Why Leaving Turner Field Is The Right Move for Braves & Fans

I’ll admit; when I first got the news, I thought “that’s absurd.”  The Atlanta Braves announced Monday that they’d be leaving Turner Field to build a new stadium in nearby Cobb County, and my immediate reaction was “that makes no sense.”

Turner Field, current "home of the Braves"

Turner Field, current “home of the Braves”

Turner Field – home to the Braves since the 1997 season – isn’t old enough a ballpark to become an abandoned relic, I thought. It’s so much of an improvement over the old Fulton County (cookie cutter) Stadium that it’s an incredible waste to let the franchise walk away from a facility with plenty of tread still left on her tires, I said.

But the more I dug into this, and the more I read up, and heck, the more I remembered how I, myself, found plenty to “nitpick” about Turner Field, the more it made sense.  And not just for the Braves and their fans, but for the city of Atlanta and the region, too, honestly.

Let’s face it: the Braves will never build a “Camden Yards.”  I’m not even certain their new stadium will be anything of a “lasting treasure,” honestly; I mean, how “classic” can ANYthing be if it’s built in the corner between two interstate highways, after all?  That’s certainly never going to be confused with “Wrigleyville.”  But my point is, Turner Field wasn’t anything close to a “keeper,” either.

It was built for the 1996 Olympic Games, hastily retrofitted for baseball, and in an area of town that had never developed around its predecessor; an area that didn’t develop around it, either.  It wasn’t some gem wedged into a city block with quirky dimensions necessitated by its confines.  It wasn’t near downtown and lacked any “breathtaking” outfield vista.  It was … just a fairly decent baseball stadium.  Unspectacular, but very adequate.  It was, frankly, too big, came with very little “charm” or interesting dynamics to it, and had started to become over-run with corporate logos and statues that didn’t even bother blending in with the ballpark’s aesthetics – such as they blandly were.

The Braves apparently spent a few years complaining about The Ted’s shortcomings (who knew?) and kept pointing out issues I noticed with the park all along.  Where’s the MARTA light rail stop at the stadium?  Why did anyone think a baseball team not in New York or Los Angeles needed 50,000 seats?  And where’s the “neighborhood ambiance” that was supposed to crop up around the park?

The light rail never came; the cavernous upper deck was never trimmed down (a la U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago) and those parking lots around Turner Field weren’t improving any property values in that area of town.

The Braves' new "neighborhood."

The Braves’ new “neighborhood.”

Whereas at first I alarmingly questioned this move, now I get it.  The Braves and neighboring Cobb County have an arrangement to build a new baseball stadium near the I-75/I-285 interchange, with 60 acres of land around the park for the Braves themselves to develop.  Tens of thousands of pre-and-post-game patrons will now have retail and food & beverage options around the park.  The Braves become an entire neighborhood’s “landlord,” and Cobb County gets some sweet tax revenues.

Where the fans are, the Braves are going

Where the fans are, the Braves are going

In their statement, press release and on their “new stadium website,” the Braves even alluded to mass transit: a veritable MUST for this endeavor to succeed.  While the Braves deftly pointed out, via a red-dotted map, where most of their attendees lived in the north metro, what they truly NEEDED to address was bettering accessibility.  Sure, most metro Atlantans have a car, but most metro Atlantans abhor traffic, too.  And after a hard day’s work, you’d be hard-pressed to find more than five or six thousand families, on a weeknight, who cared to get back in their cars and deal with more gridlock to get to the stadium, pay to park, walk to the stadium, and enjoy the game – especially with high definition television plugged into almost every game, in those families’ living rooms.

So while there’s nothing concrete ABOUT light rail to this new stadium, the Braves having wanted it at The Ted before, and mentioning it in their statements now, tells you they know there’s untapped potential within the Atlanta area for more fans to attend games.

The Braves get to rake in extra revenue from their new, wholly-owned “neighborhood,” just when they need it most, too.  Their television contract, compared to many of the newer TV deals, is pitiful.  In the “arms race,” they were losing ground for salary dollars.  This is a game-changer.

For the city of Atlanta, as mayor Kaseem Reed put it, they’ll be off the hook for a $150 to $200 million improvement bill and get to, instead, pivot towards developing a prime piece of real estate along I-75/85 and I-20.  And with a $900 million backlog of infrastructure improvements, $150-200 million can go a long way.

So now we all wait – with baited breath – to see what KIND of stadium the Braves have designed for them.  We know it’ll be an improvement over Fulton County Stadium and Turner Field, and before anyone get dour at the prospects of there being no booming downtown skyline to see from the park, let me remind you of this: one of the better ballparks in the league right now is Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies.  It’s a terrific baseball park, loaded with character and quirks, and it’s nowhere near downtown Philadelphia.

The Braves will definitely not have something like Fenway to call home.

The Braves will definitely not have something like Fenway to call home.

Will we get a Fenway Park?  No, but then who’s gotten one since, anyhow?  Will it be anything like AT&T Park in San Francisco?  No, and mostly because Atlanta lacks such scenic areas to take advantage of.  Can the Braves get a new home more like Citizens Bank Park?  Absolutely.  And if Braves’ fans pack it the way Phillies fans did that gem, the Braves will be major players for the next 10-15 seasons – before a better TV contract is possible.

Braves At 100 Games: A Division Champ, Probably, and Nothing More

Let’s talk Braves baseball…

After tonight’s wretched loss to the lowly New York Mets, the Atlanta Braves are a hundred games into the season.  We’re well past the halfway point, and the trade deadline’s about a week away.  And here’s what we know…

Barring a colossal collapse, the Braves will win the National League East.  I mean, even with a loss tonight, they’re SEVEN games up on Philadelphia, who look to be selling off key players within the next seven days, and EIGHT up on the Nats.  Okay, so that’s the good news.

Dan Uggla, probably stewing over one of his record-pacing strikeouts.

Dan Uggla, probably stewing over one of his record-pacing strikeouts.

Lemme stick ya with the bad.  Atlanta’s offense is … offensive.  And organizationally, they’ll point to injuries.  Okay, I’ll give you the time missed by Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann, Evan Gattis and Justin Upton, here and there; but even WITH those guys, this line up is deeply flawed.  They’re on pace for racking up historic strikeout numbers, for one thing.  B.J. Upton has been a bust.  I mean, when a “waiver wire” pick up like Jordan Schafer is a more attractive option than the guy you signed to the biggest contract in franchise history – something’s wrong.  When the guy making more money this year than B.J. Upton – a guy by the name of Dan Uggla – is hitting right AT .200 – albeit with some power – you have to ask yourselves, as an organization, what is our offensive ideology?

Because I gotta tell ya … as a lifelong fan, I’ve seen these high-power, low-average Braves’ teams get to the postseason on the strength of their pitching most of their historic run, and they have one ring to show for it.

And let’s be honest; this pitching staff has put up pretty solid numbers so far – but there’s no Glavine or Maddox or Smoltz on that rotation.  And the bullpen is a shell of its former self.  Credit where it’s due, it’s still been pretty darn good, despite losing Venters and O’Flaherty and Christian Martinez.  But you have to wonder when that dam bursts.

Even the rotation gives cause for concern.  Kris Medlen isn’t right.  He swears before tonight’s start he found a “flaw in his delivery.”  Maybe he has; or maybe he realizes once Brandon Beachy’s back, he’s the odd-man-out.  Paul Maholm has been terrible most of the last two months, and Alex Wood, the UGA phenom, will fill in while he’s gone.  And if he does what he’s shown he’s capable of doing, he’s not going anywhere.  Julio Teheran is either brilliant or mediocre, but that will improve as time goes on.  And I’d say we’re two more quality starts, back-to-back, from Tim Hudson, before we pronounce him back in his groove.

Listen, getting to the playoffs looks like an easy road, and despite the Braves having 13 games left against Philly and 9 against the Nats, I think they’ll sew up the division.  But once they’re there, Braves’ fans … are YOU confident in this team beating anybody?  ‘Cause I’m on record as saying “I’m not.”

Playoff teams usually have 1, maybe 2 – LOCKDOWN starters.  The Braves have none.  Playoff teams usually have 1, maybe 2 – hits-for-average “on base percentage” machines.  The Braves have Freddie and the under-appreciated Christ Johnson, and it tails off steeply after them.  Playoff teams usually have that one guy in the lineup others would try to pitch around if they can.   Do the Braves have even ONE guy in their lineup that strikes fear in an opposing pitcher?  Ehhhh.

This team has shown – on the rarest of occasions – that it can manufacture runs when needed.  And that’s what’s it gonna take for the Braves to win a playoff series.  They play what I call “Bobby ball” now.  Pitch well and look for that one big inning or bomb with a runner on to carry the offense.  This team isn’t built well to do that, but they’re still playing that ideology out on the field.

And whether it’s B.J. Upton or Jordan Schafer who Fredi Gonzalez chooses to be the everyday guy – that guy has to set the table.  Get on base; wreak havoc on the base path and distract pitchers.  That’s what makes Jason Heyward more dangerous at the plate.  Andrelton Simmons, too, needs to use his God-given speed to drop the occasional bunt and scramble onto first now and then.  He got the taste of the “home run” trots, early on in his career, and now he seems addicted.  That’s not his strength.

And lastly, the only thing I question Fredi Gonzalez about is: why is he hitting Chris Johnson so low in the order all the time?  He’s the only guy on the team hitting over .300 all year – and he’s almost always hitting 7th or 8th.  What gives?

Outside of that, Fredi Gonzalez deserves “manager of the year” consideration.  Because if you’d told me that this late into the season the Upton brothers would be hitting .250 or less, both of ‘em, with one suffering from a deep power outage since the first month, and the other just looking lost at the plate PERIOD, and you’d told me Heyward would be hitting in the low 200s and that Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen would have their struggles and we’d be without Venters AND O’Flaherty .. I’d guess this team would be mired in third place, fighting to stay out of fourth and well under .500.

Instead, they’re 12 games over .500 and hold the division by 7 full games.  Admit it, fans; Fredi’s done a pretty darn good job, given what he’s had to work with, hasn’t he?

I’m just saying … if they wanna be satisfied just winning a division, they should be pleased.  But Braves’ fans, since 1991, have grown weary of “just” getting there.  This team will have to address its offensive issues or that’s all they’ll get.

Braves’ Second Half Crystal Ball

BravesThose who know me know I’m a stark realist when it comes to the fortunes of the Atlanta Braves.  I’m usually far more optimistic with my beloved Atlanta Falcons and Georgia Bulldogs’ football squads, but when it comes to the Braves, I suppose the 23-year run of (mostly) success under the John Schuerholz/Frank Wren and Bobby Cox/Fredi Gonzalez era has given me all the “instinct” I need to watch and cheer – with plenty of doubt.

So going into the second half of the season, it wouldn’t shock many if I projected a dour second-half for Atlanta; there’s plenty TO be concerned about, after all:  B.J. Upton has shown little to give us the impression he’ll hit above .210.  The rotation has no true “ace,” and the bullpen is decimated with injuries.  Despite all that, I actually think the second half will show better – that’s right, better – play out of the Braves than the first half did.

First, the schedule: of the 67 games left on their schedule, the Braves play 35 against teams with sub-.500 records, and also have 35 home games.  With a six-game lead, if they just went .500 (let’s even say 33-34) the rest of the way, the Washington Nationals would have to go 39-28 just tie the Braves.

Are the Nats capable of that kind of run?  Yes. Are the Braves capable of only going 33-34 the rest of the way?  Absolutely.  Since their 12-1 start, the Braves are only 42-40.  Let’s not overlook the Phillies, either, who are only a half game behind the Nats.  But with Ryan Howard a shell of his former self and persistently injured, to me, their threat is a muted on, at best.

But let’s go with the “glass half-full” thought process, here, and focus solely on the Braves.

Dan Uggla’s contacts seem to have made a difference, as he’s contributing more at the plate.  He’s hitting .221 the last 30 days (Ted Williams-like by his standards), and has knocked 4 homers and brought in 9 RBI’s in just the last ten games.  If Dan hits .220 with power and brings in runs in the second half, he stretches the lineup quite a bit.

Justin Upton, prior to his injury, had finally started contributing at the plate, going .279 with a home run and seven runs batted in the last ten days.  With he, Uggla, All-Stars Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann all contributing at the plate, and with an improved Jason Heyward showing signs of figuring it out with the bat, and with the return of Evan Gattis in whatever role he finds a spot to play in, the Braves shouldn’t lack for runs scored.

The offensive area to watch: center field and/or the lead-off spot.  B.J. Upton will return before Jordan Schafer will, but if Schafer keeps contributing (.312 / 3 / 15) while Upton scuffles, the pressure will mount to bench B.J., money be damned.

The starting rotation has been a mixed bag so far, but WILL improve – one way or another (or many others).  Tim Hudson SHOULD be somewhere around 9-4 or 8-5, even with his 4.02 earned run average (ERA).  When he’s good, he’s splendid, but the offense has been spotty for him.  When he’s off, he’s REALLY off. but at his age, he’s still a viable mid-to-back-end rotation arm.  Mike Minor and Julio Teheran show flashes of “ace” stuff, but Teheran is settling into an “every other start is great” sort of rhythm, while Minor is usually “decent” with the occasional “wow” performance.

With Brandon Beachy eventually returning, the question is whether it will be Paul Maholm or Kris Medlen losing a roster spot.  Frankly, if Beachy gets back to form, losing either from the rotation will be a net-positive.  Both have given just five “quality starts” (at least 6 innings pitched with three earned runs or fewer) in their last five starts.  The hunch here is Medlen gets shipped to the ‘pen.  Maholm’s had a few spurts of near-genius runs this season while Medlen’s been nowhere near the record-setting starter he was at the end of last season.  Then there’s Alex Wood, who’s shown us why the team is so high on his future.  All he did is go 4-2 with 1.26 earned run average while in the bigs – and out of the bullpen, which isn’t what he’s even tailored to.  He’s got “ace” stuff and will be a part of the Braves’ rotation plans either this year and/or definitely next. 

The conventional wisdom is that the Braves will make a move to bolster their bullpen, which is already managing to “get by” without Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Christian Martinez (all lost to season-ending injuries) quite fine.  They lead the majors with a 2.62 ERA and .213 batting average against.  Even with that track record, outside of closer Craig Kimbrel, none of the arms are household names with much experience behind ’em.  That will likely be addressed prior to the trade deadline at the end of this month.

I do think the Braves have enough to hang onto first place in the National League East and earn a full-fledged playoff series.  If the season ended today, they’d face the winner of the play-in game between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.  The Braves and Reds are mirror images of one another, basically, and I’d give the edge to Atlanta only because I think their starting pitching options are deeper; Pittsburgh scares me, but something tells me there’s a mini-slide coming for them because they’re bullpen’s already over-taxed, so that could be their achilles come playoff time.

What the Braves need to start working on (if they aren’t already) is generating runs without the “big hit” – using speed and bunting to move runners over.  “Smallball.”  I say that because the lineup’s loaded with strikeout potential – and while I don’t always WANT a Freeman/McCann/J-Up bunt, I would like to see more attempts out of B.J. and J-Hey and Andrelton Simmons .  All three are speedy and can leg out a bunt hit, but more importantly can move a runner over instead of striking out at the alarming rates all are.  Sharpening that “weapon” in their arsenal can make them a World Series threat.

And that’s why, currently, I don’t see them AS a serious World Championship-caliber team.  If they can learn to generate runs better, they’re darn-near unbeatable.  They’d have the division nearly sewn away by now.  I suppose we’ll see what dealing GM Frank Wren does and what wrinkels Fredi Gonzalez brings to the field.  Credit where it’s due, Fredi should be mentioned in “Coach of the Year” discussions.  No ace, as many as three starters at some point batting under .200 deep into the season, McCann out for the first six weeks … and the Braves have a six-game lead at the break.  He’s done a solid job so far.

Why Is ‘Tebow Nation’ So Bitter About Jason Collins’ Revelation?

TebowNot once, but twice, yesterday, I spotted memes questioning President Barack Obama’s taking the time to reach out to Jason Collins – the first openly-gay major sport male athlete in the U.S.  Both involved the recently-released Tim Tebow – American Christianity’s golden boy.  One, traced back to the Facebook page of “100% Fed Up” (dedicated to the memory of – wait for it – Andrew Breitbart), features the photo of Tim Tebow from his final senior game at the University of Florida, with the following statement…

While Obama and Mooch are breathlessly congratulating NBA player Jason Collins for announcing to the world that he is gay… we’re just wondering…does anyone remember them coming out to congratulate Tim Tebow for taking such a courageous pro-life stance? We didn’t think so. Doesn’t fit their narrative… Give them a Trayvon Martin or Sandra Fluke story and watch their race to the megaphone to make a statement of support. So very presidential of them…NOT.

I won’t pretend to know who “mooch” is, but I got the gist of the rest.  What a false equivalence. When’s anyone ever been “pro-life-bashed?” Or been taunted by school mates for being pro-life? Any pro-lifes been beaten to a pup and left for dead, tied to a fence in the wild like Matthew Shepherd was?

I said as much on a Facebook thread when I saw a former co-worker of mine share this absurd meme. Which drew the ire of someone else…

What matters, is that it doesn’t matter if he is gay or not. Quite frankly it’s none of my business, or anyone elses. I guess everyone who comes out of the closet, should expect a call from of our president. It’s just ridiculas (sp) that such a big deal has been made over it.

My reply?

“If you aren’t gay and/or haven’t been in the spotlight WITH that secret, you know not what you speak of. Period”

I love how folks wanna blow off someone coming out like it’s “no big deal.”  Well of course it isn’t … to a lifelong heterosexual.  They aren’t gay.  They wouldn’t BEGIN to  know the stomach-churning from years of pent-up expressions; the secretive nature, the fear of derision (or worse). No, it’s a big deal that it’s NOT a “big deal” anymore, so forgive those of us who are just now starting to breathe a sigh of relief that our society’s come that far.

It SHOULDN’T be a big deal; this woman is right about that. It’s ridiculous, however, that people DO still make such a “big deal” out of it. Like if parents of the 6-8 year old kids I coached youth baseball/t-ball for years back in Louisiana ever got wind. Or I don’t know, say 10-15 years ago when I was doing morning radio smack dab in the buckle of the Bible Belt on a pop station. All sorts of lurid rumors about TV anchors and one mayor in particular having a fling … ALL the rage in that town, then. If I’d let it be known (or worse, folks just found out on their own), it’d have been a “big deal” to folks, then.

I’m sorry, it IS a big deal that’s it NOT a “big deal” anymore. Forgive those of us affected for taking maybe a DAY of joy in that; I’m 39 years old and have a pretty good sense of my situation since I was maybe 8-9 or at the latest 10. Days like Monday, when Collins revealed himself to be gay .. they don’t come around nearly as often as the days I hear a “queer” joke do.

It was a phone call; and maybe not even in an official capacity for all we know. Just one famous guy giving another (now) famous guy a pat on the back for having the courage to come out.

There was no press conference called for it; there was no Rose Garden ceremony. Just a phone call. If you’re upset with the attention it’s gotten, blame the channels you tune to or the newspapers or websites you read. Understand this: the President was ASKED about Jason Collins, by a member of the media. He didn’t bring it up and it wasn’t on the agenda for discussion at a press briefing. That he said anything or even acknowledged that he reached out to Jason took no time away from his other tasks in office.

Here’s another thought: has anyone asked if Jason Collins was pro-choice, and boy, what if he were?  What a conundrum, eh?  You’re asking “what’s it matter?”  Exactly; why are these two topics of discussion so ridiculously merged with this meme to begin with?

By all means, though; belittle the courage it took for a male pro athlete to come out. Why can’t people just be happy for others, just ONCE? Why’s every little issue have to be a left-right issue?  I just see some sour-grapes nit-picking going on; for those grousing in such a nature: careful!  Your bigotry’s showing. Otherwise, you’d be happy for us, wouldn’t ya?

TimmyTweetThere was another meme, floating around yesterday, as well, comically posted by “Christian, Conservative, Patriot and Not Afraid.”  These brilliant minds re-posted a parody tweet from “Timmy Tebow,” (aka not the real Tim Tebow twitter account, goons) and ran with it.  Maybe they knew it wasn’t the real Tim Tebow, but I’m guessing they did.  Well a former high school classmate of mine re-posted it, fully believing it was.  Immediately, a like-minded friend of hers replies:

And our dumbass president calls to congratulate him! The gay guy not the Christian!! WTF?????

Never one pass up the opportunity engage in a good old-fashioned Facebook “flame war,” I indulged.  My reply:

There’s no fear in reprisal when you come out as Christian. Tim Tebow CERTAINLY wasn’t the first Christian athlete (how many give thanks to God as if God somehow had a hand in the outcome of a game), nor are Christians ostracized and/or demonized for BEING Christian. They certainly wouldn’t have ever feared getting their teeth knocked in, in the locker room, by some bigot.

It didn’t take long to hear back.

I have nothing against gay people as I am in the food business and work around them regularly. I however do think that it was totally unnecessary for our president to call and congratulate someone for sharing their sexuality. Maybe if he spent more time worrying about what goes on with our country and less time worrying about what is on TMZ we would all be in a better place! He is an idiot!

I replied that it wasn’t as if Obama had called a press conference specifically to discuss Collins’ announcement (it was brought up by a reporter, but that wasn’t the premise of the press conference); that there was no Rose Garden ceremony honoring Collins, then I mentioned the “Timmy Tebow” Twitter account was a parody account … a joke.  Like Stephen Colbert’s pretending to be an outraged conservative pundit each night on Comedy Central.

Here’s the intellect I was dealing with:

That’s the problem. People like you think this is funny! Let me guess? Democrat!

I divulged that I, too, was gay, and understood quite well that it takes a LOT of intestinal fortitude to come out so publicly.  I added that it takes no such gumption to admit you’re Christian in a predominantly Christian country.  So, remember how this woman mentioned having no problem with gay people and having gay co-workers and such?  Cue the response:

That explains it!! I have lots of gay friends! But no dumbass gay friends! LOL! … There is nothing wrong with being gay so don’t use it as a crutch! That is the Democrat coming out in you. Put on your big girl panties like us Republicans do and grow up! That’s your life choice! Be proud and don’t demonize us because of your life choice. Own it like us small business owners are owning our position as this presidential administration screws us. Quit making it about being gay. That’s what I DO NOT like about DEMOCRATS! The blame game! Rise up, shut up and do your damn JOB! Quit hiding behind gay Ron!

That’s right; miss “gay friendly” thinks I need to put on my (ahem) “big girl panties.”  Thinks I’m using my homosexuality as a “crutch,” and then later a shield to hide behind.  Speechless.  For a few minutes, anyhow.

My literally HAVING some perspective isn’t leaning on it, (name redacted). It’s called “point of reference.”

At that point, this self-professed “Christian” woman who’d previously called me a “dumbass” said she would pray for me and was “checking out on this BS.”

Was it the “perfect storm” of Collins’ coming out trumping Tim Tebow’s getting his pink slip from the New York Jets on all the major news and sports media outlets that got these folks in a tizzy or what?  I’m left with this conclusion: “Tebow Nation” reminds me a lot of what I call the “Chick Fil-A Christians” in that they worship an upstanding individual with a ton of great personal traits, but they do little to honor the individual they admire when they act like anything but the example said individual set.

Marlins Owner Commands Lineup Changes To His Manager

jeffrey-loria-tWhat a guy; according to Yahoo! Sports, Miami Marlins owner Jefferey Loria personally insisted on lineup changes before a baseball double-header against the Minnesota Twins, Tuesday, according to reports.

The move, which infuriated players and coaches, involved the team’s two starting pitchers for those games.  Loria insisted the 20-year old rookie Jose Fernandez start game one, with veteran Ricky Nolasco moved back to the second game.  The reasoning?  Loria figured the day game would come with warmer conditions than the night game; why that matters is beyond me, personally, but as it turns out, the day game starting temperature was 38 degree Fahrenheit and the nightcap began at 42.

Standard protocol is that the veteran pitcher of a double-header duo gets to choose the game he starts, and Nolasco had chosen the day game.  Manager Mike Redmond, however, was told to make the change, and delivered the news to Nolasco only a little more than two hours before the start of the first game.

“He was embarrassed,” one source said of Redmond, who nonetheless claimed publicly the decision was an organizational choice. “He tried to fight it. He had nothing to do with it.”

Word is, Loria tried this last year, too, but then-manager Ozzie Guillen just ignored him.  Ozzie was fired, later in the 2012 season, but it’s not like the team was doing well with his coaching, either.  The Marlins are currently 5-17, securely in last place in the National League’s East division.

This is the same Marlins owner, now, who shed $100 million in team payroll from last season to this; dictating payroll being (usually) the only way a team owner can “command” lineup changes.  But most owners aren’t Jefferey Loria – a man who’s once before dismantled a Marlins team (after a 2003 World Series run); a man who sold the city of Miami on his fielding a competitive ball club, convincing they and county officials to shell out hundreds of millions for a new baseball stadium.

Well, this season wasn’t ugly enough for (whatever remaining) Marlins fans; now the pitiful franchise has a hated, meddlesome owner, players who loathe him and can also assuredly not have much respect for a manager who doesn’t have “the last word” on personnel decisions anymore, either, and a manager who’s humiliated less than a month into his new job.  Something smells fishy, here, and it ain’t those fancy aquariums in their shiny new-ish stadium.  This situation stinks.

Nebraska’s Spring Game Highlighted by 7-Year Old Cancer Patient’s TD Run

JackHoffmanCollege football powers across the nation are holding their “spring games” – a sort of tune-up and chance for new signees to get get in some reps before the long summer break; in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Cornhusker football program made time for one special fan – 7 year-old Jack Hoffman, who’s fighting cancer.  Hoffman got to suit up and carry the ball on a play from scrimmage; he ran for 69 yards and a touchdown as tens of thousands roared their approval.

Jack was diagnosed in August of 2011, had a procedure to remove a golf-ball sized tumor two months later, and in the process, had developed a friendship with Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead.  He’d been tight with the football program ever since.

Back to yesterday’s action; after scoring the touchdown, both sidelines erupted into pandemonium and the team lifted him into the air to celebrate.  Watch for yourself, and try not to get misty-eyed.

Braves’ Lineup Could Break Strikeout Record: Is That A Bad Thing?

BravesDuring the off-season, the Atlanta Braves replaced the bats of Chipper Jones (retirement) and Martin Prado (trade) with the brothers Upton: B.J. and Justin.  Putting those two in a lineup of historically whiff-friendly batters only make the Braves’ lineup more likely to air out those hot muggy Turner Field nights, if the first three games is any indication.

They’re on pace to strike out an alarmingly-high 30% of the time!  The sample size is small, yes; but the fact is, with Dan Uggla, Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward already making plenty a walk back to the dugout, adding the K-friendly Upton boys is going to make for some historic numbers.

Before Braves’ fans go all “gloom and doom” on me – the Washington Nationals struck out more than the Braves did last year, striking out 21.3% of the time.  This year’s Braves’ lineup is projected to whiff around 20.3% of their at-bats.   So, no big deal, right?

Problem is, the Braves don’t have the starting pitching the Nats do, and their one weakness in comparison to Atlanta – namely the bullpen – they shored up with off-season acquisitions.

Yes, the Braves will mash a lot; they’ll likely have record-setting offensive days like their first two games, but the law of averages dictate they’ll also have many a frustrating shutout or low-run-scoring days like yesterday, too.  Just giving you the heads up.