You know, I don’t pay much attention to trade season or spring training. Oh, I get excited when players report, and I love when no one picks up Barry Bonds again, but for the most part, everything is pure speculation until we get about three weeks into March. Player either show up in shape and are generally ready for the season or they don’t. Or they are Jon Kruk.
Most everything else is a function of talent, solid pitching, timely hitting and good management. So the Braves are screwed, right?
Maybe, maybe not. I have to admit, I am disheartened over the latest player to decide that Atlanta just isn’t the right fit. I remember Jr. agonizing over his decision about where to play when he went to Cincy in 2000. He grew up on the bench at Atlanta Fulton County. His father was one of my favs as a *cough* child. However, he was born in Cincy, was (at the time) loved by the public there and Marge Schott was out as Reds owner, so he played for the Reds. It was a weird decision, considering the Braves were in the middle of their run and the Reds hadn’t made the playoffs in a few years (trivia quesiton: Who was the last team to win the NL West before the Braves began their streak?). Still it made sense because the Braves had the greatest defensive player of the time in CF in Andruw Jones, looked to be set forever with Brian Jordan and wanted Jr. to hit fifth (with Chipper and Galaraga in the three and four spots).
Now we are looking at Burnett, Griffey, Peavey and Furcal giving Frank Wren the finger. I have to wonder why? I like not trying to outbid New York for Peavey, although he may be worth it. I like telling Furcal’s agent that he is dead to the Braves after he jerked them around (although, I have to wonder why his agent did), plus I think we are better at SS long term without him. I can live with Griffey going to the Mariners, because he always maintained he wanted to do so. Please don’t get me started on Smoltz or I’ll throw my keyboard out the window. I know Wren is a disciple of the Schuerholz system, but at some point, you have to wonder what is going on.
Bobby Cox is still the shrewed field manager he always has been. The pitching staff has huge upside potential, although I can also see it completely falling apart if Kenshin Kawakami isn’t the stud he is supposed to be and/or Javy Vázquez of 2004 shows up. If the Braves don’t crap themselves on Tom Glavine, he might not be the 15win/3.5 era guy he was and might not pitch in a game until June, but he has plenty to teach Jair Jurgens and Kenshin and will do a serviceable job as a starter when he gets in. The bullpen is a mess, but each year it seems someone emerges out of the crap pile to be the great set up man. Mike Gonzalez is healthy and reportedly in great shape. That leaves the outfield. I guess it can’t be worse than last year’s .256/27/190 or so production. From the whole outfield.
That leaves the intangibles. Will Chipper get another ring? Does he have more than one season in him? Does he have a whole season in him? Will someone step up and be the guy to give him a day off each week without the Braves giving up so much production? Will Frenchy finally fulfill the promise of great D, patience and power? Will Kelly Johnson become a legit five hitter, so folks have to pitch to Chipper and McCann? Will Jordan Schafer make it to Atlanta or was it all a ‘roid induced mirage?
At this point, I just hope to be competitive in September, because I like any Bobby Cox manged team’s chances if they are threatening late in the season.
PS. Just for the record, I blame Terrence Moore, not Cousin Walter, for Griffey going to Seattle.