Rants Raves and Writin’

Scratching the Yel-itch!

At this point, everyone in Braves country is hearing rumors of the Braves going after Marlins outfielder, Christian Yelich, and perhaps even their catcher, J.T. Realmuto.  While I think Realmuto and Yelich are both terrific players, I’m left with an itch that’s begging to be scratched. Call it a “Yel-itch”.

I’ve always been a big fan of Christian Yelich, and I’ve frequently thought that he has been criminally underrated. His defense is solid, his offense is on the rise, he’s shown flashes of the potential to be a 5-tool player. I even think the future could be brighter for Yelich. He is likely to increase his home run rate, his production, and, away from the prairies of Marlin’s park, improve his defense.

And yet, I’m opposed to the Braves trading for him.

Why?

Good question. There is this interesting operating philosophy in baseball that simply acquiring great players will, in turn, make a great team. Certainly, there is a measure of truth to that idea. However, I also think there has to be more to your philosophy than simply collecting great players.

We could look back through history and find, time and again, where teams that were comprised of “great” players simply didn’t win. Revisionist history would tell us that it was because some of those players perhaps were not as “great” as we originally thought, but perhaps there is more to it than that. Perhaps, the team they were on and the role they were asked to play made them less great.

Unless your team is the Cleveland Browns, I don’t believe in bad luck or sacred goat curses. However, I do believe that team chemistry is important. And by team chemistry I don’t mean clubhouse personalities and how people get along (although there is some truth to that as well).  What I mean is that a team has to be comprised of players that fit a big picture purpose for the baseball team.

For me, it was the downfall of Fredi Gonzalez as a baseball coach. Fredi seemed convinced that he could massage and manipulate lineups that put players in different positions on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis, to maximize match-ups and play to the current ‘momentum’ of the team. But baseball is a job at the end of the day, and a player needs a clear picture of the job that he’s been hired to perform.

‘I mean why don’t he just hit baseballs and play gud defense, ain’t that what every gud baseball player does’

It’s true that hitting baseballs and playing defense is the core of the game, but those terms are broad and often misleading. The truth is – it’s more complex than that. Much more complex.

Do you want your leadoff man to get on base? Is that his primary role? If so, he needs to take more pitches, be more selective, work more counts, and shorten his swing and aim for more singles. Or maybe you want a leadoff man with a higher WRC+ who has more pop and power? Unless his name is Mike Trout, you pretty much need to understand he’s going to get on base a bit less, going to strike out more, and swing away at more first pitches.

Philosophically, do you want your best hitter hitting second? He’ll get about 60 more at-bats a year if you do. Or maybe you’re a traditionalist that likes him batting 3rd, do you want him to aim for power? Swing away? Do you need to protect him in the lineup? Oh, and if so, what do you protect him with? Power? Is that still the answer in today’s strikeout heavy world of power hitters?

At the end of the day, I think the Braves have some philosophical holes to fill. Is Ender your leadoff hitter or Ozzie? What are you looking for from your #2 hole hitter? Is Acuna going to bat 2nd? And if so, how long before you get him there? So far, the Braves have always used Freddie to bat 3rd, so where is Yelich? Is he really a 4th hole hitter?

Yelich has traditionally hit 3rd for Miami, yet last year he only hit .282 with 18 home runs. I mean that certainly isn’t bad, but let’s compare that to Freeman who batted .307 and hit 28 home runs (oh, and missed 6 weeks). Is a .282/18HR guy really what you want protecting Freeman?  (Protection matters.) Do we really need another 15-20 HR guy with good defense or would we be better served with a 30+ HR guy that might lack a little defensively, or not have the greatest OBP (ie. Martinez, Duvall, etc). 

Perhaps Yelich will make up for it on defense?

Well, just as on the offensive side of things and creating a lineup, you have a defensive philosophy as well. Yelich is a terrific defender, right? Well, that’s what people keep telling me, yet in 2017, he saw a significant decline in his defense, finishing the year with -6 DRS. I’ll be the first to stand up and scream that defense runs saved isn’t the best stat ever, but it is an indicator for sure.

Yelich’s potential value is primarily built upon the idea that he will continue to get better. And he certainly may, but the biggest part of the puzzle is always cost/value. To acquire Yelich is going to be an expensive overpay. I’m the kind of guy that’s sometimes guilty of over-valuing prospects, but I’m actually ok with overpaying for pieces I think fit the right holes in the philosophy and have future value in line with what you’re giving up. Any trade is risky. Yelich is young and on a mostly cost-friendly contract. There are reasons to think he will soar to his potential value. But many Braves fans (and now Cubs fans) are familiar with 26-year-olds with great stats and superstar potential don’t always pan out … sometimes they suddenly can’t remember how to hit baseballs and their entire 5 tool concept suddenly becomes 2 tools. Yes, I’m looking at you, Jason Heyward.

If we were talking about Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, even my personally-hated Bryce Harper, I think there is very little room to doubt the future ascent of their rise to franchise anchoring status. At one point, I thought Yelich was headed there. But while I think he was once undervalued, the perception of him may now have gone in the other direction, and his perceived value may actually be higher than reality. It’s not that he has significantly declined, or regressed. In fact, he may continue right on up, yet even at his best, I wonder if he is truly a top-tier player worth the cost that he inevitably will demand. His K% is league average, his DRS is slightly above average, his 18 HRs is a little above average, his slugging .463 is a little above average. I think Yelich is better than average, but is he really a superstar? And even if he is a superstar, is he the superstar the Braves need to empty their coffers for?

Is it really worth giving up four prospects from your top 15, and perhaps seven from your top 25, some of which project to be a good bit better than just above average? (I’ll be the first to admit prospects bust frequently, but from the richest farm in baseball that’s not chump change.) It’s easy to want splashy moves for names we like. It’s much harder to stay the course, stick to your philosophy, and find the answers to the holes you have on the team you are already fielding. When I look at the Braves I don’t see the hole begging for Yelich. I see a team missing power, missing defense, and missing quite a few other roles (3B, pitching, etc) that Yelich simply cannot fill.  Would he be another great player on the Braves team? Absolutely. Would it make the Braves a much better team? I’m not so certain.

The answer to Yelich’s value to the Braves is an itch I’m not sure I want to scratch.

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Jeff’s Top Braves Prospects (31-40)

Hello Knockahoma Nation, you probably know me from Twitter or from the handful of podcasts I’ve popped up on with Josh and Ken. I live down in Tampa, Florida and while that doesn’t allow me to go to SunTrust Park as much as I’d like, it puts me within driving distance of lots and lots of baseball.

I have seen most of the prospects I’m about to list either on the backfields in extended Spring Training, Gulf Coast League or Florida State League games. If I haven’t seen a guy in person, all I have to go on is MILB.tv like the rest of you. I’m not a scout, and thus, do not try to act like one, I just watch a lot of baseball and tell it like I see it. If you don’t agree with where I have a player ranked or have questions, hit me up on Twitter at @ProspectsBraves or my personal account @JonesBWP. I am pretty active on there.

So without further adieu let’s get started.

40. Jesse Biddle –

A former first round pick by the Phillies, Biddle was a top 100 prospect before having Tommy John surgery, being waived, subsequently scooped up by the Pirates, dropped and picked up by the Braves where he recovered from said TJ. I happened to be at his first appearance after surgery against those very same hometown Phillies in Clearwater and he looked good, especially for his first appearance. He ran it up to 94-95 and displayed his customary plus curveball, which is a slower offering to go along with a solid changeup. He pitched the entire 2017 year in Mississippi and posted solid numbers – 49.2 IP, 9.60 K/9, 2.90 BB/9 and a 2.90 ERA. Expect him to get a crack at a bullpen spot in Atlanta as he’s already been on the 40-man for 2 years. He’s a lefty with reverse splits and while I would’ve worried about that last year, Anthopoulos seems to have Snitker nose deep in Bill James’ Baseball Abstract right about now.

NOTE – There are a handful of other relief prospects that could’ve been featured here most notably – Corbin Clouse, Devan Watts, Phil Pfieffer, Caleb Dirks, Michael Mader and Evan Phillips.

39. Akeel Morris –

Why is water wet? Why is the sky blue? Why can’t Akeel Morris get a fair crack at the Atlanta bullpen? All questions that surely have an answer, but none of which I can name off the top of my head. Blessed with an unreal changeup, Akeel continues to put up solid numbers in the minor leagues (54.1 IP, 2.65 ERA, 65 K, 25 walks) what else can the guy do? Maybe 2018 will be the year he gets more than a week in the show!

38. Anyelo Gomez –

The Braves most recent dip into the Yankees talent pool is from the 2017 Rule 5 Draft. Gomez had a breakout year in 2017 – 87 strikeouts and just 21 walks in 70.1 IP, 1.92 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, only gave up 2 HR all season. He just couldn’t make the cut on the Yankees stacked 40 man/bullpen and the Braves look to have pulled a Robin Hood here. He will be in the mix for the 2018 bullpen or we’ll be forced to ship him back to the Yankees. His fastball sits in the mid 90s with a solid changeup out of a funky delivery.

37. Jacob Lindgren – 

Another guy scooped up thanks to the Yankees bullpen being ridiculous, Lindgren was a college reliever taken in the 2nd round back in 2014  out of Mississippi State. A hard throwing lefty who has already made his major league debut but unfortunately had to have Tommy John surgery in 2015 after at first being shut down for bone spurs. He’s pretty much the same pitcher as A.J. Minter – literally Minter is 6′, Lindgren is 5′-11″. They both throw mid to upper 90’s with a devastating slider, both pitched out of the bullpen in college and both have already had TJ. They’re also only 5 months apart. SEC! SEC! SEC!

36. Tyler Pike – 

Pike came over in the Alex Jackson trade as the player to be named later and started the year in High A Florida not far from his hometown of Winter Haven. After being jerked back and forth between levels and getting stuck in the hitter’s paradise that is the PCL on more than one occasion he seemed to settle in back closer to home. In 12 starts he hummed along to the tune of a 2.20 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 69.2 innings with a decent 3.49 BB/9, after appearing in the Florida State League All Star Game he was promoted to Mississippi. That is where he seemingly hit a wall with 6 starts with 5 or more walks, he ended up with a K/9 over 10 in the Southern League but a BB/9 of 7.59 is just not going to cut it. I think he’ll get another chance to start in the cavernous ballpark that is Trustmark Park but if he doesn’t find a way to cut down on the walks I still think he could be a useful reliever with the potential for even more strikeouts.

35. Isranel Wilson –

Signed all the way back in 2014, Wilson is a big kid with pop who plays a smooth center field. As a former shortstop, he also has a cannon for an arm, which I’ve witnessed on a few occasions. A talented kid no doubt, his biggest enemy has always seemed to be himself as he has all the tools to be an excellent player.  He will only be 20 come Opening Day 2018 and I’d expect him to open up as Rome’s starting center fielder with Cristian Pache graduating to Florida. After having his 2016 season cut short and only playing 60 games last season, it will be interesting to see what he does with a full season this year. I’ll make somewhat of a bold prediction here and guess he comes close to matching his career home run total of 18.

34. Tyler Neslony –

Ah, The Pony, Josh’s pride and joy. He was drafted in 2016 and was still playing in the College World Series so I had a chance to watch him right away and flat out, the kid can hit. Tyler Neslony doesn’t crack Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects, and he doesn’t crack most Braves blogger’s top 50. But here’s a fun fact – Tim Hudson, David Price, Daniel Murphy, Robinson Cano, Jose Altuve, Tim Wakefield, Jeff Kent, Jim Edmonds (just to name a few) were never ranked prospects. Truth is, ranking prospects can be like predicting the weather 15 days out.

Neslony’s ceiling is probably Nick Swisher. And that’s a hell of a ceiling. His floor is a guy who makes it to AAA and sells insurance in three years. With Tyler, it’ll really come down to his defense and his ability to hit more advanced pitching. He can rake, but can he rake against the best? We’ll see. – JB

 

33. Anfernee Seymour

“Speed, I am speed.” – Lightning McQueen or Anfernee Seymour? Seymour is pretty much always the fastest player on the diamond and I’m not quite sure why the Marlins tried to shoehorn him into a middle infield position after signing him. I was extremely pleased to see him starting in center field the first time I caught him at extended Spring Training in 2017, the dude is a gazelle out there. He hit .282/.342/.357 in 110 games between Florida and Rome with the majority of them coming in Florida. He was caught on 20 of 45 stolen base attempts, but he truly does have 80 grade speed and that may just be him needing to adjust to better catchers at higher levels. I probably would’ve had him higher on my list but he was suspended after the 2017 season right before heading to Arizona for the Fall League so we didn’t get a chance to see him against elite competition. The reason for the suspension was never made clear, the Braves always keep that sort of thing pretty tight lipped but the one tweet I did see is a really dumb reason and unfortunate for Anfernee. Hopefully it motivates him and he is able to break camp to Mississippi with his pal Touki.

32. Leudys Baez –

A guy I pinned last year as a rebound candidate came back from a injury plagued 2016 season and tore it up out of the gate in Danville to the tune of a 1.000 OPS in 25 games. He was deservedly promoted to Rome, where he cooled off a bit hitting just .268 with a .733 OPS in 31 games. Like Isranel Wilson, he’s a “toolsy” guy who checks all the boxes and will look to build on the progress he made last year. I assume he’ll play in High A Florida in 2018.

31. Derian Cruz –

Formerly the highest paid International signing in Braves history, Derian had a rough 2016 to put it lightly committing 16 errors in 26 games Rome and struggling at the plate before being demoted. He is still just 19 and will more than likely repeat at Rome where, thanks to outside circumstances, it looks like he’ll get another shot at short. He is an athletic, hard working kid and I expect him to rebound and make me look foolish for having him this low on my list.

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I Don’t Know’s on Third

The famous Abbott and Costello skit “Who’s on First” unforgettably amuses the audience as Abbott befuddles his pal Costello with the confusing names of the players on his baseball team. In the skit, the third baseman is “I Don’t Know”.  The Braves feel like they’re right in the middle of that skit when it comes to the identity of their 2018 third baseman and “I Don’t Know” is on third for Atlanta.

Most of us know the usual characters and options that are sitting there available, so I’ll not waste your time by giving a detailed analysis of each player that could be a 2018 third base option for the Atlanta Braves, but I will skim them.

Todd Frazier

Frazier batted .213 last season.  Yep, .213. He did crush 27 home runs, though. He had a terrible BABIP. But even projections for this next year have it only jumping up about 20 points. He’s a plus defender at 3rd. The end.

Josh Harrison

He’s a name not heavily talked about, but the Pirates have made it known that he’s available. While I think Harrison is one of the best utility players in the game, his third base defense is average at best, and his batting has traditionally suffered when he plays the hot corner. Not only is he owed $10.25MM in 2018, but his asking price could be hefty. While I think Harrison wouldn’t be an atrocious stopgap, ultimately he costs too much.

Martin Prado

With the Marlins turning into the Flea Market of baseball, it feels like Prado is probably available. Prado’s name will always be loved in Braves Country, but at this point I believe getting Prado would be a bit like grabbing the Matt Kemp of infielders. While he’s not quite as overpaid as Kemp was, he’s still getting $28M + for two more years. That’s not great for a guy coming back from some serious knee issues. Besides, his defense was only slightly above league average for the last few years before he was injured.

Nick Castellanos

Yeah he’s my darling pick. Anyone that follows me knows that I love the idea of Castellanos at the hot corner and seeing what he can do.

He hit 26 bombs last year. The knock on Nick is his defense. It’s not good. In fact, last year it was so bad the Tigers moved him to the outfield. I personally believe Ron Washington is a miracle worker and if he can make Freddie Freeman into an incredible third baseman, he can fix anyone. But even if Castellanos doesn’t stick at 3B, he could certainly move to left field and add quite a bit of pop to the lineup. With the Tigers in a rebuild it feels like you could get him without having to give up too much, but you can’t be sure.

Johan Camargo

Last but not least, Camargo. Some have complained about his splits, but when you dig a little deeper he actually doesn’t have any problems against lefties or righties. He did struggle against relief pitchers, many of which had a single very dominant pitch.

However, he batted .305 against RH starters and .296 against LH starters. He also crushed the ball when he hit it. His average exit velocity was 88.12 mph. For comparison, Freddie Freeman’s average exit velocity in 2017 was 89.68 mph.  Undoubtedly, Camargo hasn’t shown the pop and home run power that you traditionally expect from a third baseman. But I also think it might still be in hiding in there. In the winter league, Camargo is slugging .511. That’s only 1 home run, but a triple and 5 doubles in only 54 at bats.

I mentioned Josh Harrison earlier as an option for third, but the truth is the Braves already have their Josh Harrison and his name is Johan Camargo.  Unless the Braves want to try a double fix with a move for Castellanos, with Camargo backing him up as a utility man with lots of playing time or taking over at third if Castellanos can’t play defense, I prefer they stay put with Camargo.

Frazier may have more pop, but his batting average is atrocious and he doesn’t seem destined to make any giant leaps. (Hitting baseballs matters.) I know Atlanta could use a bit more pop in their lineup, but slugging may be the better measure of just what Camargo can add than simply his home run totals, and Camargo out-slugged Frazier last season by more than 24 points despite only hitting 4 home runs.

Somehow, over the course of this offseason, it feels as if fans have forgotten how solid Johan Camargo was this year. Prognosticators have chalked it up to a high BABIP or pitchers not figuring him out. Skeptics have questioned his power while ignoring his slugging. He’s not the sexy big money name of Machado (oh by the way the Braves would be insane to pay for one year of Machado). He’s not the traditional third baseman that Todd Frazier is, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a place on this team and it doesn’t mean that place couldn’t be third base. He currently fits a bit more of a utility profile, but I think limiting him to a utility role is short sighted and judgmental.

I’ll be honest Johan Camargo is an “I Don’t Know” for me. I don’t know what he will hit, I don’t know what his power will be, I don’t know how his defense will end up, and I don’t know that he’s the permanent answer for the Atlanta Braves.

At the end of the day, this team is young. Very young, and very fast. I like the idea of creating a culture of young guys discovering exactly who they are. Challenging the assumptions about who they are and who they are not. Not being limited to trying to fit some mold that the previous guy has always played to answer the Who’s on First, What’s on Second and I Don’t Know is on third. If I’m making the decisions, I Don’t Know is playing third for me, but I do know who he is. He’s Johan Camargo. 

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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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It’s all about the BENJAMIN$, baby


Saturday, December 16, 2017 will go down in the annals of Braves history as the day that Alex Anthopoulos pulled off the first major trade of his tenure as the new GM of the Atlanta Braves. You can safely say it is his best trade to date and hopefully an indication of the creativity he promised to bring to the Braves front office when he was hired a little over a month ago.

The basics: The Braves traded Matt Kemp to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Charlie Culberson, and $4.5M cash. There’s a lot to digest here, so as I’m always bound to do, here’s a Boggy Breakdown:

***Note: the salary figures I use don’t match those that are widely reported elsewhere on Twitter and on the interwebs. Most of the figures you read will include the pro-rated amounts of players’ signing bonuses, which is what MLB does for the purpose of calculating luxury taxes on the highest-payroll teams in the league. I choose NOT to do this because I like to treat signing bonuses as real-time money paid up-front. After all, if a team promises a signing bonus of $5M to get a player to sign with them, he’s getting that money right away, not next year or the year after (unless you’re Dan Uggla but that’s a WHOLE ‘nother can of worms that I won’t open right now).

We’ll start with Matt Kemp. He’s probably the one player on the Braves roster that almost every single Braves fan with a pulse wanted to be traded this off-season – to clear his salary, to get his arthritic hips & bad hamstrings out of left field, and to make room for uber-prospect Ronald Acuña.

Kemp was owed $21.5M for the next 2 seasons (2018 & 2019) and the Dodgers took on all of that contract, every dime, $43M total. Here’s where someone might say “Wait a second Boggy, I thought the Padres & Dodgers were off-setting come of the cost of Matt Kemp’s contract from the first 2 times Kemp was traded?”

In my research, which is backed by Associated Press articles such as this one, the Padres are sending the Braves $2.5M annually from 2017-2019 as part of the trade that sent Matt Kemp to the Braves. Let’s not concern ourselves with what the Dodgers are sending the Padres because that’s their problem. In this case, the Braves get to keep the $2.5M per year for 2018 & 2019 from the Padres, because nowhere in this latest Matt Kemp trade does anything indicate that the Braves are sending money to the Dodgers, quite the opposite actually.

Now for the players the Braves received from the Dodgers. Adrian Gonzalez is in the final year of a 7-year, $154M contract he signed in 2012 as a member of the Boston Red Sox. That contract is paying him $21.5M for the 2018 season, which makes his contract a total wash with Kemp’s for the 2018 season. He was DFA’d immediately after the trade and will be released today because the CBA stipulates that players cannot be released on the weekends during the off-season – how nice of MLB to make sure their players don’t lose their jobs over the weekend. He was DFA’d in order to get the 40-man roster down to 40 players, which is where it currently stands.

Scott Kazmir is in the final year of a 3-year, $48M contract he signed with the Dodgers in 2016. That contract paid him a $5M signing bonus (paid the day after the contract was signed), an $11M salary for 2016, and $16M salaries each year for 2017 & 2018. Some of you may have read that some of Kazmir’s contract was deferred, and you are correct (here’s the link). $8M of his salary from each season is deferred to be paid in December of 2019-2021. This effectively lowers the total value of the contract for luxury tax purposes at the time of the signing. You may be wondering why the Braves would have taken on Kazmir’s contract if it meant paying him thru 2021 and here’s my response: they didn’t.

I believe that the Dodgers set-up an annuity of some sort to account for these deferred payments. There’s no way the Braves would have agreed to this trade if it meant they actually owed Kazmir $32M until 2021 and not just $16M for 2018. So, for the purposes of the Braves and their payroll calculations for the 2018 season and beyond, that’s their total obligation to Kazmir – $16M in 2018. (h/t to @jervass of @OFRSports for going through this with me to clear it up, you should follow him and the rest of the guys at Outfield Fly Rule – they do great work)

UPDATE: After more research into Kazmir’s deferred payments (and more consultation with @jervass), I’ve confirmed that the Braves are only responsible for Kazmir’s $16M but that they will pay it out as noted in the deferral: $8M in 2018 and $8M in 2021. Here’s an AP source that states it clearly. This will inevitably vary by news source over the course of this season and future seasons, but for the sake of doing the most accurate bookkeeping, the $16M should be realized when it’s paid – half in 2018, the other half in 2021.

Brandon McCarthy is in the final year of a 4-year, $48M contract he signed with the Dodgers in 2015. He received a $6M signing bonus (paid in 2015) and a salary of $11M per year for 2015 & 2016, and $10M per year for 2017 & 2018. Here’s a little piece of info you might not know: the Dodgers bought themselves some injury insurance as part of this trade – the team holds a conditional team option for the 2019 season for $5M if McCarthy spends more than 180 days on the DL quote: “as a result of an injury to his pitching shoulder related to stress fracture or a reaction injury” (more on that here) from 2015-2018. The option is worth $8M if he spends between 120-179 days on the DL during that time period. Now, I can’t tell you if this injury qualifies him for this option, but I can tell you he spent the entirety of the 2015 season on the DL and half of 2016 on the DL recovering from Tommy John surgery. All totaled, he’s spent 379 days on the disabled list since he signed that contract. I’m no expert or doctor, but my guess is that the Braves now hold a team option for $5M for the 2019 season on Brandon McCarthy.

UPDATE: After consulting with @TrueBlueLA and doing a little more digging into McCarthy’s original contract and injury history, I no longer believe the Braves hold a $5M team option for the 2019 season for McCarthy.

The conditional option was included in his contract because of previous shoulder problems he’d had, not elbow problems. The conditional option only applies for an injury to his pitching shoulder and none of his DL time since he signed his contract can be attributed to his pitching shoulder – it’s all for his pitching elbow (Tommy John surgery ’15-’16), “the yips” when he returned from his surgery and all of a sudden couldn’t find the strike zone again, and blisters on his pitching hand in 2017. Unless he spends most of the 2018 season on the DL with right shoulder problems, McCarthy will be a free agent after 2018 with no cheap team option.

The Braves also get utility infielder and Rome, GA native Charlie Culberson in this deal. Culberson is pre-arbitration eligible for the 2018 season so the Braves have 4 more years of control over an excellent defender at multiple positions including 2B, SS, 3B, & the outfield. He essentially replaces Jace Peterson. I’m obligated by my name alone to tell you the he is out of options. Since he’s pre-arbitration eligible, the amount he’ll make in 2018 is a non-factor in the evaluation of the finances of this trade, since leftover roster spots are filled with pre-arbitration players making league minimum (more on this later).

Lastly, the Dodgers are sending the Braves $4.5M as part of this trade, an amount that will apply to the 2018 season. This amount is simply to make the entirety of the trade a financial wash for both teams. Summary: Braves add Gonzalez $21.5M + Kazmir $16M + McCarthy $10M ($47.5M total) and subtract Kemp $43M and $4.5M ($47.5M total) for a net of $0 added for each team. You may be wondering why 2 teams would make a trade that nets neither team any financial obligation, and one team is taking on $21.5M extra for the 2018 season. This trade works great for both teams because it allows the Braves to clear future payroll in 2019 to spend on the great upcoming free agent class and it allows the Dodgers to get under the luxury tax threshold for 2018, which also allows them to potentially be able to spend on the 2019 free agent class.

Here’s the breakdown of how the Braves 2018 Opening Day payroll looks as of today:

Under contract: $69.8M (10 players, includes Brothers & Whitley’s minor-league guarantee)

Arbitration estimates: $8.4M (4 players, figures from MLB Trade Rumors)

Pre-arb players: $6M (11 players at $545k, league min)

Dead money: $22.3M (Gonzalez, Dickey buyout, Uggla deferred singing bonus, Rule 5 selection fee for Anyelo Gomez)

From others teams: $7M

GRAND TOTAL: $99.5M

Assuming a rough budget of $130M for the 2018 season, the Braves still have around $30.5M they can spend to shore up the bullpen, and/or improve at third base, the 2 places it is believed the Braves are still looking to improve this off-season.

Here’s where the Braves really came out looking like ballers & shot-callers in this trade: their financial obligation for the 2019 season is now a mere $37M. That’s it. All of it. Three guaranteed contracts (Freeman, Inciarte, & Teheran). That’s before arbitration raises but I won’t even begin to estimate those right now because so much can happen between now and next winter before determining who on the roster is or will be arbitration eligible. But if someone says to you “The Braves will have $100M to spend on the free agent class of 2019”, don’t correct them – they’re pretty close to right.

To finish this off, I say we raise our glasses to Alex Anthopoulos, who managed to pull off a trade that we all wanted but were afraid was impossible to accomplish, and he managed to add a veteran starting pitcher, and reliable bench bat and utility fielder with a great glove, and a wild card lefty who could be something, or could be nothing at all, depending on his return from injury. I imagine AA is dippin’ in the Benz with the spoilers right now.

– Boggy

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From Batting Averages to Launch Angles … It’s Still Baseball

Picture this … Braves are down a run with Nick “I only hit doubles” Markakis standing on second base, after a booming double to the gap gets by any Nationals outfielder not named Harper. There are two outs. Johan Camargo steps up to the plate. The Braves are down a run and they need to tie it here.

What are you thinking?

“C’mon Johan, all we need is a base-hit here buddy … Get’em over, get’em in. C’mon, A-B-C baseball here fellas.”

Or are you thinking: “Hmmm. I hope that this isn’t the plate appearance in which Johan Camargo’s inflated BABIP decides to start crashing back to Earth, and set off a chain reaction that leads to a drop in wRC+ and his ISO.”

For the last couple of years, I’ve fallen into a trance. Why, for everything that is good and holy, do I feel the need to analyze EVERYTHING I see occur during the course of a baseball game? When did it stop being fun and start feeling more like work? Every pitch and swing, chewed up and spit out like a bad Christopher Russo take. Whatever happened to just watching a game to, you know, watch a game. A cold beer in hand, couple of hotdogs (AKA: sandwiches(( Hi this is Ken and I’m editing this piece… for the record we didn’t ask Dan to write for his Hotdog takes which are obviously horribly wrong, do try to overlook this egregiously atrocious hot take and focus on his baseball opinions))) – just you and America’s Pastime.

For the better part of a decade, I feel like the game has been nothing but microscopic adjudications; launch angles, exit velocity, FIPs, and BABIPs. I used to watch games because I just liked watching baseball and the Braves. Now, when I watch a game, I find myself watching mechanics, pitch selection – all of it with the TV on mute, because, you know, sometimes, Chip happens.

Contrary to what may be inferred here, I’m not knocking the metrics we see used now. I actually enjoy learning about the quantitative measurements that make our game and its players, more valuable, and advances the game for the better, sometimes. I’m not against them, I’m all for them. It advances the game in ways we never considered or thought of possible even 15 years ago. I can’t imagine all of us, though, started watching and following baseball because we couldn’t wait to fire off hot takes based on the unsustainable BABIP of Johan Camargo.

This game is a fantastically graceful, majestic game. It’s full of intrigue, excitement, pins-and-needles type drama. Sometimes, though, I feel like I’ve lost the kid that only cared about watching the Braves, and less about “watching the Braves”. Somewhere between 8 and 38, I forgot how to watch the game for what it is.

Baseball was life because baseball was fun and simple.

Baseball today, for some, has gotten hard to keep up with. You have to know so much just to stay current and relative in the conversation. I feel like you have to own a PhD just to stay abreast of the discussion. Regardless of your preference in how you partake or engulf yourself in the game, baseball at its core, will always be there. No matter how hard it gets to watch, how scientific it gets to evaluate, how intricate it becomes to follow, or how smarter everyone around you seems to get.

I don’t say all this to offend. I’m sure there are others that feel a similar way. I say this, because, as I have said, I have warmed up to the advanced metrics and even have tried learning about them. All I’m saying is that sometimes, I just want to watch the game to watch the game, analysis free. That’s it.

At the end of the day, though, there is no right or wrong way to enjoy the game. As long as you’re watching, that’s all that matters, really. Baseball is still baseball, it brings people together, and there’s nothing wrong with the game … Well, except the Designated Hitter, you can leave that sh*t in the American League forever … “Bye, Felicia”.

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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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An American Martyr

Martyr: a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle : ie. John Coppolella.

In a world where being politically correct is worshipped, where Clay Travis is considered the anti-christ, and where the heel turn is the best character in all of wrestling, John Coppolella stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Randy Orton and Chris Jericho combined could not pull off half the heel-turn that Coppy has. Some fans were outraged at this “scumbag”. How could Coppy be such a “traitor”? Well let me tell you something. John Coppolella goes down in my book as not just one of the greatest rebuild General Managers of all time, he’s also an American hero. A true blue American martyr.

The man merely wanted to pay some latino players what they were actually worth to make his team the best. The man wanted Drew Waters to have a car, so he offered him a car. The man wanted the Braves to have the best farm system in America, and by God they did. The man wanted to take a team with half the budget of MLB’s darlings and make them competitive. Stick it to the man, John.

The other GMs hated him because he took his job too seriously. Screw them. Media guys didn’t like him because he held grudges and didn’t leak stuff. Screw them, too. The system always hates the innovators that play by a different set of rules. John Brown, Joan of Arc, Socrates, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr, Nathan Hale. All martyred because they refused to quietly go with the system as it was. And now, John Coppolella.

In a country where the very idea of a free market has governed our principles, our strategies, and ultimately our success for 300 years, John Coppolella is the latest in a long line of casualties. He’s a casualty in a system of corporate greed that simulates fairness by creating fake rules to regulate what needs no significant regulation.

Let’s be real, if Kevin Maitan signed on an open market he would have received $15+ million, and if he were to become a bust then said team would learn their lesson and not pay so much next time. If Drew Waters signed on an open market he’d get a couple of cars and about $10+ million. Let’s not let MLB’s corporate PR machine twist what happened here.

A $40 BILLION organization that has made it’s bread and butter on the backs of athletes (95% of which have been underpaid for the last 140 years) just banned a guy from it’s game for life because he outsmarted a broken system for a measly $15 million. This is the equivalent of Bernie Madoff’s child stealing a candy bar and his father disowning him while stealing billions from investors.

Did he break the rules? Heck yes he did. Do I care? NOT ONE BIT. Because rules that actually make one iota of sense don’t need to be broken. And since when did we as Americans decide that doing everything by the book was the ‘right way’? Was it illegal to dump a ship full of tea into the Boston Harbor? You’re dang right it was. Was it illegal to write our own constitution and tell King George where he could stick his rules? You bet your Don’t Tread On Me flag it was. Was it illegal for Rosa Parks to sit down on a bus? Sure was. This country is built on the idea that sometimes the heel gets it when no one else does.

While John Coppolella is in no way a civil rights icon, or a founding father, he is a martyr for the American way. Let me say it loud and clear. MLB and Rob Manfred are a bunch of hypocritical turdwaffles. They are perfectly fine with letting a player abuse his wife, to only return to playing baseball in a few weeks once the news coverage dies down.

They had no problem making PED users the face of the entire game for a whole decade, yet now condemn them and refuse to let them into the Hall of Fame. They don’t mind owners stealing millions from taxpayers to build a new stadium every 15 years while the stadium they have is still perfectly fine. But GOD FORBID one guy figures out how to beat their sanctimonious little system to get five extra prospects and pay those prospects what they should have been being paid to begin with.

This punishment reeks of the hypocrisy that has become synonymous with not only Major League Baseball, but America as a whole. We glorify politically correct images and people who pretend to play inside the made up rules because someone else said this is “the way to play”, while crucifying anyone who doesn’t fit perfectly into our little box. Regardless of how you feel about Trump this is why he’s had success. He says F the pc-rules. (Have I mentioned that sometimes rulebreakers are total idiots?) Al Franken will get to stay a senator in spite of groping a girl, Roy Moore may get elected in spite of being a 20-grade A-hole, and Rob Manfred will get to let off his buddy John Hart while looking like a hero for coming down hard on John Coppolella.

I’m not buying this BS. Was John Coppolella a total jerk? Perhaps. Did he break all kinds of rules? Sure. Did he cheat? Yep. Did he steal prospects? Yes. (RIP Dave Stewart.) Do I feel bad about it? Heck no.

Rob Manfred can take a sanctimonious walk down to Boston Harbor and throw himself in. Then he can take a few hours to dry and think about his made up rules and his self righteous BS while the rest of MLB continues to break them any way that they possibly can.

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