Author Archive

Atlanta Braves Spring Training 2011: Weekly Update for March 7-12, 2011

Throughout the process of Spring Training, I intend to bring you a weekly update on the progress of key Atlanta Braves‘ players and of the team as a whole.  As we all know, Spring Training is a situation in flux, so the status quo changes every day, much less every week.  So, in an attempt to better inform the reader and the fan, I’ll be bringing you week by week updates on the progress of players, coaches thoughts and more!  So, stay tuned and you might just learn something.

Nate McLouth enjoying hot Spring Training session

Coming into this season, there was a plethora of talk about the status of Nate McLouth.  McLouth, the former All-Star and Gold Glove winner who shined in 2008 with the Pittsburgh Pirates but has disappointed as of late and finished 2010 batting under .200, is experiencing a resurgence again.  If spring training is any indication and it seems to provide a trend in McLouth’s case, McLouth is off to a fantastic start this year.  Last year, the worst of his career, saw him hit .118 with one home run and four RBI’s through the course of Spring Training.  Out of 51 at-bats, he only had six hits.  This year is proving to be much different.  In the course of 15 Spring Training at-bats, McLouth has seven hits, two doubles, one home run, three RBI’s and is hitting .467.  Yet, there seems to be a tell-tale stat that provides a difference from last year.  In Spring Training 2010, McLouth struck out 16 times; the year before, he fanned 14 times.  This season?  None.  Absolutely no strikeouts to this point.  Plus, his walks (5) almost match the total for all of Spring Training each year in 2009 and 2010 (he walked 7 times each year).  Maybe we are seeing a revitalized Nate McLouth who is ready to reclaim his spot in center field and silence the naysayers.  I certainly hope he can return to his 2008 form and take this Braves squad to a ring.

Jordan Schafer heating up

If anyone has followed the saga of Jordan Schafer, you have to be rooting for this kid.  Drafted in the third round of the 2005 MLB draft, Schafer came with a world of promise and was a “toolsy” kid.  Then, in April 2008, Schafer was suspended 50 games for supposedly taking Human Growth Hormone (HGH), an allegation that was never proven; Schafer was tested but didn’t test positive and there was never any proof of him possessing HGH.  For a time, Schafer seemed to rebound, being named the starting centerfielder for the Braves in 2009; he sealed the deal with a first at-bat home run on April 5, 2009, against Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Brett Myers.  Yet, not two months later, Schafer was demoted to AAA Gwinnett after only batting .204 with 63 strikeouts in 167 major league at-bats.  To put the icing on the cake, he was demoted from AAA to AA Mississippi in July 2010 and subsequently placed on the DL with a season ending injury.  Schafer was about as low as a player can get.  Flash forward to Spring Training 2011.  After struggling this spring training, Schafer is starting to heat up.  Yesterday, against the split-squad Yankees, Schafer went 2-4 with a home run and a strikeout.  Schafer is good defensively, but his hitting needs to show some improvement to make it into camp.  Hopefully, Jordan Schafer will keep plugging away and get back to the glory he reveled in after being drafted. 

Luis Salazar improving following near-fatal on-field accident

If you have been under a rock for a week or so, you would be wondering what in the world happened.  While Brian McCann was batting, Luis Salazar was getting a little experience in a big league dugout before assuming his role as the manager of Class A Advanced Lynchburg.  Brian McCann pulled a pitch foul into the first base dugout that struck Salazar in the left eye, knocking him unconscious and shattering the socket around his eye.  While doctors say that his injury had the potential to be life-threatening, they credited the quick actions of medical staff with stabilizing Salazar prior to transporting him to the local hospital.  Only three days after this scare, Salazar is alert and speaking with family again.  There is no word as to whether or not Salazar will start his duties with Lynchburg on time.  Please keep this family in your thoughts and prayers; this incident makes one think of what happened to Mike Coolbaugh prior to the 2007 season when he was struck in the head with a line drive and subsequently lost his life. 

Notable Player Update

For a roundup of notable players, we’ll look at the guys expected to make a major contribution this year.

HOT: Chipper Jones is having a decent Spring coming off of knee surgery.  He’s hitting .276 (8-29) with 2 doubles, a home run, and 4 RBI.  He is also feeling more and more comfortable on that knee and feels that it won’t be a distraction this season.  Freddie Freeman is also having a good spring, batting .364 (12-33) with three doubles and four RBI.  One guy that is seeing the ball in a major way is Jason Heyward, who is batting .417 (10-24) with two doubles, an RBI, and a .517 on base percentage. 

NOT:  Brian McCann is having a rough time this spring, hitting just .182 (4-22) with 3 RBI and 4 strikeouts.  McCann was also the source of the ball that struck Luis Salazar, so we’ll look to see if that has any psychological impact on McCann as the season progresses.

What To Watch For Next Week

On Wednesday the 16th, Boston comes to Disney’s Wide World of Sports for a little spring fun with the Braves.  This will give us our first look at the retooled Red Sox, featuring Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and former Braves Jarrod Saltalamacchia as the new starting catcher. 

Read more MLB news on

Atlanta Braves Offseason Outlook: Shin-Soo Choo and Other Outfield Options

Well, folks, the Atlanta Braves have been doing some much-needed improvements to their roster and the results are starting to look nice.  Gone is the dead weight of guys like Rick Ankiel, Kyle Farnsworth, Melky Cabrera and a few more who weren’t worth the uniforms they had on.  Also, Derrek Lee and Matt Diaz are now free agents and can test the waters. 

So, what does this mean for Atlanta?  Let’s find out.

Atlanta already has their infield together, for the most part.  The only questions are about Chipper Jones’ production and whether Freddy Freeman can come in and excel in a starting role.  I think Freddy will surprise us all and have a great year.  Chipper should do well, and, if he hurts himself or retires mid-year, we still have Brooks Conrad who can step in and produce.

The major issue is the outfield.  Matt Diaz is gone.  Nate McLouth couldn’t hit sand if he fell off a camel.  They’ve brought in Joe Mather, but he is not a big producer.  Martin Prado will more than likely play left field, or center, if need be, which leaves a hole in either center or left.  This brings me to my theory on what the Braves should do this offseason: Pursue Shin-Soo Choo.

Let’s take a look at Choo before we start talking about trades and the like.  Here is how Choo stacks up with some of the best in the league:















S. Choo














C. Crawford














C. Crisp














C. Gonzalez














J. Hamilton














D. Jeter














A. Pujols














J. Votto














When you compare these guys, Choo stacks up pretty well.  He had a much better year than Derek Jeter, compares well to Carl Crawford and, while his power numbers aren’t on the same level as a Votto or Pujols, they are where they need to be to be a solid power hitter. 

He is also a skilled hitter, averaging .297 in his career and hasn’t hit under .300 the past three seasons.  What I see could help him in a better system are his RBI totals and his runs scored.  He walked 83 times last year, third on this list behind Pujols and Votto, which means people respect him a bit.  He also has some decent speed, stealing 22 bases and only being caught seven times.  His strikeouts are a little worrisome, but Crawford is close to him, and Carlos Gonzalez and Joey Votto have him beat there.  He also is decent in the field, with a .982 fielding percentage, a good arm and good instincts.

Choo would fit in well in this Braves system.  Let’s talk about trade options.  As you well know, the Indians, well, don’t have the greatest talent pool.  There are definitely some options, as the Braves could turn right around and ship Joe Mather to Cleveland, along with Nate McLouth, which would give Cleveland two solid outfielders.  If they need pitching, the Braves have that as well.  A deal could easily be made for Choo if the Braves pursued it.

Also, the Atlanta Braves are rumored to be pursuing Justin Upton.  If they were to get both of these guys, putting Choo in left and Upton in center, this would be a serious team, easily capable of stomping the Philadelphia Phillies

There are, indeed, options available.  They just need to pursue some excellent options and this team can go from good to great in an afternoon.

Read more MLB news on

Not Brave Enough: Atlanta Braves Lose 3-1, Drop to Four Games Back

The Atlanta Braves got on the board early last night, but a two-run fifth inning for the Philadelphia Phillies sunk the Braves, with the Braves losing 3-1.

Brandon Beachy, who made his major league debut last night, had a decent game, striking out one, walking three, and giving up three runs, only one earned.  He performed decently against one of the best offensive teams in the league. 

In fact, Bobby Cox said that he was the best option given the short notice.  When asked if Kenshin Kawakami could have filled that spot, Cox replied by saying, “Kawakami hasn’t pitched in a long time.  This kid is better prepared than he would be going out there right now.”

What sunk the Braves was a costly fielding error on a slicing liner off the bat of Shane Victorino.  That led to a two-run fifth that cost the Braves the game and, possibly, the National League East title.  With the Atlanta Braves now trailing by four games, they would need to take the next two games from the Phillies and play above .500 ball while the Phillies would need to have a serious downturn. 

I have two things to note here.  First, I believe they have finally given up on Kenshin Kawakami, as they should have awhile ago.  Kawakami isn’t worth his weight in wonton.  He has simply been ineffective, has only won one game, and, when he started against the Marlins in a test of his capability, he failed.  Miserably.  Kawakami is running this team’s budget up for nothing.  I would rather him just be hurt.  We would save money that way.

Secondly, I don’t think the Braves care enough.  They haven’t shown me that they want it that bad.  Either that, or they are trying too hard.  Hitters aren’t being patient at the plate, pitchers are getting too comfortable with the strike zone, and our rotation is starting to lose its ability to get the job done. 

Jurrjens is a good pitcher, but, as of yet, he hasn’t shown me the ability to last a full season.  Losing Kris Medlen seriously hurt this team, but Mike Minor has stepped up and shown his talent.  He had a similar game to Beachy in his debut, but dazzled with 12 strikeouts in his next start.  I think Beachy will be a good replacement if Jurrjens will be out longer. 

I hope this team wants it as much as its fans do.  As a Braves fan, I am fairly confident in saying that I speak for the majority of the Braves’ fan base in saying this: we want to see Bobby go out with a ring.  We have held Bobby Cox in such high esteem all these years and he has become family, in a way.  Seeing Bobby retire without a ring would seem disrespectful to the legacy of one of the bets managers in Major League history.

In any event, the Braves need to seriously step it up.  There is much to do and little time.  I hope to see the Braves atop the NL East when the final bell tolls.  If not, they have a man’s legacy to answer to.

Read more MLB news on

All Chopped Out: The 10 Biggest Busts in Recent Atlanta Braves History

I have heard some grumblings while riding on the Atlanta Braves’ bandwagon about Derek Lowe and his rather tepid performance as a starter since signing his 4 year, $60 million contract. 

However, I tend to disagree.  Although his ERA has been over 4 both of the years he has worn a Braves uniform, he has been an innings eater, has tended to strike batters out well (5.1 K/9 in 2009, and 6.2 K/9 this year), and has usually had a good strikeouts to walks ratio (1.76 in 2009 and 2.09 this year). 

Basically, he has struck out 2 batters for every walk.  So, with that being said, I feel it is necessary to present to you the Top Ten Biggest Busts in recent Atlanta Braves history. 

Just when you thought Derek Lowe was bad, just remember…

Begin Slideshow

What Does the Derrek Lee Addition Mean for the Atlanta Braves?

On Wednesday, the Atlanta Braves completed a four-player deal with the Chicago Cubs to bring first baseman Derrek Lee to Atlanta.

Atlanta gave up three pitchers in the deal to a pitching-deficient club; two were righties, and one was a lefty.

The trade beckoned a question within the minds of the Atlanta faithful: What about Troy Glaus?

Speculation flew that Glaus was done for the season; that this knee issue of his was more serious than first reported; that Glaus, for all he had done for Atlanta, was being thrown under the bus.

Then came what I suspected all along: that the Braves were wanting Glaus to reacquaint himself with third base to give the Braves two solid hitting and fielding corner men.

With all this said, what does the trade for Derrek Lee really mean for this Atlanta Braves team striving to stay atop the National League East division? Let’s analyze, shall we?


Derrek Lee brings excellent defense to Atlanta’s infield.

Derrek Lee, a 14-year veteran of the game, has not always been known for Albert Pujols-like power, but he has swung the bat well. He has shown power and average in spurts through his career and is hitting .251 this year with 16 home runs and 56 runs batted in.

My projection is that Lee will finish with about 25 homers and 75 or so runs batted in this year.

He had a career year in 2005, bopping 46 homers, driving in 107 runs, and hitting an astounding .335. The next season, 2006, he injured his wrist and was limited to only 175 at-bats, in which he still was able to muster eight homers, 30 RBI, and a .286 average. He hit well last season, hitting 30 HRs, putting up 111 RBI, and hitting .306.

This season, however, has been a season of issues for all the Cubbies. Yet to make my point, what has never been an issue for Lee was his defense. A three-time Gold Glove Award winner (2003, 2005, 2007), Lee has 89 career errors and boasts a career .994 fielding percentage. Nice, if you ask me.

I compare him to a good-hitting Doug Mientkiewicz, who only had 30 errors his entire 12-year career and holds an impressive .996 career fielding percentage. Only two-thousandths of a percent better than Derrek Lee? Yes.

To make a point about defense, it was defense that won Boston their championship. They had a few select good power hitters, but it was the defense of guys like Mientkiewicz who solidified the championship (and, in fact, made the last out…and then kept the ball and enraged Red Sox Nation).

As the old mantra goes, offense wins games, but defense wins championships. I guess it doesn’t just apply to football, does it?


Derrek Lee adds a great clubhouse veteran presence.

Lee has consistently been lauded as a unifying presence, one that held the bits and pieces of a shaken and shattered Cubs clubhouse over the past few years. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for Lee in the Cubs clubhouse, I doubt the Cubs would have gotten as far as they have over the years.

When you have such polarizing clubhouse influences as Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, and the like, you are going to have choppy waters. Derrek Lee was oftentimes the team lifeguard, pulling good players out of choppy situations. Lee is gone, and the Cubs locker room will suffer. Who are your leaders now? Ryan Dempster? Aramis Ramirez?

Look, for all the Cubs’ good spots, and their bad, Lee was one of the best. I think Jim Hendry realized that the Cubs were the Titanic of the baseball world and that he needed to get the good people off before the ship ran afoul on the iceberg known as reality. Derrek Lee was one, as were Ted Lilly, Mike Fontenot, and Ryan Theriot.

Hendry realizes there is nowhere to go but down from this situation, and he is ready to bring her on down, restock, refuel, and try it again. You will see a new Cubs club next year if the front office actually cares about winning the World Series for the first time since Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House. If not, expect the Cubs to look like the 1980s Braves before it’s all said and done.


Derrek Lee Can Hit.

As I mentioned before, D-Lee has had good and great seasons throughout his career. When he’s been healthy, he has hit no fewer than 20 home runs since 2000, when he was with the Marlins. He even won a ring in 2003 with the Marlins and had a Gold Glove to boot.

But the thing is that he can hit, and hit well. He has a career .289 average, 309 career HRs, and is five RBI short of 1,000 for his career. Projecting that he finishes 2010 with 25 homers and 75 RBI, that would put his career numbers at 318 HR and 1,114 RBI. That would mean he averages 22 HR a year and 80 RBI a year.

If he finishes with an average of .275 on the year, meaning he would have to get 55 hits in 164 more at-bats (figuring around 582 more AB on the season with 41 games remaining and four AB per game), or pretty much go 1-for-4 every game, it would put his average at .283 per year.

An average of .283, 22 HR, and 80 RBI per year are decent numbers. Those numbers plus a fielding percentage of .994 means one heck of a first baseman, provided he stays healthy. He is 34, so he should have another three years or so left in the tank. 


Derrek Lee isn’t a money-hungry player.

Derrek Lee is at the end of a five-year, $65 million contract. He made $13 million a year for those five years and probably knows that he won’t be making that much when he hits the free agent market. The Braves are looking at dumping about $20 million next year from their books, which is plenty of money to re-sign Derrek Lee.

My thought is that Lee will probably get anywhere from $8-10 million a year on his next contract, and given that he is 34, it will probably be a three to four-year deal, so you are looking at maybe a three-year, $28 million deal this offseason, or, at the max, a four-year, $38 million deal.

With the Braves paying him $10 million a year, that still leaves the Braves with plenty of money. Even Liberty Media can be happy with that (the cheapskates!).


So, give props to Frank Wren on a good trade for a good player. I can’t wait to see Derrek Lee in Braves garb. I want to see Lee, Rick Ankiel, Glaus, Chipper Jones, and Eric O’Flaherty back next year, along with Brooks Conrad, Martin Prado, Omar Infante, Brent Clevlen, and David Ross. We have a good thing going with all these young guys who perform well and get paid decently, but not exorbitantly.

Good job, Frank Wren, and welcome to the club, D-Lee!

Read more MLB news on

Derrek Lee and the Most Notable Braves-Cubs Player Swaps

On Wednesday, the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs completed a deal to send first baseman Derrek Lee to Atlanta for three pitching prospects. 

The Braves needed a first baseman with some pop to complement Troy Glaus’ decision to rehab in the minors and readjust himself to third base.  Lee and Glaus could also platoon, giving Glaus the time to rest his knees and give both guys solid playing time. 

This move is another in what I have noticed is seemingly a trend in which players who played for the Braves end up playing with the Cubs as well.  Here are some notable (and maybe not so notable) examples.

Begin Slideshow

Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves Steal One From Washington Nationals

The Jay-Hey Kid came through again tonight.  Jason Heyward, a favorite for the NL Rookie of the Year, hit a double, moved to third on a Chipper Jones sac fly, and stole home on the next pitch.  He’s stealing more than bases these days, however.  He is stealing the thunder right out of the Phillies and Mets.

It couldn’t come at a better time.

The Braves, atop the NL East and poised to take their first divisional crown since 2002, are cruising with the help of Heyward, 2010 All-Star Game MVP Brian McCann, Troy Glaus, Martin Prado, Matt Diaz, and the crew.  The Braves possess the depth and talent likened to many of the pennant winners in the 1990s.

With a rotation that features Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, and a surprise in Kris Medlen, the pitching is as solid as the days of Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz-Mercker-Avery.  The bullpen is good, too, with guys like Peter Moylan, Eric O’Flaherty, Johnny Venters, and, of course, the venerable Billy Wagner.

Many of those names made impacts tonight.

Tim Hudson pitched 7 2/3 innings of one run, seven hit baseball, striking out seven in the process and walking just one.  Out of 96 pitches, 63 were strikes, including 18 first-pitch strikes.  Venters struck out Adam Dunn to end the eighth.  Wagner, as is often the case, pitched a perfect ninth to pick up his 23rd save on the year.

Prado continued to flourish in his leadoff role, going 3-5 with a double and two runs scored.  Chipper was 1-4 with 2 RBI.  Brian McCann also stole a base, his fourth of the year. 

The Braves improved their record to 58-42, 16 games above .500 and 3.5 games ahead of Philadelphia.  Philadelphia has been hot of late, riding a seven-game win streak.  Atlanta is fighting to stay atop the NL East, and they are getting contributions from everyone.

This Atlanta team is going to be seeing October for the first time in nearly 10 years, and I couldn’t be happier.



  • Stephen Strasburg was scratched from what was to be his 10th ML start with shoulder soreness.  He isn’t expected to miss any time and should make his next start.

Read more MLB news on

Tommy Hanson Struggles Again: Atlanta Braves Lose 10-4

When Braves phenom Tommy Hanson struggled in his last outing, the Braves hoped it was a fluke.  Lasting just 3.2 innings against a middle-of-the-road White Sox team, the Braves figured to see Hanson bouncing back against the Tigers.  They didn’t get their wish.

Hanson, who again lasted just three and two thirds innings and gave up six runs (five of them earned), was chased from his second straight start.  I think Hanson will be thrilled to see interleague play end.

On the other side, Justin Verlander gave up four runs in seven innings to pick up the win and improve to 9-5.  The offense for the Braves has again shown a slow period, collecting just seven hits, while the Tigers banged out 17 hits. 

The interleague test for the Braves went somewhat decently, with a 9-6 interleague record.  But the Braves struggled against the White Sox and Tigers, getting swept by the White Sox and winning the first two against the Tigers before Hanson was roughed up in the third game of the three game series.

The Braves will take on the Washington Nationals (33-43, 12-11 against NL East opponents) tonight at Turner Field.  Rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg (2-1, 1.78 ERA) will go for the Nationals while the Braves send Tim Hudson (7-3, 2.54 ERA) to the hill.

The Braves need to catch fire soon.  The Mets, who are playing excellent baseball, trail the Braves by just a half game.  Just when the Braves need him the most, Jason Heyward will sit out due to his bum thumb, leaving a large hole in the offense in their time of need.  Perhaps the baseball deities will have mercy on a Braves team who hasn’t made the playoffs since 2005 and are hanging on to the lead.  If the Cubs are any indication of their mercies, the Braves may just be out of luck.  However, the Braves seem to find a way to make due in times of trouble.

I figure to see Eric Hinske starting in left, Melky Cabrera in right, and, hopefully, some decent run support out of the Braves.  A lineup with veteran presence, the Braves seem to be quick studies and are adept at hammering a pitcher his second time through the order.  Strasburg has some good stuff, however, and the Braves would be well advised to watch and learn well.

The Braves have a shot at getting back to October glory, but they have to hold off their archnemises, the New York Mets, in order to do so.  So, all you Met haters out there, let’s rally and make the Mets watch the postseason on their big flatscreen TVs.

Read more MLB news on

Troy Glaus Secures Win in Ninth; Braves Up 1 1/2 Games in NL East

When the Atlanta Braves signed Troy Glaus this past offseason, they hoped for an offensive spark that has been lacking at first base in recent years; they got much more than they bargained for. 

Glaus has been stellar this year, and last night was no exception.  Glaus hit a home run off Robinson Tejada on an 0-2 count to give the Braves a 5-4 victory over the tough-luck Royals Saturday night.

Glaus went 1-4 in the game, his homer being his only hit, and Brian McCann also homered to run the Braves’ winning streak to four games and send their home record to 23-7.  Billy Wagner worked the ninth to earn the win.

The Royals, under skipper Ned Yost, still struggle to compete in a mediocre AL Central.  Yost, who served as the Braves third base coach, bench coach, and bullpen coach during the 1990s, was hired to give the team a bit of a boost.  The boost hasn’t found its way to the diamond, and the Royals fell to 29-40 on the year, fourth place in the AL Central ahead of a lackadaisical Cleveland Indians club still holding out hope for Travis Hafner to return to his power days.

The Royals have some good players, such as Scott Podsednik and Jose Guillen, but just can’t seem to keep it together.

The Braves, whose win on Saturday pushed their lead to 1 1/2 games over the surging New York Mets, are trying to bring a championship to Atlanta; they last won it all in 1995.  Manager Bobby Cox is retiring at season’s end, giving the Braves tremendous motivation to win a ring.

Saturday’s game showed a typical example of what the Braves are doing right this year.  This team is clutch, with guys like Martin Prado (.310 with runners in scoring position and two outs), Troy Glaus (.424 with RISP and two outs), Eric Hinske (.357 with RISP and two outs), and Jason Heyward (.353 with RISP and 2 outs) leading the way.

This team does extremely well rallying with two outs and finds ways to win late in the game.  This tortoise out of the gate turns into the rabbit at the finish line, owners of the third best record in the majors and the best record in the National League.  Happy days are here again in Atlanta; can these Braves keep it up?  All signs point to yes.

Read more MLB news on

Atlanta Braves’ Win Over Twins Highlights Team Depth, Frank Wren’s Brilliance

When Frank Wren replaced John Schuerholz as General Manager a couple of years ago, Braves’ fans were undoubtedly skeptical that he could come in and make such a difference. I think now that even the skeptics can be silenced by the performance of Frank Wren in building a ballclub that can be defined by words like “deep,” “versatile,” and “talented.”

Tonight showed just how those words ring true about the 2010 Atlanta Braves.

In Bobby Cox’s last season, the Braves wanted to make a run for the pennant. The roster at the start looked tentatively good, but it remained to be seen if this club could do well. The first month of the season was atrocious for the Braves. No one could seem to hit, pitching fell through more times than not, and a couple of guys carried the load for keeping this Braves squad from hitting the bottom of the pond. Boy, has that changed.

Flash to tonight’s game against the Minnesota Twins. Derek Lowe, a pickup by Frank Wren in the free agent market in January 2009, came out of the gate strong, giving up two runs and keeping the big bashers of the Minnesota lineup subdued. His official line was 7.1 innings, six hits, two runs (both of them earned), three walks, and four strikeouts. He left with the game tied at two runs apiece, with Eric O’Flaherty entering and retiring Justin Morneau.

Then Peter Moylan, who owns a nearly 9.00 ERA in his last 10 appearances (8.57), entered and walked Michael Cuddyer, and displayed his frustration by barking at home plate umpire Jerry Layne on a pitch that was proven to be a ball low and inside. The next pitcher to enter could arguably be considered the best middle reliever the Braves have in their bullpen—Jonny Venters.

Venters came on to face the lefty Jason Kubel and, after running the count to 2-2 and Kubel fouling a couple of balls off, Venters whizzed a 94 mph fastball by Kubel middle of the belt and away to end the inning. The top of the ninth held all of the suspense as the Braves sought to take the lead and keep the game from going into extras. The Braves did not fail to deliver.

After Melky Cabrera popped out, Gregor Blanco walked on four straight pitches. With Martin Prado hitting, Bobby Cox pulled a trick out of his hat and called for a hit-and-run. Prado singled to left and the hustling speedster Gregor Blanco went from first to third easily.

The next play displayed the genius of the man who is calling it quits after this season and shows just why Bobby Cox will be sorely missed next year.

With emerging star Brooks Conrad hitting, Bobby Cox called for a suicide squeeze, sending Blanco from third; Conrad made the perfect bunt and got on base himself, preserving the inning and scoring the go-ahead run from third. Jason Heyward, nursing a sore left thumb, fouled out to third and Brian McCann was blown away by an angry Jose Mijares.

Billy Wagner closed out the ninth to pick up the save and to preserve the win by Jonny Venters.

Key elements to the game included Eric Hinske (free agent this year), Eric O’Flaherty (waiver, 2009), Melky Cabrera [home run] (trade, offseason), Jonny Venters (draft, 2003 [Wren was the senior assistant GM]), Martin Prado (undrafted free agent, 2001), Brooks Conrad (free agent, offseason), Gregor Blanco (undrafted free agent, 2000), and Billy Wagner (free agent, offseason).

This team is chock full of talent that Frank Wren has either directly or indirectly been instrumental in bringing to Atlanta. Wren signed Troy Glaus, who has been exceptional for Atlanta. He signed Eric Hinske, whose clutch performances have vastly improved this Braves’ ballclub.

Brooks Conrad was mired in a Houston Astros organization that just had no room for him; he has since proven the Astros wrong. Eric O’Flaherty was left to die in the Seattle Mariners organization and then placed on the waiver wires; Atlanta deftly snagged this talented lefty at no cost to them. Billy Wagner has bounced back from surgery to regain his fastball and his dominance, going 11 for 13 in save opportunities.

This isn’t Wren’s first rodeo. He was instrumental, with Dave Dombrowski, in constructing the Marlins farm system and the 1997 team that won the World Series. Under Dombrowski, the Marlins’ front office was considered the best in baseball for several years (completely blameless in the firesale by Wayne Huizenga).

Wren was demonized in Baltimore for signing Albert Belle to such a massive contract, but Belle carried a reputation that warranted such a contract. All in all, Frank Wren has amassed a team that is rich in talent, incredibly deep, and, if all elements stay working together as they are now, just might give Bobby Cox the going away present of a lifetime: a World Series ring.

Read more MLB news on

Copyright © 1996-2010 Kuzul. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress