Remembering the day I was a cocky Braves fan

“Congratulations on winning the Series,” my USC classmate, a Yankees fan, told me 17 years ago tonight.

The Braves, behind Mad Dog and Wohlers, had just shut out the Yankees  to take a 2-0 series lead with three games to follow at Fulco. It was the last time I felt complete confidence that my team was the best in the sport.

How could you not feel cocky? Counting the last two games of the NLCS, the Braves had outscored opponents 34-2. Not only did we have the best pitching in baseball, we had the game’s next young star,19-year-old Andruw Jones, who homered twice the night before.

Needless to say the Braves haven’t won a World Series game since. If you had told me that 17 years ago I would’ve laughed in your face.

Pride of the Yankees

Mariano Rivera: Class act. 

As part of his last lap around baseball stadiums, Rivera is doing a “farewell tour.” It’s not like the Cher farewell tour, where people pay 100 bucks to come bask in celebrity. It’s Rivera talking to people behind the scenes in each park — the stadium employees, the grounds crew, the fans, the not-always-seen cogs in the baseball experience. It’s a meet-and-greet with the ordinary folks, the people behind the baseball stars. …

“I appreciate what you guys do,” Rivera said. “We see mostly what goes on when we’re on the field and not what’s going on behind the scenes. I wanted to say thank you for everything that you guys do, for the love and passion you have for your team. It doesn’t matter if you are a Yankee fan or not. You are a baseball fan.”

In Cleveland, one of the people he met was John Adams, the fan who has been beating a drum at Indians games for 40 years. Rivera answered questions, telling folks that former Seattle Mariner Edgar Martinez was the toughest hitter he faced and recalling memories of facing the dangerous Indians teams of the 1990s.

20 years ago, the Bravos signed the best pitcher we’ll ever see

“This one hurts,” said Gene Michael, the general manager of the Yankees, who did manage to trade for Jim Abbott on Sunday. “He’s the best one out there. I never thought I could say this. But he’s a steal at $28 million. He’s a steal.”

Needless to say, Stick was right.

I remember where I was when Mad Dog signed: Atkins Park on Highland Ave., with CD. We were stunned, because, as you recall, JS liked to operate under the radar, and Barry Bonds was his supposed target.

Instead, the premier rotation in baseball got better, and for $6 million less than the Yankees offered. Maddux wanted to win, and in December 1992 the Braves afforded him the best opportunity.

How times have changed.

No to Nick Swisher

The Braves are among six teams pursuing Nick Swisher at a starting price of three years and $11-to-$13 million per, reports Jon Heyman. I wouldn’t pay that, and I suspect he’ll get more.

Stat geeks will pillory me for this, but here’s why I’m wary of Swisher, 32 on Opening Day: 1.) He would be bad for team chemistry and 2.) He’s terrible in the clutch.

Only A-Rod is phonier, according to an SI poll of 232 players. And his postseason numbers are abysmal: 46 games, 154 AB, .169 BA, .283 OBP, .305 slugging percentage. We’ve seen enough of that in Atlanta. (Plus, he’s married to a Scientologist.)

There’s a reason the Yankees aren’t showing much interest in Swisher, and they can afford him.

The Braves can’t afford to spend $35 to $40 million next season on Swisher and Dan Uggla.