February 23, 2010

Braves Reunion in Atlanta

Tom Glavine made it official earlier this month when he announced his retirement from MLB. We all knew this was coming but were surprised when it did; pleasantly surprised as Glavine also announced that he will be re-joining the Atlanta Braves organization, this time however as a member of the front office. Glavine was officially announced as the Braves “Special Assistant to the President,” John Schuerholz. So, the former representative for the MLB Player’s Association has jumped to the ‘dark side’ so to speak. He will also help Frank Wren and Bobby Cox with special assignments, as well as some radio and TV broadcasts throughout the season.

After what went down last season, it was great to see Glavine back with the Braves. I’m sure many Braves fans had a bad taste in their mouth after Glavine and the Braves parted the way they did last April; me being one. Glavine is a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, and along with Greg Maddux, will be in Cooperstown 4 years from now—as will I (as a fan).

There are only 20 men who have won more games than Glavine’s 305.

This just leaves Mr. Smoltz. There have been some recent rumors going around that Smoltz will go the route Pedro Martinez did last season and join a team after the All-Star Break. It has also been rumored that one possible team is the Braves—go figure. While this would provide closure for Smoltz’s unpleasant departure last season, I don’t think it’ll happen. Don’t get me wrong, I would love, LOVE for Smoltz to help the Braves in their bullpen, but Smoltz is looking for about $3 Million and the Braves just don’t have the money to throw around like they did in the Ted Turner days. Well….well, let me re-phrase that; they don’t WANT to throw money around like they used to. Unfortunately for many Braves fans, I just don’t think it will be a fit for him or the Braves.

Aside from a World Series title, there aren’t many scenarios that would cap the end to Bobby Cox’s final season than having Glavine and Smoltz re-join the Braves and ride off into the sunset together, but if Smoltz doesn’t work out, maybe someone else will…

How about the Braves bring back Juan Berenguer? I’m sure he can’t be much worse than Manny Acosta has been. Or maybe, just maybe we can get Brad Clontz back. At least we’d get a laugh when he blows a game rather than tears when Takashi Saito gets lit up.

Maybe pitching isn’t the way to go. I’m sure Ryan Klesko’s free and couldn’t be any worse than Greg Norton was last year. And if by some chance he actually connected with a ball, we could relive his trips up and down the bench, telling anyone who would listen how he rocked that 88MPH fastball (that Vinny Castilla would have missed).

Lead-off Man: So, with Johnny Damon in Detroit, the Braves need to find someone on their roster to fill the leadoff spot. Since acquired from Pittsburg last year, Nate McLouth has filled that role for the Braves. He fits the mould better than anyone on the Braves’ roster. Problem is McLouth has indicated that he feels more comfortable batting down in the order. He did battle a hamstring injury for most of the second-half last season but hitting just .259 is not what you want out of the leadoff spot.

When McLouth wasn’t hitting leadoff last season, the spot was filled by OF Matt Diaz. While he did well, I don’t feel he’s a leadoff hitter. He was in a zone for much of the second half, but I don’t see that carrying into this year. Some publications suggest SS Yunel Escobar should take this role. I STRONGLY disagree. Escobar is a career .337 hitter with RISP, and was even better than that last year. For a team with issues scoring runs, you NEED this guy hitting with men on base—not leadoff.

It will most likely be Nate McLouth to fill this role, but I wouldn’t mind seeing OF Melky Cabrera given a shot. He hasn’t gotten much love since he was sent to Atlanta in the Javier Vazquez deal, but being from New York, surrounded by Yankee fans, I have seen and heard nothing but great things about the Melk-Man. He is an above average fielder, with a plus arm, who can play all three OF positions. He is clutch, racking- up 13 walk-off hits. He is also great in the clubhouse, a characteristic often overlooked these days, but one of the most important traits a winning team exhibits.

Well, I guess we can only wait and see. And hey, I hear Tony Tarasco isn’t up to much these days—bet he could bat leadoff!

Follow me on Twitter @ BRAVEinNY.

Until Next time…Go Braves!



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