Posts Tagged ‘Tom Glavine

15
May
11

Atlanta Braves’ Jair Jurrjens: The Unassuming Ace

How can you deem a pitcher touting a 5-0 record and a 1.66 ERA underrated?
If you’re Braves hurler Jair Jurrjens, you may have beef.

No pitcher in baseball is as red-hot as Jurrjens is right now. The righty from Curacao finds himself among the game’s elite in most major pitching categories and has matched or out-pitched the class of the league.

In his latest winning effort on Saturday, Jurrjens took a perfect game into the sixth inning against the division rival Phillies, enroute to a 5-3 victory—his second win of the season against the National League’s best club.

Jurrjens, or JJ, as coined by his Braves teammates, also became the first Braves pitcher since Tom Glavine in 2000 to start a season 5-0 with a sub-2.00 ERA. He also improved to 5-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 career starts against Philadelphia—the lowest of any active pitcher with 50-plus innings against the Phillies.

When determining excellence on the mound, Jurrjens has been the epitome of just that for Atlanta this season. He has proven to be clutch against the league’s best—out-dueling not just the Phillies’ aces but also Milwaukee’s young stud Yovani Gallardo in a splendid performance on May 2.

Yet the 6’1”, 200-pound Braves sensation remains underrated and often undetected by mass media outlets. Jurrjens has flown under the radar the season, barely receiving recognition, let alone the brilliant accolades he deserves for downright dealing throughout the early portion of the 2011 campaign.

When discussing the elite class of pitchers in the National League, the names oft mentioned are Phillies hurlers Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, Marlins fireballer Josh Johnson or the Giants’ Tim Lincecum.

Yet, it is Jair Jurrjens who ranks second among all Major League pitchers in ERA (only three points behind the leader Johnson) and along with Cardinals sophomore phenom Jaime Garcia, still boasts an undefeated record in the Senior Circuit.

So why is the unassuming and baby-faced 25-year-old Jurrjens masking as silent thunder?

Chalk it up to a 2010 season marred by injury that may have placed Jurrjens on baseball’s backburner. Between a lingering hamstring injury in the early portion of 2010 and a torn meniscus in his knee down the stretch, the Braves chugged along without Jurrjens to claim the NL Wild Card.

But baseball pundits should have known better. In 2009, JJ not only put himself on the map in Atlanta but some would argue he emerged as the team’s MVP, posting a 14-10 record and sparkling 2.60 ERA—third-best in the National League. It was clear then that Jurrjens had the stuff and makeup to become one of the game’s most formidable hurlers.

Healthy again in 2011, Jurrjens has not only regained his 2009 form but according to many—he’s exceeded it. The small sample size of what we’ve seen from JJ this season is just an inkling of what could come for the very impressive albeit mild-mannered ace.

As Jair Jurrjens goes, so go the Braves.

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12
Feb
10

Tom Glavine officially retires to join Braves front office

After 22 iconic years, Atlanta Braves legendary ace Tom Glavine has officially called it a career.

But, while Glavine closed the books on his Hall of Fame worthy playing days, he announced he’s set to embark on a new endeavor with the Braves.

Glavine’s retirement yesterday came at the same time as his introduction as the newest member of the Braves’ broadcast team and a special assistant to team president John Schuerholz.

The 305-game winner’s tasks will include front-office work, some Braves radio and TV broadcasting, and also some on-field coaching at spring training and in the minor leagues.

In his new flexible role with the club, Glavine will assist Schuerholz and GM Frank Wren on various business projects while helping with the development and analysis of Major and Minor League talent.

Glavine’s latest reunion with the Braves seems to cement the end of a storied yet stormy past between the two.

You could relate Tom Glavine’s relationship with the Atlanta Braves to a complicated marriage.

Glavine spent 16 esteemed years with the Braves, where he was a 10-time All-Star and went on to win 12 consecutive division titles, two Cy Young Awards, and one World Championship with World Series MVP honors as the cherry on top.

Then, came the messy split heard ’round the world.

After the 2002 season, much to the shock and chagrin of Braves loyalists and team officials, Glavine departed for the rival New York Mets.

And, it was ugly.

Glavine and then-GM John Schuerholz engaged in a very public war of words. Glavine openly bashed the Braves, which didn’t sit kindly with Atlanta’s very private general manager.

It was a classic case of “he-said/he-said” with Schuerholz even recounting the heated negotiations between the club and Glavine in his book, Built to Win.

On the surface, it appeared the Braves and Glavine would never reconcile.

Then, after five underwhelming years with the Mets, the seemingly impossible happened.

The Braves and Glavine reached out to each other and mended fences.

In Nov. 2007, new GM Frank Wren brought Glavine back to the organization that made him one of the greatest pitchers of his generation.

But, the fairytale reunion was short-lived.

On Apr. 18, 2008, Glavine was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his remarkable career.

Glavine struggled to regain his form and health that season, but worked out a deal to return to the Braves on a one-year contract in 2009.

But, the return was never to be.

The Braves unceremoniously released Glavine on June 3, 2009, while the southpaw was finishing his rehabilitation, just five days before his scheduled June 7 season debut.

Glavine ripped the front office again, and this time it seemed their relationship hadn’t just soured, but that it had been irreparably damaged for good.

The two sides didn’t speak until Thanksgiving when Schuerholz reached out to Glavine to apologize for the way the team handled his release.

Ultimately, the two set aside their differences and realized for all their bickering, they’ve always shared the same common ground—their great love for the Braves.

You could liken Glavine’s past bitterness towards his bosses to that of a partner scorned.

He sometimes felt undervalued and underappreciated by the Braves, lashing out not once but twice.

But, it was not out of hatred, it was out of hurt.

For their part, the Braves knew Glavine’s face was the one associated with the franchise’s success during their dynasty years, but they were the stubborn half of the pair who didn’t want to give in to their often high maintenance star’s demands.

In the end, the two came full circle.

Their relationship wasn’t the prettiest or the smoothest, but it was one that endured.

It was the union that would bend, and bend some more, but never broke.

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12
Jan
10

Greg Maddux joins Cubs front office

Former Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs pitching icon Greg Maddux will now return to the Cubs in a new role: special assistant to general manager Jim Hendry.

Maddux will provide input in all aspects of baseball operations, including assisting in player development and evaluation, as well as helping with instruction of major and minor leaguers in Spring Training.

Maddux is one of the greatest students of the game; this is a huge move for the Cubs.

Maddux will put his astute knowledge and baseball intellect to good use in this new position, which could serve as a stepping stone for a larger role with the club in the future as an executive, coach, manager, or even general manager.

The Braves were rumored to be one of a few teams interested in bringing Greg Maddux to Spring Training this year as a special instructor.

Many in the organization had hoped to lure both Maddux and Tom Glavine back to camp in an effort to bring two of the franchise’s most storied players back into the fold.

That scenario was squashed when Maddux received a bigger and better offer from the Cubs; his new title holds much more weight and responsibility.

Many in BravesNation wonder why GM Frank Wren didn’t “up the ante” and make Maddux a similar offer to join the Braves’ front office in an effort to compete with the Cubs?

I’m sure, among other things, Wren recognized Maddux’s strong desire to remain out west near his family.

Maddux was in no particular rush to return to baseball; he has only been removed from the game for one year.

A factor that almost certainly sweetened the pot for Maddux is that the Cubs play in Arizona during Spring Training, which is a lot closer to Maddux’s Las Vegas home than the Orlando-based Braves’ complex in Florida.

From a business perspective, while it would have been great for the Braves organization in the short and long-term to get Maddux back, the assumption that Wren could have done more to make it happen is unfounded.

Chicago was just the right fit at the right time for Maddux.

Maddux began his career with the Cubs in 1986, where he won his first Cy Young Award in 1992, before leaving as a free agent to sign with Atlanta that winter.

From ’93 to 2003, Maddux pitched for the Braves where he went on to capture three more consecutive Cy Young’s from 1993-1995 and helped lead Atlanta to the playoffs every season in which he played for them.

The 355-game-winner also won his only World Series ring as a member of the Braves Championship team in ’95.

Maddux later returned to Chicago for his second stint with the club from 2004-2006 and won his 300th game as a member of the Cubs during the 2005 season.

He was traded to the Dodgers at the end of the ’06 year before retiring at the conclusion of the 2008 season with the San Diego Padres.

04
Aug
09

Frank Wren… good for the Braves?

Braves General Manager Frank Wren

Braves General Manager Frank Wren

If there’s one thing for certain that Frank Wren has done for the Braves, it is he has gotten fans talking again.

Braves fans have often gained the reputation, fairly or unfairly, of being indifferent and not vocal.

Chalk it up to the unprecedented success that the team enjoyed in the 1990’s, or to the fact that the fans had grown accustomed to former General Manager John Schuerholz’s operations over the years.

Saavy. Professional. Tight-lipped.

Brilliant.

So, whether you are pro or anti-Wren and his personnel decisions, there is no question that the man had impossible shoes to fill.

Legendary shoes.

John Schuerholz was a visionary. A true architect who knew exactly the type of team he wanted to assemble.

He originated and then solidified the Atlanta Braves blueprint that turned a fumbling franchise into an iconic one.

Schuerholz targeted the same type of personalities and looked for a certain make-up in every player. He would never sign or trade for a player who he didn’t feel could fit into Bobby Cox’s clubhouse.

No egos. No attitudes. No drama.

The Atlanta Braves became a well-oiled machine, run with the utmost class and professionalism

Schuerholz’s model worked with precision. Under him, the Braves won fourteen consecutive division titles and a World Championship.

He stressed the importance of developing a strong farm system and as a result the Braves saw many homegrown products come up within the organization and become superstars.

So, the day Schuerholz announced he was leaving his duties as Braves General Manager and taking the reigns as president of the club, many were worried about who would be his successor, and how he would fare.

Enter Frank Wren.

Wren served as Assistant General Manager to John Schuerholz for almost eight years.

Fans had hoped for a seamless transition, assuming Schuerholz’s style and technique would carry over to Wren.

However, Wren’s early tenure as Braves GM has been met with very mixed reviews, and often a great deal of criticism.

Wren lost out on some prominent free agents this past off-season.

He failed to complete a trade for then-Padres ace Jake Peavy and then let A.J. Burnett slip through his fingers and sign with the New York Yankees.

Shortly thereafter, it was reported that Wren had come to terms with former Brave and fan favorite, Rafael Furcal. It turned ugly fast when Furcal apparently reneged on the deal and ended up re-signing with Los Angeles.

The Furcal saga humiliated the organization and Wren felt the brunt of the heat.

But, it didn’t end there.

Wren was then vilified in the media for his decision to let Braves icon John Smoltz leave the organization and sign with Boston and for releasing 300-game winner and 1995 World Series MVP Tom Glavine.

Two Braves legends were shown the door and both accused the Braves of handling the situation poorly and for being unprofessional.

Unprofessional and the Braves? These were two words that were never synonymous with each other.

So, the whispers began… John Schuerholz would never let this happen on his watch.

The witch hunt for Wren began to gain steam.

The Braves were all over the media, and getting negative publicity. Even Braves players, specifically Chipper Jones, were also critical of the organization’s handling of these personnel matters.

Wren appeared to be a marked man.

Yet, despite the controversy that surrounded these moves, Wren had quietly assembled a contending team on the field.

After losing out on Peavy and Burnett, he spent the off-season feverishly rebuilding a starting rotation that was plagued with injuries in 2008.

And, his acquisitions of Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez and Kenshin Kawakami have thus far paid dividends.

Wren addressed the team’s offensive woes by aggressively pursuing a bat –Nate McLouth– and acquiring him earlier then many expected this season.

He wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a Jeff Francoeur trade, signaling the end of the underachieving but talented right fielder’s time with Atlanta.

Then, on deadline day, he added another bat in Adam LaRoche, attempting to improve the team’s power at first base heading into the stretch drive.

As a result, Wren has rebuilt a team that had lost 90 games last season and has put them back on the map and in a position to make a run at a playoff berth.

How can one not be impressed by his tireless effort, dedication and desire to make the Braves relevant again — and to bring them back on top?

Right or wrong, the debate about Frank Wren will surely rage on as the season winds down.

Regardless of what side of the fence you stand on, I think there’s one thing about Wren all Braves fans have to learn to accept.

He is not John Schuerholz.

He never will be.

And, it is not fair to compare him to a man that has done and could do no wrong in the eyes of Braves Nation.

Wren is a different personality.

Fiery. Risky. Vocal.

And, not quite nostalgic.

The team has a different leader now, with a different voice and a different style.

Whether he’s the popular choice or not, and more importantly, his longevity with the team, will ultimately be determined by how his team fares in the end.

If the Braves become winners again… Wren will become the toast of the town.

02
Jun
09

Observations of the Braves from my trip to Chase Field…

Kelly, Me, Emily, Erin, and Shannon on the field in AZ after the Braves opening night loss to the D-Backs

Kelly, Me, Emily, Erin, and Shannon on the field in AZ after the Braves opening night loss to the D-Backs

I had my first opportunity to check out the 2009 Atlanta Braves live and in person when they traveled to Arizona to face the Diamondbacks May 28-31st. I have lived in AZ for the past 5 years so Chase Field has become my go-to ballpark to see the Bravos. This season I was fortunate enough to have the Braves in town for a four-game series. Hotlanta split the series 2-2 with the Snakes and I ended up coming away with some positive, negative and suggestions for improvement for the team going forward. Here’s a breakdown of the good, the bad, and the ugly from the desert:

The good: Atlanta’s starting staff continues to impress and keep the team in close games. Derek Lowe gave up 5 runs in the series opening loss, although only 3 of those runs were earned, after Kelly Johnson botched a grounder that allowed for a big inning that ended up deciding the ballgame. Despite the fact that Lowe wasn’t as sharp as he’s been for the majority of the season, he was still able to bear down, gut it out and minimize any further damage after the Johnson error sparked a four-run 4th, which kept the Braves within striking distance.

In Game Two, Jair Jurrjens was the recipient of a rare offensive explosion from the Braves and picked up the “W” in the Braves 10-6 victory. While Jurrjens was handed a 10-1 lead after 3 1/2 innings, he did appear uncomfortable pitching with such a large lead. This happens to many of the game’s best pitchers who often thrive off of pitching in tight situations. But for Jurrjens, who has been coined the Braves hard luck loser this season after putting up some mighty impressive numbers, this win helps balance things out a bit.

In Game Three, Javier Vazquez looked strong putting up zeros for six innings against the D-Backs, keeping a 2-0 lead intact after escaping a sixth inning jam unscathed. However, he finally ran out of gas in the seventh when Chris Young tied the game with a pinch-hit single. While the Braves ended up losing in heartbreaking fashion 3-2 in the 11th, the club couldn’t have asked for anything more from Vazquez. His gutsy outing deserved to be capped with a win.

In the finale of the series, Braves rookie Kris Medlen looked solid, picking up his first major league win, allowing one run on four hits with nine struck outs in six innings of work. Medlen was making his third big league start in the fifth spot of the Braves rotation after Jo-Jo Reyes went down with an injury. Reyes was filling in for a rehabbing Tom Glavine, who after a recent strong five-inning effort for Triple A Gwinnett appears to be close to returning to the Braves rotation. The return of the veteran Glav is sure to make an already deep Braves rotation that much deeper.

The bad: The Braves offense remains inconsistent and spotty. After looking stagnant in the series opener, they exploded for 10 runs in game two to illicit hope amongst the frustrated Braves faithful. However, true to form they followed up that offensive outburst with only two early runs in their eventual 3-2 extra inning loss. To make things even more disconcerning, they scored the 10 runs in game two in the first four innings before being blanked the rest of the game. Then, despite jumping out to an early 2-0 lead in game three, the bats were then silenced again for the remainder of the game, wasting Javier Vazquez’s strong effort. The nine runs the Braves accumulated in the series finale against Arizona had fans and management scratching their heads as to why this team can’t consistently put up runs to support their underappreciated starting staff.

The ugly: The Braves lack power, especially in the outfield, which is a large reason why the offense has stumbled.

The culprits: Rookie center fielder Jordan Schafer and right fielder Jeff Francoeur. On Monday, before the Braves opened a homestand at Turner Field against the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta sent Schafer down to Triple A Gwinnett. Schafer is hitting only .206 on the season, but what is more alarming is his 63 strikeouts, which rank as the fourth highest in Major League Baseball. The Braves recalled Gregor Blanco from the minors to take Schafer’s place for the time being and hope he will be able to provide a lift to Atlanta’s sagging offense. As for Francoeur, he has been hovering around .250 for the past month and still appears lost and often overmatched at the plate. Frenchy has only gone deep four times this season, which has contributed largely to the Braves power drought. Braves GM Frank Wren must be listening to trade offers for Francoeur but whether the team deals him or not depends largely on what they could garner in return. Francoeur is still young and talented and for a team that is struggling to find offensive production, it wouldn’t be wise to subtract a bat without replacing it with an upgraded one.

Suggestions for improvement: I think the Braves absolutely, positively HAVE to add a power bat to the outfield before the July 31st trade deadline. There are rumors circulating that the team is looking at bringing Mark DeRosa back to Atlanta. I don’t know if that’s necessarily the right move, but it is encouraging to know that the team is looking for ways to bolster their offense. Pitching keeps teams in the race and the Braves have the arms to continue to do so. But, if Atlanta hopes to make a legitimate run at what appears to be a wide open NL East, they need to greatly improve their offense.

For those frustrated fans who have already thrown in the towel, I offer these words of hope. Before June 2nd’s game against Chicago, the Braves find themselves in third place only 4 1/2 games behind first place Philadelphia. We aren’t even at the All-Star Break folks. There is A LOT of baseball to be played. The Braves benefited greatly over their run of fourteen consecutive division titles from a strong starting rotation and a deep pitching staff. In the playoffs, pitching is often what carries a team far and if a staff gets hot at the right time, anything is possible. If the Braves can find enough offense to at least supplement their staff, they have just as good a chance as any team of playing October baseball.




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