Monday, February 22, 2010
Musings on the Atlanta Braves as Players Report
This is my favorite time of year.
Pitchers are throwing to real catchers for the first time in months.
Rookies are gearing up for their first shots.
Aging vets are getting ready to fight to prove that they can still do what they've been doing since they were five-years-old.
And news is actually readily available without having to BS a ton.
This is the first musing that I've put out in some time, so I actually have some real topics to discuss (exciting, right?) without the previously mentioned BS (though I did throw some of that in here).
First thing, Johnny Damon.
The saga that most Braves fans have been emerging ourselves in has been that of the newly-christened Detroit Tiger, Johnny Damon.
I said before it started that the whole story seemed like a good setup to get my hopes up before throwing them to the floor in a fiery menagerie of frustration and disappointment.
And guess what?
That's not exactly what happened...which is a good thing.
After all, I had figured that (even though I really wanted him at the top of the Braves' order) the formerly-bearded one would spurn the Atlanta ballclub for greener outfields in the American League.
And, when Damon signed a one year, $8 MM deal with the Tigers this past week, I just sort of shrugged and just reminded myself that I would probably take four times (depending on the report you read) the guaranteed that the Braves were offering to play for Jim Leyland and his crew as well.
I was disappointed, don't get me wrong on that front, because I saw Damon as a legitimate option to improve the club...but I didn't get too worked up.
I still think this club is well-constructed enough to contend...just glad that ordeal's over.
And that brings me to my second thought...fan support.
I'm going to ask that you scroll through a few Braves blogs (Mark Bradley, David O'Brien, and Mark Bowman would be the "beat guys" I would suggest with any Braves-related threads on MLB Trade Rumors being the other source I would recommend) and tell me if you don't get disgusted with some of the pessimistic and "woe is us" comments from the fans on there.
Frank "Do Nothing" Wren.
Terrible pitching staff.
Even a few folks calling fifth place for the Braves.
In the words of Keyshawn Johnson, COME ON MAN!
The months leading up to the season (unless Dayton Moore is your GM) are cause for optimism.
This is the time when you start to think about how awesome a little October glory would be.
Not when you're calling for the cellar for your "team" (because I don't think some of the people really like the Braves)...especially for a team that's as talented as the 2010 Atlanta Braves.
I mean, seriously.
Look at the corps going into battle this year.
You're going to have one of the top-five rotations in baseball backed by Billy Wagner, Takashi Saito, Peter Moylan, and Eric O'Flaherty in the 'pen and Yunel Escobar, Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Jason Heyward, and Troy Glaus, to name a few, in the line-up.
You're telling me that's back-end-of-the-division quality?
It's not...have a little faith (and no, I'm not bringing George Michael back again).
Next thing, Edward Salcedo.
If this kid's half of what he's being billed as, then the Braves may have found their long-term solution for third base...or at least part of it (more on that in just a second).
He projects to have solid power and is said to handle short-stop exceptionally well even at 18 (which is his age...no controversy now).
His body size, though, has led many to call him a 3B down the line (that has yet to be seen, obviously).
Imagine if he pans out, though, and the talent an infield of Salcedo, Escobar (or those two could be switched since both are "big" dudes and Escobar has that epic arm), Prado, and Freeman would come up and slam on the table (since this would go beyond "bringing" something to the table).
And a potential OF of Johnson (I'm thinking without all of the Ks while retaining his mammoth power)-Schafer-Heyward with B-Mac behind the plate coupled with a rotation anchored by Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson?
Talk about talent...
That's all being eager (and, more than likely, overly-so), but it is nice to have an above-average infield prospect in the Braves' system now as opposed to hoping for some miracle pick in the draft.
Last thing, the first prediction on the record.
Okay (and this related to the second "point" I made), this is what I'm calling for the Braves in 2010...
Based on the incredibly strong staff and more-than-solid supporting cast, I'm marking the Braves down for 91 wins...good for second in the division and a berth in the playoffs via the wild card.
They came close last season, and I have a ton more confidence in this group than the one that hit the field to start the 2009 season in Philadelphia, so I'm expecting the Braves to do a little more this year than last.
Who knows, they may even run this league in the playoffs (sorry for the bad lead-up to this video)...
...with their mix of vigorous youth and proven veteran talent.