published Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

5 at 10: The mustard belt, Atlanta Braves and a frustrated Dale Earnhardt Jr.

From the "7-Up Stinks Studios," here we go...

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    Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Tommy Hanson (48) delivers a pitch to Colorado Rockies' batter Mark Ellis in the first inning of a baseball game in Atlanta Monday, July 4, 2011. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Braves stay consistent

Want a picture of consistency? Your Atlanta Braves are the third team to 50 wins in the majors — Philadelphia and the New York Yankees are the others. The Braves are 25-18 at home and on the road.

Everything with this club has centered on pitching, and other than Freddie Freeman's two-homer night, the Braves' stellar pitching was again the overwhelming theme.

A day after learning he was officially named an All-Star, Tommy Hanson turned in another all-star effort. Hanson, who has 10 wins and a 2.52 ERA to rank among the league leaders in each category, allowed five base runners in seven innings. He turned it over to the Braves 1-2 knockout punch of Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel, who have been outstanding collectively and individually.

So too has Freeman, who may be the only thing that stands between Kimbrel and a Rookie of the Year slam dunk. In a rare appearance in the cleanup spot, Freeman hit his 10 homer in the first and his 11th in the eighth. Freeman's average is up to .272, which on this Braves' team is considered Silver Slugger material. In fact, the pitching has been so good, that no Brave in Monday's starting lineup other than Freeman and Brian McCann had an average better than .250.

That's not only great pitching — that's consistently great pitching.

Junior speaks his mind — and the truth

Even though his winless streak continues to grow, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has returned to being among the threats every week. That's a great thing for NASCAR, which has to smiling now that Junior — easily the sport's most popular driver — is among the contenders weekly and among the contenders to be in the Chase for the Championship.

It's not a great thing for NASCAR, though, when Junior drops the hammer on the current disaster that is restrictor plate racing. But it's the right thing. This weekend's race at Daytona was the latest restrictor-plate race that turned into a two-man bobsled run that made NASCAR a team sport.

Uh, guys, they don't have No. 1 and No. 1B spots on Victory Lane. And Junior, who may have felt different if he had not finished 19th Saturday, was quick to point out the frustration Saturday night.

"I am really ticked off. It was a foolish ... race. I don't know what to tell you," he told reports after race-winner David Ragan used teammate Matt Kenseth's help to survive the late-race fireworks. "I don't like this kind of racing and you know it."

"I'd rather have control of my own destiny and be able to go out there and race and just do my own work and worry about my own self," Earnhardt said on Thursday. "Been growing up all these years racin' for No. 1, lookin' out for No. 1, doing my job. This is what I need to do, I need to do this to get up through the pack. This is how my car drives. Now you are doing it so different. Your thought process and everything you think about during the race is nothing near that."

Amen, Junior. If we thought we were tired of hearing about "fuel strategy," well, the two-team tango that has replaced racing at NASCAR's fastest — and arguably most entertaining and prestigious — tracks must be addressed sooner rather than later.

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    Five-time hotdog eating champion Joey Chestnut, center, celebrates his fifth Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating World Championship win after consuming a total of 62 hotdogs and buns. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Hot dogs and labor issues

Somewhere on the list between fireworks and taking naps on the list of Fourth of July traditions is the Nathan's hot dog eating contest. We're not saying it's a sport, mind you, but of the things that were shown on ESPN over the weekend, what have you heard more of than Joey Chestnut eating 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

Yes, 62. Yes, they were full-sized hot dogs. And yes, the competitors dunk them in water to help them go down easier. Wow.

The only thing that may be crazier was how former six-time champ Takeru Kobayashi spent his July 4th. Kobayashi, who is the most recognized name in professional eating (it's hard to believe we just typed that sentence), has not been competing in these events because he refuses to sign an exclusive contract with Major League Eating (no, we did not make that up). Instead of entering or attending Nathan's contest, Kobayashi was across town eating lunch — which he told the Wall Street Journal consisted of 69 hot dogs. Say what?

OK, three things about that. First, eating as many hot dogs as possible for a shot at $10,000 is gross; doing it for lunch is sick. Second, there are labor issues across the entire sports world if the best competitive eaters are not going toe-to-toe. Third, 62 hot dogs is about 60 too many. Let's just move along.

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    Toni Rich holds her son Gabriel, 5, as students and supporters gather to pay tribute to live oaks at Toomer's Corner on the campus of Auburn University in Auburn. (AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, David Bundy)

This and that

— Experts say that the Auburn trees may not be doomed after all. Auburn University horticulturist Gary Keever told the Associated Press that it's unknown whether the trees, which are brown and yellow, will survive or not. Harvey Updyke Jr., the 62-year-old Alabama fan with a son named Bear and a daughter named Crimson Tyde, was indicted on charges including criminal mischief and desecration of a venerated object. If the trees live to those charges change to "Attempted" criminal mischief and "attempted desecration of a venerated object?

— Washington Nationals super-prospect Bryce Harper was promoted to Double-A (sadly, the Nationals' Double-A affiliate, the Harrisburg Senators, is not in the Southern League with the Lookouts). Nationals officials say that Harper will not be promoted to the majors this year.

— Derek Jeter was 0-for-4 in his return and you would have thought he spit on the Statue of Liberty. Guys, let it go. Is Jeter, who returned from a DL-stint for a calf injury, as good as he was five years ago? Of course not. But dude is 37, and the only baseball players that were better at 37 than 32 were using some, ahem, help. At least we can pretty safely assume Jeter, who is hitting some 60 points lower than his career average, is not following the Barry Bonds-prescribed method of forever young-ness.

Today's question

Including Tommy Hanson, who got the biggest snub from the all-star selection process? We'll have our answers around 2 p.m.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
Eustice_Chase said...

Is anyone else completely disgusted by the Hotdog eating contest?? It literally turns my stomach (and I'm a man! Im 40)...what a way to ruin a perfectly good food.

I would like to replace the 5@10's daily question with my own question...and it is... Who are the top three Free Agent Multi- Million Dollar Off Season Signees "top tier toilet bowl turds" For the 2011 season? I will not make you wait till 2pm for my answers... 1. Jason Werth 2. Carl Crawford 3. Dan " i could eat more hot dogs than Joey Chestnut If I had a Jesrsey that fit" Uggla

In other news... "The Hunnington Beach Bad Boy" Tito Ortiz won his UFC fight vs Ryan "Darth" Bader this weekend...Dana White told Tito and the Press that if he didnt win imopressively, this would be his last UFC fight...well Tito Didnt make anyone wait (till 2pm for his answer) he finished Bader with a Guillotine Choke in the 1st round....this was awesome...for me...being a HUGE Tito fan...I was starting to lose faith and then boom! Tito Did what current UFC champ Johnny Bones Jones couldnt do...and thats finish Ryan Tito back? On his way to a UFC title Shot? Still alot to be seen...but lets hope this wasnt a flash of greatness until he fades into "Bolivian"

by the way I set a Eustice Family record last night by eating two hot dogs w/ slaw, chilli and an IBC cream Soda in like 14 minutes...where is my SportsCenter coverage....get a staff writter out to my house asap 5@10.....

July 5, 2011 at 11:08 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

No Claret Jug to add to the mantle this year for Mr. Woods. Wonder who is helping him cope with his "knee" injury. I guess this isn't like the "knee" injury Britney Spears had where she came out and looked a little different, you know. While this Braves team is reminiscent of the great 90s Braves team - with one exception in that this team actually has, gulp, a bullpen! - failing to be offensive is great in many areas. Except in the "er" months. Gotta be able to score because other playoff teams, yeah, they'll have pitching, too. Relying on Solo Shot Uggla for his once every 10 days bomb ain't gonna cut it. The Braves teams of the 90s at least had Otis and Prime Time who could get on, steal a base, wreak a wee bit of havoc (and why is it you never see wreak without havoc....). This team? Not so much.

July 5, 2011 at 12:43 p.m.
jgreeson said...

EC —

If that had been two hots and TWO IBC cream sodas, then it would have been TFP-worthy (those cream sodas can sit kinda heavy after all).

As for the stomach-turning factor, yes it's like the seventh circle of grossness, but it's not even the worse competitive eating event. There are competitive-eating records for most:

— Asparagus (9 pounds and 5.2 ounces in 10 minutes)

— Butter (7 1/4 pound sticks of salted butter in 5 minutes)

— Cow brains (17.7 pounds in 15 minutes)

— Hard boiled eggs (65 hard boiled eggs in less than 7 minutes)

— And mayonnaise (128 ounces of mayo in 8 minutes)

Love the free-agent top tier (busts) signees: Your list and ours match from top to bottom.

BIspy —

Tiger's chances to catch Jack appear to grow slimmer with every passing week (missing the British is only part of it this week, because if Nick Watney ever learns how to win, that's another young stud Tiger will have to top).

And you're spot on about the Braves — and that makes Jordan Schafer's maturation even more important. He can create runs with speed, and that's a good thing. (Although, if you're Johnny Braves Fan, the team's postseason fate relying on the phrase "that makes Jordan Schafer's maturation even more important" is not a comforting thought.)

— 5-at-10

July 5, 2011 at 1:19 p.m.
Eustice_Chase said...

I am waiting patiently for your answer to your question, I would like to think I could give you an educated answer but I have not studied the line up

I will tell you that I do not like the "NHL" Home Run Derby, where Team Captains choose their running mates...The Fans Should Vote these guys in...and they should be forced to do it by the Iron Fist that is MLB !!!!

I for one think Josh Hamilton SHOULD Be in the HR Derby....and Ichiro Suziki....I would also like to see Adam long as the pitcher is Right Handed.... for the National League...Id like to see Mike Stanton Ryan Howard and Tim Hudson...hehehe

July 5, 2011 at 2:05 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Top five All-Star snubs:

  1. Tommy Hanson (10-4, 2.51 ERA — nasty stuff)

  2. Paul Konerko (.300-plus average, 21 HRs — victim of couple of other stud 1Bs)

  3. CC Sabathia (Yanks ace falls victim to anti-NYC fall back)

  4. Craig Kimbrell (Lights-out closer with the best stuff in a long time)

  5. Andrew McCruthen (big-time Pirates star in the making — a phrase that has not been uttered since Barry Bonds circa-1990)

EC —

Love the idea of the fans voting in the HR derby. Yes, Hamilton should be in it. And Adam Dunn. Here's saying they should have an all-star whiffle ball game, mix in some celebs (the thought of Jon Stewart or Tom Cruise or that chick from the Romantic Comedies that wishes she was Julia Roberts trying to hit a whiffle ball that breaks 12 feet is hilarious) and play it before the HR derby.

— 5-at-10 EC

July 5, 2011 at 2:23 p.m.
Eustice_Chase said...

WOWOWOWOWOW Craig Kimbrell didnt get an All Star Selection ???? The MLBFHNLROY...Thats Major League Baseball First Half National League Roookie of the Year case you didnt know...didnt get selected ???

And the fact that Pirates havent found a new home for they did with Jason Bay, Aramis Rameriez, Tim Wakefield etc etc is astounding...he may be the best Pirate since Doug Drebek....

I tell ya, a Celebrity Whiffle ball game would grab my attention! Perhaps more so than the All Star game itsself....The MLB should look into a Skills challenege like the NBA... would you tune in to see a Drag Bunt Competition ??? I sure would!!!! Perhaps a Best / creative Dugout Sign Contest for Managers??? or or or a 5 on 5 Rookie+Veteran+Relief Pitcher+Celebrity+Mascot combo Pepper game....

July 5, 2011 at 2:34 p.m.
jgreeson said...

EC —

Collectively we could save the MLB All-Star break. (Feel free to add along as we go)

MLB All-Star break schedule


Future's Game ( with this tweak: Inside of US players vs. the world players take current minor league all-stars vs. 1st and 2nd round picks from the last two drafts — that way we have interest to see the bonus babies like Bryce Harper — or even Steven Strasburg a few years ago) MVP gets a spot in the All-Star game with whichever league holds his rights


All-star/celebrity Whiffle Ball

HR Derby (cut the time on thing in half, by the way and no more of this watching/taking pitches. These guys get to bring their own BP pitchers, work out the kinks before you get on our TV screens)

All-Star Skill challenge

Bunting contest, outfield throws, best scratcher/spitter, managers' sleep-off (which managers can actually catch a few winks while looking like they are into the game), Play-by-play guys' in a homer call-off, Perhaps a Best / creative Dugout Sign Contest for Managers??? or or or a 5 on 5 Rookie+Veteran+Relief Pitcher+Celebrity+Mascot combo Pepper game....


All-star game


All-Star game losing team has to carry buckets at the intersections of their team's towns for the Ronald McDonald house.

July 5, 2011 at 3:03 p.m.
Eustice_Chase said...

How about for the HR Derby contest we let these dude hit them off of a wanna see power??? Hit a Baseball 450 ft off a the way...I love the idea of getting Minor Leaguers involved and draft a part of the skills challenge I would like to see a "hit placement" challenge...lets put goals in certain areas of the field with points reflecting difficulty....I say this would be just as entertaining as any HR derby.... the NBA and all of their Labor issues put on the BEST all star showing by allowing fundamentals to be a part of the contest...Baseball should take notes! Afterall the Slam Dunk Contest is usually the low point of an NBA all star weekend...the HR Derby is the Only point in a MLB all star weekend

July 5, 2011 at 3:27 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

apparently, mr. suzuki does put on quite the display in BP of his home run prowess. but in the game, he's content with a line single or a gapper he can turn into a triple. But watch his swing and you can tell he can launch line drives out anywhere, anytime. He won't put up moon shot homers like Dunn or Ryan Howard. Also, at one time, Nate McLouth was supposed to be the next burgeoning star for the Bucs. He still playing?

July 5, 2011 at 3:27 p.m.
jgreeson said...

EC —

Concur, with baseball having the best labor deal in pro sports right now (that sounds strange huh?) now is the time to put on a show.

BIspy —

ZING. Nate McLouth just felt a punch to the ribs and he does not know why.

— 5-at-10

July 5, 2011 at 3:57 p.m.
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