Friday, May 31, 2013

A Different Uni Every Night

Saturday the Braves break out the home Black Crackers throwbacks. The Nationals will wear the Homestead Greys, who were based in DC in the 1940's. Can't wait, though I'm sure Bryce Harper and others will wear the mostly white clown shoes. Saturday's throwbacks will be at least the ninth different uniform combination the Braves have worn this year – ten if you include the BP jerseys worn during Spring Training games. On July 4th they'll wear a different cap. Eleven uniforms - that has to be a record.

1. Home White
2. Friday Red
3. Weekend Cream
4. Road Grey
5. Road Navy
6. Day game BP caps vs. Twins
7. Road Crackers vs. Tigers
8. Memorial Day Camo Caps & Trim vs. Toronto
9. Home Crackers vs. Nationals
10. Spring Training BP Jerseys
11. July 4th alternate cap

Along with all the different uniform combinations, many players change things up from game to game. BJ, Heyward, Schafer, and even Hudson will wear their pants legs over their shoes one game, then pull them up to their knees the next day. I love it, but maybe they need to worry more about their hitting.

No Gattis among the game-used jerseys for sale. No Bobby Dews, either. They did have Hanson, Jurrjens, Reed Johnson, Pastornicky, Valvaro, Rasmus, Bat Boy, and others. Quite the selection: white, red, road navy, BP navy, grey, and cream. This weekend the Francisco jerseys will hit the clearance rack. I knew it was a mistake giving him Andruw's old number 25.

Braves Get Serious

May 30, 2013. Can we count this as the date the Braves finally got serious? Benching the free-swinging Mendoza three (Uggla, BJ, and Heyward) against the knuckleballer RA Dickey, and designating the Juan Francisco Experience for assignment. For the first time all season fans got their dream lineup: Schafer, Simmons, Justin, Freeman, Gattis, McCann, C Johnson, Pena, and Minor. The lineup produced a resounding 11-3 win over last year's NL Cy Young winner. Even the slumping Justin Upton seemed to get the message, making contact and spraying line drives instead of striking out. 

One fun thing about going to a game at Turner Field is talking to the fans while standing in the dollar ticket line. Many are genuine, long-time fans who come to a lot of games. Last night I spoke with a nice old lady who used to be an usher. We reminisced about the old General Admission seats out in Atlanta Stadium's centerfield upper deck. For a long time they were one dollar for adults, and fifty cents for the kids. Eventually even these tickets went up in price.

Unfortunately, most of the time I was standing in line I was one of those fans yakking on the phone. After I left work I had to help handle two emergencies. Wound up making 34 calls between 3:15 and 4:55 pm – right up to when I made it to the ticket window.

Found a seat in the left field stands and was packing away my Freddie Freeman bobblehead when a high fly came right toward me. The young fan in the row ahead of me appeared to be talking, unexcited about the ball headed right for him. But at the last minute he casually head up his glove and easily caught the ball. Then I found my friend John, and we had a nice long chat about many things: our children at UGA, attending minor league games, pastor search committees, catching BP home runs. A young fan slithering past wearing a Blue Jays cap and shirt. Earlier John had seen him wearing a Braves cap. One of those willing to go to great lengths to catch a ball. During the game I saw him constantly on the move, strategically positioning himself in prime foul ball position depending on whether the batter was a lefty or righty. Never saw him get a ball, though during BP both John and his friend Marshal each caught one.

Before the season is over Ramiro Pena may make fans forget the previous number 14. The former Yankee had four RBIs and played flawless defense. Shortstop Simmons seems hexed by last Friday's ESPN report of his errorless season. He's committed three since then, including last night's botching of double play ball. Instead the Jays were able to tie the game. And while we're on fielding, Wednesday night's slow motion instant replay of the normally slick fielding first baseman Freddie Freeman's misplay of a slow-rolling ground ball was strangely similar to Bill Buckner's classic World Series error. Even Freddie's bobblehead pose seemed to recreate the error. My prediction of a Freddie bobblehead hugging an Uggla bobblehead turned out to be false.

Sometimes I try to purposely not mention Evan Gattis, since he is spoken of so much. So forget about his three hits and three runs scored - it's his defense in left field that warrants mentioning. The first two Blue Jay hits were softly hit balls that Gattis couldn't charge fast enough to catch. Both would have been tough to catch in the air, but he got a late break on both balls. Could have been the time of day, when balls are tough to pick up early in night games before the sun has set. For a while I wondered if Minor would throw a two-hitter and miss a no-hitter because of Gattis' defense. The third hit was an infield single by Dickey. Finally a line drive into the left field corner eased my mind. Gattis did make a twisting, turn-right-then-left while backpedaling catch to show off his skillz. Gattis must've gotten a shoe contract. Last night he was wearing all black spikes. His particular route from dugout to left was interesting to watch. Sometimes he touched the bases, other times he didn't.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Weekend in New York

This season I am much more cognizant about how I am feeling about how the Braves are doing. Wins are so exhilarating, and losses more demoralizing. Then I remember that one or two games doesn't mean so much over the course of the 162 game season. It's more important for players to be working toward playing their best baseball. Jason Heyward hasn't been getting that many hits, but he's been blistering the ball. BJ Upton takes off two games to get his timing down. The Braves lose two straight, but they are 9-2 in their last eleven games. Can't complain about that.

Enjoyed listening to Tom Verducci's color commentary Saturday night against the Mets. Unlike many Fox announcers, he is not over the top, but spot on. His partner kept feeding him questions and topics, and Verducci had plenty to talk about, and many different topics: the cold Memorial Day weekend weather (a good weekend for a New Yorker to be out of town), the grounds crew fighting the wind to keep the tarp down, the beautiful sunset over the NYC skyline (featuring the newly lit Freedom Tower) - but mostly great baseball talk. Mike Minor pitched another gem, collected a single and long home run into the wind, and was robbed of a third hit. The announcers pointed out the grin painted on Minor's face as he stood in the batter's box. The Vanderbilt alum very well could earn a return trip to Citi Field in mid-July.

Also made sure she knew that Monday night Gattis was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle. The White Bear has been on a tear, and the SportsCenter anchors are even showing his strikeouts with runners in scoring position. Quite a long weekend he had in the Big Apple and Toronto: his penniless hostel story, the game-tying single, the game-tying opposite-field home run. Will we tire of Gattis' endless stories?

Hudson struggled again Monday night. His blankedy-blank pitch quote makes me wonder if he's feeling the pressure of Beachy's imminent return.

Tuesday my wife watched the entire ten inning day game, and provided me several updates. She didn't know that I was following DOB and Mark Bowman's Twitter feed. She thought SkyDome looked dreary with the roof closed, until I told her it was raining outside. Also knew to tell her the dome had been open the night before, even though I missed the game (I was sneaking peeks to Twitter at our cookout). Later I showed her the pictures DOB had tweeted.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Last 25 Years

David married Mary not long after I married Ceil in 1987. We both joined a small group led a couple who homeschooled. Steve Norman’s wife Becky also homeschooled their brood. Our first child Will was born in 1993, five months after Joel Norman, and about a year before the Hurt’s first daughter Haley.

In the mid-90’s we moved from Morningside to East Cobb, and the Hurts moved from behind Piedmont Hospital to Sandy Springs. Ceil and Mary started homeschooling. The Hurts began hosting a Super Bowl party that turned into an annual event, now going on twenty years. In 1999 with three kids under six, us Murphy’s left Second-Ponce and began attending North Point Community Church in Alpharetta. A year or two later a large group of young families left SPdL and formed Buckhead Church, a satellite of North Point. The Hurts moved over to Buckhead Church.

In 2004 Will and Joel enrolled at Living Science, where home-schoolers take classes. Steve had been diagnosed with Pick’s Disease, similar to Alzheimer’s. After a long, slow decline he passed away in his sleep. After a year or two the Hurts moved to a beautiful home in Milton, north of Alpharetta, and enrolled their two daughters in Living Science. That same month Margaret, their youngest, was diagnosed with leukemia. David let his country club membership go inactive and quit playing his weekly Thursday afternoon round of golf. The bad economy hit his kitchen business hard, and he had to work longer hours. Eventually Margaret was freed from her leukemia.

Living Science took three week-long trips every year. Parents went as chaperones. Ceil and David went on a few trips, and Mary and I went on most. In 2010 our families vacationed together in Florida. Last year Joel got Will and me hooked on trivia at a local coffee house, and soon the Hurts started coming as well.

Haley gets her height and looks from David and her drive and determination from Mary. Margaret gets her dark hair and complexion from Mary, but is easy-going like David.

A few years after we got married Don Head married Angela, the tall athletic redhead. They eventually moved out to Powder Springs in southwest Cobb County. Don works for the City of Atlanta, and also helped pastor a small church near their home. We don’t see Don and Angela that much, but a few years ago the Hurts and Murphys drove over for his 50th birthday party.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Legend Grows

Wednesday night I watched most of the replay of the afternoon Braves game. When Gattis came up with the bases loaded I walked over closer to the TV. As he took the first three pitches I remembered he hit the grand slam on a 3-0 count.

Chip and Joe keep using to phrase “adding to the legend of Evan Gaddis.” Later the announcers were wondering if Gaddis would be a part of the All-Star game, either as a write-in or in the Home Run Derby, where he would be a natural. His best chance to be an all-star isn’t the write in, but the final fan’s on-line vote to elect one last player to the team.

I’m not a fan of Braves players competing in the Home Run Derby, fearing they will either mess up their swing or embarrass themselves by not hitting many home runs.

While I was on this morning I voted for the All-Star game. They make it so easy to vote 25 times perhaps so more people will do it, instead of just the fans trying to cheat the system. I voted for McCann (and all the Braves) instead of writing in Gaddis. Perhaps my wife and kids will write in the White Bear.

I'd like to buy a cute white Bear costume and wearing it to every game at Turner Field. I would be friendly, but never speak.

In St. Louis they go all out to stuff the ballot box. Seems to be a great organization. Looking forward to reading the Sports Illustrated article. They probably made the right call on Pujols, as hard as letting him walk was. Can’t believe Pujols is saying he might retire, although he does march to a different drummer.  

Last night Ceil cooked spaghetti and salad, with homemade rolls. Then C drove A down to Sandy Springs to sign up for art classes. M went along to get a new CD. Tonight we’re going to a graduation party.

Tuesday A played golf with several friends, including Caroline Hargreaves. Only six holes, but she got one par and “beat the boys” on that hole. A came back sunburned. Now she’s ready to play more.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Molding Into Champions?

Saw something in the team Friday night that I hadn't seen in several seasons: The Braves' batters feeding off each other, almost trying to outdo one another…hitting the ball hard at bat after at bat. It started Friday night, and I think Joe Simpson even commented on it. Saturday night the cohesiveness was evident when Gattis conferred with Justin Upton and Reed Johnson before clubbing his dramatic go-ahead 8th inning home run. Sunday Atlanta willed itself to win again.

Often seen on championship caliber teams, this feeding frenzy phenomenon is happening despite the presence of a Chipper, Hinske, or Pendleton. Quite interesting that Reed Johnson was in on the pre-home run Gattis conversation. When the season began Reed had T-shirts printed up. He didn't hang one of everyone's locker room chair. Instead he handed a shirt to each player individually, talking to them about the meaning of the shirt. Haven't read anywhere yet about Reed replacing Chipper or Hinske as a team leader, but I'm wondering if that's not what is happening.

More than on his previous home runs, Evan Gattis demonstrated extra enthusiasm on his way around the bases Saturday night. Earlier in the season the White Bear seemed like an talented outlier, but quite fitting in with his teammates though accepted for his talent. Now he is definitely one of the gang. At one time BJ was sitting next to him on the bench, perhaps hoping how of Gattis' magic would rub off on him. When interviewed, Gattis displays both thoughtfulness and enthusiasm. Any thoughts of returning him to the minors for seasoning are long gone. He handles himself so well at the plate and behind the plate (and in leftfield and even first base) even after sitting on the bench for several games. As a pinch hitters he is 3-4.

DOB must continuously remind his Twitter followers that there is no reason to decide now who Beachy will replace in the rotation, since an injury or downturn can occur at any time. With EOF joining Venters in Dr. Andrews' waiting room, the odd man out will surely head to the bullpen. Medlin has pitched better than his statistics have indicated, and has received less run support than anyone in baseball. Maholm could be the odd man out, though his stuff seems suited more to be a starter than reliever. Teheran has pitched well, but could be bumped because he's the youngest. He projects more as a reliever than the others. Time will tell.

One of the added niceties of sweeping Los Angeles is that it silences an obnoxious Dodgers fan I know. Though I did not call him out last night, I was happy to see that others did. One of the benefits of Facebook.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Down on the Farm

The excitement this weekend wasn’t just limited to 755 Hank Aaron Drive (Good name for a blog, BTW). Saturday night with Gwinnett Braves staged a comeback of their own, before falling to the Louisville Bats by a 6-5 score. Over 8,000 tickets were sold, though it appeared the threatening skies kept many fans at home. Maybe they heard Corky Miller was playing.

My youngest and I got an early start, and picked up Lang’s dad ahead of schedule. Traffic on 85 North slowed, but we still made it to Coolray Field thirty minutes before gates opened. Good thing: the lot was already over halfway full…mostly with Little League teams scampering around. There was a long line down at the main gate, fans waiting to get their hands on the coveted Freddie Freeman bobblehead doll. Fortunately there were just a handful of fans lined up at the nearby outfield gate, so we made our way over there.

Once inside we grabbed a table at Niekro’s, the sit-down restaurant/bar. The burger looked OK and the nachos looked hideous. My BBQ special was good, with cole slaw on top and cornbread on bottom. TV’s showed the Braves pregame, a live stadium feed, and other news. Made the hour until game time pass quickly.

Our seats were on the first base side of home plate, near the Bats’ dugout. One of the Bats looked familiar: chubby, with a long goatee. Former big-leaguer, now coaching? Checked my roster. Thirty-seven year old Corky Miller, who had recently faced the Braves on their swing through Cincinnati. I have his bobblehead. Corky had a typical game: 0-5 with two strikeouts and three groundouts. Playing first base, he performed his best Kent Hrbek imitation…slapping hard tags on baserunners’ hands and legs.

Louisville’s skinny leadoff hitter was at ease in the on-deck circle, initiating a fist-bump with his manager, former Nationals skipper Jim Riggleman. His name sounded familiar: Billy Hamilton. I looked him up…last year Hamilton’s 155 stolen bases broke Vince Coleman’s record (set playing in Macon). Hamilton set the record playing for Pensacola, meaning I could’ve gone to see him while vacationing last summer in Destin. He had be better game than Corky, reaching base four out five times, with two hits, a walk, stolen base, and two runs scored. Gwinnett did pick him off first one time. Hamilton also made a couple of nice, gliding catches in centerfield.

The game was delayed by a talkative, tiny Little Leaguer who chatted up the umpires during the meeting at home plate. The kid wasn’t satisfied with a wave from Riggleman, insisting instead for the same handshake he’d received from the three umpires and Braves manager Randy Ready. Then three Little Leaguers followed each G-Brave out onto the field for the national anthem. This took some time. Several dropped their baseball, and a couple even fell down. The anthem singer wasn’t ready to be called up to Turner Field, and she won’t be appearing on The Voice any time soon. Interestingly, the G-Braves formed a home plate to outfield line for the anthem. The first and third basemen stood with the pitcher behind the mound. The second-baseman and shortstop stood at second base, and the three outfielders stood together in centerfield.

Louisville scored two in the third, then Gwinnett tied it in the fourth. The Bats hit a sole home run in the fifth and tacked on three more in the seventh. The first five hitters in the Bats’ batting order collected twelve hits and scored all six runs.

The Braves scored two in the eighth, making it a two run game. Leadoff hitter Jose Constanza went 2-4 with a walk. Pastornicky hit the ball to right field four times. Terdoslavich has put together a fine year. He doubled and hit a deep sacrifice fly. Centerfielder Brandon Boggs collected a single, double, triple, walk, three RBI’s, and one run scored.

Braves’ first-baseman Ernesto Mejia looks like a right-handed Chris Chambliss, without the glove. Mejia’s range is quite limited. The Braves wouldn’t have given up six runs had Freddie Freeman been playing first. At the plate Ernesto went 0-4 with two strikeouts. Rob is right: Mejia probably won’t be a great big leaguer. Better to use him as trade bait.

Late in the game a cameraman appeared in front of us and focused on the fans across the aisle, just as the loudspeaker began to play the Village People’s YMCA. My mind raced to the commercial where the chubby insurance agent and his chubby client carry on their conversation while performing an elaborate dance in the seats of a sporting event. Sure enough, the camera soon switched to us. I did my best to make a fool of myself, and the fans responded favorably. I figured there weren’t many chances in life to do that, so I went for it. Wish I had smiled more, but I wanted to look like I knew what I was doing (I didn’t). Kept waiting for the “Y-M-C-A” refrain, to start, but they played two verses back to back. Sunday I watched the Wayne’s World YMCA scene on YouTube to see what I missed. Thought the camera added ten pounds to my frame. Having my shirt untucked didn’t help. Now that I think about it, after YMCA I should’ve gone over and found the usher where I sat at the last G-Braves game. She had gotten onto me for not dancing.

Down two in the bottom of the ninth, the G-Braves made it interesting. Joe Leonard and Constanza led off the inning with singles. Pastornicky struck out, but a balk advanced the runners to second and third. Terdoslavich sent a fly to deep center to bring in Leonard. Hamilton correctly threw to third, keeping the tying run at second with two out. Down 0-2, Mejia battled and worked the count full. As Constanza broke for third on the payoff pitch, Mejia grounded to short. Constanza rounded third and headed home, but the shortstop made the routine play…ending the game.

Passing the President

Worked late Friday, until 6:45. I stopped at Kroger for fries, beans, and buns. Will was home from the mountains. He cooked the burgers. Then he and Ceil went shopping at the REI sale for Will’s summer camp. Anna went to the Veritas graduation, then slept over at Emily’s house.

While watching the Braves I worked on my on-line Braves history. Here’s what I have so far: Also worked on it some Sunday afternoon. The plan is to add one year every day, but I’m spending time on the photos as well.

Saturday morning I drove M to the mall for the 10:10 am showing of “Iron Man III.” Went back to pick him up 2 pm. Anna came home, changed, and headed back out to a graduation party. She returned in time to go with W, MC, and C to MC’s sister’s dance recital.

Sunday Andy Stanley spoke about how bosses should lead with a “what can I do to help?” attitude. I thought about my boss, and his boss. Both do a decent job of this. Andy mentioned the book “Good to Great.” This morning I noticed that my boss’s boss has a copy in her office. Andy’s hair is finally starting to turn grey.

Will drove Ceil to the 11 am Passion service, where she worked in the nursery. On the way home from North Point Matthew announced that he was supposed to meet his small group for lunch. For some reason I took 75 south, and on the way noticed the northbound lanes were vacant. Then I saw police cars on the overpasses, and knew Obama was headed back to Dobbins AFB. Though the concrete median blocked the view, I saw glimpse of several black SUV’s. When I headed north on 85 I saw that 85 south had also been completely shut down. Cars were backed up for miles.

Dropped M off and headed back home, stopping for gas along the way. Then A drove my car back down for youth group. I did laundry and watched the Braves. Also watched the episode of the Big Bang Theory that Bob Newhart was in. Later I watched the Bill Cosby / Mark Twain Award show on PBS. Went to bed early and read more of my “The Third Bullet” book.

Today Will left for Camp Highland.

Who Am I?

Two years ago a NFL team awarded their quarterback a six year $100 million dollar contract (with $40 million guaranteed), after throwing for 21 TD’s and 6 interceptions. The QB responded with 45 turnovers in 23 games, more than any other NFL QB in the past two seasons. This included 21 fumbles, almost one per game. The team’s record was 10-13 in the games he was healthy enough to start in. When the 2013 season starts this runny QB will be 33 years old. Only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees are older. This QB also ranks as America’s 7th most disliked athlete, ranking alongside Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriquez, and Tiger Woods.

The new coach brings with him a successful fast-paced spread offense. The coach said the off-season quarterback free agent market was not deep. The NFL team could’ve brought in Tim Tebow. Instead they chose to bring back their current QB with a $7 million contract.

The QB: Michael Vick.

The team: Philadelphia Eagles, did draft USC’s Matt Barkley. Many experts aren’t that crazy about him, either.

(Info and opinion taken from Phil Taylor’s February 25th Sports Illustrated “Point After” column).

The Eagles aren’t alone. The Dallas Cowboys extended and increased Tony Romo’s contract. In his career Romo hasn’t done much to win the hearts of Cowboys fans.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

BJ: The Best Option

Fans are already comparing BJ Upton to Dan Uggla, forgetting that BJ was the Braves best available option at the time. Additionally, the Justin Upton trade would have never happened without BJ on the team. Michael Bourn has been struggling just as bad up in Cleveland. Soon I’ll do a quick analysis of this past winter’s free agent/traded centerfielder class, including Span, Victorino, and Fowler. It does seem like BJ is sincere about wanting to improve.
Speaking of the Upton trade, I saw comments that Arizona got the better end of the deal. The DBacks signed Prado for big bucks, and he’s been hitting below the Mendoza Line. Randal Delgado has been terrible in the minors, and the other prospects aren’t panning out either. Meanwhile, Justin and Chris Johnson have been two bright spots for the Braves.
Joe Simpson and DOB aren’t liking the free-swinging, strikeouts are OK approach the Braves are taking. Interesting how Arizona is one of the few teams taking the opposite approach. They do have a nice little team.

New Braves Tab

My new big idea is to develop a list of the starting lineup and stats for every year the Atlanta Braves have played, along with their record, attendance, etc. I’ll try to do one year a day. Check out the BRAVES tab up above. When I finish I'll add a Falcons tab (record, finish, attendance, coach, top QB, RB, WR, interceptor, and kicker) and a Hawks tab (similar info: top scorer, rebounder, assists, blocks. Then maybe Georgia Tech and UGA football. Good idea? This can go on forever.

Crazy busy at work. I bragged about working through a few crisis’s, and it got worse. Today the Ogre flew out to the Dominican on vacation, just when we needed him.

Didn’t realize that the Braves were playing an early game Wednesday afternoon, so I missed most of it. Not much else going on. A and M are finishing up school this week.

To me the Chickfila wrap was packed fuller with more ingredients. More food = better! The McWrap needed the box because the whole assembly was more loose fitting…easier to come apart.

When we go to Destin the family likes to make me drive them over to Seaside as well. They like to go to Pizza by the Sea, next to the Publix.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Top Ten Oakland Raiders

In the late 1970’s I was a big Raider fan, particularly of sure-handed/slow-footed wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff, left-hander quarterback Ken Stabler, punter extraordinaire Ray Guy, and demonstitaive head coach John Madden. This weekend I watched the “Top Ten Oakland Raiders” on the NFL Network. As usual, I disagreed with some of their selections. So did some of the ex-Raiders who were interviewed. But in general, this time they did a decent job. I was concerned that their Hall-of Fame offensive line would be left off the list, but that turned out to not be the case. The NFL Network’s list included nine consummate Raiders, another two offensive superstars, and one inexplicable pick.

Honorable Mentions included: Lyle Alzado, George Atkinson, Todd Christiansen, Ray Guy, Lester Hayes, Bo Jackson, John Matuszak, Ted Hendricks. All were worth mentioning, but none belong in the top ten. I would add kicker Sebastian Janakowski to this honorable mention list.

10. Marcus Allen: years of excellence
9. Willie Brown: Long time face of Oakland’s defense
8. Jim Plunkett: claimed off scrap heap to win Super Bowl
7. Cliff Branch: better than Hall of Famer Lynn Swann
6. George Blanda: fearless MVP, set scoring record
5. Tim Brown: over 100 touchdowns
4. Ken Stabler: gunslinger, Super Bowl champion
3. Fred Biletnikoff: deserved rank
2. Howie Long: WHAT? Rank him 10th, at best
1. Gene Upshaw & Art Shell
00. Jim Otto: the consummate Raider

Placing the tough-as-nails center Jim Otto, old number double-zero, ahead of number one was deserved, and creative genius.  


Another weekend of eating poorly. Ceil cooked supper Friday night, but M didn't eat much. Later he cooked himself a frozen pizza, and I ate a piece or two. Took Anna to the dollar movie to see the 9:45 showing of The Host, which didn't differ much from the book. Think I liked the movie better. So I missed the Braves game.

Saturday I had more of the pizza. Organized clothes and cleaned upstairs. Ceil cleaned downstairs. That afternoon during the Braves game M and I ran errands: library, Kroger, two thrift stores, Trader Joes, and BP. Anna and Ceil drove up to the Dawsonville outlets. Ceil brought home Publix chicken tenders, fries, and onion rings. She fixed salad, but didn't have any dressing.

Sunday morning Will cooked the cinnamon rolls that I had picked up at Trader Joes. Matthew and I went to North Point. Ceil and Will went to Passion Church…Ceil to work in the nursery and Will to worship with Mary-Clayton's family. Later M, A, and I drove down and put our name in at the OK Café, so when C and W arrived we didn't have to wait for a table. We hadn't been to the OK Café since Ceil had returned from Paris almost exactly one year ago, so she enjoyed it. I think all five of us ordered the exact same thing as last year: C had the veggie plate, A had a turkey sandwich on sourdough with chips, W and M had burgers, and I had a BBQ sandwich. Took the kids to youth group, then stopped by Publix and the downtown Anthropologie before the service. Afterwards Ceil cooked bacon, eggs, and grits for supper. Missed Sunday's Braves game, as well as the final round of the Players Championship.

Read the first eighty pages of my third straight Kennedy book: The Third Bullet. This one is fiction, almost 500 pages, and very interesting. In it, a famous author uncovers evidence that a rifle had been stashed away in the Dal-Tex Building, which would've provided almost the same shot as the Book Depository…and that the third shot had come from there. After this I'm taking a break from Kennedy books.

Last week of classes for A and M. This morning Will left for the mountains for a few days with MC, her sister Anna, Joel, Kevin, and some other UGA friends of Will's.

Murphy's Law

Brag on the starting pitching, and they flop over the weekend. The good news is that the Braves will be adding an all-star caliber starting pitcher to the rotation in June. It's always tough to say the team is doing bad after they've played a series on the road against a team that went to the World Series last year. This weekend the Braves offense scored 4 runs. That's why they lost.

The Braves were in the top 2 in four key pitching statistics, and 3rd in Quality Starts…

2012           2013
3.42 (4th)   3.29 (2nd)   ERA
1.227 (2nd) 1.168 (1st) WHIP
49% (12th)  62% (3rd)   Quality Starts
5th              2nd            Fewest Walks per 9 innings
5.9 (10th)   6.2 (2nd)     Innings Pitched/Game Started

Who has good starting pitching? The Giants, for sure. The big-spending Dodgers keep putting pitchers on the DL, as do the Phillies.  After winning on Opening Day, Stephen Strasburg lost his next FOUR decisions.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Taste of Alpharetta

Thursday night after a busy day I had a headache, and didn't feel like battling parking and the crowds at the Taste of Alpharetta. C and M enjoyed going last year. The rest of the family had gone earlier, and I would've been an hour and a half late. Not worth showing up for the last 30 minutes. I went home and got in a little needed work around the house. Had yogurt and leftover Moes black bean and rice, a whole wheat blueberry bagel, and later peanut butter crackers. Finished Killing Kennedy and watched the Kris Medlin special, American Idol, and the first few innings of the Braves/Giants. I did exercise this morning.

MC comes home today, so we won't be seeing much of Will. Ceil wants me take her to the once a month Scott Antique Market on Saturday, but the house is a mess.

Subcontractors pulled off another miracle last night. Yesterday at two we discovered an inventory count was wrong: we were out of a complex part. A day's worth were quickly made in Anniston. I lined up a truck to carry them to Marietta to be painted, then deliver to Augusta by 5 am. Now we have to build more to pull ahead. Last Friday a different error was discovered at 1 pm. Material was entered, cut, and delivered an hour away by 4 pm…pretty quick. Usually it's not that easy.

Good Pitching Getting Better

I like the Braves top-ranked Quality Starts and Innings Pitched per Start stats. No matter how long the starter stays in, for some fans it's either too long or too short. Fans in the South have such a football mentality: win this game at all costs, regardless of the wear on the pitching staff. If a starter is going good fans want to leave them in the game. They forget that the manager and pitching coach are fully aware of the starter's limitations, fitness level, etc. They have their mind on the full season. Over-pitching a starter an inning or two too much every game will cause a fall-off in production in August and September…just when you need a pitcher to be effective.

One hundred win pace. Two game lead in the division, over the "best team in baseball." Still, fans aren't satisfied. They focus more on the 62 loss pace, forgetting that all teams lose that many.

Nice article in this week's Sports Illustrated about Justin Upton, how the Diamondbacks were focused on contact rather than power. Would they have changed Babe Ruth's approach as well? Perhaps Justin can play second base.

Before Thursday night's game I finally watched the Fox Sports special on Kris Medlin. The wife watched as well. She likes to watch the games, but with all the turnover isn't familiar with all the players. I only stuck with the game for a couple of innings. Got up early and read all the DOB tweets. poor Carroll Rogers. She covers the series and Cincinnati, and DOB returns for the difficult San Francisco assignment. Speaking of the Giants, Lincecum looks even funnier with short hair.

Funny how Chipper went off on Angel Hernandez, tweeting how the League Office must be saying "there goes Angel again". Saw photos of Chipper's $3.5M house for sale in Roswell. Nice, and not tremendously overstated. Nick Saban's Lake Burton house was great, but Ceil wouldn't like all the wood paneling . When I look at houses like these all I can think about is the landscaping upkeep and neighborhood fee. Evander's was just too much.

Last night I happened to call the 800 number at 7 pm EDT…right when a certain Air Jordan was being re-released. According to the message, they were expecting a flood of calls. I love Lang's new pair of blue Kevin Durant low tops.

How Far?

Playing around with Google Maps to compare distances of destinations. Some people talk about how great minor league baseball games are. I find the major league experience much more convenient, cheaper, and better.

24 / 35 Atlanta Braves Turner Field
40 / 55 Gwinnett Braves CoolRay Field
63 / 1:15 Rome Braves State Mutual Stadium

330 / 5:40 Seaside
330 / 6:00 Jacksonville Beach
345 / 6:00 Destin
390 / 6:20 North Myrtle Beach

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Out For Summer

Left work Tuesday at 1:15 and headed over to Athens. Helped Will pack and load his Jeep. He had a lot of stuff, and we barely had room for everything. He bought someone's small fridge, which turned out to be tiny. Didn't leave Athens until after 6:00 pm. Just before he left he learned his RA assignment had been switched to a brand new dorm. We drove by it. Looks like a red brick hotel. Will had only slept four hours Monday night, having stayed up late studying for finals. Exhausted, he slept the second half of the trip home. Sounds like his grades will be good. Will reports to Camp Highland on May 20, just a week and a half away.

Wednesday afternoon’s series-clinching victory over the Reds had several bright spots. Here are but a few…
Left fielder Evan Gattis threw out the speedy Phillips trying to score on a sac fly. 
Dan Uggla hit two home runs. Like BJ, Uggla’s work with Greg Walker seems to be paying off.
Jaun Francisco hit a grand slam. Fredi wanted to give him two starts against his old team.
Andrelton Simmons had four hits.
Jordan Schafer had three hits, including a stand-up triple.
Mike Minor had a quality start, and got the win. Only gave up one run, I think.
Jason Heyward starts his minor league rehab tomorrow.
BJ Upton is working to revert to his 2008 form, when he hit .300 by hitting to all fields…after his four strikeout game Monday night he has been doing better and better.

Highs and Lows

Whether fun win (Monday) or "devastating" loss (Tuesday), I am quick to remember that the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. To be sure, each game is important, but it's more important for a team to peak at the end of the season. With that thought permeating our email conversations, how does our fledgling blog compare to the others that live and die on every pitch?

To that end, the very best news that I can read is that BJ has gone to Hitting Coach Greg Walker for help returning to his hit-to-all-fields form in 2007 - 2008. That could make the offense even more explosive.

Another quality start by Medlin. Rob, do you have any significant quality start data for the past week or two?

O'Flaherty pitched out of trouble in the eighth, but Kimbrel blow it in the ninth. Kimbrel threw low the entire inning, perhaps thinking he needed to keep the ball low in such a hitter's park. Joe Simpson said it allowed the batters to throw the barrel of the bat down and out in front of the pitch, and lift the ball up and over the fence. Seems like Kimbrel's strength is to change locations, blowing the ball past hitters either high, inside, or outside. To me, that blown save was due to poor strategy. I was sitting on the couch watching. Perhaps the outcome would've been different had I got up and went to bed.

Kimbrel would've become the fourth faster closer to notch 100 saves. John Smoltz was second fastest.

Gattis has comported himself well out in left field. He was given an error on a tough ball almost out of his reach in the corner. There weren't many replays, but it didn't seem like he lost the ball transferring it from his glove to his throwing hand. He was reaching so far to just catch the ball that he wasn't able to hang on. I didn't see the batter hesitate after rounding first. Looked like a double all the way to me, regardless of where the batter was when Gattis lost the ball. Schafer, the Bear's defensive replacement, had a couple of tough plays as well.

Both Fredi and Bobby love emptying the bench once a week (usually Sunday) to give the regulars an off-day and the bench players a chance to shake off the dust. Kind of a day game after night game thing. But with the need to keep Gattis' bat in the lineup when Heyward returns, Fredi could rest his regulars by giving Evan a start or two each week at catcher, one at first base, and two or three in left field. Downside to this proposal: Less playing time for the other bench players.

Spectacular between-the-legs tag by Simmons Monday night, who benefitted from the favorable call by the umpire. Andrelton is starting to hit as well. Even Uggla and BJ are starting to reach base. A series in Cincinnati 's bandbox might've been just what the doctor ordered.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Mixed Vegetables

Work has been busy both yesterday and today. You try to stay ahead, but you never know what is going to come up. Headed to Athens this afternoon in the Jeep to pack Will up and move him home for the summer. So I have to cram everything in here at work this AM.

Monday night Ceil baked chicken and potatoes. Also mixed vegetables and strawberries. Watched the Braves and read Killing Kennedy. Getting towards the end. Finished my Chris Matthews' book on Kennedy and an old comedy CD by Bob Newhart.

Night of Literature

Wet weekend. Went to Anna's "Night of Literature" at her school. All the sophomores, juniors, and seniors presented multi-media skits about Pride & Prejudice, Frankenstein, and two other classics. Some of the kids produced elaborate videos, and the whole thing was entertaining. Anna went out afterwards, and spent the night at her friends. Later I watched the end of the Friday night Braves game. First time ever that O'Flaherty and Kimbrel gave up homers in the same game. Great pitching by Minor and Hudson this weekend, and Medlin kept them in the game last Thursday.

Worked most of Saturday on getting out the spring clothes, but by the end of the weekend the mess was bigger than when I had started. Drove Matthew to see his math tutor and stopped by Kroger. Now that we have Netflix, Anna and I are going to watch 24 all the way through. Watched Season One Episode One on Saturday. Knowing the Braves game was rained out, I also watched some of the Nationals game on Fox. Ceil was cleaning downstairs all day, and she gave our dog Barney a bath. Mary Clayton's younger brother Thomas came over Saturday night. Ceil cooked some good burgers, and we played the game Scattergories and watched Parental Guidance: a real good movie filmed in Atlanta. A key part of the movie involved Bobby Thompson's Shot Heard Round the World. It was after 11:30 before I drove Thomas over to his grandparents, in the pouring down rain.

With only three more weeks before the North Point middle school students get promoted to high school, Matthew wanted to go see the old gang again…even though he hasn't been all year. I saw David Hurt and several other old friends. Good sermon by Andy Stanley on how being a follower of Christ sometimes comes with a cost. Back home I did laundry and worked on the winter clothes while watching the Braves beat the Mets. Watched Silver Linings Playbook and This Is 40. Silver Linings was great, but This is 40 was too foul, and drug on and on.

8 pm: C, M, & I ate at Moes. Took advantage of the Cinco de Mayo special.
9 pm: M applied for a job at Publix. Saw Beau Bock in the self checkout line.
10 pm: Drove through the rain to pick up Anna at the Hargreaves.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Diet Part 2

It's those salad dressing packets that have all the calories and fat. I'm having trouble with the diet. Wednesday C was going to IKEA and M wanted hot dogs from there. Then C called and said she wouldn't go to IKEA, but just Publix. Mentioned that we could have hot dogs for dinner. I didn't want to change her plans, so I agreed. Then she was gone forever, so M popped a Tombstone pizza in the oven. I watched "Captain America" on Netflix…very good. Then C returned. She had gone to IKEA and brought hot dogs for M and me, and something healthy for her.

Thursday night she cooked chicken stir fry…very good and on the diet. Watched the Braves and paid bills, and made a late night drive to the bank. On the way I realized that if I set up mobile banking on my phone that I could make these deposits from home. I really don't want my banking to be too easy…it could lead to spending more money.

More bad news: Friday they brought in Mellow Mushroom pizza for lunch.

More diet news: I'm trying to eat more blueberries and more yogurt this year, as part of the healthy diet thing. I'll eat other flavors if I find them on sale. Lately I've made it a little game to always look for yogurt with the sale stickers. Sometimes I can go for weeks eating only sale yogurt. On the way to work Thursday I had to stop by Kroger, and I found twenty-five yogurt cups on sale. Since it was 6:30 am the only open register was the self-checkout, so I had to scan them all myself. Then I had to take all the yogurt inside and put it in the fridge in the break room. Took some home last night, and I'll take more home today.

Also trying to not drink soft drinks. In past years almost all I would drink would be Diet Coke. In 2012 I greatly reduced my consumption, and this year I have almost completely cut it out. I never buy soft drinks at the grocery any more. Sometimes I get zero-calorie PowerAde Ion, but even that is rare. Sometimes when I'm eating out I'll order a Coke Zero, especially if I'm eating Mexican. If the restaurant has one of those Coke machines that gives you hundreds of flavor options I will get the PowerAde Ion or diet cherry lemonade. When it comes to soft drinks, I'd actually rather drink anything other than Diet Coke: either Coke Zero, diet Mountain Dew, Sprite Zero, cherry Coke Zero, diet Dr Pepper, or my new favorite: diet cherry 7-Up. But I'm drinking water most of the time.

Tonight Anna had a school presentation to make. She said it would be boring, but actually it was quite entertaining. Sunday Moes has a special for Cinco de Mayo, so we may go there after church.

Saw where the British actress in Captain America played the role of Aliana in the 8-part British miniseries of Pillars of the Earth. I'm thinking about buying the DVD off Amazon this weekend. Netflix has the World Without End miniseries, that I also want to watch.

The Strikeout Era

From this week's Sports Illustrated: Fact or Fiction?

The Strikeout Era Continues: FACT More than one of every five hitters to come to the plate this season has struck out. In the 7th – 9th innings – the providence of one-inning relievers – more than 21% of batters have whiffed. Increased specialization has turned the late innings into a K parade, and there's no sign that the trend is abating.

It's not just the Braves. Of course, the fans who complain about strikeouts aren't the type to read, or have their minds changed by reading or hearing reports like these. The means that on average, every team strikes out more than six times per game.

Theory: More all-or-nothing/go-for-broke/type-A guys make it to the big leagues than the more reserved/analytical/type-B players. As our American society continues to spiral downhill, more people are adopting the type A mindset than type B. These type A's are more the type to swing for the fences and not worry about strikeouts than the type B's, who'd rather hit for a higher average and OBP. Since there are more type A's in MLB than type B's, strikeouts are on the rise. At least that's what it looks like from this type B observer.

Last night Dale Murphy was talking about where Gattis will play when McCann returns. Murf brought up left field. Unless Gattis has been shagging balls before BP, I'm starting to think like Rob, that they'll keep him behind the plate and work McCann back slowly. But Fredi played Gattis at first base, so he may throw him out there in left. I'll ask my man on the BP scene (John) if he's noticed anything. The Bear did have two of the Braves' five hits Thursday night, and Medlin praised the way Gattis called the game.

Interesting that Schafer no longer wears sleeves to cover up his tattoos, like he did as a rookie. Perhaps Bobby made him wear the sleeves. Even though BJ has made several nice catches recently, I still think Schafer might be the better centerfielder. But since BJ has the big contract, he stays put. Besides, if Schafer played CF, Justin's arm makes him a better rightfielder than BJ. No sense uprooting everyone.

With Reed Johnson handing out T-shirts and fielding questions on the pregame, it appears that he is stepping up into somewhat a leadership role. Joe Simpson called his high-stirrups/black spikes/white laces and stripes look to be "shiny spinners", or something of the like.

Robert, the mild-mannered Turner Field bleacher Indian who works at the Stinky Kroger has been able to attend four or five Braves games in a row. He lives about a mile away, and Wednesday my wife saw him at the Roswell Square bus stop headed to the game. Big fan, but not much of a talker.

Jimmy Rollins: Good Guy

Received this email from a former co-worker: My nephew's son, a pitcher on a 14U traveling baseball team, was playing in a tournament last Saturday in Maryland. He was hit in the head by a line drive. His skull was fractured. He had to have emergency surgery, and, as things go, he was close to John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. They had to replace part of his skull with a plastic plate of some sort....his skull bone eventually will grow back. He never lost consciousness, and there has been no brain damage. He is now home, and doing well.

Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies somehow heard about Brady's accident, and has been in touch via text wishing him well....a BIG thrill as Brady is a Phillies fan.

As much as Will pitched over the past eight years, he really only had two close calls on the mound. When he was 13 or 14 he was pitching up at Woodstock's Hobgood Park, and was hit square on the thigh by a line drive. He had to be replaced on the mound, but didn't miss a turn at the plate. He was back out on the field the next inning.

Several years later Will played for East Cobb Baseball. While pitching against one of the top teams in the country, a batter lined one hard right back at him. Will quickly contorted his body parallel to the ground, and he barely avoided being hit. Looked like Wile E. Coyote. But like the cartoon, Will then fell three feet straight down and landed on the dirt with a thud. Will stayed in the game, and was the only pitcher on his team to not allow an earned run.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013


Fun game to watch last night: a celebration of Tim Hudson. Nice that so many family and friends were present to witness his 200th win, and fun that he had such a great night at the plate. Mark Bowman reports that Hudson has six hits in his last 11 at-bats. Six NL teams have received less than six hits from their entire pitching staff so far this season. Nice that on the night ESPN aired the special entitled "Bryce" that they had to show Hudson's opposite field fly ball deflect off Harper's glove over the fence. I didn't see my Indian friend Robert on the right field front row; perhaps he was working at Kroger last night.

In the announcer's booth, Tom Glavine said he had told Huddy his old line that if he pitched a shutout and hit a home run that he'd be guaranteed a win. Turned out that Hudson almost did just that. Belaboring another point, I am still amazed that Glavine has more sacrifice bunts than any other baseball player in the last 50 years (probably longer).

Nice postgame interview with Gattis after the game. Soft-spoken and humble, giving credit to Hudson as a pitcher and hitter. "Hudson's a better hitter than me" he chuckled. Funny how Gattis used the word "awesome" several times. The White Bear looks comfortable behind the plate, with a strong throwing arm. Joe Simpson said Hudson didn't shake him off all night. In the interview Gattis detailed what pitches were working, that after fastballs they'd mix in a slider to change things up. Interesting tidbits from the USA Today article about all the major leaguers Evan had played with in the past, including Justin Upton and Clayton Kershaw. Gattis is a Sid Finch who hits.

Amazing slow-motion highlight of Simmons flipping the ball out of his glove BEHIND HIS BACK to his throwing hand. Like the announcers, I had missed that over the weekend.


My boss has lost over 30 pounds. The only way I can stay on my diet is to buy the food myself. A and M are such picky eaters, and C has been so busy that she hasn't cooked many meals. She is programmed into the meat and potatoes diet, which is bad for me. And when she does cook, there are always leftovers that don't get eaten unless I take them for lunch. This weekend was frozen pizza and hot dogs. I try to eat yogurt, carrots, Cheerios, grapefruit, and popcorn. I did finally run this morning, after avoiding the pollen the past three weeks.

Yesterday was the always-hectic last day of the month, and my key co-worker was out. Then the customer hit me with a last-minute emergency that I had to work on when I got home last night. Took M to his Tuesday group, dropped off some paperwork at our painter in Marietta, read that Gattis article in USA Today, and picked up M his Taco Bell. Back home I worked on my laptop, and skipped reading my O'Reilly book.

Ceil's mother's surgery went ok. It was outpatient, so she's back home. On the way back from SC yesterday Ceil swung by Athens to visit Will. Several of Will's Marietta friends are graduating from UGA: Willie, Charissa, Lisa, and David Rajecki.

Old Friends

Coley sighting last Friday night. Ceil called me from her prom preparations at 6:30 pm to tell me Houston would be arriving to hang out with Matthew. It was a smart play by Houston. Bryan wasn't home, and Houston was about to be forced to go to Haviland's American Heritage Girls event in Roswell. Thinking quickly, Houston told Susan "We're going to drive right past Matthew's house. Can I go there?" Worked out well for the boys, but I had to clean up the messy house.

When Susan came to pick him up, she updated me on the family...
…tiny Haviland was able to keep up with Bryan when they went mountain biking at Sope Creek.
…Bryan was negotiating to show his movie in July in three markets (Columbus, one in Texas, and one between the two), but is thinking about doing something different instead.
…they're still fixing up their Airstream camper.
…saw the original KidStuf cast reunion photo on Facebook, with Bryan, Reggie, Lanney, etc.

Post-Tigers Funk

Rough weekend. Sounds like being on the road so long wore out our young millionaires, but at least it gave the ESPN crew another talking point. Back to back national telecasts on ESPN, who are surely glad to televise a Strasburg start against a quality opponent. As discouraging as four straight losses were to this fan, first let me step back and see where we are:

Record: 15-9, best in the NL and third best in MLB.
Lead: 2-1/2 over the Nats, who are 4-6 in their last ten.

This without Heyward, McCann, Venters, and Beachy. This with typical slumps from Uggla and BJ, and hardly any production from the top two spots in the order. Even the White Bear is starting to struggle. Friday night Tomahawk Talk followers made light of all the strikeouts, and for fun I took the opposite opinion. Received some support for my stand. Any fan who is surprised by the high strikeout totals hasn't been paying attention the past four months.

As a former opposite-field singles hitter, this post-steroid-but-still-swing-for-the-fences/damn-the-strikeouts era in baseball is frustrating and perplexing to me. If Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and his AL Champion teammates can cut down on their swings and go oppo, and the Giants and Cardinals, winners of the last three World Series, can do the same, why don't others follow suit? What happened to Moneyball and Sabermetrics and OBP? I just don't understand how a player can think he can be successful striking out so much. I guess they see similar players get awarded, so they follow suit.

Why should BJ Upton change, after the Braves gave him a huge contract? We knew what we were getting into with BJ. He was the most attractive centerfielder available at the time, after Span was traded to the Nats. Without BJ (and since we didn't trade for Span), it's less likely Wren would've been able to complete the trade with the Diamondbacks. Right now Justin Upton and Chris Johnson are the team's best hitters. Both are willing to hit to right field. So will Gattis, but right now I'm thinking Gattis will play less as McCann eases back into his catching position. Then we'll know even more about Gattis, and whether he will stay in the bigs all summer. He could play every day at Gwinnett, then return for the stretch run.

This weekend I read that judging a team four weeks into the season is like judging a date after picking her up at her door. We're not 15% of the way into the season. I really don't want to be the sounding gong, repeating myself over and over. If it's any consolation, this weekend the Tigers did hit plenty of fly balls that our outfielders did catch.

Better to talk about more important things. Saturday both teams looked swell in their Negro League uniforms. Uni-Watch thought they were flannel, as opposed to knock-offs. See here and here