Monday, June 23, 2008

Pack 12, the Ryan Express & What's going on in Atlanta?

I'm a little later getting this one up than I'd like, but I was watching Ben Sheets pitch a pretty brilliant game against my Braves. But more on that later. Here's pack twelve.

Pack 12
(duplicates are indicated by bold text)
55 Dave Winfield
70 Tim Wallach
75 Darrell Evans
210 Dave Concepcion
215 Oddibe McDowell
120 Dale Sveum
263 Lonnie Smith
277 Harold Reynolds
283 Mark Wasinger

425 Kent Tekulve
440 Graig Nettles
332 George Frazier
539 Bill Long
541 Jeff Sellers
573 Jamie Moyer
578 Jay Aldrich
575 Nolan Ryan

Looks like I should have waited on the previous post about Jamie Moyer. I found his card flipping through some '08 Topps and I wanted to say something about him. I honestly thought I had his '88 Score card, but I guess not. Until today.

That said, let's move on to more important things.

I've always been a fan of pitching. Sure the home runs are fun to watch and I try not to miss the Home Run Derby before the All-Star game, but I'd much rather see a 1 - 0 pitching duel than a 13 - 11 smash-fest.

However, I was never a fan of Nolan Ryan. I understand that this may be considered blasphemy, and if it is then strike me down now with lightning bolt baseballs. But his approach to the game never really worked for me, and I honestly think he was pretty over-hyped.

Seven no-hitters, ok, I'll give him that. That's an amazing feat, and so are the strikeout numbers. But dig a little deeper into his stats and a few less than spectacular things pop up.

I won't criticize him for his losses, any pitcher that plays as long as he did can expect to lose his fair share of games, it's just a by product of longevity.

But he gave up a lot of walks, 2,795, most all time. He threw of a lot of wild pitches and hit a lot batters.

Don't take this to mean I don't think he should be in the Hall of Fame. I think he's very deserving of his enshrinement at Cooperstown. But it's hard to say he's the best, and I was surprised that he was a first ballot inductee.

Despite not being my favorite player, I'll never complain about pulling a Nolan Ryan card. 20 years ago, I had a few friends who were big Nolan Ryan fans and this card would have netted me several good cards in trade.

It's not a bad looking card either.

This is going to be a long one, and for that I apologize, but there's something else I've gotta say. Being a Braves fan for nearly 20 years now has led to its share of heartache and irritation. 1991 was fun, despite Hrbek's atrocity. 1994 was shaping up to be a good run between the Expos and Braves, but we all know how that one ended up.

1995 was sweet. I'll never forget game six. Glavine pitched a masterpiece and Justice silenced all the naysayers. But after losing in '96 it all started going downhill. They kept winning, 100+ wins five times since winning it all in '95, but only one trip to the World Series (1999). They just can't seem to pull off wins when they need them.

Then the streak of consecutive division titles ended in 2006 with their first season below .500 since 1991.

What's going on in Atlanta?

In March I thought this year would be the one. I think a lot of people thought this year would be the one. We've got the best team on the field, in my opinion, since that 1995 team. A good outfield, when Kotsay is healthy, and the best infield in the division, and probably the league. If Chipper doesn't win the MVP award this year something's wrong.

Pitching. We all thought "hey look, Smoltz and Glavine are back together, this can only go well." It hasn't. Smoltz is out for the year, Glavine's on the DL. The bullpen is a concern, again.

In fact, the Braves bullpen has always been a concern, you just didn't notice it too much when Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz, Millwood and company were blowing by teams and getting deep into games. But now with inexperienced starters and aging starters, the pen is called on by the 6th, instead of the 8th.

There's a lot of talent on this team and they continue to show flashes of brilliance, but never seem to be able to string it together and win eight of ten. They've got to find a way to start winning on the road.

What changes need to be made? Honestly I don't see any, other than maybe adding one more veteran starter. Tim Hudson can't do it all alone, and Jo Jo Reyes is still learning. Team chemestry isn't a problem and Bobby Cox certainly isn't to blame.

Maybe this is one of those rebuilding periods and we haven't heard the last of the Atlanta Braves.


Jeff said...

On that Braves card you posted, the artist, Vernon Wells, painted himself and his son into the bottom right corner. The kid plays for the Bluejays these days.