By: Joe Delaney
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
Man, fall is in the air! Football is all over the place. Whether it’s our local high schools, college, or the pros.
But, let’s give it up for the Atlanta Braves. The World Series Wonders are fighting for the NL East title with the Metropolitans and win or lose will be back into playoffs.
The kicker on this is that the Braves have been built the same way Kirby has built the Dawgs. And that’s for the long haul.
The Braves have a guy running the show who has been pulling all the right strings since he came to Atlanta. Alex Anthopoulos came to the Braves in 2017 and was promoted to president of baseball operations in February of 2020.
He is the mastermind behind what is happening to the Braves. Anthopoulos was the guy who reworked the Braves lineup late last season to bring in Adam Duvall, Joc Peterson and Eddie Rosario. I don’t think the Bravos win it all without those moves.
Duvall was steady as a rock. Joc Peterson had half of Truist Park wearing pearl necklaces and ole Eddie was the NLCS MVP. Yeah, Anthopoulos pulled all the right strings last year.
But what about that deal for the long haul? What have you done for us lately, Alex? Well, he has worked on the Braves from the ground up and man this dude doesn’t play around.
The Braves have three of the top overall prospects in the majors now on their roster.
How good are they? Two of them will probably finish 1 and 2 in the rookie of the year voting and the third is a consensus top 10.
We’re talking about Spencer Strider, Michael Harris II, and Vaughn Grissom. These guys all have greatness written all over them.
Spencer Strider has struck out 200 batters in 132 innings. He carries an 11-5 record as of today. He consistently hits 97-100 on the gun. One of his teammates was asked how he ranked Strider and his reply was “just under deGrom”. Jacob deGrom is a future Hall of Famer.
Spencer Strider is 23 years old. Get used to seeing ladies with black fake moustaches at Truist Park! The guy is becoming his own little cult!
Vaughn Grissom is 21 years old and was brought up by the Braves when Ozzie Albies went down with a fractured foot over the summer.
He skipped AAA ball and came up from AA. With the Braves, he has played sterling defense and is batting .302 with 5 HR and 16 RBI in 34 games. Now with Ozzie out again with a fractured pinky, Grissom will finish out the season at 2B. This guy has a chance to be a great one.
Last but not least of these three amigos is Michael Harris II. He is the odds-on favorite for NL Rookie of the Year.
The amazing thing about that is he only came up to the Braves at the end of May. Harris has solidified center field for the Braves and should be there for the foreseeable future.
He is currently hitting .305 with 18 HR and 59 RBI and 17 SB. He is 21 years old.
Anthopoulos knows his stuff and just signed the rookie Harris to an 8 year 72 million contract.
So, this is how Alex Anthopoulos is building the Braves for the future. And what a future it’s going be. These guys are loaded and now have a lineup that is as good as any in baseball. I think ole Alex is gonna keep it that way. GO BRAVES!
By: TJ Hartnett
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
During the last offseason, Braves Country waited for what seemed like forever for the Atlanta front office to make a splash.
It seemed like for a long while that Atlanta’s fans would be disappointed, but finally the day came when Alex Anthopoulos and company pulled the trigger on two signings that would figure into the Braves’ plans to improve upon their surprising win of the NL East in 2018.
Both Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann were announced to have inked to 1-year deals on the same day.
McCann, in what would be his final season as a big-league catcher, thrived in his return home.
Donaldson merely returned to his heyday form, hitting 37 home runs alongside a .900 OPS and providing the necessary protection behind Freddie Freeman to allow the first baseman to put up his career-best season. Not to mention, being a positive force in the clubhouse who became beloved by the fanbase and provided clutch hits throughout the season (but was he worth the $23 million price tag? Asking for a friend/editor).
It was the kind of banner news day that the Braves were craving.
This year the Braves made moves earlier in the offseason and yet again made news involving two different players on the same day. Though this time they were re-signing two of the pieces from their two-time division-winning team, instead of bringing in new blood.
Nick Markakis and Tyler Flowers actually both had their options declined by the Braves (as did Julio Teheran) but were then each signed to a new, 1-year, $4 million contract.
Essentially, they make the same amount of money after the buyouts are added in, but the Braves save some money on payroll because those buyouts are considered 2019 money.
The Braves still have time to make a big splash (Donaldson negotiations are, one imagines, ongoing), but this two-fer day certainly lacked the excitement of last year’s.
For one, neither of these players are likely to be everyday guys anymore or at least, they shouldn’t be.
Markakis has fallen off in a big way each of the past two years during the second half. He’s well-respected and a good hand to have, but his days of being able to spend a season in the middle of the order are behind him. Hopefully the Braves are looking at him as a backup or at most a platoon player going into 2020.
Flowers has been splitting time at catcher for a few years now to great success. First with Kurt Suzuki and then with McCann. It’s time for him to fall into a true backup role, even though that’s an imperfect solution for his presence on the roster as well.
Flowers’ primary skill is pitch framing. He’s one of the best in the league at stealing strikes for his pitchers; but he also led the majors in passed balls in 2019 as a part-time player.
Plus, he’s consistently been the lesser hitter of his platoon. So, he’s good at framing, which would be helpful five times a week, but bad at catching the ball, which should prevent him from playing five times a week. And he’s a poor hitter, so coming off the bench doesn’t serve anyone well.
The key to Flowers coming back not being a bad decision will be acquiring a front-line backstop. The Braves should be in on the likes of Yasmani Grandal, but they’ll have competition and without a Suzuki or a McCann, Flowers is going to get exposed. This is a big need.
The 2019 offseason has already had some movement, but not coupled with the excitement that 2018’s did around this time.
Luckily, there’s still a lot of road ahead for the Braves to make moves that will take Atlanta to the next level.
By: TJ Hartnett
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
It has been nothing but upheaval in Braves Country the past few months.
The John Coppolella scandal shook the front office on down and they are still piecing things together.
From the top down, it has been somewhat of a bizarre turn of events, in that Coppy’s forced resignation has caused decisions that both change things and keep things the same.
Brian Snitker will remain the Braves manager in 2018. Doubtlessly, a direct result of the circumstances surrounding Coppy’s departure. It’s a little bass ackwards since usually you would see a new GM being given the opportunity to select his own skipper, but Snit was awarded his contract for next season right after Coppy left, well before Alex Anthopoulos’ arrival.
I call this a direct result because the word was that the Braves were going to replace Snitker prior to the scandal breaking. Snitker’s maintaining of his job was a move made to provide a little stability to the organization and specifically to the clubhouse during what was going to be (and is) an uncertain time.
It’s maybe not an ideal way have your job saved, but I’m sure Snitker is happy to have another opportunity to prove his mettle.
That being said, after retaining Snitker the Braves stopped trying to carry over coaches from last season.
Former Braves shortstop Walt Weiss was hired as the new bench coach for the 2018 season, replacing longtime Braves coach Terry Pendleton.
Eddie Perez is also being relieved of his duties as first base coach, removing the last two vestiges of Bobby Cox’s tenure from the clubhouse aside from Snitker himself.
It’s a move that says to me that the Braves moved too quickly to retain Snitker and probably even regret doing so.
Clearly, they’re looking for a change in the regime, but they reacted to Coppy’s royal screwup by keeping the head of that regime attached.
For the record, I’m in favor of this kind of massive changeup of the coaching staff. As a Bobby Cox devotee, I find it strange to even be typing this, but it’s time his fingerprints were wiped from the team.
Bobby had a very particular managerial style. One that players and fans like myself loved and admired; that has permeated the tenures of both Fredi Gonzalez and Brian Snitker.
It was very old school, and while there is nothing wrong with that, it’s just time for a changing of the guard.
I think the Braves would like to see a little bit less traditional managing and something a little more brazen.
It’s probably not a coincidence that these changes away from “Bobby’s guys” is happening after the World Series-winning manager AJ Hinch (allegedly) got into a bar fight in the middle of the series. There’s fire out there and I support bringing it in to Atlanta’s clubhouse.
Anthopoulos serves as another example of the kind of aggression the Braves need to move toward.
This is a guy who decided the Blue Jays were going to make a run in 2015 and traded for Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and David Price before and during the season.
Donaldson won the MVP that year and Toronto went to the ALCS. Now he’s got a whole new toy chest of goodies in the Braves’ minor league system and given the choice between waiting for them to develop or trading them, chances are we’ll see the latter.
That’s not a bad thing. Prospects are far from sure bets and Atlanta has tons of them. Some of them need to be turned into bona fide major league players and Anthopoulos has shown he won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on a deal if he thinks it will help the major league club.
He’s a pallet cleanser of a GM and I think we’ll see some exciting moves during his stint.
All this change probably means that Snitker’s seat is hotter than ever but if he can steer in the direction the Braves want him to, we might see some fire from him after all. If not, then there will still be fire; it’ll just have a ‘d’ at the end.