Welcome to another fun installment of the Braves Beat. Last week we enjoyed the festivities of the annual All-Star break and the beginning of the official second half of the baseball season. We got a lot to go over so here we go.
The Braves 2nd Half Chances
Seen a lot of these writings over the last week describing what the Braves need to do in the second half to make a run at a playoff spot. The answers were pretty much 1) Get another bat and get the offense going, 2) Continue to pitch well, and 3) By all means stay healthy. I pretty much agree with all of these sentiments.
Now with that said, object #1 will be intriguing to watch over the next 10 days as we inch ever so closer to the trade deadline. I have no idea what the Braves are going to do to help the offense, but I can guarantee two things; 1) Tommy Hanson, Jayson Heyward, and Freddie Freeman will NOT be part of the deal, and 2) The Braves will not acquire a half year rental. Whoever they get will be on the ball club next year. Keep an eye on the Marlins. They had a nice run in June and early July, but just like the start of the season we are not starting to see the Marlins come back down from their high. If they get any further back, look for them to unload some talent. It won't be a firesale we are all accustomed to seeing out of Miami, but a deal here or there. Cody Ross and Jorge Cantu would be nice trade pieces for the fish should they continue to slide and the Braves obviously have interest in Ross.
As of this writing the Braves have just finished off a 3 out of 4 series win against the Mets. They begin a 4 game set with the Giants tonight at Turner Field sitting just 4.5 games back of the NL Wild Card and the Giants. Taking 3 of 4 from the G-Man can set the tone for the rest of the summer on what is shaping up to be a nice Wild Card race. Of course I would love to see the Braves play for the division and they are still within striking distance at 6.5 and in 2nd place. However, I tend to look at the next best scenario right now and that would be to put distance between the yourself and the Marlins and Mets while at the same time, getting closer to the Wild Card lead. If the Braves can achieve that, then the 9 games they have left with the Phillies (6 at Turner Field) will help the Braves inch closer to the division lead, especially since the head 2 head tables have turned from a year ago and the Braves are 7-2 against the Phils. But as I have said in the past, beating the Mets, Phillies, and Giants are great, but if you continue to struggle against the Nationals, then no way can you sustain a streak to get you back in it.
Summary: Braves win the East, if they continue to play like they have over the past two weeks, continue to hit and score runs, and take care of the NL East as they have a boat load of games remaining against the division. They will need to win each remaining series against the Phillies which would give them a 6-3 record and inch them closer to the division lead. A sweep in one of those series would be nice as well. The Braves must take care of the Nationals. No excuse playing .500 against a team that still has yet to crack the 30 win mark. Starting tonight the Braves can make their run for the NL Wild Card and I bet when all is said and done this will be where the Braves are standing in the end with a trip out west to play the Dodgers in the NLDS where anything can happen with good pitching.
Retirement of #31
This past Friday night the Braves retired the jersey number worn by the greatest pitcher of our lifetime, Greg Maddux. It was truely a spectacular night and one that will definitely be copied again when Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, and even Bobby Cox are retired. Greg Maddux was truly great watching as I had the pleasure seeing growing up in the Atlanta area. You always knew the Braves had a 9 in 10 chance of winning the game if he was pitching. Good to see Maddux get the exposure he deserves and this fan will be making the trek up to Cooperstown in 5 years when Mad Dog is enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
It was good to see Jeff back in Atlanta in just one week after his trade to the Mets. He looked like someone just took a huge boulder off of his back and seemed to be having fun and no pressure. The fans who were at the games all weekend were truly class acts and gave Jeff the notierity he deserves instead of the bashing he has taken from the fans here at home. He also looked like he started going back to his approach from early this season and in spring training, going the other way with pitches and not trying to pull everything. Heres hoping nothing but the best to Jeff the rest of the way and now he can focus on baseball again and not trying to be the hometown hero.
- Anyone notice how ESPN continues to have probably the worst baseball announcers? How in the world do they get away with this? Jon Miller is great, but how many times does he have to point to Joe Morgan's time with the Reds everytime he compares a player. More great players played the game that were not part of the Big Red Machine......come on Jon give it a rest already. Also Steve Phillips needs another front office job because he has no business being in the TV booth. Again, Joe Morgan needs to be fired as he brings nothing to the broadcast anymore.
- Time to rethink the All-Star game. Baseball seriously needs to scrap the whole concept and begin a do-over. Yes it should still be NL vs AL, but its time to rework the festivities and take away that stupid World Series home field carrot because we are all tired of seeing the AL Champion be given home field advantage when probably only 1 player from their team contributed to the AL team's win. All-Star week with legends games, futures games, the HOF induction, the HR derby, etc.... needs to be pack into a one week festival instead of three days. Give the players who participate some extra time off and give those who don't a whole week to get ready for the second half. The week needs to begin on Monday with the legends game and the futures game, Tuesday a charity game with celebs, Wednesday the HR Derby, Thursday the actual game and end on Saturday with the HOF ceremony. Sunday can be an off day with games set to restart on Monday. Its not perfect, but its better than what we have now.
- Are they seriously considering a movie based on the book Moneyball?
- Speaking of movies; Field of Dreams, Pride of the Yankees, and The Rookie are still some of the best baseball movies ever. Watched all three of them on TV this past week and they never get old. Bull Durham ranks up there with them too.
- Boy this trade deadline is all and only about one player - Roy Halliday. In my opinion he stays with the Blue Jays and gets dealt in the offseason. No one team is going to pony up the prospects to get him. It will take a three team deal to get it done.
The Week Ahead
Alright time to close out the ole blog for another week. The week ahead, as we discussed earlier, has the Braves beginning a big 4 game set tonight with the Wild Card leading Giants. A series win here will help pull the Braves closer to Giants who currently have a 4.5 game lead over the Braves. The week rounds out with a trip up to Milwaukee to face the Brewers.