The Trouble With My Team Last Season …. Name An Issue ….. And They Had Many ….. The Atlanta Braves !

The Trouble With My Team Last Season …. Name An Issue ….. And They Had Many ….. The Atlanta Braves !

By tophatal ………..

The biggest disappointment for myself as an Atlanta Braves’ fan last season was to see the rapid decline of the team during the final month of the season . Seemingly with the wildcard berth well within their grasp at the beginning of the month of September only to finally it all slip away on the final day of the season with the St Louis Cardinals snatching the last remnants of hope that Braves’ manager Fredi Gonzalez in seeing his players hopelessly to play themselves completely out of contention .


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If that wasn’t enough beyond the injury issues that the team faced with long spells on the DL list spent by Jair Jurrjens , Chipper Jones and Jason Heyward to name but a few , it really had me wondering had the Atlanta Braves made the postseason would they have proven to be a resounding success againts either the Philadelphia Phillies , Milwaukee Brewers or Arizona Diamondbacks !

Disheartening as all of this may well have been , with the mere fact that the difference between the margin of success and failure in terms of the final divisional standings and a playoff berth was one of a few games . But at the same time I hope that the experiences of this past season will be used and seen as a learning tool for Fredi Gonzalez , his coaching staff but specifically for the young players as they about to embark upon their 2012 schedule .

Frank Wren in succeeding John Schuerholz as the team’s general manager knows that the success attained by his predecessor in conjunction with former manager Bobby Cox has cemented the legacy of the Atlanta Braves’ organization . With Schuerholz now in the front office as a senior consultant guiding his protege` in all things related to the personnel …….. decisions for the organization. I would certainly like to think that the team has depth in all of the positions necessary to succeed this upcoming season within the NL Central to compete against the likes of the Miami Marlins , New York Mets , Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals .

With Chipper Jones , Jayson Heyward and Dan Uggla seen as the brunt of offensive production sought in order to compete against their divisional rivals as well as the rest of the National League (NL) as a whole. And though this season , there once again will be inter-league play between the AL and NL teams . If there was one thing I knew would be a harbinger of things to come , it was the mere fact that with Jair Jurrjens having started off the season with a bang , it simply would implode with the player faltering when the Braves needed him most . The team’s pitching became erratic as the season progressed with there being no real end in sight for the fans in attendance at Turner Field , Atlanta , Fulton County , Georgia . Hopefully , Jurrjens in conjunction with a seasoned veteran such as Tim Hudson can lead the rotation to where they need to be .

If there is one thing that I am now sure of , it is that the Braves’ pitching and offense will certainly have to show a marked improvement if they are to be truly seen as a viable contender not just within the NL East but most certainly to counter the likes of the Cincinnati Reds , St Louis Cardinals , Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants but the likely perceived contenders within the AL such as the Los Angeles Angels , Texas Rangers , Boston Red Sox , New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays .

One thing is very clear with the Braves’ organization and that is over the years they have been able to produce some highly productive players either through their farm system or by way of trades . And though I long for the days when the organization could rely on the wiles of pitching aces Steve Avery , Greg Maddux , John Smoltz and Tom Glavine . I now know that era is now long gone though the unprecedented years of success under then manager Bobby Cox brought about only one World Series title the precedence was set with that decade long reign . Multiple divisional titles and a number of NL pennants with an unprecedented eleven straight seasons in the playoffs was enough to suggest that while the Atlanta Braves could hold its own during the regular season it was more often than not the postseason that would be prove to the ball-club’s own undoing and their Achilles’ Heel .

The Atlanta Braves’ pitching rotation this season led by Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson will have to raise the level of their play this upcoming season . The frustration was there for all to witness during 2011 that the real inherent issues for the Braves simply wasn’t just the pitching but also the lack of overall productivity . And most definitely what I would like to see from the current roster , is that the > offense has to be more forceful with their intent .

Granted , within the NL East the Atlanta Braves will have to deal with Ozzie Guillen’s now formidable Miami Marlins , given the financial outlay made by GM Michael Hill now in acquiring the likes of Jose Reyes , Mark Buerhle , Carlos Zambrano and Aaron Rowand to complement Hanley Ramirez , Emilio Bonifacio , Mike Stanton and Josh Johnson on that Marlins’ roster . And while there’s no denying that the Miami Marlins did not make the biggest splash this off-season in terms of the moves made by the teams around the league , most definitely there were amongst the biggest movers and shakers in that environment .

Given the pitching strength of the Phillies’ roster led by Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee the perception would be that the team has everything going for it but given their failure to acquit themselves in the 2011 postseason there are still flaws that Charlie Manuel and GM Reuben Amaro have yet to address fully . And the loss of first baseman Ryan Howard for Spring Training and the first few months of the regular season will do doubt affect the Philadelphia Phillies adversely given the player’s productivity .

I certainly believe the NL East is up for grabs given what I perceive to be now growing uncertainty of the Philadelphia Phillies and what I now feel they personify as a team ! The are certainly very good during the regular season but in recent years apart from their triumph in 2009 there has been little to suggest that this roster in its current guise can repeat their most recent success in the World Series. It was abundantly there for all to see as they simply fell apart during the MLB playoffs of 2011 without showing any real determination .

To my mind the New York Mets and Washington Nationals will simply viewed as the ” also-rans” within the NL East ! Neither team has made the sort of moves that certainly would give me the impression that they are able to contend within the division . The Mets remain but one step away from being deemed a financial failure when one bears in mind the mess created by the two most senior executives Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon . And the idiocy of it all have been the maneuvers of Sandy Alderson and J P Riccardi as they try to resurrect the fortunes of this organization. Alderson , given his experience as a front office executive has shown all the astuteness one would deem befitting a clueless Congressman . As Head of Baseball Operations Sandy Alderson chose to berate Jose Reyes for his lack of candor and honesty knowing full well that the organization would not be able to afford the player in terms of the Mets’ contractual obligations and specifically matching the 6 year offer made to Reyes by the Florida Marlins.

This season it remains to be seen as to whether or not the New York Mets will once again be an also ran within the NL and more noticeably the poor crosstown rival to the New York Yankkees . Something that no doubt pains the Mets’ fans almost as much it must now pains New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who was seemingly duped by the NL organization as well the MLB hierarchy led by Bud Selig in financing what now appears to be that grossly ostentatious ” white elephant” …… known as ” Citi Field” , in Flushing , New York built at the cost of some $775 million of public financing . I mean what better way to show how out of touch the vast majority of politicians now happen to be as it concerns the economic and political environment . Only Bud Selig ., the Mets’ organization and the New York City Mayor could still in fact be dumb enough to believe that the building of such a monstrosity would be a guarantee of success when the on-field product was so grossly inept ! Is there anyone of the belief that the New York Mets’ fortunes can now be resurrected given their recent history ? Your thoughts ?



Picture gallery for your perusal .

Can the Atlanta Braves be a factor this season within the NL East and specifically mount a serious enough challenge to be a legitimate contender for the World Series ? I certainly believe that they can be given the right set of circumstances with the team raising the level of their overall play and team manager Fredi Gonzalez and his coaching staff leading by example by getting the players to buy into their brevitas ! What thoughts if any do you have with regard to the points raised within piece ? Simply chime in with a comment as you see fit and thanks as always for the continued support as it is greatly appreciated !

Picture and slide show details below .

(1) Atlanta Braves’ Brandon Beachy pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game, in Atlanta. Beachy is the most established of four 2011 rookies who saw time in the Braves’ rotation. AP Photo/John Amis …

(2) Atlanta Braves’ Hank Aaron acknowledges the media while Braves’ Chipper Jones looks on when introduced during a news conference to unveil the club’s new alternative home uniform, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, in Atlanta. The uniform pays homage to the team’s past, reflecting more of the look of the 1966 team when Aaron played. AP Photo/John Amis ….

(3) Atlanta Braves’ Chipper Jones, center, Brian McCann , right, and Dan Uggla model the club’s new alternative home uniform during a news conference to introduce the new threads, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, in Atlanta. The uniform pays homage to the team’s past, reflecting more of the look of the 1966 team. AP Photo/John Amis …

(4) Jair Jurrjens of the Atlanta Braves seen here pitching in a game for the team during the 2011. The player’s injury woes beset the organization as well as his inconsistency towards the end of the year. AP Photo/ Mark Hughes …..

(5) Jason Heyward (22) of the Atlanta Braves gets set to take batting practice for the game against the Chicago Cubs during Opening Day at Turner Field on April 5, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. Getty Images/ Scott Cunningham …

(6) Jason Heyward (22) of the Atlanta Braves hits a 3 run home run against the Chicago Cubs during Opening Day at Turner Field on April 5, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. ….. Scott Cunningham/Getty Images …..

(7) Atlanta Braves general manger Frank Wren , left, shakes hands with new manager Fredi Gonzalez during a news conference where Gonzalez was introduced as the baseball team’s news manager, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010, in Atlanta. AP Photo/John Bazemore ………

(8) John Schuerholz, left, addresses reporters about the announcement he will become president of the Atlanta Braves baseball team and be replaced as general manager by Frank Wren, right, during a news conference Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007, in Atlanta. AP photo/John Amis ….. AJC/ Mark Harris ……




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So The Fallout Begins ………

So The Fallout Begins …….

By tophatal …..

Well with the NFL season having reached a satisfactory climax for some , with the New York Giants prevailing over the New England Patriots ….. 21-17. With that victory Eli Manning joins a select group of quarterbacks to have won two Superbowls and along the way garnering the game MVP award . With the Giants quarterback’s accomplishments there begins the question as to whether or not Manning is now a legitimate candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame .


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I do now believe that the argument can be made that Eli Manning is on his way to making a credible claim that his career is now on a path where quite possibly his body work can justify his future enshrinement in Canton , Ohio ! Certainly his postseason play when adjudged against that of his counterparts faced can in part be a starting point for that argument and most notably Manning’s play was even more emphatic during the regular season for the Giants especially in the fourth quarter . But let’s not fool ourselves because in large part the defense of the Giants’ also played its part in their success of the franchise’s season . If praise is being given to Eli Manning then certainly there has to plaudits for Michael Boley , Mathias Kiawanuka , Osi Umenyoria , Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul .

Now as we know the idiocy of the NFL lockout , in part brought about by the NFL hierarchy led by Commissioner Roger Goodell the owners who tried to hold the NFLPA (union) at bay . The collective bargaining agreement as agreed to by both sides has become something of a joke ! The union hierarchy led by Executive Director DeMaurice Smith have reneged on their agreement concerning HGH testing and furthermore , it would appear that even with the possible intervention by the US Congress and specifically the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee . Personally , having seen these negotiations drag itself out with all of the posturing by the team owners , league hierarchy and the union itself . I’ve read with a great deal of incredulity views of a number of patrons that this collective bargaining agreement was the best possible resolution for all of the parties concerned . Unless these individuals have been living under a damn rock I can only surmise that they have no idea as to what they are talking about ! This agreement will ultimately prove to be to the detriment of the NFL , the owners and league hierarchy and union are simply to short-sighted to see that for themselves at present !

Out of this tumult the off-season now brings along a great deal of maneuvering amongst the agents who will be looking to for the best deal of for their clients . Approximately, 600 NFL players are about to hit the market as restricted and unrestricted free agents . It will be interesting to see how Drew Brees , Matt Forte , Vincent Jackson , Marshawn Lynch , Ray Rice , Brian Dawkins , Dashon Goldson , Michael Robinson and Wes Welker will be dealt with in terms of the contractual arrangements that will be made on their behalf .

Courtesy of USA Today

Unprecedented 600 players potentially free agents

The NFL could be headed for an offseason like it’s never seen.

By Robert Klemko, USA Today

Unlike in 2011, when player movement was hurried by the lockout, this free agency period will run its traditional course and feature a massive influx of free agents.

The contracts of more than 600 players are set to expire before free agency starts March 13, with most of them being unrestricted free agents.

MORE: Prominent free agents by position
MORE: Peyton Manning tops offseason questions
MORE: Player safety: Progress but still work to do

Last offseason, 289 veterans joined new teams through free agency or trades, compared with 215 in 1993, when all-pro Reggie White broke the seal on modern free agency and signed with the Green Bay Packers.
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The new collective bargaining agreement agreed to in July provided for little rise in the salary cap between 2011 and 2012. That, combined with the uncertainty of an uncapped 2010, created many short-term or back-loaded contracts, says former NFL general manager Charley Casserly, who calls the scenario “carnage for the players.”

“This is unprecedented in the NFL,” Casserly says. “You’ve got more free agents than ever in the history of the NFL and a cap that is projected to be the same. So you have less money per free agent than ever before.”

In order to read this article in its entirety merely click unto the link inset within this piece.


For the general managers around the NFL this will be the time for them to actually earn their pay , rather than the asinine behavior that we have at times seen from the likes of Ryan Grigson , Nick Caserio , Ozzie Newsome and A J Smith to truly show what they’re made of . It is at times like this that we will see the intent of a franchise and what portends as to their future . Nowhere might this be more appropriate than that of the Indianapolis Colts and the decisions that have to be made by the front office of the organization as it relates to their four time league MVP ……. Peyton Manning . The player is due a roster bonus of $28 million that is due on the 8th March, 2012 , and predicated upon Manning being declared healthy . The player has been given the go ahead to resume light training by his own medical team but as of yet nothing has been forthcoming from Colts’ own medical advisers . Jim Irsay as the team owner , clearly has to make a decision that is the best interest of his franchise . As to what that might be we now have to wait to see what the outcome will be .

With the 2012 NFL Draft due in April , where the top two quarterbacks atop everyone’s draft board is likely to be Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor . And while everything points to the fact that the Indianapolis Colts are likely to draft a quarterback as their first pick , I can’t help but wonder if the drama now being played out for the public’s consumption isn’t simply just for show and a sense of foreboding that could very well await the Colts’ fans. All of the right things are allegedly being said but given the asinine antics of Irsay as of late . The firing of Jim Caldwell was one thing along with that of Bill and Chris Polian but at the same time the idiocy of the franchise placing all of their eggs in one basket even in light of Manning’s injury and subsequent surgeries without heeding any advice simply shows the ignorance and the absurdity shown by the actions of the executives within the Colts’ front office. Caldwell’s successor Chuck Pagano this upcoming season will have his work cut out for him while at the same time winning over the fans who saw his predecessor as the last link to era of Tony Dungy and the success achieved during his tenure .

I’ll say this for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ and the franchise headed by the Glazer family when thy choose to make waves , they either do so in order to make a great deal of noise or simply make complete asses of themselves ! Nothing has said that more loudly than the firing of Raheem Morris but somehow Morris’ partner in crime GM Mark Dominik remains in his position as the general manager . Dominik and Raheem Morris assembled the team that this past season was so woefully inept in so many facets of the game .

With the Buccaneers’ hiring of Greg Schiano the former head coach at Rutgers to succeed Raheem Morris , the feeling was that with this hire it brought a certain degree of legitimacy to the organization . Well that doesn’t appear to be the case for the newly installed coach who had a number problems in trying to assemble an assistant coaching staff. So far there have been refusals from Dan Mullen to join Schiano’s coaching staff . But there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel with it being rumored Greg Schiano has set his sights on hiring former North Carolina head coach Butch Davis as a defensive assistant ___ whom Schiano once served under as assistant.

I hate to say it , but it should come as no surprise that Greg Schiano has encountered difficulties in assembling a coaching staff ! It’s not as any prospective hire will have a great deal to work with in terms of the roster now in place with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers . From top to bottom in terms of the players on this squad there seems to difficulties all round , in terms of a lack of discipline and the players themselves being willing to play with a great deal of passion . Never mind the fact that there are several who will ultimately prove to be superfluous to the needs of the coach . What might be even more befuddling in all of the stupidity shown by Mark Dominik was the belief as the general manger that he and Raheem Morris could simply exist within team based upon the fact that youth would be the prevailing factor in determining their success. The Buccaneers were in fact some $35 million under the league’s mandated salary cap of $120 million . Are the Buccaneers back to the ways of old ? More so are they seemingly intent on making the wiles of former team owner Hugh Culverhouse seem almost celebratory by comparison ?

From my own standpoint no matter what Greg Schiano now sets about doing in terms of bringing this Buccaneers’ franchise back to some form of respectability he will be caught between a rock and a hard place ! There is no doubt in my mind that with a resurgent Carolina Panthers’ …. team led by Cam Newton , along with the always competitive Atlanta Falcons and the offense minded New Orleans Saints the NFC South still remains a division that the Buccaneers will be hard pressed to be competitive in ! Certainly that was borne out this past season with regard to the team’s record at the end of the season .

The needs of the Buccaneers are many in terms of fillings the holes on this team . A corner-back is most certainly needed to replace the aging Ronde Barber but clearly the team’s offense in terms of a running game , something is needed to complement LeGarrette Blount as well as a productive wide receiver and a litany of productive players for the secondary . Whether or not Mark Dominik loosens up the purse strings and seeks to bolster this roster by way of free agency rather than the building through the draft remains to be seen . But it has become abundantly clear that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a long way to go before they can even consider themselves even a worthy to be even considered a credible contender within NFC much less the rest of the league as a whole !

Would it be remiss to suggest that the Glazer’s passion remains entrenched in observing the fate of their other sporting investment , Premiership soccer team Manchester United ? The soccer club is now firmly in battle for the divisional title as they seek to take down their crosstown rivals Manchester City . United’s manager Alex Ferguson knows that another Premiership (EPL) title simply adds to the club’s history but also at the same time given the ramifications of UEFA’s mandate that will set the tone for all the governing body’s European club soccer competitions ____ both the manager and United’s ownership structures knows that their financial house has to be put firmly in order.

Since Malcolm Glazer took control of the soccer club with a leveraged buyout ($1.255 billion) that used the club as collateral with some additional financing , this has led to a mountain of debt ($1.375 billion) that has proved to burdensome for the organization to reduce . And with the team’s financiers now unwilling to in large part renegotiate or refinance much of that original deal it has been left to the Glazers to seek other alternatives in gaining some additional funding by way of a stock issue or in some cases letting of players by way of the customary transfer. This was noticeably assisted the team when they rid themselves of their star at the time Cristiano Ronaldo , much to the outcry of the United fans . For what was then a world transfer record , the Portuguese international left Manchester United for Spanish La Liga giants Real Madrid for an astonishing and unheard of sum of $155 million (Euros 94 million approx) .

Now one can either admonish the the general managers and the team owners much of the mess we are about to witness during this off-season . Roger Goodell in his recent interview with CBS news’ Scott Pelley with his appearance on “60 Minutes” , stating that the NFL was healthier than ever , having renegotiated an additional $3 billion in revenues over the next three years via a contract extension with Fox Sports leads me to believe that it is simply business as usual with the NFL , with there really being very little change in terms of the league’s economic template ! Goodell and Smith may well have negotiated a deal that is said will lead to a decade of peace but I can guarantee you this , no strings attached or not , this new agreement will come back to bite the league in the proverbial ass !



Picture gallery for your perusal .

What hopes if anything do you have and wish to see during this off-season as it relates to the free agency market within the NFL ? Also do you believe that Greg Schiano is likely to have an immediate impact with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or do you believe that it is liable to take the coach a number of years to turn the franchise’s fortunes around ?

Picture and slide show details below


(1) NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 08: New York Giants Defensive End Justin Tuck visits Fox’s “Power and Money” at FOX Studios on February 8, 2012 in New York City. Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images …

(2) New York Giants’ Ahmad Bradshaw signs a footall during a rally for the NFL Super Bowl champions at MetLife Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants defeated the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Sunday. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun ….

(3) New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, left, and linebacker Zak DeOssie wave to the fans during a victory celebration rally at MetLife Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun ….

(4) David Diehl (66) of the New York Giants signs autographs at a rally to celebrate the New York Giants’ Super Bowl victory at MetLife Stadium on February 7, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants defeated the New England Patriots 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images …..

(5) Coach Greg Schiano of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers speaks to the media at an introduction press conference at the team training facility January 27, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images ….

(6) Tampa Bay Buccaneers new head coach Greg Schiano, left, shakes hands with Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer after being introduced to reporters during an NFL football news conference on Friday Jan. 27, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. AP Photo/Chris O’Meara …. ….

(7) Curtis Compton (50) and Dominique Franks (24) of the Atlanta Falcons tackle LeGarrette Blount (27) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during play at the Georgia Dome on January 1, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Falcons won 45-24 . Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images ….

(8) Lawrence Sidbury (90) of the Atlanta Falcons sacks quarterback Josh Freeman (5) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during play at the Georgia Dome on January 1, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Falcons won 45-24 . (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images ….

(9) Javier Hernandez (14) (background) of Man Utd celebrates his goal in the 3-3 tie against Chelsea in their Premiership league game played at Stamford Bridge , SW London on 5th February , 2012 . Courtesy of SkySports / Chris Parnell ….

(10) Wayne Rooney (10) (left ) of Manchester United contest a loose ball during the game against Chelsea’s AN Mikel . Sky Sports/ Chris Parnell …..





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