Tag: Atlanta

Atlanta Braves: Answering the Contract Questions for 2016 and Beyond

In November 2012, we witnessed the Atlanta Braves do something they have shied away from for a while. They signed outfielder B.J. Upton to a five-year deal worth $75.25 million. The sum of the deal put Upton in special company. He joined Manny Ramirez and Carlos Beltran as the only outfielders 28 years old and younger to sign their name to a deal worth $75 million or more on Opening Day.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, B.J. Upton would fall flat on his face with a .184 batting average and -0.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 126 games.

The B.J. Upton signing could have ramifications for the Braves as they inch closer to the impending free agency of Justin Upton, Kris Medlen, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel and Brandon Beachy. 

The aforementioned names make up the bulk of the World Series-contending Braves core.

National League Most Valuable Player talk focused on Justin Upton for the first couple months of 2013. While he would slow down after an electrifying start in Atlanta, the younger half of the brothers Upton will turn 27 in August. He is also set to enter free agency following two more seasons with the Braves.

Medlen has won 25 games over the span of the last two seasons. A reliable arm in the rotation, Medlen isn’t known for striking out batters. Similar to a poor man’s Greg Maddux, he works the plate and gets batters out via their contact. The right-handed pitcher will be 28 for the 2014 season and, like Justin Upton, a free agent in 2016.

Another star in Atlanta is set to enter free agency in 2016. Outfielder Jason Heyward will turn 25 in August. While hype has exacerbated his production, Heyward has become one of the best sluggers in the NL. It appears that he won’t necessarily hit for average but after freak injuries derailed his 2013 season, one positive is Heyward did improve on his walk and strikeout rates.

Set to be 25 years old in September, first baseman Freddie Freeman surged to being considered among the best power hitters in all of Major League Baseball. He has hit 46 home runs over the course of the last two seasons while boosting his average to .319 a year ago. Freeman leads the list of Braves set to hit free agency after the next three seasons.

Over the last three seasons, no closer has been as dynamic as Craig Kimbrel. During the same span, his fastball velocity has only increased from 96.2 to 96.9. He has averaged 46 saves annually since getting the nod as Atlanta’s closer in 2011. Due to turn 26 in May, one can see why it’s imperative for the Braves to lock up Kimbrel prior to his free agency year of 2017.

The last of the bunch, Brandon Beachy, is a major question mark. From June 2012 through July 2013, Beachy worked in the training facility while recovering from Tommy John surgery. The righty has plenty of potential but has yet to pitch more than 81 innings in a single MLB season. Akin to Freeman and Kimbrel, Beachy’s arbitration eligibility ends after 2016.

According to FanGraphs, the aforementioned six players combined for a 16.3 WAR. It isn’t unreasonable to suggest an increase in their cumulative WAR moving forward either. After all, it seems as if each player is entering his prime.

The situation isn’t all bad for Atlanta. Twenty-nine other MLB clubs would love to be in the conundrum Atlanta currently is in. Their scouting and development system has done one of the better jobs in baseball over the course of the last six or seven years. However, the problem Atlanta faces is keeping this core intact.

B.J. Upton’s deal isn’t likely to keep the Braves apprehensive from committing long-term to each of these aforesaid players. After all, the horrid decline of second baseman Dan Uggla and his $13 million annual contract didn’t keep the Braves from throwing bags of money at the older Upton.

The problem for Atlanta will be finding enough loot to keep this core intact.

Free agency in 2016 and 2017 may appear light years away. It really isn’t though. Organizations are more aggressive in securing their keystone players much earlier in their pre-arbitration and arbitration years.

For example, the Chicago Cubs signed first baseman Anthony Rizzo to a seven-year, $41 million contract extension last May. Compared to Freeman, Rizzo has less MLB service time and has yet to produce on a level parallel to the Braves first baseman. Yet, his long-term outlook with Chicago is guaranteed. Additionally, the Cubs saved money compared to what they would have had to spend had they played the waiting game. The Cubs are apparently ahead of the curve in understanding why committing to a long-term contract as soon as possible is beneficial to the team.

It would behoove Atlanta to buy out the remaining arbitration years for the players listed. On top of that, they should pay them accordingly for their first two to three seasons of free agency. This would come at a discount for Atlanta and secure team control over their core as they push to make multiple World Series runs through 2018. 

The longer the Braves remain stuck in neutral, the less incentive Jason Heyward and Co. will have to sign long-term deals as they creep closer to free agency. While some of the players could decide to do so, it is unlikely the entire core remains intact. 

It is feasible that Justin Upton, Heyward and Freeman would command contracts worth more than $100 million when they hit free agency. However, if the Braves stop sitting on their hands, they would likely be able to retain each of them for nearly half to three quarters of that sum. Beachy is in an awkward position to say the least. However, Medlen and Kimbrel could both see deals worth at least $50 million should they hit free agency.

Atlanta would do itself a favor by locking these players up before they get another year closer to free agency. By not doing so, they are playing with fire. After all, organizations such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees will price them out of the market on players they developed.

UPDATE: Jason Heyward and Atlanta Braves reach two-year deal

Per ESPN at 11:18 EST, the Atlanta Braves and Jason Heyward agreed to a two-year deal. This deal will buy out Heyward’s remaining years of arbitration, in effect making him a free agent in 2016. While terms of the new deal have not been disclosed yet, it is a discouraging sign that the Braves are willing to contend with other teams for the right to sign Heyward in two seasons. They may end up pricing themselves out of the market for the outfielder.

All statistics and contract information provided courtesy of FanGraphs.com, Baseball-Reference.com and Spotrac.com.

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Nationals vs. Braves: Who Is the Better Team in the National League East?

As the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves set to go head-to-head this Saturday, one question remains on everyone’s mind: Who is the better team in the National League East?

The Braves are off to a blistering start with a 9-1 record, and not only are their bats on fire, but their entire pitching staff (with the exception of Julio Teheran and Christian Martinez) is pitching like they already have October in their sights.

However, the 7-3 Nationals may just be the better team. Led by phenoms Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, the Nats have one of the most complete teams on paper. Not only is their lineup stacked with talented bats, but they arguably have the most dominant pitching staffs in all of baseball.

So who will prevail as the season goes on?

This weekend’s games should offer a lot of insight as to how these two teams will fare against each other. I think the most interesting thing will be seeing whose bats perform better against each team’s pitching staffs.

If I were to pick a clear-cut winner now, I think I would have to go with the Nationals. 

Harper is arguably hitting better than anyone in baseball right now, Denard Span is looking great at the top of the lineup and even Ian Desmond and Jason Werth are starting to heat up and look good. And though Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche aren’t off to blazing start as of yet, both guys are way too talented to not rebound and start regularly contributing sooner than later. 

So who will win the National League East this year?

It’s way too early to start speculating this early in the season, but one thing is for sure: there’s going to be a lot of exciting games between these two teams as the season goes on.

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Atlanta Braves Fans Latest Example of Unruly Sports Fans out of Control

The tone of this article would’ve taken on a whole new meaning had one of the umpires at the Atlanta Braves vs. St. Louis Cardinals game been injured because of the controversial infield fly rule. Look, I get that the call was an emotional one for Braves fans. But if something flying out of the stands had seriously injured one of the umps, America’s Favorite Pastime would have suffered another black eye.

I don’t care how much you love your team, it doesn’t give you the right to hurl something from your seat. You don’t have the right to possibly injure an official.  That ump you’re throwing things at? He may be someone’s father or husband. He’s doing his job and deserves some respect, whether he blew the call or not.

Now, before all of Fulton County begins pressing “send” with a pointed response to this article, understand it’s about more than a few beer cans tossed from the stands at Turner Field. It’s about the behavior of some sports fans across the country involving every sport you can think of.

If I’m at a Braves game with my six-year-old son, do I tell him it’s okay to throw something from the stands when you disagree with a call? Obviously not. But kids are watching what we do. Some will grow up thinking it’s okay to attack the game official if they don’t like the call.

Our behavior at professional sporting events has become reprehensible. It’s embarrassing. It’s criminal. More than anything, it’s stupid. It’s a game, people. Life will go on tomorrow whether your favorite team wins or loses.

We all remember the Oakland Raiders vs. San Francisco 49ers game last year when mayhem erupted in the stands. Guys throwing punches MMA-style. It was a free-for-all. Young men punching each other in the face with no regard for the outcome. Seriously? Has it come to this?

There’s a young man in California who can no longer care for himself because he was attacked outside of Dodger Stadium for being a San Francisco Giants fan. He was beaten into submission. A few months ago, he finally came out of a coma and now lives in a wheelchair. Why?

Oh, I know. The Braves incident was minor, right? It only took the grounds crew a few minutes to gather the beer cans and other debris. The game resumed. No problem. It’s all good in the ATL. If I’m the owners of the Braves or the mayor of Atlanta, I’m embarrassed. The entire country was watching, and your fans looked like a bunch of sore losers. 

Are we that wrapped up in our team’s fate that we have to resort to violence to express ourselves? And it’s not just Major League Baseball. It’s the NFL, NBA and NHL. Fans everywhere are acting like complete idiots when things don’t go their way.

It almost feels like some fans are bringing personal problems to the stadium. Things aren’t going right for me personally, so I’ll go to the game and curse out the referee or slap the guy sitting next to me because he’s wearing the opposing team’s jersey. I had a bad day, so I’ll unleash my aggression at the game tonight. Whoever is in my way better look out!

I’ve seen parents with a look of horror on their faces when attending the game with a son or daughter and the drunken fans around them begun cursing and screaming. Not much those parents can do, except whisper in their kid’s ear that this is the wrong way to express yourself at the game.

Now, I understand it’s your right to scream at the ref or ump if you disagree with a call. That’s fine. But do you really have to curse him out? Do you really have to use four-letter words to express yourself? Have you noticed that 6-year-old girl sitting nearby who’s looking at you and wondering why you’re acting this way? Probably not, because you’re on your ninth beer and counting.

Stadium security is a joke and we all know it. Sure, they’ll eject the guy who gets into a drunken fight with another fan. But they’ll miss the other 15 fights in the stands. We can’t blame stadium security. Blame the owner for hiring only a handful of men and women who wear bright yellow jackets with “Security” splashed across the back. Blame the owner for only hiring a few off-duty city police officers to patrol the arena.

I often wonder what the owner is thinking when he’s sitting on his throne in the owner’s box and the fans begin chanting an expletive that sweeps across the stadium or arena like a tsunami. Is he proud that some fans are spewing expletives that are being broadcast nationally by CBS, NBC, ABC, TNT, TBS or Fox Sports? Good time to be an owner?  Probably not.

We all have the right to yell at the ref or ump. We paid the admission fee and should be allowed to voice our disapproval. We don’t have the right to use offensive language. We don’t have the right to throw things from the stands.

Before you begin trashing me, understand I’m not directing this column at all sports fans across the country and around the world. By and large, most of us respect the games and those who are seated around us. A lot of us care about what youngsters hear at the games. A lot of us simply want to cheer and boo in a respectful manner.

You think I’m overreacting? Maybe. Maybe not. Critics might say nothing happened as a result of the fans showering debris onto Turner Field. They might say the umps weren’t injured. No harm. No problem. Well, that’s the easy way out.

One day, we’ll have to deal with the escalating problem of unruly fans at sporting events. One day, we’ll have to develop a strong solution to the knuckleheads who think they’re above the law when they come to games. One day, we’ll have to address the issue of drunken fans who offend everyone in sight at the game. One day, we’ll act more civil towards each other and game officials. Hopefully.

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Atlanta Braves: Standing Pat May Be Braves’ Best Option

The Atlanta Braves are one of the hottest teams in baseball right now, having won nine of their last 10 games.

And, they’ve done it with a combination of pitching and hitting.

With their recent success, and the early-season questions of needing to acquire another outfielder to take the place of Martin Prado, I’m wondering if it’s best for the Braves to stand pat with their lineup.

Currently, I believe the Braves don’t have to make a move since the offense and defense are performing well.

After an offseason in which they tried to trade away Prado and pitcher Jair Jurrjens, the Braves saw nothing interesting on the trade front, bringing both back for this season.

This alone caused crying among Braves’ fans who felt that general manager Frank Wren needed to make a move to improve the lineup.

With the 0-4 start, many were sitting back saying the same things due to the lack of offense.

Then, the bats came alive in the fifth game of the season against the Astros. Since then, nothing has been different at the plate, with the Braves getting the best of opponents’ pitchers.

Those fans who were calling for a move to be made have been silenced and the offense is clicking. And, there’s an old saying that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Well, it’s not broke right now, so there’s no reason to fix it.

Sure, it would be nice if Dan Uggla could display more power, but we all know he struggles at the beginning of the season.

It would also be nice if Chipper Jones could stay healthy and be in the lineup more than he has, but Juan Francisco hasn’t been a disappointment in his place, so there should really be no complaints there. Although, there is no arguing that Jones is a lot better than Francisco.

At some point before the trading deadline or during the offseason, this subject is going to be approached again.

And, eventually, there’s going to be a move that has to be made because guys like Jurrjens and Prado aren’t going to be under contract much longer. Tim Hudson is also getting up there in age, and guys like Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado can’t stay in the minor leagues that much longer.

Sure, Delgado is in the Braves’ rotation right now, but will be sent back to Triple-A once Hudson gets back. But you can’t keep those guys from the big leagues that much longer. They’ve earned big-league opportunities.

So, the lineup and rotation are going to have to be addressed at some point. But now is not the time.

Now is the time to go with what is working, and if that keeps certain guys out of the lineup or rotation, then that’s what it means.

One thing is for sure, the trading deadline and this offseason will be very interesting.

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Atlanta Braves: Chipper Jones Says He Was "Kidding Around" About Retirement

A day after Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Chipper Jones had said “I don’t know if I can make it through this year,” Jones has said he has no immediate intentions of hanging it up.  

On Tuesday, Chipper told Mark Bowman of MLB.com that “it was tongue and cheek. I was kidding. I just got done playing eight innings with three at-bats. I was a little tired. I wasn’t by any means suggesting I couldn’t make it through the season. If I didn’t think that I could, I wouldn’t be out there.”

Jones apparently did not make his comments directly to the Braves beat writer and says that, though O’Brien has his direct number, he never called to confirm the quotes or look further into the issue. This according to a series of tweets by Chris Dimino (@chrisdimino), who covers the Braves for Atlanta’s 790 The Zone and has a close working relationship with Chipper. 

Chipper also told Mark Bowman that “if there was any question about whether I could make it through the season or not, I would not have come back [to play this year]. I will not only make it through tomorrow, I will make it through this season with no problem.”

The surefire Hall of Famer has had nagging injuries his entire career and has missed significant time throughout his time with the Braves. As he nears his 40th birthday and occupies a significant portion of the Braves’ payroll, it is easy to see how such a quote, joke or not, could be taken out of context.  


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Derek Lowe Arrested Wednesday Night for DUI

Braves right-handed starter Derek Lowe was arrested under suspicion for driving under the influence Wednesday night. Lowe was stopped around 10p.m by State Patrol on Peachtree Road at Ronson Road in Atlanta. After smelling a strong alcoholic odor, the officer conducted a field sobriety test; Lowe however refused to take the state-administered alcohol test. Lowe also received additional charges of reckless driving and failure to maintain lanes while allegedly racing another car according to Atlanta Law Enforcement.  Lowe’s Porsche was impounded and he was booked in the Atlanta City Jail.  The news comes at a bad time for Atlanta, who already has been plagued with bad press regarding the homo-phobic comments of pitching coach Roger McDowell.The Braves Organization has announced the situation would be assessed later today. 

He was released early this morning after posting bail of $2,944.CBS Atlanta News has released this video of Lowe exiting the Jail early this morning. 



—for more breaking news and in-game updates follow me on twitter @MLBeatWriter

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Chipper Jones’ Milestone Underscores Magnitude of 3,000 Hits

Larry Wayne Jones has been playing for the Atlanta Braves since 1993.  Set to turn 39 on April 24, the man you all know as “Chipper” is in his 18th season with the same club—that alone is noteworthy.

But on Friday, Jones added to his already impressive legacy by collecting a pair of hits to put his career total at 2,500.

Former manager Bobby Cox was in attendance, watching his club rough up the Phillies and starter Cliff Lee—all things considered, the night was just about perfect.  Jones agreed, saying afterward, “I couldn’t have scripted it better.”

Jones became the 93rd member of the 2,500-hit club and is only the ninth switch-hitter to achieve the feat.  He’s also three RBI away from 1,500, and upon reaching that milestone, Chipper will join Eddie Murray as the only switch-hitters with that kind of production.

But as impressive as the 2,500 hits are, my first thought was of the next plateau.

Chipper Jones has played in nearly 2,300 games while compiling a lifetime .306 batting average.  And it took him this long just to get to 2,500.  In order to reach the lofty mark of 3,000 hits, he’d have to play three more seasons at his current pace.

In short, his milestone highlights how difficult it really is to get to 3,000.

Jones has hit better than .320 in a season five different times.  His best batting year came in 2008 when he led the N.L. with a .364 average.  He’s eclipsed .300 a total of 10 times.  

It would be tough to find better numbers.  Yes, he’s missed some time to injury (perhaps 1,000 at-bats’ worth), but even if he was to have those back, he’d likely still be short of the 3,000 mark.

For such an accomplished hitter to still be so far from the historic mark makes me truly appreciate how incredible 3,000 hits really is.

In the modern game’s 110-year history, only 27 players have 3,000 or more hits.

None of this is meant to detract from what Chipper has done.  The guy has been a dependable fixture in Atlanta.  He was Rookie of the Year runner-up, won an MVP, was a six-time All-Star and will almost certainly be a Hall of Fame selection.

Jones is not only one of the game’s best switch-hitters, he’s also one of the best all-around third baseman in history.  As my Bleacher Report colleague Rich Stowe points out in this piece, Chipper will probably be among the all-time top three at the hot corner when all is said and done.

But pondering his greatness and his place in the game naturally leads to thoughts of other records by other greats.

That aside, congratulations to Jones.  Here’s to one more big year

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Chipper Jones: Hit No. 2,500 Has Guaranteed This Brave a Spot in Cooperstown

What more do you want from Chipper now? 

He now has the hits, he is a few RBI from 1,500, and he has the home runs. What makes these stats more special is that he is a switch hitter.

If, more like when, he reaches that 1,500 RBI mark, then he will be only the second switch hitter in baseball history to have that amount of RBI, as well as 2,500 hits.

Some people do not think he will get in because he doesn’t have 3,000 hits, or he hasn’t hit 500 HRs. But what he has done, I think, should easily get him in.

How many players have a lifetime .306 batting average and .405 OBP over 10 years? Not many, and those that do are, or will be, in the Hall of Fame. 

Plus, unlike many great players of the past 10 to 15 years, Chipper has never been caught in a scandal. He has always been a clean, honest player who uses his own athletic skill.

Others say that he has been too injured and unproductive in these past few years to make it in the HOF. So? Many baseball greats tail off towards the end of their careers. Plus, Chipper has hit at least ten home runs in his off years instead of hitting .200 and missing 100 games.

Another factor that makes Chipper a special player is that he has played for the same team for his entire 17-year career. Once again, what other offensive players of his magnitude have done that?

He has been such a valuable player for the Braves. He has been their offensive masterpiece during these 17 years. He has been a consistent, reliable, and an overall solid player for Atlanta.

In fact, he was and is so consistent that he tied the record for 14 consecutive 20-plus HRs to start his career. The fact that only he and fellow Brave and switch hitter Eddie Mathews are the only ones that have done that is astounding. 

To cap off all of the great accolades for Chipper, he is the only switch-hitter in MLB history to have a career batting average above .300 and have more than 400 HRs. 

His career is not over, and his numbers could get even better. He already is currently hitting .345 for this season with six RBI. 

Even if he decided to retire last year, he still would deserve to be in the hall of fame. But now it is almost irrefutable that he deserves to make the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

What more do want from Chipper now?

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MLB Opening Day: Bob Feller and the 10 Most Amazing Opening Day Performances

On Thursday, March 31, baseball will make its long-awaited return with its traditional Opening Day.  It will be a day when fans just sit back, relax and enjoy the game before the divisional rivalries cause battles in the bleachers.  With the epic pitching matchup of CC Sabathia vs. Justin Verlander kicking off the season, it’s sure to be a great 2011.

In other games, careers will be made while others may end due to injury.  Fans will laugh, cry and cheer as their favorite players have (hopefully), amazing first games.

Some Opening Day performances have been good enough to be marked in the annals forever, including one notable one by Bob Feller (pictured at left).  To celebrate this long-standing tradition as well as Feller’s accomplishment, here are the top 10 most amazing Opening Day performances in history!

Begin Slideshow

Open Letter to Atlanta Braves GM Frank Wren

Dear Mr. Wren,

I had a toy when I was a kid, perhaps you had one just like it. It was an octagon-shaped toy with various different shaped holes on it that you would put plastic blocks into to help you learn shapes.

Looking back on it now, this toy was a lot like building a successful ball club. You have all these pieces available to you, but each hole would only accept one block so you have to make the right decisions.

For example, last year you did a pretty good job building the team, but there were some blocks that just wouldn’t fit.

You tried to sign a washed-up large circular block to play first base named Troy Glaus. You had to trade a talented young shortstop block named Yunel Escobar, because although his shape fit, it was always a pain in the ass to get into the hole.

Your third baseman block named Chipper, is very old and predictably broke last August. Your left fielder, Melky Cabrera, whom the Yankees made look like a pretty creamy block, was actually a carton of rotting milk, and your center fielder Nate McLouth was a cool triangle block, but your baby brother threw-up on it, so you couldn’t use it until your mom washed it.

This year, however, is looking up. Your mom bought you some new blocks and they appear to be fitting in just fine. You have a extremely powerful new second base block named Dan Uggla. A shiny new first base block named Freddie Freeman, that has seemingly unlimited potential, and should help cut down on all the errors by your powerful second base block.

Add to your newly mom-washed center field block looks like he’s in finally factory-restored form, circa 2008, your collection is starting to look like a fit.

Your starting pitching blocks don’t get the respect they deserve because the Phillies blocks cost a lot more, but they are still pretty darn good.

So, it appears you have 23 of the 25 blocks into the octagon, but there are still two more to go.

Rumor has it you lost the last bench block, so your trying to work a trade by offering up some pogs and a holographic Charizard Pokemon card, we’ll see how that works out.

The one block that really worries me is the rectangle known as Scott Proctor.

Proctor has pitched 10 2/3 innings this spring and has allowed 14 runs, six earned, including two home runs on 12 hits, and issuing nine walks.

By all accounts he should have been cut by now, but he is still hanging around worrying many Braves fans that you may be forcing him onto the roster.

I understand you are intrigued by the Proctor that once was, but he hasn’t had an ERA below 6.05 since 2007, and has only two seasons was his ERA below 4.00.

In a race that may come down to the final week of the season, every game counts and Proctor would put any lead at risk when he entered the game.

With just one oval pitching hole left to fill, please don’t try to force the Proctor rectangle into it, nothing good will come out of it.


Concerned Braves Fans

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