The Atlanta Braves are NL East division champions again. It has been eight years since they celebrated this feat and they seemed to be enjoying every moment even though they were not on their home field.
The 100 year old plus awkward facilities at Wrigley Field in Chicago were the celebratory scene for the Braves today but it did not seem to matter because the players, coaches, and fans have been waiting for this moment all season. The Braves have been in first place all season long except for one day early in the season so it seemed inevitable that the season would conclude with the Braves on top.
The Event: Evan Gattis vs Yasiel Puig
It is only June but it is never too early to start the debate on the best rookies in the league right now.
Actually, the only reason I am bringing this up at a ridiculously early part of the season is because of the recent appearance of Dodgers rookie phenom, Yasiel Puig. The LA Dodgers are struggling mightily but have found a bright spot in their Cuban call-up. It is a small sample size and only a few teams have seen Puig so whether or not he can keep up his recent pace remains to be seen.
Gattis has been in the Bigs for the entire season and has made the appropriate adjustments as pitchers have seen more video of his approach at the plate. Puig has only been in the Show for a week, but what a week it has been. He has hit 4 homers (two off of the Braves), had multiple hits, and has proven to be a solid defender with an excellent arm.
I expect neither Puig nor Gattis will continue their respective torrid paces and there are bound to be other rookies to make a splash in the coming months. Whatever the final numbers are of these known and unknown rookies I hope the final decision is correct and the award is given to the most deserving player and not the most glamorous.
We are a little over one week into the 2013 Major League Baseball season and this is my first post believe it or not. I am not sure why I haven’t been motivated until this point because I have been thoroughly enjoying watching as many games as possible, especially the Braves.
Opening Week is always a celebration for me after the long off-season (some one argue not long enough) but the addition of the World Baseball Classic during Spring Training this year seems to have satiated my baseball appetite a bit. It is fun to follow the professional players as they wear a different uniform to represent their country and to discover the hidden talents of players in the non-pro leagues played all over the world, all year long. Team USA had a decent showing but ultimately the tournament boiled down to the defending champions from Japan, two power house teams from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and finally the surprise team from the Netherlands. Congratulations to the Dominican Republic! The WBC isn’t as popular as futbol’s World Cup and may never be but excitement and interest continue to grow internationally for the sport of baseball.
The WBC was great and Spring Training was a good tease but now it is time to focus on the real thing. No team is undefeated and no team is without a win. We are only seven games in but all teams are hopeful and feel they have a shot at the playoffs, well maybe not the Miami Marlins or the Houston Astros, but this is still an exciting time to be a baseball fan.
The Upton brothers don’t need a family reunion or the holidays as a reason to get together anymore. They are now teammates playing for the Braves in Atlanta! Less than two months after signing free agent BJ Upton, the Braves made another rare splash in the off season market by trading with the Arizona Diamondbacks for BJ’s younger and potentially more talented brother Justin.
There will be a lot of who won and who lost in this trade between the Atlanta Braves and the Arizona Diamondbacks over the rest of the off season and into Spring Training and the Regular Season. I think they both won.
As a Braves fan I am sad to see Martin Prado as a part of this trade package but I also understand that he was the necessary piece to bring the younger Upton to Atlanta. Prado has been a fan favorite and a clutch player for the Braves over the past few years and will be the same for Arizona. Prado’s versatility will be hard to replace but Justin Upton is a much more valuable, immediate game changing factor.
The Braves have always had the fortune of a wealthy farm system so Randall Delgado and the three prospects that were part of the deal seem a minor consequence right now.
We will see…
With the signing of the elder Upton earlier this off season, BJ and his kid brother Justin will join the Braves outfield star in residence Jason Heyward. Jason is the younger of the three at age 23 but he might very well be the clubhouse leader that will inspire these newcomers and the likes of Brian McCann and Dan Uggla to perform up to and beyond expectations, returning the Braves to the promised land of the World Series.
We will see…
It has been 7 years since a BJ has been in a Braves uniform.
That was when Brian Jordan was playing out the final innings of his baseball career. He had the best years of his career while plying for the Braves (1999-2001) at the ages of 32-34. He was traded in 2002 and never recaptured the magic he experienced during his 3 years with the Braves but it was a fitting conclusion to his career as he finished as a serviceable bench player and pinch hitter in Atlanta in 2006.
Ok, I understand that BJ is just Jordan’s initials but it was still his nickname. Then there was and actual BJ in the form of BJ Surhoff when he was traded to the Braves halfway through the 2000 season. He came to Atlanta just off some of the best years of his career in Baltimore. Surhoff was ok for the 2 1/2 years he spent in Atlanta but I don’t think many non-hardcore Braves fans would even remember him.
2013 will start the era of another BJ in Atlanta. The Braves signed Tampa Bay Rays free agent center fielder to a five year contract today. The Braves are not known for extravagant spending but do occasionally make a splash with big name signings. Most recently, see Dan Uggla who is entering the third year of his five year contract. Dan has been a conundrum by not performing up to expectations but still putting up
The signing of BJ Upton is big for the Braves organization in more ways than one. First, this puts them into the upper mid market category as far as payroll so a certain level of performance is expected. Of course big payrolls do not automatically translate into the play offs or even winning seasons(see the 2012 Phillies, Marlins, Angels, Red Sox, and Rangers). Second, BJ is in the prime of his career and has the potential to be a huge productive member of the organization and even help propel the team to another World Series.
I am a little ahead of myself here. Upton still has to pass a physical (turn your head and cough). He also needs to shrug off the struggles he experienced in the past few years (strikeouts, on base percentage) and get into the mindset of being a Brave. The change of scenery, teammates, and coaching staff should provide BJ with all of the ingredients he needs take his career to the next level. The confidence of a five year, $75 million dollar contract should also help.
Fingers crossed !
I am not generally a superstitious person except when it comes to baseball and even then I keep it fairly low key. Admittedly I have not posted much this year but it seemed like every time I did post the Braves immediately suffered a painful loss of went into a losing streak. I decided to wait until the post season was a certainty before I posted again.
After suffering a terrible collapse last September the Atlanta Braves have made that nightmare a distant memory tonight. They have at least clinched a Wild Card spot for the 2012 Major League Baseball Playoffs and still have a good chance of catching their rivals the National League East leading Washington Nationals….
That was the post I started about 4 weeks ago. I stopped in mid type when I realized I was typing the very thing I feared most. I was feeding into the superstition I had created and while I realized at that moment how crazy that notion was I stopped anyway…just in case.
The Braves did indeed win the top Wild Card spot but with the new 1 game playoff format they were forced to play the St.Louis Cardinals in a do or die situation. They died. I will not rehash all of the details but in summary, the Braves dug themselves into a big hole with uncharacteristically poor defensive play and then any chance they had of a rally was quashed by a an umpire’s poor judgment at a critical juncture in the game. Many water cooler, bar room, and neighborly discussions about that game have taken place since but I finally have reached a place where distance from the event and common sense have prevailed. I had nothing to do with either the Braves great 94 win season or their 1 game playoff collapse.
I have watched other teams and their fans suffer similar circumstances the Braves faced last year leading up to the playoffs, namely the Texas Rangers. I have also seen teams with great expectations like the Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Nationals not live up to expectations many were expecting of them in the post season. Most disappointing was perhaps the Baltimore Orioles who had a chance to take the AL East from the New York Yankees but came up short and then couldn’t capitalize on a weak, confused, and injured Yankee team to move on to the AL Championship series.
As the San Francisco Giants and St.Louis Cardinals fight for the National League Championship tied at 1 game each and the Detroit Tigers take the momentum of a 2 game lead over New York into the Motor City I am really enjoying these 2012 MLB playoffs. I am just enjoying the games.
Last year at this time, Kevin posted on this blog that the Braves had everything well in hand. Then things immediately fell apart. When he started to blog last night after the Braves clinched the wild card spot, he remembered how last year’s hubris destroyed it all.
In a scene from Bull Durham, Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) busts in on Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) because her beau for the season has given up sex during the Durham Bulls’ winning streak, and she feels he should give in. Crash rebuts: “I told him that a player on a streak has to respect the streak. You know why? They don’t happen very often. If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid or because you’re not getting laid or because you wear women’s underwear, then YOU ARE.”
While the Braves are still in it, Kevin cannot post. Please continue to visit this site in support of his absence, which is a mark of his dedication as a fan. And remember, I have made him commit to all kinds of other things we are not commenting on here.