8 years and just found out last week what was wrong. It sucks when you don’t feel right, know something’s wrong, yet everyone thinks your either faking, overreacting, or just a wuss.

    Shards of disc were found on the left and right side of my back pressing against my spinal column.

    Sometimes, people are actually hurt. I guess sometimes people are actually wusses too.

  117. The Braves are clearly frustrated with Heyward’s lack of desire to play when he doesn’t feel 1000%. And are further frustrated that all of the tests on him have shown no physical problems. The JD Drew comparison is apt but I hope not true. I saw a poll once in Sports Illustrated where MLB players voted Drew as the player who did the least with the most talent.

  118. @133,

    I did a quick scroll down, so if I failed to see where this had been answered, here it is.

    “Sunshine” is accurately reported by the name in “Remember the Titans” of Ronnie Bass. He was starting QB at South Carolina roughly 10 to 15 years before Taneyhill (Bass was there approx 72 through 74) (Doesn’t Taneyhill have a sone playing in fbs this year?). I remember him playing Georgia. I am pretty sure he was well after the “TV DAWGS” of 1970 went down to SC 28 to 8 at halftime only to end up winning 52 to 34.

    That mediocre Georgia team finished 5 and 5, but won all 3games on TV (I remember upsetting the Sullivan and Beasley Auburn team there, and this win over SC, but am not sure on the other). Basically it looked like they “played up” when the cameras were running.

  119. I’ve said it before, but if Jason Heyward has J.D. Drew’s career, that will be a fantastic outcome. Drew has had r46.3 WAR in his career; he’s been around a long time and he’s done a good job.

    Of course, Heyward has the talent to have a better career than Drew has had… but then again, Drew had the talent to have a better career, too. Maybe Pete Reiser did as well. If Heyward can produce 4 WAR a year every year for 10 years, preferably in a Braves uniform, that’ll be fine by me. Of course, if he produced 8 WAR a year for 5 years, I’d be happier. But those things don’t always happen.

  120. The problem is, how do you know what someone’s “potential” is? Some scout sees a player and proclaims him as having superstar talent. But it’s not that easy. Did anyone think Albert Pujols would be this good? Everyone thought Andruw would be Willie Mays and that Andy Marte would be a great player. Who knows how good Heyward is “supposed” to be.

    What concerns me about Heyward at this point is not so much the injuries or so-called unwillingness to play hurt, but his apparent need to revamp his swing. That can’t be good.

  121. It’s not that Heyward doesn’t want to play while hurt. It’s that he thinks he’s not very good while hurt. And guess what? He’s got 4 months of empirical evidence to back it up!

    I’ve been the guy believing he wasn’t right, and he still clearly doesn’t feel right. If he’s not comfortable swining, if there’s pain, or something catching that’s keeping him from being comfortable up there, it’s something that needs to be addressed. Yelling at him in the media isn’t the right way to do it, and frankly, I’d have rather have him sat out another month last year and came back 100% for the final 3 than just suck the whole time. Chipper may disagree, but that’s the way I saw it then, and it’s still the way I see it. Baseball is a grind, and being 100% for 80% of it is better than being 80% for 100% of it. That is all.

  122. Another question, related to Garcia: Where would rank Steve Spurrier among SEC coaches as of right now? Obviously he’s behind Saban and Miles, and almost as obviously Petrino. But who else? And has SEC coaching been as top heavy as is right now since the seventies?

  123. @173:

    That’s about right, given newcomers and all. And USC *did* go to the SECCG last year and are still in the driver’s seat this year.

    All that could come crashing down in an eyelash. If the Ass-Kickin’ Chickens lose in Starkville and Florida goes down on the Plains (both definite possibilities), then your #1 team in the east is friggin Georgia.

  124. I dont know. Spurrier loses games he shouldnt and even though its USCjr you would think by now he would have a better record than what he’s produced in now his 7th season with the Gamecocks. He’s never had a season there with less than 5 losses.

  125. 174—Only if Georgia wins this weekend.

    Obviously, it’s too early to rank him, but James Franklin sure looks good.

  126. The problem with complaining about complaining about Heyward is this: if Heyward can’t produce when he’s got nagging injuries that don’t show up on MRIs, and he *ALWAYS* seems to have those sorts of injuries, then Jason Heyward is a very different prospect than the one we all expected coming into 2011.

  127. 151,

    Yup. The core of that 2004 championship team was not much of Theo’s doing. His history has been mediocre. His trades are pretty much a wash (even though losing Mike Gonzalez and Freddy Sanchez certainly hurts). His signings have been disastrous: Edgar Renteria for 4/40, Julio Lugo for 4/36, Matsuzaka, Drew (not too bad, I guess), Lackey, and Crawford. His extensions have been good: Ortiz, Beckett, Varitek, and Gonzalez. If he were the GM of a mid-market club, he wouldn’t look nearly as good.

    Although you can’t argue with 2 championships in 8 years, you can certainly argue how much of that success stems from Epstein and how large of a role injuries, luck, and general above-average player performance had to play in that.

  128. 154,

    The Cubbies’ recent problems can be attributed to really one thing: signing old players to large contracts. They just obtained the GM that… yup, specializes in signing old players to bad contracts. I’m not worried.

  129. The Crawford deal is somewhat comparable to Soriano, but most of Theo’s moves have not been. And that’s leaving aside the fact that Crawford was a year younger, with a better skill set (in terms of aging) than was Soriano at the time of his deal.

    Theo deserves to be criticized for some moves, and he does not deserve too much praise for the 2004 World Series–however difficult it is to imagine the 2004 Red Sox winning anything without David Ortiz–but then he also deserves credit for running the system that developed Lester, Pedroia, and Ellsbury, among others. I seriously doubt the Cubs are going to keep making Soriano-type deals. What we’ll see, in all likelihood, is a firesale.

  130. The core of that 2004 championship team was not much of Theo’s doing.

    Acquired Curt Schilling for Michael Goss, Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon and Jorge de la Rosa. Signed Mark Bellhorn, Bill Mueller, David Ortiz, and JD Drew. Arroyo and Bellhorn cost less than $1M combined and produced 6 WAR for the 2004 Sox (h/t

    Those total up to a pretty good chunk of the “core”, not to mention keeping the right guys after taking the gig. I have no idea where that puts Theo in the pantheon, but let’s not overstate the case here.

  131. The Crawford deal is somewhat comparable to Soriano,

    It looks like it is headed that way, but I think we’ve got to allow more than one season of it to happen before declaring it to be the case.

  132. 182,

    I’d give the scouting department the majority of the credit for their player development, but I don’t (and I don’t think I’ll ever) know how much control Theo actually had over the draft. If you want to give him credit for that, I can see how he’d look better.

    I would look again at the signing. Theo overpaid for Renteria’s monster 2003 year, but Edgar just had a career year that year and hadn’t hit anything close to it before. Lugo had a couple of above average years. Crawford wasn’t going to age well. Lackey’s last two years in Anaheim (in which he was injured) weren’t ace-level years.

    I’m not saying he’s a horrible GM (not by any means), but I would argue that he’s overrated by the media and mediocre when adjusted for the situation he was put into in Boston.

  133. I’d give the scouting department the majority of the credit for their player development,

    Doesn’t the GM get credit for the people he brings in doing a good job?

  134. 183,

    I agree that Theo helped his club quite a bit in that 2003 offseason, but my argument was more directed at the ‘Epstein came in and turned the 2002 Detroit Tigers in the 1927 Yankees’ mentality that a lot of posters on Red Sox sites have. My mistake.

  135. @173. I’ll give it a shot Mac.

    Too early to tell:
    1) Muschamp
    2) Franklin

    Best guesses:
    1) Saban (current closest thing to complete package)
    2) Miles (bizarre game day decisions but results are what matters)
    3) Petrino (if he ever gets a solid defense could fight the top two.)
    4) Chizik (recruiting matters-positive)
    5) Spurrier (never thought he’d be this low. Clock management against Auburn was atrocious. I may be letting history over rank still.)
    6) Mullen (recruiting matters-negative)
    7) Richt (If he didn’t seem burned out maybe higher.)
    8) Dooley. (Came into a bad situation so could rise significantly.)
    9) Joker Phillips. (Coach in waiting is looking like a bad decision.)
    10) Nutt. (Seems totally unmotivated.)

  136. “The problem with complaining about complaining about Heyward is this: if Heyward can’t produce when he’s got nagging injuries that don’t show up on MRIs, and he *ALWAYS* seems to have those sorts of injuries, then Jason Heyward is a very different prospect than the one we all expected coming into 2011.”

    Agreed. No player is 100% even 80% of the time and certainly not by the end of the season. Of course, it obviously depends on what the ailment is. People used to complain about Chipper sitting out with a little hand injury, but you can’t hit without your hands and the same thing with your shoulder. It’s like a defensive lineman having turf toe–certain injuries are debilitating for players. It’s one thing to play with a pulled hamstring, another to play with a bad shoulder.

  137. He was. He doesn’t have much to work with. You’ll see noticeable improvement next year, with an older offensive line (and added depth), more playmakers (Kimbrow, McDonald, Batey, and more…), and a big-time QB (Austyn Carta-Samuels).

    Besides, he’s not even calling plays or anything; the offense is run by Donovan. Hard to argue with Franklin’s results on the field or the recruiting trail, so far. He’s already jumped at least two SEC programs in his first year. At Vanderbilt, in case you’ve forgotten.

    Of course, he’s no Joker Phillips…

  138. I don’t know if Vandy has jumped two programs….two programs have significantly regressed while Vandy has maintained the status quo (steady defense, nonexistent offense).

  139. I think it’s a bit harsh to assume Heyward has to be 100% to play well. He’s had two very specific injuries in the past two years that have affected his ability to swing the bat properly.

    Do you really think that he hasn’t had any leg injuries at all in the past two years?

  140. 194—The offense is obviously better than it was. (It’s been putrid against one of the best defenses in the history of college football and one of the best defensive lines in the country — not exactly representative of what they’ve done and will do against the rest of the schedule.) The defense, too, is obviously better. And, of course, the recruiting is not even in the same universe it was in.

    Still a long way to go, but VU’s in excellent hands.

  141. I’d go

    1) Saban
    2) Miles
    3) Spurrier
    4) Chizik
    5) Petrino
    6) Richt
    7) Mullen
    8 ) Franklin/Dooley/Muschamp (Three way tie. It is too early to tell and all of the coaches above them have done something, they have yet to do anything)
    11) Joker Phillips.
    12) Nutt

  142. Nah, for putrid offense you need to drive about four hours northeast of Nashville.

    Bill Curry managed to lose to Vandy five years in a row and be self-righteous about it. Kentucky is Curry-esque once more.

  143. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver are the worst announcing combination in all announcing. Professional or novice.

  144. Richt is 58-29 vs. SEC competition.

    Alabama 3-1
    Arkansas 5-1
    Auburn 6-4
    Florida 2-8
    Kentucky 8-2
    LSU 3-3
    Ole Miss 5-0
    MSU 3-1
    South Carolina 7-4
    Tennessee 7-4
    Vanderbilt 9-1

    He’s 9-1 vs. Georgia Tech & 7-3 in bowl games.

    However, he’s 19-11 vs. the current crop of SEC coaches.

    Saban 2-3
    Petrino 1-1
    Chizik 1-1
    Muschamp 0-0
    Phillips 1-0
    Miles 2-1
    Nutt 5-0
    Mullen 1-1
    Spurrier 4-4
    Dooley 2-0
    Franklin 0-0

  145. Back in the nascent days of Amazon, one of my jobs was to ferret out inappropriate product reviews. Most of them were easy to spot — people tried to submit vulgar or irrelevant reviews all the time. Also, we had to pay special attention to reviews of books that covered hot-button topics. I don’t think I ever approved a review of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and there were many.

    Sometimes it was a little tougher — a spate of negative reviews of a book on an obscure topic might appear in quick succession. This was often the result of an author vs. author campaign, because a potential customer might be in the market for one book on a given topic (say, a coffee-table book on stained glass in 18th century New England churches), but not two. Occasionally an author would submit a falsely negative review of a competitor’s book, and either get several friends to do the same, or else create multiple accounts for the purpose of bombarding the book’s Amazon page.

    But we always got a kick out of satirically positive reviews that were well-written. We would pass them around, and usually let them stand as written. It is in that spirit that I give you the Amazon customer review page for Tim McCarver Sings Selections from the Great American Song Book:


  146. I haven’t checked in since the Braves season was over, and maybe this has been brought up before, but I just watched a ESPN Yesterday on Classic on Donnie Moore’s tragic life, highly recommended to everyone on here. It actually reminded me that ESPN can be pretty damn good at times.

  147. No, I started in ’99 and worked there until May of ’01, when our jobs were outsourced to India. Actually, that’s not completely true — some of the jobs went to Huntington, WV, and we were offered paid relocation if we wanted to stay with the company. The choice of taking a pay cut and moving to West Virginia or staying in Seattle for a summer paid for by a not-terrible severance agreement was not really much of a decision (no offense meant to West Virginians and those who love them).

  148. #203 – The money quote:
    ‘His voice is like a laxative for the soul. His dulcet tones cause me to vacate my bowels of ennui and sigh contentedly as I stare at my dung of discontent.’

  149. @203,

    Hilarious! I was almost crying. I wish I could write something that funny. The reviewers that don’t realize the positive reviews are sarcastic are also funny.

    I once reviewed a book about the Bobby Thomson home run on Amazon and got contacted by the author because of the negative review (stupidly, I guess, I reviewed it under my real name). He actually wanted me to change the review. But, then it turned out that mine was one of many negative reviews. I never heard from him again.

  150. #204 – The thought that the Cards or the Rangers may get into the WS has me depressed. Clinch, Release,Clinch,Release…..Ahhh now I feel much happier.

  151. Marc, he probably contacted Amazon first and asked for negative reviews to be removed. I had to deal with that all the time — authors (understandably, from their point of view) wondering how we could be simultaneously selling a book while allowing it to be criticized on the same page.

  152. The Anal-Constricting Depression Good-Byers — If only fantasy leagues had no character limits on team names.

  153. @212,


    That’s interesting; I had not thought of that. He wanted me to change the review but, as far as I could tell, I couldn’t have even if I wanted to. Really, what would be the point of having customer reviews but only allowing positive reviews?

    What I really thought was interesting was that the book had been favorably reviewed (with some reservations) in the New York Times Book Review, yet he felt it was important to push back against a guy reviewing on Amazon.

  154. sansho, that’s hilarious.

    In a similar vein, I worked at the Jockey Club when I was in college – not the bar, but the governing body of Thoroughbred Horse Racing.

    One of our jobs was to vet the names submitted for new foals each year. “Cunning Stunt” was not approved.

  155. I would’ve loved to see the look of fake bewilderment on the face of the owner of that horse when informed that their name was rejected.

  156. Jurrjens for Lowrie seems like a win for Boston. Would this be a fairly even swap: Reddick+Lowrie for Hanson?

  157. Seems to me the Red Sox would not be interested in a pitcher with a sore shoulder regardless of his talent. I would stay away from pitchers with shoulder issues.

  158. @223 – I think that the Braves will emphasize acquiring an outfielder. I am not sure what the fascination with Lowrie is. He is 27 and has played over 80 games in MLB exactly twice in 4 years. If his only attribute is he is better than Alex Gonzalez, pass. I’d rather have a good bat outfielder and carry a good glove/no hit SS over an unproven SS and unproven OF.

    That said. Hanson alone isn’t going to get anything done. His injury makes him part of a package to get the pieces the Braves want.

  159. @225, The vast majority of Lowrie’s games missed since his call-up is due to: 1) mono, and 2) a misdiagnosed injury that made other Sox players lose faith in their team’s medical staff. I don’t know that he deserves the injury-prone label. He crushes lefties, plays adequate defense, and may actually be available and relatively cheap. That he’s 27 is another plus in my book. But I don’t think the Braves will go for him.

    I too would rather get a legit OF bat and stick with AAG, as much as it pains me, for another season. I’m not optimistic that that kind of deal is out there. Quality bats in LF are a scarce commodity right now. But I think that’s the direction in which Wren will try to head.

  160. Still like the idea of Pagan, if he’s a non-tender. I wouldn’t mind Logan Morrison for the right price, although he’s a lefty, and it’ll never happen with an organization that would clutch it’s pearls at most everything he does.

  161. @227
    I’d take Pagan if we keep Prado, but if it’s an either/or type deal, I’d pass. Prado’s been better and more consistent in his career, and is also younger.

  162. Pagan makes a better 4th OF though – he can legitimately play all 3 positions. I wouldn’t mind a Prado/Pagan platoon multi-sub arrangement (Prado spells Chipper/Uggla, Pagan does the same for Bourn/Heyward, and platoon the other 4 starts).

  163. You know, I hadn’t really looked back at it, but Left Field has been a pretty bad spot for Atlanta for a long while now. If you don’t count Chipper’s two years (he was really the team’s best third baseman playing out of position) then you have to go all the way back to one of my all-time favorites Ryan Klesko to find what I would consider to be a legit leftfieldsman.

    The gap between Klesko and present day is filled with a pretty weak rotating cast. Names like Charles Thomas, Langerhans, the Corpse of BJ Surhoff, bad Reggie Sanders, Gerald “Ice” Williams, Gregor Blanco. Ugh. I guess some of the Matt Diaz era platoons worked okay, but I’m thinking matty’s washed up and a big liability on defense.

    You’d just think LF would be an easy position to fill, but it’s like the Braves always treat it as an afterthought. Like its March 30th and the GM finds out he needs a warm body for LF, freaks out and calls to find out what Raul Mondesi is up to.

  164. The Braves have also had problems with first base over the years although that seems to be solved now. It’s been a weird lineup in that they get more production from catcher and middle infield positions at times than from the traditional power positions.

  165. Second base has also been somewhat of a revolving door, although we’ve tended to get pretty good production from whoever gets plugged in there.

  166. @230

    The Braves don’t fill from the corners in. They build from the middle out. They build defense and pitching up the middle and fill the corners as they can find resources to do that.

  167. Come to think about it, when was the last time we had 2 good offensive outfielders? Andruw and JD Drew?

  168. In 25 post-season games & 98 PAs over the past 2 years, Nelson Cruz is slugging a cool .720. (279/316/720)

    That’s 11 HRs & 8 2Bs in the space of 5 post-season series.

    And boy, are the Tigers happy they left him on deck there in the 9th.

  169. I would like to root for the Brewers but the presence of Nyjer Morgan and the team-wide embrace of poor sportsmanship makes it impossible.

  170. When they say, “leading cause of mouth/throat cancers”, they mean besides smoking/tobacco. Which is ahead by orders of magnitude.

  171. Fun fact: Since 1901, the second-worst position player by WAR/162 is Luis Pujols, with -3.4 (min. 100 games played). The worst is Pat Rockett, with -5.4. Think about that for a second. Of all the players in the last 111 seasons, Luis Pujols alone cost his team 3.4 wins per season by being that much worse than a freely available AAA player. Only Pat Rockett was worse, and he was two full wins worse than that.

    What’s really funny is that IIRC Pat Rockett was the Jordan Schafer of his day — he arrived in Atlanta supremely arrogant about his abilities, and would big-time the local media and broadcast team. Skip Caray, in recalling the bad old days, would occasionally take thinly veiled shots at Rockett. And so, as bad as Pat Rockett was as a ballplayer, and he was by at least one measure easily the worst in history to have been a regular player for any length of time, even that fact pales next to the magnitude of his self-delusion.

  172. Thats an interesting article. Where can we find out how many pitches the braves averaged per plate attempt? Can we also find the same thing with RISP?

  173. @245,

    At the risk of going beyond the pale of this august panel, what exactly did the good doctor mean by “unprotected oral sex” in the context of male on female? Like, lay saran wrap on it?

  174. Dead web time. Hmm?

    Take a look at the Hardball Times Expected BAPIP (xBAPIP) article today. Jason Heyward underperformed his expected .318 to an actual of ,260. No other Braves on that list and none on the converse “luckiest” list.

    I guess the main thing with that is maybe we won’t get clobbered by regression.

  175. Any updates on/from Mac? I somehow had the impression we may have heard something by now. I will continue to subscribe to the theory that no news is good news and keep my fingers crossed.

  176. Great to have you back, Mac. Get well soon.

    Any opinions on this board on life at the University of South Carolina?

  177. @270

    Hey desert, I went to law school there and live in Columbia currently. It’s a pretty good college town; Five points is a great bar scene. As a student it was kind of a pain to get to the games- I went to Florida undergrad so I’m use to just walking to the games. Of course I didn’t live on campus in law school so it might be easier if you have a close dorm or are in a fraternity/sorority.
    Let me know if you want to know something specific.

  178. I didn’t have a Dawg (or a Dore) in the fight, but the UGA v. Vandy game was the best game I’ve seen in a long time.

    I don’t think Georgia took them lightly, I just think Vandy played that well.

    And after Rodgers the Younger gets finished with my team, you’ll find his name on the Heisman Watch list.

  179. #274
    Funny, I thought it was one of the messiest, most mistake-filled things I’ve seen in a while. Both teams did their best to give the game away. Entertaining, though.

    Rodgers made some great runs, but let me know when he completes a pass. I mean, 4 for 19 with an INT doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

  180. The Vandy offense looked completely different under Rodgers than it has under Larry Smith. Maybe, I am just projecting how I felt when I sensed a little hope for a side which has looked totally inept in the last few weeks.

    When is Green Bay’s off week? Do you anyone would notice if we snuck big brother into Rodgers jersey that week?

  181. 276—Lots of drops and lots of not-open receivers. Rodgers played well. If he’d started, VU may well have won. (I’m assuming he doesn’t make that awful throw into double-coverage from inside the 10.)

    Sure is nice to have a real SEC football team. Just imagine what Franklin will do with SEC-caliber players…

  182. I was at the UGA-Vandy game. I sat half way up behind the UGA bench and I have never understood the layout on that side of the stadium. It is very hard to get in and out of.

  183. I’m not going to watch the World Series, in large part because La Russa and Ryan’s respective faces are so annoying, but I hope Texas wins. I guess.

  184. #278
    Rodgers may not have made that crap end-zone throw in the first half, but he sure made consecutive ones into double coverage when the game was on the line (one INT dropped by Boykin on an underthrow, followed by a secured INT by Rambo on an overthrow).

  185. I find myself unprepared for a Texas Rangers dynasty. And yet I suppose that’s what I’m “rooting” for. Regardless, I will watch little of the constipated Joe Buck talking about the equally constipated Nolan Ryan and Tony LaRussa.

  186. But hey, Nolan Ryan made some great moves, don’t ya know? Every casual baseball viewer thinks he’s the GM.


  187. Rangers vs Cardinals
    The Cards are the poster child for ‘just make it to the post season and see what happens’. Why do the baseball gods seem to smile on Tony LaRussa? I am a NL guy but I just can’t root for them. I officially don’t care who wins.

    Maybe I’ll start following MLS. Go Crew!

  188. 285—Bad throws, yes, but trying to make something happen downfield with under two minutes to play is a lot more excusable, decision-wise, than that red-zone abomination from Larry was. Jordan’s gonna be just fine.

  189. I think Fox should start the World Series broadcast with Tim McCarver singing a selection from his album. That would set the perfect tone for this Series.

    Sam, question: How did you feel when the Cards won the World Series in 2006 as a “division champion” with a record of 83-79? I’m not being snarky, just wondering if weak division champions bother you as much as Wild Cards–they do me.

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