Colin Lacy

A Near Strike Out

By: Colin Lacy news services

In a series opening game in May at Founders Park in Columbia, Georgia Baseball opened a three-game series against the then Number 13 South Carolina Gamecocks.

The Dawgs chased the Gamecock’s starter Roman Kimball after scoring four in the top of the 1st inning, then the second inning saw Charlie Condon launch a Ty Good first pitch past the left field wall to go back-to-back with teammate Corey Collins. That blast was his 34th of the season to maintain the national homerun lead.

Condon not only led the nation in homers, but also led the country with an average over .450 and had driven in 72 runs at that point for the Diamond Dawgs. He’s having a historic year for Georgia, but it’s almost a career that never came to fruition.

Near the end of his career at The Walker School in Marietta (North Metro Atlanta area), Condon had no Division I offers to play baseball.

The two offers on the table were from D III Rhodes College in Memphis and University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn to play both baseball and also play quarterback for the football programs.

Condon did have a potential preferred walk-on opportunity for the Tennessee Volunteers, but a late pull from Vols Head Coach Tony Vitello took that opportunity off the table.

Scott Stricklin, former Georgia Head Coach from 2014 thru 2023, got a phone call from a friend telling him about Charlie, and was told that Condon may be a potential target.

Stricklin and staff got some video of Condon’s skills and thought he would be able to be a factor for the Dawgs down the road.

So how did everyone miss on someone that potentially could be the number one overall pick in the upcoming MLB Draft?

Well, it may be a full storm of factors. First off, Condon was a late bloomer. While the last few years in high school were impressive, he wasn’t on the top travel ball team, he wasn’t the measurable masterpiece.

All of that along with COVID-19 was affecting the sports world still while his recruiting process. High school schedules were affected, College coaches weren’t out on the road and able as many players as they normally would, so late bloomers, and players that were under the radar didn’t get a look.

If there needed to be another factor, the MLB Draft was shortened from 40 rounds to 20, so there weren’t many scholarships to go around.

Condon turned into the perfect fit for the Bulldogs before even taking an at-bat. Condon was exceptional student and was able to be accepted to the University of Georgia and didn’t need a scholarship to come to school.

As a pure walk-on, Condon didn’t see action as a freshman. Scott Stricklin told Condon that the plan was for him to redshirt and really hit the weight room in 2022 to grow into the player that Stricklin thought Condon could be.

While that is the plan, Stricklin saw that Condon was special and had told other college coaches that possibly the best hitter on his roster was a redshirt.

Condon took the redshirt in stride and gained 15-20 pounds of muscle, and seeing college pitching made it click at the plate.

If Condon wasn’t special enough, or as one scout called him “a unicorn,” he had to deal with another bit of adversity after 2023 when Stricklin (the coach that took a chance on him) was let go from UGA.

In the new age of college sports of NIL and transfer portal, Condon proved he’s a “unicorn” off the field too with an incredibly infrequent take on the portal opportunity.

“It was never a real possibility that I wanted to get in the portal and go anywhere else,” Condon told ESPN’s Mark Schlabach.

“Whether it was this coaching staff or not, the university was the only place that gave me a chance out of high school. It was the university that had given me all the time and resources and put so much into my development. I couldn’t turn my back on that.”

No matter if you’re a fan of the Dawgs, or just of college baseball, you can’t help but root for Charlie Condon, and marvel at the historic season.

As great as his on-the-field presence is, the off-the field factor helps Condon’s draft stock just as much.

Atlanta Hockey…Take 3?

By: Colin Lacy news services

October is a great time for sports fans in the state of Georgia.

On any given night, you could have the first pitch for another Atlanta Braves Postseason run, or tipoff for an early season Atlanta Hawks game. Maybe you’re heading to the Benz for an Atlanta United match.

When the weekends roll around, you might be “Between the Hedges,” filing into Bobby Dodd Stadium, or tailgating at Allen E. Paulson getting ready for boot meet ball for your college football Saturday.

Then get to Sunday afternoon to see Kirk Cousins (or maybe Michael Penix Jr….. That’s a whole other story) taking snaps for the Falcons. So, what is Georgia Sports missing? A Puck drop?

Back in March, Alpharetta Sports & Entertainment officially announced they requested the NHL Commissioner and Board of Governors to commence a new expansion process to bring an NHL franchise back to Atlanta.

Alpharetta Sports & Entertainment is fronted by former NHL player and current Turner Sports analyst Anson Carter.

Carter has been extremely outspoken about the NHL making the return to Atlanta for what would be the third time in a number of years and has had multiple conversations with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about the possibility of expansion.

The potential ownership group has planned construction of 18,000-seat arena around North Point Mall in Alpharetta and plans expand the surrounding area into a commercial mini-metropolis much like the Battery Atlanta is around Truist Park.

The location has been one of the main selling points to the NHL as to why the two previous franchises didn’t succeed in the metro-Atlanta area.

Carter and the other potential owners believe that headquartering the franchise in Alpharetta helps solve the issues that stood most recently at Philips Arena (now State Farm Arena). This is the same idea that the Braves are now thriving with in Cobb County and developing the Battery and surrounding area.

Atlanta hockey has seen two previous renditions with the Atlanta Flames from 1972-1980 before being re-located to Calgary.

Take two saw the Atlanta Thrashers call (then) Philips Arena home from 1999-2011 before being moved to Winnipeg to become the Winnipeg Jets.

The NHL has only added four expansion teams since the Atlanta Thrashers were created in 1999. The next season in 2000, the NHL expanded to thirty teams with the addition of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild.

It would be 16 years before the next new NHL franchise. The league would add one more team to get to thirty-one total teams with the 2016 expansion franchise of the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Knights proved to be a success with the Stanley Cup Championship coming in their first year of existence (2017-18 season).

Most recently the NHL became a 32-team outfit with the addition of the Seattle Kraken beginning in the 2021-22 season.

Although the NHL has said that currently they have no plans for expansion, there are many that are optimistic that the Atlanta area would be on the top of the list to get an expansion franchise.

The construction of the new arena around North Point is expected to be ready for potential play for the 2027-28 season, and now it’s just a waiting game.

Personally, I would love to dust off the old Atlanta Thrashers sweater, and head back to “Blueland”!


Reckless Driving

By: Colin Lacy news services

The off-season for two consecutive seasons has been filled with much of the same that everyone around the country in today’s college football.

Transfer portal additions/subtractions, NIL meetings, spring football, but one thing that has been more prevalent than any team across the college football landscape in the public eye has been the off-field issues and more specifically run-ins with law enforcement on traffic related issues at the University of Georgia.

Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart has been under scrutiny especially the last two years because dozens of citations and arrests due to speeding, reckless driving, DUI, and other serious traffic offenses.

The latest of these came in late March when star transfer running back Trevor Etienne was arrested on four misdemeanor charges including DUI and reckless driving.

Etienne transferred to Athens after spending two seasons at SEC rival Florida. In his two campaigns with the Gators, Etienne rushed for 1,472 yards and scored 15 total touchdowns and was expected to be a key piece along with quarterback Graham Mertz before Etienne entered the transfer portal.

The addition of Etienne to the running back room for the Bulldogs made perfect sense after Georgia lost their top two rushers from a year ago as Daijun Edwards and Kendall Milton take their talents to the NFL.

According to the UGA Athletic Department policy, Etienne will at minimum miss 10% of the 2024 season (equates to at least one game), if found guilty of the DUI charge.

Etienne was also charged with speeding and reckless driving for traveling between 80 to 90-mph in a 50-mph zone while also crossing the double yellow line to pass cars on two occasions.

Head Coach Kirby Smart has only commented that the team and athletic department will let the legal actions run its course before officially announcing if there will be or the length of the suspension of Etienne.

While Georgia has been hammered by the media and outside noise, most don’t focus on the steps that Athletic Director Josh Brooks and others in the athletic department have done to help aid the situation.

In an interview with ESPN, Sophomore offensive lineman Earnest Greene III said there have been numerous programs put into place ranging from conversations with local police officers, AD Josh Brooks, and Head Coach Kirby Smart about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Greene also said, “it’s on us” and went on to say that Smart has stressed the importance of the players taking ownership of the team and policing themselves.

Like most situations in college sports nowadays, there seems to be two drastically different sides, then the truth falls somewhere in the middle.

On one side, it seems like there is an inordinate number of arrests for speeding, DUI, and other serious traffic violations within the Georgia Football program.

On the other hand, there is only so much Josh Brooks and Kirby Smart can do to control 18–25-year-olds, also the Athens local law enforcement has earned the reputation of being somewhat stricter than most college towns.

Again, my two cents, I think it falls in the middle. Is there an issue for Georgia Football with the behaviors of SOME student-athletes? Sure, I don’t know that anyone would dispute that.

But I also think it easily gets overblown for a couple of reasons. Yes, there have been somewhere between 14-18 players involved in an incident like this, but I don’t think it’s unique to Georgia.

The Bulldogs are just the ones that are 1. Published about, and 2. Talked about because of the rise of Georgia Football.

So, and this coming from someone that’s not a die-hard Georgia fan, sure there is an issue that needs to be addressed and is being addressed by the athletic department and Georgia Football, but it also gets blown out of proportion due to a number of factors around Athens.

The More Things Change

By: Colin Lacy news services

New Regions…. Again!

Just when the new regions that were set prior to the 2022 season started to feel comfortable, it’s time to adjust to brand new regions beginning in the fall of 2024, and in some cases, vastly different.

In early November 2023, the GHSA released the new classifications that would take effect in July 2024.

The most notable change was eliminating the 7A classification, which would compile the 457 GHSA Member Schools into one fewer classification.

In the following few weeks, the GHSA committee would finalize the new region alignment, and the flurry began of what that looks like for the 2024 football season, especially around South Georgia.

So, who does realignment affect the most? Let’s dive into a few teams that are the most affected (good or bad) by the new look GHSA.


Southeast Bulloch

Arguably one of the most drastic differences will come from Brooklet as the Yellow Jackets of SEB move not only into a vastly different region, but a whole new classification. The past 2 years, SEB competed in region 3 of the 4A Classification which turned out to be one of the most difficult regions in the state with the likes of Benedictine, Wayne County, Burke County, New Hampstead, and Islands. With the step down in classification to the 3A level for 2024-2026, the new region 3-3A is also the second largest region in all classifications with ten teams. Because of the crowded region, everyone in region 3-3A will play nine Region games, and only one non-region contest. A couple old region rivalries will be renewed because of the classification for the Jackets, adding Liberty County, Calvary Day School, and Groves back as region foes.


Tift County

No bones about it, Tift County is heading into a bear of a region. Five of the six members in the new Region 1 of the 6A class were the entirety of region 1 of the since departed 7A in 2022-23. Tift County stays a 6A school where they have been the last few years but are essentially thrown into a full 7A region with Colquitt County, Valdosta, Camden County, Richmond Hill, and Lowndes. Those five were part of an incredibly competitive region and are historically some of the best football programs in South Georgia. Tift did face Colquitt County last year as a non-region opponent, but it didn’t go the Blue Devils’ way with a 40-2 win for the Packers.



Statesboro High will enter year two under former Georgia Southern Eagle, now Blue Devil Head Coach Matt Dobson with the same region name as they played in for the past 2 years of region 1 of 5A, but it’s a much different look than it has in the past.  Because of the reclassification, Effingham and South Effingham drop from 6A down to 5A and bring a huge addition to the depth of the region. Coffee County and Ware County that had run that region the last few years do depart (Coffee placed in Region 2 of 5A, and Ware County drops to 4A), but the addition of the two Effingham schools along with Glynn Academy, Brunswick and Evans will prove to be a huge test for SHS.


These are just three scenarios where the new classifications and regions impact greatly how the 2024 season plays out, but I have a sneaky suspicion that (at least for the next two athletic years) there will be a region that turns out just how the GHSA envisioned and becomes a new highly competitive region. Below are the new look regions in South Georgia:


1-AAAAAA (6)

Camden County

Colquitt County


Richmond Hill

Tift County



1-AAAAA (9)

Bradwell Institute


Effingham County


Glynn Academy


Lakeside, Evans

South Effingham



2-AAAAA (6)


Houston County

Lee County

Northside, Warner Robins

Thomas County Central



1-AAAA (6)


New Hampstead


Ware County

Warner Robins

Wayne County


1-AAA (6)





Peach County



2-AAA (9)

Fayette County


Mary Persons

Sandy Creek


Trinity Christian

Troup County




3-AAA (10)


Calvary Day School




Johnson, Savannah

Liberty County

Long County

Southeast Bulloch

Windsor Forest


3-AA (6)

Appling County


Crisp County

Pierce County

Savannah Arts Academy*

Tattnall County


1-A Division I (7)

Bacon County


Brantley County


Jeff Davis


Worth County


3-A Division I (7)

Savannah Christian

Savannah Country Day

St. Vincent’s Academy*


Toombs County




2-A Division II (8)

Atkinson County*

Brooks County

Charlton County

Clinch County

Echols County*

Irwin County

Lanier County

Turner County


3-A Division II (12)

Bryan County


Emanuel County Institute

Jenkins County

McIntosh County Academy




Savannah Classical*

Savannah Early College*

Screven County

Steam Academy*

Azaleas In Bloom

By: Colin Lacy news services

The azaleas are in full bloom. The towering pine and flowering dogwood trees are in pristine condition. That can only mean one thing…it’s time for the golf world to flock to Augusta, Ga for the 2024 Masters.

The 88th playing of the Masters Tournament officially gets underway Thursday April 11th and will hand out the coveted green jacket on Sunday at the conclusion of the final round for a “tradition unlike any other.”

The Masters is always the first of the four Major Championships in the golf world and is slated for the first full week in April each year.

The tournament that began in 1934 is considerably smaller (in terms of number of participants) than the other three championships because it’s an invitational event held by the Augusta National Golf Course.

There are 20 ways that a player can be invited to participate in the exclusive Masters Tournament. Any former Masters Champion has a lifetime invitation back to Augusta. Similarly, any champion of the other three major championships in the previous five years gets an automatic invitation to the field. Although 20 ways to qualify for the Masters may seem like a lot of ways to get in the field, it’s an elusive ticket.

Nineteen former Masters champions are expected to compete for the crown again in 2024 including Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Scottie Scheffler, and 2023 champion Jon Rahm.

The 2020 Masters Champion Dustin Johnson set the Masters record with a -20 final card to win the only masters to not be played in April (had to be moved to November because of COVID-19).

Other former Masters Champions expected to be in the field for the 88th playing are Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, and 2021 Champion Hideki Matsuyama.

Others that get in the field because of winning one of the other three major championships in the last five years include U.S. Open Champions Wyndham Clark, Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Fitzpatrick, and Gary Woodland. British Open Champions Brian Harman, Cam Smith, Collin Morikawa, and Shane Lowry will also tee it up in Augusta.

Finally, PGA Championship winners Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas are expected to be in the field come April.

With less than 50 others that meet one of the 20 criteria to enter the tournament, some familiar names just make the cut.

Patrick Cantlay and Tommy Fleetwood enter the eligibility with the 18th criteria point of qualifying for the 2023 Tour Championship.

Tony Finau and Rickie Fowler come into the mix with the 17th criteria checked of “Individual winners of PGA Tour events that award a full-point allocation for the season-ending Tour Championship, from the 2023 Masters to the 2024 Masters (including fall 2023)”.

Other notable names include Rory McIlroy and Neal Shipley for various check marks.

After all the minutia to set the field, the whole golf world (and many outside the golf community) will flock to the small corner of Eastern Georgia called Augusta either by physically going down Bobby Jones Expressway, or via the televisions, computer screens, or courtesy of Westwood One Sports Radio.

However, if you take in the Masters tournament, it’s special, and it’s a big day on Sunday when you hear Jim Nantz sets the scene poetically in his 39th Masters for CBS along with his colleague Verne Lundquist who announced that the 2024 Masters will be his 40th and final Masters.

Just remember to tune in early on Sunday to hear Nantz describe the pink azaleas and beautifully sun-soaked skies and so on “….AT THE MASTERS.”

Help Needed

By: Colin Lacy news services

Just a couple of days after the 2023 Atlanta Falcons season came to a close in New Orleans, the change at the top was made with Arthur Smith out.

Earlier in the month Arthur Blank announced that Raheem Morris would be the new head ball coach in Atlanta.

As the fresh staff begins to roll into Flowery Branch, the biggest question is “How do the Falcons answer some key questions in the NFL Draft?”

The NFL will flock to Detroit on April 25th through 27th for the 89th annual First Year Player Draft, and the 8th name that will be read by Commissioner Roger Goodell will be the newest Atlanta Falcon.

With the 8th pick in the first round, most Falcon fans are praying for a quarterback. Draft experts however aren’t convinced that there will be that first round QB talent available after the seven previous picks are made. So, what are the QB options available?

Most “experts” believe that former USC quarterback Caleb Williams will be the first signal caller to hear his name on draft night. It’s believed that Williams will be taken off the board by the Bears with the number one pick, or at the very latest, will be reunited with former USC coach Kliff Kingsbury in Washington (hired as Commanders OC) with the second pick.

Seems all but certain that Williams will not be on the board for the 8th selection.

The next couple of QB prospects have at least a possibility (some slight, but still possible) of being on the board when Atlanta is on the clock.

North Carolina Drake Maye was destined to be the unanimous first selection, but a up and down 2023 season with the Tar Heels has seen his stock dip just a touch.

Maye is undoubtably uber talented and looks the part at 6’3” 230 pounds. Maye’s combination of accuracy with the arm and ability to make plays on the ground has shown his proficiency at times to run a high-powered offense.

The third “high first round” option potentially available for the “Dirty Birds” is Jayden Daniels. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner may be the player that had his draft stock soar the most in 2023 leading the LSU Tigers.

To me, Daniels seems to be the most realistic and to me frankly seems to be the best fit with the Falcons organization.

Daniels turned into a “human highlight reel” for the Bayou Bengals throwing 40 touchdowns (rushing for 10 more) and only four interceptions on the year.

The biggest improvement (and one of the largest knocks on Daniels entering 2023) was the deep ball, but Daniels proved all the naysayers wrong launching numerous balls down field with impressive, improved accuracy.

There are a couple other QB options in this draft, that if in desperation could be on the board, but I don’t believe are top 10 picks.

A couple names that will be heard in the first two to three rounds will be JJ McCarthy from Michigan, Michael Penix Jr out of Washington, and Bo Nix from Oregon.

To me the Falcons first round selection turns into one question. Do we think either Williams, Maye or Daniels will be available when we hit the clock?

If the answer is yes, fantastic. I think the Falcons will have to make a trade to move up a couple of spots (maybe as few as two spots to the 6th pick). To me, Jayden Daniels should be the play, and a lot depends on if the Bears take a quarterback with the first pick. If so, Atlanta will have to move up to get the former LSU Fighting Tiger.

What are the other needs? What happens if all -you know what- breaks loose, and the three quarterbacks are gone?

The next biggest need for new Head Coach Raheem Morris is an edge rusher on the defensive front. Dallas Turner from Alabama would be a powerful addition to the Falcons organization and would help erase a question that has been near the top of the Atlanta faithful for a number of years.

Overall, the Falcons have the potential to be an up-and-coming team in the near future and I understand that the draft is a full weekend of multiple rounds and the Falcons have eight picks in the Draft, but Atlanta unequivocally needs a quarterback pronto and the draft would be a huge key in addressing the need!

Fixed Wreck?

By: Colin Lacy news services

The past calendar year in mid-town Atlanta has been encouraging for Georgia Tech with Coach Brent Key having the interim tag removed and being named the full-time head coach.

He is capping off a 7-6 2024 season with a Gasparilla Bowl championship for the first bowl victory since 2016.

Even with so much positivity including their first winning season since 2018, everyone hopes it’s just the beginning of what is to come for the Ramblin’ Wreck.

Less than a month into the off-season, changes have already been made by Coach Brent Key on the defensive side of the ball, especially. Key announced earlier in the week the additions of former Duke & Miami assistant, Jess Simpson, and former Memphis defensive line coach Kyle Pope to the defensive staff. The Jackets plan to wrap up the additions to the defensive staff by month’s end.

Like everyone in the “new age” of College Football, Georgia Tech has made the most out of the transfer portal. Still 7 months away from the start of the 2024 season, Tech has added 23 new players with 10 of those being transfer portal additions.

Of the 13 high school players added to the White and Gold, the Wreck added one of the highest rated recruits in Tech history in wide receiver Isiah Canion out of Warner Robins.

In addition to the new blood, the Jackets have an impressive core returning, including quarterback Haynes King. King threw for over 2,800 yards and twenty-seven touchdowns while running for over 700 yards and ten more scores.

King transferred to Atlanta from Texas A&M and was a huge addition to the 2023 Jackets club setting the Georgia Tech single season record for touchdowns responsible for (37), which snapped the previous record of 35 set by Joe Hamilton in 1999.

Along with King, GT also will see how Jamal Haynes follows up the 128-yard performance in the Gasparilla Bowl and Gasparilla Bowl MVP in 2024.

The Jackets also return four of the five starting offensive line that helped GT average 204 yards per game on the ground and only allowed fifteen sacks on the 13-game season.

Jordan Williams, Weston Franklin, Ethan Mackenny and Joe Fusile all return to anchor the offensive front for offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner.

While the defensive staff is being re-tooled, Tech will retain their leading tackler from the 2023 campaign as Kyle Efford returns for the 2024 season to anchor the linebacking core.

Ahmari Harvey, Clayton Powell-Lee, and Rodney Shelley all played vital roles in the secondary for Brent Key and return along with veteran safety LaMiles Brooks.

The Jackets will retain the majority of the defensive front as well along with the boost in the return of Sylvain Yondjouen after missing most of the past year with a knee injury.

While the last year and some change since Brent Key took over on the Flats have been an incredible rejuvenation of the Jackets program, I still think the best days are ahead.

Between the emergence of young blood in the program (on and off the field) and the sheer passion that Brent Key exudes for college football and especially Georgia Tech football, the 2023 season was a year of gaining confidence.

Boy, did it grow with each passing game and may have been sparked by a last second touchdown at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami after the Hurricanes didn’t kneel the clock out; Tech forced a fumble and Haynes King drove the length of the field to give the Jackets an unimaginable comeback win.

While Miami Coach Mario Cristobal would like to forget that game, that’s a game that the White and Gold will never forget and showed many people that the Wreck was back on the tracks.

Buy Or Sale?

By: Colin Lacy news services

Braves fans have been clamoring for a big move by Alex Anthopoulos to re-vamp the Atlanta club going into 2024.

In a trade between Christmas and New Year, the Braves pulled the trigger bringing Chris Sale to “the A”.

The 7-time All-Star has been riddled with injuries the last 3 years and hasn’t appeared in more than 20 games since 2019.  Despite the health issues, both he and the Braves believe he is the healthiest he has been in a while.

“I feel really good.  This is the first time in quite a while I’ve been able to have a normal offseason,” Sale said in media availability from the Braves Spring Training facility in North Port. “I’ve been throwing bullpens since November, and I haven’t been able to do that for years!”

Originally when the trade was finalized, Boston was sending Chris Sale and $17 million (to cover that amount of Sale’s salary) in exchange for former Braves top-prospect Vaughn Grissom.

Because of Sale’s contract structure, Sale was owed $27.5 million in 2024, with the Red Sox paying $17 million of that, the Braves were on the hook for $10.5 million, but $10 million of that 10.5 was deferred to be paid in 2039, so essentially the Braves were getting Sale for $500K in 2024.

That changed, however, just 5 days later with Chris Sale and the Braves announcing a 2-year extension of the contract on January 4th.

With the new contract, Sale will collect $16 million in 2024, and $22 million in 2025 with a $18 million club option for 2026. Don’t forget that Boston is still paying $17 million of Sale’s salary, so the Red Sox will be essentially paying all of Sale’s 2024 earnings, and an additional million of the 2025 pay.

I know this may not have been the “big splash” that Atlanta faithful were looking for, but this is sneakily a fantastic deal for the Braves. You not only get a quality left-handed starter to add to the rotation, but also an experienced 34-year-old that has seen a lot at the big-league level.

Yes, Sale has been injury-laden the last 3 years, but of those, he returned for a good portion of 2023 with the Red Sox, making 20 starts with a 6-5 record and a 4.30 ERA (remember after not having a normal off-season and beginning of the year).

This year, he will enter with the first normal off-season into spring training for him since 2018 when he went 12-4 and posted a 2.11 ERA and finished 4th in the Cy Young Award voting.

I’m not saying he’s going to post those numbers and turn into the ace of the staff in Atlanta (although it may be a distant possibility), but the great thing for Atlanta is…. The Braves don’t need him to be that.

Braves pitching took a hit themselves from the injury bug in the pitching rotation in 2023, but everything looks promising as the team heads to North Port for Spring Training.

Spencer Strider and Max Fried are one of (if not the single) best 1-2 punches at the top of a rotation in baseball.

Although Fried was also injured at different points in 2023, he pitched well when he was available, and with a full off-season to get right ahead of a contract year, I’d expect a big 2024 from Fried.

Strider has been about as steady as it gets. Somehow, I still believe Strider is underrated on the grand scheme of the MLB, but we might be slightly biased.

The Braves also picked up the $20 million option for Charlie Morton in 2024, so going into Spring Training 2024, Atlanta should feel good about some combination of Fried, Strider, Morton, Sale being the top 4 of the Atlanta rotation.

So, is it the “flashy bigtime deal”? Probably not, but if there is an organization that has taught baseball that you don’t need a roster full of “flashy, high-priced talent” to win, in the words of the late-great voice of Truist Park Casey Motter, IT’S YOUR ATLANTA BRAVES.

Jekyll And Hyde

By: Colin Lacy news services

The 2023 football season in Statesboro has been a year out of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Year two for the Georgia Southern Eagles in Statesboro for Clay Helton has seen highs of capping off a 6-2 start with a Thursday night 44-27 victory over rival Georgia State, and devastating lows of finishing the regular season by falling in the final four games including 55-27 in Boone, NC to App State.

Despite the downhill slide in the back half of the year, the Eagles finish the regular season with a 6-6 record and earned an invitation to the Myrtle Beach Bowl to face Ohio from the MAC. So how did we get to this point?

The Eagles began the season taking care of business to the tune of 2-0 with an opening game win over The Citadel and a revenge victory over the Blazers of UAB 49-35.

Helton’s crew then soared to Big Ten country to take on Wisconsin. Although a good showing early, 6 turnovers (including 5 interceptions) got the best of the Blue Birds and saw the Badgers pull away late 35-14.

Georgia Southern would respond the next week on the road at Ball State with 530 yards of total offense and pick up a road win in Muncie 40-3.

After falling to a rolling and undefeated James Madison 41-13 on the road, the blue and white would rattle off 2 straight wins at the prettiest little stadium in America. A come from behind victory against ULM 38-28 at Paulson set up a 5-2 Georgia Southern hosting a 6-1 Georgia State team on ESPN 2 the Thursday prior to Halloween.

Georgia Southern dominated the Panthers from the word go, racking up almost 300 yards rushing, and knocking off the in-state rival 44-27.

That’s when the Jekyll turned to Hyde for GSU with a tough final 4 games of the year and 3 of those on the road.

It began with a 45-24 Texas State victory deep in the heart of Texas to a much-improved Bobcat team under first year head coach GJ Kinne.

Next, Marshall would get the best of the Eagles 38-33 on an emotional weekend in Huntington, WV as the Thundering Herd remembered the 30-year anniversary of the Marshall plane crash.

The Blue and White would return home to try and get off the spiral against Old Dominion but wouldn’t go the way for the Eagles. ODU led in this game 17-10 in the 4th quarter, Georgia Southern tied the game at 17-17 on a Davis Brinn TD pass to Jjay Mcafee with 1:25 remaining.

It appeared that the game would be heading to overtime, but Monarch QB Grant Wilson ran for 28 yards up the middle to the 5-yard line to set up the Ethan Sanchez 22-yard field goal as time expired to snatch the win away from GS 20-17.

The season would wrap up at the Rock against Appalachian State in-front of a sold-out crowd at Kidd Brewer Stadium.

Georgia Southern would take a 14-3 first quarter lead, but App State would score the next 6 touchdowns and take a 48-17 lead thanks to 4 Eagle turnovers. The Mountaineers would finish off the regular season finale 55-27 over the Eagles.

It’s not only been a Jekyll and Hyde Season for the team as a whole, but for some individuals as well. Quarterback Davis Brin has seen highs of throwing for over 300 yards 6 times this year including a high of 383 at Wisconsin, but also the lows of multiple interceptions in 4 games with the high of 5 also coming against the Badgers.

OJ Arnold, who has been hampered by injuries this year, has shown what the future at running back can look like with 405 yards and 4 scores in just 9 games played.  Jalen White racked up just shy of 900 yards on the ground and 10 total TDs.

Now the Eagles head to the postseason in a familiar spot. The Eagles were invited to the Myrtle Beach Bowl to face the MAC’s Ohio at Brooks Stadium (home of Coastal Carolina) on December 16th.

Will it be Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde at the beach?

Wheeling And Dealing

By: Colin Lacy news services

For most Major League Baseball players, the month of November is a time to rest, spend much overdue time with their family, and decompress from the grind of a 162-game regular season.

This year, the month of November has been all but restful for Atlanta Braves General Manager Alex Anthopoulos. Over the last month there have been 37 player transactions for the Braves (albeit most of those being players electing free agency), and a couple that have raised the eyebrows and curiosity of Braves Country, but the headlines aren’t all that need to be said.

The one that sent ripples (not quite tidal waves) through the organization was a trade with the Chicago White Sox sending RHP Michael Soroka, LHP Jared Shuster, SS Nicky Lopez, SS Braden Shewmake and RHP Riley Gowens to the south side of Chicago in exchange for Aaron Bummer.

This move had Braves fans scratching their heads, especially considering Soroka was a fan favorite since his debut.

That being said, and as good as Soroka was before tearing his Achilles tendon, his time as a Brave was more than likely numbered anyway. Most, if not all, of the pieces traded to Chi-Town were leading candidates to be non-tendered by Atlanta when the deadline came just hours later than the trade (deadline was Friday 11/17).

Instead of these players turning into free agents, Anthopoulos was able to turn them into another lefty that could play an impactful role into the Bravo’s bullpen.

Just one day later, the transaction hotline was connected with a familiar pipeline between Kansas City and Atlanta.

Two different trades occurred the 17th between the Royals and Braves to send Kyle Wright, and Nick Anderson to KC, and have Jackson Kowar and cash return to the ATL.

Kyle Wright had an injury riddled 2023 season in Atlanta but had been a key part of the Braves rotation in 2022, but injuries kept him from staying in the rotation.

The Braves also delt Wright knowing that he would miss the 2024 season due to shoulder surgery and would still be paying Wright approximately $1.4 million as he rehabs.

The other deal with the Royals had the Braves send Nick Anderson, who like Soroka was a likely candidate of being non-tendered, in return for cash considerations.

There are also a couple of transactions that fly under the radar with the front office in Atlanta officially not tendering contracts to 7 players who were previously on the 40-man roster including Kolby Allard, Chadwick Tromp, and Yonny Chirinos.

Why is this important? Because when you add all of the moves together, yes, the Braves clear up some payroll space, but at the end of the day, the Braves ended up with 30 players on the 40-man roster.

This allows the Braves to re-tool the bottom of the roster and bolster the organizational depth with key bench pieces and Triple-A players that, frankly, has been a weakness for the Braves in the past few years.

So far, the Braves have also added to the bullpen as well by signing the hard throwing righty Reynaldo Lopez, who struck out almost 30% of the batters he faced last season between the White Sox, Guardians, and Angels.

This could be a bigger addition to the Braves than it appears on the surface with Lopez potentially being able to serve as a back-end starter, if need be, but also be a high-leverage reliever.

I say all of this as what seems like one of the few Braves fans that are encouraged by these moves that “Headline Only Readers” are upset with.

I completely understand. Soroka, Wright, a couple former first round picks, and on the surface not getting much back, but when you dig deeper, it’s some crafty moves to get anything back for it, and oh by the way, I think we’re just getting started with the off season shuffle we’ll see out of the right field offices at Truist Park.