June 06, 2012

First Impressions

The construction of Marlin’s Park cost approximately 515 million dollars. To put that in perspective, it’s over six times the Braves 2012 total payroll. Miami certainly didn’t waste the money. The stadium is visually pleasing, and if it can draw big crowds it can pay for itself over time. The artwork beyond center field is beautiful, although thanks to Uggla it’s got a baseball-sized bruise on it.

And the field is huge. I know I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but it looks like you could drop Coors Field and The Great American Ballpark inside Marlin’s Park and still have some wiggle room. For the moment, the big outfield suits our defense well. How many extra-base hits did our outfielders take away last night by running down balls hit to the gaps or over their heads? And how many of those hits would have been homeruns in other parks?

Uggla certainly didn’t have a problem with the deep fences, and Andrelton Simmons sent a ball rattling around in the outfield to the tune of his first major-league triple. I know it’s only been three games since Simmons was called up, so maybe it’s a little early to be singing his praise, but I’ve been very impressed with our new short stop, and I find him to be a better overall fit for our lineup that Pastornicky. If nothing else, when I see a ground ball to short, I’m excited to see Simmons handle it, not nervous like I felt with the ball headed Tyler’s way.

And isn’t the knock on Simmons supposed to be his bat? But he hit almost .300 in triple A, and what I’ve seen from him at the plate with the Braves has been pretty good. He looks comfortable, not rigid, or wound-up, or jittery at the dish like you see in some rookies. He’s played three full games now, and he’s got four hits (including a double and a triple) and three RBIs. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect him to keep this up and hit over three hundred for the season, but I don’t think it’s out of line to say he’ll be a productive offensive player.

Perhaps what impresses me most about the Simmons Pastornicky transition is that the front office actually pulled the trigger and set the whole thing in motion. It would have been very easy for them to play it safe, stick with Pastornicky until the All-Star break, or until the end of the season. Some fans might have been upset, but the front office could have reasonably defended their decision. But they made the switch, and for that I commend them.

I keep hearing this phrase: the Andrelton Simmons era. Wouldn’t that be great, to have enough stability and consistency from an everyday player to give him his own era? Just last night, the Marlin’s commentators speculated that the Braves expect Simmons to be their starting shortstop for fifteen years.

First impressions don’t always offer an accurate representation of a person or player. Remember Jordan Schafer’s first at-bat with the Braves? It ended in a homerun to center field. Jeff Francoeur homered in his first game with Atlanta. And J-Hey hit homers in his first at-bats of his rookie and sophomore seasons, and now there’s a whole faction of Braves fans who want to chase him out of town like an angry mob.

Simmons will slump. That’s inevitable. He will, of course, make errors. The way he handles himself when he’s having bad games, or making mistakes, or in a rut, will reveal what kind of player he really is and whether or not we can actually depend on him for years to come. Right now, I don’t need to see fireworks from Simmons to be excited for him. I just need him to maintain some confidence, do what he knows how to do, and to continue learning from his coaches and teammates. I do hope we can look back in a few years and see this season as the beginning of the Andrelton Simmons era.

Tell me in the comments what you think of Simmons or Marlin’s Park, or send me a tweet @ThomasMDuncan.



One Response to “First Impressions”

  1. 1
    Shaun Says:

    I see Simmons as an Alex Gonzalez type. Of course Simmons probably won’t have near the power of Gonzalez but he could hit for a higher average and he’s faster and therefore he may get on base at a little higher rate, which may make their offensive value very similar. And he may be an even better defender than Gonzalez. He certainly seems to have a stronger arm.

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