Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Putting on a Brave Face

“My” Atlanta Braves have had a bit of a roller coaster off season. After a disappointing sub .500 season the Braves attempt to better the team has had its share of good and bad.

It all started at the winter meetings, where there was not only the perception but a real belief that they would land a number 1 pitcher in the form of Jake Peavy from the Padres. Over close to 3+ weeks of speculation it kept looking more and more like it was going to happen. Then all the talks died. This drama all ended with no deal...this would become a bit of a trend.
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Rafael Furcal, a former Braves shortstop and free agent was apparently ready and willing to sign with the Braves to return to Atlanta and take back his position. Then at the 11th hour he “changed his mind” for a more polite way of putting it. After getting a signed term sheet Furcal and his representation went back to the Dodgers to allow them to counter, then, in the end opted to stay in with the Dodgers. Had there not been a term sheet there would probably not been the public scene and animosity. President John Shurholtz was upset that a verbal agreement was followed by an unprecedented and unacceptable sequence of events from where he sits.
“Having been in this business for 40-some years, I’ve never seen anybody treated like that,” Schuerholz told The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. “The Atlanta Braves will no longer do business with that company -- ever. I told [agent] Arn Tellem that we can’t trust them to be honest and forthright. I told him that in all my years, I’ve never seen any [agency] act in such a despicable manner.
“It was disgusting and unprofessional. We’re a proud organization, and we won’t allow ourselves to be treated that way. I advised Arn Tellem that whatever players he represents, just scratch us off the list. Take the name of the Atlanta Braves off their speed dial. They can deal with the other 29 clubs, and we’ll deal with the other hundred agents.”
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Again there was much speculation that the Braves were one of the favorites in the A.J. Burnett sweepstakes. Now I wasn’t as bitter that they eventually lost out because I have seen him under perform in Toronto up until last season, conveniently a opt-out season. Burnett was offered a huge deal in Atlanta but decided to trade it in for a little more with the Yankees. In any event just another in a long line of high profile players that didn’t have Georgia on their Mind.
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Future Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, even though he is still recovering from an arm injury opted not to wait until he was full healed and signed a deal with the Boston Red Sox. The Braves who have had issues with the health of their rotation over the last couple of years (see entire rotation, especially Mike Hampton who was by all accounts stealing money based on his contract) looked to be waiting for more info on the progress and have lost yet another big player and gained yet another hole in their lineup.
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The Braves managed to actually acquire some players this off season, perhaps some were a little under the radar and not the big name splashes that they would have hoped for. They managed to help out their troubled rotation but acquiring Javier Vazquez and new Japanese player Kenshin Kawakami. With Tim Hudson recovering from Tommy John surgery they will be good middle of the line pitchers that should eat up some innings.
Players 4 Braves 1

The Braves Then finally was able to both sign and close a deal for “Ace” Derek Lowe. Perhaps not as big a deal as C.C. Sabathia or K-Rod but at this point I guess beggars can’t be choosers. Low even though he is slightly older still should have a little life in his arm and being a ground ball pitcher may help him out...provided he gets a little help by his defense, and of course some support from his offence.
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Most recently was the report that another Future Hall of Fame member wanted to fulfill a wish and play for the Braves. Ken Griffey Jr. apparently made a call to Chipper Jones and asked for info on the team and to let GM Frank Wren that he was interested in playing in Atlanta. Then came the reports that the Braves were on the verge of signing the free agent...followed by the news that in fact Griffey had opted to sign in Seattle and become yet another player to shun the Braves this off season. When told of Griffey’s decision on Wednesday night, Jones was somewhat upset about the fact he felt he’d wasted his time while providing information that he felt Griffey was seeking in an attempt to land in Atlanta. “It’s just another person who shunned us,” said Jones.
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The Braves were able to sign Kelly Johnson, Jeff Franceour and Tom Glavine to 1 year deals. All come with at least some baggage whether it be for on field performance or can they get back to the level that they either once had or has had expected of them. Franceour need to have a bounce back to the player he was when he first came up. Glavine just needs to be steady and log some innings, he is not expected to be the Ace but just a piece of the puzzle, at his age being a leader will be a big asset. Not knowing how they will perform that only gives the Braves 1 Run.
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After I had written the majority of this post there was finally another development on this issue. The Braves managed to get another quality left handed bat to sign on the dotted line, perhaps one even more significant then Junior. Garrett Anderson signed a 1 year $2.5M contract that should help fill the void in left and help out in the platoon situations that will arise in the outfield this season. Anderson still can be productive provided he stays healthy. This may be a wild card signing bit at a decent price could pay dividends and help protect Chipper Jones in the lineup.
Players 5 Braves 4

In the end they still have fallen a little short by at least they kept it close and were competitive. Lets hope that they over achieve this season and get back close to the top of the East again, a spot that they deserve to get back to.

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