Turner’s loss is the Braves’ gain

For the first time since I became a fan, there will be no Braves games on a Turner station.

The 45 Braves games that have been televised locally on Turner Broadcasting’s Peachtree TV in recent seasons  will move to Fox Sports South and SportSouth this year.  …

Neither the Braves nor Fox would reveal terms of the deal. But the Braves acknowledged it will somewhat improve their local TV revenue, which has been a source of concern because of long-term contracts signed before a recent explosion in rights fees.

Alas, there will be more Chip.

Nine who got away: #6, Duane Ward

Duane Ward was exactly what the Braves needed in 1992 and ’93. Had he been in the ‘pen Atlanta would’ve likely won the World Series each year.

Then again, those Braves teams would’ve probably not reached the postseason if not for John Smoltz, acquired from Detroit for the same pitcher, Doyle Alexander, received in the 1986 trade that sent Ward to Toronto.

Still, it was hard not to grind your teeth watching Ward make short work of the Braves in the ’92 Series — a match-up essentially decided by bullpens. Toronto’s was outstanding. Atlanta’s was not.

Ward entered Game 2 in the 8th inning with the Blue Jays, down 1-0 in the series, trailing 4-3. Ward retired Brian Hunter on a grounder to third and struck out Jeff Blauser and Damon Berryhill swinging. A half inning later, Ed Sprague went deep off Jeff Reardon and the series shifted to Toronto, tied at one game apiece.

Game 3 was a near facsimile, with Ward entering a tie game in the 9th. After allowing a lead-off single to Sid Bream, Ward retired Blauser on a double play and once again struck out Berryhill swinging. Candy Maldonado singled in the winning run off Reardon in the bottom of the 9th, a loss that pretty much clinched Toronto’s championship.

Ward pitched in all 4 of Toronto’s wins, allowing no runs and one hit in 3-1/3, striking out 6. He was so good the Jays let Tom Henke walk after the season, and the New Mexico native rewarded  their confidence, allowing just 49 hits in 71-2/3 IP in ’93, striking out 97 and saving 45.

He likely would’ve finished higher on this list if not for a serious case of bicep tendinitis that ended his career at age 31.

Nine who got away: #7, Matt Harrison

Matt Harrison has as many victories the last two seasons as Tim Hudson. The Texas southpaw finished third in the AL in wins and pitcher WAR and seventh in ERA and IP last year. He sure would look good in the Braves rotation (Medlen, Harrison, Huddy, Minor …).

Hard to believe Harrison was considered the fourth-best prospect in the Teixeira deal. (Think Sean Gilmartin.)

Now the 27-year-old Durham native is the favorite to start on Opening Day for Texas.

Bad enough that Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz have fulfilled their potential with the Rangers. Harrison has greatly exceeded expectations, more than making up for Salty’s three lackluster seasons in Arlington.

That’s three All-Stars, none older than 27, for 157 games of Texshowmethemoney. The Braves could’ve salvaged the deal had they not traded Borasbot to the Angeles for Casey Kotchman; L.A. used the compensation pick received when the Yanks signed Tex to draft Mike Trout.

Duane’s pissed!

The Pirates unloaded off JV and David Carpenter, but Julio Teheran and Sean Gilmartin pitched two scoreless innings each. The two top contenders for the fifth spot in the rotation each struck out two and allowed only one baserunner apiece.

Jay Hey hit his first homer and B.J. and Schafer had two hit games. Otherwise, the bats remained flaccid and the Braves drop to 0-3.

Duane checks in

Fingers crossed!

Fingers crossed!

I see where Mr. Frank Spin, um I mean Wren, is telling Mark Bradford from the local outlet that everything is just fine. Might be the best team he’s put together. One question for Mr. Spin. Has he watched the first two ballgames? Yo, Frank. We’re 0-2, big man. Made a shitpot of errors yesterday that would make a tee-ball team look good.

I know. I can hear you guys now. “Duane, it’s spring training. Means nothing.”

That’s loser thinking. In opposed to that, here’s Duane thinking: Send a message. Make a statement. Get after their asses. NOW. This year it’s more important than ever. Chipper’s gone. It’s a new day. So far that day feels like a rainy, crappy Monday.

Sure there’s time to turn things around. But winners implement a mindtality right away. So Fredi needs to play his starters and win. I ain’t ready to say today is a must win, but it’s time to get off the goose egg.

Speaking of winning, some of you might be interested to know that your favorite Forest Parker — that’d be me — is turning things around. I joined a church down near Eagle’s Landing and Pastor Luke there is really inspirating me. He says anything’s possible in life or in the weight room with JC on your side. Brenda’s even thinking about giving me another chance. Keep your fingers crossed and pray for ole DFFP.

Go Braves!

Nine who got away: #8, Brook Jacoby

He’s the other guy in one of the worst trades in Braves history. Brett Butler, who won’t be included on this list because he no longer qualified as a rookie when he left Atlanta, gets all the attention, but Brook Jacoby was a solid third sacker with the Indians  for much of the 1980s, a period when the Braves had Ken Oberkfell stationed at the hot corner.

Jacoby was a two-time All-Star who averaged 15 homers, 67 RBI and a .739 OPS over a 11-year career. Obie had 15 homers for the Braves in five years.

We know the Braves would’ve been better with Jacoby and Butler, but imagine how bad the Indians would’ve been without them? In 1985, for instance, Jacoby finished second on the Tribe with 20 HR and 87 RBI while Butler hit .311 with an .808 OPS and 47 SB. Cleveland’s record: 60-102 — six games worse than the Braves.

Interestingly that ’85 Cleveland team, managed by longtime Braves coach Pat Corrales, was full of players with Atlanta connections. Jacoby and Butler’s teammates included Jerry Willard, Julio Franco, Otis Nixon, Jamie Easterly and another player yet to appear on our countdown of nine who got away.

More on him later.

Nine who got away: #9, Tommy Greene

The Braves have been judicious about which prospects they keep and which they trade (think Melvin Nieves). But there are exceptions.

This list includes players who still qualified as rookies after they left Atlanta.

9. Tommy Greene. Traded to Phils with Murph for Jeff Parrett. Trading Murph for scraps wasn’t the worst thing about Bobby’s last trade as GM. That would be including Greene in the deal. The former first round pick had two solid years in the Phils rotation before a spate of injuries ended his career at age 30. In 1991 and ’93 Greene was 29-11 with 9 CG, 4 SHO, an ERA in the low 3′s and a WHIP below 1.200.

 

Who will be this year’s Travis Wilson?

You may remember Travis Wilson, the New Zealander who, in 2001, hit over .400 in spring exhibitions, leading Bobby to effuse about the “special sound” made whenever the former softball star made contact. Alas, quoting CD, that sound was heard only in the Southern and International leagues from then on.

Every spring a player no one’s heard of exceeds expectations, battles for a roster spot then, usually, fades into Oblivion. But not always. For every 10 Wilsons or James Jurries’ there’s one Evan Gattis, last year’s breakout player.

The 2013 candidates include:

Daniel Rodriguez had mediocre numbers through his first five years in the Mexican League before emerging as a stud in 2012, winning 11 games with a 2.54 ERA and 135 K’s in 117 IP. But control has been a problem; he walked six in 7 IP at Gwinnett after being signed by the Braves. His only chance of making the big club would be a terrible spring by Teheran. The Braves can only hope he’ll prove a better investment than German Jimenez.

David Carpenter throws hard, and two years ago he struck out 29 in 27.2 IP with a 2.93 ERA in a late-season audition with the Astros. He could sneak his way into the ‘pen with a good spring and a few unexpected letdowns. David Hale is another hard-thrower who could ascend quickly if he improves his control (67 BB in 145 IP at Pearl).

Baseball fans probably remember Blake DeWitt, who had a decent rookie season with the Dodgers. In 2011 he hit .265 with a .718 OPS as a Cubs reserve, though injuries kept him out of action for much of last year. The Braves need a left-handed bat off the bench, but DeWitt’s career totals as a PH (.218 BA, .364 slugging) don’t bode well.

Todd Cunningham is a marginal prospect coming off his best season in the minors (.309 BA, .364 OBP, 24 SB). Odds are heavy against him making the team, but considering the competition for fifth OF/last spot on the bench includes Jose Constanza and Jordan Schafer, I wouldn’t count the 23-year-old switch-hitter out.

Ernesto Mejia would stand a better chance of making the team if he batted from the left side. Dude can go deep, but offers little with the glove and strikes out a lot. The battle for the final roster spot shapes up as a 3-man race, with Mejia probably in third place behind Constanza and Schafer.

The Nationals are a beast

Let’s not kid ourselves: The Nationals are the team to beat in the NL East. The Braves are worthy contenders, with few flaws. But as far as I can tell the Nationals have no weaknesses.

On offense, they’ve added Denard Span to bat lead-off and return talented backstop Wilson Ramos, who will compete with Kurt Suzuki — 25 RBI in 43 games w/ Washington — for playing time. Rochey, a lock for 25 HR and 90 RBI, is also back., Jayson Werth rebounded in 2012 and Ryan Zimmerman, who had a .945 OPS after the break, appears primed for a monster season.

Ian Desmond is coming off a monster year and may be the best SS in baseball. The line-up’s weakest link, 2B Danny Espinosa, hit 37 doubles, 17 HR and stole 20 bases.

And, of course, there’s Bryce Harper, who hit .330 with 7 HR and a 1.043 OPS in September.

The Braves line-up has the potential to be better, but not much.

As for the reserves, Washington wins in a landslide. Their bench features Ramos/Suzuki, Tyler Moore (10 HR in part-time duty), Roger Bernadina, Steve Lombardozzi and Chad Tracy. Ours: Reed Johnson, Chris Johnson/Juan Francisco and three guys (Janish/Pena, Laird, Constanza/Schafer) who offer the occasional single, if you’re lucky.

The Nats have the edge defensively, as well. Andrelton is easily the best fielder on either team, but the Nats are better at 3B, 2B and C while 1B is probably a wash. Both teams boast athletic outfields.

The Braves rotation is good, but Washington’s is better. If Medlen and Minor pitch like they did in the second half they can hang with Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, but that’s a tall order. Jordan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler and Dan Haren compare favorably to Huddy, Maholm and Teheran. Gonzalez may end up with a 50-game suspension, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Yes, the Braves have a superior bullpen, but with Soriano joining Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard the Nats are no slouch. Watch out for Christian Garcia, who was tough down the stretch and regularly hits triple digits on the radar gun. He’s also been mentioned as a candidate for the rotation if an opening arises. If pressed to name a flaw I’d point to their lack of  reliable late-innings southpaw — Sean Burnett signed with the Angels, leaving only discarded Pirate starter Zach Duke.

The Braves may well be the second best team in the NL, but the Nats are clearly the best team in either league. I’d put their over/under at 98 wins.

Mike Piazza is a whiny brat

I don’t know if Piazza is a cheater (probably) or gay (who cares?) — allegations he denies in his new book. But I now know that he’s an dimwitted asshole, based on this:

In the book, he blames iconic Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully for turning fans against him during the contract stalemate that preceded his trade to the Florida Marlins in 1998.

Piazza, who was eligible for free agency after the 1998 season, said he hoped to stay with the Dodgers but set a deadline of Feb. 15 to reach a new contract. In the book, Piazza wrote that Scully asked him about the deadline in a spring interview.

“He wasn’t happy about it,” Piazza wrote. “And Scully’s voice carried a great deal of authority in Los Angeles.” …

“The way the whole contract drama looked to them — many of whom were taking their cue from Scully — was that, by setting a deadline and insisting on so much money, I was demonstrating a conspicuous lack of loyalty to the ball club,” Piazza wrote. “I understood that.”

Piazza ripped the Dodgers in a 1998 opening day interview with The Times. In the book, he said that interview did not play well with the L.A. fans, and neither did the fact that he failed to drive in a run as the Dodgers opened the season with a four-game losing streak.

“On top of that, Vin Scully was crushing me,” Piazza wrote.

So many things wrong with this. First, Scully doesn’t rip players. It’s not his style. I lived in L.A. for nearly 7 years and am familiar with his approach.

Even if he had, Piazza is a moron for taking on Scully. Dodgers fans revere Vin the way Alabama fans look up to Bear Bryant.

I can recall only one other player criticizing Scully: Jeff Kent.

Enough said.

Hank on Prado

(via DOB)

“You hate to lose Prado. He was one of my (favorites). I mean, to me, I think you’ve got to go a long ways in order to beat him, to find somebody who can play all the positions as well as he plays them. To bring what he brings to the clubhouse, and the way he plays the game. To us, we needed a ballplayer and we went out and got one, and it cost us dearly. Because this kid can truly play ball. And he’s a good kid in the clubhouse. He’s going to be missed and I wish him the best of luck. I hope he goes there and hits .400.”

Amen.

I plan on attending one of the games June 28-30 when the D’backs come to town to show Martin how much this Braves fan appreciated him. Hopefully he gets the standing O he deserves.

Schafer, Pastornicky only Braves yet to report

Judging by Fredi’s comments the former prospects would be advised to go apartment hunting in Buford.

“We’re waiting for [Pastornicky] again this year,” Gonzalez said, in a good-natured tone that nonetheless sent a message. “Schafer probably has a tough time getting travel arrangements. He’s another one I’m going to grab. He only lives two exits up the road here; I haven’t seen him yet.

“I didn’t know he signed a deal with Frank – he’s got a five-year deal, guarantee to play one of the three outfield spots.”

 

lacorte

The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #1-4, Frank LaCorte

S0 20 pitchers was a bit ambitious. Life’s too short to waste it parsing the stats of Jim Panther and Randy O’Neal.

Besides, Frank LaCorte was so bad he deserves four spots. While this list wasn’t completed in order of suckitude, no Braves pitcher sucked more than LaCorte, though you could make a case for Kevin Coffman.

His 1977 numbers are almost unbelievable: 1-8, 11.68 ERA, 37 IP, 67 H, 29 BB, 2.595 WHIP.

LaCorte, the fifth pitcher from the ’77 squad to make the list, appeared in 14 games that year, half as a starter. He lost 6 of those 7 starts with an 11.57 ERA. His ERA in relief: 11.91.

Left-handed hitters batted .404 against LaCorte; righties, .389. He was 0-4 at Fulco with a 15.16 ERA.

LaCorte’s only win came in the season’s fourth game — his first — a 7-6 decision over the Dodgers.

The Braves traded him in 1979 to the Astros for Bo McLaughlin. LaCorte’s final Braves numbers: 4-24, 6.23 ERA, 1.631 WHIP.

He actually turned into a decent reliever with the ‘Stros, winning 8 and saving 11 for the 1980 NL West champions. But he’ll always be remembered as the worst hurler to ever toe the slab on Capitol Ave.

Drug test PECOTA

Baseball Prospectus’ 2013 PECOTA projections are a joke, and not just because they view the Braves as a .500 team.

According to BP, the Yankees will win four more games than the Nats. Boston will win four more than the Braves, projects BP, and will finish ahead of the Jays and Rays.

The Braves, at 82-80, are just two games better than the Mets, Phils and Indians (and that was before the Michael Bourn signing). And only 88 wins for the Nats? Seriously?

That’s about as likely as the Yankees winning 92.

National League

East

  1. Washington Nationals – 88-74
  2. Atlanta Braves – 82-80
  3. New York Mets – 80-82
  4. Philadelphia Phillies – 80-82
  5. Miami Marlins – 66-96

Central

  1. Cincinnati Reds – 92-70
  2. St. Louis Cardinals – 84-78
  3. Milwaukee Brewers – 79-83
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates – 79-83
  5. Chicago Cubs – 77-85

West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers – 93-69
  2. San Francisco Giants – 85-77
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks – 84-78
  4. San Diego Padres – 76-86
  5. Colorado Rockies – 72-90

American League

East

  1. New York Yankees – 92-70
  2. Boston Red Sox – 86-76
  3. Tampa Bay Rays – 86-76
  4. Toronto Blue Jays – 85-77
  5. Baltimore Orioles – 74-88

Central

  1. Detroit Tigers – 92-70
  2. Cleveland Indians – 80-82
  3. Chicago White Sox – 77-85
  4. Kansas City Royals – 76-86
  5. Minnesota Twins – 66-96

West

  1. Los Angeles Angels – 90-72
  2. Texas Rangers – 87-75
  3. Oakland Athletics – 83-79
  4. Seattle Mariners – 79-83
  5. Houston Astros – 63-99
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The 20 worst A-Braves pitchers: #5, Jeff Parrett

Bobby’s last major move as Braves GM was his worst, though strangely it worked out for the best. Murph had been on the trading block for a year, and at one point Bobby was near a deal with the Mets that would’ve brought Lenny Dykstra, Howard Johnson and Rick Aguilera to Atlanta. It would’ve been a fantastic haul but, had it happened, TP and Otis would’ve likely never been Braves.

Instead JS’ predecessor sent Murph and Tommy Greene to the Phils for Jeff Parrett, Victor Rosario and Jim Vatcher. Murph was pretty much done but Greene had two above-average seasons as a Phils starter.

Parrett, a decent set-up reliever with the Expos and Phils, wasn’t even competent in Atlanta, allowing 58 hits and walking 31 in 48-1/3 IP. He started the ’91 season with the eventual NL champs but spent most of the year in Richmond. He was released in December of that year and resurfaced in Oakland, where he won 9 games with a 3.02 ERA.

Mickey_Mahler (1)

The 20 worst A-Braves pitcher: #6, Mickey Mahler

Rick’s brother is the fourth member of the ’77 Braves to make our list. Though Rick had the better career, Mickey, a hard-throwing southpaw with a 12-6 curve, was the more highly regarded of the siblings.

He debuted with the Braves in ’77 following the second no-hitter of his minor league career. He started just four games that year for the parent club and began the ’78 season in the bullpen. After 16 scoreless innings as a reliever, Mickey was inserted into the rotation.

His fourth start was a gem. Mahler went the distance against the Cards, allowing one run, walking none and striking out 9. He entered the All-Star break with a 2.82 ERA after outdueling Gaylord Perry, that year’s NL Cy Young Award winner, on July 7.

Mickey won only once more that year, losing his last nine starts and finishing third in the NL in wild pitches. It was a sign of things to come.

In 1979, his final year in Atlanta, Mahler posted an ugly 5.85 ERA and 1.700 WHIP. He was released the following spring.

Mickey’s final tally as a Brave: 10-24 with a 5.27 ERA and 1.576 WHIP.