Passionately undeveloped opinions on the state of baseball, the shifting landscape of stats and analysis, and the opiate power of El Pato tomato sauce
So Ben Sheets is starting on this Sunday afternoon for Atlanta. I’ve spent a lot of time explaining to my friends that the Braves pitching depth is unmatched, that there’s nothing that could go wrong regarding the rotation this year. There are 4 guys that are under 25 that could be #2 or #3 on other squads. But here we are in July and Ben Sheets is pitching, so obviously I’m turbo wrong about them. Tommy John will do that to you. The Braves seem good. Right? Don’t they seem like a good baseball team? It’s bizarre watching them this year. So let’s watch them for a day and blog things. As a heads up, this will be very unfocused…
I woke up this morning all jazzed up to write about this, but had an emergent situation as I was out of coffee. Unacceptable. I cobbled together a list of bare essentials for a Costco* restocking. I missed first pitch of the game by about 25 minutes, but thanks to the power of the interwebs I’m going to be able to start from the beginning (though as an impatient bastard I know that it’s going to be 0-0 through 2 innings. I don’t know anything else, so there’s as good a chance that Sheets has 6 strikeouts as that he had to be airlifted to a M.A.S.H.-style limb replacement facility after his forearm ended up in the visitor’s bullpen. Stay tuned!).
*A side note about Costco: It encompasses absolutely everything I hate about shopping and amplifies it to a burlesque degree, yet I usually enjoy going there. Buying in bulk? Sure! Dealing with crowds? Let’s make some friends! Enormous Wal-Mart types cutting you off for free samples of ravioli? Count it! Screaming children? More like screaming little blessings! I think I just end up having such a severe shopping-panic attack that I laugh like Walter White at the end of the crawl space episode in Breaking Bad. Also I bought 16 pounds (not an exaggeration) of various meats and cheeses, so that put me in a good mood. Anyway. Baseball.
Sheets strikes out the first batter. Away we go. Paul Janish is starting at shortstop. Get well soon, Andre. I have as much confidence as Fredpoleon that you can, as a professional infielder, catch the ball. Sheets has an easy 1-2-3 with a K, and I contemplate whether to switch to the Mets audio feed so that I don’t have to hear “Big Ben Sheets” combined with some awful London Olympics pun another 4 dozen times.
Braves announcers are actually quite terrible: unabashed homerism, terrible puns, occasional homophobia that you can get away with on a Georgia regional channel, and a reliance on old-school former player types that end up talking about “the things that don’t end up in box scores,” like sac bunts (which end up in the box score as ‘sac bunts’ and ‘outs’), clutch hitting (boxscore as ‘hits’ and ‘RBI’ and ‘outs’), and a hatred of homeruns (which make quite a hefty impact on box scores). They also listed “Throw a no-hitter” as a key to the game for Johan. I don’t get it if they’re being ironic or intentionally absurd. They don’t seem like Dadaists to me.
Martin Prado doubles with one out in the 1st. “He’s just amazing, folks.” So close to switching. I guess if I was watching the Mets feed they wouldn’t blast Crazy Train through the feed during Chipper Jones at bats, so maybe I’ll hang around. Larry pops up to 2nd, and we go back to Sheets.
Tom Glavine just said anything better than 2:1 in K:BB ratio is “really good.” This is wrong. Glavine had a career 1.74, which is “really bad.”
I suppose the overall theme of this post was supposed to be “What it’s like rooting for the Braves” in order to build off of HP’s excellent post about the Rangers, so let’s work some of that in. I obviously have no allies in terms of rooting for an underdog since the Braves were in the playoffs every year from 1st grade to my 2nd year of college, and one of my buddies is a Brewers fan. The ATL fan base was frequently accused of being spoiled, infamously having a tough time selling out playoff games. But I was always, ALWAYS heartbroken at the end of a playoff run. I was a Resident Assistant in 2005, and had an emergency meeting called during the game 4, 18 inning opus against Houston. We were deciding what to do with one of our trouble kids, this time after his buddies dumped him drunkenly unconscious in front of his dorm. I had a friend, who HATES baseball, send me a text update at every half inning (“Still tied, This BLOWS”). My boss said it seemed like I was really taking this meeting hard. I gave a patented serious frown and nod, thinking “The kid’s a douche bag. He called ‘shotgun’ when the ambulance arrived, so fuck him” while every scoreless frame wore me down a little bit more.
Now that I’m pulling for a team that is far from assured a playoff birth, I think I’m actually enjoying it a little bit more. I never had a clue about who was in the farm system until it meant that the farm system might mean better days. I took my mom to a game once when the Braves were in Phoenix, and she started giving me funny looks about how jazzed I was to see Jason Heyward (He doubled in an RBI! Be still, my heart!). My mom knows enough about baseball to know when the important moments are, and Jason Heyward batting in the top of the 2nd should not have been a reason to be so excited, but I think I explained well enough that I had a huge crush on this 20 year old and that if I’m ever dying, my last wish is to take some BP with this beautiful specimen. She was understanding, I think mostly because I had recently been dumped and she was happy to see me able to love again. She’s the best.
Hold up; Glavine just mentioned he’s on Twitter and has 12K followers. You now have one more, Tommy! I look forward to your idiocy! Oh, turns out he’s doing it almost exclusively for childhood cancer research. Touché, salesman.
Sheets loses the no-hitter. Sonofabitch. Sheets still alive and throwing strikes? Booyah! He’s able to pitch out of trouble, scoreless through 2 and a half. He’s leading off the bottom of the 3rd, and swinging like he’s got bad intentions. Get some, Benny! And he takes ball 4. Ha. Advertisement that on Sept. 1st, there will be a free postgame concert feat. Lynard Skynard. More Ha’s from these freaking rednecks… I kind of want to go.
Scoreless through 4, and I’m feeling pretty good about this Sheets signing. Sure, he’s blocking the development and reducing the value of one of the more talented pitching prospects on the planet, which seems short sighted, but it’s not like he’s going to cost anything else. He’s going to fall apart pretty soon, so let’s ride this while we can.
Chipper Jones has the longest hit streak of players over 40 in Braves history, besting Rabbit Maranville in 1932. So that’s another feather in his well adorned cap. I guess let me use this moment to formally thank Chipper: I love baseball because of the late 90’s Braves, which for me has always meant Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, and Chipper. I hate to think about what kind of hobbies I’d have if I didn’t watch a hundred games on TBS during every year of my adolescence. Happy trails, Larry. I speak for all of us when I say “Fuck the Mets.”
Braves get to Johan in a big way in the 5th, Sheets comes out with the lead after 6. So I guess that’s a good enough spot to wrap this up. It’s a strange team with one of the worst managers you could conceive, and I love watching them. Much as HP observed about his Rangers, the ups and downs are frequently what makes it all so damn intriguing. Go Barves.