Friday, September 30, 2011

162

More analysis on the Braves...there's always multiple factors to a season. Many rightly still blame Fredi and Lowe, even though the offense isn't scoring runs. Like Francoeur, there's a good chance Heyward matures into a decent MLB player. Perhaps the Derek Lee / Fred McGriff comparisons will be accurate. Reminds me of college diaper dandies going pro early, then not becoming productive for the team that drafted them (if at all).

Had a rare productive evening Wednesday night myself. Washed, folded, and took all the laundry upstairs while watching the game. Interesting night, with the four deciding games all on TV. Stayed up til the end.

Kinda glad the Red Sox lost, to keep all those "fans" quiet. Should be a decent playoffs, since I like to watch the Yankees, Rays, Phillies, Brewers, and Cards. The Tigers and Rangers are ok to watch as well.

Co-worker went to the game Tuesday night (bought dollar StubHub outfield tickets). He ran into our old boss. Said he hadn't changed much.

Will said that after he just missed hitting the homer, he popped up the next two times he batted. He's looking at different colleges for next year, and seriously considering UGA. He discussed rooming with his former East Cobb teammate. Next semester he may switch to Kennesaw.

At work Wednesday we had a meeting from 9 am til 12:30 pm, then we went to lunch. Had a triple decker chicken salad sandwich on toasted bread at the Duluth Diner, better than but similar to a club sandwich. It's one of those diners with a huge menu, but most everything there is good. Sometimes I get the club, and the chicken Philly cheese sandwich is also good. Didn't get back til after 1:30, so it made for a day that went quickly.

Being quarter end, there was a lot to do. Monday young Thomas and I are taking inventory in Augusta. So next Tuesday and Wednesday will be busy as well.

Kids always get sick on parent's birthdays…especially mom's.

Aftermath

During Wednesday night's game I stayed off the computer most of the night. Read some of the AJC stuff today…Schultz and Bradley, and a sampling of the comments. Bradley called out some of the comments as ridiculous, which was nice. More than ever is it evident that commenters don't even read the column before commenting.

As usual, most of the suggestions are off the mark…Chipper not contributing, why Wilson is playing, etc. If these "fans" ran businesses they way they want the Braves to be run, the economy would be in even worse shape. I know I shouldn't even read them, but they're so tempting.

Did love those "bet you miss Bobby now!" comments. But what would Cox had done differently? On the field, not much. Like Fredi, he probably would've pitched Linebrink.

At this point, it's probably best that most of the blame is heaped on Fredi (and Parrish), to keep the heat off the players. They were certainly part of the collapse, though there were numerous other factors. Last night's loss was a perfect example.

Had one of a number of things gone the other way, the Braves would've won. Had Bourn not tried to steal third. Had the ump called him safe. Had Huddy got his glove on the ball up the middle. Heyward losing the ball in the lights (still would've been a tough catch). Wilson booting that very tough grounder (Gonzo would've had a hard time with that one). Had Kimbrel been just a little better.

I wonder how many players have been nursing lingering, unreported injuries. McCann rarely hits as poorly as he did these past few weeks. The same could be said for most all the regulars.

"Fans" here in Atlanta are not consoled that Boston lost a bigger lead. Even though they both rank with the worst ever, I still think "epic" is too strong a word.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Matthew Knocks in Winning Run!

Matthew knocked in the game-winning run last night, giving his Tigers their first victory of the season.

Batting third for the second straight game, he had two hits and two RBIs, and just missed out on going 3 for 3. This places him among the team RBI leaders. Out of 19 players from both teams, Matthew and Jalen were the only two to put the ball in play in every plate appearance.

In the top of the first, with Nate leading off third base, Matthew socked a 2-2 pitch just over the second-baseman’s head for a base hit, driving home the first run of the game.

In the third inning Matthew grounded the first pitch past the pitcher. The Shaw Park first-baseman, second-baseman, and pitcher converged on the ball. As Matthew “raced” to first, the second-baseman finally scooped up the ball and tossed to the first-baseman, who barely beat Matthew to the bag.

Going into the final inning, the Tigers were losing 6-4. Marlon walked and stole second, then scored on Brandt’s single to right-center. Brandt stole second and third, then scored the tying run on a passed ball. On a full count Nate walked, then stole second…setting the stage for Matthew.

After taking a ball and smashing a line drive foul past first, Matthew hit a hard ground ball. The first baseman and second-baseman had chances, but the grounder scooted through into right field. Nate rounded third and headed home, scoring what proved to be the winning run.

When the throw home got past the catcher, Matthew motored to second.

But the excitement was just beginning. Tanner walked, then Jalen singled to load the bases. Randal poked a grounder right to the third-baseman, who threw home. As the catcher crouched for the throw, Matthew bore down on the plate…and slid! Ernie the Umpire spread his arms wide…SAFE! But as the Shaw park coaches wailed in protest, Ernie came to his senses and reversed the call. No tag had been needed since it was a force play, and Matthew was obviously out.

In addition to all the offensive heroics, the Tigers NO-HIT their Shaw Park opponents, just three days after getting no-hit themselves. Pitchers Jessica, Nate, Thomas, and Brandt combined for the gem.

After starter Jessica walked four of the first five batters, Nate came in and retired two of the next three. Third-baseman Tanner threw one batter out at first, and caught a line drive for the third out.

Thomas similarly struggled pitching the second inning, walking three of the five batters he faced. Brandt relieved Thomas, struck out the first batter, and got the next batter to ground out to Jessica at first. With the bases loaded, Brandt had the runner at first picked off. But when the runner on third broke for home, Jessica fired to catcher Nate for the out.

In the third Brandt retired Shaw Park in order, striking out one and getting two to ground back to him on the mound. With the game on the line in the bottom of the fourth, the leadoff hitter grounded to Tanner at third……but Tanner booted the ball. The runner then stole second and advanced to third when Nate’s throw skipped into center.

With the tying run 60 feet from home, Brandt struck out the number three and four batters in the order. The next batter smashed a line drive, right at Jessica. She couldn’t hang on, but after knocking it down she picked it up and won the race to first, ending the game.

Walking off the field after congratulating the other team, my umpire friend Ernie called to me, and tossed me the game ball. It now sits on Matthew’s shelf.

At the same time four miles away, Will’s team rolled to another win. Like Matthew, Will also batted third in the order. He just missed hitting a home run.

Wednesday morning after the game, Matthew’s contributions became even more important. It was learned his teammate and buddy Alex had broken his wrist in the game, and is out for the season. Already shorthanded, the Tigers will play most of their remaining games with only nine players.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Braves Watch: Game 160

It’s tough to watch the Braves finish like this. All the “fans” come out of the woodwork and say such idiotic things. Talk of “epic collapses” aren’t qualified with who got hurt (and other variables). Player salaries are brought up, but not how the twenty teams already eliminated have players with similar salaries. Even if the Braves make the NLDS, it won’t be pretty. But any team can catch fire at any moment.

McCann is really slumping right now. Uggla, Prado, and Freeman aren’t at the top of their games. Born looks tired and frustrated. He’s played in every game since he’s been here (have I said that recently?). Heyward has been relegated to the bench.

Chipper is hitting better than anyone, but you can tell he’s hurting. Last night he had 2 of the Braves 7 hits, plus a great barehanded play at third base. Playing in, he just missed grabbing that Victorino grounder. Watching Will play third, I know what a tough position it is. After he grounded into the double play, bloggers wanted to know why he was still in the game. But had he not played, the same bloggers would’ve been all over him for being soft.

Looks like O’Flaherty, Venters, and Kimbrel will be available for all three games this week. Martinez, too. Starter Delgado looked good, except when he tripped over first base.

What is your opinion on batting coaches? Are they just figureheads? An extra coach whose time is devoted to helping hitters, since a manager can’t do everything? How much blame should they get when a team slumps? Is Larry Parish good or bad? I haven’t heard much about him all year.

Moneyball: I haven’t read all the articles about it, but the one in SI was good.

Last night Passion City Church had a webcast worship service for college students. I don’t know how many students were down at the church for the live event, but over 2000 college campuses were represented on line, in at least 54 countries. Louie had gotten his start leading a Bible Study at Baylor, and has focused on college students ever since then. Ceil and Anna had it on the computer.

I kept the TV on the Braves, because I was “working” on my computer. Plus we had the Passion service going on the computer, in the same room.

Since Matthew had been making contact, the coach batted him third Saturday. Had two bad plate appearances against two fastballers. He also made a lot of contact at last night’s practice. I pitched extra BP to him, Jessica, and Marlon. My pupil has wanted to keep his poor fundamentals because they’re comfortable, but last night he hit better than he has all year. Barring rain, tonight we’ll see if he can hit in a game. Several players were goofing off while Matthew was hitting, and the coach challenged them to do their best. Then Matthew hit one through all of them.

Will skipped Matthew’s practice to attend Scott’s mugging at Living Science, a good thing to do. The Hurt girls were there. Sunday I watched the Braves with Joel, after he gave Matthew a guitar lesson and before Will got home. He and Kevin had attended the previous Sunday’s Braves/Mets disaster with David and Haley Hurt.

Tuesday evening both W and M play 6 pm games, at different parks. I’ll have to miss Will’s game.

Monday afternoon things are work were going as normal, then about three things when horribly wrong…all on the same part. Spent several hours fixing it.

I had heard of Stan Cottrell before, but had to look him up on the internet to make sure. Does he have an Atlanta connection? I used to run a lot of road races around town, maybe that’s where.

I was wondering about Terra Nova. I always forget about those shows on network TV. Sometimes Anna knows about a singoff show, and she’ll watch that. I’m always interested in what “stars” are on Dancing. A lady here at work loves Nancy Grace, so I’ll have to ask her if she’s watching DWTS.

Tigers: Mid-Season Report

Jalen…plays on two teams. Often hurt. Fastest on team, but often plays tentatively.

Brandt…small but effective. Best pitcher on team. Lefty with a great pickoff move. Fine hitter and fielder. Good looking family.

Nate…small. Hits it harder than Brandt. Probably more useful in field than behind plate. Only batter Matthew ever struck out. Dad flies a model helicopter around field after practices.

Tanner…best hitter on the team. Good pitcher, but not overpowering. Handles shortstop well.

Harrison…fine hitter and fielder. Catcher, 1B, and 3B, but has been relegated to the outfield.

Alex…big kid, has a lot of fun. Had the championship winning hit while played with Matthew several years ago.

Jessica…athletic, but needs repetition and playing time in games. She & her brother are homeschooled, and enjoy goofing off with Matthew.

Randal…throws slow strikes, often befuddling batters. Makes plays at second base.

Matthew…is enjoying playing baseball. Makes contact in games, which is half the battle.

Thomas…looks like he can play, making the strikeouts and errors mystifying. Needs to try pitching.

Marlon…has made several good plays in the field.

With 3 games in the next 5 days, the Tigers will need more quality pitching. If Randal is open to it, he should pitch more than one inning at a time. I was going to mention this last Thursday! Randal could probably pitch in at least two of these games, if not all three. Looks like Brandt, Tanner, and Randal are our three top pitchers, which is fine.

Why not try Thomas and Harrison as pitchers? Me or Mitch could work with them, letting them throw about 20 pitches off the mound, for the repetition. Jalen could use this practice as well, if he’s there. If Jessica is ready, I’d let her try her hand at pitching as well!

I did talk to Harrison during the game. He was just bummed about playing so much outfield. Getting to catch those 2 or 3 innings probably helped. He’s probably as good an infielder as anyone, having played a lot of third and first. If he could get him an infield inning every now an then, that might cheer him up.

Alex is probably OK with not pitching. At practice I’ll try to ask him how he feels about it. Saturday he did well at third base.

Though Nate is a good catcher, I wonder if he can help the team more in the infield (and pitching?). I know there are only so many infield spots. This way Harrison and Alex could catch more (I could be wrong on this!).

For a big guy, Tanner plays a good shortstop. He, Nate, and Brandt seem to do well wherever they play.

It’s great that Marlon has made all those plays in the field. So many players to cram into so few infield slots. After practice last week he asked if we’d work with him more, so Will fed him soft toss, then pitched to him until dark. He made some progress, but Thursday he said he felt “uncomfortable” with the changes, and wanted to bat his regular way. Steve’s tip Saturday, to keep his eye on the ball, may be the most helpful tip he’s gotten so far. A former coach of Will’s (& Matthew, Brandt, Nate, and Alex) learned from an expensive batting instructor, so that’s what we’re trying to pass along to Marlon.

Poor Thomas. He sure looks like he’d be batting and fielding better. He may be more comfortable playing third, though he did make a good play at first. Perhaps he should try bunting!

Matthew just enjoys being out there with teammates. It's great that he's making contact in the games (Murphy’s Law: he gets moved up in the order, and the National’s fastballers struck him out!). Looks like Matthew, Jessica, and Randal have become buddies in the dugout, along with Alex.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Weekend Sports Report

The Braves need to score some runs. Yesterday they threatened several times, but just couldn't push a runner across the plate. With the bases loaded and no out, with such trouble scoring runs, perhaps they should've squeezed with Bourn at the plate. He seems to be tired and frustrated. Perhaps Hinske needs a start, to pump up the team.

I like little Jack Wilson, but I think Gonzo has a little more range at shortstop. They seem to be a wash at the plate, though Gonzo hits it harder (when he connects). Wilson may walk more.

I haven't been watching the experts, but it seems the Phils can pick their opponent. Let the Braves win, and they can play Arizona. Beat the Braves, and they'll have to play the Cards. But the Phillies seem to be having problems scoring runs themselves. The Red Sox are also in worse shape than the Braves.

Slow weekend. Matthew's team lost 2-1…both teams combined for one hit. Anna had a sleepover Friday night. Will practiced, but missed his game to go back to Camp Highland for an overnighter.

I watched the ESPN 30 for 30 on Herschel…Comcast has it where you can watch it On Demand. They spent a good deal of the time focusing on his multiple personality disorder, and how he had no memory of accepting his Heisman. They did note he rushed for 5000 yards in the USFL, and later that he finished in the NFL's all-time combined yards top ten. They just didn't connect those dots, that he gained more yards as a pro than anyone else.

Tech held on to beat UNC, but they missed out on scoring another 17 points. Washington was intercepted once, and had several passes flutter and hang up too long in the air. They usually stumble at NC State.

Glad to see UGA let the freshman loose, but when Richt learned Crowell ran over 30 times, he was that was too many. The other backs are ok, but in Jacksonville they need to ride him the whole game. Sounds like right now he's getting tired.

Clemson played well, but benefitted from several key FSU penalties…and from the FSU starting QB missing the game.

Nats No-Hit Tigers

Matthew’s Tigers played well Saturday, losing a close game 2-1 to their rival Mt. Paran team, the Nationals. The Nats pitched two flame-throwers who struck out two Tiger batters in every inning.

The Nationals scored a run in the top of the first, but the Tigers tied the score in the bottom of the inning. In the top of the second the Nats took the lead with one more run. Both teams threatened throughout the game, but did not score.

Both teams combined to produce just one hit, a single to left by the National’s Stephen Ellis. Matthew's ability to make contact landed him the the coveted third spot in the batting order.

Randal, Brandt, and Tanner pitched well for the Tigers. The defense played its best game of the season, committing only one meaningless error in the last inning. Alex tagged out two runners at third-base, one on a peg from centerfielder Jalen. Nate, Brandt, Harrison, Jalen, Marlon, Randal, Jessica, Thomas, and Tanner all made good plays in the field. Matthew was the only Tiger that didn’t have a ball hit to him.

The Tigers practiced Monday afternoon, and play games Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Will has games both Tuesday and Saturday.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Cardinals are Choking!

After the Cardinals blew that game Thursday night, I didn’t see anyone on the AJC blogs saying that now they’d never make the playoffs (besides me). I just hope they keep it up.

Hudson is 13-3 with a 1.95 ERA in 22 career starts against the Nationals. The bullpen is rested. The position players all got a day off yesterday. McCann and Chipper needed rest, in particular.

Watched a two hour NFL Network special on Bill Belichick. It was probably old, but I’d never seen it before. Ceil watched most of it. Matthew liked the part about the Halloween party at the roller rink, planned by Randy Moss. Everyone wore costumes. Belichick and his wife skated. I had read a book about him, how his dad was a coach at Navy, one of the best scouts ever. Nice flashback to his dad getting doused with Gatorade after a Super Bowl.

Also watched a good chunk of the Yankees/Rays game. Andruw struck out. He’s batting .240 with 11 homers. Bartolo Colon looks like Andre the Giant. Ray’s manager Joe Maddon has grown his hair out, and it looks good. Jeter made two errors, but both were tough plays. Sabathia won’t pitch again until the ALDS. When you’re chasing 300 wins, every missed start adds up.

Saw where Francoeur is hitting .285 with 86 RBIs, perhaps a better year than McCann. But there’s no pressure in KC. And Shafer had two hits the other day, batting leadoff.

Will’s cousin has always played golf, but he finally went out for football as a senior. The team is usually one of the better Class A teams in the state. A punter and receiver, last week he caught a touchdown pass. Ceil’s dad called us from the stands after the game, adding “they were playing a home school team” that was “decent on offense, but couldn’t stop anything on defense.”

My brother’s daughter is a freshman soccer player at Truett McConnell. They’ve already traveled to Florida, where she scored her first goal (and went to Disney World). This weekend they play Auburn in Montgomery.

At work we hired a girl who was the starting guard for the Georgia College basketball team, in Milledgeville.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why the Braves Falter

It frustrates me how everyone gives up so easily on the Braves, pronouncing them out of it. These “fans” say they’re choking, forgetting their two best starters have been out for over a month. Another starter (Medlin) has been out all year.

Fans forget the Cardinals are the hottest team in baseball. They forget the Braves are one of 30 teams competing for eight playoff spots, with only an average payroll. They have the same record as the Red Sox, who have a payroll twice that of the Braves. Like Atlanta, Boston is fading as well.

With two rookies filling in for JJ and Hanson, and a third rookie already in the rotation, Fredi had little option than to start Lowe last night. Fredi nor Lowe could be blamed for the loss, with the offense only managing two hits off a red hot pitcher, a former all-star.

These same fans would’ve been thrilled at the beginning of season to be leading the wild card race under these circumstances. Yes, other teams also have injuries. They’ve already been eliminated from the playoff race.

Despite what you hear, the Braves are still in it.

The decline:

Sept 4: 8.5 game wild-card lead.

Sept 7: Swept by Phillies. 6.5

Sept 8: Sweep Citi Field DH: 7.5

Sept 11: Swept by Cards. 4.5

Sept 14: Win 2 of 3 from Marlins. 4.5

Sept 18: Lose 2 of 3 to Mets. 3.5

Sept 22: Lose 2 of 3 to Marlins. 1.5

Last 17 games: 6 wins, 11 losses.

The Broken Egg CafĂ© sounds good…I looked up their website. Had been tempted by Uncle Julios, but I’ll stay away. There’s one near Perimeter Mall. A Michaels boat model for a penny…I’ll have to look for it. Ceil loves that place.

Tigers: 8 Errors in 13-9 Loss

Matthew’s Tigers lost their game at Shaw Park Wednesday night 13-9. Of the twenty players on both teams, Matthew was one of five who hit the ball every time they batted. He socked two hard grounders to the shortstop.

Matthew drove in a run with his first-inning grounder. The shortstop tossed to second to force the runner, but Matthew beat out the throw to first. When the first-baseman then threw home, Matthew scampered to second.

Both times he went up to the plate looking to hit the ball. In the first inning he hit the first pitch. In the third inning he took the first pitch high, then hit the second pitch thrown to him.

Matthew says he’s enjoying playing second base, where he played two innings. He also played right field two innings.

MT PARAN.…4…0…4…1……9

SHAW PRK…6…0…7…0…..13

The first four Tigers to bat in the first inning scored. Harrison’s bases-loaded single knocked home Brandt and Nate. Tanner scored on the shortstop’s error, then Matthew’s fielder’s choice knocked in Harrison.

Shaw Park answered with six two-out runs, all unearned. The Tigers committed four errors in the inning, throwing the ball around two much. Alex hit one batter and walked another, and both scored. Little Randal pitched a scoreless second inning. He struck out two batters looking, then jumping high to field a chopper, and threw the batter out at first. Playing second later in the game, Randal threw a batter out at first.

In the third the Tigers scored four more, to retake the lead. Nate again reached on an error, and scored on Tanner’s single to right. As Harrison stepped into the box the crowd grew quiet. Speaking softly from the dugout, I said “Big hole in right-center. Have some fun!” Later he said he heard me. Harrison smoked a low, deep line drive that rolled to the fence, for a RBI triple. he later scored on Randal’s infield dribbler. Randal advanced his way around the basepaths, scoring on passed balls and wild pitches.

Tanner pitched well, but the Tiger’s inability to make plays led to another big inning for Shaw Park. Four more Tiger errors led to seven more Shaw Park runs. Facing eight batters, Tanner was able to record only one out (by lefty shortstop Brandt). Brandt then came in and recorded two quick outs: a strikeout and a runner picked off first (his second in three games). Before the game ended, Brandt retired two more batters.

Saturday morning at 9 am the Tigers play their Mt. Paran rivals, the Nationals. Will may skip his 3 pm game and go up to Camp Highland (sorry, Kevin!).

Records: Made to be Broken?

Let's look at MSN's recent list of Sports Records That Will Never Be Broken:

Rivera - saves - 602
Rose - career hits 4256…what about Ichiro?

DiMaggio - hitting streak - 56
Cy Young - Career wins 511…unbreakable
Ripken - Consecutive games played - 2632
Derrick Thomas - Sacks in a game 7…breakable?
Jerry Rice - Receiving Yards - 22895
OJ Simpson - avg yds rushing per game (season) - 143.1…breakable?
Gretzky - goals in a season - 92
Gretzky - assists in a season - 163
Chamberlain - points in a game 100

Jordan - points per gm (season) - 30.12…breakable?
Byron Nelson - PGA tour wins in a year 18…unbreakable

Lance Armstrong - consecutive Tour de France wins 7…he cheated!
Usain Bolt - fastest 100 meters - 9.58…breakable?
Isner - longest tennis match 11 hr 5 min…breakable?

Three records I would add to the list…

1. Greg Maddux won at least 15 games for 17 straight years. Even Cy Young didn’t do that. This year is Sabathia’s 5th straight 15 win season. Twelve more, CC. He’ll be 43 then.

2. The Jazz and Braves runs of consecutive division championships are another hard to break feat.

3. 868. Sadaharu Oh’s all-time home run record.

Breaking Rose’s record requires 203 hits a year for 21 straight years. Ichiro has averaged 225 for the past 11 years, though it’s doubtful he’ll reach 200 this year (he’s currently 22 short). Adding his Japan League numbers, Ichiro has exactly 3700 hits in 20 years. He’ll have to average 186 hits for the next three years to “break” the record. The competition may be lower in Japan, but the seasons are shorter: there Ichiro only averaged 142 hits a season.

Cy Young’s all-time wins record is the most unbreakable record of all. Even if you win 25 games a year for 20 years, you’re still eleven wins short. These days experts wonder if there will ever be another 300 game winner. CC Sabathia is 31 and has 176 wins, an average of 17 per year over eleven seasons. If he keeps up that pace for SEVEN more years, he is still five wins short. You wonder if his huge body will hold up (though he doesn’t seem to exert much effort).

If Venters averages 40 saves a year for the next 14 years, he can break Rivera’s record. Much more doable than equaling Cy Young.

I never thought Gretzky’s records would even be challenged, but some (Lemieux?) have knocked at the door.

Only one or two receivers in NFL history have even half as many yards as Rice (or touchdowns). As a pro, Herschel has more combined yards than Rice (in college as well).

Will ARod break the Bonds/Aaron home run record? He has slowed down in the past couple of years. Injuries are the key. In this age of big salaries, fewer all-time records will be broken because of lack of motivation.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Throwing Arms: Tech and Braves

TECH: Everyone is high on Tech’s great passing game, but after finally seeing Tevin Washington in action I’m still not blown away by his weak arm. His passing has certainly improved over the offseason, but balls still seem to hang up in the air and flutter too often. He might’ve gotten away with it against the three weaker opening opponents, but stronger teams like Virginia Tech, Miami, and Georgia will pick him apart.

Of course, I have no problem with Tech running the ball more. Washington’s grasp of the option’s nuances is better than Nesbitt’s, and Paul Johnson’s deep pool of talented running backs bodes well. I was not impressed with backup QB Syms, whose running and pitching seemed stiff compared to Washington.

BRAVES: With Jurrigans and Hanson injured, Fredi is almost forced to pitch Lowe. After Hudson, all that’s left are rookies Beachy, Minor, and Delgado. This very well could be Lowe’s last ever start as a Brave. The magic number is six, with 14 Braves and Cardinals games to go.

Nice that O’Flanery, Venters, and Kimbrel got Tuesday night off. I was still up when the Cardinals made their comeback. I’d been flipping between the Braves and replays of Clemson/Auburn, then Tech/Kansas.

Sports Illustrated had a good 9/11 article. Also articles on Diana Taurasi, and the Braves relievers (before they slumped!). Here’s a link to order 56 issues of SI for $29.00: click here

While Ceil and I were watching Will’s game, Matthew was home learning French. He got out a deck of French flash cards and went around the house, placing cards with the corresponding chair, bed, desk, teddy bear, etc.

Crown Shuts Out Sandy Plains

Will’s Crown team won their game 8-0 Tuesday night, in the tough Sandy Plains League. He pitched three scoreless innings and struck out six batters. While pitching, Will also picked a runner off second base.

Offensively, Will collected three of his team’s seven hits, and accounted for three of Crown’s eight runs. Batting leadoff, Will lined the second pitch of the game over the left-field fence on one bounce, for a ground rule double. He took third on a wild pitch, then scored on a passed ball.

In the third inning Will smashed a single into left field. As he stole second the throw beat him to the bag, but Will managed to slide around the tag. He advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Nathan’s ground ball.

With two out in the fifth Will pounded a grounder past the third-baseman for another single, driving home the runner from second. Regrettably, Will ventured too far toward second on the play, and was easily thrown out.

Playing shortstop the final three innings, Will tallied three assists and a putout, throwing out two runners at first and forcing two at second. In total, Will had a hand in eleven of the game’s 18 outs.

In this past Saturday’s game Will had a single up the middle.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Still Bullish on the Braves

Tough loss in Miami Monday night. Earlier in the day Mark Bowman tweeted about a guy on his plane saying the Braves were in a tough spot. Bowman disagreed, up 3-1/2 with nine to play. The “fans” on the AJC blogs also say the Braves are finished. I shouldn’t let it bug me, or take offense, though I often do. Some fans wouldn’t be happy even if the Braves went 162-0 and swept the playoffs.

Saying last night’s loss was Fredi’s fault is like blaming Bobby when Hrbek pushed Gant off first and Lonnie Smith got deked running the bases. Like me, the Braves and Marlins won’t miss that ballpark. Interesting that Maddox has the most wins as an opponent, and Glavine the most losses.

Things may not look good, but at least the Braves are ahead in the race, and not behind. Even should the Braves make the playoffs, they’re not going in on a hot streak, but there’s still time. But neither are the Phils or Brewers, really. With the injured pitchers, I’d be happy with making the playoffs. But anything short of sweeping the Series will bring out the haters.

I try to not drag my friend’s opinions into my blog, but in these head-drooping days, it’s good to have another upbeat, expert opinion. I know at least one of my readers will appreciate it. The CPA says:

I still think it is hard to win games unless you get "quality starts". Other than Hudson, starters are not going deep enough in games and they are giving too many runs in the innings they pitch. If Minor 49'er had of thrown a QS (only giving up 3 runs instead of 4) last night, Infante's HR would have only tied it. I don't blame the rookies for that, because of course they are rookies (without looking it up, I don't think Glavine-Smoltz-Avery had many QS in '87, 88, and '90). The bullpen can't be perfect every night.

I think Delgado will give them a good start (and a win) tonight. It worries me that Lowe is going on Wed - hopefully this will be the last Lowe start of his Braves career. Over the weekend, they have Huddy, Beachy and Minor vs the Nats. Those are winnable games. Coming back against the Phillies, you would have Delgado, Hansen and Huddy (if needed). Hopefully they will have it wrapped up before the Phillies series.

Will drove Matthew to practice early yesterday, for extra BP. During practice the coach had Will work with the pitchers. This worked out well, since they needed the repetition. Still, not all the pitchers were able to take a turn. Infielders took grounders and made throws…more good repetition. Outfielders took fly balls. No BP, though everyone had two “at-bats.” Back home Matthew said he was liking fielding better than hitting. Interesting, since he still shies away from the hard hit balls.

I was able to pitch a bucket to Will before practice. Will was dressed like a camp counselor, in outdoor T shirt, shorts, and sandals. He wanted me to hit him grounders after practice, but a struggling player asked for more BP. Will fed him soft toss, then pitched to him until it was dark.

Will has been to 68 professional baseball games…only two this year.

Free Tickets? Well, Maybe...

Living near Atlanta gives me access to an abundance of elite sporting events. Professional and college baseball, football, basketball, and golf, for starters. Free or cheap tickets are sometimes available. Having been to several hundred events in my life, I’m currently at the point where accepting every free ticket isn’t necessary, or even an option. Working fifty hours a week, tending to the needs of three busy children (and one wife), living paycheck to paycheck, and helping with household chores leaves little time. Thus with little free time and money, I’m more selective on how I spend them.

Done right, attending a sporting event in downtown Atlanta takes at least six hours. Traffic is always a consideration. If I can’t go early, to take my time to soak up the pregame atmosphere, it’s almost not worth it. To show up as the game is beginning, or after it’s started, isn’t worth the time commitment. I go to so few football and basketball games that I hate to leave early.

Another reason sporting events aren’t as attractive is the state of sports these days. Athletes are overpaid, coddled, and cocky. Forgetting fundamentals, they sacrifice team while trying to make the highlight reel. Stadiums blare rap music and flash bad graphics.

Some ticket offers are a no brainer: The Masters (or the occasional PGA Championship), the Chickfila Bowl or SEC Championship Game, NFL or MLB playoffs, or the World Series. I hadn’t been to a Georgia game since 1985, so I traded Tech/Kansas tickets for UGA/Coastal Carolina tickets. Likewise, a chance to go back to an Auburn, Alabama, or Tennessee game would be enticing.

Braves games are cheap enough for me to pick and choose the games I attend. Decisions are often made based on opponent, promotion, and day of the week. The less crowded weekday night games are best. Day games are hot (sunburn) and often crowded. I was fortunate enough to be given tickets to the Friday night Bobby Cox number retirement ceremony, which was well worth the inconvenience of leaving work early to battle traffic.

Braves games in September are fun: the pennant race, cooler weather, and fewer fans. Unfortunately, with school in session and two boys playing baseball, it’s rarely an option.

Saturday we left home at 7:50 am to drive to the Georgia game. Didn’t get home until 6:45 pm. Even with free tickets and parking, we still spent forty dollars on food…a fortune to a cheapskate like me. Sunday my sister called with free Braves tickets, less than an hour before first pitch. With four family members studying and looking forward to 4 pm church, I had to pass.

Monday, September 19, 2011

College Football Recap

I always thought Tech's offense wouldn't really get rolling until they found a QB who could pass. Now defenses can't stack the line of scrimmage to stop the run. Still, this Saturday they'll finally play a decent opponent. UNC usually plays Tech tough, even though Tech usually wins. Now that Tech is ranked, there's always the chance that they come out flat, thinking they can beat anybody, and lose.

Miami played a decent game. They still turned the ball over. As usual, Tech will have a tough time with them. Looked like Ohio State isn't that good. Michigan may beat them this year.

FSU also looked good. No shame in losing to Oklahoma.

Clemson surprised me, but their offense is supposed to be improved. With the way they played, all the rest of their games are winnable. FSU, Virginia Tech, and South Carolina will be the tough ones. SC barely slipped past Navy, and I don't think VT has looked great, either.

Auburn may be worse than people thought. Also Mississippi State, who lost to Auburn. MSU has an athletic QB who may look great in practice, but can't win tough games.

I was not impressed with UGA QB Aaron Murray. Missed too many receivers, especially when he rolled or threw right. Isaiah Crowell was impressive. Reminded me of Eric Dickerson the way he ran: legs bent, butt low to the ground, but his back, shoulders, and head straight. He needs to get more carries as UGA gets into the meat of their schedule.

Saturday I noticed Mark Richt and the other coaches did not lead the team through the pregame "Dawg Walk." Not 100% sure they ever do, but I thought they did. My young walk-on friend Robert Davis did not dress for the game.

At work the Tech fans are giving me a hard time for going to the UGA game. They don't care that I hadn't been in 27 years. Would've been nice to see Kansas, a team I'd never seen, but I'd never seen Coastal Carolina either.

Gameday in Athens

Friday morning I arrived at work and discovered Matthew’s Saturday game had been cancelled. Later in the morning there was a raffle for both Tech and UGA tickets. I won the Tech tickets. I’ve never seen Kansas play, but I go to at least one Tech game almost ever year. The last time I went to a UGA game was 27 years ago, so I jumped at the chance to trade for those tickets. I thought Anna and Matthew would enjoy the experience.

That evening Anna and I drove up 75 to pick up Thomas near Cartersville.

Since I’d heard many horror stories about game day traffic, Saturday we got an early start. After leaving the house at 7:55 we made great time, catching almost all the green lights on 316 east. Drove around Athens a bit, and then parked on the street running behind the Varsity. We meandered downtown, took pictures of the kids under the arch, and then strolled through the campus to the bookstore and student center. Walked around a little bit more, and then ate at the student center Chickfila before the crowds got too big.

As we were finishing our meal I overheard a Redcoat Band member tell her parents she had to go to the Dawg Walk. Not knowing where it was, we discretely followed her (it was just on the other side of the student center, ending at Sanford Stadium, under the bridge). An entertaining way to pass thirty minutes, first watching the band members line up and play, then see the cheerleaders and team walk through. Interestingly, Mark Richt and the assistant coaches were nowhere to be seen. My young walk-on friend Robert Davis did not dress out for the game, so he wasn’t in the Dawg Walk either.

Friday Anna had texted her friend Charissa to tell her she’d be at the game, and Saturday morning they swapped texts on where to meet. Before entering the stadium we met she and Haley on the bridge, and I snapped their picture. It was 4H day at Georgia, and Thomas saw two different people he knew. I saw a dad from Anna’s theater company. Matthew saw baseball buddy Stephen. We found our seats and watched pregame warm-ups. Our club level seats were right where cold air tunneled through from the backside of the stadium.

Georgia scored every time they had the ball in the first half, and then kicked a 56 yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half. Freshman running back Isaiah Crowell scored first and looked good. He needs to get more carries as the games get more important. QB Aaron Murray’s throws were erratic. This could be a difference-maker in tight games, and not in a good way. Blair Walsh missed a field goal, drawing scorn from many fans. All-American punter Drew Butler didn’t appear until midway through the third quarter.

We moved downstairs for the fourth quarter, both to get a closer look and warm up in the sun. Fans were parading out just below us, stopping to pose for pictures with the hedges. Georgia threatened, but ran out the clock instead of running up the score.

We meandered back to the Varsity, and filled up on Frosted Oranges. Saw former state senator Preston Smith, who I used to teach in Sunday School at SPdL. Traffic wasn’t bad until we hit the 316 lights in Lawrenceville, where it’s backed up every day. The kids finally dozed off, and I listened to the exciting Braves game. I knew to avoid the 285 construction, but Saturday evening traffic was bad on Pleasant Hill as well. Got home at 6:45.

It was a football night as well. Watched Oklahoma/FSU and Ohio State/ Miami as well.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Matthew's Thursday game

Matthew’s Tigers lost their second straight heartbreaker Thursday evening, by a 5-4 score. Shaw Park broke a tie game in the bottom of the last inning, winning the game on a walk and error. It was the second straight time the Tigers lost in walk-off fashion.

Matthew had an OK game. He chased a ball down near the rightfield line and held the batter to a single.

The Shaw Park starting pitcher was inconsistent. In his first at bat Matthew working the count full, before striking out. Six of the other ten Tigers also struck out (two struck out twice, another three times).

On the bench he vowed to do better next time. Against the left-handed reliever, Matthew swung and missed the first two pitches. After laying off a pitch in the dirt, he made solid contact on the next pitch. Though his was thrown out at first, he moved the runner from second to third.

Down a run in the top of the third, Jessica led off with a walk. She stole second and third, but Marlon and Jalen struck out. Nate walked and stole second, then Tanner lined a single to right, driving in both runners.

Shaw Park reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the inning, but Mt. Paran tied the game on the fourth. Alex walked, then Brandt lined his second hit of the game into left-center. Both runners moved up a base on an error, then Randal poked a bunt down the third base line. As Alex rumbled home, the third-baseman threw wildly past first, allowing Brandt to score the tying run.

Brandt took the mound, and the leadoff batter reached on an error. The little lefty promptly picked the runner off first, by several steps. Brandt then struck out the next two batters.

In the top of the 5th the Tigers staged a two-out rally. Nate and Tanner singled, but Harrison’s short pop was caught by the first-basemen.

Brandt got the leadoff hitter in the 5th to ground back to him for the first out, but then walked the next batter on four pitches. The runner stole second. The next batter hit a sharp grounder than second-baseman Thomas couldn’t handle. As the ball rolled on into right field the runner rounded third and rambled home with the winning run.

Matthew’s game Saturday has been cancelled, but Will plays at 11 am.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Crown Got by the Sandy Plains Blues

Showing the rust of his four month layoff, Will had a rough night against a tough Sandy Plains team Tuesday night. Crown lost the game 7-4.

He still contributed at the plate, on the mound, and in the field…

…striking out three batters in two innings.

…for the night, 59% of his pitches were strikes.

…accounting for half his team’s runs on offense.

…adding 2 assists and a double play in his 2 innings playing shortstop.

As the starting pitcher, Will allowed the first three batters to reach base, then retired the side without allowing a run.

In the second Will wasn’t as lucky. He walked the leadoff batter, then struck out the next two. The next batter lined a one-hopper to right. When the batter stumbled out of the box, the rightfielder quickly prepared to throw the batter out at first. He couldn’t make the throw, because the second-baseman blocked they way. This allowed the runner to score from second.

Playing shortstop in the 4th inning, Will threw out the leadoff hitter at first. After two walks and a single loaded the bases, Will scooped up a grounder to his left and quickly tossed to second, starting an inning-ending double play.

The tough Sandy Plains pitcher took a no-hitter into the 5th inning, before Nathan stroked a single to right. With runners on the corners, Will smashed a hard grounder that the pitcher snared. The pitcher wheeled and fired to second to force the runner. Trying for a double play, the shortstop threw to first, but Will was safe. The runner scored from third on the play. Will then stole second, and scored on a single.

Crown fell to 1-1 for the fall. Besides Will’s rust, they have several kinks to work out…

…on a two-out popup, both baserunners stood still and watched the play.

…another batter thought his Baltimore chop was a popup caught by the pitcher, and didn’t run to first.

…after striking out looking, a Crown batter was reprimanded by the umpire for throwing his bat.

…an outfielder let a high pop fall in front of him.

When Will (18) couldn’t find his grey baseball pants, he resorted to wearing the pair I had recently bought for his 12 year old brother. Will was a sight in the short, tight pants.

Michael, the younger brother of Will’s former teammate Ritchie, played shortstop for Sandy Plains. Before the game I had a nice chat with his fun-loving grandfather Ed. This spring Michael played for the Pope varsity, as a freshman.

With four 6 pm games running long, there was a huge traffic jam when the eight 8 pm teams arrived at Harrison Park. The game started 30 minutes late. I got to hang with Lynn and Lucy, Bill V, and Mike, Justin, and Erin Shetler. Jordan was doing the college thing.

Crown is playing in the competitive Sandy Plains Fall League. Saturday they play Will’s former teammates on Coach Tamucci’s team: Ryan T, Ryan G, Tyler, Kyle, and Parker. Had Will waited, he could’ve played with them as well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mark and Leo

Yesterday I got a call from Mark Fallis, an old friend. We’d met for lunch a few months back and got reacquainted. He was on the way over to buy some metal. I quickly coordinated the small order and went out to see him when he arrived.

Though never a huge sports fan, Mark said he’s working on a computer project with Leo Mazzone. Said he’d explain the details later, but mentioned Leo is not at all technical. Leo heard someone was masquerading as him on Facebook, and told Mark to “fix” it. Mark looked it up on Facebook, and quickly discovered that I was “Leo’s” friend.

Sunday night I was watching the MLB Network’s plays of the week…at least 60 plays. Francoeur had five plays all by himself, including the overall number one play. Robbed a homer, made another catch at the fence, threw a runner out at third, made a diving catch, and threw a batter out at first on a single to right. These days Francoeur looks as skinny as he was as a rookie.

Another edge-of-the-seat Braves game last night. Don’t know why Uggla slowed down on his way to cover first. That second ball Venters missed may have been spinning. Perhaps Gonzo and Heyward are bouncing back.

Got to admit, Friday’s Star Wars parade should be one of the more interesting promotions. Far better than the Wild West days.

M had practice Monday night. Playing second, he snared a hard line drive. I pitched in the cage: a bucket of balls to all nine in attendance. I moved the L screen up pretty close, making dodging line drives all the tougher.

Will came along, and was asked to instruct the pitchers on the intracies of pitching from the stretch. Then he pitched to 20 or so batters. Tonight in his 8 pm game he may have to pitch and catch.

Co-worker Dialysis Darryl had given me a bag of his son’s old clothes, including two expensive hoodies. In the car on the way to practice Will went through the clothes like a girl at Fellini’s Closet. Stopped at a light, he found a shirt he wanted to immediately put on…so he opened the door. After practice he put on the shirt again, then wore it to school today.

Fun-loving David Bartlett (slugger Willie’s younger brother and Coach Henry’s son) is a freshman at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain . David is practicing with the baseball team…good for him. Like Willie, he’s always a head’s up player. Unlike Willie, he’s not exactly a natural. Willie is at UGA, but not playing baseball.

Will’s long-time coach took his son and several other Crown players and formed a separate home-school team, playing under the banner of the “school” his wife runs at Johnson Ferry Baptist. They’re practicing at MP, and it appears he’s actively recruiting. Will’s former basketball teammate Isaac played as an 8th-grader. I had given the coach Isaac’s name several years ago. Now he’s a senior, and he’s finally playing baseball again. They’re not playing in Will’s fall league.

Welcome New Followers!

Just noticed I have a couple of new blog followers, which pleases me to no end.

Wonderful to have you, Peggy, and I hope you’re not disappointed! You will find I dump lots of stuff here. You will like the things I write about Macon, however rare that is. You may have already read my memories about Dallas Foster and Stan Putnal. If you search, there are a few essays about Central football. I may have mentioned Don Lott a few times: our friendship continued through college, and we were in each other’s wedding.

Besides family activity and the Braves, I’ll also mix in the occasional theater and concert review. Songs I re-write, and skits I write. And shoes.

I went to high school with Peggy. She played clarinet in the Sugar Bear Band and drove a cute little blue Opel. I’ll always remember hearing how Peggy locked her keys in her car…while it was still running (sorry…not that I’ve never locked my keys in MY car!). Years later, Peggy seems to lead a cool life out in Oklahoma, where she plays music and makes snow cats (in season).

Peggy, back in 2002 I enjoyed working in Tulsa for a month, with some great people. Even met an aunt I never knew.

My other official blog followers include:

Christiana: Encouraged me to write the Expedition Skit, which very well may be the springboard into the larger world of writing. Good kid. Reader Kevin’s sister.

Don: My good buddy from our college and single days.

Elin: shares my love of shoes and theater. Everything Elin posts on Facebook is worth reading. BFF of Haley Hurt. Even Mary Hurt likes her!

Matthew: my youngest son. Reads my blog to see what I say about him. Smart.

My mother. Dad is a reader, but not a follower.

Nita: my sister. Reads my blog then relays the news, often getting half the facts wrong.

Oklahoma Exile: friend of Peggy?

Thomas: co-worker, computer wiz.

another guy

Other regular, “unofficial” readers include news-hounds Bryan, Ceil, James, Jimmy, Kelly, Lang, Lynn, Noelle, Paul, Reid, and Rob.

Tigers Sept 10 Game Notes

Tigers…….3.0.4.1…8

Nationals…4.0.3.2…9

1. Every Tiger reached base. Every Tiger scored or drove in a run.

2. Two Nationals did not reach base. Three did not score or drive in a run.

3. While pitching, Alex speared a line drive up the middle.

4. Big Tanner looked good at shortstop, and had his deep line drive caught by the leftfielder.

5. Had centerfielder Jalen caught the pop fly, the Nats wouldn’t have scored in the first inning.

6. Three of the Nats’ four hits were dinks, barely past the infield.

7. All three close calls went the Nationals way…

a. In the top of the first the throw beat the runner, but Harrison obviously slid under the tag. Several said the catcher also dropped the ball. Afterwards Coach Williams showed tremendous restraint.

b. In the bottom of the first another throw to the plate beat the runner, but the National was ruled safe.

c. In the third, third-sacker Tanner blocked the bag and tagged out a base stealer, whose foot never reached the bag. Again, the National was ruled safe.

Tigers: 25 PA, 4 hits, 6 Ks, 6 BB, 2 HBP

Nats…24 PA, 4 hits, 7 Ks, 6 BB

Key to the game: Errors committed: Tigers 6, Nats 2.

BATTING

Jalen: 0-2, HBP, run

Nate: 1-2, BB, SB, 2 runs, reached on error

Tanner: 1-3, RBI, 2 runs

Harrison: 1-2, BB, run, reached on error

Brandt: 0-2, BB, RBI

Alex: 1-3, run, 2 RBI

Thomas: 0-1, BB, run

Randall: BB, HBP, RBI

Matthew: 0-2, RBI

Marlon: 0-1, BB, RBI

PITCHING

Alex: 1 inning, 8 BF, 2 Ks, 3 BB, 4 runs (all unearned), putout

Brandt: 1 inning, 4 BF, 2 Ks, BB

Randall: 1 inning, 7 BF, K, BB, 3 hits, 3 runs (2 unearned)

Jalen: 2/3 inning, 5 BF, 2 Ks, BB, hit, 2 runs, putout

Tanner: 2 putouts