The Weekend Buzz while you were remembering John Wooden and all his wisdom, particularly his belief that "failing to prepare is preparing to fail". ...
1. Brave roll: Just look at them. At 23-9 into Sunday's series finale with the Dodgers, the Atlanta Braves owned the best record in the majors since May 1. And yet, we may still not have seen the Braves' best baseball.
"I think we can be better, I really do," manager Bobby Cox says. "The hits aren't always going to fall in at the right time. But I know we have guys in the lineup who can hit better."
|Troy Glaus has provided the muscle for Atlanta with 35 RBI since the start of May. (AP)|
Yes, best record in the majors since May 1, winners of 15 of their past 19 games heading into Monday night's series opener in Arizona ... and yet, it still seems as if something is missing.
"We've still got a lot of things that could happen," closer Billy Wagner says. "We've still got a lot of guys who are not swinging that great."
And yet, in the span of 18 games since May 18, the Braves moved from last to first in the NL East, from 6½ games back to two games in front of Philadelphia.
The Braves' rise since May 1 has coincided with that of Troy Glaus, who is hard at work establishing himself as the leading candidate for NL Comeback Player of the Year. Since that date, Glaus' 35 RBI lead the majors. And Glaus' rise coincides with that of second baseman Martin Prado, who entered Sunday leading the NL in hitting (.324) and hits (77), and whose batting average while hitting in the leadoff spot (.359) leads the majors.
To find the last time Glaus came to the plate when Prado was not on base, you've got to go back when Glaus was in St. Louis last year.
"He sure seems like he's been on a lot," Glaus says appreciatively.
"Been tremendous all year," says starter Tim Hudson (6-1, 2.30), another key reason for Atlanta's re-emergence. "To be honest with you, he's been tremendous since he came to the big leagues [for good last summer].
"Even when he wasn't starting, a lot of us scratched our heads and wondered why he wasn't playing every day."
The Braves opened second full-time for Prado when they let Kelly Johnson walk last winter (he signed with the Diamondbacks). Now, that and signing Glaus look like a couple of the most inspired moves of the year.
The Nats' Stephen Strasburg debuts, the Tigers' Armando Galarraga makes his first start since the near perfecto and Roy Halladay faces Florida. More
Prado, whose .392 on-base percentage while hitting leadoff is second only to Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki (.404) in the majors, has adapted well to whatever the Braves have asked him to do. His basic philosophy, he says, is simple: "See the ball, hit the ball. That's it." As for the idea of taking pitches and working the count as a leadoff man, Prado says that depends on the pitcher.
"If you want the pitcher to throw a lot of pitches, yes," he says. "And if the scouting report says a guy has no control, or has had bad control lately, then I take pitches."
Odd as it may sound, things are beginning to look up in other areas for the Braves. For one, Escobar is threatening to shed his season struggles, having gone 16 for 31 (.516) over the last eight games.
"Escobar is starting to hit," Cox says. "Look at him, he had five RBI opening night, and he's only got  now. Cabrera has picked it up. Nate is starting to hit some balls hard."
2. Let's not forget Jason Heyward: Ensconced in the two-hole in Atlanta's lineup, the Say Hey(ward) Kid led all NL rookies in a boat-load of categories entering Sunday's series finale in Los Angeles, including slugging percentage (.531), on-base percentage (.402), homers (10), RBI (38), walks (34) and runs (30).
Of course, we also saw something on Friday night that actually proved Heyward human: He tied a major-league record with five strikeouts in a nine-inning game (it had been done 54 times, most recently by Alex Rios, then of Toronto, last June 4). Clayton Kershaw got him four times and Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton got him once. Last time Heyward whiffed five times in a game? Your guess is as good as his.
"If it did happen, I don't remember it," he says. "And if it hasn't happened, it doesn't matter."
3. Ken Griffey Jr. retires: Reports out of Seattle are that his relationship with manager Don Wakamatsu deteriorated alongside Junior's playing time, and that the two didn't speak during his final week in town. So that explains why Griffey drove, rather than flew, all the way back home to Florida. The Mariners succeeded in driving him out!
4. Orioles fire Dave Trembley: Really, why not just ask Earl Weaver to manage the club from his La-Z-Boy in Florida for the rest of the summer?
5. Here comes Stephen Strasburg: The carpet (Nationals' red) will be in place for Tuesday. And the Pittsburgh Pirates will be warned not to track mud on it.
6. Here comes Mike Stanton: Florida outfield phenom now will join the Marlins on Tuesday, giving baseball a two-fer of hotly anticipated debuts on the same night. Doggone, it is too bad he won't be facing the Nationals and Strasburg.
7. There goes -- and here comes -- Bryce Harper: First, here he comes: The Nationals will make him the first overall pick of this year's draft on Monday night. But only after his amateur career ended with a fiasco: He was ejected last week from a National Junior College World Series game, drawing an automatic two-game suspension, and his Southern Nevada club was eliminated while he was out. Las Vegas odds are that this will not quell questions surrounding this 17-year-old kid's character.
8. Ubaldo Jimenez, modern-day Bob Gibson: Working in hitter-friendly Arizona on Sunday, Colorado saw his scoreless innings streak finally end. Which is the greater indignity, that it was snapped at 33 consecutive scoreless innings or that his ERA is all the way up to 0.93?
9. Diamondbacks bullpen: Sources say the Gores decided to separate last week when Al balked after Tipper insisted that Parental Advisory warning labels be affixed to Arizona's 'pen.
10. Live from Los Angeles, it's the Dodgers! Classic. The Dodgers released a statement Friday informing everyone that their suit against actor Jon Lovitz and others to recover nearly $100,000 in unpaid tickets has been resolved. Yes, the Jon Lovitz from Saturday Night Live who played a character named Tommy Flanagan, Pathological Liar, whose catch-phrase after he concocted his latest lie was, "Yeah, that's the ticket!"