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"Lou is not talking about mechanics when he goes out to the mound,"
~Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Brave New Winter

I've had about 72 hours to fully recover from the 18 inning Braves/Astros game on Sunday. What a way to lose! The bullpen had been shaky all year with the exception of Farnsworth after he was acquired from Detroit. Ironically, as soon as the Braves get him in the game, he goes back to Cub form and gives up a Crawford Box grand slam to Berkman followed by the closest home run in history to Ausmus. A full game later, Burke hits a solo Crawford Box home run to win the game.

I specify Crawford Box home runs for a reason. They shouldn't be home runs. I know both teams have the same advantage, and it bothers me when either team hits one there. Those aren't even warning track balls in most outfields.

Did anyone else happen to notice that the same guy caught both of those home run balls? Talk about lucky. If I were that guy, I would have stopped and bought a lottery ticket on the way home.

Anyways, the Braves are headed home early once agian. It's not as bad of a feeling this year because I thought they overachieved all year. Just winning the division and making the playoffs was such an accomplishment. But in the end, it's the same results. It's hard to explain the complete inverse between their regular season and postseason dominance. Most of it I feel is just bad luck and timing. Outside of the championship year, I feel like there was only one or two other seasons in which they were the best team in the playoffs. The other years, they simply weren't as good as other teams or they just ran into a couple hot pitchers/hitters. What are you going to do?

On the bright side though is the offseason. For the 1st time in years the Braves don't have many significant players eligible for free agency. Over the past 4 years, they have lost Sheffield, Maddux, Lopez, Drew, and Glavine. This year, only Rafeal Furcal will draw much interest on the market. The Braves will make an attempt to resign him, but it's fairly likely that teams like the Cubs could drive the price up to high for them to match. Renteria got a 4 yr/$40 million deal last year. You would think Furcal would demand the same kind of loot. Do the Braves think he's worth it or will they go with Betemit of another free agent in his place? I wouldn't be completly surprised to see Furcal in ChiTown and Garciaparra in Hotlanta.

Another question will be the outfield. Langerhans is great defensively but doesn't have the power you'd like from a corner outfielder. Franceour and Johnson played well as rookies, but I feel like they could use some more time in AAA. Franceour never played AAA, which isn't a bad thing, but seeing his lack of plate discipline and his less than mediocre last 6 weeks makes me feel he may not be ready just yet. Don't get me wrong. The kid looks like he's going to be a star, just not in April and May.

Same goes for McCann. Is he ready to be the full time starter? If so, they probably need to move Estrada. I'm not so sure he's keen on being a backup. After all, he was an All Star just a season ago.

I'm still not exactly sure what the deal is with Hampton next year. All I know is the team is getting about $8 million back from the insurance company. Thomason has a $4.5 million option. That's pretty cheap for a reliable third option, so long as he stays healthy. I expect Horacio Ramirez to be shipped somewhere. Hopefully to a bonehead GM who sees more in him then there actually is. Even if that doesn't happen, there should be a pretty good market for a young southpaw starter. I kind of hope the same scenario goes for Sosa as well. I think his stock is as high as it could be right now. 13-3 with a 2.55 ERA looks pretty attractive. But if you look at the career numbers, I just don't see it lasting.

These are fairly insignificant questions to be answered compared to the previous offseasons. The main problem seems to be that there is quite a bit of talent at the minor league level. That's a good problem to have for the future, but it still seems like a problem for '06. The Braves can't block these guys with long term contracts, so that somewhat eliminates them from being big players in the free agent market. However, these kids probably aren't completely ready, meaning the team is just going to have to take their lumps with the youngsters.

I expect the winter to be quite in Georgia, while a new GM in Philly and Omar Minaya go shopping. The media and sportswriters will once agian say the Braves dynasty will end. Using my baseball knowledge form the last 14 years, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say it won't.

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