Posts Tagged ‘World Series

20
Apr
10

It’s early but it’s big… Braves and Phils set to collide

For 14 years, opponents knew they had to go through Atlanta to get to the playoffs—and, to the World Series.

For the past three years, they go through Philly.

It may only be April 20 and the first of many meetings between these two divisional foes, but for the Braves it is never too early to make a good impression.

After all, first place is up for grabs.

The Phillies hold a one-game lead over the third-place Braves in the NL East standings coming into tonight’s series opener at Turner Field.

Atlanta spent over a decade at the top of the National League East, but in recent years they have taken their lumps in an effort to regain the level of excellence they had come to expect.

The Braves haven’t tasted October since 2005, but last season after a strong, albeit late push for the NL Wild Card, they got one step closer to returning to the playoffs.

This year, they are billed as the Phillies chief competition in the NL East.

While an April series isn’t make-or-break for either club, the buzz surrounding this series is unmistakable.

Last year, the Braves knew they waited too long before making their playoff run and just ran out of games.

It is these pesky games early in the season that often count just as large as the ones in September, but are long forgotten when a team comes up a game or two short of the postseason.

Still, don’t expect these Braves to put too much stock in this series outcome.

Atlanta won’t wave the red flag if they lose the series and they surely won’t become complacent if they win it.

But, what a series win would do for the Braves is send a message to the Phillies that the preseason hype surrounding this club was legit.

And, let’s not forget that last season, Atlanta handled Philly with relative ease in the early going.

The Braves were winners of seven of the first nine meetings between the teams, including a series sweep just before the fourth of July.

Then, Ryan Howard happened.

Howard torched the Braves over the final nine games between the clubs, of which his team won six, blasting eight home runs.

However, Atlanta still won the season series 10-8, but still fell short of the playoffs.

The Braves know at the very least, a series win is expected again this year if they hope to reach the postseason.

And, if they hope to make a legitimate run at the World Series, they figure they will see these Phillies again in the NLCS.

The hope and buzz surrounding this year’s squad lends credence to the belief that the Braves can compete with any team in the league even the big, bad Phillies.

With Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe lined up to pitch in this series, the Braves expect their starters to go toe-to-toe with Philadelphia’s.

No surprise there.

The Braves have always won with pitching, and their staff has rivaled if not exceeded the Phillies starters over recent years.

But what the Bravos have this year, that they haven’t had in the past, is their very own one-man wreaking crew.

His name is Jason Heyward.

While the comparisons between Heyward and Howard have begun, it is far too early in the youngster’s career to pit him against Philly’s RBI machine.

But for those of you looking to add to the fodder, in the season’s first two weeks, Heyward does have one more RBI.

The Phillies are about to get their first glimpse at the beast that is the “J-Hey Kid,” and pardon me if they don’t feel a little deja vu.

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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.




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