So long, Frenchy

Well, the news finally came down. Everyone knew it was gonna happen. The only question was where.

Yes, Jeff Francoeur has been traded by the Atlanta Braves to the New York Mets for Ryan Church. Both outfielders had been a disappointment this year (Francoeur hitting .250 for Atlanta, Church hitting .280 for New York), but does anyone find it odd that this trade was made within the division? Usually you don’t trade within the division during the season. But I guess the Mets felt that since they are 5 and a half games back as of this writing, Francoeur may be the what they need.

I personally would like to see the trade blow up in the Mets face and have the Braves pass them in the standings. It will be interesting to see what Jeff’s role will be once the Mets get all their regulars off of the DL.

Since Frenchy wasn’t too happy last year when the Braves sent him back to AA to work on his swing (if I remember correctly, he called the Braves out), chances are he’s not too thrilled about this move. After all, he is an Atlanta-area native.

But you see, that was the problem. He had been hearing all his life about how good he was. He was a two sport star in high school and even recieved a scholarship to play QB for the Clemson football team. When he decided to play pro ball and was drafted by his favorite/hometown team, he looked like he was “King of the world.”

He spent a few years in the minors and had some great success when he came up to the Majors, but when teams figured out he is impatient at the plate and will swing at everything, they didn’t throw him strikes and he got himself out. Trouble was, I percieved that Frenchy didn’t want to listen to anybody because he always believed in his hype.

So, I hope things work out for him (except when he’s playing the Braves), but I personally am glad that he has moved on and I can’t wait to see if Ryan Church can help the Braves.

A proposal for interleague baseball

As the interleague series’ and the debate that goes with it wind down for the 2009 season, I have a proposal to MLB on how they could possibly make it better.

With 16 NL teams and 14 AL teams, it is fairly obvious that each team can not be assigned a “rival” in the other league. So I will take an idea from the Southeastern Conference when they expanded to 12 teams in 1992.

The SEC split into two divisions and assigned each school two “rivals” that they would play every year plus a rotating team from the other divisionb. For example, back in 1992, the University of Georgia would play Auburn and Ole Miss every year and might play Alabama one year, then LSU the next and so on. It should be noted that a few years back, the SEC went went with one “rival” and two rotating teams (so the schools would play each other more), but the early version of this concept is what I want to focus on.

So, this is what I propose: Assign each MLB club two “rivals” from the other league and rotate the rest of the interleague schedule. Under my plan, it  will not matter what division a team is in. For example, Atlanta could play, Boston and Tampa Bay as rivals, but then play Kansas City, Oakland and Baltimore.

The problem I encountered with making out this list was finding another ‘rival” for Washington and Arizona. So, I thought I would give them each one rival and five other rotating series instead of four for every one else. No, it doesn’t seem fair, but it would provide the fans of those two teams more of an opportunity to see the AL. Below is a list of each league and their corresponding rivals.

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Arizona — Texas
Atlanta — Boston, Tampa Bay
Chicago Cubs — Chicago White Sox, Detroit
Cincinnati — Cleveland, Minnesota
Colorado — Minnesota, Seattle
Florida (Miami) — Tampa Bay, New York Yankees
Houston — Texas, Kansas City
Los Angeles Dodgers — Los Angeles Angels, Oakland
Milwaukee — Minnesota, Chicago White Sox
New York Mets — New York Yankees, Toronto
Philadelphia — Baltimore, Boston
Pittsburgh — Detroit, Toronto
Saint Louis — Kansas City, Cleveland
San Diego — Seattle, Texas
San Francisco — Oakland, Los Angeles Angels
Washington — Baltimore

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Baltimore — Washington, Philadelphia
Boston —  Atlanta, Philadelphia
Chicago White Sox — Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee
Cleveland — Cincinnati, St. Louis
Detroit — Pittsburgh, Chicago Cubs
Kansas City — St. Louis, Houston
Los Angeles Angels — Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco
Minnesota — Milwaukee, Cincinnati
New York Yankees — Florida (Miami), New York Mets
Oakland – San Francisco, Los Angeles Dodgers
Seattle — San Diego, Colorado
Tampa Bay — Florida, Atlanta
Texas — Houston, Arizona
Toronto — Pittsburgh, New York Mets

That’s it. That’s the list. Feel free to debate me, call me names or whatever, but if this interleague thing is gonna stay, then this might make it more exciting and easier logistics and traveling.

Enjoy!

Change of scenery ought to be what Boyer needs

The Braves traded pitcher Blaine Boyer today.

If you must know, he was traded to the Cardinals for a 27 year-old Triple-A outfielder. Sounds like the two teams were just getting rid of their problem players.

Boyer wasn’t a problem off the field, he was a problem on it. He would come in a tie situation or even when the Braves were ahead and give up a run or two and the Braves would lose the game.

The Triple-A player was a rule 5 draftee two years ago  and really hasn’t panned out for St. Louis.

Will I miss Blaine Boyer? Probably not. But  I do  think a change of scenery will benefit him. I wish him all the best, except when the Cards and Braves meet.

Difference between the Braves and the Pirates

Recently, The Braves traded one of their outfield prospects to the Detroit Tigers for a minor league pitcher. The pitcher will probably begin the season at the Braves Double-A level as the closer.

The Tigers received Josh Anderson who hit .282 this spring and .315 in 61 major league games over the past two seasons. But the funny thing is they didn’t have to trade him.

Yes, Anderson was out of options and would have started the year on Atlanta’s bench or platooning in centerfield with Gregor Blanco. He doesn’t have the power the Braves seem to be looking for, but he has the speed: he stole 40 bases in 2007 in the PCL and 42 bases last year in the IL.

But they did trade him. Most MLB clubs, like the Pittsburgh Pirates, would have held on to him. The Pirates seem to have a history of bringing up guys who look great in the minors and then cool off in the majors. Fredy Sanchez comes to mind: He has a .3318 lifetime batting average in the minors and hasn’t seen .300 since his rookie year. Jack Wilson also had a great minor league career and has cooled off once he hit Pittsburgh.

Don’t  get me wrong, I’m not hating on the Pirates, I’m just using them as an example. The Braves do what the Pirates don’t seem to do: Strike while the iron is hot.

The Tigers know what the Braves know: Anderson was drafted by Houston in 2003 and this would have been his “make it or break it year.” But still, the Tigers were convinced to make this deal and to give the Braves something that every club needs, including the Tigers,…pitching.

A fourth or fifth outfielder for a guy who one day could become your major league closer? I’ll take that deal everytime.

Marketing 101?

I have never been paid to market a MLB club. So I’m hoping that someone who has can answer this question for me: Why are the Braves marketing the interleague games with the Yankees and Red Sox and not marketing their own club?

When the schedule for 2009 came out last July, the promotions started; “Be sure to get tickets for 2009 and be guaranteed a seat for the Yankees and Red Sox.” Or it was something like that. Never mind that the Braves most popular player was leading the league in batting average. Btw, that player, Chipper Jones, wound up winning the National League batting title in 2008 with a .364 average. Bet the Braves marketing department didn’t tell you that, did they?

So, I guess someone at some point suggested if you don’t have anything to market, market  the opponent. But here’s the funny thing: The Braves do have something to market. Currently, there is an ad with Derek Lowe on the Braves website. That’s nice, but that’s not enough.

Why not run a “Come out and see Casey Kotchman” campaign? “Not many know who he is,” the Braves marketing department might reply. To that, I would say, “Isn’t it your job to make people aware of who is?” What about Garrett Anderson or pitcher Boone Logan? Market them.

It is real easy to market the already popular New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox or even the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. But how do you get people to come to the games when the Braves are playing the Washington Nationals or the Milwaukee Brewers without CC Sabaitha?

Here’s how: If you do a good job of marketing your own team, it won’t matter who the opponent is. Funy thing is, you didn’t hear about the opponent when the Braves were winning all their divsion, league and world titles, all you hear about was…well…ther Braves.

Maybe that should again be the focus

Where have all the catchers gone?

After a month or so into this off-season, it looked like everyone was dissing G.M. Frank Wren and the Atlanta Braves. Rafael Furcal allegedly backed out of a deal and the Braves couldn’t get anything done with A.J. Burnett.

But then he redemmed himself by trading for Javier Vazquez and left-handed reliever Boone Logan from the White Sox. Ok, but he gave up top catching prospect Tyler Flowers, speedy infielder Brent
Lillibridge, minor league third baseman Jon Gilmore and 20-year-old
left-hander Santos Rodriguez.

Don’t you think that was a bit much?

I realize only time will tell whether those prospects will be any good, but the Braves have dealt catching prospects Max Ramriez to Cleveland for Bob Wickman, Salty to the Rangers for Teixeira, and now Flowers for Vazquez. Then they sign David Ross after last year’s backup, Corky Miller, was not offered a contract.

So, the Braves dealt three catching prospects so Ross “would really add a dimension we didn’t have last year,” Wren told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this week.

I say the Braves should have saved at least one of those catchers to back up McCann. Who knows? He could have been a valuable backup.

I guess we’ll never know, will we?

Watching Tommy Hanson

I watched the Braves spring training game on ESPN yesterday. While I was not particularly impressed with starter Jorge Campilo, I came away with a good feeling about Tommy Hanson, who relieved Campilo in the third inning.

Yes, I know his stats weren’t impressive yesterday (2 innings pitched giving up 2 runs on 2 hits, striking out 2 while walking 1) but I could see where this could be a bona-fide Major Leaguer.

He has a great sweeping curveball and the ESPN announcers were giddy because he was also throwing 95-97 MPH.

I’m glad that Hanson is in the Braves organization. Kudos for Frank Wren for not giving into the Padres’ demand for Hanson in a potential Jake Peavey deal. With the starters for Atlanta already in place, there will not be a rush to get him to the majors. He has never pitched above AA and I think even a month or two in Gwinnett (AAA) could help him out.

Besides, Bobby Cox doesn’t ask for players before their time, he promotes them when they are ready.

So, I look forward to the Hanson era in Braves history when he  and Bobby Cox thinks he is ready.

Career with one team not as common as it used to be

Sporting News just did a very good and thorough piece on baseball and free agency.

The article pointed out that only four players will begin the 2009 season having played at least 14 seasons with the club that signed them. Three of the four are Yankees (Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera). The fourth is Braves 3b Chipper Jones.

I remember when Chipper was drafted in 1990. That was the year that the Braves were going through a horrible season and would wind up in last place in the NL West. The Braves were also looking at Texas high school pitcher Todd Van Popel. But  Van Poplel told the Braves not to draft him because he was going to pitch for the University of Texas. So, the Braves drafted **** out of Deland, Florida while the then-defending World Champion Oakland A’s drafted Van Popel. Both draft picks signed with the clubs that drafted them and the rest, they say, is history.

What makes Chipper run with one team even more amazing is that he is not a pitcher. Let me explain.

All through the 1990’s, then-GM John Schuerholz’s plan, it seemed, was to focus on pitching. He made sure that during the off-season the pitching would be there. No matter if it meant keeping Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz for one more year or going out and finding Denny Neagle, Mike Hampton or Tim Hudson to help them out.

But he never traded Chipper. He always seemed to sign him. In fact, Chipper played LF for a while because he thought it would help the team. I believe he also restructured his contract so that the team could sign Tim Hudson.

So whether you like Chipper or not, you must respect that he has been a Brave for, so far, all of his career. Dale Murphy nor Tom Glavine, John Smoltz or even Andruw Jones or Phil Niekro can make that claim. Not even Henry Aaron.

Only Chipper.

A wet blanket

Ok, I know that pitchers and catchers have reported for the Braves in Florida and the position players are not far behind. I also know that hope spring eternal for 30 Major League teams that this could be ‘the year.’

The Royals are excited, so are the Pirates and even the Nationals think they have a shot.

The Braves’ latest import from Japan, Kenshin Kawakami, is a question mark for me, though.  I just don’t know how he’ll take to MLB. In Japan, pitchers usually pitch about once a week, not every fifth day like they do here. So, he may not have the strength to pitch in the Majors.

 I’m sure he’ll do well. He’ll probably win 15. Hideo Nomo won 13 in his first year (1995), 16 in his second and 14 in his third. Tokyo native Daisuke Matsuzaka won 15 in 2007, 18 in 2008.

Derek Lowe is another unknown. He was a sub-.500 pitcher in 2001, 2005 and 2007. 2005 was his first year in the NL (12-15), so he some adjustments to make. But in 2007, he went 12-14, but bounced back to 14-11 in 2008 in 34 games. So, I hope he’ll pitch  in 2009 like  he did in 2008, not in 2007.

Jair Jurrjens had a great rookie season last year, but we’ll see if he can continue or winds up in a ‘sophomore slump.’ Likewise, we’ll see whether RF Jeff Francoeur can bounce back and hit what he is capable of hitting.

I don’t mean to be a ‘wet blanket.’ I am excited about 2009 and I think it’s going to be a great year, I just don’t know how any of the ‘experts’ know what the Braves have when the exhibition season hasn’t started yet.

I guess I have more of a ‘wait-and-see attitude.’

Time runing out for Braves, Ohman

With pitchers and catchers to report in a few days, it seems that LHP Will Ohman will not be a Brave in 2009.

After blogging yesterday about why the Braves haven’t re-signed him and that the Phillies had made him an offer, today’s post is that the Mets have also made an offer.

Again, I don’t understand the Braves’ thinking. He’s left-handed and he can get people out.

Will someone please tell me why?