Atlanta Braves

Knockahoma Nation Episode 59

The WISEst Podcast in America.

This week on the Knockahoma Nation podcast we have our buddy Andy Wise on the program. Andy’s a former consumer investigator and three-time Emmy Award nominee for investigative reporting. With his new operation, Wise Choices, Andy does the work for you: he conducts the research, he vets the businesses and he puts his seal of approval on the businesses you can trust to be YOUR Wise Choices.

Most importantly, Andy’s a huge Braves fan and we’ve become buddies with him on Twitter. He went to Dunwoody High School and grew up a Braves fan and tells us call kinds of cool stories from back in the day.

Josh and Ken talk “big picture” stuff. What are the Braves going to do with all these arms? How good is Ender? What happens if/when Christian Pache starts knocking on the door? Can “Flo-zuki” be replaced?

Also on the show this week – Josh tells the story of “Slaughter’s Mad Dash.” This is a famous play that happened in the 1946 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. It involved Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter and a few other cast members. The play ended up determining the winner of the series in the deciding Game 7.

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Knockahoma Nation Episode 58

It’s early, it’s only mid-May, but the Atlanta Braves are in first place? Will it last? Is this offense sustainable? We talk about this on this week’s podcast. We also wax philosophic about Nick Markakis, out of Young Harris. What’s funny is the narrative being written about Nick’s insanely hot start to this season. Folks are painting the picture that he’s been terrible up until 2018. Well, we set the record straight on this with good ole fashioned facts.

Josh also tells the story of that time the Atlanta Braves drafted Tom Seaver in 1966. True story. By all accounts, Tom Seaver should have been a Brave and the course of history could have been much different for the Braves in the 70’s had that happened. But something weird happened. Listen to find out.

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“Come on Meat”: Bull Durham’s 30th Anniversary

“Relax, all right? Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls – it’s more democratic … So relax! Let’s have some fun out here! This game’s fun, OK? Fun goddamnit”.

“Come on, Rook. Show us that million-dollar arm, ’cause I got a good idea about that five-cent head of yours”.

The Film

If you’re like me, you know all too well where these famous lines come from. If you’re not like me, you should still know where they come from. However, I won’t hold that against you. Instead, I’ll just educate y’all a little.

These lines are two of my favorite quotes from the movie Bull Durham. The character that made them famous? Crash Davis. Kevin Costner’s Crash was the “player to be named later”; the veteran journeyman, career minor leaguer, that spent 21 days in the show once. Davis was brought in to mentor the young rookie phenom, Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh, played by Tim Robbins.

This much most of you probably know, but did you know that, as far as I can tell or find out, Crash Davis is the only fictional character to have his number retired by a minor league baseball team? It’s true. On July 4th, 2008, during the film’s 20th anniversary, Kevin Costner’s band Modern West performed for the Durham Bulls. It was to that point, only the second number that Durham had ever retired. The first was Joe Morgan (18) … Yes, that Joe Morgan.

Since then, two managers and one player have had their numbers retired. Managers Bill Evers (20) and Charlie Montoyo (25), and some SS who goes by the name of Chipper (10). Of course, as with all Major and Minor League teams, Jackie Robinson’s number 42 is retired as well.

2018, marks the 30 year anniversary since the movie’s release in theaters.

Costner’s character Davis eventually leaves Durham after Nuke gets called up to the show. At one point in the movie, it’s revealed that Crash needs only a handful of home runs, and he’ll be the all-time minor league home run champ. After he leaves Durham, he winds up joining the Asheville Tourists, hits his “dinger” and goes back to Durham to retire. Because of the 30-year anniversary, Asheville will also paying homage to the classic film. They will wear replica uniforms from the movie this summer at one of their home games.

The History

You may be wondering, “Yeah, so what? What’s this got to do with the Braves? Isn’t this a Braves site?” As it happens to be, Bull Durham was released in 1988 (I was 9, by the way). In 1988, the Braves minor league affiliates were all clustered together. Richmond, VA was home to the Triple-A team, Greenville, SC was home to the Double-A squad, and they had three Single-A level teams. The Burlington Braves, the Sumter Braves, and the Durham Bulls. So, in essence, this was a movie about the Braves, and the team Nuke gets called up to, is the Atlanta Braves. The Bulls became the AAA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays when they expanded into the league.

The cool part to me is the number retirement itself. Crash Davis wore the number 8 in the film for Durham. So, if you have ever been to a Durham Bulls game, and saw a number 8 on the wall, you now know why. Another bit of fun information about the Bulls was the big giant mechanical bull behind right field. That bull was only intended to be a prop for the movie. However, fans loved it so much, the team decided to keep it as a permanent attraction. Bull Durham was filmed in Durham at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, also known as DAP. And the road game scenes were shot in the surrounding triangle of ballparks.

The Durham Bulls served as Atlanta’s Class A and/or the Class-A Advanced organization from 1980 to 1997. Since then, Atlanta has had the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Lynchburg Hillcats, Carolina Mudcats, and now, the Florida Fire Frogs.

The Fun

Bull Durham had some of the best lines and monologues in cinema. One, in particular, I can’t leave here. NSFW Rules do apply, we are a family show after all. However, as I wrap up this little tribute to the wonderful Ron Shelton classic, I’d like to leave you with a few more of my favorite lines from the film.

Crash: “This son of a bitch is throwing a two-hit shutout. He’s shaking me off. You believe that shit? Charlie, here comes the deuce. And when you speak of me, speak well”.

Crash: “Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You’ll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you’ll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press’ll think you’re colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you are a slob”.

Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: “How come you don’t like me”?
Crash: “Because you don’t respect yourself, which is your problem. But you don’t respect the game, and that’s my problem. You got a gift”.

Crash: You just got lesson number one: don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club.

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Nick Markakis: Ballplayer

I know I’m probably in the minority when I say this, but I absolutely LOVE watching Nick Markakis play baseball for the Atlanta Braves.

Markakis may not be the player you or many other Braves want him to be, but he’s the leader in the clubhouse who’s value reaches farther than the stat sheet. When the Braves do get back to those winning ways, it will be in large part because of the veteran mentorship and wisdom he left in the clubhouse.

The insufferable intolerance of Nick Markakis among many Atlanta Braves fans is long past overkill. It is now mostly white noise and borders upon the absurd.

It’s not lost on me that Markakis is on the downhill decline of his career and thus, more than likely, won’t be a Brave in 2019. I’ve accepted that, and when the time comes, an ode to Markakis will probably be penned. In the meantime, he is still an Atlanta Brave. It’s discussed, ad nausea, about Markakis being primarily a singles hitter; those sentiments are justified, to an extent.

Since 2006 (Nick’s rookie season), he ranks second among all active Major League players with 1,438 singles; Ichiro ranks first. It’s ALSO TRUE that he ranks third in DOUBLES with 431, only Robinson Cano and Miguel Cabrera rank higher at one and two, respectively. In that same span, Markakis is in the top 10, with runs scored (965), top 25 in RBI (876), and first in plate appearances with over 8000.

Additionally, since Ender Inciarte joined the Braves in 2016, he has hit more singles in a Braves uniform than Nick Markakis has. In 2016 Inciarte had 118 singles; Markakis had 110. Last year, Inciarte had 158 (of 201 hits) … one-hundred and fifty-eight … That’s almost 80% of his total hits last year. Markakis had 115 (of 163 hits), a whole 10% less than Inciarte. That’s 278 singles for Inciarte and 225 for Kakes in two seasons.

Yet what confuses me, was the praise and excitement Ender garnered from fans for leading (at one point) all of MLB in singles. Compared to the malevolent diatribe cast at Markakis.

He’s not an elite defender. BUT, in 15,518.2 innings in right field, he has made only 23 errors. In comparison, Jason Heyward has had 25 errors in 9,198 innings. My point is that Kakes is still an average, serviceable right fielder for one more year in Atlanta, especially with the makeup of the current roster. Nick Markakis, yes, hits a lot of singles. But so does Hunter Pence, Torii Hunter, Curtis Granderson, and Ichiro Suzuki.

But, of everything Nick does well, or for everything he doesn’t do well, there’s one thing you have to respect about the man. He comes to the park ready to go every day. He puts his head down and does his job. He’s the quiet leader in clubhouse and doesn’t say a lot. But you have to at least respect the opinion of a Hall of Famer when Nick Markakis is the topic of discussion. #StopHating

You don’t have to hit 30 home runs in a season or drive in 100+ runs to be considered productive. And you certainly don’t have to be an elite defender, saving 25 runs a season. you still need to see the guy actually play baseball. Yes, I know, it’s an anomaly that players don’t play on a sheet of paper. There’s a reason teams still employ scouts and send them to watch guys, you know, actually throw or hit a baseball. You need that part of the evaluation. Every player on the team (*AHEM*) on … the … TEAM, plays a role.

One guy’s role may be to hit home runs, one player’s role may be to pitch in the 7th inning (sidenote: this is called a starter). Another player’s role is to come in off the bench and provide a late inning spark and maybe, it another olayer’s role to be the veteran mentor to a group of kids who need some direction, and whatever else they contribute is gravy.

Nick Markakis is a ballplayer. #SorryNotSorry.

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We the fans…

“Man, if we could just get Clayton Kershaw. “ 

“You know, we should really start loading up the box.” 

We won the World Series!”

The pronoun “we”, when referring to a sports team, is synonymous with die-hard fans. And for the die-hard fan, “we” is used as if they were Liberty Media or Arthur Blank, even though this isn’t even close to the truth. We didn’t suit up and step across those lines. We didn’t walk the sidelines whispering to a defensive coordinator that the team should swap to a 4-3 base from a 3-5-3. And we certainly didn’t buy the team or pay to build the stadium (unless we’re counting taxes).

So why do we do it? Why do we say, we?

There are instances when this very personal pronoun, when applied as such, is accurate. High school and collegiate athletics are an example. I’m an Alabama Crimson Tide fan (Roll Tide), I’m a Kansas State Wildcat fan (EMAW), and I’m an Arizona State fan (Forks Up). I say “we” for every one of those schools. I’ve never set foot on the campus of the University of Alabama. While I’ve been on to the campus of Kansas State University, I was never a student there. Ironically, I’ve never set foot on the campus of Arizona State either, but I’m a full-time online student working on my BA in Mass Communications and Media Studies. While I work my actual job with the US Army, I never went to West Point. However, I have absolutely NO PROBLEM saying “we” concerning the Black Knights, Sun Devils, Wildcats or Crimson Tide.

Rabid fans of sports teams use this word as if they have some incomparable insight; as if the team calls upon them to discuss lineup adjustments, which free agents to sign, or who to trade. We often say “we” like we’re paid staff members. That’s not an ignorant oblivious perception of reality. We know this is inaccurate, a fallacy, and a fantasy. We know our paychecks aren’t signed by the Atlanta Braves or the University of Alabama.

So, again, why do we say … “we”?

I’ve read a few psychological pieces speaking to this very thing. One particular article I liked characterized it simply as this: We see ourselves as an extension of that team. And perhaps, for all intents and purposes, we are.

Players come and go all the time. They come here, stay a while, and move on. They get traded, leave in free agency, or retire. The players are temporary, the fans are forever. It’s passed from generation to generation. Father to daughter, mother to son, grandfather to grandson. These teams feel like they are a part of our heritage, we become emotionally involved, as if they’re one of our children or perhaps we are one of theirs. We celebrate every walk-off with them. We hang our heads with each heartbreaking loss. We cry when our favorite player gets traded, and rejoice when they sign a big time free agent contract (except for BJ Upton).

But it’s not just the legacy either. We buy in to the product. Not only the product on the field. Tickets, jerseys, memorabilia, and even tuning in to the local cable channel. Kind of makes you think, what happens if the fans stop going or stop buying in. We as a collective group of fans, buy “stock” in an idea of identity and relationship shared from the team’s brand, investing in part ownership in the teams themselves. We has now become a verb: a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence. We are the occurrence and we are the action.

Sports bring people together for a bigger purpose than themselves and even shares with them an identity. Sports teams that represent cities share a common interest and brand for a shared geographical identity. The advent of social media has expanded the fan’s presence and the idea of “we” as a body of fans. I haven’t met, in person, 99.9999% of the “friends” I have on social media that I share my Braves fandom with. Yet, I feel like some of them I have known my whole life.

The shared identity and mutual relationship fans have together does not mean WE always agree, but when the team sprints out of the dugout on opening day we are certain that for the next 3 hours we will run the gamut of emotions together through our shared relationship with the team and our shared experience as fans. We will high-five, throw fists into the air, and might even hug after a Free-Bomb. This is the personification of “WE”. It has nothing inherently to do with the men or women on the field or court. It has everything to with the men and women in the third deck, cheap seats, sitting and standing all around you.

Yes, we love our sports. We love our teams, and we may even love those players. But, when it all comes down to it, at the end of the day, you… “we”… are the fans. “We” are prideful. “We” are the veins that lead to the heart. “We” are the 12th Man. “We” are the 26th man on the roster. “We” are #KnockahomaNation! “We” are #InBrotherHood.

No matter your team, no matter your town. We is a term of pride and you speak it with conviction. You may not have signed a contract to play, but you have probably signed your life in time, attention, and your identity and emotions, away to the undulating highs and lows that come with being a fan. Maybe the reason fans feel like they are an extension of the team is because, well, we are.

Maybe the team should think of you, the fans, as an extension of themselves. Is the product that they sell us the team on the field or is it the identity and emotion of the fan in the stands?  You… “we” are a massive force. We shift the tides of momentum and can be the difference between a pitchers nerves, a quarterback’s composure or even a referee or umpire’s call.

We are a family. We are the pulse of a franchise. We bigger than our individual selves or the specific players on the team. We the fans.

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Episode 44 – Knockahoma Nation Podcast

On episode 44 of Knockahoma Nation, Prospects Matter Summit (part 3) – we’re rejoined by Doc Herbert (@BravesHerbert), Dylan Short (@DylanXShort) and Andy Harris (@K26DP) to talk about Braves most overrated and underrated Atlanta Braves prospects.

Also on this week’s podcast, philosopher Ken discusses the parts of a story and Josh and Ken imagine extra innings under Rob Manfred’s rules.

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It’s Time for the Big Reveal; Dan’s 2018 IBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot

With the BBWAA and Hall of Fame announcement coming Wednesday, as well as the IBWAA’s, I thought it a good time to share my Hall of Fame ballot.

When I started writing my opinions and publishing them for the world to see, I never thought it would take me to where I am today. After about a year, though, I discovered the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA). It didn’t take long for me to become a lifetime member. We aren’t affiliated with the BBWAA, the guys and gals who actually have a counting vote for the Hall of Fame itself, but we still cast votes for it and end-of-the-year individual awards. This will be my third time voting with the IBWAA, and I’m sharing my ballot here, with you 80-Grade Knuckleheads.

First, I need to give a little background. You won’t see Vlad Guerrero or Edgar Martinez on my list. These gentlemen were voted in on last year’s ballot for the IBWAA. Because we aren’t associated with the BBWAA and the Hall of Fame, our ballots differ. However, our votes and selections are very similar.

The IBWAA isn’t some second rate organization either. Many of the industry’s top writers are members of the IBWAA. Writers like Jim Bowden, Jim Caple, Jerry Crasnick, Jon Heyman, Brian Kenny, Grant McAuley, Ken Rosenthal, and many others. So, even though the Hall of Fame doesn’t acknowledge the IBWAA, we still have some big names on the roster.

Oh, I almost forgot, last year, the IBWAA voted to expand selections from 10 to 15.

Now, on with the selections.

This year was pretty easy for the first 9 or 10 choices. The last 4 or 5, however, were a little bit more difficult for me, personally. Of course, with the option of voting for 15 players, I displayed a little bias. The first three names checked on my list were Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, and Fred McGriff. As Braves fans, we all know the reasons why these three should be allowed admission in the Hall.

The next four off the list were Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, Billy Wagner, and Larry Walker. Thome and Walker don’t really need a disclaimer either. Vizquel was one of the most dominate defenders in his time, and for a middle infielder, he could hit a little bit. Vizquel’s overall WAR for his career is 45.3 in 24 seasons. His dWAR (28.4) nearly matches his oWAR (32.2). Vizquel also had (still has) probably the fastest hands I’ve ever seen.

Next, I have Mike Mussina, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, and Gary Sheffield. Sheffield and Rolen are probably the stretches in this group of four. Sheffield’s offensive output is not the problem, though. His 79.9 oWAR is proof of that; what is an issue, is his defense. A dWAR of a -28.6 kind of hurts him. But, if the writers can elect guys like Ozzie Smith, who’s defense practically got him in, then why not the heavy hitters who’s claim to stardom was their offense?

Now, for the final four names. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Trevor Hoffman, and Jeff Kent. Again, I shouldn’t have to really go into the first three names. However, Kent probably warrants some explanation.

Kent, aside from having an MVP, 4 Silver Sluggers, and 5 All-Star appearances, was a pretty good second basemen. He falls at number 20 on the JAWS scale. In overall WAR, Kent has a 55.2 and good for 19th among second basemen. Above him, in the HOF, are Joe Gordon (18), Jackie Robinson (17), and Craig Biggio (16). Robinson Cano and Chase Utley are still active, but rank 13 and 15, respectively. Above those guys, are Roberto Alomar and Ryne Sandberg, both Hall of Famers.

Kent is in the top 20 best second basemen ever, and even guy big time players below like Bobby Doerr, Nellie Fox, and Bill Mazeroski fall well below that magical JAWS line.

So, his WAR is pretty good, at least good enough to be the 20th best in baseball history for second basemen. Lets look at some other numbers though that might help Kent’s case.

Kent is 13th among ALL second basemen in runs scored, 12th in hits, 4th in doubles, 3rd in RBI, 5th in OPS, and 1st – among any second basemen to play the game, including Rogers Hornsby – in home runs; he had 377. Hornsby had 301. Kent also sustained a .290 career batting average. His biggest knock offensively, second (only to Biggio) in career strikeouts with 1522.

So, there you have it. My 2018 IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot.

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