Results tagged ‘ Braves ’

Built To Win (John Schuerholz)

9780446696531.jpgI just finished reading the book “Built To Win” by Atlanta Braves GM John Schuerholz and wanted to share the review of it that I wrote for Amazon.com.  Unfortunately, much like my earlier review of Kent Hrbek’s book, this one was also a dud:

“Too Much Philosophy, Too Little Baseball”

As I began reading this book, I figured that it would explain the inside stories of how the Atlanta Braves were so successful from 1991-2005. The book tries to do this, but does so in completely the wrong fashion, making it an incredibly boring read.

Instead of describing the interesting deals/performances/stories that likely characterized those classic Braves teams, John Schuerholz instead spews out little more than inspirational quotes and philosophical points of view that, though they may contribute to his success, are unique to him and thus not inherently interesting. Schuerholz is trying to lay out the “basic mindset” of a winning GM, but what he doesn’t realize is that each GM/organization (even the winning ones) goes through different methods of building a good team.

The book begins with a little story about how Barry Bonds nearly became an Atlanta Brave, then trails off into an unnecessarily harsh criticism of Oakland GM Billy Beane’s “Moneyball” philosophy (stupid due to the fact that Beane has had just as much success with the model as Schuerholz) and finally descends into little more than Schuerholz spouting quotes about “winning” for the next 100-200 pages. There is no context to the stories told in the book. In fact, I found the only interesting part of the entire book to be the last 10 or so pages, where each Braves team (from 1991-2005) is given a quick summary. Had the entire book been about that, I would be giving it a much better review!

Thus, please DO NOT begin reading this book if you are expecting great Braves baseball stories. You will likely enjoy this book much more than I if you are into inspirational memoirs, but otherwise stay away.

My Favorite Pitcher Of All-Time Says Goodbye

Maddux.jpg

In the last day or two, an announcement came over the baseball wires that Greg Maddux announced his retirement after 23 years in major league baseball.  I was quite saddened to hear this, as I consider Mad Dog (a nickname that totally belies Maddux’s personality) to be the greatest pitcher of our generation.  Before my reminisces start, let’s just take a quick look at the stats…

355 wins, 227 losses, 109 complete games, 35 shutouts, 5,000 innings pitched, 3,371 strikeouts, 999 walks, 3.16 ERA, 4 consecutive Cy Young awards (1992-1995).

Though I once considered Roger Clemens to be the greatest pitcher of the modern era, his steroid taintings have dropped him off my list.  Those stats that Maddux posted, most of them in the middle of the “Steroid Era” (roughly 1988-2005), are incredible and would even compare favorably to many pitchers in the dead-ball era, when getting batters out was a relatively simple task.

I first became “acquainted” with Maddux during the mid-1990s, when I actually despised the Atlanta Braves, as they were a large-payroll team (at least back then under Ted Turner) in the same mold as the New York Yankees.  In fact, I always rooted against Maddux (my hero was Kevin Brown, his arch-enemy many a time) and for any team (most likely the Mets) that could beat him.  However, I was usually disappointed, as Maddux was ALWAYS on top of his game in postseason games.  Then, as my Twins began to rise in the standings (funny how attitudes soften towards winning teams when your favorite team is one of them?!), I looked at Maddux in a completely different light…not as a tormentor but as the absolutely dominating pitcher he was.

What really made Maddux so great was the movement of his pitches and his pin-point location.  He never really had a great (+ 90 mph) heater, but that ball seemed to twirl and dive like no others.  Combine that with his excellent collection of breaking balls (namely the changeup) and his diligent studying of opposing batters and Maddux was nearly impossible to have any kind of steady success against.  Even in his last few seasons, Maddux was still perplexing opposing batters who had been facing him for a century or more!

So, it really saddens me to see Maddux retire.  I always got excited watching him pitch, as not only was his mastery of his craft a sight to behold, but I also felt like I was watching history in the making, kind of like going to a long-forgotten era of baseball where pitchers dominated batters.  Years from now, it will be an honor to say that I got to see Greg Maddux pitch.

World Series Failing? Let Rivalries Develop

1_61_fenway320.jpgThis week, while reading an article in Sports Illustrated magazine, I came across a rather lengthy article (although I cannot recall by whom) discussing how the World Series needs to re-establish its place as the crown-jewel of the baseball season, as in recent seasons (most dramatically this year) the event has lost huge viewership numbers, even losing to the NBA Finals in some seasons.  The author of the article layed out a few solutions to the problem, such as starting games earlier (so kids and working adults can watch them), speeding up pitching changes, and doing something to take bad weather out of the equation (like mandating that all new parks be built with a retractable roof).  However, I had a much different response to that article that I wanted to share on this blog…

To me, the drop in World Series luster in the recent years has, ironically, been caused by baseball’s biggest accomplishment…parity (eight different teams have played in the World Series the past four years).  Think back to when the World Series was a premiere event…it was because the New York Yankees were dominating and everyone either loved them or loved to hate them.  Realistically, the Yankees’ last playoff hurrah was in 2004 (when the Red Sox made their improbable comeback)…since then, the World Series just hasn’t been the same in terms of viewership (the Sox got a boost from beating the Yanks, of course).

So, at least in my mind, the best way to return to a star-studded World Series again is to let a big-market team dominate the playing field again.  However, I am terribly opposed to that sort of economic structure (despite the excitement it brings to the playoffs, as who didn’t have a rooting interest in the Yankees either way over the past decade?!), so here is what I think is the next best solution…let the natural MLB rivalries develop.

Historically, the ALCS and NLCS series’ have often been more dramatic as the World Series just due to the fact that both teams (being in the same league) know each other so well.  During the late 1990s and early 2000s, such rivalries as Cardinals-Astros, Braves-Mets, Yankees-Red Sox, and even Yankees-Rangers (for Texas’ first-round futility against the Bombers) really fueled the postseason structure, creating steam for a big World Series matchup.  Because, even though the WS does not, by definition, precipitate geographic rivalries, it can be made more exciting by teams that just came off a thrilling victory.  Growing up, I was always very anti-Yankees and anti-Braves (because I despised the advantages of large market teams over “my” Twins), but that “hatred” of those teams made me watch them all the more just to see them get beat!  I think the same principle could apply to MLB today, but we just have to let a few rivalries play out.

For example, Red Sox-Rays (as pictured above) could be big for years to come, while White Sox-Twins also has potential  In the NL, the Phillies and Dodgers may “get up” for each other after that spirited NLCS, while the Cubs and Cardinals are always at each other’s throats.  Plus, who knows where new rivalries will emerge.  Just last year, no one would have ever thought Sox-Rays would turn interesting, but look what happened.  From my experience with the AL Central, the Twins and Royals have quite a rivalry, but it will only gain attention if the Royals win a few more games (Yikes!).

Thus, I don’t think that there is a “quick fix” to restoring luster to the World Series.  I would love to see games start earlier and pitching changes go a bit quicker, but that alone will not restore interest…only teams, players, and the rivalries between them.

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