Baseball Notes: Atlanta Braves 25 years later.
Last night I caught the Red Sox/ Braves game where Rick Porcello beat Julio Tehran in a 1-0 game that sunk Atlanta further into the worst record in the majors. The Twins are tied for the worst record in the AL with the Astros who are a much more talented team that last year made it to the postseason. Neither the Twins or Braves were especially good last year, but it is notable that they were the two World Series teams in 1991, the first year I was really aware of baseball thanks to the 33 cent packs of Score baseball cards I would buy with my allowance that year.
This year's Braves team is a mess, a juxtaposition of those 1991 Braves or the World Series Champion team of 1995. The centerpiece player Freddie Freeman batted 6th last night against the Red Sox and he had to go two for three in the game to get to .200 on the season. He hit a home run on opening day and the Braves have only hit two more homers on the season through 19 games.
The Braves brought in a couple of veterans in off season trades to supplement their inexperienced players with Ender Inciarte and Erick Aybar. Despite the rest of the team, these players were expected to have positive impacts on the Braves. Inciarte was a fourth outfielder with the Diamondbacks the last couple of years but has been able to hit .292 and have 40 SB's through 253 games as well as being a solid outfielder. He hit the DL in the first three games of the season. Aybar wasn't so lucky to get hurt. He has been a mess in the field after being a solid defender for the Angels and a Gold Glover in 2011 and he is only hitting .134 on the season.
These veterans and the continuing presence of A.J. Pierzynski, Jeff Francoeur (hitting surprisingly well in his second time around with the Braves at .300), Nick Markakis (also hitting well, although he was never a power hitter, at .294), and Kelly Johnson (another second time around guy, not hitting though) are meant to mold the younger players on the Braves. The problem is that not all of their younger players are all that much younger. Adonis Garcia, their starting 3B is 31 and just a year younger than Francoeur. Mallex Smith who really is a younger player and whose call up at Inciarte's injury caused a little fantasy news because he is a prospect known for his speed. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem much for being able to get on base, he has just a .136 batting average and a .224 on base percentage and two SB's to go along with his two CS's.
The Braves teams of the '90's were known for their deep rotation sending their three longest standing pitchers to the Hall of Fame in Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine (Maddux was my favorite player until Pedro Martinez emerged with the Red Sox). They also had other quality starters like Steve Avery, Kent Mercker, Jason Schmidt, and Denny Neagle. This year they have Tehran, a couple of veterans who washed out elsewhere and they are trying out prospects like Matt Wisler who isn't having a bad start and Aaron Blair who recently made his debut after joining the Braves from the Shelby Miller trade with the Diamondbacks (who has been a mess for Arizona).
The Braves won't do much this year, but they have been trying to build up their future with prospects that will grow out of the hollowed out husks of Pierzynski, Bud Norris, Jhoulys Chacin, Jason Grilli, Jason Johnson, and Kelly Johnson. With any luck SS Dansby Swanson, #1 overall pick from last year traded for the previously mentioned garbage Shelby Miller, and SP Sean Newcomb, who came in the Andrelton Simmons trade, will make the majors soon and give Atlanta fans something to enjoy watching.
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