Rants Raves and Writin’

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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That ‘Forever a Fan’ moment…

Let’s get one thing out of the way now. I’m a baseball fan, first, and foremost. After that, it’s the Braves, and up until 2014, that was it.

We all have that story. That story that turned you into the fan you are today of whomever your respective team or teams are because of that “Forever a Fan” moment.

The Baltimore Orioles were always a team I admired from a distance. Cal Ripken, Sr., Cal Ripken, Jr., Eddie Murray, Brady Anderson, even Mike Mussina were guys I respected and loved watching just play the game. Anyway, when we moved within about 20 minutes of Oriole Park at Camden Yards (OPACY), I couldn’t wait to make my first trip to Camden.

We arrived here, Fort Meade, MD, in the summer of 2013. August to be exact (I’m active duty Army, for those who didn’t already know that). So, when I learned that the Orioles provided free tickets to Ft. Meade soldiers and their families for afternoon Sunday home games, I was stoked.

I was a casual O’s fan, until one night in September of 2014 changed that for me.

My birthday is July 8th and my oldest son’s is July 14th. The Orioles PR department had reached out to our unit and was looking for service members to honor during the 2nd inning of about a dozen home games that year. Like any self-respecting baseball fan, I threw my name in the hat.

About a week or so later, the Orioles came back with a list of games to pick from. Because there weren’t too many military members that volunteered for this, all 8 of us who submitted our names got selected to be a guest of honor for a game. The game I picked was July 11th. The opponent that night? The New York Yankees. It was this night that I (and my sons) became Orioles fans, for life.

My view from our row 19 seats, on the aisle.

Our seats were 19 rows back, from home plate. I have never had seats that close in my life. It was so surreal. The Orioles staff met us at our seats with gift bags for me and my boys. A free Orioles hat and t-shirt sat in the bag. As the bottom of the 1st inning started, Adam Jones was hitting 3rd, and there were 2 outs. I’m standing in the aisle, paying a vendor for a frozen lemonade for one of my sons, and then, it happened.

There I was, standing in the aisle, $5 bill in hand, and Jones fouls one back. I heard it, but didn’t see it. My youngest son could do nothing but yell, “Dad. Dad. Dad … DAD!!” I looked up and saw it coming off the advertisement board onto the lower level facade. Then, it bounced off the concrete, grazed the bill of my cap, and came to rest at the back left corner of my seat.

I forgot I had my wallet and money in one hand. My instinct took over and I lunged for the priceless, mud-streaked pearl. I fought valiantly, thwarting off some old man who had no business being anywhere near that baseball. It was mine, dammit! That was my baseball. I had more of my hand around the ball than he did, and after a few seconds, wrestled away that glorious baseball out of his old, tired grip.

My oldest with the foul ball from Adam Jones.

My first foul ball ever, and it had come off the bat of Adam Jones, at a Orioles vs. Yankees game. I was a fan for life.

Fast forward about 2 years. It’s November, 2016. A neighbor of mine, who’s wife is working for a local real estate company just happens to work for the company that partners with the one and only Cal Ripken, Jr. So, she comes up to me and says, “Hey, I know you’re a baseball fan, but my company is holding a grand opening for our new office, and my boss has invited Cal Ripken, Jr. to be there. Do you want to come?”

Uh … is the Pope, Catholic? You damn right I want to go. So I did.

We were at that place for about 20 minutes before I heard someone say, “hey, Cal’s about to leave, so if you want a picture, better hurry”. Barry Allen had nothing on me for that moment in time.

Before getting a photo taken (one that I will never let go of) I was able to actually talk to him for about five minutes. Not only did I get the chance to meet and get a photo taken with Cal, but I also got to talk baseball with him. Talking baseball with the Iron Man, WOW. A memory I will not soon forget. We talked about the Cubs first World Series win. What he thought of the Braves and the direction they were heading. We talked advanced metrics vs. traditional stats. It was AMAZING.

Me (second to Cal’s right) and a few other military members.

Oh, and Cal Ripken, Jr. is a mountain of a man, in case you’re wondering. It was Jose Altuve and Aaron Judge like. I literally looked up to him. It was that night at the game that made us Orioles fans, and I now claim them as my American League team. As a baseball fan, though, meeting the Iron Man was a dream come true, a dream I didn’t even know I had.

We all love the Braves, that much we all agree on. If you weren’t a Braves fan, you wouldn’t be reading this on Knockahoma Nation. So, it’s more than OK to be a fan of other baseball teams and even football teams (ROLL TIDE!!). So, our question to you, is simple:

What’s your “Forever a Fan” moment? When was that moment you knew “I’m hooked forever”?

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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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