Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Blauser’s Braves

As has been reported for several weeks now, Jeff Blauser was named the manager of the AA Mississippi Braves for the upcoming season. I point this out now because there are some good interviews/links that I’ve come across. Over at Talking Chop, Joe has finally :) posted his interview with Jeff. As always, it was a great interview with plenty of good prospect questions – really good stuff for Braves fanatics.

The M-Braves site has the Jeff Blauser press conference available for download on mp3. It’s an 11 minute interview on a 10MB file. The local paper has the highlights in this article.

If you’re interested in Jeff Blauser the player, here are his career stats. He was a 2-time all-star and won the Silver Slugger for shortstops in ’97. Interestingly, he was originally drafted by the Cardinals, and then later in the year drafted by the Braves back when they had two drafts per year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Tuesday with a Monday Feel

So, because there’s like no one at work, I’ve got a lot of extra time on my hands. But since there’s nothing really baseball to blog about - unless you care about the Yankees / Red Sox telenovela - I’ve been doing some extra hard surfing of the internet (which I think they should somehow turn into a sport).

I’m a big fan of our terror alert system, I mean it’s just so plain and simple to understand and it keeps you so fearful all the time. Some mornings I just huddle around the tele and scroll through all the 24-hour news channels that have nothing better to talk about than the latest Lohan sighting and wait for them to tell me if I should be afraid today. Some bloggers put the terror alert level in its place here, here, and here.

So enough about Linds and our color coded catastrophe calculator. For whatever reason this afternoon I stumbled onto some sites of musical artists I’ve been meaning to purchase for awhile, and there are plenty of free mp3s abound. Some people call it alt-folk or roots folk/roots rock, and it’s some pretty good stuff – Iron & Wine and Calexico. I’m a big fan of hearing a lot of a musician’s work before I purchase an album; with these two you can do that here. It’s not for everybody, but I’m diggin’ it.

Added Some Links

Not much baseball news to talk about, other than my discovery that Andruw Jones’ middle name is Rudolf – which is quite seasonal, I think.

I added some more Baseball Links that I like to frequent to the column on the right:

Baseball Crank is an interesting combo site of baseball and (right of center) politics. He has some interesting opinions on both, and if you don’t appreciate the politics you can use the baseball-only content link at the top to filter it out.

The Hardball Times is a digest style blog which also happens to have some great sortable statistics which are free to use. There are plenty of contributors so the writing is varied and stays fresh.

Baseball Reference is another handy stats site with TONS of info that is well organized by topic. They also have a great Travel section with a Travel Guide that allows you to search using a city or zip code for baseball attractions nearby.

Finally, Baseball-Links is a decent site for finding links to other sites about baseball. Good for international baseball sites. Suffers a bit from link-rot.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Ligtenberg in a Bottle

In the midst of some minor player movement, the Braves signed Independent League relief pitcher Ben Grezlovski. Never heard of him? Nether had I. But of course no one had ever heard of Kerry Ligtenberg when he came out of the Independent Leagues in ’97 and became a solid contributor to the Atlanta bullpen, only to take over the closer’s role the following year. Could this be what Schu is talking about when he says ‘lightning in a bottle.’

In other minor player movement, our Dan Kolb consolation prize was not tendered a contract (though we may sign him to a minor league deal). And Jim Brower was also non-tendered, let’s hope we don’t see him again. He was, how do you say, real shitty.

Over in Devil Ray land, Joe Borowski was designated for assignment, which means they have 15 days to trade or release him. That move probably means that there was sufficient interest in him from other clubs that the Rays didn’t want to just make him a free agent. But Tampa’s ineptitude at making any major trades this winter will likely continue.

It’s looking more and more like it’s going to be Chris Reitsma closing out games in ’06. With that in mind, let’s look on the bright side of Reitsma. Last July when he assumed the closer’s role he was dominant until apparently getting hurt. He was such a good reliever in July that he won the Rolaids Relief Man Award for that month. This proves that he can close, and close effectively. . . when healthy. The Braves have never been afraid to let anyone take over the closer’s role – see Ligtenberg, Rocker, Stanton, etc. They are certainly showing no fear this off-season.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Spending Too Wisely?

Well, actually we aren’t spending anything. After the Braves lost out on Farnsworth, Hoffman, T. Jones, and Wickman for not offering enough cash in a contract, they are about to lose out on another reliever who everyone thought would be a cinch to sign in Atlanta. Makes me wonder what we are going to spend our money on next year. Of course, this guy might be available shortly, as it looks like the Brewers are going to non-tender Kolb.

Speaking of Tuesday’s deadline to offer contracts to players, it will be interesting to see if any other pitchers jump on the market that might attract the Braves’ interest. Former Cubs closer Joe Borowski is likely to be available as is Ramon Ortiz. Ortiz is a former Reds and Angles pitcher who has primarily been a starter in his career, although in 2004 he was much more effective as a reliever, posting a 2.76 ERA against a 4.72 career ERA. Borowski was a reliever for the Braves during parts of the ’96 and ’97 seasons, posting decent numbers. He blossomed in ’03 as the Cubs closer when he recorded 33 saves while posting a 2.63 ERA before suffering a shoulder injury in June of ’04. Borowski seemed to regain his form for Tampa Bay at the end of last season, posting a 3.82 ERA after the All-Star break. Since he is a former Brave he may draw quite a bit of interest if he is non-tendered by the Devil Rays.

The Cubs Corey Patterson may also be non-tendered and may draw some interest as a candidate to lead-off and play left field.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Blank the Braves

So, apparently the Atlanta Braves are for sale, I don’t know if you’ve heard or not. If you live around Atlanta, you’d have to live in bubble not to have heard. And you’d also have to be a bubble boy not to know that everyone and their brother have suggested that Arthur Blank buy the team. So let me just hop on this band wagon and say that I too would pick Arthur Blank as my first choice to buy the Braves.

The bottom line on Blank is that he knows how to get fans in the seats. For the Falcons he turned the routine of one to two sellout games a season into every game being a sellout, even preseason. Blank knows the value of a team with a superstar like Vick, so he must know the value of the Braves with stars the likes of Jones, Jones, Smoltz, and Francoeur.

But I believe the transformation of the Atlanta Braves needs to go further than just an owner with marketing prowess. We need an owner who can turn baseball in Atlanta into something other than a commuter sport. Something more than a stadium planted in the middle of parking lots. Atlanta is not only ready, but Atlanta needs the neighborhood stadium.

I’m not talking about building a new stadium in some yet-to-be-determined neighborhood of Atlanta. I’m talking about building a neighborhood in the parking lots around our current stadium. Take away the acres of parking spaces that go unused for half the year and plant houses and condos and lofts and markets in their place. Take a look at the picture below. Take a look at all the parking lots that border The Ted.

Building a neighborhood is not a foreign idea in the Atlanta metro area. We build more neighborhoods than almost anyone else in the country. Even within the city of Atlanta we have built and are building neighborhoods from empty lots and abandoned land. And the City of Atlanta is emphasizing neighborhoods in their effort to revitalize downtown. So why not try and bring the feel of the neighborhood stadiums of Boston and Chicago to Atlanta.

Oh sure, there are plenty of places to build and hide parking desks for the throngs of people that stream in from the burbs, and they could even be built adjacent to the interstate for easy access to and from. There they could also serve as a barrier to the traffic noise for our newly built neighborhood.

Building a surrounding neighborhood would no longer make The Ted a Wal-Mart stadium (Wal-Mart being a destination which is rarely surrounded by other stores). You could come to The Ted a few hours before the game and walk through the blocks around the stadium that wind from Hank Aaron Hill to Dale Murphy Drive. Stop off at one of the many watering holes and have a cold one before heading over to your favorite deli to pick up a couple of sandwiches before heading across the street to the game.

Other baseball cities have transformed downtowns by making the baseball stadium a neighborhood ballpark. San Diego moved from a stadium surrounded by parking lots to one on the edge of their old downtown. Denver built its baseball park in the middle of the city. These are two cities that have become even greater baseball towns because their ballparks are right there among the neighborhoods.

Another thing that the neighborhood stadium creates is an atmosphere of ownership for the fans. Bostonians and Chicagoans can say that the stadium is a part of the city. Atlantans can only say that the city has a stadium, but that the stadium feels removed from the city somehow. It is still in a way just the municipal mega-plex that was the old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Sure you can see the skyline behind the scoreboard, but you know that it’s off in the distance. You know that there is a void between the city and the ballpark. You know there is a moat of paved nothingness that removes you from Atlanta when you go to the ballpark.

Don’t get me wrong with all this ranting I’m doing, I am a big fan of Turner Field and the job that the Braves do in making it fan-friendly. But we as a city still do not feel like we ‘own’ the Braves. We’re still fair-weather fans ready to jump ship at the first 3-game losing streak. Building a neighborhood right up to the ballpark would bridge the asphalt and apathy gap between Atlanta and its baseball team.

Arthur Blank or not, the person or group of people or corporation that buys this team has an opportunity to reunite Atlanta with its ballpark and bring them closer than ever before. Whoever owns the team has to make the fans feel like they own it. That’s the trick to a larger fan base, even when we eventually run out of winning seasons.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Fancy New Logo

It may not look that fancy, but I was pulling my hair out trying to put it together. I swear, learning how to use Adobe Photoshop is like learning a new language. Anyway, I’d like to get a better looking Atlanta ‘A,’ so if I come across one in the future (or if anyone has one that they can send me) I’ll change it up.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Free Toque Anyone

Seriously, what comes to mind when someone says ‘toque.’ I know I had to go look it up. Maybe it’s just that I’m not up on the latest in Canadian fashion. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve lived in the warm and sunny south my whole life. So the Blue Jays are giving away a free ‘toque’ with every gift card purchase. Money quote:

“Purchase a Blue Jays Gift Card this holiday season and receive a warm fuzzy feeling.”

I’m not making this shit up. These Canadians must not be aware of the double entendre. The Urban Dictionary sheds a bit of light on the varied meanings of ‘toque,’ and possibly sets the stage for the rare triple entendre with number three. The Blue Jays need to find a better name for this other than ‘toque.’

Monday, December 12, 2005

Edgar Speaks

Here is an interesting interview with Edgar Renteria from the Boston Globe. Money quote:

“’The ball bounces too much in the field of the shortstop, where I play,’ he said. ‘The field is not good like other stadiums. One day it's bad, the next day, it's worse . . . I was uncomfortable the whole year.’”

I don’t quite buy his excuse for the poor fielding last year. He had 16 errors at home and 14 errors on the road; not that big of a discrepancy. The Red Sox as a team had a 54/55 home/road error split; no Fenway fielding folly there. The Red Sox’ opponents had a 56/51 home/Fenway error split; still no indication of a bad surface at Fenway. So it must have been because of this:

“Renteria said he ‘pulled [his] lower back and leg’ catching a ground ball, though he wasn't specific as to when that occurred. He was clear in that it handicapped him.
‘It was really uncomfortable,’ he said. ‘It is not the same thing to play at 100 percent than at 50 or 60 percent.’”

Renteria is a player that will play through minor injuries, so maybe that was it. Let’s hope it’s not age catching up with him.

Friday, December 09, 2005

What About Wilkerson

One final thought before the weekend and my brain shuts off, would Brad Wilkerson be a good fit for the Braves. He just got traded from Washington to Texas for Alfonso Soriano, and the buzz has it that Texas is going to ship him somewhere else. Wilkerson has played a lot of left field and he’s done a lot of leading off. He may only be a career .260 hitter leading off, but he has a .372 on-base percentage. Isn’t that the whole job of the leadoff hitter; to get on base? By comparison, while Furcal has a higher career average hitting leadoff at .281, his on-base percentage is only .346. And Wilkerson would only cost about $5 million next year.

I am going to ‘speculate’ that we could pry Wilkerson from the Rangers for Betemit and either Horacio or Sosa. I know that the Rangers are wanting a second baseman in return, so maybe we could 3-way with Toronto (with Orlando Hudson). I think getting an on-base percentage guy like Wilkerson would be a good move.

Can I Get A Closer Over Here

So now that Schu has filled one of three stated needs in acquiring shortstop Edgar Renteria from Boston, he turns his attention to the two remaining holes on the Atlanta roster; leadoff hitter and closer. Let’s take a look at some of the options available at closer and the possible direction the Braves might head.

Free Agents
They’re all gone. All of them. Jones is in Detroit, Wickman in Cleveland, Hoffman in San Diego, Farnsworth in New York, Gordon in Philly, all gone. The only person of note, of which there has been some talk of the Braves signing, is Octavio Dotel. Dotel is coming off of elective Tommy John surgery, but may not be ready until midsummer. Still, the Braves may be willing to take a chance that Dotel can regain his pre-surgery form. Former Mets closer Braden Looper is available, but he’s not too good. Former Arizona closer Matt Mantei is also unsigned, but he is several years (and surgeries) removed from closing.

Dannys Baez is still out there as an option, so is Toronto’s Miguel Bautista. I would rate both as below average closers on last place ball clubs (see Dan Kolb). Other than those two, there have been no other rumors of any other closers being available. Of course the Royals are always willing to deal Jeremy Affeldt away, but he’s not that good either.

The Braves have a host of closer candidates in their organization. Reitsma struggled at times last year due to injury (and a lot of bad luck). Devine got bombed in several of his appearances, but was also injured and fatigued due to pitching more innings than ever before. Both of these options make me a bit nervous. Other bullpen guys like Blaine Boyer or minor league free agent Brad Baker could be options for the closer’s role. A dark horse candidate might be rookie Anthony Lerew, who some have suggested has the makeup to be a power closer. The development track might be the route the Braves take as was recently hinted by Schu:
“[W]e've got some arms that in the past we've really liked. If they rebound like we hope they can, we may very well catch lightning in a bottle.”

I don’t think the Braves are going to trade away any of their top players or prospects for a Baez or Bautista. I can see them signing Dotel to a one or two year deal and seeing if he pans out. It looks as though they are content to sit back for a while and see if any interesting offers for the right guy pop up. There will be no knee jerk reaction to the dried up closers market to go out and overpay for a below average guy. If the Kolb trade taught them anything it is to make sure you trade for someone who has proven he can close for more than one or two years. I have a feeling we’re in a holding pattern on the closer front.

Renteria Reactions

There are some interesting opinions all over the media about the Renteria trade:

Jeff Schultz at the AJC thinks Renteria is not a replacement, but an upgrade. He’s also not too disappointed we traded away Marte:
“The amusing thing about the Braves supposedly giving up the organization’s ‘best prospect’ for Renteria in Andy Marte is that the ‘best prospects’ are already on the roster.
Marte might have a future, but he hardly was untouchable and he still looks to be a year removed from major league-ready. And for him they get Edgar Renteria? This trade was a slam dunk.
Renteria is not a replacement. He is an upgrade.”

Bob Ryan at the Boston Globe thinks the pressures of the city and the fans got to Renteria:
“Tony La Russa hinted that Edgar was far too sensitive to thrive in this diamond hothouse [Boston], didn't he? The Cardinals' skipper could have been unable to resist taking a gentle swipe at the team and town that had stolen his shortstop, or he could have been telling the gospel truth. If he was, then Atlanta is a great spot for Renteria. It will be June before someone even notices that Rafael Furcal is gone.”

Some good quotes from Mike Bauman at
“[I]f you can assume Renteria will regain his pre-2005 form in the field, not only have the Braves replaced Furcal, but they also have managed an upgrade.”
“Marte is a player of truly significant potential, and the Red Sox were very happy to land him. But this is also part of the beauty of the Braves organization. Players of significant potential keep getting churned out, either to fill the needs of the Major League club -- as they did last season in record numbers -- or to be available in trades for established talent, as Marte was here for Renteria.”
And my favorite:
“You've seen this before from the Braves. It is exactly this sort of thing that reminds you why those 14 consecutive division titles have been produced by this organization. Their Plan B so often ends up being better than somebody else's Plan A.”

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Possible Lineup Scenarios

In light of our recent trades and the acquisition of Edgar Renteria from the Red Sox, I thought this would be a good moment to churn out some possible lineups for next year. Since we don’t seem to possess a bona fide leadoff hitter (yet), there are several different versions listed.

Lineup A
1. M. Giles (R) – 2B
2. E. Renteria (R) – SS
3. C. Jones (S) – 3B
4. A. Jones (R) – CF
5. A. LaRoche (L) – 1B
6. J. Francoeur (R) – RF
7. B. McCann (L) – C
8. R. Langerhans (L) / K. Johnson (L) – LF
Comments: This version makes the top of the lineup lopsided with right handed hitters, and the bottom of the lineup lopsided with left handed hitters. This lineup also throws all of the young players at the bottom of the lineup where they are not protected by more experienced hitters.

Lineup B
1. R. Langerhans (L) / K. Johnson (L) – LF
2. M. Giles (R) – 2B
3. C. Jones (S) – 3B
4. A. Jones (R) – CF
5. A. LaRoche (L) – 1B
6. J. Francoeur (R) – RF
7. E. Renteria (R) – SS
8. B. McCann (L) – C
Comments: This gets a bit more lefty/righty back and forth throughout the lineup. Throughout his career, Renteria has been a much better hitter lower in the lineup. The Red Sox hit him second last year for the vast majority of games. As a number 2 hitter in 2005 Renteria compiled a .278 average with a .337 on-base percentage. But as a number 7 hitter in the Red Sox lineup last year he compiled a .314 average with a .415 OBP. We can track his numbers the same way from 2002 – 2004. Batting 2nd he was .281 / .333, batting 7th he was .330 / .403 (also, batting 5th .315 / .387, batting 6th .299 / .347). As of late, he seems to feel more comfortable hitting lower in a batting order. The main problem with this lineup is the untested guys hitting leadoff.

Lineup C
1. E. Renteria (R) – SS
2. M. Giles (R) – 2B
3. C. Jones (S) – 3B
4. A. Jones (R) – CF
5. A. LaRoche (L) – 1B
6. J. Francoeur (R) – RF
7. B. McCann (L) – C
8. R. Langerhans (L) / K. Johnson (L) – LF
Comments: Since Renteria has hit in the leadoff spot for all of 48 at-bats the last five years, this lineup probably won’t happen. It’s also right/lefty top and bottom lopsided.

Overall, I’m a big fan of Lineup B. Even though neither of the guys that would be leading off have had much experience with that, it does not disturb the other batters in the order. Some people have suggested putting Giles in the leadoff spot because he gets on base well, but his career numbers in the first spot in the order are .264 / .339 as opposed to his number batting second, .303 / .372. Giles is a lot more effective as a number two batter, and since Renteria is not as effective a number two hitter as he is in the lower part of the order then it makes more sense to keep Giles at 2 and Renteria at 6 or 7. I also like a veteran like Renteria hitting behind Francoeur, it should improve the pitches he will see and take some of the pressure to produce off of him.

As for the two guys at the top, Kelly Johnson was .357 / .438 in limited leadoff duty and and Langerhans was 2 for 5. Lineup B also allows the Braves to identify a player they can try and trade for that is both an outfielder and a leadoff man.

Further Insight into the Estrada Trade

What did Schu know and when did he know it? It seems that the Braves were asking Arizona for Cormier and Villarreal from the start. It had Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes scratching his head a bit. Money quote:

“And Byrnes admitted he wondered whether he was doing the right thing when Atlanta asked for two fairly unsung Diamondbacks relievers to get a proven catcher in the prime of his career.”

I know we wanted to dump him on someone, but like I said earlier, I wish we had gotten more in return. It is interesting that while Byrnes is a young first year GM, he was still a bit perplexed at the two pitchers the Braves wanted in return. With all of these relievers we have acquired, Lance Cormier, Oscar Villarreal, and Wes Obermueller, it will be interesting to watch them through spring training to see what kind of adjustments the Braves will have them make.

Meanwhile, Furcal is already getting questions from the LA press about his checkered past.

And another closer may be off the market.

Winter Meetings Maneuvering

So long Dan Kolb, it’s been fun. Also, let’s thank the Brewers for the loaner, he didn’t really work out so you can have him back. In return why don’t you give us a mid-level reliever, we’re collecting those this winter. Let’s hope the Braves scouting department is right that these guys still have some potential.

On other fronts the Braves have parted ways with the ‘ageless one.’ Looks like he was asking for more money than the Braves thought he was worth. They were probably a bit wary of his decline in the final month of the season where he hit .171 and struck out in one third of his at-bats. What’s weird is that the Braves offered arbitration to Brian Jordan and Eddie Perez. Jordan doesn’t seem to be anything more than a fifth outfielder at this point and Perez is a backup to the backup catcher.

The big pursuit of a shortstop was apparently in a holding pattern as the teams haggle over just who to include. It may become more likely throughout the day that the Braves will pull the trigger with the Devil Rays for both Lugo and Baez now that Wickman and Hoffman are off the market. That also shrinks the list of potential closers that can be acquired via free agency to Todd Jones (which is who I thought we’d end up with all along). But if it is going to be Baez and/or Lugo, then Tampa has got to come way down on the asking price.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Adios Estrada

It is being reported by ESPN and the AJC that the Braves have traded Johnny Estrada to the Diamondbacks for two pitchers. The Braves would receive Lance Cormier and Oscar Villarreal from the D-Backs. Both pitchers, ages 25 and 24 respectively, have primarily worked out of the bullpen the last two years. This looks to be a move to add more arms to the pen. Villarreal is probably the hotter commodity here with 3 plus pitches, a slider, two seamer, and four seamer, he is primarily a sinkerballer. This deal may be a sign that the rumored three team trade between the Braves, D-Backs, and D-Rays is dead.

My first impressions of this trade are mixed. While the D-Backs were one of the teams I listed as a possible destination for Estrada, I had thought we would use him as a major chip to get either a shortstop or closer or perhaps one of their better bullpen arms. The fact that we got two average middle relievers makes me think we were just looking to get rid of Estrada and his salary. This seems to be a positive move if you’re a Brian McCann fan, as he will in all likelihood take over as the primary catcher next year. It also seems to indicate the rumors that had him being included in a trade to Tampa Bay are all but over.


The rumor du jour has Edgar Renteria coming over from Boston as the centerpiece of a 3-way deal that would have Tampa Bay sending Julio Lugo to the Sox, and the Braves shipping Andy Marte and another player to the Rays. The hold up here is that the Braves want the Red Sox to assume a portion of the $30 million remaining on Renteria’s contract. Renteria was a two time gold glove shortstop for the Cardinals in 2002 and 2003, but committed 30 errors for the Red Sox last season and has apparently fallen out of favor with the team. The market for Lugo may be getting thinner with the Cubs acquisition of Juan Pierre from Florida, but even with that pick up they may still be in the market for the Tampa shortstop.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Latest from Days 1 and 2 at the Winter Meetings

The Braves interest in Tampa Bay’s Lugo seems to be growing, possibly to include Baez. This could become a three-way deal with the D-Backs, but it looks like a possible hang-up could be Tampa’s insistence on McCann. The D-Backs might have been brought into the deal since they are in need of a catcher and would probably take Estrada. While Atlanta is in no rush to replace Furcal (seemingly being happy with Betemit), the Devil Rays will ship Lugo before the meetings end.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Annual Nay Saying in the Media Begins

Here is the first salvo of ‘how long can they keep winning’ rhetoric from the MSM (Main Stream Media). And apparently someone at ESPN didn’t do their homework, check out the yes/no question #10:

“Do you think the Braves can count on Mike Hampton to be a reliable No. 3 starter behind John Smoltz and Tim Hudson next season?”

Maybe it’s a trick question to see if we’re really paying attention. Apparently 44.6% of the people in ‘Sports Nation’ are not aware that Hampton is out next season. But at least the ‘Sports Nation’ knows better than to bet against the Braves (as evidenced by the results of questions #2).

Speculation, Speculation, Speculation

Everyone loves speculation! And what else is a blog good for, if not for good ole fashion raw speculation. That’s right, unsubstantiated rumor-mongering run amuck. And the Braves have plenty of holes to fill, and there are plenty of people we could speculate are going to fill them. So without anymore delay, here are the rumors and speculations du jour:

SS: Now that ‘Raffy’ has crossed over to the West-side, we have what looks to be a gaping hole up the middle as well as at the leadoff position. Everyone and their brother has predicted that Tamp Bay’s Julio Lugo is the Braves’ backup plan. The Rays and Braves seem to match up well – we have plenty of young pitching, they need pitching, they have a shortstop and closer available, we need both a shortstop and a closer. Because they are asking for so much in return, we might have to wait these Rays out for a while, but Lugo is a viable option at short – sort of a poor man’s Furcal.

If the Braves choose to go the free agent route, they could try and sign Alex Gonzalez. No, not that Alex Gonzalez, the other Alex Gonzalez. He’s got decent power, an average bat, an above average glove, and he’s coming off a down year for him, so he may be undervalued. But with a .291 career OBA he would not be a viable option leading off.

Lead-off: What do you think about a blast from the past? That’s right, Kenny Lofton is once again a free agent. Even though he’s played for 7 teams in the past 4 years, he did hit .335 with an OBP of .392 last year, and at 38 he’s showing no signs of slowing down. Remember somewhere out there Ricky Henderson is still playing baseball, so maybe it’ a trend with these age-ed speedsters, they keep going and going.

Let’s not forget that Juan Pierre is the last one left in the Marlin’s fire sale. He would be a perfect fit at the top of the Braves lineup, and he’s the kind of player that would thrive under Bobby Cox.

Closer: I still say it’s Todd Jones or Todd Jones. He’s an Atlanta native, might be relatively inexpensive, and would sign for only one or two years. The oft-rumored other half of a Julio Lugo trade is closer Danys Baez. He’s decent, but not great, and he’s been closing for a last place team which is far different than closing for a first place team (as Dan Kolb found out).

But let’s go out on a limb here and ‘speculate’ as to who else we might be able to get. I’m just going to go ahead and throw Joe Nathan’s name out there. We match up well with the Twins, who need a third baseman, and we have Marte with no place to play. It would take a lot to get Nathan, but Marte might be just the right chip. The Twins have other power arms that can close (Romero and Rincon), and they’d be getting rid of salary at the same time (something they love to do). Nathan has an option for ’07, and is not too terribly expensive. He’s also a power closer, not a ground-baller like Kolb.

There’s been some mention of Brad Lidge being available, but I don’t think the Braves and Astros match up well. They would probably need a power outfield bat in return, and we don’t really have anyone that fits that need.

So there it is; rumors and speculation. Now we get to wait and see. But if history is any guide the Braves will not be sitting on their hands.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Schu Interview

Joe over at Talking Chop just posted the first part of what looks to be a great interview with Braves GM John Schuerholz. Kudos.

Silver Lining Update

Updating my earlier post of the draft picks the Braves would receive after losing out on Furcal and Farnsworth, it now looks certain that we will get the 7th (Dodgers), 24th (Braves), and 27th (Yankees) picks in next year’s draft. That’s a good sign that the Braves farm system will continue to get even stronger.

Doesn’t Everyone Like Money?

The more I think about it, the more I don’t blame Furcal for taking the highest per season offer. If someone offers you $3 million more per year than anyone else, then why not choose to sign with them. But signing with the Dodgers at this point in the off-season is a bit surprising. Surprising because of the uncertainty surrounding the Dodgers organization with a new GM and a vacancy at the Manager position and the way in which the former Manager and GM were dismissed. With the Braves or Cubs, you know you're going to play for Bobby Cox or Dusty Baker, and you know who all the coaches are, but the Dodgers haven’t hired a manager and they just hired a new GM two weeks ago. A former front-office employee puts it this way:

“Every time I see some of the decisions being made or some of the people that have been fired or some of the people that were brought into positions who have never spent one hour in baseball, I want to throw up.”

Frank McCourt must have done one hell of a sell job in convincing Furcal that the Dodgers were the place for him in spite of all the uncertainty and turmoil. I wonder if Furcal and his agent really took enough time to make this decision after meeting with the Dodgers’ delegation (which included fellow Dominican Manny Mota) last Thursday. Here is his agent’s take on the meeting:

“Frank McCourt was really impressive. Raffy really liked what he had to say. They want to turn their franchise around, and Frank McCourt has a real passion for the game. Raffy was really impressed.”

This reminds me of the meeting that Tom Hicks had with A-Rod in which the owner made the sell based on the notion of turning the franchise around. For Raffy’s sake let’s hope McCourt keeps promises better than Hicks. Let’s hope that Raffy can co-exist in the same clubhouse as Jeff Kent and Milton Bradley, a far different atmosphere from the Braves’ clubhouse. And, as Baseball Musings points out, let’s hope that Furcal can figure out how to hit at Dodger Stadium.


Sold to the highest bidder, the Los Angeles Dodgers, for $13 million per year.

Friday, December 02, 2005


The Chip-ster’s contract restructuring is official. Money quote from Chipper:

“‘The first professional uniform I put on 16 years ago was a Braves uniform, and I wanted to try to make sure its my last,’ Jones said. ‘I want to retire as a Brave, but more importantly, I knew this was something that could help continue the winning tradition we've built and our quest to bring our fans another world championship.’”

Could the restructuring getting done now mean another announcement is forthcoming? So many signs point to Furcal wanting to come back to Atlanta. But if reports are right that the Dodgers are offering him $13 million per year for three years and the Cubs $11 million per year for five years, then there is no doubt that he will have to take less to return to the Braves. How can they justify paying Furcal more than Chipper or Andruw? And after what Chipper did by taking less money per year, how can Furcal run up the price on the Braves?

¿Donde Estrada?

Though no one seems to be saying it too loudly, I’m betting that Johnny Estrada will not be back with the Braves next year. While he’s a great catcher, he’s arbitration eligible and plays a position in which the Braves have more depth at than virtually any other major league club (with McCann, Pena, Boscan, Sammons, and Salty). So where will he go? The Rockies are looking for a catcher, but the players they are offering don’t seem to match our needs. The Diamondbacks are in need of a solid catcher, and the Padres may have some interest as well. The Angels will be in need of a catcher if Molina leaves, but I don’t think any GM in his right mind would put Estrada and Erstad on the same team after the collision. The Marlins will be hot to deal LoDuca as they continue to dismantle. But he is owed $6.25 million over the next two years which may make Estrada more attractive as clubs pass on LoDuca. This may be one of the items on Schu’s list at the winter meetings next week. All signs point to Furcal’s decision coming before then. Money quote from Schu: "We have enough depth in our organization to be aggressive and do something.”

Fantasy Power Watch

The Phills are moving their LF fence back and raising the wall:

“The Phillies are poised to remove the first two rows of seats in leftfield at Citizens Bank Park in hopes of making one of baseball's most notorious bandboxes more spacious. The net effect will be to move the fence back 5 feet and raise it from 8 to 10 ½ feet.”

This effectively lowers the HR potential of Burrell, Lieberthal, and Bell as well as the newly acquired Aaron Rowand, all right-handed hitters. It will probably affect the last three a lot more than Burrell. But the other side of that coin is that this move could help guys like Lieber, Lidle, and Padilla, but it will really help Randy Wolf and especially Gavin Floyd (check out his ERA at home).

Security Breach?

So I was playing around on Google’s free-to-download-and-use aerial photography software Google Earth, and stumbled across some wonderful close-ups of Edwards Air Force Base. It amazed me that you could even look around at Edwards, let alone that there would be two planes that look like SR-71 Blackbirds just sitting on the tarmac. If you would like to see for yourself, then go just east of area code 93524 in Google Earth.

By the way, Google Earth is a neat program to view stadiums from above. Check out the Ted:

Thursday, December 01, 2005

More Doffing of the Cap

Thanks to Obstructed Seats for mention on his blog.

Also, an old-school tip of the cap to my buddy Rico for the mention on his blog.

Bring on the Draft Picks

So it looks like Farnsworth is headed to the Bronx for $17 million over 3 years, and Furcal is close to a deal with the last remaining lovable losers. In trying to find a silver lining, I think the answer is that the Braves would get 3 first round picks next year. By my count we would get the 12th (Cubs), 24th (Braves), and 27th (Yankees) picks. This is provided we don’t sign anyone between now and December 7th, and after that if they are offered arbitration by their former team, otherwise we would lose our 24th pick to that team.

Subtle Need Not Apply

Like the president or not, you have to feel sorry for the guy that the people around him just don’t get it. Enough with the banners already.

Bush is single-handedly keeping this guy in a job.

Online Impulse Buy I’m Considering

The Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles are swapping out all the seats in their stadium with new seats as well as nouveau box seats. Check out their pictures of the ‘naked’ Dodger Stadium. But the real crack candy for baseball fans is the sale of the old seats. Now maybe I’m just a little loose in the wallet, but at $250 a piece plus $100 shipping anywhere in the US, I’m almost sold. Though, with that money I could purchase another Braves season ticket. . . but I’ve already got two so let’s not get greedy.

My only dilemma here is what color to get. I’ve already got some old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium seats that are orange, so I’m worried about clashing. Maybe I should steer more towards earth tones. . . Oh who the hell cares, they’ll look great. I really think I’m going to go red since they don’t have anymore Dodger blue.

Here’s a picture of my current Atlanta Fulton County Stadium seats:

Update: It's done! Red seats are on the way. I'm a nut!

Make Both the OF Corners French

Like I was saying earlier, the Bravos should go after Juan Pierre, and now there is an MSM columnist calling for the same. Terence Moore at the AJC lays out the reasons. Money quote from Trader Jack in the article:

“You know, I like Furcal, but there is nobody who is not replaceable. Look at how the Braves brought in all of those young kids [18 rookies] last year, and they just took off. It’s getting the right players, and that’s the knack that Bobby and John have. They’re always able to get somebody who fits in and can pick them up.”

We’ll probably never hear a rumor about Pierre, it will just happen or it won’t, that’s Schu’s way. Bill Shanks says all the chips will start falling into place once Furcal makes his decision. But for my money, and I did buy two whole season tickets after all, I’d love to see Juan Pierre in a tomahawk (or in Sunday-alternate-jersey red).