"Mmmmm...that's good Brave!"

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Marlins 6 Braves 5

I have a confession to make -- I'm completely unable to watch close games in late/extra innings, particularly when the other team is at bat. It's just too stressful. Best I can do is check in periodically, which is what I did tonight. Also competing for my attention was the World Poker Tour season finale, featuring winner Tuan Le as well as Shana Hiatt's boobs. So there's that to consider.

Saw Andruw go yard, saw Reitsma blow up, kept seeing the Marlins get runners on base, only to check in ten minutes later to find we wriggled out of it again. They couldn't do it all night, though, so chalk up a tough loss for the good guys.

Furcal went down in a heap after trying to make a play, and it looked quite scary. We ruminate often about doing without him, but when the possibility arose I resolutely hoped he was okay. We'll know more tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Once Upon A Time...

...the Braves had one of the best middle-infield prospects in the game. Because he hailed from a foreign land, the team was allowed to draft and sign him at the tender age of 16. He was soon anointed the shortstop of the future, and his every move was chronicled extensively. He spent his first couple of seasons in the rookie league as the organization waited patiently for his eventual development, and he was declared a top prospect by those who do such things.

A funny thing happened, though. His results as he progressed through the system began to stagnate, and his prospect status began to waver. We still knew his name, but declining results on the field reached the point that he was famous merely for being famous, not unlike Paris Hilton, or her erstwhile progenitor, Jo Anne Worley. Perhaps, though we will never know for sure, he began to flip through brochures offering training in insurance sales in preparation for his impending trip back home.

But a funny thing happened in 2005. A major league team had a need for his services and, defying the low expectations of the disillusioned, he stuck and began to produce. A dream denied morphed into a dream merely forestalled.

Sounds like Wilson Betemit, and it certainly could be. But this is a story about his predecessor. Good on ya, mate!

D-Train D-Railed

I don't understand it either. Just two days ago, I wrote that the Braves are surely to run into trouble this series as we would be facing an underachieving Marlins club that after sweeping the D-Rays looked poised to put it together. Nope, wrong again. I'm always wrong, but if being wrong means the Braves keep winning, then I don't won't to be right.

The Braves smacked Dontrelle around pretty good last night, starting with Furcal's single, Johnson's triple and finishing with Julio's sacrifice fly. Right from the start, we're up 2-0, and then we just had our way with the Marlins pitching staff the rest of the way.

Sosa once again pitched well, limiting the Marlins to four hits and one Delgado jack. Hitting heroes abound in this one, with Johnson getting three hits and Furcal, Giles, Jones, Estrada and Jordan getting two hits apiece and Julio driving in three. If we can do this against the D-Train, we should make tonight's starting pitcher, Al Leiter, cry. But baseball doesn't work that way, and Leiter usually shuts us down, going 1-0 in two starts this year with a 1.69 ERA. These numbers belie Leiter's overall season, he with a 6.33 ERA and more walks than strikeouts.

I'm sticking to my guns and saying that, once again, this is not a match-up that favors the Braves, but it really doesn't seem to matter anymore. Our cast of 20-somethings don't seem to be overwhelmed by anything.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I Apologize, Kelly Johnson

At one point earlier this season, not in this blog however, I called Kelly Johnson a "no-bat ass clown," an "incompetent ass-monkey" and other ass-related epithets, which are sort of my specialty. I apologize, Kelly Johnson.

So, as it turns out, this guy is good. He just happens to be a rookie, and rookies are prone to start slowly until they see a few major league pitches. On June 13, after 12 big-league games and 34 at-bats, Mr. Johnson had two hits and one RBI, hitting a paltry .059, which was almost double his batting average of .033 the night before. So in calling him an "ass-hitting puppy f*****," I was at least partially justified. And hearing the commentators remark about how disciplined he was after his 1-30 start just intensified my vitriol.

In the 12 games since June 13, however, Mr. Johnson is 17-47 (.362 BA) with three HRs, 13 RBIs and 10 walks versus only nine strikeouts. Who is the "ass-licking, goat-fellater" now?

Let's project this out over a full, 500-AB season, and let us also forgive Mr. Johnson's slow start - chalk it up to being a rookie. It goes like this - .362 BA, 32 HRs, 138 RBIs with 106 walks.

I know this is a ridiculous exercise to do based only on his last 47 ABs, but I feel like I owe him not only the benefit of the doubt, but a little bit more. I was a real asshole to him earlier.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Braves 7 Marlins 2

This is really something. Once again the Braves get an unexpected sterling performance from a starting pitcher -- tonight it was Ramirez having to convince Cox that he was healthy enough to start after the strained groin he suffered last time out. He came through with a second straight "good Horacio" start -- 7 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 ER. Squint hard enough and he looks like Glavine; lots of junk outside, with the strategic "show me" fastball in on the hands now and then.

It must be said that every decision McKeon made blew up in his face. Twice in the fourth inning he played the infield back with a runner on third, looking for a double play. LaRoche and Estrada each grounded weakly to second -- the runner on third scored each time. Then, the truly inexplicable. Andruw at the plate in the eighth, one out, Furcal on second and Giles on first. They pull off a double-steal, and McKeon elects to intentionally walk Andruw. Sensible move, right?

Ordinarily I'd agree. But the count at the time of the steal was 2-2. I don't care how hot Andruw is -- to intentionally pass anyone after two strikes is just plain wrong. Cox proceeds to outmaneuver McKeon by pinch hitting Julio against the lefthander brought in to face LaRoche:

LaRoche vs. RHP: .267/.330/.466
Franco vs. LHP: .308/.390/.500

Franco, in the words of Brave-O-Matic buddy Jim Kallerman, pokes a long fly with the bases juiced to salt this one away. The Marlins ground crew punctuates the incompetence by proving themselves completely unable to manipulate the tarp over the infield during the eventual rain delay, and the game was called.

Rule clarification: The Braves were awarded the victory despite the fact that the Marlins didn't get fair ups in the bottom of the eighth, because the Braves were already leading 3-1 when the inning started. If the score had been, say, 1-1 after seven, and the Braves took the lead in the eighth, the game would have been suspended and completed tomorrow. All stats count.

Furcal had a helluva game -- double, triple, SB, and several fine plays in the field, especially throwing out Castillo with two outs and a runner on third in the seventh with the score 3-1. His failures still grate, but with the rest of the lineup producing we can absorb his iffy hitting. I could see dropping him to seventh or eighth in the batting order and recasting him as a modern-day Mark Belanger -- good field, no hit. That way his occasional successes at the bat can be viewed as a bonus. Just a thought.

Can We Keep This Up?

The Braves recent success is vintage stuff. This is what the Braves do. Here's the oft-written script: a whole bunch of bad stuff happens that then translates into losses. After hearing the experts pronounce the Braves dead - they love doing that - the team turns it around and just goes nuts. Thus far, "nuts" equates to nine wins out of our last 12 games, and against good competition that could have easily buried us. In years past, this run would continue to approximately the end of August. We'll see about this year.

We are in the middle of a brutal stretch of 13 games that has us playing seven games against the Marlins, who despite their lackadaisical play is still the team to beat in the East, the Orioles and the Phillies, both very good teams. So far so good, as we have won six of seven.

Looking forward, though, it just seems implausible that our current steak will continue. Our starters this series will be an injured Horacio Ramirez, Sosa, Davies and Colon. I know that each of these pitchers, except Davies, has pitched great recently. I just can't see these recent performances becoming the norm. I expect a rude fall back down to earth this series.

But, then again, I expected the same thing seven games, and six wins, ago.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Braves (3-0) 20 Orioles (0-3) 10

What did we learn this weekend?

1) Wilson Betemit is the everyday third baseman. The Braves wisely sent Marte back to Richmond to play every day when they brought up Colon. Betemit continued to produce, going 5 for 11 in the series, and certainly deserves to play every day. Now, would it be too much to ask that he bat a little higher in the order? When Chipper comes back, we will have what is known as a "good problem" to have -- how to get everyone playing time.

2) Roman Colon can pitch a little. As impressive and unexpected as Davies' first few starts as well as Sosa's have been, Colon's performance on Saturday was a shock and revelation. He'll get another start on Thursday, and we'll see if he can build on his success. His prospect status hasn't jibed with his performance before now, but now we see what the fuss was about. Much like Rick Mahler's emergency start in '91, if we eke out this division by one game, this is one we'll remember.

3) Andruw Jones is an All-Star. Unthinkable two weeks ago, undeniable now. This is '99 Chipper stuff that Andruw is doing. His 948 OPS is fourth among NL outfielders, and his .597 SLG trails only Derrek Lee and Pujols. It's not just his hitting, either -- he seems to have stepped up the defense as well. Balls that he was just missing a few weeks ago are now finding their way into his glove. Viva Andruw!

4) Davies is plainly tired and not ready. His command has suffered badly since throwing 230 pitches combined in consecutive starts, then going on three days rest. He's a good candidate to be sent down when Hudson returns -- he looks like he needs a breather.

5) John Smoltz decides how long John Smoltz pitches. How else to explain his presence on the mound in the ninth inning of an 8-1 game, with 8 pitchers in the bullpen? I don't trust them either, but come on. That said, Smoltzie was keeping us in the race a few weeks ago, and now the rest of the team is rolling right along with him.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Battle of Youngsters Tonight

The combined age of tonight's two starting pitchers is approximately five years younger than Julio Franco. The Orioles will have Hayden Penn, age 20, on the mound tonight squaring off against Kyle Davies, age 21.

Davies was impressive in his first four starts, giving up a measly two runs in 23.1 IP. His last three starts have been ghastly, however, and I'm afraid the Orioles aren't the team to figure things out against.

Davies has allowed 15 runs in the last three games, a span of 12.1 innings, during which he has allowed 25 hits and eight walks. This means that almost three opposing batters are on base every inning.

Let's see... three people on base per inning and three bases on which to put them... hmm, not much room for error, if my math stands correctly, which it almost always does.

The Orioles are excited about Hayden Penn. Prior to his call up from AA (The Bowie Baysox), he had struck out 41 batters in 29 innings, regularly hitting 101 mph on the ubiquitous radar gun. Prior to this year, his minor league stats aren't all that great, though not bad either. In 193 innings, Penn sported a 3.92 ERA with 164 strikeouts and 68 walks - a pretty good ratio. But as kids are prone to do once called up, Penn's command as faltered in his five major league starts, walking 14 and striking out only 12 in 27.2 innings.

I'm sure we will find out during the course of tonight's commentary, but I am curious to know what is the lowest combined age of two starting pitchers in a major league game. Tonight's game must come pretty close. Does anyone know?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Marlins 8 Braves 0

The Good: The Braves took the series from their (in the opinion of Brave-O-Matic) chief competition. Sosa looked fine again, with the exception of a hanging curve to Cabrera in the sixth inning when he was visibly tired. He may be a five-inning guy, and we'll take that from him.

The Bad: Ummm, this game. Can't say we didn't see it coming, with Dontrelle Willis having his typically great first half of the season. The offense couldn't get anything going at all, though I liked the way Kelly Johnson hung in there against a very tough lefty. Adam Bernero is horrible; Dank Lob, ridiculous.

By the way, Julio no longer has the record for oldest player to steal a base. No, Rod Carew didn't come out of retirement -- it turns out that Arlie Latham stole a base in 1909 at the ripe old age of 49. We'll revisit this in September 2007, as Julio takes his lead off first base against Matt Belisle....

Nasty rumor: Roman Colon is on his way back from Richmond, and will get the start on Saturday vs. Bruce Chen and the Orioles. Other matchups: Davies vs. one Hayden Penn on Friday, Smoltz vs. Rodrigo Lopez on Sunday.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Braves 8 Marlins 0

The Braves got their wish in this series -- two wins heading into a disadvantageous Sosa vs. Willis matchup tomorrow. Balanced contributions from the offense complimented a second straight shutout by the pitching staff. The Baby Braves are taking it to the veteran Marlins so far.

We got the good Horacio tonight. He went five innings and allowed only three hits and one walk before exiting with a strained groin. He did a great job keeping the Marlins off-balance, and we hope he's not hurt too badly. Considering he's now our #2 starter and all. Perfect innings by Gryboski, Boyer, and Brower preceded another ninth inning tightrope walk by Dank Lob, who was bailed out by two nice Giles plays to avoid the ignominy of failing to close out an 8-run lead.

Kelly Johnson reached base four times on three singles and a walk -- in the last 8 games he's gone from .033/.194/.033 to .246/.387/.426. Andruw chipped in with his nightly monster home run -- this one the first to reach the Lexus level in left field. He's gone from abject disappointment to sniffing around an All-Star berth, though he's not there yet.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Braves 5 Marlins 0

Sometimes all you need is John Smoltz.

That's something we used to say a lot, but incredibly it's been over 6 years (since April 30, 1999 to be exact) since Smoltzie pitched a shutout. Think about that -- back when Smoltz was 32 and at the top of his game one night against the Reds, you could have made a lot of money betting that he wouldn't pitch another shutout until age 38, but would have 154 saves in the meantime.

Tonight it took 123 pitches, but he never seemed to labor. Brave-O-Matic is almost prepared to turn off the old pitch-count meter on him -- but, with all the injuries, we're counting mightily on that right elbow, so forgive us for a bit of a pause at that number.

Speaking of bar bets, here's a real stumper: Who was the Braves' starting 3B during Smoltz's last shutout? Answer below:

Ozzie Guillen

Information courtesy of, and thank God for, Retrosheet. I could spend hours on that website. Go there now. Yes, you.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Reds 11 Braves 8

Honestly, I didn't hold out much hope for this game, with Davies coming off two straight bad outings and on three days rest. He did about what you would expect against the powerful Reds lineup -- 11 baserunners and 5 runs in 4 1/3 innings. Most other teams would have run and hidden with the 7-2 lead they were spotted, but the Reds pitching staff is far too generous for that. The Braves manages to tie the score at 7, then again at 8, but our own bullpen reared it's ugly head repeatedly, concluding with Junior's 3-run HR off the increasingly execrable Adam Bernero to provide the final margin.

Many of our hitters managed to get well in the series, which the Braves took 3-1. Hopefully they can keep it up against stiffer competition, as the Marlins visit for a 3-game series starting Tuesday. Looks like Smoltz vs. Burnett, Ramirez vs. Moehler, and Sosa vs. Willis.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Watching History

It's now the fourth inning of the Braves-Reds game. Braves lead 3-0. All 3 rbi's come courtesy of one Julio Franco. In the first inning Julio became the 2nd-oldest player in major league history to hit a homer.

The oldest player ever was some guy who, in 1930, was nearly 2 months older than Julio is now. If Julio hits one after August 15th, he will be the oldest player ever to do so. And all of us know that his real age is not what we see in the press guide.

In the third inning Julio became the oldest player ever to homer twice. And the oldest ever to go deep in consecutive at-bats. And then some moron in the stands at Great American Ballpark gave in to peer pressure and threw the home run ball back on the field. Dumbass.

Man oh man, does the Brave-O-Matic love Julio Franco. We'll have to have a special commemerative day here at the blog for Julio's birthday on August 23rd. (A Tuesday night game at Wrigley)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Braves 5 Reds 2

Smoltz was in command tonight. He shut down the powerful Reds, allowing 2 solo HRs and only two other hits (no walks for the third straight start) in 8 innings with 9 Ks. All his pitches were working, and he was throwing free and easy -- quite the departure from what we've seen lately from our other starters. Smoltz had such rhythm and confidence in his pitch selection -- at one point he shook off Estrada twice, then was already into his pitching motion as he nodded to the correct sign, a pitch that resulted in a strikeout. No slouch at the plate, either -- 2-3 with a sacrifice, and the one out was blistered to deep center.

Furcal and Giles homered, and we got RBIs from Marte, Estrada (who's been hitting very well), and Jordan. Our other resident oldster, Julio Franco, had two hits and TWO stolen bases, mostly because Matt Belisle couldn't be bothered to hold him on base. I think he had a six-step jump off first and an eight-step jump off second. Someday someone might steal a base at an older age than Julio, but I'll wager nobody 46 or older will ever break his record of 2 SBs in a game.

More Roster Moves

Rumor has it that Hudson will be the latest starter to go on the DL, with a recurrence of the oblique strain that put him on the shelf last year. Here we go again. The Braves may bring up Chuck James to take his place in the rotation, which would leave Billy McCarthy and Jeff Francoeur as our only remaining minor league players.

Jim Brower has also arrived, fresh from being released by the Giants just one-half season removed from two good years in their bullpen. His ERA this year is a robust 6.53, suggesting that heavy usage last season (89 games) may have caught up with him. But there are some good indicators hidden in the numbers. His K/9 is 7.42, which would place him second on the Braves staff behind Davies. Also his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) is .377, so he might have been a bit unlucky so far. On the other hand, giving up 5 HRs in 30.1 innings would be evidence that he's just getting hammered. All in all, he stands a good chance of being an upgrade, and is far preferable to other castoffs such as Danny Graves.

Expect Brower to replace Hudson on the active roster, with James being called up to make a start on Saturday. He'll replace Boyer or Vasquez -- it couldn't possibly matter less which one.

UPDATE: Pete says that the plan is now to start Sosa and Davies on 3 days rest, on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The off-day on Monday then allows everyone full rest. This strikes me as a very bad idea -- Davies has had two bad starts in a row after throwing 119 pitches on June 4, and Sosa hasn't been in starter shape. Why risk further injury for the dubious honor of keeping Boyer and Vasquez? Hopefully they'll change their mind and bring up James instead.

Rangers 9 Braves 5

A second consecutive weak start by Davies and a team-wide inability (besides LaRoche) to hit with runners in scoring position added up to a loss to a Texas team that seemed amenable to a Braves comeback. The bullpen did a decent job of holding the Rangers at bay after a 5-run 1st, and we chipped away until it was 7-5 in the seventh, but could get no closer.

One interesting tidbit being reported is that the Braves started seven rookies (Orr, Johnson, Langerhans, Marte, McCann, Betemit, and Davies), the most since October 1, 1978 (Eddie Miller, Glenn Hubbard, Bob Beall, Larry Whisenton, Chico Ruiz, Bruce Benedict, Mickey Mahler). My question is, when was the last time we, or any team, started seven rookies in a game before September, when rosters expand? Incidentally, if you include Vasquez, Boyer, and John Foster (yes, he's technically still a rookie), the Braves played a total of 10 rookies.

Furcal sat out again yesterday -- Brave-O-Matic has come around to supporting a trade of Furcal. Betemit has outperformed him (looking comfortable doing it) at the plate to the point that we can absorb the defensive hit. Marte appears to have much more range than Chipper at 3B, making the switch to Betemit easier. Of course, Chipper will eventually be back -- our groundball pitching staff may not be so sanguine about having Chipper and Betemit backing them up....

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Braves 7 Rangers 2

The game began with a WTF moment when the batting order was announced. Kelly Johnson, with his .0something batting average leading off, and Betemit's .400+ OBP in the 9 spot? What in the name of Omar Moreno was Cox thinking?

His faith was justified, though, as KJ came through with a single, double, and a game-changing 3-run HR to help power the Braves to an impressive victory over the Rangers. Johnson's BA is now all the way up to .132 -- watch out, Ichiro!

The other baby Braves contributed as well -- Marte had an RBI Baltimore chop and another fine defensive play, Langerhans scored after an HBP, and Betemit singled and scored.

Jorge Sosa, pressed into an emergency start, was nothing short of brilliant after allowing a 1st inning 2-run HR to Teixeira, mixing a 95 MPH heater with a hammer curve that was his out pitch for several of his 7 strikeouts. It must be said that he benefitted greatly from Jim Joyce's high strike zone, but Cox is probably breathing easier about starting him again this Sunday vs. the Reds.

And finally, Julio. During a 5th inning at bat, his bat slipped (again), and flew into the stands, hitting a young fan in the back of the neck. Julio was obviously concerned, as he looked back into the stands after each succeeding pitch. He proceeded to crush a home run to center field, and before going to the dugout, walked over to the stands to talk to the injured fan. The Ranger crowd gave him a standing ovation for his concern -- just more evidence that Julio is still the man. Who doesn't love Julio?

Last Place - Home of the Braves?

It has become an annual ritual of the baseball intelligentsia to preemptively bury the Braves at some point during the season, usually hurling invective before the hurling of the first pitch. Now that the Braves are playing down to the lowly predictions of the all-knowing prognosticators, the trumpets are blaring at full roar signaling the demise of the mighty Braves once and for all. Here is one scribe's take.

The annual Braves' bash was in full bloom at around this point last year, with the underachieving group sitting in third place, one game under even. Then, at some point a little later on, and much to the chagrin of the prevailing minds, the Braves laid claim once again to their rightful place atop the baseball world. Are we to see something similar at some point later on this season?

It would be foolish to count against it - these are the Braves after all, and the usual baseball maxims simply don't apply to this team. But the laws of probability do. And the laws of averages do - especially ones like .057 and .220. And, of course, there is no turning back time. That law is universally respected.

So, what about this annual streak to the victorious finish line? Well, times, they are a changin'. Last year, JD Drew was manning the 3-spot. This year, it is Kelly Johnson. Last year, Chipper was just getting back into the lineup and contributing. This year, he is just going on the DL after not contributing in a long while. Last year we had John Smoltz to protect whatever lead we could muster. This year, well, we all know about this year.

Am I sounding the death knell? No, of course not. After 13 years of the Braves busting the normal bell curve, I'm not ready to become a statistical purist now. But I can hear the trumpets blaring; they sound like a dirge.

A's 7 Braves 3

So this is what it's like to have a bad team. Brave-O-Matic is old enough to remember the dark days of the '70s and '80s, and while the roster composition is different now (with the rookies these days surrounded by injured good players rather than healthy mediocrities), the effect is the same -- many dispiriting losses. This one especially so, as one of our remaining rotation horses is pitching like he's hiding an injury. What else is new. Might Smoltz turn out to be our healthiest starter after all? I probably shouldn't even bring that up....

Andruw is on one of his tears, but right now he's just serving to keep games respectable. Here is the list of active players who a) were on the opening day roster, and b) have performed to, or exceeded, expectations:

1. Smoltz
2. Reitsma
3. Betemit
4. Langerhans
5. Estrada

and, in another sense,

6. Jordan

Rumors of Aubrey Huff have once again wafted through the breeze. One thing's for sure, we need to bolster the roster soon in order to stay anywhere near contention. The primary concern is staying close to the Marlins, as I don't see the Nationals or Phillies keeping up their recent pace. M Norman says the Devil Rays are asking for Marte, in which case I think it's time to talk to the Reds again about Austin Kearns. They don't know what they're doing over there -- they could have dealt from a position of strength in the offseason because of the emergence of Wily Mo. Instead they chose to break camp with four starting outfielders. Now they've demoted 25-year-old with a lifetime ML OPS of 815 in favor of a 26-year-old with a lifetime minor league OPS of 740. Time to buy low on Kearns.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Looking like Rookies

Braves fall to the A's for the 2nd time in 3 days. This is an A's team that had lost 11 straight road games before reaching Atlanta. Last place in their division. 2nd worst team batting average in the AL. Last in HRs, rbi's, and slugging percentage. Playing without the DH crutch. And they beat us 2 out of 3. Not good.

Some positives today: Andruw hit his third 2-run homer in two days. Furcal had a single, a walk and 2 stolen bases. Julio picked up his 2nd steal of the season, probably becoming the oldest plater with 2 stolen bases in a season.

The bad: Our not-ready-for-prime-time rookie pitchers. Following a 30-minute rain delay, Horacio was "relieved" by Blain Boyer, with the score tied at 4. Blain gave up a single, then induced a ground out, followed by his first k. Then he tossed a wild pitch, gave up a walk and an rbi double.

Boyer, looking less and less controlled, gave way to Adam Bernero to start the next inning, down by a run. By the time he finished one inning, we trailed by 7. HR, single, double, bb, single, out, out, HR, out. Few pitches reached the rookie catcher de jour. Boyer looked overmatched. Bernero looked like a veteran position player pressed into pitching in the 18th inning of a double-header when the bench is empty.

On to Texas. Our bats seem to be improving a bit. We just need out starters to go very, very deep.

Braves' New World (From the NYTimes)

You scan the box scores in the paper, and you notice that one box doesn't identify the teams. One of them has players named Langerhans, Orr, Peña, Johnson (no first initial), Marte, Davies, Foster, Bernero and Betemit. You should not feel ignorant if you can't name the team. The Atlanta Braves probably have to check a scorecard themselves to know who's on the roster these days in the face of a rash of injuries to players from Chipper Jones on down.

This isn't the way they planned to pursue their 14th consecutive division title.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

A Big Win (5-3)

The Braves put it together today, but this time they didn't let go. Many big accomplishments in this very powerful looking victory. Prehaps a glimpse at what our best case scenario could look like.

Andruw may be preparing to act like a veteran leader. He posted his second multi-homer game of the season and became the 5th Braves player ever to amass 800 career rbi's. Marte may be able to hit in the bigs. He collected his first major league hit today. And maybe Brian McCann can be a big league catcher, as he rang up his first round-tripper today. Smoltz went the full 9, for the first time since 1999. And Furcal? Another O'fer.

But the downside today was that all 5 rbi's were on home runs. This suddenly-young team will have to learn to manufacture runs if they are going to stay in contention. This team cannot get by on the 3-run-homer strategy that Cox relied on a few years ago. Jordan can't hit like he used to, Furcal needs singles before he can look for dingers, and all our rookies will be adjusting to big league pitching ofr the next couple of months. But from what I saw today, I think we can win a few more than our roster would lead you to project, if they do what's necessary to just advance baserunners.

So for now, we remain at least a half game out of the cellar. Last shot at the A's tomorrow at 1:05, featuring Horacio Ramirez, who won his last start on June 7th, and has not won 2 in a row this season. No way to guess who might be on the field besides Horacio.

Friday's Belated Recap (A's 6- Braves 4)

2 of our 3 bloggers spent the evening at Turner Field under a light drizzle, watching the Braves let another win slip away. The rain never got bad enough to induce a rain delay, but it did appear to have an effect on Davies' pitching, as it increased somewhat in the middle innings.

The game started well, with Davies and McCann, the youngest battery since 19 year-old Dwight Gooden pitched to John Gibbons (21) in 1984, allowed only one harmless baserunner in each of the first 3 innings.

The Braves meanwhile looked ready to put it away early with an exciting 2nd inning. LaRoche smacked a double to start the inning. Andruw then took one for the team to put 2 on with no outs. Langerhans was out number one, bringing Brian Jordan to the plate with everyone expecting an inning-ending double-play. But, lo and behold, Jordan managed to punch an inside pitch through the right side to score a run. Young Brian McCann then slapped an rbi single to right in his first ML at bat, and Davies brought home a third run with a fielder's choice.

Up 3-0, with Davies in control of a weak-hitting A's squad, all looked well. Then Davies' pitches quit moving and the hits starting falling fast. The 4th for the A's went double, HR, single, K, double, and fielder's choice rbi. Davies, it seemed, could no longer get a pitch past a batter.

We did get a solo homer from Giles in the 5th, but we couldn't keep up. Haren, pitching sans-DH, produced rbi's to help his cause in the 4th and the 6th. Those 2 runs were the margin of victory.

Game notes: The tool race was won by the Hammer, who was loudly cheered to victory by M Norman. In the 4th inning McCann got an intentional pass in only his second major-league at-bat, prompting queries as to whether this may be a record. Furcal, leading off, dropped his average to .223, with anemic display of assorted ineptitudes: a strikeout, a double-play ground out, a foul out, a fly out and a walk. Julio garnered another pinch-hit, with a single in the 8th. Several cool refreshments were enjoyed by the bloggers crew.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Whither Chipper?

In Will Carroll's "Under the Knife" column over at Baseball Prospectus, he filed this report yesterday:

"Chipper Jones still hasn't met with the foot specialist--that comes Friday--though the Braves are clearer on where they stand. (Get it? Stand … foot … never mind.) Jones will be out for a month if he manages to avoid surgery, two months if he has it. Expect the surgery, because trying to rehab it might put him in the same place after the month has gone by. Jones is many things, but sources reminded me today that patient is not among them."

Let's say Chipper opts for surgery and is out for two months. Marte will then have about 150 ABs to prove himself, and my guess is he'll do okay. What happens when Chipper comes back, assuming no other roster moves in the meantime? A few scenarios:

1) Chipper to 3B, Marte to Richmond
The Good -- Chipper reclaims the position at which he is most comfortable, and Marte continues to play every day and develop.
The Bad -- Should Marte prove capable of handling big league pitching (we'll use BP's 50th percentile projection for him -- .253/.335/.466), his spot would be manned by someone less capable of producing runs.

2) Chipper to 3B, Marte to LF
The Good -- More production in the lineup, with Marte replacing Johnson or Jordan or Orr or Betemit or McCarthy or whoever they throw out there in desperation.
The Bad -- In anticipation of needing Marte in LF, the Braves tried him there in spring training and again in Richmond earlier this season, and abandoned the experiment both times. Evidently it was brutal.

3) Chipper to LF, Marte to 3B
The Good -- Same as #2, only backwards
The Bad -- Chipper is dead-set against moving back to the outfield, where he was pretty bad. With the foot problem factored in, this won't happen.

4) Chipper to 1B, Marte to 3B
The Good -- This would enable us to include LaRoche (a tradeable commodity) in a deal for help in the bullpen or LF.
The Bad -- Chipper's never played the position, and 1B might actually be harder on the feet than 3B. We lose a player who's been cheap and reasonably effective.

5) Chipper to 3B, Marte to 1B
The Good -- Same as above, with added bonus that Chipper (the veteran) doesn't switch positions to accommodate a rookie.
The Bad -- Same as above, with added onus that Julio's role diminishes (Marte bats righthanded).

6) Chipper to 3B, Marte to bench
The Good -- Obviously, a better bench, and the least disruption to the everyday lineup.
The Bad -- Marte needs to be playing, not sitting.

Of the above, I think #5 is the gutsiest option to pursue. Marte can approximate LaRoche's production, but we'll suffer in the field. But it's the best way for us to significantly upgrade elsewhere. However, this assumes that we're still in the hunt. If we're not, no reason to trade a young, cheap, and decent player. Which brings me to #7.

7) Marte to 3B, Chipper to the Angels

Before the season, I advocated trading Chipper if the Braves fall out of contention. He's expensive and he's in decline, both in terms of health and production. We will be hard-pressed to stay competitive without him, and all the events of the last couple of months is beginning to give this season a "the future is now" feel. If he's able to return healthy, we may very well showcase him for a trade.


Welcoming The A's

The inter-league irrelevancy continues this weekend as Oakland arrives to play the Braves formerly known as Richmond. And the timing couldn't be better. With the Braves now trailing the Nats by 2 1/2 games, it's good to see one of the worst teams in the AL, instead of Boston or the Yankees.

The A's are a meager 8-23 on the road, coming off 3 losses in D.C and 11 straight road losses overall. We are likely to see Estrada return in the series, although Pena will start behind the plate tonight, as battery-mate to rookie sensation Kyle Davies. While the Angels were able to take advantage of Pena on the basepaths, that's not likely this weekend. The A's currently have fewer stolen bases as a team than occational-starter Ryan Freel or occational-batter Rafael Furcal.

With Davies on the mound, there will be fewer baserunning opportunities for the weak-hitting A's. Like our Braves, the only starter hitting over .300 in the Oakland line-up is the back-up shortstop.

So who knows? Winning 2 out of 3 is a real good possibility, with Davies and then Smoltz pitching the first two games, and Estrada returning to catch Ramirez on Sunday.

And an All-Star update: Leading vote-getter at catcher, Mike Piazza, may add to the DL'd starters for the NL, as he had his weak wrist X-rayed yesterday.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Angels 8 Braves 4

I'll be the first to say I'm excited to see all the prospects get their first shot, but tonight was an object lesson in what happens when too many first shots are being, um, shooted. Exhibit A was Brayan Pena, who evidently does not read Brave-O-Matic. First, to M Norman's chagrin, he gets called up from Richmond. Then, as soon as I pay him a compliment on his defense, he unveils his throwing arm. What was that three-quarters motion about? I have to think we've tried to teach him differently. Maybe he was just nervous and forgot his mechanics, I don't know. Anyway, the Angels took quick note of this and stole five bases.

Also not contributing was Kelly Johnson and Andy Marte. Marte I'll forgive, but the Johnson experiment is going quite badly so far. You want to show confidence in the guy, but .037 is .037. I've advocated Marte in the outfield for just this season, but supposedly that experiment didn't go well at Richmond, and Chipper's injury begs the question anyway. Anyone for McCarthy?

Speaking of Chipper, it sounds very bad. If you can't get a clear diagnosis, it's impossible to know how to proceed. We may be without him for most of the season. Hard to see how we'll keep pace.

The Mid-Summer Craptastic

OK, I know this has nothing to do with the Braves in particular. If this needs to be stricken from the "Matic", then so be it. But I have to express my annual outrage at the putrid excuse for selling commercials that is MLB's so-called All-Star game.

Right now the NL's leading vote getter at shortstop is Nomar Garciaparra. Yes he's talented. But the obvious problem here is that this season he's hitting .157, with 4 rbi's and fewer stolen bases than Pete Orr (there I worked a Brave into my rant). All-Star? When? 2002? He played in as many games in May as I did! Pathetic.

How about this: Derek Lee is batting at a .380 clip, with 17 hr's and 52 rbi's. Will he start for the NL? No. He may lead in all triple crown catagories, but he's not starter quality.

Who will start at 3rd? Well, the 1-2 candidates right now are Scott Rolen and Chipper Jones. But as we all know, they are both on the DL.

Our starting catcher this year? Of course......Mike "Spaghetti Arm" Piazza. Oh sure, his .254 batting average is very impressive, but is he really having an "All-Star" year?

And now the injury added to the annual insult is that the outcome of this crapfest determines homefield advantage in the World Series. Why can't we just have the 8 year-old fans pick who they want to see in the Fall Classic too? Yankees vs. Mets again anyone?

Brian McCann

Another from the Kiddie Corps!

In a comment on M Norman's Brayan Pena post, I wrote, "But McCann is putting up some big numbers: .277/.337/.487 at Myrtle Beach is TOUGH to do, and now he's going .297/.364/.564 at AA Mississippi. He could be Lance Parrish, but I agree that he's pegged for 2007, meaning Estrada or Pena will be trade bait after next season."

So much for my prognostication skills, as the Braves have called up McCann and will likely put Perez back on the DL. McCann has cooled a bit from his hot start -- he's now at .265/.359/.476 -- and I'm a little concerned about starting his arbitration service clock so early. But I'm told that the clock stops once he's sent back down, and we are truly desperate at this point. I assume Pena will get most or all of the starts until Estrada is ready. Brayan isn't hitting, but he looks good behind the plate. We'll settle for a healthy catch-and-throw guy for now.

Braves' Draft - Oh How Devine

The Braves drafted 18 players yesterday, led by NC State's closer Joey Devine. The Braves philosophy usually is to take players with the most projectable talent hoping they will be major league ready in approximately three to four years. Thus, they almost always take high school talent with the first few picks.

Drafting Devine is a move for the right now. Several anonymous scouts suggested that Devine is one of the few players who are close to major-league ready. I think there is a slight chance we will see Devine this year if we can get him signed and to Mississippi in relatively short order. Of course next year is more likely as Bob Horner is the only Brave to have ever played for the major league club the same year as being drafted. Devine is also the first college player the Braves have taken with the first pick since Mike Kelly in 1991.

Devine has a mid-90s fastball than can giddy-up to 97 mph, and it is delivered from a funky arm angle - not quite sidearm, but lower than 3/4. He also boasts a frisbee slider that baffles right-handers, who he absolutely dominated in college. He will have trouble with major league lefties, however, so he needs to develop another pitch - a sinker or a splitter.

The Braves also drafted two other closers from college teams - Will Startup from Georgia and Michael Nix from Auburn. Clearly, our present bullpen woes are a factor in deciding the latest crop of Braves. So, although doubtful, don't be surprised if we see Devine in September. Hopefully we'll still be in the hunt.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Braves 3 Angels 2

The devil over my left shoulder had a dream scenario about this game -- Cox announces that the surprise starter is none other than Dan Kolb, who proceeds (after walking the leadoff hitter on four pitches, natch) to plunk Erstad. Erstad charges the mound, but rather than stop him, the Bravos form a schoolyard ring and enjoy the mutual pummeling!

Alas, it was not to be, but the way the game actually played out was very satisfying. Who would have figured that a June game against the Angels would have a big-game aura, but this one did. The home team is racked with injuries, a summerlong, five-team battle royale is taking shape, and the opponent is suddenly and viscerally hated. Our least effective starter pitching in front of a AAA lineup, but lo and behold the Braves looked sharp.

Horacio threw a "purpose" pitch behind Erstad, and the issue was put aside. He pitched his best game of the season just when we needed it, and we got just enough offense and typically fine glovework to pull this one out. The debut of Andy Marte got second billing, but he came through with a sac fly RBI and a fine scoop and throw that Chipper has long done so well. Reitsma looked great in the ninth inning, putting to rest for one day our eternal bullpen worries.

Giles was reportedly upset about not starting, saying "I don't know what's going on", but Betemit has earned playing time. It was a gutsy move by Cox to dare to further tweak an already depleted lineup, but expect Giles back tomorrow. He doesn't seem the type to sulk.

The Future is Now

We've talked about it around water coolers for years. Entire blogs have been dedicated to exploring the depths of our minor league system in search of the next stud major leaguer. In the past, one would have to travel to Richmond, Rome, Myrtle Beach or, egads, Mississippi to see the dawning of major league talents. Tonight, just go over to Turner Field.

I am expecting quite a silly lineup tonight.

C Brayan Pena, age 23
1B Adam LaRoche, age 25
2B Marcus Giles, age 27
SS Rafael Furcal, age 26
3B Andy Marte, age 21
RF Ryan Langerhans, age 25
CF Andruw Jones, age 28
LF Kelly Johnson, age 23
SP Kyle Davies, age 21

I know that everyone is excited to see Marte and some of these other kids; I am too. Honestly, though, I would rather travel to Richmond to see them play, because that would mean that we have fielded a team of proven major league talent instead of groping for the fruits from our impressive minor league system. Teams do not win division with five rookie starters. It just doesn't happen.

So enjoy this glimpse of the Braves of the Future, but let's hope we get some Braves of Right Now in the lineup, whether they be current Braves or not.

Monday, June 06, 2005

8th Inning- A Season on the Brink

I can't watch anymore. Its just unbelievable. A day after falling out of first place. Hampton on the DL. Thompson on the DL. Chipper just named to the DL. Back-up catcher, Eddie Perez DL'd too. Then tonight hits like a locomotive.

Smoltz starts off with a stellar return. No baserunners through 4 2/3. Braves lead 2-0. Then a single. And a single. And a single. Drip, drip, drip. Starts to feel like things are sliding away, but no runs given up there in the 5th. Then Smoltz gives up a 2-out double, then a balk, then an rbi single the next inning. Then the roof falls in.

Three runs given up in the 8th, but more importantly, Estrada gets knocked out by a shoulder to the face from Erstad (who touched the plate as an afterthought). Brutal. I can't watch the rest.

And tomorrow the rednecks will call in to sports radio and complain that the Braves are losing because Bobby Cox just doesn't know how to win. I want to punch the rally monkey in the face.

What an Offensive Offense

Another road trip brings another extended exercise in futility, winning two out of seven against less-than-stellar competition. (Well, the Nationals are in first place, which says more about the other teams in the division than it does about the Nationals).

As expected, the Braves' pitching has been wonderful. Even Greisinger pitched OK yesterday, but the offense is just miserable right now. The numbers tell the story. Here is how our top five hitters fared on the road trip:

Rafael Furcal
1-14; 0 RBI; 1 SB and is now hitting .221 with a .275 on-base percentage

Marcus Giles
4-22; 1 RBI and is now hitting a so-so .279

Chipper Jones
1-25, 2 RBI, and the fragile Mr. C. Jones is probably going to the DL

Andruw Jones
4-26, 1 HR, 2 RBI and is now hitting .249

Adam LaRoche
3-18, 2 RBI and is now hitting .242

So, let's add this up! In the past seven games, the Braves' top five hitters went a collective 14 for 105 (a .133 BA) with 1 HR and 7 RBI. With the 13 walks they coaxed, our table-setters and RBI guys were on base a total of 27 in 118 plate appearances, for a collective on-base percentage of around .230. (This doesn't include HPBs, sacrifices or fielder's choices). And, of course, these numbers do not include Kelly Johnson's 1-16 with 0 RBIs, hitting mostly in the three-spot.

The good news is that both Estrada and Betemit are hitting the ball well right now, and we will be relying a lot on Betemit for the next few weeks. The bad news is... well, the numbers tell that story.

All-Star? Where?

The All-Star balloting push is now going full steam throughout baseball. The Braves, following Sunday's loss, have fallen 1/2 game out of first. And yet, is there an All-Star worthy player in the bunch?

Chipper? He's been on and off the bench with injuries, and sports a mere .282 batting average.

Andruw has 12 homers. But he's hitting under .250, with more k's than rbi's. Giles? Hudson? Smoltz? Estrada?

Or is the newly arrived Kyle Davies the only one putting together an over-expectations season?

My only choice would be Estrada, who's a decent hitter at a position that is generally weak thoughout the league. Who can you vote for without feeling guilty?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

A 5-2 Loss. And More.

The Braves gave it up today. We looked like a mid-80's version of Bravesuck. So how bad was it?

The Braves couldn't get much on Oliver Perez. Yes that Oliver Perez. The guy who came in with a 3-4 record, a gaudy 6.92 ERA, and was averaging a HR every 3 1/2 innings. Today he goes 7 innings, gets 7 k's and the win. Surrendering only the obligatory Langerhans Sunday dinger, while bringing his ERA under 6.5.

The Braves 11 game errorless streak came to an abrupt halt with Jorge Sosa's disasterous mis-throw to Giles covering 1st on a sacrifice in the seventh.

Oh yeah, its also worth noting that Chipper went down in the batters box like M. Norman swinging at a ficticious fastball in a Turner Field batting cage. Like Mr. Carnathan, Chipper could not make it off the field unassisted. DL time seems likely to heal the mysterious left foot injury.

On the positive side, Rafael Furcal, while going 0 for 3 again, did not strike out all day.

And the former-Braves pitching notes: Yesterday both Glavine and Maddux notched wins, while Jason Marquis went 3 for 3 at the plate, with a 2-out, 2-run dinger. Smoltz throws on Monday for the Braves against the Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim (which is Spanish for The Angels Angels at Anaheim). No word on how Steve Avery fared in his slow pitch church league debut.

It's Called a Save, I Think

What was also impressive about yesterday's game against the Pirates was Chris Reitsma. He came in and closed the game out, like a closer is supposed to do. He actually got everybody out. This is so rare lately that I stared at the television in s stupor for several minutes after witnessing this feat. I can't remember the last time we had a stress-free performance in the late innings.
Right now, the only thing the Braves are doing well is starting pitching. We have been going against some offensively-challenged lineups in the Nationals and Pirates, but our starting pitching has been tremendous. What we aren't doing is hitting. Today would be a good time to rediscover that feeling of wood striking baseball.
The Braves put Mike Hampton on the DL again. That's just terrific. After sucking for two years, he finally becomes almost worth his hefty contract with several outstanding, dominant starts. But this forearm problem sounds like season-long injury, and that's too bad. We are fortunate that Davies is so major-league ready. I'm not sure we can say the same thing about today's spot starter in Seth Greisinger.
Greisinger is no young-gun phenom like Davies. He is 30 years old and has started 38 games in the big leagues, sporting an eye-popping 5.56 ERA, and opposing batters are hitting a robust .295 against him. I'm not saying he isn't capable of pitching a good game, but he is an emergency fill-in, not a face of the future. Some offense would be welcomed with enthusiasm.

BRAVES 1, BUCS 0 (A Good Day)

An interesting day for Braves fans on Saturday, as Kyle Davies churned out another impressive performance. Our 21 year-old rookie phenom threw 7 2/3 innings, lowered his ERA to 0.77, was named the player of the game, yet came away with no decision, as the Braves failed to eke out a run before his exit. (His nickname from Bobby Cox? Yes, its Daviesie.)

We finally did get our run, courtesy of the ageless wonder, Julio Franco, with 2 out in the ninth. Julio, incidently, also had an rbi double to secure Davies his first win in the majors, last month in Boston. And for those who still enjoy the age discrepacy notes: Franco was completing his first season in the major league when Kyle was born (September 9, 1983).

Davies did a great job of pitching himself out of jams all day. Most notably in the fifth inning. With 2 on and nobody out, Kyle got Jack Wilson to pop a weak fly ball for the first out, and then turned a nifty 1-6-3 double play to end the inning.

Play 'O The Day: One out in the ninth, Giles on first. Brian Jordan, channelling the spirit of Raul Mondesi, hits a weak double-play roller to the left side of the infield. But the super-aggressive Marcus Giles took out Castillo at second to break it up, allowing Julio a chance with 2 outs. Game over. Oh, and Reitsma faced the minimum to close the 9th successfully.

Friday, June 03, 2005

C'mon - now's the time! It's the Pirates for crapsakes!

After inexplicably losing three of four to the Nationals, the Braves head to PNC park in Pittsburgh to do battle with a plucky band of Pirates.

Before somebody counters with "Hey, the Nationals are a good team..." You're wrong. They aren't. But they have been better than us this season, and we are a good team. Go figure.

Now comes the Pirates. Not one person can claim that these guys are good, although they do have some pretty scary players - Jason Bay, and, um... Daryle Ward, and, of course, we can't forget the inimitable Jack Wilson. OK, so these guys aren't murderers' row, but they do have pluck, and who doesn't like pluck.

These guys have good pitchers. Their team ERA is a pedestrian 4.11, but that includes Oliver Perez's ERA of about a million. Each of their starters can, at any given time, shut down opposing teams. Take tonight's starter, for example, in Kip Wells. Recently, he went seven straight starts in which he allowed three earned runs or less in each. Pretty impressive.

In his last start, however, he gave up nine runs (only four of them earned) in 2.2 innings. This is what Kip Wells does. You never know with Wells, but I suspect, given the Braves penchant for not scoring runs and that PNC park has become quite a pitcher's park, I foresee more painfully close, low-scoring games in which we will have to rely heavily on our bullpen.

Tonight, though, if Hudson is pitching anything close to the way Hudson can pitch, I bet he goes the distance. This will give our bullpen a chance to get frontal lobotomies so they can forget how terrible they are.

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Ah yes. Same ole story. Hell, I should just copy one of the prior posts and paste it here. It will save my addled brain from having to conjure up some new way to write about a tired, all-too-familiar scene. Dan Kolb brings about the ruination of the Braves' good work in the top of the 8th inning, and the Nationals take three of four from the Braves. Let's re-write that for effect. The Nationals take three of four from the Braves.

The score, 8-6, is not at all indicative of this game. But this game was eerily true to an entirely new script written by the Braves' bullpen. No lead is safe, not even against the Nationals and Gary Bennett.

It was a well-pitched game until the 8th, when the Braves, down 3-2, scratched out four runs, thanks to Johnny Estrada's single with the bases loaded and Brad Wilkerson's throwing error.

At the time this seemed like the death knell for the Nats... but why I would think that - or anybody think that. I guess that feeling still lingers from the days of yore, you know, B.K. - Before Kolb. And, of course, the EXACT SAME THING happens in this Kolb appearance as with almost every other Kolb appearance - first batter he faces, he walks.

Then a fielders choice, then single-single-double and with a three-run lead whittled to one, Kolb goes away.

Kevin Gryboski, too, doesn't like to shake things up too much by veering off script. So, after an intentional walk, he did what Gryboski does - give up a hit to some schlub named Gary Bennett. Now, what was a three-run lead is a two-run deficit, and completely unlike our inspired comeback the inning before, this was undeniably the end.

Said the offending Kolb: "I pretty much feel terrible about my whole season right now. Go home, do some thinking and see what happens tomorrow.''

Well, if Kolb thinks that he will see another narrow lead anytime soon, his thinking is like his pitching - bad.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Braves 5 Nats 4

Smoltz wasn't at his best today, but got the win when the Braves and Nats switched scripts and the good guys scored a late-inning comeback victory. The bottom of the lineup was the story today, as Estrada continued his good work of late with a single and HR (up to .276 now), Langerhans doubled twice, and Betemit reached base four times, including a game-tying, two-run HR in the eighth. Julio followed with a walk and was pinch-hit for by Pete Orr, who proceeded to run like a banshee on a steal of second and scoring from there on a shallow single by Giles. Reitsma then notched his second two-inning save in a week.

Betemit started when Furcal was scratched due to an ailing shoulder. The cognoscenti over at Braves Journal are supposing that Wilson might have been showcased for a potential trade to the Twins in exchange for an outfielder.

From a St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist today:

"The Atlanta Braves need an outfielder, and Braves superscout Jim Fregosi was at the Metrodome for Tuesday night's Twins-Indians game. Twins general manager Terry Ryan declined comment on the possibility of a deal."

Betemit for Ford? Furcal for Hunter or Jones? Hmmm....thoughts, anybody?