“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2016): A Lost Year for Atlanta

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post (of varying amounts of seriousness) about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2016 season. Earlier installments can be found here. Today, the Atlanta Braves.

Yesterday, it was announced that the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins would play a regular season game at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. In most years, one would think this would mean the Marlins were giving up a home game. However, it’s the Braves who are.

And that seems fitting for Atlanta, a team that will be going nowhere this season as they turn their eyes almost entirely to the future. Defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons is gone. All-Star pitcher Shelby Miller is gone. Guys like Jason Heyward and Craig Kimbrel are now distant memories. The acquisitions by the Braves this off-season have either been entirely aimed at the future (former Number 1 pick Dansby Swanson, for example) or meant to fill a spot and keep the team from being a complete joke. Oh, Freddie Freeman is still there… although you can bet there will be talk of him possibly being traded, even if it could end up as just that: speculation.

The plan is clear: After this season, the Braves will move to the wealthier suburbs up in Cobb County, playing in a new stadium called SunTrust Park. The first year or two there, the thought is, will be a honeymoon, as people will go there just because it’s new.

The Braves hope that by the time the honeymoon ends, the team will be good enough to get people to come to games to see a winning team.

Only time will tell if they are right. But I don’t think it will take much time for the 2016 Braves to stink up the joint. It could get ugly really fast.

 

30 Teams, 30 Posts (2015): A Haiku About The Braves

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2015 season. Previous installments can be found here. Today, I lazily reduce the entire Atlanta Braves into a Haiku.

 

Atlanta Braves Team

No more Heyward or Justin

Markakis there now

 

 

Famous for Something Else Repost: Urban Meyer

Today, Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes will play in the Sugar Bowl in an attempt to reach the College Football Playoff Championship Game. So, here’s a repost of his famous for something else post.

Did you know that Urban Meyer, head coach of Ohio State’s football team and former coach of the Florida Gators, had a brief minor league career? It’s true! He played two seasons in the low minors in the Braves organization.

Here are his stats:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB HBP SH SF IBB
1982 17 -2.9 Braves GULF Rk ATL 20 61 53 6 9 0 2 0 5 1 2 6 9 .170 .267 .245 .512 13 1 1 0 0
1983 18 -2.0 2 Teams 2 Lgs Rk ATL 24 77 57 13 11 2 0 1 6 1 1 16 15 .193 .365 .281 .646 16 0 3 1 0
1983 18 -2.4 Pulaski APPY Rk ATL 15 41 32 8 8 2 0 1 4 0 0 8 9 .250 .400 .406 .806 13 0 1 0 0
1983 18 -1.5 Braves GULF Rk ATL 9 36 25 5 3 0 0 0 2 1 1 8 6 .120 .324 .120 .444 3 0 2 1 0
2 Seasons 44 138 110 19 20 2 2 1 11 2 3 22 24 .182 .321 .264 .585 29 1 4 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/20/2014.

Now, as you can see, he didn’t do very good, but, according to a recent episode of Real Sports, it was a defining moment for him. Frustrated by his struggles, he told his father he was going to quit and come home, enraging his father, who told him that he would have no losers in his family. This would fuel a long obsession with winning that would define his career for years and ended up forcing his family to have him sign a contract to make sure he didn’t essentially abandon them for coaching.

One interesting thing to note, by the way, is that Urban Meyer played alongside Ron Gant and Mark Lemke during his 1983 stint in the Gulf Coast League.

So, anyway… now you know!

Famous for Something Else: Urban Meyer

Did you know that Urban Meyer, head coach of Ohio State’s football team and former coach of the Florida Gators, had a brief minor league career? It’s true! He played two seasons in the low minors in the Braves organization.

Here are his stats:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB HBP SH SF IBB
1982 17 -2.9 Braves GULF Rk ATL 20 61 53 6 9 0 2 0 5 1 2 6 9 .170 .267 .245 .512 13 1 1 0 0
1983 18 -2.0 2 Teams 2 Lgs Rk ATL 24 77 57 13 11 2 0 1 6 1 1 16 15 .193 .365 .281 .646 16 0 3 1 0
1983 18 -2.4 Pulaski APPY Rk ATL 15 41 32 8 8 2 0 1 4 0 0 8 9 .250 .400 .406 .806 13 0 1 0 0
1983 18 -1.5 Braves GULF Rk ATL 9 36 25 5 3 0 0 0 2 1 1 8 6 .120 .324 .120 .444 3 0 2 1 0
2 Seasons 44 138 110 19 20 2 2 1 11 2 3 22 24 .182 .321 .264 .585 29 1 4 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/20/2014.

Now, as you can see, he didn’t do very good, but, according to a recent episode of Real Sports, it was a defining moment for him. Frustrated by his struggles, he told his father he was going to quit and come home, enraging his father, who told him that he would have no losers in his family. This would fuel a long obsession with winning that would define his career for years and ended up forcing his family to have him sign a contract to make sure he didn’t essentially abandon them for coaching.

One interesting thing to note, by the way, is that Urban Meyer played alongside Ron Gant and Mark Lemke during his 1983 stint in the Gulf Coast League.

So, anyway… now you know!

2014 SEASON PREVIEW (PART 7): Best Case/Worst Case for… the NL EAST (with Getty Images)

We reach our last installment of Best Case/Worst Case… with, of course, sometimes irrelevant images from Getty.

Here we go:

Atlanta Braves:

Embed from Getty Images

Best-Case Scenario: World Series. I mean, look at that pitching staff! Look at the young hitters! They should at least make the playoffs, right.

Worst-Case Scenario: Well, unless their pitching gets hurt. If that happens, there could be big trouble.

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: Whoops. It’s already happened.

Washington Nationals

Embed from Getty Images

Best-Case Scenario: The World Series comes to Washington for the first times since the 1930s, while Bryce Harper makes a great leap forward into near-Trout levels of awesomeness, bro.

Worst-Case Scenario: Stephen Strasburg’s arm spontaneously combusts during a game.

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: Harper stagnates, Strasburg and Friends get hurt, Matt Williams is not a good manager, etc.

New York Mets

Embed from Getty Images

Best Case Scenario: Everybody stays healthy and they don’t embarrass themselves too much before Matt Harvey returns next season from Tommy John. Maybe some of the prospects, like Noah Syndergaard, make their first appearances.

Worst Case Scenario: This is the Mets, so you should imagine your worst case scenario for them then multiply it by 500.

Worst Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: This is the Mets, so you should imagine your worst case scenario for them then multiply it by… 499.

Philadelphia Phillies

Embed from Getty Images

Best Case Scenario: The Fountain Of Youth hits the Phillies and they do one last run.

Worst Case Scenario: They are a bunch of old guys who play like it, and Ruben Amaro still acts like it’s the last years of the previous decade.

Worst Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: See above.

Miami Marlins
Embed from Getty Images

Best Case Scenario: Giancarlo Stanton hits lots of dingers, Jose Fernandez is awesome.

Worst Case Scenario: The above doesn’t happen….

Worst Case Scenario That Might Actually Happen: See above.

 

Next Time: The Previews Continue…

The Andrelton Simmons deal is genius

When is it alright to pay a 248/.296/.396 hitter at least 58 million dollars for seven years?

When he’s Andrelton Simmons, who’s bat is secondary but who’s defense is beyond the realm of mortal man. Yes, the Honkballing shortstop for the Braves may only have played 206 games, but already, he may rank amongst the greatest defensive SS in history. No. Seriously.

Consider, for example, last season he made 49 more plays than the average shortstop would have made, and how only 22% of the Braves’ opponents were able to reach first when hitting a ground ball left of the 2nd base bag. He also prevented 41 runs from being scored, if you go by the Defensive Runs Saved stat.

Or, if you don’t have time for advanced statistics, just watch these 25 minutes of awesome:

The only post about the Braves’ move to reference “Back to the Future”, Doctor Who and Joe Mauer in the first two paragraphs

I need a time machine. Now. Or, well, I guess later would work as well. That’s the thing with time machines, after all. Still, I need a time machine. And when I have it, I intend on going back to Las Vegas in 2010, and tell them that I wanted to place a bet that by Opening Day of 2014 the Atlanta Braves would have announced plans to move from Turner Field and Joe Mauer would become a full-time first baseman.

I then would have hopped into my DeLorean and/or TARDIS, travel to today, and cash in enough money where I could buy a small nation, because that’s what happening. And, while many could read the tea leaves about Mauer, nobody saw the death of Turner Field coming, and for a very good reason:

It goes against almost every single thing we know about stadium movement. Most teams move towards the center of their cities, the Braves are moving away from it. Most teams flee old stadiums, and while Turner Field isn’t young anymore, it’s less than two decades old. Most teams don’t keep their moving plans total secrets… but the Braves did.

Now, to be fair, the Braves do have some good points: most of their season-ticket base is from the suburbs, and their new Cobb County facility will be closer to them. That, in turn, would likely increase in-stadium attendance, a  And, yes, they are getting a good deal from Cobb County, essentially letting them get a whole new stadium for the same price (as far as the team’s own funds) as what they would have spent if they renovated Turner Field entirely out of their own fund. And, at least in theory, the new stadium would be better located logistically, near two major interstate highways.

But, well, it still goes against most conventional wisdom, especially when one takes into account various caveats about the Braves’ good points. For example, the traffic in the areas north of Atlanta is infamously bad, and I myself remember being stuck in traffic during a family trip down there back in 2008. There is no mass-transit to Cobb County, for various reasons (some of them ugly), which would presumably have helped alleviate that traffic problem.

But, most of all, there is the general bad taste that is left in people’s mouths as a post-Camden Yards stadium is replaced for the first time, even as the Athletics and Rays are stuck in fields from a bygone era. And, perhaps even more worrying: virtually every stadium opened since Camden Yards changed the landscape of baseball stadium design was built with platitudes about them being able to carry their franchises “well into the 21st century”.

And yet, come 2017, not even a fifth of the way through the century, one of them will be replaced.

While Turner Field has always been something of an oddball amongst the post-Camden Yards boom (more brought about by the 1996 Olympics than any type of real plan), one worries about what sort of precedent that might set.

Curse of Steve McCatty Update

Since Michael Clair unleashed images of Nationals’ pitching coach Steve McCatty‘s 1980s Playgirl shoot upon the world, the Nationals have gone 31-38. In contrast, the Braves have gone 13-0 since opening a Waffle House at Turner Field, and now hold a 15.5 game lead over the Nationals in the NL East.

In other words, finding out your pitching coach was in Playgirl causes you to go under .500, while getting a Waffle House in your stadium ensures roughly two weeks and counting of undefeated play. It’s science.

On Infield Flies and Jeffrey Maier (OR: Why the Cardinals could win the World Series but would not be known for the infield fly play)

In baseball, little things can mean a lot. And those little things sometimes are forgotten by all but those who felt themselves wronged.

Some have had problems with how the St. Louis Cardinals benefited from the infield fly call in the NL Wild Card game. While it seems, after reflection and hearing from various experts on TV and online, that the call was technically correct, it struck me as not exactly fitting the spirit of the rules for the infield fly: the infield fly is meant to protect the runners from a possible double play, something I do not believe the Cardinals had any chance of pulling.

The game was protested, of course, and, just like (almost) every other protested game in history, the protest was denied. No matter what your opinion on that infield fly play, you cannot deny, however, that the Cardinals probably dodged a bullet: had there been no call, it is entirely possible they would have lost that game, and would not be headed into a series with Washington. Why, you almost have this sinking feeling that maybe, just maybe, the Cardinals are now going to go on a run to a championship. And you probably think that, for better or worse, they are going to be known as the team that won because of a possibly-incorrect infield fly call. Fans of the Braves and baseball in general may be in horror at the idea that such a thing could happen, and even some Cardinals fans probably are a bit worried that their team, if they go on a run, will probably go on to be remembered the “infield fly team.”

They probably are wrong. In general, only the losing teams are remembered in places where massive mistakes are made, and even then usually only if they themselves are the ones screwing up: the 1986 Red Sox may have lost the World Series because Billy Buckner couldn’t field a routine grounder (there had already been several things that had gone wrong, but it’s that image everyone remembers), the 2003 Cubs may have lost the NLCS because devoted Cubs’ fan Steve Bartman sort-of got in Moises Alou’s way (there is no guarantee he would have caught it, but you never know) and the 1919 Chicago White Sox lost the series because seven or eight players (depending on whether you count Buck Weaver) threw games. Nobody ever seems to associate the 1986 Mets, 2003 Marlins or 1919 Reds with those events, other than as background.

Given that the Orioles (!) and Yankees are about to meet up in the ALDS, a look at their shared history perhaps best illustrates this fact. I speak of the tale of Jeffrey Maier, a then-12-year-old who, in the bottom of the eighth inning in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, reached into the field of play and snagged a Derek Jeter fly ball that seemed destined for the glove of Orioles outfielder Tony Tarasco (or, at the very least, the warning track- but not over the fence). Right-field umpire Rich Garcia said that it was a home run, tying the game at four and paving the way for an extra-innings Yankees win. The Orioles’ protest was denied. The Yankees went on to win the series, and the World Series. I was only six at the time, but even I remember thinking that it was some kind of cheating, as if the Yankees had hired that kid to be out there to rob Tony Tarasco, or something. I seem to recall grabbing a newspaper that had a photo of the play on it, grabbing a large red crayon, and drawing a big giant X through it, to show my disgust.

Hey, I was six. I’m not even sure if I had a clue what was going on, but I remember having that big crossed-out picture for awhile, so I must have known something.

Maier, meanwhile, became a pint-sized celebrity, appearing on late night talk shows, being given the Key to the City by Rudy Giuliani, and being generally hailed as a hero by the city, county and state of New York. This despite the fact that, by any measure whatsoever, Maier had done something illegal and helped, intended or not, the Yankees win (or, as six-year-old me would say, cheat) their way to victory. There must have been lots of interesting conversations in New York after that:
“Dad, can I reach out and grab the ball?”
“No, son, it’s against the rules. They’ll kick us out of the stadium.”
“But Jeff Maier did it, and he got to be on TV, and he got that giant key from the mayor!”
“Yes, son, but…”

However, as the years have gone on, Maier has become a footnote, remembered only by grateful Yankee fans, angry Oriole fans and completist baseball historians. He’s now grown-up, a married man and former college player who is involved with baseball off the field. When the 1996 Yankees are discussed, they aren’t called the team that possibly won the ALCS only because of the actions of a 12-year-old, they are known more for being the first title-winning club of the Derek Jeter era.

And this, likely, is what the future may hold for the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals. If they go on a run, as they did in 2006 and 2011, they will be known as a team that won the World Series despite having lost their future Hall-Of-Fame manager, their esteemed hitting coach, and their most famous and talented player in the previous off-season. They may also be known as the first franchise to win three World Series in the 21st century. But it is highly unlikely that anyone other than relieved Cardinal fans, angry Braves fans and completist baseball historians will think much of the infield fly call and whether the Cardinals had gotten lucky.

Because, the thing is, sometimes the lucky teams and the cheaters prosper. And when that happens, the little details that caused them to be lucky or caused them to be cheaters end up becoming footnotes, for better or worse.

So don’t sweat the infield fly, sports fans. Well, except for Braves fans. You’ve already done way more than sweat over it… but that’s another story.


The Spoilers

The resurrection of the Baltimore Orioles, it could be said, began last September. Buck Showalter had said early on that he would be playing his regulars in games against contenders, while using the September call-ups in the games against also-rans.

By comparison, the Yankees, who had stitched up the division by the final series against the Wild Card contending Tampa Bay Rays, decided to send in the call-ups.

So, it was a study in contrasts. When Boston arrived for the series that would decide their season’s fate, they ran into a team with Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and a mindset that essentially said “This is our World Series.” The Rays, meanwhile, were basically facing a Yankees team that was playing Spring Training baseball.

And so as we barrel through September with several races still close, the question becomes: will the potential spoilers this year be like the Orioles, or like the Yankees?

(jump)

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