An Oral History of the 2012 NL Wild Card Game, Part Two of Three (by W.C.G.)

This is part two of the oral history of the 2012 NL Wild Card Game. If you missed part one, you can view it here.

Medlen recovered in the fifth, but gave up a solo home run in the sixth. After Dan Uggla’s error put the Cardinals’ leadoff hitter on second base to start the seventh, Medlen was pulled. He had looked alternatingly transcendent and ordinary, sometimes during the same inning; the line as he exited was 6.1 IP, four runs, and a man on base.

Chad Durbin came in to get a ground ball and got one, but Andrelton Simmons — normally a defensive sure thing, but playing for high stakes in just his 50th major league game — threw it over Freddie Freeman’s head. By the end of the inning, the Cardinals were up 6-2 and the Braves were wearing their tension on their sleeves.

Atlanta got one back in the bottom of the seventh, but it felt like it could have been more. Prado and Heyward both reached base with two out, but the rally ended with a Chipper Jones groundout.

The Braves got another rally going in the bottom of the eighth. Freeman walked, Uggla grounded into a fielder’s choice, and Ross singled Uggla to second. After working a full count, Simmons hit a perfect bloop single into the no-man’s land between Matt Holliday and Pete Kozma in short left field, loading the bases with one out for McCann to pinch-hit in the 9 hole.

Or at least that’s what we all thought it was at the time.

MAVERICK: It took me quite a while to realize what had happened. Andrelton never moved off first for probably 10 minutes, so we had no idea what was going on. My initial thought was there was some fan interaction that caused something to happen. When the Cards’ shortstop pulled off I couldn’t tell if he did because he was getting called off or some fan threw something at him.

SIMPLE JACK: We were going crazy. We had finally gotten a break after being on the other end of them in so many big games over the past couple of years. And then all of a sudden, while we were celebrating, Fredi came running out of the dugout, and I knew something was wrong. But I had absolutely no clue what it was. We started speculating that one of the baserunners had missed a base. I even thought maybe a fan had been reflecting light in the outfielder’s eye.

SMITTY: I was in the 755 Club and we had no idea what was going on. We were still cheering when Fredi came on the field. Zee, our waitress, came out from the bar area and said the infield fly rule had been called. At this point I thought, “What? Terrible call!” Well, so did everyone else.

JONATHAN: My 4-year-old son told me that he had to go use the bathroom in the eighth inning. At that age, we’ve learned the hard way that you don’t wait too long when a request like that comes up.

So, of course, he decides it’s time to drop a deuce. He was taking forever! So I pulled out my smart phone, and fired up the MLB At Bat app. I saw that the Braves got a couple guys on base — you could hear cheers from the crowd, kind of almost feel the ebb and flow – and then the feed just seemed to go dead.

Then I heard boos — lots of boos, voluminous boos, loud, long, clear, all through the stadium. The whole time, I was asking the 4-year-old “What are you doing? Why are you taking so long? Come ON!!!” He was singing, and I could hear him getting up and down off the seat…

SPIRAL STAIRS: I remember my wife and I looking at each other with “What the hell is going on?” expressions and I think I heard someone say “Infield fly” and the realization of what had happened set in. The call seemed so egregious that I still held out hope that it would be overturned. Only after Fredi headed back to the dugout did it truly set in that we had been screwed in such a royal way.

GIF credit/SB Nation

MAVERICK: Once everyone figured out what had happened the place went crazy. My friend that was a Cardinals fan just kind of slouched down in his seat and took his hat off. There were two obnoxious Cardinals fans that had been standing up the whole game. They sat down in their seats and shut up. Even they knew they had gotten away with something bad.

JONATHAN: The bathroom had been completely empty, except for us, for probably about 10 minutes. Finally, a couple guys came in, and I asked them what’s going on. In descriptive language, one of them told me that they just had an infield fly call, “worst call he has ever seen”, etc. So that was the point at which I actually found out about the “infield fly”. We made it back to our seats in time to see most of the on-field debris and hear some of the worst of the complaints from the stands.

SMITTY: Even though it was a playoff game, Fredi should have gone nuts. You have to get ejected in that situation. All I could think about was how Bobby Cox would have died on the field from the massive stroke he would have had.

Then, for the first time in about a decade, Braves fans showed some team spirit and things began flying on the field. Usually, I’m anti-throwing things on the field. That’s how innocent bystanders get hurt. In this situation, I understood it.

Being unsure that I could hit the field from where I was, and not wanting to waste my $12 gin and tonic, I didn’t throw anything. However, when I looked over, one of my buddies launched a mustard bottle that exploded in left field.

Trash in left fieldSIMPLE JACK: Somehow everyone in the stands became aware that the call was an infield fly, we all started booing, and then all of a sudden bottles were flying. It all seemed perfectly natural at the time, like a logical response to a horrendous call.

SPIRAL STAIRS: What was really funny was people throwing cans from the back of the upper deck and hitting people in the first 10 rows of the upper deck. Other times cans would just clear the edge of the upper deck and I’m sure landed on some sap below. We got sprayed by quite a bit of liquid, hopefully none of which was semen or urine.

MAVERICK: One of the things that I love about the Braves is they allow you to bring soft coolers in. I have a soft cooler with a false bottom that I had put my whiskey in. Then I had put a 6-pack of Coke in plastic bottles in the cooler and filled it with ice. So this left us with no beer cans to throw on the field. We did have a couple of empty Coke bottles, so we threw them. Empty plastic bottles don’t fly anywhere, so I’m sure they landed on top of whoever was sitting below us in the lower deck.

We had been tailgating since about 2 o’clock so I was pretty tipsy to say the least. So my drunk mind turned to trying to find something heavier that I could throw all the way to the field from my seat in the upper deck. Then it dawned on me…the cooler!

I took out my flask and the remaining Cokes, dumped out the ice, and started swinging it. It has a pretty long shoulder strap, so I was swinging it over my head almost like a lasso. I saw how fast I could get it swinging, and I launched it out into the night. Damned if I didn’t get it pretty close to the field.

I landed it about 10 rows from the field in the lower deck. It landed against a chair and no one could have gotten hurt from it, but then at that point I was pretty upset I had lost my cooler.

SIMPLE JACK: Bottles from the upper deck definitely reached us. I was hit with a few (thankfully empty) bottles. Nobody in my group was throwing anything, whether missiles that had rained down from above us or their own bottles.

I’d like to think that’s because we are too classy or we don’t understand the logic of throwing bottles on your own field, kind of like in “Goodfellas” when the women spit on their own floor. But I think the bigger reason was that we were right in front of security guards, and the few people in nearby rows who did throw things were immediately escorted out. I don’t remember exactly how many fans. More than two…

Trash on the left field foul lineSPIRAL STAIRS: The trash continued to go on the field, and the poor grounds crew couldn’t pick it up fast enough. Once they got an area cleaned up it would be filled with more cans and cups. One of the grounds crew guys put a trash bag filled with cans on the back of his golf cart and started to drive along the warning track. The bag tipped over, leaving a trail of cans while he drove off unaware. Everyone cheered at that.

One person threw a half filled bottle of something at the umps and it just barely missed them. The crowd erupted in cheers then too. In the middle of all this there were several chants of “BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT,” which got puzzled responses from my kids.

SMITTY: By this time, the whole crowd was chanting “BULLSHIT” over and over. A Cardinal fan sitting below us informed everyone around that he didn’t appreciate this language in front of his wife and kid. I informed him that I didn’t appreciate seeing his kid in a bar and that my grandfathers fought in the Second World War so I could yell at a baseball game in a bar.

This did not please the Cardinal fan. However, the guy next to me started dog cussing him. The Cardinal fan thought it would be appropriate to fight this guy (in front of his wife and kid). This was a huge mistake.

The Cardinal fan was put in a head lock and dropped to the ground in about .08 seconds. He didn’t take in to account that the Braves fan next to me was a 5th degree black belt in judo (or so he later claimed). In the end, the Cardinal fan and his family were removed from the 755 Club and all the Braves fans stayed.

SPIRAL STAIRS: The trash throwing continued for what seemed like a half hour. No matter how much trash they would pick up, more came raining down. They finally made an announcement saying that the game could be forfeited if the fans wouldn’t stop delaying the game, which just made people more angry.

I really thought the only solution would be to have Chipper grab the microphone and plead with the fans to stop. They could have ended it 10 or 15 minutes earlier if he had. My wife suggested that Jimmy Carter intervene, since he was sitting in the second row a few seats from Ted Turner. After the second warning of a forfeit I actually started to get worried about the safety of my kids should they call a forfeit.

SIMPLE JACK: I have this vision of Sam Holbrook standing there right in front of my section during the delay with his hands on his hips staring straight ahead, as though he didn’t even notice. That’s how I remember him. We were all looking up his name from his uniform number so we could start yelling at him directly, and even when we did that, he didn’t move. He just stood there like it was any other day at the office.

We were yelling pretty much anything we could think of at him. Some classic curse words and fuck yous, a lot of taunting him while using his name, and general heckling. To be honest, I can’t remember a whole lot of the specifics of those 20 or so minutes. I was yelling really terrible things at him, and I remember him never moving, just standing there with his arms crossed like a huge dickhead.

Stay tuned for the final installment…

176 thoughts on “An Oral History of the 2012 NL Wild Card Game, Part Two of Three (by W.C.G.)”

  1. I was worried about this part really pissing me off, but since it was almost entirely about throwing stuff on the field it felt pretty good. The part about the kid taking a ten-minute dump was the cherry on top. That kid was in the right place at the right time doing exactly the right thing for the shit sandwich major league baseball was serving to the rest of the stadium.

  2. I think if we had forced a forfeit, it would’ve ultimately done more to take the conversation away from Holbrook’s horseshit call. What with the moral reasoning abilities of Joe Simpson, et al.

    This is painful now, but after we win it all this year, and in subsequent years, we’ll be glad this account is here. Great addition to the site.

  3. I have to admit that I don’t follow spring training very closely. It does make me happy that people are practicing up for the season, but beyond injury avoidance, I don’t care too much about specifics. Now that we’re six days from [s]tip off[/s] [s]kick off[/s] [s]green flag[/s] first pitch, what projects to be the 25 man roster? Can someone fill me in?

  4. A forfeit wouldn’t have bothered me. They were toast at that point anyway.

    “The spot where Simmon’s ball had landed was 225 feet from home plate. In the past three MLB seasons, there were six infield-fly rulings on balls that weren’t caught, and the longest was measured at 178 feet…”

    Everyone will always remember the 225-foot infield fly.

  5. I feel like this wound is still raw. It’s been festering, and reading this account makes me angry all over again.

    I was in yellowstone national park, driving across the country, and planned my camping so that I would be in the part of the park where there was 3G for this game. I wanted to listen to it through my phone. That part of the park just happens to be next to Old Faithful, so i was sitting there watching old faithful blow when Ross hit his home run, and wandering around checking out the rest of the geysers when this all went down. It was getting cold, I was getting tired, and i didn’t have my camp set up for that night. So i’m just walking around these geysers, getting closer and closer to blowing my top, and there is no one around. It’s just me and my anger. And I was so fucking helplessly angry. It felt like the bottle throwers were an extension of my rage energy, which must have flowed across the country to atlanta.

    I ended up just getting in my car after the game and driving to a hotel in Cody, Wyoming, because i didn’t have any energy left to hike 6 miles in the dark to my campsite.

    My plan had been to make it across the country to the East Coast in time for the series in DC, so I had to change it all up after that.

  6. There is no strikethrough font on this board? That ruined my joke, as it were. To the point of the post (which I really enjoyed, btw), in a sick way it was kind of nice to see Braves fans with some passion. On the other hand, that display negated any possibility that MLB would overturn the call. Selig would not have wanted to reward Atlanta after fans threw debris on the field. Nevertheless, I do hope that Holbrook can never return to Turner Field without being mercilessly booed and heckled. I’ve pissed away a great deal of my life watching sports and that was easily the worst call I’ve ever seen. I wonder if there is an MLB rule that would prevent the Bravs from hanging a large banner of Holbrook with a universal-symbol-for-no superimposed for as long as he lives.

  7. My only complaint about our reaction was that Fredi didn’t get tossed. Well, and Joe Simpson’s wishy-washiness.

  8. The rule in its entirity:

    An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.

    When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare “Infield Fly” for the benefit of the runners. If the ball is near the baselines, the umpire shall declare “Infield Fly, if Fair”.

    The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul.

    If a declared Infield Fly is allowed to fall untouched to the ground, and bounces foul before passing first or third base, it is a foul ball. If a declared Infield Fly falls untouched to the ground outside the baseline, and bounces fair before passing first or third base, it is an Infield Fly.

    Rule 2.00 (Infield Fly) Comment: On the infield fly rule the umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder, not by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines. The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpire’s judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder. The infield fly is in no sense to be considered an appeal play. The umpire’s judgment must govern, and the decision should be made immediately.

    When an infield fly rule is called, runners may advance at their own risk. If on an infield fly rule, the infielder intentionally drops a fair ball, the ball remains in play despite the provisions of Rule 6.05 (L). The infield fly rule takes precedence.

    The bold part is the issue I have with Holbrook’s call. There’s no way by calling that rule 225 feet from home plate that it was for the sake of the runners, furthermore, it wasnt called immediately which forgoes the rational for the rule in the first place: ordinary effort.

  9. This is worse when you see replays. The call was made so late. It’s like he waited until it was clear that the ball would not be caught.

    Also, I thought that Simmons hit came with none out. He wasn’t the 1st out of the inning?

  10. Constanza and Pastornicky sent down which means we have a bench of Schafer, Pena, Francisco/C. Johnson, R. Johnson, and Gattis. Well, I don’t mind 24 of those 25 players.

  11. @13 – I’m with you, and I linked the version of the .gif that I did for a reason. You can see from that .gif when Holbrook actually put his arm up to signal infield fly, and it was the fraction of a second before the ball hit the ground.

    It’s more than apparent from that angle that the call was extremely late and would have done absolutely nothing to benefit the runners, who spent the ball’s entire (fairly lengthy) journey through the air up to the last split-second having to hedge on the question of whether to advance or not.

  12. I really expected the runners left on base, the 4 errors and a blown call to go against us but I did not think in a million years I’d ever see a call THAT bad. Most all of that is standard operating procedure for the Braves in postseason games but an infield fly there was really something special.

    I remember thinking as soon as I saw Fredi on the field that something was wrong then my first thought was infield fly. But then the rational part of me that wasn’t completely drunk said no… that ball was in left field it’s impossible for it to be an infield fly. My thinking is that Holbrook hadn’t made a call all day and was bored so he decided to do *something* which is part of the problem. Why do they have those umpires on the lines? What use are they? If you’re concerned about fair or foul calls USE INSTANT REPLAY! It’s not terribly hard and would take 10 seconds to see rather than sticking a guy in a position he’s not used to make 1 or 2 or zero calls during a playoff game. There’s so much about how baseball is operating now that I don’t understand and that this game typified in every sense.

    Anyway, my favorite part of this was the guy who was stuck in the bathroom while his son was taking a dump for 10 minutes. Well played kid, well played.

  13. Constanza and Pastornicky sent down which means we have a bench of Schafer, Pena, Francisco/C. Johnson, R. Johnson, and Gattis. Well, I don’t mind 24 of those 25 players.


  14. @19 They are going to use the wood for souvenirs (money made goes to scholarships, I think) and I know they want to have a renowned wood turner make a piece from the wood as well.

  15. What a crap call, but the Braves still beat themselves. Joe Simpson shouldn’t be back on braves radio after his comments. We shouldn’t hear how disrespectful braves fans are acting from a braves announcer. I wouldn’t ever throw anything on the field and I can form my own opinion of others without having to hear it every 5 seconds from joe. He could’ve simply sat back in his chair and not said a word.

    If the Braves are planning on moving one of Varvarro or the LISP, I’d rather them hold on to Martinez. He’s provided good innings from the pen and could possibly do a good job in the 5th starter role if we need someone before Beachy is ready.

  16. Considering we don’t particularly need a defensive sub in the outfield, I’d rather have the guy who gets on base somewhat better — which, to this point, has been Constanza. But, with Schafer being out of options, this result was all but preordained.

  17. I’d actually rather have Constanza than Schafer, who can neither hit nor field. But it doesn’t really matter in general; in a perfect world the 25-man roster would include neither.

  18. Is there a precedent for MLB just not having Holbrook umpire games in Atlanta?

    I for one can’t wait until he’s back in town. I’m sure it will be glorious.

  19. I recall being pleased with the stadium reaction at the time. I am however a little queasy reading stories about people throwing (heavy) objects that they knew would not make the field. I hope no-one was seriously hurt. I also think about this from the perspective of a 40 year old trying to describe the reaction to his 10 year old and struggling with the incongruity.

  20. Joe Simpson isn’t employed as a fan surrogate — he’s there to provide commentary on the game from the perspective of a former player, and players almost uniformly hate things being thrown onto the field. That’s not to say he couldn’t have been a little more understanding of what can happen in the heat of a moment, but he’s said thousands of positive things about Braves fans over the years. I mean, if you want to hate him for something, make it about “productive outs” or his disdain for advanced analysis.

  21. Oh, remember when we picked up Success and everyone was all “oh, there’s no way he actually make the roster”? Well then.

  22. I believe in Schafer’s glove more than Constanza’s. It’s not clear to me who the better base stealer is.

  23. @28 – I’m assuming you’re referring to Maverick’s cooler-toss story? He advised that it was a soft cooler. I own a soft cooler myself, and it’s made of foam and nylon. The effect of an errant toss would be basically like getting hit in the head with a North Face jacket. I just found that story hilarious and resonant because to me it captures the entire mood of the stadium: inchoate rage, expressed in a way that got the point across without being harmful to anyone.

    I took on all submissions from all interested attendees, and I would have printed it if someone said he threw D-cell batteries at the umps or saw someone else doing that, but I think that’s part of the story too: no one did. Some fan bases might have, but we basically went a quasi-civil-disobedience route and said, from the stands, “You’re going to take a few minutes and think about what you did here before you start this game back up, and we’re going to make sure the spotlight stays on this.” I honestly think it was Turner Field’s (the ballpark’s, not the team’s) proudest moment to date.

  24. I’m so sorry 2 all of u that got all over me 4 not showing up 2 camp until today, I guess the family matters I had to deal w mean nothin 2 u— Jordan Schafer (@JordanSchafer)February 15, 2013

  25. While I’m at it: Much thanks to all five of my contributors to this project for their time and excellent stories. While it’s all top-notch, I have to recognize Simple Jack’s line about Holbrook, ” I remember him never moving, just standing there with his arms crossed like a huge dickhead.”

    which, as a closing line for this piece, is pretty much the ““It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better place that I go to than I have ever known.” of sports blog literature.

  26. I believe in Schafer’s glove more than Constanza’s.

    I disagree with this. Fielding metrics are suspect, sure, but in 1800 innings both DRS and UZR absolutely hate Schafer. Like, really really hate him. That aligns with my own impression, which is that he gets terrible jumps and then fools many fans into thinking he’s great/good with splashy dives, etc. He’s probably merely a bad defender, not a historically bad one, but that would surely be worse than Constanza, who is probably about average.

    Joe Simpson isn’t employed as a fan surrogate — he’s there to provide commentary on the game from the perspective of a former player, and players almost uniformly hate things being thrown onto the field. That’s not to say he couldn’t have been a little more understanding of what can happen in the heat of a moment, but he’s said thousands of positive things about Braves fans over the years. I mean, if you want to hate him for something, make it about “productive outs” or his disdain for advanced analysis.

    And… I absolutely agree with this. Nicely put.

  27. I want to go on record, I am only a 4th degree black belt in judo and while I was at the game in Lexus level, I was not in the 755 club next to Smitty. I probably know the other guy but it was not me.

  28. @32 actually I was referring to some of the comments by “spiral stairs”. I hate sounding judgemental and hope my comments aren’t seen as such, but I don’t see how it is funny that people were throwing cans from teh upper deck landing in the first 10 rows of seats.
    I get where people would cheer an umpire nearly getting hit by something, but my ‘pride’ at the moment was in the crowd not allowing the game to proceed until their objection to the moment had been satisfied. Hurting anyone (whether a fan or holbrook) should not be part of that equation. Remember, there was a train of though at the time that having umpires in a completely new position than they had been manning through the regular season set them up to make a bad call.

  29. @37 Kruger:
    Fair enough. You’re right, it would not be funny at all if someone got hurt by something being thrown from the upper deck. My description of the scene as “funny” was more in response to the total ridiculousness of the situation and that someone from the back row would actually try to throw something on the field. That being said, we’re talking about empty beer cans and cups of coke. They might get you a little wet but they don’t hurt. The half empty bottle of water and the ketchup and mustard bottles thrown from the 755 club could certainly hurt, but I didn’t see any of those land on fans.

  30. I think it’s funny for the same reason YouTube videos of college football fans freaking out at their TVs are funny – it’s this reaction people have where they try to direct their anger at the participants on a field that they are nowhere near.

    I actually have a lot of experience getting hit in the head with half-filled plastic bottles lobbed from a great distance. (Camping shenanigans. Don’t ask.) I can tell you that they only hurt if a) they’re sealed back up with the plastic screw-top cap, and b) that cap catches you square as it hits you. That stings. Even if you take a direct hit it really doesn’t do more than sting, though.

    Concession items at Turner Field always come without the cap (perhaps for this reason?) so the only way you could craft plastic-bottle-ordnance even capable of stinging hard would be to a) bring your own in, b) leave a weighty amount of liquid in them, c) screw the screw-caps back on them, and d) manage to hit someone square in the skull with it. The subset of thrown bottles meeting a), b), and c) is probably sufficiently small to assume the incidence of all four of those factors being present was probably infinitesimal.

  31. I hope that, by keeping Pagnozzi and Gattis in Major League Spring Training, the Braves brass have something up their sleeves where they keep both Pagnozzi and Gattis on the roster, and package Schafer and Varvaro/CMart for a very…very low-leveled prospect. What does Schafer provide? Every backup position is already filled by Pena (3b,SS,2b), Johnson (OF), C.Johnson/Francisco (1B), and whoever is the backup catcher. So, is a 5th OF that will only be used as a pinch runner worth keeping the bat out of the hands of Gattis because he’s the only backup catcher on the roster? I’d rather have a 3rd catcher that frees Gattis to pinch hit rather than a useless, pinch running 5th OF.

    It’d be nice to look at the bench in the late innings and have C.Johnson/Francisco, R. Johnson, and Gattis as legit PH options. The other alternative would be C.Johnson/Francisco and R. Johnson.

  32. Looks like everyday Jonny might have to change his nickname as he was just taken out of the game in the middle of an AB.

  33. @38 Spiral, Certainly a valid point about the stuff being thrown. I’m glad nobody got hurt and I think our reactions probably would have been pretty similar. Outrage followed by concern for the safety of those around me.

    As an aside, has baseball modified the rule, or at least the interpretation of who should call if fly rules as a result of that game?

  34. Apparently Venters is out with an elbow sprain. Ouch. His heavy use is really catching up with us.

  35. 30—Yeah, I remember believing (saying?) that…but I think we’ve all seen this coming for a while. Think it’s all about the options.

  36. @40: “What does Schafer provide?”

    I guess there are two possible answers:
    (a) The one beer to have when you’re having more than one.
    (b) A lid on “the pictures.”

  37. Not too worried about this news. I’ve been assuming Venters is injured for the better part of a year. I hope he makes a full recovery from Tommy John and goes on to earn the fat paychecks he deserves.

  38. Olney tweeted that scouts are saying Venters has been looking rough all spring.

    Guess the Lisp and Varvaro are both on the team. And change O’Ventbrel to O’Waldbrel.

  39. Yeah, I’d be preparing myself for the eventuality of Venters not throwing a single pitch for us this year.

    Kimbrel/O’Flaherty/Avilan/Walden (when he comes back) is a pretty good bullpen, still. Maybe not best in the majors, I don’t know, but still very good.

  40. 2011-2012 MLB Lowest ERA, minimum 130 innings pitched:

    Eric O’Flaherty 1.31 (Braves)
    Kris Medlen 1.54 (Braves)
    Craig Kimbrel 1.61 (Braves)
    Sean Marshall 2.37 (Cubs/Reds)
    Jonny Venters 2.39 (Braves)

  41. @55: Alex, Avibrel sounds like an arthritis drug. I guess that’s appropriate considering the name is a portmanteau of our bullpen.

  42. ‘Guess the Lisp and Varvaro are both on the team. And change O’Ventbrel to O’Waldbrel’… ‘of course, when you want something fancy to pound, there’s always’… ‘O’Avibrel’.

    Is how I choose to edit this thread based on my fears.

  43. Now if Yahoo would just add him so I can pick him up in my keeper league.

    El Oso Blanco!

  44. He deserves it. I’m hoping he gets the news in a few days that he will be the opening day catcher also.

  45. @69 Something about a grown man who’s insanely successful and financially stable going back to his MAN CAVE in his mom and dad’s house is insanely off-putting to me.

  46. He’s 21 and lives there in the offseason, like a college kid his age would come home for the summer. I wouldn’t expect him to purchase a house just yet.

  47. Hopes of the FO having the same brain as mine and keeping 3 catchers and ditching Schafer will not come to fruition just yet as Pagnozzi was assigned to AAA this morning.

  48. @74, that is a drag, because it will glue Gattis to the bench. What’s the point of keeping him on the roster if Fredi will never risk his backup catcher as a PH?

  49. @73: It’s unusual, but not extremely odd. I’d think he’d at least have his own apartment or condo somewhere. Perhaps they have a very good family relationship. My parents drive me up a wall, so I can’t relate. I cannot imagine living with them by choice after I moved out.

  50. Bethany, I don’t mean to be patronizing, but having a high-paying salary is not the same as financial stability. He received a $1.2 million signing bonus and he made $480,000 last year, and he’ll make $510,000 this year — but he hasn’t seen that money yet. He spent two and a half years in the minors: 2009 after he was drafted, and almost all of 2010 and 2011, and minor league salaries are notoriously low. At this moment, he has made about a million and a half in three and a half years of professional baseball. That isn’t bad, but it isn’t “financially stable.” If he got into a bad car accident tomorrow and his speed was gone, he would have very little financial cushion.

  51. @77 Then he can move home after the career is busted. A million in a half is more than most people make in a lifetime. Clearly I’m on my own here so I’ll bow out.

    @75 I agree, unless he’s starting over Laird.

  52. I assume Gattis will start at least half the time over Laird. Have no reason to believe that other than gut feeling. Gattis is starting in left today FWIW.

  53. @79
    That’s the plan according to Fredi.

    I’d be willing to bet endorsements are dwarfing his MLB salary right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if the kid has already made 8 figures.

  54. @mlbbowman: Fredi said Gattis could get more playing time than the average backup catcher. He could share the role with Laird.

    Well boo. Spike is right, he’s going to have his value as a PH reduced because Fredi won’t risk using his backup in that situation.

  55. If we’ve moved on, please excuse me, but:

    Holbrook’s call is a reaction to an action by a player.
    Watch it. It’s Baseball 101.
    The shortstop chases the ball,as taught, unitl called off by the outfielder, who should have the better angle. That happens.
    During the chase,the shortstop whirled his arms in the “I got it!” gesture. But when he’s called off, he panics and drops his arms and looks to get the hell outta the way.
    Classic “I got it/you take it” error occurs. The Cards should suffer for this mental lapse.

    But the umpire’s not watching the play. He watches the SS drop his arms. At that point, the rube calls the IF fly rule.
    Wrong. Unprofessional. Foolish.
    Or what the crowd chanted, to be more specific.

    The consequences here were trash on the field, disrupting a special day for all of us.
    Mr. Holbrook, you earned what you got that day.

    Go Braves!

  56. Now that Gattis has made the OD roster, there’s not one single interesting hitting prospect on the farm. However, if Gattis performs and becomes our starting catcher for 2014, if Uggla rebounds, and if C.Johnson/Francisco can keep hitting, we won’t need one for the next 3 years. I guess the ones to keep an eye on are Terdoslavich, Pastornicky, La Stella and….? Bleck.

  57. I always wondered if part of what caused Holbrook to make that horrible call was because he was seeing the ball relative to his position on the field… which was not the position he would normally have been in as a third base umpire. Maybe it looked like other infield flies he had seen *when he was stationed at third*. This seems like it could have been a contributing factor since the only time the umpires position halfway into the outfield is during the playoffs so they can’t possibly be used to making calls from that position. Not trying at all to excuse the horrible call, but I just think that might have influenced Holbrook’s flawed perception of the play.

  58. I like La Stella and Peraza, and am still interested in Salcedo, Lipka, and Bethancourt, but yeah – the org’s position player prospects are pretty terrible overall. Guys like Cunningham and Terdoslavich have the ceilings of bench bats, so there’s not much to see there. And Gattis is blocked if he can’t catch longterm. Hopefully the 2013 draft goes well!

  59. W.C.G.’s observation @34 about the closing line should not go unremarked.

    Well said, sir.

  60. Maybe it’s me but I just don’t get the rage directed at an umpire for making a mistake when the Braves made numerous mistakes during the game that had them well behind. Holbrook made a mistake that, arguably cost the Braves a chance to maybe win the game. Chipper Jones made a mistake that led to two runs. What’s the difference? Mistakes happen. Holbrook may or may not be a good umpire but he is human. It may have been the worst call in the history of baseball but it’s not like he was doing it on purpose (or are we into conspiracy theories now?) The fact that it happened to your team doesn’t make the mistake more or less worse than other bad calls or mistakes by players. Sure, officials are supposed to get calls right and are supposed to know the rules. Surgeons aren’t supposed to leave instruments inside patients but they do. That’s life.

    As for Tim McCarver’s retirement, the end of the season now can’t come soon enough.

  61. Brian Jordan was comparing the Nats roster to the Braves roster and was saying that Bernadina has shown “flashes” of becoming an everyday player, then goes on about Schafer capable of being a starting CF for a lot of teams. Now that’s a degree of stupid you can’t teach.

  62. @Trout living with parents.
    Him living at home and a normal 21 year old college kid with $20-30K+ in student loan debt is not the same, not even close. I think that’s very strange. If I were in his shoes I’d at least be renting a nice condo, maybe rent a house with teammates like Freddie and Heyward did? You can do a lot with $1.5M.

  63. He doesn’t have $1.5 million any more. He’s been sleeping and eating and living for three years, not to mention paying taxes in a very high bracket. Your net worth is generally a lot lower than the sum of every penny you’ve ever been paid.

  64. Peraza is probably the most interesting and likely has a higher ceiling than Gattis, albeit as a very different type of player.

  65. It’s only weird if Mike Scioscia comes over for slumber parties.

    Wow, I spelled Scioscia right on the first try.

  66. Trout has a condo or similar in LA. Off season is 4 months or so. No reason to get anything in Jersey.

  67. @93 LOL!
    Schafer being on the roster pisses me off for some reason. For a turd player he sure seems to get an inordinate amount of press time.

  68. I have no problem with Trout living with his parents; his life has undergone a TON of change, so maybe some off-season stability is good for him. May not have been my choice, but w/e.

    That said, it’s absurd to say that because his 6-figure income hasn’t been stable that he can’t afford or budget for a place of his own.

    Good news about Gattis. I’m sure he’ll get some starts. I hope he does well with them.

  69. Chris Reitsma is chained to a wall in my cellar. He subsists on a diet of fish heads and copies of Baseball Prospectus 2004.

  70. Oh, I’m sure he can afford his own place. I’m sorry, I think I’m overreacting to a common trope that I see, which is to assume that a 21-year old kid who’s signed a single reasonably large contract is now suddenly “rich” and able to afford things without worrying about the cost. There are a whole lot of broke former athletes who have been done in by that kind of thinking, reinforced by that common public assumption.

    Sure, he could afford to live in an apartment on his own for a couple of months. He already clearly lives on his own in California. But he still has to budget. The Angels are nickel-and-diming him, barely giving him a raise after he was the best player in baseball. I guess I just react to the assumption that he’s rich and financially stable in the same way that Bethany reacted to seeing him in a man-cave in his mom’s house.

  71. Joe Mauer also lived with his parents in the off-seasons right up until he signed his $100m+ contract.

    How about we do two things: 1) Let’s not spend other people’s money for them and 2) Don’t assume that 21 year olds who spend so much of their time dealing with things wayyyy outside of their comfort zones don’t like having a place of refuge for 4 months out of the year.

    Bethany, Mike Trout has to be more of an adult at times than I do at 26, and I don’t see anything wrong with family, financial restraint, and comfort.

  72. There are a whole lot of broke former athletes who have been done in by that kind of thinking, reinforced by that common public assumption.

    Moreover, the simple existence of said broke former athletes is often used rhetorically and generically as evidence against them. I cannot tell you how many times someone has casually explained to me just how “stupid” and “ignorant” a certain athlete is, or was, because he’s now broke. Needless to say, such arguments are often coded for broader racial and class-based stereotypes.*

    On another note: Daniel Rodriguez’s day could have gone better.

    *to be clear, nobody here has done this, not today and not, as far as I remember, in other threads.

  73. #92: “Maybe it’s me but I just don’t get the rage directed at an umpire for making a mistake when the Braves made numerous mistakes during the game that had them well behind. ”

    This logic doesn’t make any sense to me. All that matters is that the Braves could have won despite their mistakes, but were robbed of the chance by one of the worst calls in playoff history. There’s no mercy rule that ends a game early when a team has made X amount of boneheaded plays that dug them in a hole. No, we play the game to the end to see who has the most runs, and the Braves had it within themselves to dig themselves out of the hole their poor play had put them in.

  74. Crazy. Way too much time talking about where mike Trout is living in the offseason. Who cares? Maybe he just enjoys spending time with his family that he’s away from for 9 months of the year. I’m sure he has his own place in LA. Why does he need something to rent in jersey for 3 months when he can just relax at home? Makes sense to me.

  75. For some reason, McCarver never bothered me. Obviously some genetic deficiency on my part, because everyone else who I respect seems to loathe him. His metaphors aren’t great, and his jokes are lame, and his stories about him and Gibson got old, but he always seemed to me far more willing to think out of the “here’s how we did it before batting helmets” school of, say, Joe Simpson. And anybody who got fired by both the Mets and the Yankees for being insufficiently homerish can’t be all bad. When I look at the “Criticism” section of his Wikipedia page I don’t see anything as bad as things Chip says every single game.

  76. @92 Let me also chime in regarding your bizarre false equivalency between a player error and an umpire error – Holbrook’s egregiously bad call created a fundamentally unfair outcome that affected how the game should have gone, given how the Braves and Cards played. It’s taken as a given that the umpires will enforce the rules competently so that the players on the field, and not the umpires, determine who wins. Holbrook’s call (and the umpiring crew’s subsequent failure to overturn it) robbed the Braves of a fair game. Outrage over that loss gets to the heart of why Braves fans went crazy that night.

  77. Oh, I hate Chip. I’m certainly on board the anti-Morgan bandwagon as well. And I think Dick Stockton’s coverage of the Braves-Giants series a few years ago makes his first name redundant. But Smitty’s opinion, typical as it is, is one I just don’t get. Like I said: I’m sure it’s just some personal genetic flaw.

  78. McCarver never bothered me either—-but then again TV-baseball announcers rarely do. I don’t care what they say because I don’t need them. (Radio game-announcers are another story…)

    Heard a radio interview with McCarver today, which I found entertaining. As a longtime NL catcher, he discussed the subtle differences between pitching to Mays & Aaron. He said that Mays was harder to pitch to, mainly, because he would often muscle a perfect pitch for a hit, whereas Aaron didn’t as much. However, he said that nobody hit the ball on the fat part of the bat more than Aaron.

    He related a story that Braves pitcher Lew Burdette told him about how you could take Aaron’s bat out of the rack in June & the only marks on it would be the middle of the fat part, whereas other guys would’ve broken theirs or have had it all dinked up by then.

    Also, McCarver haters beware: He didn’t say he was actually retiring, just parting ways with Fox.

  79. @113 I agree. But I’d also be much more forgiving if they cared more about getting it right than defending egos. Umpires are human, they make mistakes. I get it. But I’m so tired of having umpires piss all over fans and the game, and then having MLB tell us after the fact that it was just rain.

  80. Caray is the only announcer that bothers me. Most baseball fans seems to have multiple ones they dislike – McCarver, Morgan, Buck, Kay, Berman, Sterling, Harrelson, etc. – but Caray will always be the worst to me.

  81. I still say the Braves lost the game, Holbrook didn’t beat them. Look, I understand people being upset about the call-it was egregious and it cost the team a chance to catch up. But there was a pretty good chance they would not have.

  82. This logic doesn’t make any sense to me. All that matters is that the Braves could have won despite their mistakes, but were robbed of the chance by one of the worst calls in playoff history.

    This logic doesn’t make any sense to me either. The Braves could have won despite the call, but were robbed of the chance by some of the worst fielding in playoff history.

    Is it really so hard to see that BOTH – bad umpiring and untimely mistakes – cost us? I will not defend the call in any way, because it WAS horrible, but so was Chipper’s throw. It’s just so much easier to blame an umpire than your local hero.

  83. But there was a pretty good chance they would not have.

    Oh to be sure, the Braves probably would have laid an egg there if Holbrook got it right, but the umpire robbed Braves fans of a good bit of excitement.

    The Cardinals were a team that benefited from an uncaught pop up in the 2012 World Series. How would their fans have reacted if an infield fly was called?

  84. I was listening to the game on the radio and became immensely proud of my fellow braves fans expressing their disgust. I would have done the same. And, as someone pointed out above, it wasnt batteries and coins, it seemed to be a lot of plastic. I also agree that FG should have made sure he got tossed. Nearly opening day. Looking forward to a great season. 86 Good Theory.

  85. @86, while it’s undoubtedly true that being in a strange position was a contributing factor, he should have realized that it was not his job to make an infield fly call. He’s there to help call fair/foul, trap/caught, homer/in-play, and similar plays. That’s it. No way he should have asserted himself in that situation.

  86. This logic doesn’t make any sense to me. All that matters is that the Braves could have won despite their mistakes, but were robbed of the chance by one of the worst calls in playoff history.

    This logic doesn’t make any sense to me either. The Braves could have won despite the call, but were robbed of the chance by some of the worst fielding in playoff history.

    Is it really so hard to see that BOTH – bad umpiring and untimely mistakes – cost us? I will not defend the call in any way, because it WAS horrible, but so was Chipper’s throw. It’s just so much easier to blame an umpire than your local hero.

    First of all, strawman: I never said the errors didn’t cost us. We made multiple boneheaded plays that put us in a hole. Did you read that part?

    My point is pretty close to being an irrefutable fact. With the bases loaded and one out, down three runs, we would have been in a really good position to get back into the game regardless of what had happened prior. All that matters at that point is what was happening in that half inning, as we were rallying. Holbrook bent us over and screwed us in that key moment. It was him, not the one you dismissively call our “local hero”. Are you a Braves fan?

  87. @92, etc. – I spent my teenage years as a Little League umpire. I get that screwing up is a part of the job, and that being harassed by a crowd full of angry partisans is one of the least pleasant aspects of the job.

    If Holbrook had pulled a Jim Joyce and said “hey, I’m human, I was in an unfamiliar position and I screwed up,” I’d have long since forgiven him. But all he ever did was double down on stupid, even with incontrovertible evidence for everyone to examine after the fact. He’s basically still standing there with his arms crossed like a huge dickhead. So screw him.

  88. @192

    LOL. I did that in high school. I had three coaches from a 6- year old team get in my face one night. One of the poked me and one of them bumped chests with me. I tossed them both.

  89. @131, I almost stopped going to my daughter’s 6 year old basketball games because some of the coaches would get after the referees. Participation trophies are a really good thing. It’s the only defense kids have against the overemphasis on outcomes we flawed adults try to force on them. They know and care who won or lost, but I’d rather my kid stayed focused on the idea that the outcome of a basketball game doesn’t make her a winner – being a good person does

  90. #67
    GQ Story: TMI is an understatement. That’s a full-on therapy session.

    Engaging obit on Virgil Trucks, 1 of 5 guys to throw 2 no-hitters in a single season. In the story, you’ll see just how close he came to throwing 3:

  91. The Braves did fall way behind because of their own bonehead plays.

    If only the Cardinals would have made a bonehead play, too.. Something that could have gotten us back in to the game…

    If it was a fair-foul call that he blew, I somehow wouldn’t have minded as much. I would have been pissed about it, sure, but 6 months later, I’d be able to read this post, for example, without feeling sick to my stomach all over again. But with the reason we were behind being our own terrible defense, to not just MISS A CALL, but to MISAPPLY A RULE in order to undo one of the Cardinals own blunders that could have helped us even the score.. That was just brutal. Felt so much more like the fix was in.

    So sure, if it helps you to think “it was our own fault we were losing, anyway,” go ahead and think that. But the game includes errors and bonehead plays. We made ’em, they made ’em. But theirs didn’t count. I think that blows. Just, leave me alone and let me think that blows!

  92. @134

    Translation — Hudson would rather not pitch to Gattis, because life as a 37-year-old sinkerballer is too short.

  93. 137- Why would we see Alex Wood? We still have two good lefties and he’s not close to ready. JR Graham on the other hand…

  94. I’m really happy about this. If you look at them both a lot, you know that Fangraphs has long been much higher than B-Ref’s WAR, especially for career values. Now, they’ll be on more or less the same scale, even though they may sometimes disagree on defense.

  95. I kind of assumed Venters wouldn’t be visiting Andrews for at least another few weeks. There would have been the inevitable “he’s improving” story, then a cautiously optimistic comment by Fredi or Wren, then a sudden setback, and then a visit to Birmingham.

    I doubt Venters pitches this year.

  96. #139: Thank you for that link. I’ve always wondered who is the 46th greatest Brave of all time. To see that it’s my favorite hitter in Braves history, well, that’s real satisfying!

  97. I think it’s more like there’s a partial tear of something, Venters wants surgery, but the Braves insist he’ll be back at the end of his DL stint — then the “improving” stories, then the setback, and then like with McCann, when surgery inevitably happens, we end up losing the player for much longer than was necessary and pissing the player off in the process.

  98. Why don’t the Braves send guys like Venters who are suspected to be injured to Andrews at the end of the season instead of the beginning of the next?

  99. I think Gameday just makes up names to fill out rosters in spring training games, there’s no way Nolan Fontana can be a real player.

  100. @137
    My first reason…J.R. Graham is not left-handed. The 3-lefty thing worked so well last year that I’m pretty sure it’s a philosophy for the Braves, as long as they can put 3 quality lefties out there.

    I’m not so sure that Avilan is ready to fill Venters’ shoes. While I was quite impressed with Avilan’s numbers last year, they seem to be a bit contradictory to his Minor League numbers. The Braves’ brass went on and on about Wood this spring and, being a college pitcher, is probably on the fast track just like Graham. He’ll start in AA but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s pitching as a reliever in AAA early on in prep for a callup to the Bigs.

  101. 149- Alex Wood has only made 13 starts at Rome, which is low A. His stuff is nasty for a lefthander but he was hardly untouchable this spring, with a 1.57 WHIP. I suspect he is going to need at least a full season in AA and in any case the Braves would be dumb to rush him.

    On the other hand, JR Graham has already shown he can get AA hitters out, and this spring he looked dominant, regularly hitting the high 90s, and with poise.

  102. Nolan Fontana is a real name, all right. And as Stu mentioned, he’s from a place of athletic excellence.

  103. Wasn’t Nolan the frontman for the Mindbenders?

    Didn’t get to see the ‘Cuse / IU game. How in the world did IU only score 50 points?

    If FGCU can’t win it, I think I’m pulling for Billy D and the Gators. Wouldn’t mind seeing Izzo win it, either.

  104. I remember in 2006/2007 when Florida would run a 2-3 with Noah, Horford, and Brewer across the back. It was such crazy length at the wings that getting shots off from there was neigh impossible. Syracuse seemed to have similar length in the front court, and they got mad mad blocks because of it. Difference was Florida had relatively small guards where as Carter-Williams is like 6-5.

  105. @160

    I agree. Having long guards at the top of that zone is killer.

    Syracuse’s issues this year have been on the scoring end. They are a very good defensive team.

  106. Re: Syracuse 2-3

    Yeah, if Syracuse can get any scoring whatsoever, like they did last night, they’re absolutely going to be hell on wheels the rest of the way. They pretty much have the perfect personnel for that 2-3 this year.

  107. I wouldn’t mind seeing Oregon, Wichita St, FGCU and Marquette with FGCU over Wichita St for the title.

  108. I feel somehow compelled to point out that I attended FGCU.

    And yes, I still believe the NCAA should be abolished.

  109. Yale-Minnesota hockey game starts in an hour. Are we doing a game thread for it or what?

  110. @170 – Yikes. The only team I’d consider a playoff contender with a lower payroll than Atlanta is Tampa Bay.

  111. Yale scores first, up 1-0 in the 2nd period after Kenny Agostino goal at 7:08.

  112. #172: That Agostino kid is really surprising some people.

    Wait, what the hell am I talking about?

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