About Josh Brown

Josh is the co-host of Knockahoma Nation. He's written for the Rome News Tribune, as well as Fansided's Tomahawk Take, and he's been published on Fox Sports. He lives with his wife and dogs somewhere in the mountains near Boone, NC.

Posts by Josh Brown:

Baseball players don’t care about you

Baseball players don’t care about you. It’s not their job to care about you, or your family. Jerry Seinfield says it best when he makes the joke about how baseball fans just cheer for clothes.

Sure, sometimes there’s a hometown kid drafted by their hometown team and because you can truly relate to that local ballplayer, you are a fan of them instantly. Said player might be involved with local charities. He might have grown up rooting for the very team that now employs him. So, because said player grew up being a fan of the very team that you’re a fan of, and because said player now plays for said team, you’re more of a fan of him than, let’s say, the guy who’s on a one-year deal.

But, that’s rare. More times than not, because of free agency and trades, baseball teams are made up of guys who are on that baseball team because their job is to play baseball. Baseball is their trade. They’re being paid to do their job. And, more times than not, they’re on their respective team because that’s the team that has offered them (and their agent) the most money. Not because they love the fans. Not because they love the city. Not because they are a fan of your favorite team. Bartolo Colon didn’t have an affinity towards Atlanta. Neither did B.J. Upton, or even the great Greg Mddux. And sure, R.A. Dickey was a Nashville guy, but the only reason he came to Atlanta was because they paid him millions of dollars to be an okay pitcher every fifth day.

This is the cold hard truth. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be a baseball fan. It doesn’t mean that nothing matters and that you cannot get emotionally invested into something greater than yourself that you cannot control. It means that baseball players don’t care about you. They don’t necessarily hate you (unless you’re that weirdo who travels from park to park in an attempt to collect as many baseballs as humanly possible). They just don’t care about you. They don’t make their decisions on or off the field with you in mind.

Baseball fans are a needy group of folks. We like to pretend that we’re purely analytical without any type of emotional capacity. But we need to feel appreciated. We want players to love us and appreciate us just like we love and appreciate them. We even hinge our own moods and reputations to the success or failures of an athelete’s play or his public perception.

We want this so badly, in fact, that the smallest act of kindness from a baseball player lightens our world. A baseball player tossing our son or daughter a used game baseball (that he did not pay for) can influence our opinion about a guy instantly. You’ve heard someone tell a story like this, for sure. “I love so-and-so because back in 2010 he threw my kid a baseball.” Because of that tiny measly moment, which the baseball player forgot 5 minutes later, you and your kids are now a fan of that player for life. You buy his jersey. Your passwords and login info are changed to the guy’s first name and whatever year it was that he threw your kid a baseball. You troll anyone on the internet who ever lifts a virtual finger against the player who threw your kid a baseball back in 2010. How dare someone slander such a heroic and selfless human being? If they knew him, they wouldn’t say such disrespectful things.

Imagine if our standards for each other were at the same level as our standards for baseball players. Freddie Freeman threw your kid a game-used baseball (that he didn’t pay for) five years ago and since then every time Freddie Freeman’s name comes up in a conversation you’re going to let everyone know, “Freddie Freeman is the nicest guy ever. He threw my kid a baseball five years ago when the Mets were in town.”

Apply that to your next door neighbor and think about how weird that would be. Just imagine. When Norm pulled into his driveway yesterday when he got home work he threw my son Eddie some of his grass clippings as he walked inside. He didn’t stop to talk, but it meant so much. He just didn’t have to do that! My neighbor on the other side of my house never throws Eddie any of his grass clippings. But Norm did. Norm’s now Eddie’s favorite neighbor and we’ve named our chocolate lab Norm.

Baseball players don’t care about you. Dexter Fowler didn’t care about Cubs fans so much that he went to their competitor, after him and his wife “prayed about it”, because the Cardinals gave him millions of dollars. Roger Clemens went to Yankees because he didn’t care about Red Sox fans. Tom Glavine played for the Mets because they offered him more money than Atlanta.

At this point, there’s a good chance that you’re thinking about Chipper Jones. Chipper Jones is a unicorn. They don’t exist. Cherish him, but know that the only loyalty that is constant in your life is the loyalty of your friends and family. Baseball players are not your friends and family.

Baseball players don’t care about you. This is the first step in becoming an emotionally self-sufficient baseball fan.

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My center fielder.

For two years we’ve heard the Andruw Jones comparisons. Writers and fans alike have compared Ronald Acuña to the greatest center fielder of all time – former Atlanta Brave, Andruw Jones.

The Andruw comparisons all started with Randy Ingle and Chipper Jones. Randy Ingle, up until recently, had been the manager for the Rome Braves since 2006. The man has over 30 years of experience in minor league ball (and… fun fact – Randy Ingle holds the record for highest career BA at Appalachian State University) so I think he’s qualified to make such a comparison. Chipper Jones is not only a Hall of Famer, but he played with Andruw Jones himself for a decade, so he is also qualified to make such a comparison.

Since Chipper and Randy made the comparison two years ago, so far (knock on wood) their comparisons look pretty darn good. Ronald Acuña is flying through the minor league system in the same fashion as Andruw Jones did, they have freakishly similar numbers, they have virtually the same swing, they both hit for power, and scouts say they have the same glove.

So, would you actually put “Andruw Jones 2.0” anywhere but center field? Please. I don’t think so.

Keep in mind, Andruw played right field when he was first called up to the Major Leagues. Unless something weird happens with Ender Inciarte, Ronald Acuña will do the same, making his baseball journey even more freakishly similar to the man he’s compared to.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Ender Inciarte is a 27-year-old Gold Glove center fielder who can rake. In my opinion (and I don’t care that he doesn’t hit for power) he’s top 3 best all-around center fielders in baseball. But here’s the crazy thing – If the scouting reports end up being correct, if Ronald Acuña really is the next Andruw Jones (as crazy as that may sound), then Ronald Acuña is going to be better than Ender Inciarte. It’s that simple.

Last winter the Atlanta Braves extended Ender Inciarte to a 5-year $30.5MM deal. In my opinion, this is the best thing John Coppolella did during his time in Atlanta. The Braves are sitting on a gold mine with Ender Inciarte.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… “So, Josh… you’re saying the Braves should trade Ender Inciarte?” Not really. Plus, I don’t think the Braves have plans to. Here’s my two cents. I think the Atlanta Braves keep Ender Inciarte, eventually move him back to right field in 2019 and move Acuña to center. Ender has a cannon, and in 2015 he won a Fielding Bible Award playing primarily right field for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In short – The Braves call up Ronnie this spring, put him in LF and then move him to center late in games and/or starts here and there in the event Ender struggles at the plate. At first, it will appear that the Braves are simply giving Ender a night off, but bigger things are going to happen. Like Ronnie playing center field. For years to come. Put that in your pipeline and smoke it.

If I’m completely wrong and the Atlanta Braves stick Acuña in right field for years to come, it’s certainly not the end of the world. Braves fans will basically be watching two Gold Glove center fielders playing next to each other. I can imagine much worse things to watch.

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Prospect rankings aren’t Gospel.

Ranking baseball prospects is fun. I’ve done it. Our podcast even had some Braves prospects experts on this past week to wax philosophic about numerous prospects in the Atlanta Braves system. So this isn’t meant to be a hit piece on anyone who ranks baseball prospects.

Ranking prospects is great. For one, it’s a way to get us baseball nerds through the cold off-season. It’s also a fun way to educate ourselves about the future of our beloved sport, and raise our hopes for our favorite team’s future. As we all know, baseball has a farm system like no other sport, which lends itself to pretty honest process (if you’re good, you advance, if you’re not, you don’t), and it’s a blast to follow. A player gets drafted or signed, they make their way up through the system in hopes of one day playing in an MLB stadium in front of tens of thousands (unless you play for the Marlins). So, ranking that talent and making predictions on that talent is great.

Not only is ranking prospects a grand old time, but lists like the Baseball America top-100 end up being fairly accurate. Some of the game’s greats were top prospects at some point along their respective journeys. Harper, Trout, Griffey, Jr., just to name a few.

According to Andy Harris, of Outfield Fly Rule, players in Baseball America’s top-10 have an MLB success rate of around 90%. Players ranking from 90-100 come in at around a 35% MLB success rate. Andy says that the record is generally better for ranked position players versus pitchers (because of injury risks). Andy goes on to say that of those #1-10 ranked prospects, only 35% end up being elite performers. In short – On any given year, that Baseball America top-10 prospects list you’re looking at only has a few potential stars.

It’s important to remember that prospect rankings are not always the GOSPEL. One of the best things about our sport is that it can be unpredictable. Not only is the game itself unpredictable, but the talent can be, too. Case and point – Ronald Acuna signed for $100,000 in 2014 and is now heralded as the best prospect in the game, and rightfully so.

Sure, Baseball America and guys like Keith Law have certainly gotten it right over the years. But it’s also important to remember that there have been many great ballplayers who were never ranked. Some even had Hall of Fame caliber careers – Jim Edmonds, Jose Altuve, Jeff Kent, Mariano Rivera, Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Robinson Cano, Josh Donaldson, Daniel Murphy and James Shields were never top-100 prospects according to Baseball America, just to name a few.

The opposite of this is also true. Especially if you, like me, grew up collecting baseball cards. How many guys with “rated rookie” or “future star” on their baseball cards ended up being completely forgotten about? Baseball’s weird.

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Bill James has lost his damn mind.

This past week it was brought to my attention, by my replacement-level podcast co-host Ken Hendrix, that Bill James said Johnny Damon was more Hall of Fame worthy than Andruw Jones. Upon hearing this, I laughed and thought that my redneck co-host was just being silly.

I was terrified to learn, after doing some quick searching on James’ Twitter timeline, that what Ken was telling me was the God’s honest truth.

I’ve never been completely blown away by Bill James, but I have always respected the man for his sabermetric research. James is very much the modern predecessor to websites like FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, and he’s done so much for the game that we all know and love. Bill James’ mantra is simple: Gather as much data as possible and then analyze it in a clear and accurate way to make the best possible decision.

How then can a man who preaches this way of thinking honestly believe that Johnny Damon is more Hall of Fame worthy than Andruw Jones? How can such a respected man be so obtuse?

Listen, I know I’m a homer. As much as I’d like to think that I can look at Andruw Jones’ career completely objectively, I cannot, but what in the actual hell is Bill James talking about?

Then, there’s more…

Willie Mays has the second-best DEF grade by a center fielder with 170.1. Andruw Jones has the best with a 281.3. You didn’t read that wrong, Andruw grades 111.2 points higher than Willie Mays. It’s not rocket science – Andruw Jones was the best defensive center fielder of all time and it’s not even close.

How in the hell can having the best DEF grade of any center fielder in baseball history (by over 100 points) not garner any Hall of Fame support for Andruw Jones? Either Bill James isn’t as intelligent as we thought he was, or someone has hacked Bill James’ Twitter account. If you’ll notice, his account isn’t verified, so the later is a possibility.

I get it. Defensive metrics can be opaque. I preach this all the time on our replacement-level podcast, but if you honestly think that Johnny Damon was a better baseball player (just because he had more extra base hits), then I just cannot take you seriously anymore. Nothing you say matters anymore.

When it comes to defensive metrics, it’s difficult to say that old school metrics aren’t as accurate as newer ones, because other than errors, there aren’t any old school defensive metrics.  This is Bill James’ biggest argument against Andruw Jones being the greatest defensive center fielder of all time, but it’s also why his argument is so flawed. If “old school” players can’t be measured as being worse than Andruw due to a lack of numbers, then they certainly can’t be measured as being better either.

At the end of the day, if Bill James wants to imply that the defensive numbers lie about Andruw Jones then everything is a farce and nothing matters. Statistically, Andruw Jones is the greatest modern center fielder and according to those same statistics, that James’ so adamantly champions, the greatest center fielder of all time.

Knowing that a guy like Bill James has such a convoluted view of Andruw Jones certainly infuriates me. But, in a weird way, it’s not completely unsurprising. Unless you watched Atlanta Braves games from 1996-2005, you truly might not be aware of Andruw’s greatness, despite his insane Hall of Fame worthy defensive metrics.

Numbers don’t tell you that Andruw Jones started running (in the correct direction) before the batter even hit the ball and numbers don’t tell you that guys never tried to stretch a single into a double because Andruw Jones had a cannon of an arm.

With Andruw Jones, you’re talking about a guy with more career home runs than Mike Piazza who was the best defensive center fielder of all time. Everyone’s got bad takes. But if you completely dismiss Andruw’s defensive metrics (WHEN YOU ARE THE GUY WHO PREACHES SUCH THINGS) then please put down the paint chips.

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If you haven’t voted yet, consider keeping Andruw Jones on the ballot

At the time of writing this, Andruw Jones has 7.1% of the vote with 416 ballots cast. He must receive at least 5% to stay on the Hall of Fame ballot for next year. Therefore, he needs to appear on only 13 of the remaining ballots to maintain 5%.

Here’s the thing, writers who haven’t cast your ballots yet: It’s obviously impossible for Andruw to get in this year, but it’s not impossible for him to stay on the ballot next year. The power is in your hands.

First of all, while many of my favorite players throughout the years have been given the Cooperstown shaft, I actually enjoy the voting process. Baseball is a slow methodical game that leaves room for debate, conversation, and heated arguments. The voting process should mirror that, and I think it does. I enjoy watching a guy take a while to get inducted, like Jack Morris. To me, it’s fun and it’s part of baseball, no matter how painful it sometimes is.

So, I had no crazy ideas of Andruw Jones being a first ballot Hall of Famer, but I do believe he is a Hall of Famer.

First of all – Defensive metrics matter. How good was Andruw Jones defensively? Willie Mays has the second-best DEF grade by a center fielder with 170.1. Andruw Jones has the best with a 281.3. You didn’t read that wrong, Andruw grades 111.2 points higher than Willie Mays. Defensively, its safe to say, that Andruw Jones was the best defensive center fielder of all time. Not only does the good ole fashioned “eye test” back this up – the stats back it up, too.

Allow me to quote my friend Tommy Poe from Walk-off Walk: “Consider this: Willie MaysTy CobbTris SpeakerMickey MantleJoe DiMaggioKen Griffey Jr., Billy HamiltonAl SimmonsCarlos Beltran, and Andruw Jones. That’s the Top 10 in fWAR by a CF. Eight are in the Hall of Fame.” Of the other two, Beltran just retired (and therefore isn’t yet eligibile), and Andruw you can put there.

But here’s the crazy thing. Andruw Jones had a bat, too. We all know how great Andruw Jones was defensively. And we’ve all heard analysts wax philosophic about his glove and his epic 10 straight Gold Gloves. Hell, just last week I was on the radio saying, “If Andruw Jones doesn’t have a Hall of Fame glove, there never was a Hall of Fame glove.”

But Andruw Jones was even more than just the best defensive glove. Andruw Jones was one of the best power hitters of his era. And when you really look at those who cheated around him, you could argue that Andruw Jones really had the fourth-most home runs from 1997-2007. I’m just sayin’.

Andruw Jones has more career home runs (434) than the best power-hitting catcher of all time Mike Piazza. So, not only was Andruw Jones the best defensive center fielder of all time, he was an elite power hitter.

Listen, I know Andruw Jones had a weird ending to his career, which is a damn shame. But just imagine if he started out slow and his best 10 years were on the tail-end of his career. The perception of Andruw Jones and his career would be drastically different.

We tend to only remember the end of a player’s career. Look at Sandy Koufax. Most writers don’t realize that Sandy Koufax was not very good during his first 5 seasons. We only remember his final 5 dominate seasons, because that’s what we do – we remember how a guy went out.

I understand being limited to voting for 10 players on a ballot that is already packed full of greatness (many of which have the subsequent stain of steroids) is difficult.  While I’m a strong anti-steroids advocate, I can actually understand someone who wants to wrestle with those guys going into the Hall.  But at this point, I think you have to consider making your vote count the most. Even if you’re not sure you want him enshrined, voting for Andruw Jones to stay on the ballot is without a doubt the most meaningful way you can cast your vote.

BTW – Here’s a recording of me on Iowa’s KMA 99.1 last week giving my HOF cases for Andruw and Fred McGriff.

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Hook, Line and Sinkered. Trying to understand Miami Marlins fans, a memoir

I was going to write an article entitled, “Marlins fans are bitches.” But it turns out that I could be wrong about my initial assumption. Being wrong about baseball stuff is nothing new to me.

To begin with, there are some legit Marlins baseball fans out there. One of them, Ashlee Nicole, follows us on the Twitters. Ashlee’s a true hardcore baseball fan and she knows her stuff. But going into writing this, I was under the assumption that while the Marlins might have had a few real fans like Ashlee, the rest of them (most of them) were complete whiny bitches who deserve nothing. Why did I think this? Well, you can thank Marlins Man.

I’m an extremely judgmental person and I often formulate my opinions based on generalizations and/or interactions with one person. Here’s an example – Back in 2007, while riding MARTA, on the way home from a Braves game, I ended up sitting next to this Cardinals fan. He was the snobbiest, most smug son of a bitch I’d ever met. Since then, I have judged the entire St. Louis Cardinals fan base because of this one guy I met on a MARTA train. To me, all Cardinals fans are terrible snobby assholes who wear cardigans and boat shoes. I’ll admit, this is a terrible way to be, but I can’t help it.

On Thursday “die-hard Marlins fan” Laurence Leavy, who we know as the Marlins Man, joined MLB Network Radio to voice his concerns about the drama that’s been going on in Miami since Derek Jeter and his boys took over. Mr. Leavy sounded like a true fan. He complained about how his beloved home team are getting rid of their best talent and how this is nothing new them. He was very angry, and rightfully so.

Mr. Leavy continued on his baseball tirade and explained to the listeners how Marlins fans operate. In an effort to explain why the Miami Marlins don’t sell many tickets, Mr. Leavy exclaimed that “Miami only supports winners.” He essentially implied that if the Miami Marlins were good – they’d have great ticket sales. As a die-hard Braves fan who watches an entire 9-inning game in August when his team is 20-something games out of first place, I was triggered immediately and basically judged the entire Marlins fan base upon this one ignorant answer from “Marlins Man.”

I thought to myself, “Where were Marlins fans in 2003, the year they won the World Series? In 2003 the Marlins had one of the lowest attendance records in MLB, averaging 16,279 fans per game. In 2004, the year following their World Series title, their attendance went up just a tick, but they were still near the very bottom of the barrel. Hell, where were all the fans then???”

However, after doing some sophisticated  armchair research and tapping into my memory a bit I found that the picture might not be as clear as it seemed. Besides, while I don’t mind folks judging me on my terrible takes (like this one) I would be truly hurt if other fan bases judged myself and other Braves fans based on one asshole like this one:

In 1997 (the only other year they went to the WS) the Florida Marlins actually killed it in attendance. Leyland was the manager, they had Conine and Renteria, and Kevin Brown. Quite the squad. They also had one of the biggest payrolls in baseball that year – $48.7 MM. And, as we all know, that next off-season the Marlins started their “fire sale” trend, and finished their 1998 campaign in last place. What if the Marlins actually had fans? AND, if you look at the year prior to their WS run,1996, the Marlins were not good, finished next to last place, but were still near the top in attendance. The Florida Marlins in the early-to-mid 90’s were cultivating baseball fans. Then they pissed them all off.

The Marlins have become a running joke and we joke about how they don’t have any fans. Seriously, what if the Marlins had legit baseball fans at some point? They kill it in attendance, they win the World Series, then they get rid of some of their fan favorites, lower payroll, finish in last place the very next season, and that was it. Perhaps it’s more complex than “Miami just supports winners.” Maybe that’s just the Marlins Man’s stupid terrible answer, which would still make him a flighty terrible fan (IMO).

“But Josh, the Braves sucked for years and they still had hardcore fans.” Well, not really. Their attendance sucked in the 70’s and 80’s. They didn’t start killing it in attendance until the 90’s, AND they never sold their entire team after a World Series appearance.

Here’s the sad realization, in my opinion, what if it’s too late? What if 1997 was it for Marlins fans? In the recent past, we’ve watched The Fish build a new stadium (their attendance ticked up a little bit in 2012, but nothing to write home about), we’ve watched them sign big players like Stanton, and we’ve watched them change their name/logo. All to no avail – still terrible ticket sales and an empty stadium.

Based on the last several years, it seems to me that the Marlins are too far gone to save. Perhaps someday I’ll be proven wrong. Marlins fans were lied to back in 1997 and then they were completely taken advantage of with their new stadium and since then it has seemed to be the same old song just a different verse.

I guess what I’m saying is – the Marlins Man and the Miami Marlins suck, but many of their fans do not, and the NL East Would be better with those fans back in it.

And just for the record I still think Cardinals fans are the snobbiest SOBs in baseball.

 

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Is Andruw Jones a Hall of Famer? The answer MATTERS.

Andruw Jones might not get in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot, but I believe he’ll get in eventually. The Andruw Jones naysayers hone in on his career .254 batting average, but as we all know by now (hopefully) – baseball, and offense in particular, is a little more than batting average (batting average doesn’t matter).

My Hall of Fame case for Andruw Jones is quite simple. Andruw Jones has more career home runs than the greatest power-hitting catcher of all time (Mike Piazza) (Homeruns don’t matter) and is the best defensive center fielder of all time. Ozzie Smith had a career wRC+ of 92, but his elite glove got him into the Hall of Fame in no time. Andruw threw up a career 111 wRC+ and did just as much or more defensively for his respective position. (wRC+ doesn’t matter)

Andruw Jones threw up a career WAR of 62.8. Here’s the list of players who are already enshrined in Cooperstown with a lower WAR than Andruw JonesHarmon KillebrewYogi BerraMike PiazzaHank GreenbergWillie StargellBill DickeyLuis AparicioJoe GordonGeorge SislerWillie KeelerTony PerezMickey CochraneKirby PuckettOrlando CepedaRalph KinerJim RiceErnie LombardiNellie Fox, and Lou Brock. (WAR doesn’t matter)

What hurts Andruw Jones, among the uneducated writers, is three things:

  1. Andruw Jones had an awkward ending to his career. In 2007 it was like Andruw Jones hit a wall. And please don’t come at me with the whole PED speculation. MLB began testing for PEDs in 2003 and in 2005 Andruw Jones hit 51 homers. Besides, what roided up steroid using ballplayer was slightly chubby like Andruw Jones? (Jason Giambi doesn’t matter)
  2. Andruw Jones played for the Atlanta Braves during his 10 consecutive Gold Glove winning years. If you watched the Braves back then, and then tuned in nightly to ESPN, you might remember something. On any given night, Andruw Jones would make insane Spider Man-like catches but would very seldom be featured on SportsCenter’s “Web Gems.” So if you’re a national writer, or a guy covering the Royals locally, Andruw Jones wasn’t really on your radar. Why? Because ESPN is a terrible company and hates Atlanta. (ESPN doesn’t matter)
  3. Andruw Jones wasn’t flashy. Much of the Hall of Fame voting (unfortunately) is all about perception and not numbers. Case and point – Mike Mussina. When you watched Andruw Jones play, at times he almost looked lazy. Baseball came easy to him. Andruw Jones taught us that being the greatest center fielder of all time wasn’t really about speed, it was about quickness and the ability to read the ball off the bat. No one did this better than Andruw Jones, and unless you had the privilege of watching this occur in person, it’s hard to understand. (Side note – Andruw Jones’ arm doesn’t get written about enough. In fact, I might be the first person to ever write about how amazing Andruw Jones’ arm was. And that’s sad.) (Center Fielders’ arms don’t matter)

If Andruw Jones isn’t a Hall of Famer, NOTHING MATTERS.

Here’s a video:

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Growing up a Nolan Ryan fan

I had a wholesome and healthy childhood. Lots of broken bones. Lots of cursing and lying to my parents. Getting kicked out of class in kindergarten for kissing girls. One time I threw a rock through the windshield of my parent’s 1988 Dodge Caravan, just because it felt like the right thing to do.

At some point along the way, my dad allocated a particular black belt just for spanking my ass when I’d done something wrong (which was almost daily). We called it “the black belt.” Shit, that thing hurt.

I grew up on things like Jean Claude Van Damme movies. I didn’t care too much for Chuck Norris. I was more of a Van Damme guy, honestly. I smoked cigarettes in 6th grade, around the same time I saw my first playboy. It was a 70’s Playboy. Found it in my Uncle David’s basement.

As an 8-year-old, I was interested in what most normal Christian boys were into in 1991. Fast cars, Kathy Ireland, Michael Jordan, boxing movies, and Nolan Ryan.

Nolan Ryan was a badass. Now, technically my favorite player when I was a kid was Ozzie Smith. Certainly much different than Nolan Ryan in almost every way. Ozzie was my favorite because I myself was a small framed shortstop. I respected Ozzie, but I loved Nolan Ryan.

By the time I was 7 years old, Nolan Ryan was already 43 years old and playing for the Texas Rangers. He was on Advil commercials, in which he would pump iron and tell you that “Advil’s gentler on my stomach than Aspirin.” When he spoke, he sounded country. And he didn’t smile very much in photos. He was one BAD man.

We lived in Phenix City, Alabama during the year of 1990. One afternoon that summer, I was playing catch with my mom (sounds weird, I know, but my mom could throw better than Brooks Conrad). We were tossing the ball, when some older guy drove by in his truck, stopped, and hopped out. He had a mustache and said that he was the coach of some little league team (This is Ken, I was editing this article and at this point I was fairly certain Josh was about to tell me that Brian Snitker hit on his mom and coached him in little league ball). He told my mom that if I’d be interested, they could use a bat boy. (In retrospect, we believe this gentleman might have been hitting on my mom. But at the time, I viewed him as a general manager courting me into some type of long term contract to be the face of his franchise.)

I showed up to the field and guess what team they were? The Rangers. Basically, in my very small 7-year-old cranium, I was about to become Nolan Ryan. But, there was one problem. I couldn’t pitch. 

To make a long story short, I showed up ready to play, not to retrieve bats from some 20-grade 8-year-olds. I somehow manipulated the powers to be, imagine that, to allow me to play in a game and I hit an inside the park homer. I ended up playing almost every game that season. It was one hell of a summer.

We had our pictures made for our own baseball cards at some point and I remember trying not to smile because Nolan Ryan didn’t smile. I couldn’t help it. I was too damn happy about being a Texas Ranger.

After being a Ranger, I felt like I could completely relate to Mr. Ryan. In 1992, my dad bought me Nolan’s autobiography for my birthday. Which was also Nolan Ryan’s birthday. It’s a birthday that we, Nolan and I, share (along with Ernie Banks and Jackie Robinson). No big deal.

That same year, Coca Cola partnered with Donruss and made a collection of Nolan Ryan cards that depicted his entire career. I have all of them. And then in 1993 the greatest thing ever happened. Nolan Ryan whooped Robin Ventura’s ass.

It was a Wednesday night. Robin Ventura had the terrific idea of charging the pitchers mound while Nolan Ryan was on it. The Ryan Express put Robin in a headlock and went to town. It’s all we talked about the next several days at school. Nolan Ryan was already a country bad ass, but this took him to a whole new level. Me and my friends would debate extremely important things on the school bus like, “Who you got in a fight? Bo Jackson or Nolan Ryan? You think Nolan Ryan could take Mike Tyson?”

We were spoiled with Nolan Ryan. He completely ruined us. We baby pitchers so much these days that we glorify a guy who can last 6 innings while giving up 3 runs. We call it a “quality start.” In 1990 we watched Nolan Ryan throw over 200 innings. As a 43 year old. The man had 77 games in which he was leading in the 7th inning and finished all 77 of them. The Ryan Express didn’t need a closer, because he was his own closer. He planned on finishing whatever he started. He was a MAN.

Every generation tends to think that their generation was the best. Or at the very least better than whoever the current youngsters are. I like to think that being a kid in the late 80’s and early 90’s was the best. When men were men and when fast cars, growing muscles and kicking Robin Ventura’s ass was cool.

You know what’s cool now? Jordan Spieth and being respectful to others. How boring.

Me in 1990 as a Texas Ranger

 

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The 2017 Atlanta Braves didn’t suck because of Brian Snitker

Before I delve into my extremely deep thoughts here, let me get this out of the way. I’ve said this publicly on the podcast, I’ve said it all over social media, and I’ve even made really immature videos about it for the Knockahoma Nation Twitter account, like this one here. I think the Braves could have found a better manager than Brian Snitker.

But this being said – The Atlanta Braves did not suck in 2017 because Brian Snitker was their manager. And for Braves fans to put all of their anger about 2017 onto the shoulders of Snitker is laughable.

Listen, Brian Snitker made some dumb decisions. He probably shouldn’t have let Emilio Bonifacio near a baseball diamond. But he wasn’t the one who put Emilio on the baseball team. Yes, he advocated for Bonifacio, but at the time it actually made sense. For a utility/bench guy, Emilio looked good in AAA, and by all accounts was a good clubhouse guy, so the manager liked him. Makes sense.

The thing about Brian Snitker is this – He plays ballplayers who are on his baseball team based on their role. So if you’re mad about that, try giving him better baseball players to work with. If your role is a utility guy or a bench bat, then that’s how Brian Snitker is going to use you. What I’m saying is – Brian Snitker’s only as good as the baseball players on his baseball team. Much like many other managers.

The funniest complaint I continue to hear about Brian Snitker is how terrible his bullpen management is. A couple of things here. First of all, almost every manager across baseball cannot mange a bullpen these days. And secondly, Brian Snitker was given a terrible bullpen.

“But Josh. He gave over 100 IP to two guys who had a +5.00 ERA.” Correct. Said “pitchers” with an ERA over 5.00 should not have been on the baseball team.

He did use Eric O’Flaherty in completely wrong situations over and over again. I’ll give you that. But at the end of the day, the season was a joke. So, who cares?

Brian Snitker was given a bullpen that was compiled of guys like Chaz Roe, Josh Collmenter, Rex Brothers, Jim Johnson and Luke Jackson. Put those guys in Terry Francona‘s bullpen and guess what? You’ve still got a shitty bullpen.

The 2017 Atlanta Braves sucked because they had really shitty players and because several of their non-shitty players took it upon themselves to try their hand at being really shitty.

It wasn’t Brian Snitker’s fault that he was given a terrible bullpen. It wasn’t Brian Snitker’s fault that Dansby Swanson couldn’t hit sliders. It wasn’t Brian Snitker’s fault that Julio Teheran forgot how to play baseball. It wasn’t Brian Snitker’s fault that Folty sucked, that Bartolo sucked and that Jaime Garcia sucked. It wasn’t his fault that Kemp couldn’t stay healthy.

Is Brian Snitker a terrible manager? He very well may be, and I’ll probably complain about some of his moves during the season. But I’ll reserve serious judgement on the guy until he’s actually given a formidable baseball team.

Towards the end of the season Atlanta Braves fans saw the very beginnings of an influx of young pitching talent with guys like Lucas Sims, Luiz Gohara, Max Fried. Between this type of talent and any newly acquired talent the Braves may get this off-season, perhaps we’ll actually get a logical gauge on whether or not Brian Snitker can manage a baseball team.

Until then, please shut up.

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