Friday, July 4, 2008

Turning it around?

As I write this, the Braves are up 3 - 0 over Houston in the top of the 5th.

So tonight, I've got some more Braves talk and, finally after almost a week, some '88 Score goodies worth talking about.

Since the whole point of us being here is 1988 Score, we'll start with that first.

Pack 23 (+13)
(duplicates are indicated by bold text)
63 Bob Boone
77 Dan Plesac

83 Alvin Davis
213 Mickey Brantley
118 Matt Williams
122 Brett Butler
311 Bill Schroededer
329 Paul Noce
226 Greg Mathews
426 Rafael Ramirez
434 Jack O’Connor
530 Jim Clancy
535 John Franco
454 Charlie Puleo
581 Carmen Castillo
584 John Marzano
587 Lee Tunnell

I was worried when the first two cards I pulled were doubles, but this one turned out pretty well. So well in fact that I finally managed to fill my first entire nine card Ultra Pro page. Woohoo!

Moving right along. We've got three real stars in this pack: John Franco, Matt Williams and Brett Butler.

John Franco had an extremely productive career, debuting with the Cincinnatti Reds in 1984 and hanging it up after the 2005 season with Houston. Though his career as a closer effectively ended in 1999 (he recorded only eight saves between '00 and '05) he put together 424 saves, good for fourth place all time. He struck out 975 men while walking 495, and his career ERA (2.89) was well over a run better than the league average during his career... pretty impressive.

In 1987 he went 8-5 with 32 save and a 2.52 ERA (league ERA was 4.21)

Franco was a four time All Star and two time Rolaids Relief Man of the Year.

Hall of Fame? Maybe. It's hard to tell with closers since that role has really come into its own only over the past thirty years. The numbers are there, but unlike Eckersley and (eventually) Smoltz, Franco didn't have a long career as a starter before converting to the closer. Time will tell. I certainly think he deserves a look by the writers, whether or not it ends with an eventual induction is anyone's guess.

Brett Butler was always a very solid player who never could seem to stay in one place for too long. He was a very consistant hitter and probably one of the best leadoff hitters of his generation, at least in the National League (he stole 558 bases too). Aside from his leadoff prowess, he was an exceptional center fielder, posting a .992 fielding pct. over a 17 year career.

Hall of Fame? Not a chance. I could be wrong, but I just don't think he was the caliber of player that makes it to the Hall. He was good, he was very good, but he wasn't great. He also moved around a lot more than the typical HoF'er, playing for five teams (two stints with LA) over 17 yeears.

And then there's Matt Williams. He's always been a player that I just don't know what to think of. He put up some great numbers in the '90s. Remember all the talk of breaking the record when the strike hit? Williams was sitting at 43 homers when play ended in 1994. But now we hear all of these steroid allegations and even though he says it was to overcome an injury, it still makes you look at those numbers in the '90s and wonder.

Hall of Fame? No.

And my Braves talk for the night (it's now 6 - 1 Atlanta in the top of the 8th). In a move that probably didn't make too many fans happy, but has been coming for some time now, the club optioned right fielder Jeff Francoeur to AA Mississippi. In 85 games in 2008, he's hitting .234/8HR/41RBI.

He needs this. He needs the time in a more relaxed environment to work out what's wrong with his swing. Right now the Braves say this will be at least a ten game stint with Mississippi and they expect him to be back after the All Star Break.

It must be very difficult at 24 years old to have great success and then hit a snag. But he's got plenty of time left and a few weeks in Double-A can't do anything but help.

Despite sending a fan favorite down to the minors, Bobby Coz and Frank Wren are looking out for the best interest of both Jeff Francoeur and the Atlanta Braves. I hope this helps him, because it's no fun to see Frenchie struggling.


Andy said...

I love the Wallace Johnson card. Some red-head kid just chillin' in the background.