Congrats to OT Watcher for winning the draft contest — he correctly submitted MKG and 8 SEC players and no one predicted the Hawks taking John Jenkins or the green bow-tie/blue checkered shirt combo for Terrence Ross. (When the Mrs. 5-at-10 saw it, she simply offered, "Wow, who made that choice... they should be fired." And when a suit choice potentially gets someone fired, is there any way that's not impactful.) Thanks for playing.
Atlanta Braves' Chipper Jones, right, is congratulated by coach Brian Snitker while rounding third base after hitting a two-run home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the sixth inning of a baseball game on Wednesday, June 27, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
On to the mailbag.
From the "Talks too much" studios, here we go...
We’re almost to the halfway mark in baseball. The Braves are sitting 3 ½ games out of first. The hitting has been consistently inconsistent. The pitching has been pretty solid with the exception of some rough outings by the 4 and 5 men. They play better on the road than at home. Injuries continue to plague Chipper and the loss of Beachy is a killer. How would you rate the Braves throughout the first half of the year?
We'll break this down in three categories (hitting, pitching, intangibles), grade the three and average the score. We'll do it on a 1-10 scale with 10 being the best (unless of course we decide to use the passer rating, then we'll use a negative-50-158.3 scale... nevermind). Variety of factors come into play for us, including meeting expectations, injuries and the like.
Let's get to it (and everyone please feel free to offer your Braves' three grade rating in the comments section):
Hitting — 8.5
This may seem high but let us explain. Atlanta has been in the top 10 in runs scored all year despite a rash of injuries and Brian McCann doing his best Dan Uggla impression from the first half of last year. In fact, after his three strikeouts last night, Uggla and McCann are each hitting .235.
Still the lineup has produced by being clutch with runners in scoring position, especially with two outs. Granted in last night's 3-2 loss to Arizona, the Braves were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, but the 5-at-10 takes full responsibility for last night's down fall. On Thursday, we heaped a ton of praise on Jason Heyward and Craig Kimbrel and jinxed the fool out of each. Heyward went bagel-for-5 after going 14-for-26 before Thursday and Kimbrel allowed his first run of the month and took his first loss of the season. Sorry guys.
Bourn and Prado have been excellent. Heyward has been on fire recently, and when they have been healthy Chipper and Freddie Freeman have been solid. Plus, Andrelton Simmons has been outstanding, his .321 average is an offensive inverse to what we expected from a good-glove-no-hit rookie and makes even the most elderly among Braves Nation ask why Tyler Whatshisnicky got the job in the first place.
That leaves McCann and Uggla as the biggest shortcomings in the order. And our biggest rule in baseball is spit-then-scratch, but our second-biggest rule is it's a long season and you have to trust it. So when Uggla finishes the year at .255 with 30 homers and McCann gets it to .285, then they will have carried the Braves in the second half.
Pitching — 7.5
This would be higher but C-Vol is spot on that the loss of Brandon Beachy, who was leading the league in ERA, is a killer.
Surprisingly the bullpen has struggled getting to closer Kimbrel, who is still aces.
Even without Beachy, Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson may not give the Braves an overpowering 1-2, but it is a very strong 2A-2B combo. Plus, Jair Jurrjens has been excellent in returning from the DL, and that's very encouraging. Randall Delgado needs to figure out to avoid that one disaster inning every start, and Mike Minor needs to get out of his own head and just pitch. Still there's a lot to like about the Braves pitching.
Intangibles — 9.5
The Braves have found ways to win despite injuries and inconsistency. Fredi Gonzalez deserved a huge dose of criticism last year for burning out his bullpen and what seemed to be a lack of fire.
Well, Fredi G learned from his mistakes managing the relievers. And that appearance of a lack of fire was/is Fredi's style and his commitment to his personal style rather than getting tossed because some yahoo sports writer thought it would be a good idea was wise and likely earned him some cred in the clubhouse.
Plus, whether we know it or not these Braves are in contention while reloading in a lot of places.
Overall, that's an 8.5 for a team that at this point in the season — 75 games in, 3.5 games behind a Washington team that is playing above its head and has vowed to shut down its ace after 160-plus innings — considered the favorite in the NL East.
In this Jan. 9, 2012, file photo, the Coaches' Trophy is displayed before the BCS National Championship game between the LSU and Alabama in New Orleans. College football will finally have a playoff. Come 2014, the BCS is dead. A committee of university presidents on Tuesday, June 26, 2012, approved the BCS commissioners' plan for a four-team playoff to start in the 2014 season. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
Jay, if a 4-team playoff were implemented in 2004 and 2009, who gets in and why?
Stew be or not Stew be,
First off, has there been a week with two long-awaited decision that were wide-reaching and evoked so many different emotions like this one. Wow.
We've said the reason for the four-team playoff is money and the jumping point for all of the non-SEC teams was last January when two SEC teams played for the title. We believe the true springboard for the playoff was SEC commissioner Mike Slive and the reason was 2004 when Auburn went undefeated, won the SEC title game and did not get a shot at the title.
But in truth 2004 would have been one of the most interesting to breakdown and emphasizes the need for transparency from the selection committee.
The first three seeds from 2004 would have been a no-brainer: USC would have been the top seed; Oklahoma and Auburn would have been seeded two and three respectively. (Side note: Auburn would have THUMPED that Oklahoma team. Bad.)
The final spot in the 2004 would have featured a ton of politicking and positioning. California was 10-1 with a loss to USC. Texas was 10-1 with a loss to Oklahoma. Utah was 11-0. Boise State was 11-0, too but they were ranked 10th and not really even in the discussion.
We think back then it likely would have been Cal getting a rematch with USC, especially since the Bears' 23-17 loss at USC ended with Cal unable to score on four plays inside the USC 10 in the final minute. Today, though, with all the rematch reverb, it would have been Utah. (We think USC would have beaten Cal and edged Auburn in the title game.)
Wow, 2009 would have cracked the four-team system for sure, and it may have been best served by the BCS in that everyone agreed Alabama and Texas were the two best teams.
Here are the polls after the regular season
1) Alabama — 13-0
2) Texas — 13-0
3) Cincinnati — 12-0
4) TCU — 12-0
5) Florida — 12-1
6) Boise State — 13-0
We'd probably seed the first four teams, but after watching a slugfest in the SEC title game between Alabama and Florida and watching the Tide roll on Texas, it's hard not to think Alabama and Florida, which CRUSHED Cincy in the Sugar Bowl — were the two best teams.
But there's no way two teams from the same conference could meet in a rematch in the title game, right? What? When did that.... Nevermind.
From Jonathan M/ Cook (in the 5 at 10 satellite studios in Dallas)
Sorry I've been dormant for weeks. The Texas summer season officially kicked in this past Sunday (You guys get a free taste of it this weekend in the form of Tennessee-Vietnam heat). Fortunately for everybody out there, it will at least cool off a little bit at night. It's a lot better than last year but hot is hot. You can't get excited about Rangers baseball when jogging after 7 pm feels like a farm chore.
That being said, let's talk about Mocs football, the SoCon, and this and that. I like SoCon commissioner John Iamarino's decision to have all SC games on the Tries (aka ESPN3). While watching games on computer screen is not as exciting as HD television, they do put out a great product for those of us who are long distance Moc fans and have to literally rely on this technology every Saturday. Don't get me wrong, I love listening to JR's "off color" comments via the streaming video on GoMocs.com on the home games but the technology feels primitive at best.
I love the fact Frierson is doing everything in his power to keep interest alive in Mocs football when all of us really care about at this very moment are October cold snaps. However, real fans "do not care" about who player X would want if he was stranded on a desert island with. We care about two things: winning and staying out of trouble. I'd rather the focus stay solely what the team is doing in order to go all the way this year. If a good human interest story presents itself, so be it. I know for a fact as writers and editors you can't please everyone. But even this is almost like gasping for straws for anything to write about. I miss Mocs football too, but I'd rather have silence of the pen over content as useful as marshmallow filling.
Point made, although we'll have to agree to disagree that getting to know a college football player beyond his uniform number, his spot on the depth chart and where he's from is "marshmallow filling." And as Ron Burgandy says, "When in Rome."
Here are a few counter-points:
— There is nothing going on with UTC football on the field, and who's going to write/read a story on the anyone "not" getting into trouble.
— There are as many "casual" UTC fans as there are "real" UTC fans, and in truth there may be more considering the SEC hotbed that is Chattanooga. And for the most part, it has been our experience that the "casual" fans do care about a wide variety of topics involving the team. Plus, the "real" fans have spent a bunch of time on mocfans.com and know the ins and outs of the program pretty well, so inside Q&As with some of the new faces that UTC is going to count on this fall seems like it would be useful.
— This is the first time a "real" UTC fan has said they would rather have less coverage. The TFP gives UTC more coverage than anyone in the Southern Conference, and there are specific Mocs programs that likely would rank in the top 10 nationally among their peers in the amount of ink they get from a paper our size. We're proud of that fact, especially in a time when more and more newspapers are cutting back. But there's no way every UTC football story can be about depth charts and game plans. And not every feature is going to be about a player overcoming cancer or how they are dedicating the season to a fallen sibling.
As always, thanks for the question and for the love of the Sun God Ra, try to stay cool out there. War Rangers.
For the Friday mailbag (if it's not too late). What's the wildest thing you ever personally witnessed at a sports event? Two mommas fighting at a little league game? A hail Mary half court shot to win a high school basketball game? 40 point underdog winning a college football game?
What a great question.
And one that caused us to do a lot of rewinding.
We were at Fulton County Stadium when Hank Aaron hit 715, but we were three and don't remember it. We were involved in post-game brawls in baseball and basketball in high school.
Here, in no particular order, are the top five of the crazies things we have seen (professionally and as a fan/participant):
— In a softball tournament in Atlanta one of our teammates was ejected and when asked why, the umpire told the tournament director, "he pulled a fraud." And that's all he said about it. Not sure the fraud he pulled but there you go. Needless to say for more than a decade, if anyone needed any type of reason for about anything — to break up with a girl, to get in a fight, to quit a job, etc. — the reasoning was "pulled a fraud."
— In Jordan-Hare Satdium in 1994, Auburn beat LSU 30-26 without scoring an offensive touchdown. Auburn extended its winning streak to 14 games by forcing eight turnovers and return three fourth-quarter picks for TDs.
— Was standing behind the second hole this year at Augusta when Louis Oosthuizen holed out for double-eagle at this year's Masters. It was the biggest "Did that just happen?" moment we can remember.
— We once threw a curveball around Bill Ramey's had for a strike. We were 13.
— And we may remember something more crazy and or amazing, but this one keeps popping into our head. Growing up in Smyrna, we'd do the PA for the Smyrna Roadrunners youth football league for something like $10 a game. It was solid coin for a 14-year-old. Anyhoo, one game against the Powder Springs Cowboys, the best team in the league and the feeder system for some great, Great, GREAT McEachern High School teams, we watched the most dominant effort we've ever seen. Sure Wilt scored 100 and Clemens fanned 20 and several fellows have thrown for 500-plus yards. Well, Kareem Jordan — no kidding, that was the kid's name — had 11 carries for 11 touchdowns. Never tackled. Not once. It was amazing. Little speed back that got the corner each time and was 88-and-out-the-gate.
Thanks for the contests. I like to win stuff.
Who were the winners and losers from the draft? (That's assuming you followed the draft. Not sure if you have a feeling about the draft.)
Thanks, and you still talk too much.
Loved what the New Orleans Sterns did adding Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and Darius Miller.
Houston got great value in each of its three picks — Jeremy Lamb at 12, Royce White at 16 and Terrence Jones at 18.
Loved what Portland did with Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard in the lottery and adding Will Barton in round 2. That could be three starters in one draft.
We think the Celtics got a nice piece in Fab Melo, an athletic, defensive-minded center who does not need touches, and made a nice risk-reward pick in Jared Sullinger. If Sullinger stays healthy, he's a star, but if the back issues persist, spending an early-20s pick is no great loss.
Enjoyed Danny Ferry's solid if not sizzling debut as the Hawks GM. He embraced an undervalued draft approach — he used a mid-to-late first-round pick on a player with an elite skill. John Jenkins is an elite shooter. Period. And no matter what else, specialists have spots in today's NBA, be them elite rebounders, defenders, shooters or ball-handlers. Plus, Ferry got solid value in Mike Scott in round 2.
And finally, we think Golden State made two high quality picks and have set the stage to lead the free world in 3-pointers next year. The Warriors added Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green to a lineup that includes Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Green may lead all forwards not named LeBron James in assists next year.
As for the other end of the spectrum, well there were several teams that added nothing because they either had no cap space or were positioning themselves for future drafts.
There were not as many trades as we expected so our predictions from Thursday were among the biggest losers, too.
Few head-scratching picks — Philly took Maurice Harkless, who is a slashing, non-shooter to add to a roster filled with slashing non-shooters; we're not overly impressed with John Henson, who went 14th to Milwaukee; and not a single time when we watched Duke this year did we think, "Hey, that Miles Plumlee will be a first-rounder," even though Indiana made him one.
As for the biggest risk-reward pick, well if Perry Jones III had come out last year he'd been a top-three pick. He's battling knee issues and some questions about his motor, but dude has top-five skills. And OKC added him with the 28th pick to a team loaded with young players who have top-five skills.
Great week, gang, and feel free to chime in with your thoughts.
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 ...