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Atlanta Braves: Benching Omar Infante for Troy Glaus a Foolish Move

The Atlanta Braves should think twice before they make a move that will weaken their chances at winning a second World Series title.

While nothing has happened yet, the stars are certainly aligned for Mr. May, Troy Glaus, to replace All-Star Omar Infante in the lineup at third base, which would bump Martin Prado back to second base.

Since Atlanta acquired first baseman Derrek Lee from the Chicago Cubs, Glaus has rested his ailing knees and returned to play three games for the Gwinnett Braves at the hot corner this week.

During those three games, May’s NL Player of the Month has been raking at the plate, racking up two home runs, seven RBI’s, and five hits in 10 at-bats at the Triple-A level.

However, while those numbers and Glaus’ improving health may impress GM Frank Wren and manager Bobby Cox enough for them to make him the starting third baseman in place of the injured Chipper Jones, it’s a bad move.

And I’m not saying that merely based on his .174 batting average and two home runs over the last 46 games.

Glaus should not re-enter the daily lineup because Atlanta cannot afford to take super utility man Omar Infante out of the daily lineup.

According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Infante has a .381 batting average in 27 consecutive starts and has shown some uncharacteristic power recently, hitting five home runs in his last 17 games.

Additionally, Infante has been consistently good in 2010, unlike Glaus, posting a .365 batting average in 65 games since June 1, which would put him in contention for the batting title if he had enough at-bats to be eligible.

Defensively, Infante has been solid, committing only 12 errors despite lining up at five different positions for the 2010 Braves.

Most importantly, Infante has committed only four errors in 99 chances at second base, his current position, this season.

As for Glaus’ fielding skills, both he and Prado have the same career fielding percentage at third base (.952), but you would have to think that the younger Prado would be more mobile and agile than Glaus and his ailing knees.

Granted, the Braves’ bench is significantly weaker without Infante and losing the reliable guy who can play almost anywhere should a starter go down with an injury hurts the bench.

However, Atlanta’s subs are still strong, boasting the likes of Melky Cabrera, Eric Hinske, David Ross, and the team’s best clutch hitter in Brooks Conrad.

In addition to those guys, Glaus would provide a power bat off the bench and could serve as the designated hitter should the Braves advance to the World Series.

As far as the rest of the season is concerned, Atlanta hopes that Glaus will once again prove his doubters wrong by playing good defense at third base and being a key bat in the Braves’ lineup down the stretch in September and potentially October.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, hope should be a last resort in a pennant race.

If the Braves want to hold off the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East race, they need to go with the best guys they have—a strategy that finds Omar Infante in the everyday lineup and Troy Glaus on the bench.

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Armando Galarraga Has a “Pitcher” Perfect Game

28 up, 28 down.

That is probably the most apt recap of Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga’s “one-hit” shutout of the Cleveland Indians June 2.

Galarraga, one out away from pitching the third perfect game this season, got Indians batter Jason Donald to hit a grounder to Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera.

As Cabrera fielded the ground ball, Galarraga moved to cover first base, caught Cabrera’s throw, and stepped on the bag, seemingly making the final out in the twenty-first perfect game in MLB history.

The call came from first base umpire Jim Joyce—safe.

Although replays clearly show that Galarraga reached the base before Donald, instant replay still only applies to determining if home runs are fair or foul, leaving no way to correct the blown call.

Joyce, who will likely go down in history for making one of the most costly umpiring errors in baseball history, was sincerely apologetic and could only tearfully remark, “I just cost that kid a perfect game.”

Joyce’s mistake keeps Galarraga from joining the ranks of Oakland Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay, who pitched 2010’s two perfect games May 9 and May 29, respectively.

However, despite what the box score reads—and will remain thanks to a disappointing decision to uphold Joyce’s call by Commissioner Bud Selig—Galarraga did deliver a perfect game that all baseball fans can enjoy.

Not only did the Venezuelan right-hander retire all 28 Cleveland batters he faced with a dominating performance, but he personified sportsmanship in the aftermath of the whirlwind that ensued.

While most players would have argued angrily with the umpire, Galarraga kept his cool in a likely infuriating situation, putting his hands behind his head and grinning in disbelief at the call.

Some say his calm reaction was the result of severe shock or uncertainty about the play’s actual outcome, but I believe Galarraga executed the class and dignity that we all learned from our first baseball coaches while playing tee ball.

Not only was Galarraga graceful amid chaos, including protests from Cabrera and Tigers manager Jim Leyland, but he simply continued his mastery of the Indian lineup following the controversial call, retiring Trevor Crowe to complete the shutout.

Galarraga continued to be a gentleman after the game, refraining from criticizing Joyce and thanking Joyce for his apology.

“You don’t see an umpire after the game come out and say, ‘Hey, let me tell you I’m sorry,'” Galarraga said. “I feel sad. I just watched the play 20 times and there’s no way you can call him safe.”

A perfect game for Galarraga not only would have been a historic achievement for the 28-year-old pitcher, but it would have served as a big step toward rebounding from an ugly 5.64 ERA last season.

However, in spite of Joyce’s call, the baseball world—save the commissioner’s office—will recognize Galarraga’s effort as a perfect game and will give kudos to the up-and-coming pitcher for his masterful game.

Even General Motors pitched in to help acknowledge Galarraga’s accomplishment, awarding the Detroit hurler a red Corvette that will likely ease his pain from losing a shot at history.

More importantly, Galarraga earned the respect of his peers as a man who respects the game of baseball and plays with dignity.

Examples of integrity and class like Galarraga’s respect for Joyce’s umpiring blunder are a welcome sight for a game that has suffered from the backlash of “The Steroid Era,” which caused many fans to turn away from the game.

To put it simply, Galarraga plays the game perfectly.

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Baseball’s Alliteration All-Stars

Alliteration, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “the repetition of usually initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables.”

What does this have to do with Major League Baseball?

Honestly, nothing, but at least give me credit for finding a way to incorporate sports into my English homework.

Each slide will have the position player and an extremely cheesy sentence about said player with as much alliteration as possible.

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The Case For Brooks Conrad Over Chipper Jones—At Least For Right Now

If Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox does not start Brooks Conrad at third base for tomorrow’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he may have lost his mind.

Admittedly, I am still heavily under the influence of the euphoria that ensued after Conrad hit an opposite-field, game-winning grand slam in a 10-9 victory over the Cincinnati Reds today, which capped an eight-run Atlanta rally Thursday.

However, it’s not crazy to at least entertain the idea of putting today’s ninth-inning hero in the starting lineup at the hot corner.

Of course, to start Conrad, Cox would have to bench Braves legend Chipper Jones, something that the Atlanta skipper would never even think about doing.

Cox’s loyalty to No. 10 in this case is unfortunate for the Braves, seeing as Conrad now has three homers compared to Chipper’s two, and nine RBI, which is two fewer than the future Hall-of-Famer’s 11.

By the way, just a footnote, Conrad’s stats have come in just 28 at-bats, while Jones has made 111 trips to the plate this season.

Conrad, who sports a .977 career fielding percentage (Jones: .952 at 3B), also offers Atlanta a better option defensively, seeing as Chipper’s hamstring and foot problems limit his flexibility in the field.

Granted, Conrad’s recent surge could just be a fluke and his .204 batting average last season isn’t anything to cheer about, but this recent offensive explosion has earned him a better chance of cracking the starting lineup.

Now, strong arguments will contend that Jones has the track record and the talent to break out of his slumpheck, he knocked in two runs in Wednesday’s 5-4 win over Cincinnatibut sadly, any good day he has offensively should be considered an aberration at this point.

Also, there’s the issue of benching the team leader, which has the potential to demoralize his teammates who look up to said leader for motivation and inspiration.

I would respond to the latter argument with two questions:

“Has Chipper’s veteran presence significantly helped the Braves so far this season?”

“Wouldn’t the fact that Chipper is ‘unbenchable,’ no matter how much he struggles, demoralize bench players (e.g. Omar Infante, Conrad) who are fighting for at-bats?”

In baseball, it’s crucial to play the hot hand, especially when doing the opposite is detrimental to a team’s playoff chances.

Benching Jones in favor of Conrad could possibly serve another purpose, like lighting a fire under the 16-year veteran.

Maybe the challenge of fighting his way back into the lineup will unleash the skills that made him the National League Batting Champion in 2008 with a .364 average.

Additionally, sitting for a few games could give the veteran third baseman a chance to rest from his injuries or work out a few of the kinks in his swing.

Now, I neither intend to disrespect Chipper by my thoughts nor declare that Conrad should become the permanent starting third baseman for the Braves.

I believe Jones will eventually break out of his slump, but until then, you have to go with the better guy, who, in this case, is Conrad.

If you asked for Chipper’s thoughts, he would tell you that he wants what’s best for the Braveshe even offered to give up his No. 3 spot in the lineup to Jason Heyward (a great idea).

And right now, starting Conrad at third base is the best way to go for Atlanta.

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