April 25, 2009

The NL East, J.J. for C.Y. & The Curse of LF

It’s been a rough week for the Braves—there is no question about that.  Luckily the Mets, Phillies and (thanks to the mighty Bucs) Marlins haven’t been playing well either. As I look at the standings, the Braves are actually in second place, just three games behind the Fish.  I know it’s early, but it makes me feel better to know that the Braves are not out of it yet, and there are five more months (hopefully more) of meaningful baseball to be played.

The gift given by the Nats on Wednesday (finally) gave the Braves a win to go 1-2 in DC.  The Braves were a paultry 6-12 against the Nats last year and if they have any chance to contend in 2009, they need to beat up on this team!  The Nationals are the worst team in all of baseball.  When the schedule-gods smile upon you with 18 games against the low-hanging fruit that are the Washington Nationals, you NEED to pick them, eat them and throw away the pits. The Braves HAVE to beat the Nats! THEY HAVE TO!

J.J. Deserves Better—I once again become violently ill after Jair Jurrjens pitched another GEM without a win.  The kid threw 7.2 scoreless innings, scattering 6 hits and striking out 4. Jurrjens is 2-1 on the season with a 1.42 ERA.  He’s gotten stronger each start and looks like a 10-year veteran, not a 23-year old kid.  Realistically Jurrjens should be 4-0 and an early Cy Young candidate – and NO it’s not too early for me to say that!  He has pitched phenomenal!

The trade that brought J.J. and hot CF prospect Gorkys Hernandez from Detroit to the Braves last year for Edgar Renteria may turn out to be one of the best trades the Braves have ever made… maybe next to that other great heist of a trade the Braves made with the Tigers that netted them that Single-A Smoltz kid.

The Bermuda Triangle that is Left Field—The Braves need to do something about left field.  Garrett Anderson gets hurt looking at his reflection in the mirror and Matt Diaz, who is hitting.209, is a solid major leaguer but isn’t anything more than a role player on a good team.  During the off-season the Braves sought to add a right-handed power bat to their line up who could also fill the void in LF.  Like most off-seasons, it didn’t go according to plan.  The Braves still need to add that player and sooner than later.  Frank Wren needs to call Billy Beane about Matt Holliday…Kenny Williams about Jermaine Dye…Doug Melvin about Cory Hart (I don’t care if he wears sunglasses during night games)…or even Josh Byrnes about his namesake Eric Byrnes or Connor Jackson (his dad is on JAG you know).

What will the Braves have to give up to accquire such a player?  Most likely a small package of pitching prospects that could include Charlie Morton or Jo Jo Reyes…and I’m OK with that.  Not to hate-on Charlie or Jo Jo, but we have Lowe, Jurrjens, Kawakami and (hopefully soon) Tommy Hanson for the next few years and who knows what Tim Hudson will be if he sticks-around. I like that staff.  I’m also very high on Jeff Locke and Cole Rohrbough; two young left-handers the Braves are developing in the minors.

Back to Area 51…

Looking back since the 2000 season, the Braves have lacked consistency in LF with a revolving door of players.  Here are just some of the names:

    2000- Bobby Bonilla, Reggie Sanders, B.J. Surhoff, George Lombard
    2001- Bernard Gilkey, Cory Aldridge, B.J. Surhoff
    2002- Chipper Jones, Ryan Langerhans, Darren Bragg
    2003- Chipper Jones, Ryan Langerhans, Darren Bragg
    2004- Eli Marrero, Charles Thomas, DeWayne Wise, Damon Hollins
    2005- Todd Hollandsworth, Kelly Johnson, Raul Mondesi, Ryan Langerhans
    2006- Ryan Langerhans, Matt Diaz, Scott Thorman, Brian Jordan

2007- Brandon Jones, Ryan Langerhans, Willie Harris, Matt Diaz

    2008- Gregor Blanco, Greg Norton, Matt Diaz, Brandon Jones, Josh Anderson

The Braves have had solid players out there, most notably Chipper Jones in ‘02-’03, and they have dealt with a plague of injuries.  In 2000 Reggie Sanders was neither 100% healthy physically or mentally batting just .232 11HR and 32RBI after being traded from San Diego, and Bobby Bonilla was playing on bad knees. Chipper Jones was a relatively healthy athlete until he started playing left field then the (hamstring) injuries started.  In 2006 Kelly Johnson missed the entire season with Tommy John surgery; not very common for a position player.  In 2008 Matt Diaz missed most of the year with a knee injury.

There is only one thing that makes sense to me to explain what has happened in LF: The northwest corner of Turner Field was built on an Indian (or Brave) Burial Ground!  Maybe it’s Princess Win-a-Lotta, Pac-a-Homer, or any other descendants of Knoc-a-Homa but there is someone under that turf, and someone needs to look into it.  The Braves need to hold a séance or invite the Pope to hold mass and solve this issue once and for all!

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Until next time…Go Braves!



One Response to “The NL East, J.J. for C.Y. & The Curse of LF”

  1. 1
    MikeH Says:

    I agree that JJ has not been getting the credit he deserves. With Lowe, JJ and Vasquez I actually feel pretty good about our starting pitching. I just cringe when it comes time to turn it over to the bullpen.

    The LF has been a hole … really since they took Chief Knoc-A-Homa’s tent out of the LF (hmmmm … superstition connection??) – who ever thought we would look fondly back on the days of Ryan Klesko. I know we called up Jones, but he does not really provide any power with an OPS under 0.800 in AAA, Gorky is hitting well in AA, but again no real power. He will provide some speed. I don’t think we have any true natural LF help from down in the minors until you get down to Heyward in Single A, but he is at least 2 years. I think he will make it to AA before the season is out and maybe a cup of coffee at the end of the season. Think he will be our LF next year or will we have to find another stop-gap like Anderson? I seem to remember Hudson played the OF pretty well at Auburn, maybe if we can’t find a spot for him the rotation he can move out there (just kidding of course).

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