Tag:Atlanta Braves
Posted on: April 5, 2010 12:24 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2010 4:09 pm

Opening Day: Ceremonial first blog pitch

Welcome to the last day of the best sports weekend of the year: Opening Day, and Final Four weekend. And yes, we count the Monday of the NCAA championship game and 13 baseball openers as part of the weekend.

If you haven't called in sick today, I have just one question: What's wrong with you?

While we count down to the Butler game (yes, it's the Butler game, not the Duke game, and I'll get to them in a separate blog in a little while), colleague Danny Knobler and I will be blogging throughout the day, sending quick hits regarding today's 13 openers. So check back often.

A couple of quick opening thoughts heading in:

-- Coolest moment: President Obama set to throw out the first pitch before today's Philadelphia-Washington game in D.C. I don't care whether you're Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian or a leftover reguee from the Whig party. You don't see presidents dropping the first puck, making the first handoff or tossing up the first jump ball. Just one more reason why baseball remains the best and most important sport going.

-- Best pitching matchup: Tough to beat the Detroit-Kansas City game at 4 EDT, when Tigers ace Justin Verlander goes against AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke.

-- Most interesting home debut: Let's see what kind of ovation Atlanta right-fielder Jason Heyward gets when the Braves open against the Cubs this afternoon. I'm guessing it will range somewhere from raucous to exceptionally raucous.

-- Most interesting road debut: OK, so we never notice hitting coaches unless one of our favorite players delves into a slump. But when the Cardinals open in Cincinnati today, and they introduce the teams pre-game, let's just see what kind of reaction St. Louis hitting coach Mark McGwire gets as things begin again for real for him.

-- We're still unwrapping the season and: The Red Sox and Yankees already checked in with their first sub-4 hour game! They played Sunday night's opener in 3:46. Now the raging question becomes, can they do it again?

-- Opening day boos to: The Angels and the A's. Two things I know about Opening Day: It should always be a day game, and clubs should never schedule it opposite the NCAA title game. What, you think your fans don't want to watch the basketball championship? Why not just schedule an afternoon game?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The Cubs made me a criminal
"Sent me down a wayward path
"They stole my youth from me
"That's the truth
"I'd forsake my teachers
"To go sit in the bleachers
"In flagarant truancy
"And then one thing led to another
"I discovered alcohol, gambling and dope
"Football, hockey, lacrosse, tennis
"What did you expect?
"When you raise a young boy's hopes
"And then just crush 'em
"Like so many paper beer cups
"Year after year after year"

-- Steve Goodman, A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request

Posted on: February 11, 2010 6:38 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2010 7:14 pm

Tigers, Braves, White Sox woo Damon

A long, cold winter appears poised to thaw for outfielder Johnny Damon, who is mulling offers from Detroit and Atlanta with the Chicago White Sox in the mix as well, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.

Damon, who helped freeze himself out of the Bronx by declining a Yankees offer earlier this winter, now has multiple options as the start of spring camp draws near. He is expected to make a decision in the next few days.

Detroit's offer, confirmed by sources on Thursday, is believed to be for significantly more money than that of Atlanta, which extended an offer at mid-week. Agent Scott Boras, who has a history of coaxing Detroit owner Mike Ilitch into financial territory beyond where Tigers baseball people are comfortable (see Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez), reportedly has received an offer from Detroit with variations that could be worth $7 million over one year or $14 million over two.

The Braves' offer, according to multiple reports, is in the neighborhood of $4 million for one year with a portion of that deferred.

That Atlanta's pitch to Damon would be lukewarm makes sense because, in the National League, Damon would have to play full time in the outfield, where scouts say his skills have deteriorated. Damon, never blessed with a strong throwing arm, was moved from center to left field by the Yankees in 2009.

In Detroit -- or, with the White Sox -- Damon could serve as a designated hitter. Though, the Tigers also have an aging Carlos Guillen, so Damon likely would get some outfield time as well.

In the Detroit and Atlanta scenarios, Damon would fill a specific need: Leadoff hitter. In Chicago, Damon would help fill top-of-the-order needs as well, but the White Sox also acquired Juan Pierre from the Dodgers earlier this winter. 

The Braves believe they've never had a true leadoff hitter. Detroit, which lost the AL Central lead on the last weekend of the 2009 season, since has cut loose Placido Polanco (who signed with Philadelphia) and traded Curtis Granderson (Yankees). The White Sox, who used Chris Getz and Scott Podsednik atop the order last year, also have long felt they've lacked a true leadoff hitter. Thus, Pierre, and, perhaps Damon (who, at the very least, would give the White Sox another needed lefty bat).

The Braves could be attractive to Damon for a couple of reasons: President John Schuerholz was the general manager in Kansas City when the Royals made Damon their first-round pick in 1992, and they train in Orlando, Fla., where Damon makes his off-season home. Furthermore, Orlando is a short flight from Atlanta, one that Damon could easily make on Braves off days during the season.

The Tigers' money, though, is expected by many in the industry to make Damon overlook all that.

Meantime, Damon, 36, would arrive with flashing caution lights in at least some areas: He's older, his defense has eroded some and there is some sentiment that his offensive numbers last year were inflated by new Yankee Stadium's hitter-friendly demeanor. While he equaled a career-high with 24 home runs, 17 of those were at home. The other seven all came in AL East division ballparks.


Posted on: January 5, 2010 9:32 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2010 9:36 pm

Braves add Eric Hinske

The Atlanta Braves made another move toward attempting to beef up their offense Tuesday when they agreed to terms on a one-year deal with veteran infielder Eric Hinske, CBSSports.com has learned.

The contract is pending a physical examination, according to a source with knowledge of the talks. Financial terms were unknown.

Hinske gives the Braves an experienced, left-handed bat off the bench, and he gives them insurance at first base in case Troy Glaus doesn't stay healthy.

Hinske, 32, will also can play third base and the corner outfield spots. He's also something of a good-luck charm: He's played in each of the past three World Series, with the Yankees last fall, Tampa Bay in 2008 and Boston in 2007.

In 93 games with Pittsburgh and the Yankees in 2009, he hit .242 with eight homers and 25 RBI.

Posted on: December 7, 2009 1:38 pm

Twins to continue talks with Pavano into tonight

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Twins continue their dialogue with veteran pitcher Carl Pavano and, though talks so far have not led to a contract, the veteran right-hander is expected to accept the Twins' offer of salary arbitration by tonight's midnight EST deadline.

Though a handful of other clubs have shown interest in Pavano, sources told CBSSports.com, his clear preference is to return to the Twins because they have a chance to win and he enjoyed his stint there last August and September.

The thinking if he does accept arbitration is that, once salary figures are exchanged, he and the Twins still could agree on a two-year deal before the arbitration date later this winter. Pavano went 14-12 with a  5.10 ERA in 33 starts for Cleveland and Minnesota in 2009. Perhaps most attractively, he worked 199 1/3 innings.

Tom O'Connell, Pavano's agent, declined to comment on specifics Monday afternoon here. He and the Twins are scheduled to meet again tonight.

"We'll let the arbitration process play out," O'Connell said.

If the Pavano talks fall through, the Twins' next choice is believed to be free agent left-hander Jarrod Washburn.

Other items:

-- Atlanta hopes to land a middle-of-the-order bat by the time it leaves Indianapolis this week, and the Braves have made it known that they will trade either one of two starting pitchers to get it, Javier Vazquez or Derek Lowe.

-- The Dodgers are pushing hard to trade for a starting pitcher. Among others, they have approached Pittsburgh about Paul Maholm, and the Pirates also have indicated a willingness to clubs to listen to offers on Zach Duke.

-- The Orioles are looking for a third baseman and a closer.

-- Florida is looking to trade two of its three arbitration-eligible relievers, Matt Lindstrom, Renyel Pinto and Leo Nunez.


Posted on: December 2, 2009 9:09 pm

Braves hoping they signed Wagner of old

There is no question that the Braves are off to a far better start this winter than last, signing closer Billy Wagner on Monday after re-signing starter Tim Hudson in November.

Question is, is Wagner the right guy?

I don't see a lot of middle ground here: I think this is either going to work out extremely well ... or it's going to backfire badly.

The Braves signed Wagner for $6.75 million in 2010 and a $6.5 million club option for 2011 and, because Boston was smart enough to offer Wagner arbitration, the Braves also forfeit their first-round draft pick to the Red Sox next June.

That's a lot of freight to pay for a 38-year-old closer who missed most of last season following Tommy John ligament transfer surgery. And that's why I think the final verdict will be black or white, without shades of gray.

Wagner says his arm feels better than it has in a long time, and a small sample of games for Boston at the end of 2009 (1-1 with a 1.98 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings) backs him up.

And as Braves general manager Frank Wren notes, we're talking about a man who has converted 86 percent of his save opportunities over his career.

But is the 38-year-old, post-surgery Wagner still that guy?

That's the Braves' gamble, one in which they didn't blink in making Monday. (They do have a partial buffer zone for the lost draft pick, though, because they still stand to gain picks for relievers Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez, who were offered arbitration, assuming they sign elsewhere).

The upside is tremendous, especially for a team Wren views as being capable of winning 90 games or more.

The downside? That manager Bobby Cox will be rummaging around his pen looking to fill the ninth-inning gap if Wagner blows out again or simply can't handle the requirements of a closer on a contending team (converting nearly every save opportunity, pitching on back-to-back days, etc.).

For now, this sure beats last winter, when the Braves spent November and December chasing their tail in failed Jake Peavy trade talks, finishing behind the Yankees in their pursuit of starter A.J. Burnett and getting burned by the agent for shortstop Rafael Furcal, who signed with the Dodgers after the Braves thought they had him.

Wagner's club option for 2011, by the way, becomes guaranteed if the lefty closer finishes 50 games next season.

If it gets that far, that will be money well spent.

Posted on: June 3, 2009 6:45 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2009 9:02 pm

Farewell to the classy Mr. Glavine

And so it ends not with a bang, but with a whimper for Atlanta icon Tom Glavine.

Six scoreless innings in a minor-league injury-rehabilitation start Tuesday night, his velocity back up into the low-to-mid-80s and, poof. Released.

John Smoltz and now Glavine in the same year.

Thanks for the memories, fellas.

Business is cold, and the game moves on, and that's life.  What rudely interrupted Glavine's homecoming in Atlanta is the fact the Braves' offense remains sluggish and the rotation has come together very well. Probably better than they hoped, given the progress of rookie Kris Medlen and given the fact that phenom Tommy Hanson is waiting in the wings.

The Braves' staff ERA of 4.08 ranks tied for fifth in the National League. Jair Jurrjens, having an All-Star season, currently ranks sixth in the NL with a 2.59 ERA. Javier Vazquez ranks third in the NL with 86 strikeouts. Derek Lowe has six wins. Kenshin Kawakami looks like he can help. Medlen held Arizona to one run over six innings in Atlanta's 9-3 win Sunday.

This isn't to say that Atlanta's pitching is flawless. But it's been pretty darned good. And when Hanson arrives, it'll be better.

There simply is no longer room in Atlanta for a 43-year-old, rehabbing lefty who, by his own admission, is well past his peak. Especially given what the Braves really need, and now we'll see whether Nate McLouth, the speedy outfielder acquired from Pittsburgh can give it to them.

Sad, given that there is nobody more classy than Glavine in the game. But true.

If he wants to hang around, there are plenty of clubs looking for pitching. Philadelphia, the New York Mets (look out for the cab rides, Tommy!), the Chicago White Sox. ...

And if he doesn't, well, think about this: Now he and Greg Maddux will be in the same Hall of Fame class, eligible for induction together.

That would be pretty cool.

Posted on: February 18, 2009 9:27 am

Chipper on A-Rod: "I feel for him, I really do"

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Atlanta Braves slugger Chipper Jones said Wednesday he did not watch the Alex Rodriguez press conference, nor did he spend any time viewing the highlights (or lowlights, as it were).

For Jones, the fact that Rodriguez has admitted using steroids is enough.

"I commend A-Rod for coming out and admitting to it," Jones said Wednesday morning at the Braves' complex. "He's doing all the right things. The guy made a mistake. We were all tempted back then. I feel for him, I really do.

"I hope he's forgiven. He means well.

"Steroids or no steroids, he's still one of the top five players I've ever seen in my life. Let's move on."

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day

"Everybody's got a cousin in Miami
"Everybody understands the impromptu
"Dancing in the heat to the beat
"That turns your clothing clammy
"Everybody needs to have a dream come true"

-- Jimmy Buffett, Everybody's Got a Cousin in Miami

Posted on: February 16, 2009 10:12 pm

Atlanta makes more sense than Seattle for Griffey

TAMPA, Fla. -- As Ken Griffey Jr. sleeps one more night while rasslin' with what probably will be the last big decision of his career, the parameters are pretty simple.

Atlanta by far offers him the best situation, personally.

Seattle clearly is where he should go, professionally, from strictly a save-the-legs, extend-his-career point of view.

Assuming the money is roughly equal -- a year, somewhere between $1 and $2 million -- this doesn't make the decision any easier. But the parameters are very clear.

Remember when Junior asked the Mariners to trade him to Cincinnati so he could go home?

Turns out, he rarely felt at home.

Atlanta offers a far better home situation than Cincinnati ever did. He lives in Orlando, 15-20 minutes from the Braves' complex. He literally can live in his own house an extra six or seven weeks this year during spring training (as opposed to having to pack up and spend February and March in Peoria, Ariz.).

Atlanta, the city, is geographically closer to his Orlando home than Cincinnati is. At an hour away by air, Griffey could head home to Florida on off days if he wanted.

If he signs with Seattle, of course, he can't. But he may be able to acquire several more at-bats as a DH than he would as a platoon left fielder in Atlanta.

Meantime, while the Braves aren't necessarily favored in the NL East, they probably can hang with Philadelphia and the New York Mets longer than a Seattle team that lost 101 games last year can stay afloat in the AL West.

So, to recap. ...

Atlanta = home, family, playing meaningful games, possibly getting one more chance to play in October if all sorts of things fall into place.

Seattle = easier on the legs thanks to the DH slot and ... um ... well, far less humidity than Atlanta during the peak of the summer.

It's difficult to view a Griffey return to Seattle as anything more than a chance for the Mariners to help sell more tickets. At 39, he's certainly past his prime and isn't in position to significantly help them improve. He's a role player now.

Bottom line is, it's pretty clear.

Atlanta makes the most sense.

Likes: Mets manager Jerry Manuel's plan to shake up the lineup, and maybe give shortstop Jose Reyes more defensive responsibility in terms of helping to position guys. Terrific idea. Reyes has shown a lack of focus and a need to mature. Giving him more responsibility may be exactly what he needs to lock in and stay focused. ... Love Boston's David Ortiz and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen saying anybody who tests positive for steroids should be suspended for an entire season. Somebody start that petition. ... Sean Penn has to win the Oscar for Best Actor over Mickey Rourke, doesn't he? Rourke's performance was powerful, but -- and not to diminish it -- he was largely playing Mickey Rourke. Penn was pure acting. ... B.B. King's latest disc, One Kind Favor, is really good. ... So is The Hold Steady's latest, Stay Positive. Vastly underrated group. ... Absolutely love the Blackberry "If Delivery People Ran the World" ad where the kid Callahan is missing from school and the delivery folks track him, grab him and deposit him before he knows what's hit him.

Dislikes: I will see you on Tuesday live from the Alex Rodriguez press conference in Yankee camp. I don't think anybody wants to be there -- A-Rod, the Yankees, the media, anybody. But we've all got to play our parts before we can move on with the spring, know what I mean? I'll be happy to get past it and get back to writing baseball.

Sunblock day? Warm sun, cool air. Probably around 70 which, for you Northerners eating your hearts out, is still pretty darn good down here.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I think she drove a new Mustang
"I guess it might be a rental
"I remember she had satellite radio
"I guess she seemed a bit nervous
"Do you think I’m that stupid?
"Well look, what the hell, I’ll tell my story again …"

-- The Hold Steady, Sequestered in Memphis

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com