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Reality check

It’s not final, but this is likely to be the Braves’ rotation on Opening Day:

Teheran, Wisler, Norris, Chacin, W. Perez

Manny Banuelos couldn’t crack 90 MPH in his first outing. Aaron Blair has been inconsistent. And Folty has yet to pitch.

That rotation will face a brutal April schedule: two series against the Nats and one each against the Cards, Dodgers, Mets, Red Sox and Cubs.

It shapes up to be the worst opening month since 1990, when the Braves lost 13 of their first 15 games.

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#Braves, fans may have forgotten Francoeur’s entitlement act, but Rowland hasn’t

If he makes the team, and I fear he will, Jeff Francoeur will likely be greeted with a bigger ovation than any of his Brave teammates.

Are Braves fans really that stupid? Unfortunately, a lot of them are.

Forget that Francoeur was responsible for some of the worst AB’s of any Brave not named Rick Camp. He’s a great teammate, we’re told, a high character guy with a great make-up.

Maybe he’s been humbled, but as a Brave Francoeur generally acted like an entitled brat who never took responsibility for being bad at baseball.

Following his demotion to the minors in 2008, the Lilburn Flash in the Pan told the AJC, “This has really put a damper on my relationship with the Atlanta Braves.

“I love playing for the city, I love playing for the fans and always have,” said Francoeur, a graduate of Parkview High School in Lilburn. “But I’m disappointed with the decision and how the whole process went down.”

He was batting .234 at the time with a .198 BA with RISP.

A year later, as his struggles continued, we learned that Francoeur had sought help from Texas Rangers batting coach Rudy Jaramillo.

Asked about his relationship with Terry Pendleton, the Braves’ hitting instructor at the time, Francoeur said,“We’ve talked about it. We’re working together now. I really can’t say much. It is what it is.”

During TP’s tenure, the Braves posted team batting averages at or above .270 five times and, in his last year, had the best OBP in the NL.

In 2010, Francoeuer, then with the Mets, claimed the Braves never taught him how to steal bases.

While it’s true the Braves were a pretty plodding bunch back then, Bobby received undue blame.  In 2000, for instance, six Braves reached double figures in steals and four, including Andruw, topped 20.

 

 

 

 

Jonathan Papelbon

Jonathan Papelbon, still a dick

Via Thomas Boswell:

On Friday, Papelbon apologized to planet earth, including his teammates and Nats fans for his infamous fight with Harper. “I was in the wrong,” said Papelbon who offered to spend “all day” talking until the last question was answered, but then vowed he would retire the subject for the year. …

Later, he walked the Nats complex in a cut-off muscle T-shirt with arrows pointing to big biceps covered in jagged tattoos. It said: “Obama Can’t Ban These Guns.” Pap wanted to wear that shirt to the “apology press conference” but they talked him out of it.

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Will this be worst #Braves rotation ever?

Julio Teheran could return to pre-2015 form. Maybe Matt Wisler masters a change-up and wins 15. Bud Norris and Jhoulys Chacin were once adequate — perhaps they will be again. Otherwise, you’re looking at Manny Banuelos on an innings limit, Folty on the DL (to start the year, at least).  so it’s hard to expect much from them. Tyrell Jenkins? Ryan Weber?

Williams Perez!?!

A lot has to go right for the rotation to be just mediocre in 2016. The Braves insist they’ll be better but Shelby Miller and Alex Wood haven’t been replaced. On top of that the defense will be worse, with Andrelton gone.

As the season goes on we’re likely to see Aaron Blair, Sean Newcomb and Lucas Sims make their debuts. Those three, plus Teheran and Wisler, are likely to make up the rotation for the 2017 Braves. They have promise

This year’s edition, meanwhile, has the potential to be the worst in A-Braves history. The competition:

1979

Any of the late 70s rotations could qualify, but the class of ’79 was particularly dreadful. The drop off from Knucksie was steep. The man with four first names, Eddie “Buddy J” Solomon, was a swingman masquerading as a No. 2 starter. No one else in the rotation, which included rookies Rick Matula and Tony Brizzolara and Rick’s brother Mickey Mahler, finished with a WHIP below 1.500.

1985

The ace of the staff pitched like one on Opening Day. Otherwise, Rick Mahler was mediocrity personified. A future Cy Young winner was the No. 2 starter, but Steve Bedrosian was miscast as a starter, walking 111 in 206 IP. Pascual Perez and Len Barker combined to make 40 starts, winning only 3. Each finished with ERA’s above six. Zane Smith proved to be an able reinforcement but the future looked as bleak as the present.

1987

Reliever Jeff Dedmon was the only pitcher (minimum 20 games) on the ’87 Braves to end the year with an ERA below 4 (3.92). Braves starters finished with a 4.81 ERA and 1.508 WHIP. In other words, the rotation was the equivalent of five Williams Perezes.

 

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The silver anniversary of #Braves nirvana: Expectations

A recurring series celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ’91 Braves

Hard to believe it’s been a quarter century since the best Braves season most of us will ever experience. No one saw it coming, and had JS succeeded in pulling off two rumored deals involving Tom Glavine, the Braves wouldn’t have won their division.

Glavine, entering his fourth year in the majors, had regressed badly in 1990. His ERA rose more than half-a-run from the previous season, his walks nearly doubled and he allowed more than a hit per IP. I doubt many would’ve complained had he been dealt.

The future HOF’er might’ve become a Cub, along with Jeff Blauser, had it not been for Shawon Dunston, a free agent following the ’91 season. His agent, Eric Goldschmidt told the AJC in December 1990 “there is no way Shawon would sign with Atlanta.”

“I’d go there and play as hard as I always do. But after the season, I’d be a free agent and go to the West Coast,” Dunston said.

Thank you, Shawon.

Later that offseason, The National, a sports daily based in New York, reported that “a well- placed management source said (Jose) Canseco would be traded to the Braves in exchange for National League Rookie of the Year David Justice, a left-handed pitcher (presumably Tom Glavine) and a couple of prospects.”

Canseco, then 26, had a stellar season in ’91, slugging 44 HR and stealing 26 bases. But he wouldn’t play more than 119 games in season again until 1998.

Going into Spring Training most figured the Braves would improve, but serious questions remained.

Who would close? The ‘pen, populated by the likes of Joe Hesketh, Charlie Kerfeld, Rick Luecken and Dwayne Henry, was atrocious in 1990, with Joe Boever’s eight saves leading the team. JS was rebuffed in his attempts to find a closer, settling for 36-year-old Juan Berenguer, who had 14 career saves. Senor Smoke responded with the best season of his career, dominating the late innings with a 2.24 ERA, 0.979 WHIP and 17 saves until a late season injury. Strong seasons from Mike Stanton, Kent Mercker, Marvin Freeman and (later) Al Pena turned a liability into a strength.

Who would play SS?

The favorite, entering camp, didn’t even make the team.

“Andres Thomas will have the best year of his career,” JS told the AJC in February 1991. “This guy has worked as hard, if not harder, than anyone on this team this winter.” 

Who would bat lead-off?

It was supposed to be Lonnie Smith, but two days before the season began, JS acquired Otis Nixon, a 32-year-old journeyman who had never hit enough to earn regular playing time. Otis responded with a career-best .297 BA and 72 SB.

Would Nick Esasky contribute?

Nope. Fortunately Brian Hunter emerged as the right-handed complement to Sid Bream, coming out of nowhere to slug .450.

Cuban infielder Hector Olivera fields a ball as he works third base during batting practice before playing the Miami Marlins, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015 in Atlanta. Cuban defector Hector Olivera was called up for Tuesday's game against the Miami Marlins. He is batting sixth and playing third base. Olivera was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers just before the deadline for non-waiver trades in a blockbuster deal that also included the Marlins. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)  MARIETTA DAILY OUT; GWINNETT DAILY POST OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; WXIA-TV OUT; WGCL-TV OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Cespedes, Wood and Peraza for Olivera

Had the Braves not made the Olivera trade with the Dodgers, they’d have:

A.) More money;

B.) Room for another OF;

C.) A better second baseman than Jace Peterson;

D.) A better #2 starter than Bud Norris.

According to multiple sources, the Braves’ pursuit of Yoenis Cespedes is hamstrung by limited resources — even though payroll presently stands about $30 million lower than last year’s — and too many outfielders. That’s because they’ve apparently abandoned any notion of Olivera playing third base, which leads one to wonder where Mallex Smith fits once he’s ready.

Cespedes is streaky like Justin Upton but won’t cost a draft pick. He’s far from ideal, but with next year’s porous free agent market, and right-handed power hard to come by, you could do a lot worse.

This wouldn’t be a bad line-up:

Inciarte, Aybar, Freeman, Cespedes, Markakis, Garcia, Pierzynski, Peraza

Especially when compared to this:

Inciarte, Aybar, Freeman, Olivera, Markakis, Garcia, Pierzynski, Peterson

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#Braves flotsam and jetsam

The Braves signed Kyle Kendrick over the holidays for reasons I can’t fathom, unless they aimed to pair 2015’s worst NL pitcher with the AL’s worst (Bud Norris). At least Norris isn’t far removed from pitching effectively, winning 15 games with a 3.65 ERA for the Orioles in 2014.

Kendrick, a pitch-to-(a lot) of contact type, has been awful the last three years, with ERAs of 4.70, 4.61 and 6.32. And now he won’t get to pitch against the Braves, against whom he has a 9-4 record and 3.41 ERA.

Gordon Beckham, who, outside of an occasional home run, offers nothing (.273 OPB from 2014-15). Emilio Bonifacio can run, but you can’t steal bases unless you reach base. As uninspiring as he was with the Braves in 2014, Bonifacio was even worse in 2015: .198 OBP, 1 SB, 4 CS.

All the above players are on the wrong side of 30. Kendrick gets $2 million if he makes the big league roster and could earn an additional $4 million in incentives. Norris signed for $2.5 mil.

Those are crippling sums, but why waste roster spots on players with no upside?

I’d rather spend that money on a pitcher like Doug Fister, who would fill an immediate need and, if he rebounded, could be used in a trade for prospects.

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Flashback: The Bizarro #Braves

The 1973 Braves led the NL in runs and OPS, fitting since they played their home games in the Launching Pad. Unfortunately, opponents got to play there, too. And they got to hit against an average rotation and abysmal bullpen that recorded the league’s highest ERA.

They entered 1974 with virtually the same cast, acquiring a middling middle infielder (Craig Robinson) and a back-up catcher (Vic Correll). A week before the season opened, they signed a 26-year-old reliever with a career 4.49 ERA.

Buzz Capra proved to be the steal of the year. He didn’t start his first game until May 15 but pitched like an ace, completing 11 games with 5 shutouts, good for a league-best 2.28 ERA.

Knucksie was even better, leading the NL in innings pitched (302.1), complete games and wins, with a career best 2.38 ERA.

The ‘pen improved, too, even though they were hardly needed. Tom House’s ERA improved from 4.68 to 1.93 and rookie Max Leon was solid in a set-up role. The staff’s ERA dropped more than a run, from 4.25 to 3.05, second in the NL.

From worst to nearly first.

Unfortunately the offense went the opposite direction. The Braves were 8th in the NL in runs, 9th in OPS. The Hammer started acting his age, young sluggers Dusty Baker and Darrell Evans took a step back and Davey Johnson, who hit an uncharacteristic 43 HR in ’73, remembered he was Davey Johnson.

The Braves ended up winning 12 more games in ’74, but their 88-74 record was a bit misleading. They were never in the division race, finishing 14 games behind the Dodgers, and would’ve been a sub-.500 club if not for the Padres, against whom they won 17 of 18.

 

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What if the #Braves hadn’t traded for Olivera?

Crasnick doubts the Braves will trade Miller, which is dumb because his value will likely never be higher.

Soler is the kind of young, controllable bat who makes a lot more sense than Olivera ever did. Keeping Wood would’ve made it easier to deal Miller, and you’d still have Peraza to play second base or SS.

Think of it this way: Miller and Olivera for Wood, Peraza and Soler.

Unfortunately, the Braves way is trade today, plan tomorrow.

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A trade the #Braves need to make

Acquiring the young, controllable bats so desperately needed won’t be easy. To quote Coppy, if the chance to get a potential impact player arises, the Braves must “take that plunge.”

If that means trading Shelby Miller, so be it. There’s plenty of interest, and one of the reported suitors would be an excellent match: the Cubs.

Here’s my offer:

Miller and Bethancourt for Jorge Soler and catching prospect Willson Contreras.

Soler didn’t have the breakout season expected after he slugged .903 in 24 games. as a rookie in 2014. He slugged only .399 in 2015, striking out 121 times in 101 games — the first time he played more than 100 in a season.

So he’s no sure thing. But the potential is immense, as he demonstrated in the playoffs, batting .474 with 3 HR.

Contreras had never shown much with the bat until last year, adopting a more selective approach that paid huge dividends: .333-8-75, with a .413 OBP.

Next year’s free agent class is thin,  so the Braves can’t afford to pass up any opportunity to add offense.

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Name that Cobb Internet mogul

Plenty of buzz generated by this item in The Marietta Daily Journal:

Recent back-fence talk describes the same scenario that circulated a couple years ago — current owner Liberty Media selling to an Internet mogul with strong ties to Cobb County.

Around Town first reported talk of a possible sale in September 2013 — prior to the announcement of the Braves move to Cobb County.

At the same time the rumor mill was churning, Liberty Media earlier this month announced plans to reclassify its common stock into three new tracking stock groups, one to be designated as the Liberty Braves Group, one to be designated as the Liberty Media Group and one to be designated as the Liberty Sirius Group, seemingly separating the Braves interests from other holdings.

This is potentially great news, particularly the part about the prospective owner having strong ties to Atlanta, er, Cobb County.

But I wouldn’t celebrate just yet. If I had a billion dollars to spend on a ball team I’m not sure I’d want to sink it into the Braves, what with all the uncertainties surrounding parking and traffic at the new mixed-use development/baseball stadium.

Those are potentially major issues, especially given the current state of the team. The current hierarchy doesn’t seem to understand the market, one filled with fickle front-runners unlikely to battle the clusterfuck surrounding the new park — “grand franchise” or not.

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According to Coppy, trading Maybin confirms #Braves tanking

“If we were trying to tank, we would have traded Maybin at the deadline last year, and we had plenty of offers.”

Maybin was traded today for Ian Krol (think Ross Detweiler) and a fringe pitching prospect. So I guess that means the Braves are tanking.

And so far they’re not very good at it. No doubt Maybin would’ve brought a back a heftier return had he been traded after his surprisingly productive first half.

But they couldn’t trade him then because they weren’t tanking, says Coppy, who’s as bad at lying as he is making trades.

 

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Coppy needs a safe space

The Braves have long had a tin ear when it comes to public relations. When they announced the move to Cobb County, they didn’t even acknowledge their 50 years in Atlanta, acting as if the team was relocating across the street.

It’s been especially true in the GM’s office. John Schuerholz refused to understand the frustration felt by the fan base whenever “this grand franchise” would collapse in October. We were lucky to have them, but that’s not something you want to hear after watching the Cubs celebrating a playoff victory at Turner Field. 

His replacement, Frank Wren, was, to put it bluntly, a dick. He almost ran Bobby off and treated Smoltzie and Glavine as if they were John Thomson and Mark Redman.

Now Coppy is whining about the backlash that has accompanied the trade of Andrelton Simmons.

“I’m getting so tired of this. If guys want to take shots, or (degrade) us, fine. But let’s let it play out for a few years before we start (brandishing) our pitchforks and torches. I feel in my heart this is the best for the Braves.”

“We’re not afraid of the criticism and taking the risk, but we’re tired of it.”

Boo fucking hoo. If he didn’t want to face criticism he should’ve stayed behind your computer. It’s part of the job.

Andrelton was beloved. Coppy is the squeaky voiced teen from “The Simpsons.” Faith is earned and he hasn’t earned it.

Until then, grow up and grow a pair.

And stop making stupid trades.

 

cy

Open thread, 9/15, #Braves vs. the Boston Rustlers

The Blue Jays, 37-15 in the second half, are not the team you want to play when you’re trying to avoid infamy. The Braves won two of three in Toronto back in April, but those were two far different teams.

Those Braves were feisty overachievers Now, they are just two games shy of matching the longest home losing streak in National League history, set by their ancestors, the Boston Rustlers.

The Rustlers, known as the Doves in 1910 and the Braves in 1912, set the franchise record for the lowest winning percentage in franchise history, winning 44 and losing 107. Pitching was their bane; in a dead-ball era the Rustlers had a 5.08 team ERA. And that staff featured Cy Young, then 44 but still the Rustlers’ best pitcher.

The good news: Julio, who lost to the Blue Jays in the Rogers Centre, is pitching more like his old self than he was then. He’ll need to pitch deep into the game if he wants to secure a win tonight.

Meanwhile, more fodder for those of us who want Fredi gone. Garcia is starting over Olivera tonight because, according to DOB, Fredi wanted to play him versus lefties. Never mind that Olivera needs AB’s and is central to the Braves’ rebuilding efforts. Garcia, despite some nice moments, is not.

I have no such problem with Castro starting over Jace Peterson, hitting .198 vs. southpaws and .218 in the second half.

The line-up:

Markakis, Castro, Freddie, Garcia, AJ,Swisher, Simmons, Bourn, Teheran

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Open thread, 8/15, #Braves vs. Evan Mechams

First of all, can anyone explain this Honda commercial for the Little League World Series featuring Harold Reynolds coaching young players on how to conduct a boring, cliche-filled interview?

Moving on, last night was encouraging. That the Braves won was secondary to Julio’s effort on the mound. It’s safe to say he’s turned the corner: in his last 17 starts, he’s struck out more than a batter per inning and held opposing hitters to a Jackee-esque .227 BA.

And how’s that Arodys for LaStella deal looking now? Looks like John Hart stole a closer for a guy whose ceiling is Jeff Treadway.

No line-ups yet.

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Open thread, 7/9, #Braves vs. .500

The Braves just can’t seem to break .500. But few, especially yours truly, thought they’d be anywhere near break-even at the break. Even without Freddie, the offense, save for one really bad week, has rebounded, albeit vs. the Phils and Brewers.

That’s likely to continue tonight in Coors Field, with one of the worst pitchers in the majors on the mound for the Rockies. Yes, Kyle Kendrick has enjoyed considerable success against the Bravos, but that’s a pretty useless stat considering almost every Brave is new to the team.

In other news, Tyrell Jenkins dominated in his debut with Gwinnett, hurling seven shutout innings, walking one and striking out 6. And this year’s top draft pick, southpaw Kolby Allard, signed today, ending worries he might bolt for UCLA.

The line-up:

Peterson, Maybin, Markakis, KJ (LF), Uribe, Pierzynski, CJ (1B), Simmons, Wood 

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Open thread, 6/21, #Braves vs. Adam Sandlers

I guess we’re in a pennant race, but I’m a little worried about Freddie, who’s got an appointment with a wrist specialist. The timing is not good, as the Braves head to Washington tomorrow. More on the Touki trade later.

The line-up:

Peterson 4, Maybin 8, K Johnson 3, Markakis 9, Uribe 5, Simmons 6, Perez 7, Lway 2, Teheran 1

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Open thread, 5/17, #Braves vs. Lou Pearlmans

It’s Shelby Miller Day, which is becoming must-see viewing for Braves fans. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a true ace — Shelby could be the guy. At the very least he’s been the highlight of the Braves season.

Andrelton gets a day off, but don’t worry, Alberto Callaspo doesn’t replace him in the line-up — Pedro Ciriaco does, which should tell you something about AC’s standing.

Ciriaco is joined by:

Peterson, Gosselin, Freddie, Markakis, Cunningham, Pierzynski, Ciriaco, Maybin, Miller

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Open Thread, 5.10, #Braves vs. Regan MacNeils

I’m not sure even Elias could come up with another city that’s had two pro sports teams lose to teams from the same city on walkoffs/buzzer beaters on the same day. I suppose we can chalk it up as yet another touchstone in Atlanta sports futility.

Ah, well. Neither the Braves nor the Hawks loss was fatal to the teams’ hopes. The Hawks are still alive, though they certainly face a more daunting road. Alas, our Bravos just fell one small step below the goal of finishing .500. As for whether the Braves should have pitched to Harper in the 9th — I’m not saying it was the right move, but I doubt seriously whether many big league managers would intentionally put the winning run in scoring position with one out in the bottom of the 9th. Martin threw a slider at or below the knees, so it’s not like he was being careless.

It would be interesting to see what would happen in a similar spot today.

As for yesterday, the bigger concern really is Julio. I still think he’s just having a rough stretch, hardly uncommon for even a good young pitcher. It’s similar to what today’s starter, Alex Wood, is living. Let’s hope they both pick it up soon. Like today, for example. Natspos’ starter J. Zimmerman has been good as usual other than one awful outing in April.

This game has the feel of one of those the Braves have no chance of winning, like during one of those abominable sets against the red sux that I just can’t wait to see end. Maybe that means the Bravos win 10-1.

Trying to do that: Markakis, Simmons, Freddie, KJ, El Capitan Mediocre (Callaspo), Peterson, Bethancourt, Maybin, Wood. I think it’s the first time this season we’ve seen the same lineup.