Atlanta Braves, MLB

Braves ink veteran backstop Suzuki to a one-year deal

The Atlanta Braves biggest priority coming to the off-season was finding a catcher to go along with Tyler Flowers. On Saturday they filled that need signing veteran backstop Kurt Suzuki to a one-year 2.5 million dollar deal. This isn’t a sexy move for one of the big names we either weren’t comfortable signing or someone just beats us out, but I really like this signing for us at this point.

Suzuki 33 hit .258 with nine home runs and 49 RBIs in 106 games with the Minnesota Twins last season. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but decent considering the catching position has become being good at defense or offense not both. Those are serviceable offensive numbers for a backup catcher, which is likely the role he will have with the Braves.

Most importantly, he is very durable since the 2014 season Suzuki is one of six catches to make 2,900 appearances behind the plate. A remarkable stat considering the amount of punishment a catcher takes from foul tips and blocking balls in the dirt. He definitely provides a reliable option if Tyler Flowers were to go down with an injury or needs a day off. Who knows? Suzuki could revert back to his All-Star form he had in 2014 with the Oakland Athletics, but regardless he is a great cost friendly option for the Braves.

Additionally, Suzuki is a great clubhouse addition, especially with all the young guys in this organization. They will be able to pick his brain and watch how he goes about his business on a daily basis. The Braves pride themselves on having a great clubhouse and cohesiveness between players and personnel Suzuki is a great in that regard as well.

The Braves have done an excellent job this off-season adding veteran players that will help this young nucleus develop both on and off the field. The best part about it is most of the deals we have done this off-season are 1 to 2 years, which means they’re not blocking our top prospects they are just great stop gaps until the young guys are ready.

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MLB, NBA

This Year in Sports: Year of Firsts

As 2016 winds down the time where we all reflect on the year the good the bad and what we can improve on in the years to come. There is one thing I think we can all agree on sports got back to being great again there was not a scandal that distracted us from the game being played! It once again became the great escape that we all need at one time or another every year.

The best part of this year and sports was the fact that championship starved teams and cities finally got to celebrate. The Chicago Cubs, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleer’s become the sports darlings of 2016, it was fun to see these teams finally break their long title droughts.

ap-cubs-win-world-series-jc-161103_12x5_1600The Chicago Cubs 

The longest sports drought in history was finally put to bed after 108 years the Chicago Cubs have reached the mountaintop as World Series champions. They did it in style coming back from a 3-1 deficit and being part of the most-watched baseball game and 25 years. It’s one of those sporting event you are going to remember exactly where you were when the Cubs broke the curse.

Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Joe Madden will probably have children named after them because they were able to band together and make a champion out of what was previously the laughingstock of baseball. It’s absolutely amazing the transformation this team underwent in such a short period of time to reach this point.

First of all, they were able to take advantage of multiple high draft picks when the selected this year’s MVP Kris Bryant’s second overall in the 2013 draft, Kyle Schwarber fourth overall in the 2014 draft. Schwarber remarkably came back from a torn ACL the third game of the season and became the biggest X factor of the World Series. He started the rally that ultimately claimed the World Series for the Cubs. Lastly, they selected second baseman Javier Baez ninth overall in the 2011 draft. He had multiple clutch hits and home runs not to mention his gold glove defense and tagging ability.

It’s one thing to get the high draft picks it’s another thing to pick the right guy and to say the least the Chicago Cubs have hit the jackpot on their last few selections. They have also orchestrated keen trades that have helped the team reach this point. The biggest trade was when they swindled second baseman Addison Russell away from the Oakland A’s in July 2014. Russell has turned into a young stud and a part of the young nucleus that Theo Epstein has pieced together.

To all the other rebuilding teams in baseball it will be smart to take a page from the Cubs playbook because 2016 looks like the beginning of a dynasty out in the Windy City. They are poised to become one and more annoying teams in baseball because of all the winning they are going to do for years to come!

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Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James fulfilled his promise to the city of Cleveland as they overcame 3-1 deficit against the record-breaking Gold State Warriors. This was a heck of a way to break through considering Cleveland professional sports hasn’t been celebrated since Jim Brown donned a Browns uniform that’s saying a lot.

The road to the championship was a bit tumultuous not just because they were the first team in NBA history to overcome 3-1 deficit as I said, but they also fired their head coach David Blatt midseason and had to implement an entire new offensive scheme that was much faster and it took time to get used to. They also played the majority of the season without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, who was recovering from knee surgery.

It was a year full of obstacles, but lucky for they had Cleveland’s favorite son LeBron James to lead them to victory. He did everything and more averaging 27.1 points per game, 7.6 assists per game, and 9.5 rebounds per game. He put his team, the city, and his legacy on his back and brought that elusive title back to Cleveland.

This title could potentially open up the floodgates for Cleveland as they are once again the best team in the Eastern conference and last time I checked still have LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, who has quickly become a Golden State warrior killer, which bodes well for the team’s success in the future. This season title might have been the first since 1964, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re sick and tired of congratulating them in the near future because both the Cavaliers and Indians are poised for many playoff runs in the years to come.

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Coastal Carolina 

The championship  that came out of nowhere from the unlikeliest of places as Coastal Carolina shocked the college baseball world as they won their first championship in program history. It’s something all sports fans root for a magical Cinderella run that will be remembered forever and everyone on that team will be coastal Carolina royalty forever. They brought this small school a taste of glory that will last a lifetime.

This also proves that anything can happen as long as you get in the tournament Coastal Carolina entered the tournament as a fifth seed and a virtual afterthought. Despite that, they played their game and took advantage of every opportunity and misstep by their opponents and turned it into a national championship that will give hope to all small schools no matter what position they are in.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention head coach Gary Gilmore and his long journey with this university. Gilmore joined the coastal Carolina staff way back in 1979 and has held the head coaching position since 1996. I love these stories of passion and love Gilmore has shown to this university  and all the lives he touched and lesson he’s passed on during his tenure is worth  much more than this championship. That being said,it’s awesome to see Gilmore and his players experience a dream come true and reach  the mountaintop. I hope to see other small schools follow suit and crash the party in years to come.

Conclusion

This is what sports all about no one game no one season are the same anything can happen, underdogs rise, dynasties are born, and celebrations happen in unexpected places that is what 2016 has brought us. I hope that continues in the seasons to come because it just makes it a whole lot more fun to be a sports fan. Bring it on 2017!!!

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MLB

Rest in Peace Jose Fernandez

Honestly, yesterday sucked so bad on so many levels for everyone in the sports world. As we mourn the loss of Marlins ace José Fernandez, who was tragically killed in a boating accident Sunday morning Fernandez was just 24 years old. 

I have no words to explain how much my heart breaks knowing we won’t get to see him on the mound again. It goes without saying that he was one of the best pitchers in the game he had a career record of 38-17 with 2.58 ERA and a two time all-star putting his stamp on the game of baseball quickly, unfortunately he won’t be able to add to these incredible numbers.

I tuned  into almost every one of his starts because it was a no hitter waiting to happen, but also because of his incredible attitude and an infectious smile he brought to every day he lived. It just made me feel better every time I saw him on TV in the dugout or on the mound. He was a guy that was living the American dream he defected from Cuba was successful in his fifth attempt at the age of 15 showing perseverance and bravery from the very beginning.

He lived every day to the fullest and never took anything for granted and just positively influenced every life that he came across in person or through baseball and the millions of fans that were able to watch him pitch will never forget what a treat it was to watch number 16 take the mound.

Every death has an impact, but this is felt across the world, baseball, and Cuba there will be a lifelong void that will never be filled with the passing of Fernandez. He just meant so much to so many people, especially the Marlins community as many of are Cuban and had an idol to look up to and a centerpiece to the Marlins organization and he will never be replaced.

The only thing we learn from this tragic situation is life makes no sense and I wish we could turn back time to prevent this unthinkable tragedy. My condolences to his family, friends and Marlins teammate’s! Rest in peace José Fernandez God got their Ace just a Way too soon!

 

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Atlanta Braves, MLB

The Swanson Era has officially began in Atlanta

The Atlanta Braves took a huge step forward in the rebuilding process tonight as they called up 22-year-old shortstop Dansby Swanson to begin his career as a Brave. This is a rapid rise for the Marietta native as you recall Swanson was selected number one overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2015 draft. Then was acquired by his hometown team in December for Shelby Miller a trade that was widely criticized by many from the Diamondbacks perspective, but they were in win- now mode and were looking for an established arm to be paired with Zach Greinke.

This was a trade that gave the Atlanta Braves fan base some hope of returning to the glory days because this rebuild has been very painful seeing a lot of favorites walk out the door. This trade added a five-tool player and helped an offensive starved organization. Swanson’s arrival may be sooner than anticipated as just 26 months ago, he was in 2015 College World Series with the Vanderbilt Commodores. That being said, the team felt it was time for Swanson’s journey to begin in the majors as the team started playing respectable baseball and would be a good environment for him to walk into.

The dream come true happened yesterday against the Minnesota Twins Swanson went 2-4 both of them solid singles against Kyle Gibson. Gibson ended up with the last laugh as he threw a complete game, but I honestly don’t think anyone cared about the result they just wanted to see how the Swanson era would begin. He made a pretty good first impression I hope to see many multi-hit games and great success for many years with that Tomahawk across his chest. This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

From a fan’s perspective, it’s like a ray of sunshine in a season that has been lost from the very beginning. It’s a breath of fresh air because we get to go on this journey with Swanson from the very beginning and see how he continues to grow as a baseball player. His abilities as a baseball player have been well documented, but more than that he’s humble and gets it how to carry himself in whatever situation gets thrown at him. He’s what you want in a player and a person he’s a great addition to Braves Country!

Congratulations Dansby

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MLB

Goodbye A-Rod for now

 

The biggest story this week is today marks the final Major League Baseball game for Alex Rodriguez in a Yankee uniform and hopefully his career.  The first thing I thought of was people are going to have to find someone new to hate, not how easy he made the game of baseball look in his 22 year career. Rodriguez has immense talent that has never been questioned, but the amount of baggage accumulated throughout his career is sadly the bigger storyline for me.

As much as we are celebrating what Alex Rodriguez did on a baseball field many are also popping the champagne because that era of controversy will be out of baseball. The thing that angers me most is the fact that he got his hand caught in the cookie jar and he still decided to lie about his performance-enhancing drug use from 01-03 with the Rangers, which I might add were three of his most productive seasons. If that wasn’t enough, he got wrapped up in the biogenesis scandal of 2013 that once again tarnished the authenticity of his illustrious career.

The annoying reality of Alex Rodriguez he is just like Barry Bonds one of the two best hitters in major league history and we don’t know which years were PED aided and which ones were clean bringing shame to not only their credibility as players, but  America’s National Pastime as well.

That being said, as a baseball fanatic I still marvel at the numbers Rodriguez has put up tainted or not. He is 4th all time in home runs (696), 3 MVP’S, 14- Time all-star and a 10 time silver slugger. He also helped lead the Yankees to their last World Series championship in 09 with an all world postseason. The numbers are insane and unthinkable for any player to achieve no matter the baggage that comes with this career.

How will I remember A-Rod at least for now? His career and life have been like a soap opera that had a lot of bright spots and controversy. I will say through all the missteps and animosity he has faced, he kept taking every punch and criticism in stride in trying to mend the relationships that were strained during the dark points of his career.

The sickening reality, I think he loves the game of baseball so much as Ken Rosenthal put it, he wanted to be too great and that resulted in very poor choices that have tainted a legacy that was already going to be one for the ages. I’ll end with this A-Rod is the most polarizing athlete love him or  hate him, he brought something to the game of baseball that will be talked about for years to come both the good and the bad!

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Atlanta Braves, MLB

Braves future even brighter following deadline

The Atlanta Braves season has been hard to stomach as they continue to rebuild for the new ballpark in 2017. They currently sit with the worst record in major league baseball at 37-69 and for a while there I questioned if they would get to the 20-win mark. However, the team has done a remarkable job restocking the pipeline with many top-flight prospects that will hopefully return us to the glory days.

As we wait for those prospects to get the call to the show I think this year’s deadline was a great turning point for this organization as they were finally able to add offense to both our system and the big-league club. John Coppola and John Hart were able to work magic first trading Lucas Harrell and Darío Alvarez to the Texas Rangers for their 20th best prospect Travis Demeritte.

Demeritte just 21 years of age hitting .272 with 25 home runs and 13 stolen bases. It’s incredible that the team was able to acquire such a high upside prospect with the average power combination that is pretty rare in baseball today. The fact that the team was able to take two guys basically off the trash heap and turn them into a bat.

Next the John’s did the impossible and traded Hector Olivera to the San Diego Padres for Matt Kemp. The Braves were not only able to get out of a bad contract and the situation with Olivera whom struggled on the field and off with domestic abuse, but they were able to get a proven major league bat in return.

Kemp is hitting .260 with 23 home runs and 69 RBIs he brings a veteran presence and hopefully some protection to first baseman Freddie Freeman lengthening our lineup putting pressure on opposing pitchers. Not only that, we have him for the next three years at a very respectable 18.5 million per year. Which seems like a lot,but we got out from under a bad situation and got a player that can help on the field daly.This move also gives us options this off-season as we now have a surplus of outfielders we may be able to address another area of weakness in a trade this off-season.

As you can see, the organization has turned a corner finally able to add pieces that will right away help the major league club. Also through this rebuild process the team has been able to create financial flexibility so we will be able to be pretty active this off-season looking to upgrade the catching and third base positions.

It’s been a tough process to watch, but it seems we will be contenders sooner rather than later. When that happens, I believe we will be able to sustain it with the bevy of prospects we’ve amassed. Stay patient Braves country we aren’t that far off!

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