FW poised to land Victorino?

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-4PXaEtIUUsE/UBBtdL3T76I/AAAAAAAACdI/cpIH6d1y6MI/s1600/Shane-Victorino.jpegWith Hanson gone, it’s unlikely the Braves will deal Teheran or Delgado. So they appear set to import another free agent to fill the void in LF — ideally, a player who can lead off — instead of pursing a trade.

Enter Shane Victorino. The switch hitter, who turned 32 today, is a plus defender, accomplished base stealer (39 SB in 2012, a career best) and he doesn’t strike out a lot, averaging 75 K’s a year. Then there’s his .333 BA and .883 OPS in 60 games at The Ted.

FW could probably sign him for three years and $24-to-$27 million. There are some drawbacks to signing Victorino, notably his .320 career OBP when batting first, but I doubt the Braves can do much better at this point.

Hanson to Angels for reliever

According to Heyman, the Braves dealt Hanson to the Orange County LA Angels for a relief pitcher named Jordan Walden. I know nothing about Walden, but he had 32 saves in 2011 and was hurt part of last season.

Sounds like a trade of an out-of-whack starter for a similarly troubled reliever, maybe. The Braves save a chunk of money, which presumably — we hope — will be spent on a left fielder or third baseman. We shall see.

UPDATE: O’Brien types that the deal frees $4 million to chase a left fielder, and that “is the reason for the deal.”

Losing Hanson does no harm. Amazing how far his stock fell, though, from one of baseball’s top young starters 3-4 years ago to this.

Did FW spend more than he had to for Upton?

Now we know why Upton signed so fast.

Assuming the Phils were, as reported, Upton’s other major suitor, how did the Braves end up paying $20 million more?

Did Wren just get snookered by an agent, a la the Derek Lowe signing? MAJOR blunder if so.

B.J. and beyond

The good, the bad and what this means for 2013.

  • Jim Bowden likes the move. That’s worrisome.
  • Upton whiffs. A lot. But so did Michael Bourn. Upton is not Bourn’s equal as a defender, but he ain’t bad.
  • Speaking of Bourn, he’s not coming back.
  • Upton will be 33 when his contract ends. Derek Lowe was 36 when he signed with the Braves.
  • Nick Swisher won’t be house-hunting in Atlanta. Be thankful.
  • Unlike Swisher, Upton (7 HR, 18 RBI and 9 SB in 25 postseason games) delivers in October.
  • Bossman Jr., who had a career-worst .298 OBP in 2012, won’t hit lead-off. FW has already said as much.
  • Most batters show more patience as they age. Not Upton. In his first full season with the Rays (his best), Upton posted a .386 OBP.
  • Conversely, Upton’s power has risen every year since 2008.
  • So who bats lead-off? Shane Victornio?? Not likely.
  • Don’t expect any other major free agent signings, since FW has an estimated $10 million left in the kitty. Besides, they can do better.
  • Trade candidates include the usual suspects: Denard Span and Dexter Fowler. Coco Crisp is another possibility, as he appears to be the odd man out of the A’s outfield after the Chris Young acquisition.
  • I’d keep the phone lines open with our old pal Dayton. Wil Myers may be wishful thinking, but Alex Gordon, signed through 2015, has surfaced in trade rumors. He has a .373 OBP, 96 doubles and 37 homers since 2011,  mostly out of the lead-off spot. Gordon has three years and $31.5 million remaining on his contract with a team option in 2016, so the Braves can afford him. Barely. A package including Julio Teheran and Nick Ahmed might do it.
  • Bet on Span. The Twins need what the Braves have — pitching, and Span is signed for two more years with a team option in 2015.

Projected 2013 line-up:

  • Span
  • Prado
  • Jay Hey
  • Freddie
  • Upton
  • McCann
  • Uggla
  • Simmons

I can live with that.

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The 20 worst A-Braves players: #12 Zolio Versalles

Before German Jimenez and Julio Franco, there was Zolio Versalles. Like the others, he was signed out of the Mexican League. Unlike Franco, he had nothing left.

Which is surprising, since he was only 31 when the Braves acquired him early in the 1971 season. His resume included an MVP and 2 Gold Gloves, but Versalles was a shadow of his former self by the time he got to Atlanta, thanks in part to a back injury suffered while with the Dodgers.

He batted just .191 in 194 AB with a paltry .233 OBP. Defensively, he was just as bad, committing 13 errors in 52 games at SS and 3B. He was released in August, ending his MLB career.

According to Wikipedia, Versalles, who never learned English, struggled after baseball.

Holding a series of menial jobs, he lost his house to foreclosure and was eventually forced to sell his MVP trophy, his All-Star rings and his Gold Gloves. In addition to his back problems he suffered two heart attacks, underwent stomach surgery and was sustained solely by disability and Social Security payments.

Braves TV deal worse than we thought

The LA Times reports the Dodgers will receive $240 to $280 million per year for local broadcasting rights.

According to DOB, the Braves take in roughly $20-to-$25 million annually from their local TV rights — a deal Jeff Passan calls “the sport’s worst television contract,” negotiated as “a term of its sale” from Time Warner to Liberty Media.

A sale that was approved by Hapless Bud. Remember where to direct the blame when Jay Hey, Freddie and Med Dog are playing elsewhere a few years from now.

The deal doesn’t expire for another 20 years. God knows what shape the Braves will be in then.

 

Overpay for Upton or Fowler?

That’s the question facing the Braves. Once Upton signs the Rockies will expect to get more for their talented center fielder. Same goes for the Twins and Denard Span.

I’m inclined to overpay for Upton, and reportedly the Braves feel the same way. The Phils have more money, but FW seems especially determined to ink the Tampa flychaser.

He’ll be a Brave by week’s end.

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The 20 worst A-Braves players: #13 Jesse Garcia

Hard to imagine why the Braves and Orioles felt the need to swap Steve Sisco and Jesse Garcia, two players destined to be minor league journeymen.

You may have forgotten about Garcia, who played parts of four seasons with the Braves. He surpassed 100 AB’s just once, in 2004, Jesse’s last in Atlanta. That year Garcia drew his first, and only, walk as a Brave. That’s right: in 191 AB’s Garcia walked ONCE — not a good idea when you’re a career .216 hitter with no power.

He wasn’t that slick a fielder, either, committing 7 errors in ’04 in just 39 games. Garcia ended his Braves career with a negative WAR on offense AND defense.

erniewhitt

The 20 worst A-Braves players: #14 Ernie Whitt

Guarantees always backfired when made by a member of the pre-’91 Braves. Chuck Tanner once promised a parade down Peachtree. When he was fired, maybe.

After he was acquired from the Blue Jays for assorted flotsam, Ernie Whitt told the local organ that Toronto GM Pat Gillick would regret the trade.

“They got caught up in my being 37 years old, ” claimed Whitt, who expects to catch 130 games (in 1990). “You don’t look at age; you look at production. I’m going to drive in 70 runs, hit my 15 home runs and hit .260. You can go to the bank on it.”

Good thing he was wrong about the 130 games. The 67 he appeared in were bad enough.

Whitt likewise fell short on his other predictions, finishing with a .172 BA, 2 HR and 10 RBI.

At least he was consistent.

(batting average)

  • HOME: .162
  • ROAD: .183
  • FIRST HALF: .169
  • SECOND HALF: .174
  • RISP: .134
  • BASES EMPTY: .183

Whitt saved his worst for two-out situations, finishing just above the Corky Miller line, at .103.

But he was a good backstop, right?

Not on Aug. 30.

(via the local organ)

Hardly a speed team, the Dodgers took a 4-2 lead on Kirk Gibson’s two-run homer and by working over catcher Ernie Whitt for a season-high five stolen bases, including two double steals, in the first four innings.

Whitt’s Braves career would be over two months later. After signing with the Orioles he guaranteed he’d hit at least .180.

pat_rockett_autograph

The 20 worst A-Braves players: #15 Pat Rockett

Pat Rockett, a San Antonio high school sports legend and standout wide receiver, was heavily recruited by the Texas Longhorns. Unfortunately, he decided to pursue baseball instead. Bummer. Had he chosen football the Braves might have used the 10th overall pick in the 1973 amateur draft on Eddie Murray or Fred Lynn, each of whom was selected behind Rockett. 

According to a 1988 article in the local organ chronicling what had been the team’s sorry history at SS, Rockett rarely hustled and balked at instruction, refusing to play winter ball.

“He just didn’t have the heart to play, ” longtime scouting director Paul Snyder said. “He didn’t work at it. He just didn’t want to do those things to make himself a better player.”

Nevertheless a franchise starved for stars hyped Rockett as the next big thing, tapping the 22-year-old as its starting SS in 1977. It quickly became clear that the hype was unwarranted, as Rockett hit a punchless .254 while committing 23 errors in 84 games. He was even worse in ’78, batting .141 in 142 AB, good for a .366 OPS. Paul Maholm, Med Dog, Huddy, Randall Delgado and Brandon Beachy all had a better OPS in 2012 than Rockett produced 34 years ago.

Appropriately, Rockett was pinch hit for in his final major league game. By Darrel Chaney, another candidate for this list. Rockett spent the entire ’79 season at Richmond, hitting .223.

That offseason, he was part of a package sent to Toronto in exchange for Chris Chambliss. Rockett was out of baseball before his 26th birthday.

More evidence Wil Myers is available

Jeff Passan reports :

In their search for a top-of-the-rotation starter, the Royals have dangled outfielder Wil Myers, the consensus 2012 minor league player of the year, two sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The right-handed hitting Myers split last year between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, batting .314 with 37 homers and a .987 OPS. The converted catcher saw action at 3B and CF in 2012 but projects as a corner outfielder.

To repeat: I’d trade Teheran and Delgado to get him.

 

I’m thankful Stan Kasten called Jerry Reinsdorf in 1990

Via the Chicago Tribune, circa 1990:

For weeks it had seemed a foregone conclusion that Larry Himes would be named the general manager of the Atlanta Braves soon after the season. In fact, the Braves reportedly came within hours of calling a press conference to announce the selection of Himes a week ago. …

A source in Atlanta said Kasten changed his mind after speaking to Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, a charge Reinsdorf hotly denied.

Kasten ended up choosing JS, the best decision he ever made. Himes, formerly the White Sox GM, ended up taking the same job with the Cubs, where he would soon do the Braves a gigantic favor.

And how lamentable is the departure of Maddux? One day you have a Cy Young winner, and the next you don’t.

“Let’s just examine how this worked out,” Himes says. Isn’t it always the way? I knew how many games Maddux had won and he doesn’t ask. 20.

Himes forms with his hands an imaginary pile of money. This was Maddux’s money. Maddux didn’t take it in time. Now this money belongs to Jose Guzman and Dan Plesac and Greg Hibbard and Randy Myers.

“If this had been a  trade,” Himes swears, “I would have had to take it.”

Guzman and Hibbard combined ERA was roughly two runs higher than Mad Dog’s in ’93. By ’95 their careers were over. Dan Plesac had a 4.68 ERA in two seasons with the Little Bears, saving one game. Randy Myers had three solid seasons on the North Side but left for Baltimore after the ’95 season.

Heckuva trade, Larry.

*Among the other contenders for the Braves GM post in 1990? Don Sutton. Seriously.

He would’ve been better than Himes.

omar-moreno-autographed-baseball-card-atlanta-braves-1987-topps-214_c04e6a1559ec003276ac6316288ea306

The 20 worst A-Braves players: #16 Omar Moreno

When your game is built on speed and you manage but one SB in 58 games, it’s time to look for another line of work.

Fortunately for Omar Moreno, the ’86 Braves were desperate and their manager thought it was still 1979.

Chuck  Tanner begged GM Bobby Cox to sign Moreno to a minor league contract prior to Spring Training, and Bobby acquiesced. On a team bereft of speed, the ex-Pirate might have some value off the bench.

Instead, he ended up starting 78 games, mostly in RF, where he committed five errors. He did lead the Braves with 17 steals, though he was caught 16 times. Moreno wasn’t on base much, hitting .234 and walking 21 times, good for a .276 OBP.

As a washed-up 33-year-old who was once pretty decent , Omar was in many ways the face of the ’86 Braves.

Be thankful it’s not 1986, Braves fans.

bradk

The 20 worst A-Braves players: #17 Brad Komminsk

There was considerable excitement about Brad Komminsk‘s arrival, and why not. The 22-year-old dominated Triple-A pitching in 1983, batting .334 with 24 HR, 26 SB, 78 BB and only 70K’s, good for a 1.029 OPS. He was as can’t miss as they come.

But miss he did. Badly. He hit just .203 in ’84 with a .592 OPS and wasn’t much better in ’85, batting a punchless .227. He spent most of ’86 at Richmond, where he struggled mightily before mercifully being dealt to Milwaukee for Dion James (a coup, in retrospect).

Komminsk ended up with 642 AB’s as a Brave, equivalent to one full season, and hit .217 with 12 HR, a .297 OBP and .319 slugging percentage. He defines “bust.”

The Used Car Salesman shirks culpability in selling Miami $645 million lemon

Jeffrey Loria is a worthy villain, no doubt, but the 145 remaining Marlins fans should direct their venom towards Bud Selig. Unfortunately, the media continues  to give the commissioner a pass; instead, they laud Selig’s stewardship. George F. Will doing his best Dick Morris, actually wrote this three years ago;

(S)erious baseball fans argue about everything–the best hitter, the best World Series, the best left-handed catcher from northeast South Dakota. But they do not argue about who has been the best commissioner. That title goes to the ninth commissioner–Selig.

Bud reinforces the dumb blond stereotype

Guess he forgot about the canceled World Series, the Steroids Era, the attempted contraction of the Twins at the behest of billionaire Bud-dy Carl Pohlad, Frank McCourt, The Baseball Network (which regionalized playoff coverage), the All-Star tie …

And there’s this: In ’92, when Bud became commissioner — thus setting the stage for George W. Bush’s political career — more than 30 million people watched the World Series. This year, only 12.7 million tuned in to the Fall Classic. Yet Bud boasts of a Golden Age. A supplicant media barely questions the commish’s clueless bravado. Baseball is swimming in cash, they opine, giving Bud the credit even though the sport’s largesse is due largely to the value advertisers now place on live events. Even Atlanta Spirit couldn’t fuck that up.

Fortunately, there a few scribes who refuse to swallow Bud’s tripe — notably Yahoo! Sports columnist Jeff Passan. His latest column, on Selig’s culpability in the Marlins fiasco, is a must-read.

Passan’s well-researched piece includes these telling excerpts from a 2002 lawsuit filed by the former owners of the Expos.

Selig, the complaint stated, “had secretly determined that major league baseball in Montreal should be eliminated” and went along with Loria’s plan to stop televising games and broadcasting them on radio in English. [Team president and Loria stooge David) Samson ended complimentary tickets for sponsors. And through a variety of cash calls, on which the minority owners refused to act because they disagreed with the franchise’s direction, Loria nearly quadrupled his stake in the franchise, allowing him to pull off the deal that eventually netted him the Marlins.

MLB bought the Expos for $120 million and gave Loria a $38.5 million interest-free loan. Loria, in turn, purchased the Marlins for $158.5 million. And the Marlins’ owner, John Henry, led a consortium to obtain the Boston Red Sox. It was good-ol’-boys glad-handing at its finest, and the consequences for the Expos were dire.

While Loria inherited a Marlins team that would win the 2003 World Series, MLB was sabotaging the Expos worse than the lawsuit imagined. The league sent the Expos to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for 22 “home” games. Nonetheless, they were tied for the wild-card lead on Aug. 28. MLB then refused to allow the Expos any September call-ups, leaving them wildly short-handed compared to their opponents and exacerbating their fade.

In November 2004, an arbitration panel ruled in favor of Loria, Samson and Selig, saying the plaintiffs’ “sense of betrayal, even if justified, doesn’t amount to fraud.” That, of course, did nothing to allay their greatest fear coming true six weeks earlier.

On the final day of the 2004 season, Selig announced the Expos would move to Washington, D.C.

Passan concludes:

How, after 13 years of desecrating two franchises, Loria and Samson continue to exist as owners rests squarely on Selig. He is supposed to be the gatekeeper, the protector, the guardian. And instead, he chooses to be the co-conspirator in the biggest fraud baseball knows.

Serious baseball fans argue about everything, but they do not argue about who has been the worst commissioner. That title goes to the ninth commissioner — the aptly monikered Used Car Salesman.

Bob_Uecker_(1967_Atlanta_Braves)_5

The 20 worst A-Braves players: #18 Bob Uecker

There’s a reason Bob Uecker is self-deprecating. He really, really sucked — especially as an Atlanta Brave.

Uecker played his first and last major league games with the franchise, debuting as a Milwaukee Brave in 1962. He was re-acquired in June 1967 from the Phillies to be Joe Torre’s back-up but ended up starting 48 games, often as Knucksie’s personal catcher. Not that he was any good at it.

The Miller Lite pitchman led NL catchers in errors (11) and passed balls (27 , 25 as a Brave) despite only 59 starts. That’s more passed balls than Eddie Perez and Charlie O’Brien allowed in their careers.

Uecker was equally inept at the plate, managing but 23 hits (18 singles) in 158 Atlanta AB’s, striking out 51 times for a .146 BA. The only thing worse than his .236 OBP was a pitcher-like .215 slugging percentage. Mercifully, the Braves released Uecker four days after the season concluded. I’m surprised it took that long.

NOTE: Not ranked in order; Uecker may well be the worst of the worst. He certainly won’t be the last catcher to make out list.