Results tagged ‘ Atlanta Braves ’
The Braves are beginning to fill out next year’s squad…
Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan acquired from the White Sox:
Let me say this: This is not the
trade of the off-season. I am starting to wonder why many people are
reacting as though, this deal is a disappointment based upon the Braves
inability to pry away certain other pitchers in trade this off-season. Javier Vazquez
is a 32-year old innings eater who has been coveted by Atlanta for
years. Just a few seasons ago, Vazquez may have been on the ace track
before being sent to New York prior to the 2004 season. His very public berating at the hands of ChiSox skipper Ozzie Guillen
last season probably doesn’t inspire the masses that Vazquez will lead
the Braves to October. Well I am here to tell you that you are
absolutely right. Vazquez alone will not lead the Braves to post-season
glory, so fear not, reinforcements are surely on the way.
Here are some facts you may not know about Vazquez:
- He has logged at least 198 innings every season since 2000
- Has not walked more than 61 hitters since his rookie season of 1998
- Has not been on the DL in 11-year career
- Has made at least 32 starts every season since 2000
it doesn’t belie the fact that his command can falter (forcing him to
come over the plate and get hammered) and his poise has come into
question on numerous occasions with Chicago and at other stops during
his career (specifically New York), those four points speak to exactly
what the Braves did not have last season. No starter threw 200 innings,
only one of the projected five avoided the DL, and only one made at
least 30 starts. At the very worst, Vazquez can throw innings and keep
the bullpen from having to make up for all those short outings we saw a
year ago. And, for the record, no one in the Braves organization is
content with their off-season simply because they acquired Vazquez.
It’s one piece of a larger puzzle.
Oh, and if the $23 million
over two seasons for Vazquez bothers those of you who have buried your
heads in the sand on the escalating starters’ salaries of the past five
years, then chew on these names we could have for around the same price
in recent years: Carl Pavano, Vincente Padilla, Kevin Millwood, Carlos
Silva, Barry Zito, Adam Eaton and Kei Igawa. I’ll take Vazquez and put
him in the middle of my rotation over any of those hurlers and the
mega-millions they cost.
As for the lefty reliever, Boone Logan,
his season came unhinged last year after a good start – judging solely
by his first half splits and word of mouth of Sox scribes. The numbers
don’t look good, but at 24-years of age, Logan is young and could be a
piece of the bullpen puzzle. The Braves appear to have active interest
in bringing back Will Ohman to serve as the primary left-hander in relief.
Tyler Flowers had a pretty solid season at High-A Myrtle Beach and he did destroy the ball in the AFL, but with Brian McCann
in Atlanta there was little chance he would be cracking the line-up
anytime soon. His catching was somewhat lacking (12 errors and 11
passed balls in just 86 games behind the plate), with many projecting
he would see more time at first base as his career evolved. In that case, the Braves have top prospect Freddie Freeman (.316-18-95 in Rome) blocking him there. Flowers can hit, but I have never heard more noise about the Arizona Fall League making a star.
was an exciting prospect before flopping at Richmond (.220 in 90 games)
and looking somewhat over-matched by major league pitching in Atlanta.
Still, his speed and the fact he should bounce back somewhat project
him to be a potential utility type player. The kid doesn’t lack
confidence and his conditioning can’t be questioned.
Both Jon Gilmore and Santos Rodriguez
are too far off to serve the White Sox anytime soon. Gilmore is a
soft-hands third baseman and first round pick from 2007 who graduated
from Danville (.337 in 67 games) to hit just .186 in 27 games with Rome
last season. He should develop some power (only four homers in ’08), but is still years away
from the majors. Rodriguez is a lanky lefty-hander who has good
velocity and could become a valuable reliever down the line.
Remember folks, they are called “prospects” for a reason. There are no guarantees in life, or in baseball. For all the moaning and complaining about the inclusion of players who were not even atop the Atlanta depth chart, I find it funny that after all the starting pitching deficiencies last season that anyone would complain about adding a veteran to the middle of the rotation.
Braves are close to signing back-up catcher David Ross:
Reports have been confirmed by Braves.com’s Mark Bowman that veteran catcher Dave Ross has agreed to a 2-year contract worth $3.5 million.
He should fit in pretty nicely behind McCann, perhaps even allowing
the Braves to give their regular backstop a few more days off next
season. Ross has some power (21 homers in 2006 and 17 in 2007), so it’s
not hard to say he will certainly be more of an asset than Corky Miller
was. That went without saying though. Ross hit .225 with three homers
in 60 games with the Reds and Red Sox last season.
A.J. Burnett rumblings are starting to get louder…
Burnett watch took an interesting turn on Wednesday, with reports
running rampant that the Braves are ready to guarantee a fifth year. My
thinking is that it will be at least a 5-year pact worth between $75-80
million. It makes me somewhat nervous to see Burnett getting that kind
of guarantee, considering his injury histories. His 18 win season and
AL-leading 231 strikeouts, do show that he has all the potential in the
world to front the rotation.
deal with San Diego for that pitcher, we’ll call him “X” for the sake
of not littering this blog with references, don’t seem to be in the
offing. Atlanta would have to recoup a shortstop if Yunel Escobar went away, and it appears the market is about to be light of Edgar Renteria. Reports state that Renteria has already taken a physical and will sign a two-year contract with the San Francisco Giants. Meanwhile, expect Rafael Furcal
to get a healthy pay day, so I doubt that homecoming is going to
happen. Atlanta still needs an outfielder who can provide the power to
the middle of the line-up. The Braves outfield production last season
was horrendous, and that may call for a new blog at a later date.
I’m going to go ahead and thank Bowman, again, for shooting down Atlanta’s interest in Adam Dunn.
I don’t have a real problem with the Braves getting another left-handed
bat, but I don’t think Dunn is anything special. Call me one of those
people who isn’t thrilled about the non-defense, epic number of
strikeouts, empty walk numbers coupled with a low batting average that
somehow make others believe his value his high because he is “on base
all the time.” He is a .247 career hitter who will never be mistaken for an impact player, no matter how much you shine those two things he does well.
Yeah, he hits some long home runs, but Dunn is not the
answer to the Braves outfield problems. How can a guy who has hit 40+
homers for five straight seasons never knock in more than 106 runs while playing in that tiny
Till next time,
Starting pitching, plain and simple
The ideal trade for Jake Peavy has become a harder than originally expected task. Padres GM Kevin Towers practically wrote the book on how not to trade what should be one of the most valuable commodities by keeping virtually every step of these negotiations front and center in the press. The talks may rekindle, but the Braves and GM Frank Wren will have the option of pursuing A.J. Burnett and other free agent hurlers. Wren will certainly look to provide at least two hurlers who can provide some innings, perhaps the White Sox Javier Vasquez could fit that bill.
Burnett, who turns 32 before the season, is clearly the Braves first choice as an ace. As Braves.com’s Mark Bowman pointed out last week, Burnett’s agent said a fifth year was not necessarily the make or break point. An 18-game winner a year ago, he also fills the role of ace starter which Atlanta is seeking this winter. Expect the Braves to make a big offer to acquire his services.
Atlanta is also faced with decisions on a trio of starters from last season. Tom Glavine and John Smoltz each have to determine their plans on pitching after testing their surgically repaired arms. I have my doubts that Glavine will decide to play on, while Smoltz has proven that you just can’t count him out. If it comes down to being a starter or reliever though, I don’t expect to see Smoltz putting on the uniform to serve as a set-up man next season. Then there is Mike Hampton, who showed he something left to offer after two and a half seasons of injuries. Jerry Crasnick over at ESPN noted that Hampton and his agent are seeking a one-year deal to re-establish his value in the market moving forward. Would the years spent on the sidelines lead him back to Atlanta to do so?
Power hitting left fielder
Depending on how everything shakes out with some of the other pursuits this winter, the Braves seem to be looking for a righty hitting middle of the line-up bat to stick in left this season. There are a range of options that starts with free agent Pat Burrell (whom the Braves will almost certainly pass on for his defensive liability and history of foot problems) and including the rumored to be available Jermaine Dye of the White Sox.
If you open the running to include left-handed hitters then you start to get some interesting names. Raul Ibanez, who is not interested in becoming the full-time DH for Seattle, and Ken Griffey Jr. top my list of candidates. Ibanez is a consistent performer (averaging 113 RBI over the past three seasons) who hasn’t exactly been in a hitter’s paradise in Safeco Field.
Age and injury combine to temper the expectations from Griffey, who combined to hit .249 with 18 homers and 73 RBI in 143 games with the Reds and White Sox last season. Still, a short term pact with incentives could be a strong option if other free agent options or trade alternatives become too costly in one form or another.
The pen was a sore spot yet again for Atlanta last year. It seems like that theme has run through each of the last three seasons. The Braves do have a set closer at least, with Mike Gonzalez anchoring the ninth innings. Things are somewhat dicey after that though. Rafael Soriano is due a huge pay raise ($6.1 million) as part of the two-year deal he signed before last season and will have to prove he can stay healthy coming off just 14 appearances in 2008. Peter Moylan will be coming back from Tommy John surgery, and much is expected of that duo to solidify the late innings in front of Gonzalez.
Atlanta is interested in bringing back lefty Will Ohman, who struggled late but was one of the most important arms last season. Another lefty will be important, as I’m not sure how waiver claim Eric O’Flaherty fits into those plans, but I’m sure that Wren will seek as many options as possible. Ohman and Blaine Boyer finished near the top of the pack in overall appearances, so the Braves will look to add some reliable depth where possible. If there’s ever a place where some trades will happen, I expect it to be in the relief department.
Kick the tires on some available shortstops
For a team that has a young and multi-talented shortstop already, there have been more than a few rumors out there that the Braves will go back to one of their former shortstops this winter. What started with the potential trade of Yunel Escobar (and several others) for Jake Peavy has turned into the potential homecoming of Rafael Furcal, or perhaps Edgar Renteria. Of course, the Braves may not make it to the table for either one – so consider this simply a cursory examination of the available.
A healthy Furcal would be a boost to the top of the line-up, providing a lead-off hitter that has not been present since his departure three seasons ago. The money and years would have to be right, and with the bad back that cost Furcal much of last season, it is hard to say the Braves will be a major player in this sweepstakes. The American League hasn’t seemed to be the place for Renteria on two occasions now. It was just 2007 when he hit .332 for the Braves, so who’s to say the down season with Detroit spelled the beginning of the end?
With a week’s worth of prep time between now and the Winter Meetings in Vegas, many things could change. Wren could wrap up some of his shopping before he heads to Nevada. The Braves figure to have an interesting off-season either way.
Till next time,
I’m going to make a departure from talking about the quest for the holy rotation, and take a moment to look at a free agent race the Braves will not be taking part in. That would be the courting of premier first baseman Mark Teixeira.
There have been a few rumors, but nothing really to report in the way of offers just yet. With plenty of time left, and the Winter Meetings still a couple of weeks away, the teams that are serious about signing Teixeira are going to have pony up some serious cash for a long term commitment.
It’s been reported that Miguel Cabrera‘s 8-year $153 million contract is thought to the jumping off point for any offers submitted for Teixeira’s services. It seems logical to me. Teixeira’s physical conditioning and gold glove defense add two aspects that are not present in Cabrera’s list of attributes. Statistically, Cabrera holds the edge in career batting average, at .309 to Teixeira’s .290. Otherwise Teixeira has the lead in both homers (203 to 175) and RBI (676 to 650). The two players are practically identical in OBP (Cabrera leads .381 to .378) and dead even in slugging (.541). For those wondering, Teixeira has played in 24 more games, so this statistical analysis is pretty spot on.
The biggest difference (on paper anyway) in the two players is Cabrera being three years younger than the 28-year old Teixeira. While an eight year deal is likely to see Teixeira give what should be the prime years of his career for the club that signs him, it is worth noting that he has already turned down an 8-year $140+ million extension from the Texas Rangers. That prompted the trade that brought him to Atlanta in July of 2007.
Atlanta GM Frank Wren stated that the Braves made Teixeira and agent Scott Boras an offer that would have given the first baseman a salary that was among “the highest in baseball.” It seems pretty clear after the trade with the Angels that it was likely the length of contract where the two sides could not come together. No one knows exactly what that means, but I’d project that any deal with the Braves was probably worth about $19 million per season. Not exactly underwhelming in and of itself, but there may be a team out there willing to pay more. If knowing that the previous offer was an eight-year pact, would the Braves go shorter in duration? We may never know.
What I do know is that the Braves traded a considerable bundle of talent to the Texas Rangers, a team which has gotten markedly better rather quickly. They may even trade what was once the center piece of the deal, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, this off-season. They have plenty of depth at catcher. Anyway you look at it, the Rangers made off much better than just receiving compensation picks in next years draft. Shortstop Elvis Andrus hit .295 with 54 stolen bases at AA, while starter Matt Harrison went 9-3 with a 5.49 ERA in 15 starts for the Rangers.
This is the point I would usually stop because I’ve seen enough, but there were two more prospects in that deal. Perhaps the brightest spot for Texas will be righty Neftali Feliz, who won 10 games at two stops and struck out 153 batters in 127.1 innings. More sickening? He surrendered just three homers in doing so. Lefty Beau Jones looks destined as a career in relief, but his low to mid-90s fastball and plus curveball show it could become a nice piece of the puzzle in Arlington within the few years.
One of these days, I am going to stop laying out the merits of this deal in hindsight. It was a risk/reward deal from the beginning, and the Braves gave themselves at least two shots to win with Teixeira. It didn’t work out. Not all trades do.
Getting back to the subject at hand, the race to sign Teixeira looks to have at least five possibilities that we know of. The Angels, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Washington Nationals – as of yesterday, and perhaps the Baltimore Orioles. Rest assured though, we all know that the words “hometown discount” will not be factoring in to any deal for the last two teams on that list. And the word “discount” will not be making an appearance in any deal Teixeira ends up signing… in case you were wondering… which you shouldn’t be at this point.
It’s hard to handicap the sweepstakes in my view. I could see Boston. I could see a return to the Angels. Then the Nationals had to go and make me wonder. One place I don’t see being Teixeira’s plans is the Bronx. He just doesn’t strike me as a New York kind of guy. Then again, a teary-eyed Jason Giambi didn’t when the Yankees bounced Oakland out of the post-season in 2001. I reserve the right to be wrong.
Ok, I’ll say that Mark Teixeira is a member of the Boston Red Sox.
Merry Christmas Red Sox Nation.
Till Next time,
I certainly won’t be the only scribe writing on behalf of a club that will be hard pressed to sign a premier front of the rotation starter, because the New York Yankees are throwing more than their allowance out there to build a strong squad for that new stadium you may have read about.
We’ve seen the Jake Peavy saga cool off considerably, with the Braves publicly stated that they will being “moving on” to fill their needs. At least for the time being. Numerous reports have shown that the Yankees are going to be setting the bar quite high when it comes to Grade-A starters. Take their reported offer to CC Sabathia for example – 6-years and $140 million. How do you think the Milwaukee Brewers feel about that? Not so great, but this is nothing new when it comes to the Yankee way.
Maybe the folks in Wisconsin haven’t been affected directly by the Yankees persuing their free agents, but you can rest assured that all of baseball has felt the effects of big money Bronx deals. You can chalk the Braves up for one tough off-season when it comes to bringing in their new starting pitchers.
The Braves have lost free agent players to the Yankees in the past five years, including Gary Sheffield, Jarrett Wright and Kyle Farnsworth. This year, they will be competing for what looks to be A.J Burnett and Derek Lowe. Reports have right-hander Ryan Dempster heading back to the Chicago Cubs for a 4-year $52 million deal. If you do the math between the Sabathia offer and the Dempster deal, you are starting to get a pretty good idea what the years and the money on Burnett will be. Throw in the fact that he can openly shop that 4-year $54 million deal that Toronto had on the table. It boils down to the simple fact that every agent has to love: If you can get the Yankees involved then you can make your client a rich(er) man.
Never to be outbid, even when they are bidding solely against themselves, the Yankees have taken to the offensive and are preparing an offer that rests somewhere around 5-years and $80 million for Burnett’s services. When reading that the Steinbrenner boys plan to follow in their father’s footsteps of setting the bar rather high when it comes to player contracts, it became apparent that not only were the Yanks going to be players in the free-agent market but that they may well end up owning several of the shiniest pieces this off-season.
The Yankees have taken this route for years, signing free-agents to big deals, rewarding their stars with big deals, trading the farm and taking on big contracts of stars that other clubs seek to unload. Maybe all this started when they purchased Babe Ruth? None of this necessarily should make them the real life pirates of baseball (all apologies to the Pittsburgh franchise). The city and the organization simply likes to win and they have the money to make happen more quickly that every other team in baseball. Put those two things together and it always leads to interesting storylines and sometimes whimsical back-and-forth fun. It also serves to make them easily hateable for many. Hard economic times or not, the Yankees are going to be spending aplenty this winter.
So what does all this mean for Atlanta?
Having somewhat put the lid on the Peavy discussions (believe that if you like), the Braves will have the tough task of assigning a value to their future and signing one of these star pitchers. I’m starting to think that if Dempster signs with the Cubs, Sabathia and Burnett sign with the Yankees, and Lowe opts to go back to Boston (for example), the Braves will have to get creative via trade or start kicking the tires on Ben Sheets.
It could play out the way I just outlined. Or it could turn back around, leading the Braves and Padres back to the table to complete that long-running trade rumor, and Burnett or Lowe to different pastures. Atlanta could end up finding an entirely different trading partner to boost the rotation with. That’s the fun of the the off-season.
Who’s ready for those Winter Meetings?
Till next time,
Sheez. Somebody had to jump the gun and announce the trade was in the final stages and go and have all of us thinking we would have a big day to blog about. Scott Miller of CBS Sportsline wrote a blog last night that had the Padres approaching Peavy to waive his no-trade clause and accept a deal to the Atlanta Braves. Based upon the fact that absolutely no one else was reporting it, and no one I knew had mentioned the trade being a done deal, I knew that it might just be getting our hopes up.
I’m just ready to see this thing happen… because I’m impatient, if nothing else.
Look, the deal may happen yet, and I have a feeling we will see the Braves coming away with their ace when it’s all said and done. Miller’s piece had the Braves giving up the long rumored package of Yunel Escobar, Gorkys Hernandez, either Charlie Morton or Jo-Jo Reyes and perhaps a fourth player. The new information was that righty reliever Blaine Boyer or one or two minor league left-handers (Jeff Locke among them) were on the table as well.
So where did all this rumor about catcher Tyler Flowers being in the deal come from?
Ah, thank you Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports and RotoWorld for coming to my rescue. When I thought all was lost. Here’s the rumor on Flowers.
The excitement of the Arizona Fall League has been in full force when it comes to the performance of two Braves prospects. Tommy Hanson, who has been wowing anybody who sees him pitch, and the heavy-hitting Flowers. The latter of these two is a relative new comer on the radar for many Braves fans, but I’m here to tell you that he has some serious power.
Last spring, I watched Flowers put on his batting practice displays that wowed every single teammate. Literally, heads turned as Flowers deposited baseballs into the far reaches of every spring training facility he visited. Braves beat writer Mark Bowman recorded the great first impression Flowers made on Braves manager Bobby Cox in just his first big league camp.
All that said, I’m happy with the framework rumored to be going in this deal. It’s not nearly as prospect laden as the Mark Teixeira deal and could net the Braves one of the best starting pitchers in baseball for as long as five years. You see, that was my fundamental problem with the Teixeira trade two seasons ago. There was no security that Atlanta would be able to retain Tex beyond 2008. And sure enough, a king’s ransom was paid for the eventual acquisition of Casey Kotchman.
This Peavy deal is a long term commitment to winning that I believe, among other things, will attract other free agent pitchers to the Braves based on the fact they are attempting to build a contender. One central theme of any trades the Braves make will be, does it make our team better in the long term (there’s that phrase again)? If the answer is yes, expect to see the deal happen. If the answer is now, then expect the Braves to pursue pitchers in the free agent market to check those off-season needs off the list.
Losing a shortstop like Escobar is bittersweet, but I think the Braves have scouted and developed enough players in their day to weigh the pros and cons of letting the young Cuban infielder go in favor of the 2007 Cy Young Award winner. Atlanta has to give in order to get, and this package centered around Escobar seems to be far and away better than anything the Chicago Cubs have managed to muster on their own. Throwing in too many other prospects would take Atlanta right back to the Teixeira trap though, so Wren is going to be cautious not to go overboard just to make a deal happen.
If this trade goes down, Atlanta will then turn its attention to signing at least one more top of the rotation arm from a list that is headlined by A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe and Ryan Dempster. Of the three, Burnett provides the impact arm that would combine with Peavy to give the Braves a dynamic1-2 punch that is built for the post-season. He’ll probably cost at least $17 million a year too.
The fun doesn’t stop there, as shortstop would be in need of an upgrade following the potential Peavy deal. Free agents Rafael Furcal and Edgar Renteria have both spent time in Atlanta and make a certain amount of sense. Furcal’s tools are far better than Renteria’s at this stage of the game, but Renteria has shown himself to be a better all around performer in the NL. There will also be a major cost differential between the two as well. Of course, that’s not a foregone conclusion by any means. The Braves could seek a trade or go after a completely different shortstop altogether.
Once the first piece falls, it will allow the Braves to start making other moves. Now we wait to see if Peavy is the first piece or if the free-agent market will produce the opening transaction of the off-season.
Till next time,
When last we left off, we were looking at some of my least favorite trades from the past 20 years or so. There’s going to be one deal that goes a year outside my little bubble, but it’s not my fault that I keep getting older but this trade looks better seemingly every season. Heck, it might be one of the best trades in baseball history.
We’ve seen the dealing of Jermaine Dye, Adam Wainwright and a boatload of young talents for Mark Teixeira, but now let’s take a good look at some of the deftest maneuvers the Braves have pulled in the trading game. Here are my top 5 favorite Braves trades of the last 20 years:
5. Tony Castillo & Joe Roa to the New York Mets for Alejandro Pena
This is the kind of trade that every team looking for bullpen help in late August wishes they could pull off. Pena’s veteran presence was inserted into a bullpen that was in dire need of a stopper, and boy did it work. Pena responded by stabilizing the late innings in September and continuing to slam the door in October. Going 2-0 with 11 saves in 15 games, Pena’s presence helped the Braves stave off the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the first 14-consecutive Division titles. He made a good enough impression to be brough back to share in the joy of the Braves World Series victory in 1995.
4. Jimmy Kremers & Keith Morrison to the Montreal Expos for Otis Nixon & Boi Rodriguez
I still miss the days of Otis Nixon and Deion Sanders seemingly running amok at the top of the Braves line-up. The Nixon trade was a superb deal in the spring of ’91 for Atlanta, giving them to have a true lead-off hitter and allowing Bobby Cox to move Ron Gant and his 30 homers into the middle of the order. Kremers never played in the majors again after his 29 game stint with Atlanta in 1990, but Nixon set a franchise single season steals record and was an important part of the Braves success in the early 90s. Then there was the matter of a certain catch during the pennant drive in 1992. Ask Andy Van Slyke if he remembers hat one.
Watch the catch for yourself by Clicking Here
3. Dan Meyer, Charles Thomas & Juan Cruz to the Oakland Athletics for Tim Hudson
I remember seeing this trade scroll across the bottom line during Sportscenter and wondering just how John Schuerholz pulled it off. The Braves acquire one of Oakland’s famed Big Three aces, and gave away a flash in the pan outfielder, a middle reliever and a solid pitching prospect. None of the three were serious pieces of Atlanta’s future and it still boggles the mind to think that Oakland would trade a pitcher the ilk of Hudson for that package. Consequently, none of the three figured in Oakland’s plans either. Meyer was waived this winter after struggling to make good on his promise. The A’s dealt Cruz away, but poor Chuck Thomas turned back into a pumpkin and has not appeared in the Bigs since batting .109 in 30 games in 2005.
2. Melvin Nieves, Vince Moore & Donnie Elliot to the San Diego Padres for Fred McGriff
Want to know how the Braves held off the San Francisco in an exciting down the wire pennant race in 1993? Well you can thank the San Diego Padres donation of Fred McGriff as the chief reason Atlanta caught fire and grabbed their third straight NL West crown. McGriff served as a part of the 1995 World Series winners and always provided the clean-up bat for four seasons in a Braves uniform. This trade was a big part of the Padres fire sale, that still to this day comes up whenever a team puts two or more stars the trading block. Too bad the trade of Mark Teixeira did not bring the same kind of return for Atlanta, because the price was much more than San Diego acquired for McGriff.
1. Doyle Alexander to the Detroit Tigers for John Smoltz
The trade that perhaps started it all. Well this trade and some excellent scouting and drafting I’d say. I pull this trade into the 20 year mark despite its 1987 deal date because Bobby Cox was the general manager who pulled it off. In other words, it’s a trade that helped build the core of the team. It netted a future Hall of Famer and gave the Detroit Tigers a boost since Alexander kicked into full gear after his trade (9-0, 1.53 ERA in 11 starts). Too bad the boost ended with Alexander getting shelled in his two post-season assignments (0-2, 10.00 ERA). Smoltz has become more than the Braves could have ever expected, and the foundation of the team for the better part of two decades.
Well those are my favorite deals, at least the last 20 years… or so.
Till next time,
Baseball is in a state of transition. There’s no doubt about it. The days when we would watch massive sluggers hitting tape measure blasts… while batting seventh in some cases, no less… will become much more rare. And in that respect, it restores the value of true sluggers. Bulked up baseball and PED (Performance Enhancing Drug) Era is becoming a thing of the past, and more than anything, I hope that means it will be safe to steal bases again.
Take a moment to look through the seasonal stolen base leaders during what may have been the “fastest” decade in the history of the game – the 1980s. Maybe I am partial because that’s the decade I grew up and consequently fell in love with baseball. Either way, there was a more complete brand of baseball that all started with speedy men at the top of the order that not only stole bases in mass quantities, but knew how to run the bases.
When a team is constantly relying on a 3-run homer to get themselves back in the game, with little or no other means of manufacturing runs, then that is a team that will live and die by that sword. I wouldn’t presume to say that is what is working against the Braves (who’ve hit just 118 homers going into Friday), but if there was ever a time to unleash “small ball” on the big stage, that time would be now.
Atlanta brought up speed merchant Josh Anderson late last month after a fantastic season with the Triple-A Richmond club (.314 with 42 steals in 121 games). This is a kid who sets a goal of 50 steals at the beginning of each season. Want to take a guess who the last Brave to steal 50 was? That would be Otis Nixon, setting the franchise record with 72 in 1991. The Braves have had just one player not named Nixon to steal more than 40 bases in the last 17 years. That coming in Rafael Furcal‘s ROY season of 2000.
It didn’t take Anderson long to start climbing the team leader-board in steals. With five already, he trails only Gregor Blanco‘s team-high 11 and Kelly Johnson‘s 10 for third on the team. How about a little more food for thought: The Braves have stolen 46 bases as a team this season… that would be one less than Anderson’s combined total of 47 entering Friday.
While I am not saying that speed will be a cure-all for the offensive struggles and all around ineptitudes that the Braves suffered through all season long. But a fusion of excitement that could get some pitchers distracted, put a few more men in scoring position and add a little bit of pressure to the opposition wouldn’t be a bad thing. And a team doesn’t have to have Ricky Henderson, Lou Brock or Tim Raines to accomplish this. Think how many times that just a run here or there would have made a difference in the one run ballgames.
The model that sticks out in my mind would be the Cardinals of the 80s. It was a team that took speed and the concept of manufacturing runs and turned it into a high art. It seems like everyone but Jack “The Ripper” Clark was capable of stealing 30 bags on that team. It also seemed like the defense of those St. Louis Clubs was second only to their speed in the all around game. I don’t think I am alone in suggesting that a return to this style could help rejuvinate and instantly change the way peoeple look at playing the game. If just one team proves successful in this venture, you will see no less than half a dozen copy-cat attempts in the 3 years to follow.
Come to think a little more about that decade, and it was full of guys like Brett Butler, Willie McGee, Willie Wilson, Steve Sax, Ozzie Smith, Dave Collins, Gary Pettis, Juan Samuel and even a young Ryne Sandberg who were stealing 40+ bases. And those are just the guys I am thinking of off the top of my head. Then there was this guy named Vince Coleman who took stealing to a higher level still.
On the other hand, you had Dale Murphy leading the league with 36 and 37 home runs. These days, the 40 stolen base club is far more exclusive than the 30 home run club. Maybe that will start to turn around. I’d love to see it. How about you?
Till next time,