Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Season Begins: The Braves

Finally...after years of waiting, the baseball season begins.

First up this week, the Atlanta Braves:

The first thing to remember about the Braves this season is that this is Bobby Cox's last season.  Thank God!  I'm hoping the Braves return to the team that existed pre-Bobby...when I was a kid, the Braves were as bad as the Pirates of recent years.  They were terrible.   Cox began managing the Braves in 1990. (He was their GM for a while before that.)  He's been good.  He's grumpy.  He is old.  But the truth is, he isn't much older than Lou Piniella no big deal. 
  Will Lou join this guy and retire after this season?

That's enough about the manager...what about the team?

Well, the Braves still have an aging, yet potent Chipper Jones to lead their offense.  Chipper is hoping to rebound from a sub par 2009 after a 2008 season that ranked among his best years.  But, he is 38 this year.   They also have a solid backstop in Brian McCann.  He's a perennial all-star who you can pencil in for 20 homers and 90 rbi every year. 

Someone to watch for the Braves this year is the already crowned Rookie of the Year, Jason Heyward.  If Tyler Colvin was the talk of the Cactus League this year, Heyward did the same in the Grapefruit League.  In fact, Heyward may have been even more impressive with his all-around game.  How much playing time will Heyward get?  I'm not sure, but I think the Braves are looking to play him quite a bit this year in the outfield. He supposedly has Albert Pujols type of tools.  Scary.

 Tyler who?  The Braves' ROTY candidate.

The Braves bullpen is not too bad with a resurrected Billy Wagner closing out games this year.  Wagner was actually pretty good for the Red Sox last year coming back from injury problems.  If his velocity is back where it should be, then he can be a dominant closer again.

The Cubs will be facing Derek Lowe tomorrow.  I wanted the Cubs to go after Lowe last off-season.  They decided to go after no one.  And Lowe went to the Braves and had a less-than-spectacular season last year.  But he was healthy and pitched a lot of innings.  I guess I'm a bit surprised the 36 year old is making the opening day start.  Zambrano will face off against him.  Z has pitched very well in his last 2 opening day starts, winning an opener for the first time last season.  This will be Zambrano's 6th opening day start.

 Thank goodness we didn't sign this guy.  Boy was I wrong about him.

After an off day on Tuesday, Jair Jurrjens will go up against Dempster on Wednesday.   Jurrjens is probably the Braves best pitcher right now.  Thursday, one of the game's best young pitchers, Tommy Hansen, will face off against Randy Wells.  Both of these guys were outstanding last season.  This will be a big start for both of these pitchers, as they both begin their sophomore campaigns.  Will either of these guys have a drop-off this season?

Now the Braves are one of the better teams in the National League.  I still think the Marlins have more young talent, but the Braves talent isn't too far behind right now.  But the class of that division, and of the NL, is the Phillies.

 The last time this stadium saw a sellout?  When it had a track in it.

Any of you that are down in Atlanta, well, there are actually some tickets still available for the game tomorrow (surprise, surprise!).  Expect to see a large contingent of Cubs fans to be in attendance for all 3 games this week.  While Atlanta has enjoyed having a relatively successful baseball team for almost 20 years (with a few off years over the last couple seasons), they're fans just aren't very loyal or something.  The weird thing is, they travel relatively well.  That's probably due more to TBS than anything else...I've felt for a long time that Atlanta is the worst sports city in the United States.

Monday's lineup for the Cubs:
Sot (he's only 3/4 of the many he was last I leave the last 'o' off)

Let's begin!