Posted: 9:40 am Thursday, February 13th, 2014

About the Braves and my travel issues… 

By Jeff Schultz

Anybody available to plow the road? There's some place I've got to be.

Anybody available to plow the road? There’s some place I’ve got to be.

Good morning. I am not on the road to spring training quite yet.

Pitchers, catchers and some columnists are scheduled to report to Braves’ camp today and begin workouts on Friday at Camp Disney. My arrival may be a little late, given that just getting my car down the driveway and up a hill and out of the subdivision is going to take some time. This probably blows any chance I have for a fifth starter role.

Any way, I just wanted to remind all that if you subscribe to the newspaper and didn’t get one this morning — and even if you don’t subscribe, although I’m SURE that’s almost NOBODY — all content on MyAJC.com is free on these Snowmageddon Days. We’ve had folks working around the clock in the last few days doing a great job providing content, and I’m so happy to tell you that I’m not one of them.

I’ve attached my last several columns and blogs at the end of this blog if you want to catch up on your reading.

Until I make it to Florida, here are some thoughts that have been bouncing around my head about these Braves.

1. Overall doubts. I understand the Braves won 96 games and won the National League East last season. They’ve retained a talented young core, including the starting rotation. That’s the good. But they’ve lost catcher Brian McCann, starter Tim Hudson and reliever Eric O’Flaherty, while adding nobody. It’s also reasonable to assume that the Washington Nationals are not going to be four games under .500 at the end of July again. So this team has something to prove, and it all begins with the emergence of a clear No. 1 starter.

2. Jason Heyward: General manager Frank Wren’s decision to not make a trade means that Heyward goes into spring as the likely leadoff hitter again. He was strong in that role last season and there’s no reason to believe he can’t replicate that. But by keeping him at the top of the order, the Braves are limiting the impact of one of their potentially best RBI men. Ideally he would be hitting from third to sixth.

3. Evan Gattis: He was everybody’s favorite story last year: from vagabond and sleeping in his truck to 21 homers and 65 RBIs. With McCann gone, Gattis is now the starting catcher. It will be an interesting transition to watch. The Braves are taking a little bit of a risk in this area but part of it was prompted by economics because it was clear early that they weren’t going to re-sign McCann (who’s now with the New York Yankees).

4. Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton: They seem to be a coupled entry in most stories about the Braves because of their inflated salaries and anemic batting averages. But Uggla’s return is the real surprise. Wren presumably tried to trade him and was willing to pick up a significant remainder of the two years and $26 million left on the second baseman’s contract, but he  had no takers. Uggla is a good guy, works hard and cares. He’s popular in the clubhouse. But this is an awkward situation, especially given he was left off the playoff roster.

Those are some early thoughts. What’s your confidence level that the Braves can win another division title and go deep into the playoffs?

Some recent ramblings (blogs, columns)
– MyAJC: Dimitroff says he’ll judge Michael Sam on talent, not sexual preference
– Blog: Missouri’s Sam says he’s gay; how will NFL react?
– MyAJC: How They Really Stand: Annual rankings of Atlanta sports teams
– MyAJC: Paul Johnson: Perception of Tech not reality
– Blog: Tech’s talent level (just the facts, no spin)
– Blog: Signing Day advice: Proceed with caution
– MyAJC: Manning can’t even outscore Seattle’s defense
– Blog: Super Bowl Short Takes on Seattle’s rout of Denver
– MyAJC: Elway sent message when nobody on Falcons did
– MyAJC: NFL is about money more than weather
– MyAJC: Seattle’s Coleman inspires by overcoming deafness
– Blog: Dimitroff: Clowney will be difference-maker
– MyAJC: Peyton Manning’s legacy secure, win or lose
– Blog: Manning may be No. 1 QB in history now
– Blog: Expect Atlanta to get Super Bowl despite storm
– MyAJC: John Fox goes from heart surgery to Super Bowl (like Reeves)
– Blog: Digi-Blog goes to the Super Bowl!
– MyAJC: Richard Sherman succeeds in changing narrative
– Blog: Seattle made more right decisions than Falcons
– MyAJC: Goodell has put Super Bowl at unnecessary risk
– MyAJC: Falcons’ makeover should start with Clowney
– Blog: Poll: Should Falcons make a run at Clowney?
29 comments
HarveyPooka
HarveyPooka

Sounds like a personal problem.  We all have them, so wise up and deal with it.  Make alternate plans and don't look for normal folks to bow-down-to-you.

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

You guys still talking about the Bravos ?  What for ?  Did they go out and pick anyone up yet this off-season either so they can win in the play-offs since Ted Turner sold them ? Sorry to be so tainted, but honestly, did we ?

reckingball
reckingball

I see that someone has mentioned Chipper and his ATV, if he has not moved to TX yet, catch a ride with to Savannah, then ride the train from there. 

reckingball
reckingball

Not going to happen, the Braves are going win the Eastern Div. and have a good legitimate shot, -to- go- all - the- way-, to the WS and win it.

reckingball
reckingball

Is the writer giving the Division to the Wahington Notionals already? I suppose all of the media will give it to them again, before even the first game is played. Might as well give them the WS too.

reckingball
reckingball

MAYBE,......Uggla's bat will be resurrected,--it is possible-- and then he can be traded, or might earn his money if the Braves were to have to keep him.

BJ will be better at the  plate, duh......he couldn't be any worse than last season, could he? I mean really,... could he be? He HAS to be better.

What could have been last year, if even one, or both could have produced with RISP?

TheOldGuy
TheOldGuy

A real fan would have found a way out of the driveway and to spring training.


Just kidding. You would have needed a snow mobile and when you got to south Georgia which has no snow then the ride would be to rough on the joints.

reckingball
reckingball

I believe that Gattis will do very well starting at catcher. I don't see any reason that he will not.

reckingball
reckingball

#2.......Did you notice what happened  with the Braves when Heyward took over the leadoff spot? If he can replicate that, as the writer thinks he is capable of doing, then I would think that leadoff could be his most invaluable spot in the batting order.

reckingball
reckingball

#1.----What did McCann do with his bat in the last 6 to 8 weeks of the 2013 season and the playoff series? Just about the same thing that he has done for the last few seasons, not much. Not to mention, that he didn't even play for the first 5 weeks. They will do fine without him, imo.

They still had some pretty good pitching without Hudson pitching in the second half, and no O'Flarity for the whole season. I will miss Hudson, and I think that O'Flarity is the biggest loss of the three that you referenced.

k483
k483

I'm HOPING Uggla will take the omission from the play-off roster as a cold slap in the face, will feel he has something to prove and will have a career season.  If that is the case, there could be some legitimate pop in this line up and the Braves could have a pretty good year.   


Bogey
Bogey

wowev - I agree.  The Braves did quite well last year while all 3 of those guys were out.  I do believe they'll miss their leadership, BUT the didn't win big WITH them.  Also, Heyward, Simmons, Freeman and all of their young pitchers have another year under their belt, plus this will be year 2 for J Upton, so he leaders will show themselves.


Huddy was great, but he's a 39 yr old guy with 3 major surgeries in the last 4 seasons, and don't forget his left (plant) ankle is also bad.  We all love Mac, but let's face it....he's not the hitter he was 3 yrs ago.   He doesn't use the entire field, he's now a dead pull power hitter who can't beat the shift.


Not saying the Braves will run away with the East again, because the Nat will be healthier and better, but it should be a good year.

wowev
wowev

EOF was out for most of the year. Tim Hudson produced 1.7 WAR which someone should be able to replicate through August. McCann will be the biggest hurt in my opinion.

Bogey
Bogey

Birdhair....check your chronology.  Truth is Schuerholz's crippling Texeira deal emptied the cupboard, and he then "promoted" himself and handed the keys of a sinking ship to Wren. 


Most of the names you mention below were in the minors, and Tex was on the way out the door.  Glavine didn't come back until the next year, with not much left in the tank.


Here were the starting pitchers that Wren "walked into":  Smoltz, JoJo Reyes, Joey Devine, Kyle Davies, Huddy (hurt) and the future HOF'er Chuck James. 


Yeah, Wren was bashed for bringing in Kawakami and overpaying for Lowe, but he had next to no options.  Considering the low budget, I believe Wren has done pretty well, winning on most of his trades.

9awebb
9awebb

You should have left two days ago! Don't you watch the weather channel?! Just kidding. You sound healthy and thats the thing! I tend to be more worried about loosing Huddy and McCann than about what Uggla or BJ do at the plate. We have some nice pieces to play second and center if they are not hitting. Matt Williams is the wild card. What kind of manager will he be with the Nats? If their clubhouse is squared away they will be tough to beat. I still see a playoff birth in our future. 

RangeRover
RangeRover

Birdhair, 

Touché!

Schultz,

How can you sign or trade for a number one starter when the incompetent Wren has wasted the funds to do so on Uggla and, worse, Upton?

Imagine Schafer in CF, Heyward in RF, J Upton in LF, Pastornicky at 2B thus affording, say, an Ubaldo Jimenez in our starting rotation?

bbrownatl
bbrownatl

Jeff, where is Chipper when you need him? Give him a call and have him assist with his ATV. Then, again, not sure if the ATV can make it all the way to Orlando.

Birdhair
Birdhair

6 years. 0 playoff series wins under FW.  5 More years until we reach Don Wadde;l level of failure lol. And to think, Waddell had to build from scratch. 


When Wren was handed the GM position he walked into: Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Yunel Escobar, Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Tommy Hanson, Mark Texieiera, Omar Infante, Tim Hudson, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Brian McCann, Kris Medlen, Rafael Soriano.


The Braves are only 1 of 7 teams teams who have failed to either win a playoff series or playoff play-in game since 2002. The other teams that have failed: Jays, Royals, Mariners, Nationals, Reds, and Padres.


If by now you havent figured out that FW is incompetent there is no hope for you.

Bogey
Bogey

I wasn't in favor of trading Uggla if it meant eating 80% of his salary - that doesn't help our cause, only limits our options thru 2015.  Besides, LaStella isn't ready yet, and Pena is preferred as a utility guy.  IF Uggla can give us 25 HR's and walks at his normal rate, I'm OK (although not pleased) with that - I really don't care what his BA is.


Regarding the Braves needing to get a #1 starter, I'm in agreement and I think they need to do it now.  This is a very young team with every position filled well.  They have a number of near-major league ready pitchers that can be used as trade bait:  Cabrera, Hursh, JR Graham,Wood, Hale and Sims (although I know the Braves want to keep him if at all possible). 


The Braves can't compete with the big market teams in signing aces, so they'll have to go the trade route.  There's one guy who fits what we need perfectly:  Chris Sale of the ChiSox, who have made it known this winter that they'll listen to offers.  A combination of the above pitcher prospects will likely not be enough, so the Braves will have to add a current roster player to it. 


As Gattis doesn't have long term value to this team once Bethancourt is ready, I would suggest he be added to the conversation.  Yeah, we take an even larger step backwards at catcher from Mac to Laird, but if it brings us Sale, its well worth it in the short term.  Sale is under a friendly contract (tops out at $12m) thru 2019.


NOW, if some package including the above still doesn't do it, then the Braves need to offer up Heyward plus one of the pitchers mentioned for Sale.


Our pitching staff of Sale, Meds, Beachy, Teheran and Minor will be solid for years and ranked as top 5.

Remarkable3
Remarkable3

I was hoping that the Braves would go looking for that elusive No. 1 Starter.  When we added Greg Maddox it was the kick the Braves needed to really start winning.  It would be good if you could raise up a No. 1 Starter from the ranks, but those guys don't come around as often as you might like.  

We can still win with one of our hitters not hitting but not both Uggla and B.J.  One of those guys needs to come through with at least a .290 batting average but I'm not holding my breath.  I think Uggla has added too much bulk and needs to slim down a little.  It looks as though he likes to spend his time in the gym, but he could probably benefit from spending more time running or doing something to build long lean muscles.  We don't need an Olympic power lifter at 2nd Base.

reckingball
reckingball

Also, Uggla doesn't have anyone else to blame for being cut for the playoffs, but his self.

reckingball
reckingball

Was Wren thinking about trading Heyward? I don't recall seeing anything about a trade.

Birdhair
Birdhair

@Bogey   Tex trade certainly did not pan out but that doesn't excuse the $215M poorly spent by FW on Uggla, Kawakami, B.J. and Lowe. Spend your money more wisely and better than that.


0 playoff series in 6 years. Headed for 7. How much longer are you going to tolerate failure? Ship is about to really sink. And sink hard.


btw: joey devine is a starting pitcher? Wren isn't responsible for 2/5th's of our current rotation lol. See Medlen and Teheran.

jeffreyd
jeffreyd

@RangeRover I'll give you Upton, but I don't see how you can say that at the time of the Uggla extension that it didn't make sense. The previous year he hit almost .290 with over 30 HR and was still in his prime years. By any measure, he should've been one of the Braves' top producers. Stop acting like it was obvious he would faceplant and Wren is the only one who didn't see this coming.

Birdhair
Birdhair

@RangeRover  Couldnt agree more with this comment. What the ajc and others fail to realize is that we are forced to be cheap and find wash-ups like ben sheets or freddy garcia to help for 3-4 games because all of our funds are spent. They are tied-up and tied up long term in deadweight non-performing overpaid garbage.


We need a GM who understands how properly operate given a middle market budget. Our two highest paid players for 2014 are complete garbage.

Calel
Calel

I think we all wished the Braves could trade for a number 1 starter, but there weren't really any to be had, and the price tag would have been far more than we were willing to pay. Plus, to get a Maddux-like pitcher in a trade today would be like getting a Kershaw. And even if the Braves had the goods for a trade like that, they don't have the dollars needed to keep a guy like that. You're right! We'll have to develop a number one starter. And as you know, it's much easier said than done. Let's keep out fingers crossed....because I don't see how this team wins more than they did last year. We had a huge start to the season last year that propelled us to the top, but we faltered in September.....again.

reckingball
reckingball

Or should that be, leadoff could be his most valuable spot,