I’ve never been so proud of the Phillies and Mets in my life. It was tough fighting back tears listening to the crowd in Philly chanting “U-S-A” after the breaking news about the death of Osama bin Laden.
Whenever I think of “things American,” baseball is one of the first things that comes to mind. American ballparks are one of the few places where we revel in the fact that we are Americans and are proud of where we live. Where else is the National Anthem played, followed by “God Bless America,” and you hear little kids getting frustrated with anyone “exercising their rights” by not standing up? I love it every time I hear a kid ask someone why they aren’t standing during the Star Spangled Banner.
At Turner Field Sunday games, we honor our military service members who have returned from deployment and thank them for their sacrifices to give us our protection and maintain our freedom. When those military personnel take the field, nearly everyone in the stadium stands, claps, and cheers. This is especially touching for me as my significant other is currently deployed in a special operations unit in Afghanistan, and every game I ask “is it Dan this time? Is he home early?” I am always especially happy to see the smile on their face, knowing what they have been through, what they have given up, and knowing how glad they are to be back. “Thank you” is never really enough no matter how many times we say it or how much we mean it.
I can’t even begin to describe the sacrifice that these people and their families make, and how absolutely proud I am that the people who love the game that I love really show that they support and understand, appreciate, and respect that.
Hopefully the Atlanta Braves organization can continue to be a leader in American pride, military appreciation, and tradition. I am a proud American, and in the spirit of unity, I’m really proud of the Mets and Phillies fans who banded together last night truly proving that we’re all in this together.
Tags: America, American Dream, baseball, New York Mets, Osama Bin Laden, Philadelphia Phillies, Values
Posted in General | No Comments »
In the last two weeks, the Atlanta Braves have played the Tampa Bay Rays, the Philadelphia Phillies have played the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Now the Florida Marlins are playing the Rays and the New York Mets are taking on the Yankees now that they’ve demolished the pitiful Baltimore Orioles. The record so far? The NL East has won 12 games, the AL East had won 5.
The NL East is good this year. Yes, our Bravos are good (and we’re damn good). We’re 29-0 when we score 5 runs or more, and we have the best home record in baseball. But it’s not a one-team division. The Phillies are starting to bat again and have started winning a few games. And though the Mets have been beating up on last place teams like the Orioles and Indians, they’ve won 8 straight. The Marlins and Nationals have shown flashes of brilliance but are riding some younger teams that aren’t developed to the point they need to be at to compete in the NL East.
The AL East is good too. Obviously you have the defending World Champ Yankees. I will point out their pitching staff has been improved by an NL East castoff (Vazquez). The Rays are just playing great baseball in almost every aspect of the game, and then you’ve got the Red Sox hanging just one game back. Even the Blue Jays have surprised and are playing six games above .500. The Orioles don’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as the word “good,” but I just screwed that up, didn’t I?
Bottom line is the NL East is comparable to the AL East. Even if you throw out the Orioles series (as might be fair), we’ve won 9 of 14. But we won’t throw series out. After all, the Yankees and Rays have played the O’s and those wins count towards their .612 win percentage. We’ve won 12 out of 17 games.
I’m going to go out on a limb (a very strong limb) and predict an NL East vs. AL East World Series. With a National League Champion.
Tags: AL East, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, New York Yankees, NL East Blogs, Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays
Posted in General, League Analysis | 4 Comments »
Very recently, we posted my tribute to the ever lovable Phillies fan. I must tell you that I was truly blown away by the gratitude of Phillies fans, apparently moved that we would take the time to honor them on a Braves blog. Phillies fans never disappoint.
But what about Mets fans? If anything, they’re even MORE deserving a collective toast from Braves faithful and baseball fans everywhere. Their longsuffering loyalty and a devotion that defies all logic is something about which we should all stand in awe. I can think of no fan more deserving of the following homage. Enjoy!
Tags: Fans, Mets, New York Mets, Tribute
Posted in General | 17 Comments »
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.
Tags: Jeff Francoeur, New York Mets, Ryan Church
Posted in Series Previews | No Comments »
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?
Tags: Jeff Francoeur, Jeff Francoeur to Mets, Jeff Francoeur Traded, New York Mets
Posted in Roster Moves | 10 Comments »
This is why we signed Derek Lowe.
While the Braves’ offense faced Johan Santana, Lowe went to the mound in the brand new Citi Field to ensure the Mets continued the trend of offering Santana little or no run support. Santana, for his part, was very good – he held the Braves to seven hits and two unearned runs in 6 1/3 innings. But the Braves’ offense backed Lowe’s great start with enough productivity to take advantage of the Mets’ errors. What was a tie game turned into an 8-3 win for the Braves – and Lowe improved to 5-1 on the year.
Santana has had some bad luck against the Braves. Despite being arguably the best pitcher in baseball, he’s 0-4 against the Braves in six starts (Braves have won 5 out of 6). The Mets are paying Santana a LOT of money and though he’s been effective, he’s not walking off with the win against the Bravos. After yesterday’s outing, Santana’s ERA is a ridiculous 0.78, by the way. Interesting tidbit: The Braves are the only team in baseball Santana has faced without winning.
This is why Derek Lowe is the ace of the staff – he’s a big game pitcher. “I love facing guys like that – especially Santana,” Lowe said, “He’s going to beat you more than you beat him. But it’s fun to pitch in those games, when every pitch could be the game.”
Interestingly enough, Lowe offered some high praise after the game for Jair Jurrjens. “We have our best pitcher going tomorrow,” Lowe said – referring to the young Curacao native. I’ll also point out that New York’s beloved “Larrrry” was sitting out of last night’s game.
Star of the road trip: The Braves are 5-1 on this 8 game road trip so far, and you have to pin a lot of it on Casey Kotchman, who has 10 RBI in the past 5 games. Kotchman is hitting the ball well and showing us why the Braves thought he’d be a good fit at first base.
Tags: Derek Lowe, Johan Santana, New York Mets
Posted in Game Analysis | 2 Comments »
The Braves are in the thick of the race for Derek Lowe – SI reports today that the Braves have offered something akin to $60M over four years. This beats the Mets offering, which is around $36M for three years. Lowe, if you didn’t know, was 14-11 with a 3.24 ERA last season with the Dodgers.
If you think the Braves are done this offseason, it looks like they’re finally ready to play ball with the biggest pitcher left on the market and have a pretty decent rotation by the time September rolls around. Imagine Lowe, Jurrjens, Kawakami, Vazquez, and Hudson. We’d have Morton and Hanson, in the wings. I’d think that maybe Campillo goes back to the ‘pen this year as our long reliever. The Braves still need to add a bat to replace the hole left by Mark Teixeira. I pray to heaven it doesn’t involve Andruw Jones, as some suggest. If we can muster enough offense to make it to the postseason, we’ll have a mean rotation IF we land Lowe.
The Braves also signed Omar Infante to a two-year deal, with a team option for a third year. Omar was pretty good for us as a utility player last year. He hit .293 with 24 doubles and 40 RBIs.
Remaining shopping list:
- Big bat
- Sign Will Ohman
- Extend Chipper’s Contract
C’mon Braves, sign Lowe so we can be somewhat optimistic about the upcoming season. Mets fans, you can go sit on a tack.
Tags: Braves courting Lowe, Chipper Jones, Derek Lowe, New York Mets, Omar Infante, Will Ohman
Posted in Roster Moves, Speculation | 3 Comments »
I almost feel like I should be writing about the Rays after what they did (again) last night. Is there seriously a better team around right now? I doubt it, I almost wonder how they keep doing it day in and day out. And they’re really not likely to drop off since none of them are rookies and have experienced a full season’s load before.
Anyway, let’s move on to talking about a much worse, more dysfunctional team: The New York Mets. What can I say about them, has there been a worse underachiever in the majors this year? In the top three in team payroll and still cannot even seem competitive. The reality of it is they’re lingering around and have the pieces in place to make a run if they can put it together mentally. New York is only 3.5 games behind the Phillies, one game under .500 and they get to play them this weekend. It’ll be good timing for them as long as the Phils have not severely beaten up the Braves by then.
According to Coolstandings, the Mets have an 11.3 % chance of making the playoffs as the division winner (believe it or not, their chance is less than the Braves’ 13.0 % chance at the 4 spot). They have even less of a chance of winning the wildcard with both Milwaukee and St. Louis sitting at better records than the best team in our division.
The problems with the Mets run pretty deep. Two seasons ago (2006), the Mets built up a HUGE lead by the All-Star break and coasted to the division title, the lead was so big that they were able to withstand a pretty good rally by the Phillies towards the end of that season, who at 85-77 were still 12 games out.
But last year something awesome happened, not necessarily a good awesome, but awesome. The Mets became the first team to blow a lead as much as 7.5 games in September. Yes, they blew a 7.5 game lead in just ONE MONTH! That’s not even 30 games but around 25 or 26 depending on the team.
The Mets really have little to no excuse. They have had less players and less important players injured than any of the other teams in the East. And by important players I mean players that have had a huge impact on the team when they have been in the lineup or on the field. And I’ve narrowed that list down to Ryan Church, Angel Pagan and Pedro Martinez in his first and third start. In fact their projected starter behind the plate didn’t even make it back to the starter’s role after he came off the DL, Ramon Castro is now backing up Brian Schneider.
The Mets’ mediocrity goes beyond injuries though, they’re just flat out not hitting well. They’re sixth in the league in runs (386), ninth in hits (736), 11 in home runs (75), 10 in average (.257) and 11 in OPS (.726). With the exception of runs scored, all of the other values are well below the league averages.
Individually, they are not doing much better. Carlos Beltran has a similar average to his career, but his slugging percentage at .471 is 123 points below his 2006 percentage and about 54 points below his slugging average last year. In fact, his numbers this year are closer to his down year in 2005 than his good years of 2006 and 2007. His ESPN projected end of the year averages show 23 home runs and 107 RBIs. Those are pretty good numbers, but I’m sure Mets fans would love to see more home runs out of their star player than they are seeing now.
Other players that are struggling include David Wright, their other star. Wright is hitting 20 points below his career average at .288 and is slugging 20 points below that average as well at .508. Wright’s struggles are coming with runners in scoring position. With runners in scoring position (RISP), Wright is hitting .273 and .267 with RISP and 2 outs. Pretty low for a guy that’s supposed to be clutch. Jose Reyes is their only player doing better than his career averages. He is hitting .291 and slugging .471, both higher than his career averages. Reyes, though, just does not have the same stolen base numbers that he did in the past and is outwardly having trouble getting along with new manager Jerry Manuel.
Where would they be if Carlos Delgado would hit anything though? Delgado is hitting .236, about 50 points lower than his career and .432 slugging, about 100 points lower than his average. Delgado has similar halfway stats to his career stats, but was really struggling at the beginning of the season in pressure situations. He drew several boos and has only recently started to come out of his slump at the plate.
The Mets are equally average in the pitching department. They are eighth in ERA (4.17), 12 in walks (309) and 5 in batting average against (.255). Of course, much of their success is because of new acquisition Johan Santana. Of qualifying pitchers, only Santana (6) and John Maine (T-19) are in the top 20 and no more in the top 40, though Oliver Perez is 41 with a 4.98 ERA. Compare that to the Phillies who have four starters in the top 40.
Santana is 7-7 with a 3.01 ERA and 103 strikeouts. Santana came over from the Twins in the off-season and signed a 6 year $150 million contract. Of course, for a pitcher, that’s pretty ridiculous money. The Mets haven’t exactly won all of his starts, in fact they are 4-6 in his last 10 and are 9-8 in his starts this year overall, not worth the $16 million he’s making this year.
So what do the Mets have to do to get better? Simple, find a source of motivation, increase their club chemistry and band together to try and save the job of their general manager and (maybe) manager if they decide to keep him. They have too many players who speak out negatively. Billy Wagner really takes it upon himself to call out other players in a passive aggressive way and there just isn’t the same clubhouse chemistry there was two seasons ago when they won 97 games.
As of right now, the Mets are 41-42 in 83 games and are probably going to end up with a similar record at the end of the season as they do now. Without a change in attitude and chemistry, the Mets will not do much better than they are doing now.
Prediction: 80-82, 4 NL East
Tags: New York Mets
Posted in League Analysis | 1 Comment »
The Braves came out strong behind Jair Jurrjens and 7 2/3rds innings of one-run ball to beat the Rockies last night 7-1. Chipper went 2-4 and started the scoring in the fifth with two RBIs. Jurrjens’ extra five days of rest due to his sprained ankle seem to be paying immediate dividends – “I got my changeup back,” Jurrjens said. The extra rest helped a blister heal.
Up in Queens, the Queens have fired longtime sucky manager Willie Randolph. I don’t mean that in he was their manager for long, but that he has sucked for most of his time as Mets manager.
Jerry Manuel will replace him as interim head coach. The Mets also cleaned out some of their other manager positions. For more info, check out our buddy Andrew’s site over at TheRopolitans.
The Braves are finally up to 10 road wins, taking three out of the last four on the road. Do you think they’ve turned a corner? With the starting pitching looking great its last time around, will they continue their improvement?
And as Mike Hampton heads down to the Gulf Coast League for a couple rehab starts, will he ever pitch in Atlanta this season?
Tags: Chipper Jones, Colorado Rockies, Jair Jurrjens, Jerry Manuel, Mike Hampton, New York Mets, Willie Randolph
Posted in Game Analysis, General | 8 Comments »
Here’s the big picture in the NL East right now:
Florida Marlins: Can they hold it together? Nobody expected to see these guys in first this far into the season. I think even the Marlins are surprised. That hasn’t kept them from acting like they belong in first. Anchored offensively by Uggla, Hermida, and Ramirez, the Marlins have come out to score this year – currently ranked 10th in the league with runs scored. The rotation has been solid as well – only six different pitchers have started games this year. The Marlins recently picked up Jacque Jones to shore up their outfield after he was released by the Tigers. But if the Tigers can afford to release him, will he help? The biggest question remains: can the Marlins keep it up?
Atlanta Braves: Sure, the Braves can win at home, but they have to be able to win on the road or nothing will come of it. The Braves have a rock solid offense led by the mighty Chipper Jones, but they’ve had some injury issues on their pitching staff – Smoltz is moving to the bullpen, Rafael Soriano has spent significant time on the DL, but they’ll get those two plus Mike Gonzalez back from the DL here soon. The question – will they trade for another starter? Not if Jorge Campillo can keep up his Greg Maddux impression (and get rid of some pesky blisters).
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies are shadowing the Braves as they both stalk the Marlins. Their offense has been good but hasn’t been firing on all cylinders for more than a game or two at a time, and past Cole Hamels their other starters have ERAs at or above 4.37. Brett Myers has dropped his last four starts, and Adam Eaton is still winless. If the Phillies’ starters can get their acts together, this is a much more dangerous team – already they’re fourth in the NL with 26 quality starts – but they have potential for much more. On the other hand, their bullpen has been great – lowing the team ERA to a 5th best 3.98. The Phillies could come together to be a very dangerous team.
New York Mets: The Mets’ manager Willie Randolph is under fire for his team’s poor play. And the Mets have had poor play as of late. They’re now in fourth place struggling to beat decent teams. The team is oft-injured. Ryan Church likes concussions, Moises Alou caught Mike Hampton syndrome, and Marlon Anderson pulled up lame. And that’s just the last series in Atlanta. Pedro comes back soon, but will he really help? Johan Santana hasn’t been the savior he was billed as, either. This team has got to start playing ball if they want to hang it at the top of the division.
Washington Nationals: The Nationals are just chilling out in the NL East basement, 7.5 games out of first with a .420 winning percentage. Their offense is one of the worst in the NL, ranking third to last in runs scored, second to last in OBP and OPS, and last in batting average, slugging percentage, and stolen bases. Their pitching staff is better, but not by much, ranked 12/16 in ERA and 13/16 in Batting Average Against. This is likely something we see continued for most of the season.
What do you see happening? Can the Marlins hold it together? Will the Braves start winning on the road? Can the Phillies fire on all cylinders? Are the Mets and Willie Randolph doomed to oblivion?
Tags: Atlanta Braves, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, NL East Blogs, Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals
Posted in League Analysis | 6 Comments »
It was so sweet to be able to go to Turner Field after a long day this week and watch the Braves beat the crud out of the Mets. We got solid starts from Glavine, Hudson, Jurrjens, and some guy named Campillo making his first start since 2005. Our starters’ combined lines?
4 Wins, 27 Innings Pitched, 18 Hits, 4 Earned Runs, 3 Walks, 16 Strikeouts, 3 Home Runs Allowed
Compare that to the Mets and their starters’ combined lines:
4 Losses, 20 Innings Pitched, 33 Hits, 17 Earned Runs, 8 Walks, 6 Strikeouts, 1 Home Runs Allowed
For the record, our best start came from Jorge Campillo. And wasn’t it great to watch Santana implode tonight? We can deduce a few things here from these lines – firstly, the Braves played a lot of fundamental ball – only one homer off of Mets starters. And we didn’t rely on our ‘pen much – an average of just over 2 innings per game. This is the kind of baseball we need to be playing. Strong starters are the best foundation for a solid game.
Next up are the Diamondbacks – we can beat them since we’re at home, I’m sure. We need to learn how to translate this play on the road. And the Marlins need to start losing. They’re NOT that good.
The Mets, on the other hand, aren’t that good. And everybody knows it. Especially them. By the way, Jair Jurrjens has the same record as Johan Santana. Ouch.
Go Braves! Let’s sweep the Diamondbacks too.
Tags: Jair Jurrjens, Jorge Campillo, New York Mets, Sweep, Tim Hudson, Tom Glavine
Posted in Game Analysis | 19 Comments »
The Braves come into tonight’s game looking to sweep the Mets out of town in this 4-game series. The Braves have outscored the Mets 23-7 in the first 3 games of the series that have seen the Mets’ offense looking rather flat. Tim Hudson takes the mound for the Braves tonight against Mets’ ace Johan Santana. The Keys for the Braves tonight are for Hudson to pitch a consistent game (he’s been streaky this season) and to jump on Santana when possible (he likes to give up the home run ball). I expect a good pitching matchup tonight and a great game to be at. Let’s go Braves!
Tags: New York Mets
Posted in Game Threads | 20 Comments »