Has Terry Pendleton Helped or Hurt the Braves Hitters?

Written by Ben on April 28, 2010 – 9:48 am

Editor’s note: Several of our writers have varying opinions on TP’s success as Braves’ hitting coach. Expect to see a few opinions expressed in the coming days and weeks as it’s a hot topic in Braves Nation.

I read an interesting article on one Braves’ bloggers thoughts of Terry Pendleton on TalkingChop.com. In this article, the author gives an in depth statistical analysis of how certain players have faired better in Atlanta than in other cities, whether it be before or after their arrivals.

I commented on this article, citing that there are other explanations for a player’s success in Atlanta or lack of success in another city.

There are players that had career years in Atlanta, players that are presumed to have used PEDs (Marcus Giles, Garry Sheffield), players who hit walls after leaving Atlanta, and there is the fact that some players just may be more comfortable playing in the Atlanta environment rather than in other cities.

The analysis was solid, and it did point to success under TP which cannot be denied. If players produce more in Atlanta, whether TP is helpful or not, something is working.

However, in this case, I feel there should be an adjustment made to the Braves staff, and I feel that Pendleton has the target on his back.

There are three particular cases that I feel correlate Terry Pendleton with a lack of success as a hitting coach. Those cases are the failures of Kelly Johnson, Jeff Francouer, and Andruw Jones.

Kelly Johnson currently has seven home runs, eight doubles, and leads the National League in slugging. We all know Kelly is streaky, and his production will certainly come down, but it appears that Kelly is on pace to reach that 25 home run potential that everyone thought he would reach as a Brave.

Scott White of CBS Fantasy Baseball wrote an article on former Braves producing well thus far in 2010, and pretty much nailed the Kelly Johnson disaster in Atlanta on its head, in my opinion.

“See, the surprise with Johnson was more his performance last year than his performance this year. Or at least it should have been. After the way the Braves handled him, you’d never know it.
They grew impatient with Johnson. Wanting to see consistent rather than sporadic power from him, they discouraged the patient approach that made him so enticing in the first place. It messed with his mind, warped his God-given instincts and made him a flailing mess of a hitter.”

These are my exact feelings on the situation as well, and I have felt this same way since before last season even began. The trend of Kelly raising his average, but decreasing his on base percentage, slugging percentage, and home runs was not a trend that I nor any Brave follower should be fond of.

In 2008’s spring training and throughout the season, there were articles written consistently stating how Kelly was going to try to be more aggressive to avoid strikeouts and to try to be more consistent. Everyone would love consistency, but from what we have seen from Kelly over the past half-decade, this just was not going to happen. It is simply not Kelly Johnson, and even I, as well as many other Braves bloggers, understood that Kelly’s potential would not be reached if his approach at the plate, which made him such a great talent, was altered.

Kelly is not the only Brave who saw his career reach its valley as a Brave. Andruw Jones and Jeff Francoeur, two more unbelievably talented players did so as well. Of course, there are many more factors that came into play that saw their production dwindle, but the fact that they did so in a Braves uniform and now are producing better numbers cannot be ignored.

Jeff has not played a full year with the Mets, so it is hard to say that he will be better than he was as a Brave, but in 308 plate appearances last year with the Mets, Francoeur had an OBP of .338 with a 120 OPS+, and this year he has a .349 OBP with a 122 OPS+. These are his highest totals since his first half-season as a Brave. I still think Jeff will come down, but the fact that he improved once he left the team should be noted.

The Andruw story is yet to be finished as well. He had a miserable season with the Dodgers after signing as a free agent and was only average as a Ranger the following year. This year he has been productive, but it is clear that something was wrong for the past few years. I don’t blame Pendleton for Andruw’s demise, but a preventative approach and working with Andruw consistently following his 41 homer season of 2007 may have been better than trying to fix his swing midway through his terrible 2008. It was easy to see that Jones got homer happy, and once that happens it is hard to fix.

Using this season’s Braves’ hitters statistics right now would be silly, due to the fact that we are only a few weeks into the season and some players are bound to hit better, and some are bound to hit worse.

Again, Pendleton cannot be solely to blame for these players performing poorly while in Atlanta, but the fact remains that they did indeed produce career lows under his tutelage. The fact that there have been no career saving stories to match these, shows that Pendleton is at least far from a superb hitting coach. Firing Pendleton may seem like a knee-jerk reaction, but with the offense sputtering for the past few seasons a change seems like it is needed and Pendleton should probably be the one to go.


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Braves Beat Mets In Opener

Written by Colin on July 17, 2009 – 6:53 am

I hate to be the guy who says it, but we’re all thinking it: Finally, the Braves benefitted from every at-bat Jeff Francoeur had.

Don’t get me wrong – I like the guy – but I am glad he’s not hacking away for our team as we’re trying to take a crucial series from the Mets. This first few series after the All-Star Break are important. This one, particularly so. After a polite and well-deserved ovation, Francoeur hit into a double play on the first pitch – vintage Francoeur. There’s a microcosm of his career with the Braves – we love him, but he hacks and gets out. He went 0-4 on the night.

The real story is Chipper’s continued dominance of the Mets – he poked a go-ahead RBI single through the infield to give the Braves a lead they wouldn’t give back. Lowe pitched an excellent game, the bullpen was great, and the Braves took home the first game of the series.

Now it’s time to do it again – we need to take this series!


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Looking Forward To The Mets

Written by Jonathan on July 16, 2009 – 4:30 pm

To look forward to the Mets series to kick off the second half of the season, Colin from here at Braves Blast answered some questions for Matthew Falkenbury over at The Daily Stache.  An excerpt of the article is below and be sure to head over and check out their site (and feel free to harass them about the Mets).

Matthew Falkenbury: What has been the opinion of the Braves fans out there about the Ryan Church for Jeff Francoeur deal?

Colin Ake: Francoeur came up to unbelievable hype two years ago and has not been able to meet the (admittedly unrealistic) expecations put on him by a Sports Illustrated cover calling him “The Natural.” He’s since had two subpar seasons and hasn’t been able to get back on track. The Braves coaches have been frustrated by him seemingly not being willing to learn and decided it was time to trade for someone more productive. Church will hit for more average than Francoeur but has less long-term upside, which is not an issue with the crop of outfielders (including Jason Heyward) that the Braves have coming up. It’s about a fair trade – we get for the short term someone who can hit for higher average and platoon with Matt Diaz, and the Mets get someone with larger long-term upside, IF Francoeur can turn it around. I think we all hope he turns it around – he’s a nice guy – we’d just rather not see the Mets benefit from it.

MF: Who was the Braves best player in the 1st half and who needs to step it up in the 2nd half?

CA: Best player in the first half? Brian McCann offensively, and probably Jair Jurrjens or Javier Vazquez on the mound. I’d say that the bullpen needs to be more consistent in the second half of the season, and the offense HAS to step it up. Yunel Escobar has to stop making mental errors – he’s talented but gets cocky sometimes. The collective offense just has to step it up – that’s the final answer here.

Head on over to The Daily Stache to read the rest of the article.


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Francoeur, Church Debut With New Teams

Written by Jonathan on July 12, 2009 – 9:01 am

Last night saw Jeff Francoeur and Ryan Church step onto the field in their respective new team colors.  Francoeur, who admittedly was a little stressed about starting to play for his once division rivals, calmed his nerves early with a decent night at the plate for the Mets.  He got his chance early in the game to make an impression on the New York fans.  In Francoeur’s first at-bat in blue and orange, he came to the plate with one-out and the bases loaded.  Fighting off a pitch, he dropped a single just inside the line in short right field, plating two runs.  This was all that the Mets and Johan Santana would need as they cruised to a 4-0 victory over the Reds.

It wasn’t a completely flawless night for Frenchie however, when he got caught stealing second in the seventh inning.  He took off for the base a little early and, Reds’ pitcher, Carlos Fisher turned and threw him out at second.  The Mets shouldn’t have to look to do much for Francoeur fielding-wise.  He’s a one-time Gold Glove winner (2007) and is respected around the league for his powerful arm.

Ryan Church’s debut for Atlanta wasn’t quite as good as Francoeur’s, who ended the game 2-4 with 2 RBI.  Church went 0-4 and left a couple runners in scoring position.

Overall, I think this trade will work out for both teams for the time being.  A fresh start for Francoeur might be what he needs, but I’m concerned that he’s getting that fresh start as a member of a division rival.  You don’t want him to find himself and his abilities inside the division and start making you pay for it.  Church looks to be lined up to work a right field platoon with Matt Diaz for the Braves, which should work out well from the plate.  Let’s just hope that he can avoid getting another concussion from Escobar in the coming weeks.

So now that the trade has had a little time to sink in, how is everyone feeling about it?  I’ll admit, it will be a little strange seeing Francoeur in a Mets uniform, but he just wasn’t performing like the Braves needed him to.


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Francoeur Parts Ways With Braves

Written by Jonathan on July 10, 2009 – 7:10 pm

After a couple months of looking to trade Jeff Francoeur, the Braves have finally come to an agreement with a taker.  Ryan Church will be coming to Atlanta in a deal that sends Francoeur and cash to the New York Mets.

After starting his career in Atlanta in 2005, many expected Francoeur to be in Atlanta for quite some time, but in the past two seasons, he has failed to live up to expectations of the fans and the club.  Since the start of the 2008 seasons, he has compiled a .243 average while only slugging .357.

Ryan Church has hit .280 with two home runs so far this season while Francoeur has hit. 250 with five home runs.  Church never has really hit for power, but in 2007, finished up with 15 home runs.  He can consistently hit for average, but we’ll just have to wait and see how this trade works out in the long run.  There’s always the chance that Frank Wren will move Church back out of Atlanta in the not so distant future.

I think fans will be pretty divided on this one.  There will be the group that is happy to see Francoeur go and will say good riddance.  Then there is the group that will cry about it and call for Frank Wren to be fired.  Good decision or not, it will take some time to tell.  Where do you stand on the issue?


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Posted in Roster Moves | 10 Comments »

Braves Need Outfield Upgrade

Written by Colin on June 12, 2009 – 5:31 am

Batting .240. One home run every 10 games. An on base percentage of .272. Folks, those aren’t last year’s stats.

Jeff Francoeur – “The Natural” – came into Spring Training with a new outlook on life. He was swinging differently, poking opposite field hits again, and promised he’d stick to his guns. But here we are, 25% of the way through the season, and he’s right back where he was last year. He’s playing worse than Garret Anderson, for crying out loud. And that’s saying something.

As much as it pains me to make this assessment, it might be time for Jeff to go. He needs a change of scenery. That’s nothing more than my personal opinion. But I’ve stood up for Jeff for the longest time. He’s just the hole in our lineup that needs patching at this point. Between him and Diaz/Anderson in left, our corner outfield positions have no bite. I’ll go ahead and say it – either Francoeur is moving or Diaz/Anderson are moving before the trade deadline. What other positions do we upgrade? Second base – who are we going to land there? We got McLouth. We need more offense. We can’t have traded for McLouth and still not have enough firepower. The pitching staff is solid. We have to make a run. And I’m not convinced that Francoeur has what it takes to play right field full-time on a contending team.

That’s hard for me to do. I really really REALLY like the guy. I really want him to succeed. I want him to turn it around starting tomorrow and prove me wrong. But a .240 average with a projected 16 home runs isn’t what we need out of a corner outfielder if we are to couple a potent offense with our pitching staff.

If we can keep Francoeur, I’ll be happy. But he’s got to step it up, and I don’t see that happening. He’s gone to the minors for a game or two. He’s changed his swing. He’s reverted to his old hack-and-hope mindset, and now I think it’s time to cut bait.

Tell me how I’m wrong. Convince me otherwise. But for now I’m looking at who can replace Francoeur, Anderson, and Diaz. We have got to get better offensive output from our outfield.


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Posted in Speculation | 14 Comments »

Braves Interested In Penny?

Written by Colin on June 6, 2009 – 7:44 am

ESPN is reporting that the Braves are eyeing – get this – starting pitcher Brad Penny. The Red Sox are said to be eyeing Jeff Francoeur. The idea is that Kawakami has been very effective in his first 45 pitches and that the Braves could add Penny to the rotation and move Kawakami to the bullpen.

That’s ridiculous.

There’s no way the Braves need another starting pitcher right now – especially one who struggled in the early part of this season. The MLB’s Mark Bowman says that if Kawakami struggles, then Kris Medlen will move from the bullpen to the starting rotation in place of Kawakami. I’d have to agree. And I don’t think Kawakami will struggle as much if he gets some actual run support. Once again, the Braves have scored only 1.5 runs on average while Kawakami is in the game. With an earned run average of 4.63, that’s not winning many games. More offense will help that.

No way the Sox are moving Penny to Atlanta. They may be interested in Francoeur, but they’ll have to give up something other than a starting pitcher to move him.


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Posted in General, Speculation | 4 Comments »

The Issues From The Nats Series

Written by Rue on April 12, 2009 – 7:53 pm

Fans at Turner Field definitely got their money’s worth this weekend during the Braves 2009 opening series versus the Washington Nationals. From torrential downpours, hail and extra innings to watching our favorites hit in run after run, the Braves definitely left many of us feeling a little better after a topsy-turvy off-season. However, I don’t want to talk about Frenchie’s two triples, or Kelly Johnson’s home run, or a standard Chipper Jones RBI or two. These are things that should be expected from the names that front the Braves organization. After all, constructive criticism is what facilitates positive change – so let’s look at where we fell short.

First point of discussion: should the Braves have expected to sweep the Nationals? Or is it more a taste of what is to come for the remainder of the season? Are we just getting warmed up, or are we the type of team that just squeaks on by? Or did we more than squeak by?

Second point: should we keep our lineup the way that it is? During games, I do regular score-keeping. I scored the Friday and Saturday games and noticed that at a certain point in the batting order, we tend to leave runners on base. Francoeur did a wonderful job today showing us what we used to love about him – two triples, but let’s look at the big picture. Yes, he hit that homer in Philadelphia, but Frenchy’s OBP is only 0.269, and on Saturday, he was 0-4 with a walk.

Matt Diaz is more impressive than we’re giving him credit for. He’s not turning out incredible stats, but keep your eyes on him. He has a higher on base percentage than Francoeur, and has dropped some of those extra pounds so is showing a lot more speed. Jordan Schafer is living up to his hype and was beyond impressive on Saturday night in my book. Anyone complaining about his strikeouts better not claim that makes him inferior to his predecessor, Andruw Jones, or less of a young attribute than Jeff Francoeur. So far, the Braves’ weak spots are not what anyone would have expected. Statistically speaking, Francoeur, McCann, and Kotchman are where we see those LOB stats add up, with the lowest on-base percentages. Do we break that up, move it around, keep it, change it? Or is it too early to tell?

As an armchair GM, what changes would you propose? Would you change the lineup? Where are we falling short? What should we be noticing but aren’t praising?


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Posted in Game Analysis | 7 Comments »

Braves Baseball Is Back!

Written by Colin on April 6, 2009 – 8:44 pm

It’s far too late for me to write a game recap (forgive me, I was in Phoenix last night watching the game from a crappy hotel room) – but I do want to throw together some thoughts I had last night during the game. Please feel free to add your own, argue with mine, or just sit there and read this complacently before moving on to another website.

Derek Lowe Is Solid

He’s not going to wow us every night with heaters – he’s not the typical power pitcher ace most people think of – but he’s a very solid, methodical pitcher who is going to give us quality start after quality start. And when he’s on – like he was last night – he can be very, very good.

Francoeur Will Be Back

You saw Francoeur’s line drive home run last night – he’s going to hit the ball hard night after night this year. Once he gets more used to his stance, we’ll see more power forthcoming – but I’ll take the Francoeur we saw last night. That said, he needs to work on his throw from the right field corner to third. He’s got a reputation to keep.

Jordan Schafer Is Fast

Did you see how fast he cleared the bases after his homerun? What about when he almost ran over Kelly Johnson who was taking a couple steps back to field a fly ball in short right center? The guy has legs. What a night for his first game – a single, an intentional walk and finally a strikeout that made him look silly. I think we’ll see some good stuff from Jordan this year – I’m certainly looking forward to it.

The Braves Looked Good

Lowe pitched well. Schafer showed us a little bit of what he can do. Francoeur looks good. But let’s not forget Chipper – who did what Chipper does – stroking balls comfortably the other way. Yunel almost knocked a homer of his own. Kotchman showed us some defense. McCann crushed a ball that almost landed in another state. Gonzo came out of the bullpen with (a little too much) energy – but once he gets that under control he’ll be the dominant closer he is. When all was said and done, Lowe had an 8 inning, two-hit performance and the Braves beat the Phillies 4-1.

For the first time this season, New York Mets fans cheered for the Braves. And when the Mets played today, Braves fans cheered for the Reds. It’s baseball season, folks. It’s back, and so are the Braves. Now we just have to prove that to the rest of the baseball.


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Posted in Game Analysis, General | 10 Comments »

Braves Have Added More Than You Think

Written by Kent on March 23, 2009 – 6:00 am

There has been plenty of buzz this spring about the new faces the Braves have added by way of trade and free agency. And rightly so. Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, Javier Vazquez, and Garrett Anderson, among others, signify a major upgrade to last year’s injury depleted squad. But if you think these four players represent the only substantial improvements to the Atlanta roster… think again.

Unable to help the Braves much, if at all, in 2007 (because of injury, underperformance, or having not yet arrived in the big leagues), there are several bats and arms in the Braves’ camp that could have a substantial impact on the ’09 season.

EACH OF THE FOLLOWING PLAYERS COULD PROVE TO BE THE EQUIVALENT OF A SIGNIFICANT FREE AGENT SIGNING:

Rafael Soriano: Having spent the majority of last season on the disabled list with discomfort in his pitching elbow, Soriano now appears healthy and ready to help anchor the back end of the bullpen. Since moving to the ‘pen in his sophomore season with the Mariners, Soriano has a career ERA of about 2.50. When healthy, the hard-throwing righty is one of the top setup men in the game.

Peter Moylan: The submarine-tossing ‘Ausie’ posted the third best ERA (1.80) in baseball in 2007, over 90 innings pitched. After missing most of last season recovering from “Tommy John” surgery, Moylan’s rehabilitation is ahead of schedule, and he is expected to be ready on opening day. The return of Peter Moylan could give the Braves another dominant late-inning reliever to go with Soriano and closer, Mike Gonzalez.

Tom Glavine: The legendary lefty’s rehabilitation from off-season surgery (to repair his pitching arm) is on track, and Glavine is expected to make his first start, on schedule, in late April. In 2007, Glavine was fifth in the NL in quality starts with 23, and not coincidentally, he finished the season with 13 wins. If healthy enough to regain his ’07 form, baseball’s only active 300-game winner could once again notch double-digit wins for the Braves.

Tommy Hanson: Considered by many to be the top overall pitching prospect in baseball, Hanson this spring has given the Braves all the more reason to believe he’s ready to record outs in the big leagues. With an already fully staffed starting rotation, it appears that an injury to a Braves starter would be the only immediate path to the Atlanta’s 25-man roster. However, while not particularly likely, it is conceivable that the Braves might consider trading one of their starting pitchers at some point during the season, creating a Major League job opening for Hanson in ’09.

Tim Hudson: The Braves ace is currently ‘rehabbing’ from “Tommy John” surgery, and is believe to be on track for a late August or early September return. While the Braves certainly are not counting on Hudson in any way for the upcoming season, he could give this Braves team one more considerable weapon down the stretch.

Jeff Francoeur: After experiencing a season-long slump in ‘08 that saw him hit just .239 with only 11 homeruns, “Frenchy” is on a mission to (at least) regain his pre-2008 form. So far, so good. As of this writing, he is hitting .350 for the spring. He has just 1 strikeout in 40 at-bats, to go with 6 walks and 9 RBI. He is driving the ball to all fields and has shown nothing of his prior tendency (even in his better seasons) to swing at pitches well out of the strikezone. Replacing the ’08 model of Jeff Francoeur with the ’07 version – or better- would be tantamount to having inked a big free agent slugger over the winter.

Matt Diaz: Diaz lost much of his ‘08 season to a knee injury after getting off to a slow start as the Braves everyday left-fielder. But it should not be forgotten that he hit .333 in 655 combined at-bats in ’06 and ’07. While the addition of Garrett Anderson undoubtedly represents an upgrade to the Atlanta outfield, the return of a healthy and sharp Matt Diaz may prove every bit as valuable. Diaz is currently batting around .400 with 5 extra-base hits and 11 RBI in just over 40 at-bats this spring.

Jordan Schafer: One of the most heralded prospects in the Braves organization, Schafer appears ready to contribute at the Major League level. Despite frequent strikeouts, Schafer has hit nearly .400 so far this spring, and has demonstrated why he is considered a “5-tool” top-quality prospect. For a variety of reasons (NOT related to his spring performance), he may start the season at AAA, but don’t be surprised if Schafer makes a big league splash in 2009.

If the afore mentioned players are healthy and performing well (and so far this spring, all systems are “go”) the Braves will have essentially added the following for the 2009 season:

4 quality starting pitchers, including a #1 starter… 2 dominant late-inning relievers… 1 big middle-of-the-order bat, and at least 2 other quality hitters.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Braves expect better things from Mike Gonzalez (who is now entirely healthy/rested and back at “100%”), and Blaine Boyer, who won’t be overworked or prematurely thrust into late-inning duties, as he was last year. What’s more, Braves officials feel we haven’t seen the best of Yunnel Escobar, Kelly Johnson, or Casey Kotchman.

When you put it all together, we are looking at a Braves team that could surprise a great many people in 2009.  How do you feel about this team? What do you think about the pieces the Braves have added, both from without and within the organization?


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Jeff Francoeur – Preseason Evaluation

Written by Jonathan on March 6, 2009 – 4:31 pm

It’s one month until Opening Day and one big question that Braves fans are going to have when that day rolls around is whether or not Jeff Francoeur is ready to pick up where he left off in 2007 and forget that the woes of 2008 ever happened.  After avoiding an arbitration hearing and settling for a contract just two weeks ago, we’re hoping he’s in the process of moving on and focusing on his retooled mechanics.

Coming into yesterday’s preseason game, Jeff hadn’t really done much worth mentioning.  In 5 games and 11 at-bats, he managed 1 hit and reached on two walks.  Now granted, it’s the beginning of Spring Training and it’s hard to really get onto anyone for lack of performance, but Francoeur is under some added speculation and pressure.  In the 4th inning of the game yesterday, however, he knocked a two-run shot off of Brad Nelson.

Although off of a minor league pitcher, it’s the first real sign of power we’ve seen out of Francoeur in Spring Training, though he’s been making contact a lot better so far this year.  We will have to wait another couple of weeks as the season approaches and players are getting fully geared up for the season to see how he looks, but it’s been an up and down stretch so far.  Do you think Frenchie has it in him to turn it around this season?  We can only hope so. 


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Francoeur Signs Contract

Written by Jonathan on February 19, 2009 – 9:47 am

Just a day or so before heading to Arizona to have his arbitration hearing, Jeff Francoeur has reached a contract agreement with the Braves.  Now the focus can turn towards Spring Training and bouncing back from the tough season he went through last year, batting only .239 with 11 home runs.  The agreement gives Jeff a base salary of $3.375 million with some small incentives to push the contract a little past $3.4 million.

This is a huge step in the right direction for Francoeur.  I’ve been concerned as the days have passed, and we got closer to the schedule arbitration hearing date, that going to an actual hearing was the last thing that he needed to do for himself, his performance and the team.  Frenchy is no doubt still a little fragile mentally after the tough going he experienced last season, and the process of the arbitration hearing likely would have been damaging to him.  The Braves would have been able to make a strong argument at the hearing for their salary figure, which was $2.8 million, given past performance.  Jeff had requested $3.95 million.

In other contract news, Chipper Jones and the Braves are in the process of negotiating a contract that will keep Chipper in Atlanta for a few more years.  Chipper has always played in Atlanta and only wants to play in Atlanta.  As we discussed earlier on in the offseason, not giving him a new contract to keep him here is not an option.  There are still a lot of details to work through for the soon-to-be 37-year-old third baseman, but at least the front office is making the effort to get talks underway.  Chipper has continued to maintain that he will not discuss a new contract once the season begins.

So the contracts are signed, no one’s headed towards arbitration and we’re one step closer to getting baseball season started for 2009.  Next on the list…..figuring out who is going to fill out the rest of the outfield to give Francoeur a hand.


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Posted in Roster Moves | 7 Comments »

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