Andruw’s Culinary Adventures

Andruw has arrived at camp, amid lots of questions and speculation about what he’ll do next season. I’m sure it’s on his nerves, and it’s damn well started to get on mine. It’s unlikely that he knows what he’s going to do at this point, and even if he did, he’s not going to talk about it. Not now, not after the All-Star break, probably not until the offseason.

I’m much more interested in talk of his weight loss, personally. Apparently he gained an extra twenty pounds in Japan because the guys ate KFC and McDonald’s every day while they were over there for their All-Star game. Geez, he could have at least tried Kobe steak or some shrimp tempura. But anyway, the story is that he bet his wife he could lose weight faster than her, and she won because he was “partying.” Nicole Jones is my favorite Braves wife by far, and I appreciate her scheme to get Andruw at least relatively back in shape. Smoltz claims Andruw looks like he did in 2005, a career year for him, so hopefully he’ll give us a season to remember him by, just in case he does leave.

No matter what’s going on in your personal life, proximity to Heap will put you in a good mood.

Glen Hubbard totally wishes he was the white Julio Franco.

Most pitchers look kind of geeky when they’re throwing, but Gonzalez looks cool. I’m waiting to actually see him in action before I start to call him Gonzo, cause otherwise it seems a little inauthentic, but it’s hard to resist.

First spring training picture of Joey . . . he looks like he’s aged ten years, I hope it’s just the angle.

Ah, there he is looking like the hot guy with emotional problems who we all know and love. The look on Lerew’s face back there is pretty great – I’ve heard Farnsworth caliber things about him, should be interesting when he comes up!

Oh, Christ. Why does every picture of Kelly trying to field look like this? I mean I’ve only seen two so far, but this isn’t encouraging.

I’m trying to be open minded about the idea of him starting at second, I really am.

Chuckie looks surprisingly graceful when he runs. I’m glad to see Wicky lost a few pounds, he looks healthier.

Huddy looks kind of worried about that giant ball. I think that’s what all baseballs felt like to him last season . . .

So Heap’s hair is obviously the greatest thing in the world, pretty much always, but especially when he’s just taken off his batting helmet. Someone please invent a baldness cure, quick!

Wicky talking to someone in the stands. He is pretty awesome with fans; I saw him parking lot signing about two days after he arrived in Atlanta when nobody even knew who he was yet.

Huddy practices with one of the kiddies.

Cormier looks like he wants to replace Gilly as Hampton’s buddy.

Salty has gained about a thousand pounds since the last time he was photographed. Probably not a great sign. The other guy is Clint Sammons, another minor league catcher.

Chuckie looks little even compared to Huddy, but I still think he’d be the most valuable fighter in a bench clearing brawl.

The Vulch wins!

So, when I first saw this picture I seriously thought that was Leo hanging over Smoltz’s shoulder there. I’m not a “LEO WOULD SOLVE ALL OUR PROBLEMS!” nut, but I did get kind of excited for nostalgic reasons. It’s actually a coach named Joe Breeden, possibly pretending to be Leo to raise morale.

Hey, is Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn going to be our fifth starter this season?!!? Oh, never mind, it’s just Kelly. :(

Hampton has such a sweet, innocent smile.

I always get ridiculously excited when I see the Braves doing stretches that I do before I work out.

Andruw has shown up, and he’s looking pretty hot, I must say.

Gonzalez knows how to work a goatee: take notes, Chipper.

I’m not loving your form there, Pena, please see Pendleton. Or better yet, see Heap’s dad.

Apparently there’s a huge demand for Huddy’s signature.

While most pitchers have a “constipated” look during their delivery, Moylan’s is more “bored.”

The Vulch is back in action. I have high hopes for him this year; he really seemed to come a long way last season and he’s definitely not an “overthinking” pitcher, which I like.

T.J. Bohn seems to be competing in the longest mullet competition along with Wilson, Langerhans and Heap.

I’ll leave you all with a majestic shot of Bobby wandering around alone.

Happy Birthday to Heap!

So, today is pretty much a holy day for Braves fans: the 23rd anniversary of our beloved Heap’s birth. I hope you all got the day off of work for the occasion.

It’s also the first day all position players must report to camp. Probably for like, a huge birthday party Bobby has planned, am I right?! Aww, can’t you just see them all carrying in a big cake, with a bunch of super soakers and stuff wrapped on a table behind him?? Have fun, Heap!

So, Is Our Bullpen Good?

Can you take it, can you take the ten thousandth article about how great our bullpen is going to be in 2007? I can’t. I mean, I’m as optimistic as anyone about the great acquisitions, and Wicky, and, hell, maybe even Joey Devine will work some miracle in spring training. I’m open to it! I’m just starting to get a bad feeling about all the great press and constant trumpeting. We should treat any good developments in the bullpen with quiet fragility, I think, after all we’ve been through. It’s mostly just strange to go from Reitsma to near BEST IN THE LEAGUE! proclamations in less than a year.

And we have our first group stretching picture!

Heap chatting with Smoltz, who seems to be in good spirits.

As if Heap could even get any more likable, here he is giving his grandmother a birthday card. Or at least, that’s what I assume that yellow thing he’s handing her is. The AJC says she came down to see him on her birthday, but Heap’s birthday is tomorrow, so I’m thinking they might have gotten it backward. Either way: aww, Heap!

Heap hugging his grandma. The last sentence in these Braves Notes mentions that he spent time with some terminally ill children at Disney World on Monday morning, in addition to hugging his grandmother. The same notes also mention that he put on weight during the offseason, which is, well, obvious, but apparently it’s muscle from a new lifting routine, so that’s pretty exciting. I’d love to see his power numbers keep going up this season.

Chuckie keeps his badass face on even while signing.

Another cheerful picture of Smoltzie, which is nice to see.

Chipper in action – watch that foot! He’s still got the beard.

Wilson brings some exciting new blood to the team with the longest mullet featured so far in spring training, though Langerhans and Heap are giving him a run for his money.

Diaz stalking around with a bat, looking like he’s planning to kill someone, probably Langerhans. Do it!

Langerhans wanders around camp with his usual cheerful disposition.

Speaking of repetitious articles from the official site (imagine that), here’s another one about how Davies is planning on not “overthinking” this season. Cause talking constantly about how you’re not going to think about something really works out, in most cases.

Around the League:

This article about that “Odd Couple” Maddux and Wells is so great I actually wrote on my hand at work to remind myself to post about it when I got home. I haven’t written on my hand since sixth grade! It’s that awesome. Behold:

One could be an accountant or Sunday school teacher, remarkably average in height and build, soft-spoken, introspective, right-handed.

They’re talking about our Maddog, who I learned most of my major curses from when I was in elementary school. You couldn’t hear him cursing wildly on the mound (most of the time) with every ball or less-than-perfect strike, but man you could see it.

There’s also this:

Maddux is happy to slip off into the shadows, grinning slyly as if he has a secret he intends to keep to himself.

Oh, he does, innocent Padres beat writer. He does.

That Other League:

Yankee fans have their first crucial Jeter/A-Rod relationship status article.

A-Rod on Jeter:

“Do we go to dinner every night like we used to? No.”

:*(

LaRoche the Golfer and More New Hair

Not a lot of real news out of camp Sunday, except the pleasant surprise that Moylan is doing well. As someone who thought Moylan was just Kevin Barry wearing glasses for two days last season, I would love to see him stand out more.

Bizarrely, the Braves Notes that mention Moylan’s performance also feature a touching section about Chipper offering Smoltz some advice about divorce. Wow. I was gonna laugh about Chipper being the go-to divorced guy on the team, but then I couldn’t think of a single other Brave who was . . .?

Finally, the golf story. Frenchy and Smoltz went golfing with Tiger Woods, and brought LaRoche along with them for undisclosed reasons. As far as I understand LaRoche has been at our camp for almost a week – Hampton reportedly asked him if he knew he’d been traded to Pittsburgh. That’s actually a legitimate question, given LaRoche’s history, and given the fact that he went golfing with mother effing Tiger Woods and forgot his clubs. Somehow I picture him showing up in full camo and carrying a few deer stands, then asking what the fuck this golf thing is, anyway.

I personally was not sorry to see LaRoche go. I know he had a good second half last year, but he had an equally shitty first half, and I will never forgive that executive decision to bunt that absolutely killed our last shred of momentum last season.

Francoeur on golfing with Tiger:

“It was a neat thrill just to hang with him.”

I love how he manages to work “neat” into almost literally every observation he makes in the press, and still it was Heap who got hell for saying hitting a homer off of Clemens in the postseason was “neat”!

A better look at the mullet Langerhans is rocking this season. Bobby reassures us that he’s going to cut it. According to Bobby, he kept it long during the offseason because he’s a “hunter.” Huh? Does long hair improve your aim or something?

“I’m so gonna learn how to field and steal your job, it’s gonna be great!”

Does he always stick out his tongue when he signs? Or is that just an extra little treat for the lady fans?

Just a couple more days until the first full squad workout, but it looks like most of the dudes have already shown. Maybe by Wednesday LaRoche will have actually made his way up to Pittsburgh, but something tells me he’ll show up in Philadelphia or Pensacola or maybe Juno, Alaska, wondering where the hell this rumored “new team” of his is. Then he’ll decide Hampton was just pulling his leg and come back to our camp for another week.

Spring Training Day Two

So, I just spent the past fifteen minutes checking up on Braves news and pictures, and I was laughing almost the entire time. But in a good way!

More running/another shot of Hampton hanging out on the periphery. Somehow he even seems to be running in a different direction than the others – sideways?

Frenchy has arrived, and of course is in high demand with the autograph hounds.

Langerhans gets one dude, who looks kind of pissed off about the whole thing.

Chipper, my God. I thought you had the mid-life crisis under control? To borrow a line from MST3K: “Chipper’s beard to Earth!: I hate you, and am cutting myself off from all humanity!”

Chipper and Frenchy (and Chipper’s beard) engage in some good old-fashioned “horseplay in front of the cameras”

Aging Stud hangs out with Future Stud Who Looks the Part But Otherwise Is Still Working On It.

Pena leaves his mask on while signing; you never know when a fan might foul something into your face.

Wicky engages in some very disturbing stretching. It’s kind of sad that I’m fifteen years younger and a hundred and fifty pounds lighter and still probably couldn’t pull this one off. Good job, Wicky.

I doubt the cameras will catch Chuckie doing the ass-in-the-air stretch. Apparently he’s up to two hundred pounds since the offseason due to his lifting program, which is encouraging.

Today’s articles include:

Yet another feature on Chuckie and his offseason career. At this point, he could make it into the Hall of Fame and his plaque would simply read: HE INSTALLED WINDOWS. This article is as delightful as anything where Chuckie is quoted necessarily is. He mentions that the Braves have “shower shoes,” which is hilarious to me, and talks about the atmosphere with his buddies at work, offering pretty much the greatest quote of all time:

“We screw around a lot,” he said. “If there’s pine cones, we’re smoking each other with ’em. I like it.”

The “I like it” at the end really makes it for me. Chuckie is the best.

There’s also the first attempt to get Smoltz to talk about his divorce, which he handles brilliantly. Last year he was a bit of a PR disaster, freaking out anytime someone printed an unflattering article about him – and sometimes having his loyal catcher freak out on his behalf (I know I won’t soon forget Heap’s indignant “When he pitches a good game does that mean he’s too YOUNG?!”), but he was obviously under a lot of stress last year, and sounds very collected and professional now.

We also have some goofball thing about pitchers and catchers from Mark Bradley, which I found insulting to catchers even though he’s trying to defend them, but I guess he’s joking. It doesn’t occur to him to mention once that catchers have to learn the way each pitcher works so they can carefully evaluate every hitter and situation based the pitcher they’re working with? Eh. I should probably just avoid the “fun” AJC blogs.

Finally, I adore Chipper’s attitude in this article from the official site. You fuckin tell ’em, Chip. Just shave first, or no one will take you seriously.

The above Braves Notes also mention that someone hit our golden youth Matt Harrison in his pitching arm with a batted ball. He’s okay, but – what do you want to bet it was Orr?

Happy New Year!

For Braves fans, the year has officially begun. Sure, they’ve been practicing at Turner since the beginning of the month, and yes, they had photos and quotes taken from camp yesterday, but today is the day that spring training was slated to officially begin according to the team calendar! And that counts for something!

These are also from the AJC; I still haven’t seen any from the official site.

I was really hoping for a running picture. We so rarely get to see them jogging around in clumps like they’re in gym class. The look on McBride’s face! The smallness of Hampton compared to the others! (Not to mention the fact that’s he’s looking a bit ostracized over there, eh?!) I love how Chuckie is pulling up the rear, all “fuck this shit.”

Smoltz looking quite majestic.

Hampton looking . . . less majestic.

I have so missed the comforting sight of Heap batting!

Bobby hugs a fan, looks a little nervous about it.

Just when I was starting to feel optimistic about Hudson, I see this picture . . .

Apparently Davies was shooting an anti-drug commercial here, so we can look forward to seeing that 10,000 times on Sports South this season. I doubt it will live up to HoRam’s Texas Pete commercial where he stood beside the dancing bottle of hot sauce. Now that was a convincing anti-drug message.

Guy on the left: Oh God, here he comes.
Orr: Afternoon, fellas! You’ll be wanting autographs, I expect!
Guy on the left: (muttering) Just don’t look at him, maybe he’ll forget we’re here.
Guy in the middle: If I stare mournfully at my pen he’ll probably get the message.
Guy on the right: How humiliating . . . I’ll just leave my hands in my pockets.
Orr: Maybe I should bribe them with this ball signed by the other guys . . .

There are also a few new articles out today. I’m morbidly fond of this Dave O’Brien masterpiece–painstakingly composed on his Blackberry over lunch, I expect–which continues last year’s tradition of comparing that smarty-pants Davies and his useless THOUGHTS! with Chuckie the mouth-breathing savant. It belittles both of them (though mostly Chuckie, but he’s got a thick accent, so he must be dumb – don’t forget to point that out eighteen times, Dave) and gets on my nerves, but it’s also just kind of funny. Poor Davies.

We also get article #52930 about how great our bullpen is, because it’s not like our bullpen has ever been jinxed before! I fear that somewhere Mark Wohlers is laughing maniacally.

The other big news from camp is that Soriano will be delayed because of visa problems. I hate to say it, but everything about this guy seems like a bad omen. Like the fact that he was knocked out last season by a line drive just like the guy we traded away for him? I hope to God I’m wrong, because if this bullpen doesn’t end world hunger by the All-Star break I think we’re all going to be sorely disappointed.

I’m Freakin’ Out, Man!

Okay, I tried, but I can’t wait until tomorrow! There was actual baseball coverage on ESPN this evening, I hardly knew what to do with myself.

These are from AJC.com:

Gonzalez arrives, looking pretty badass: check out those calf muscles. Hell yeah, that’s what our bullpen has been lacking, am I right?! Apparently he is a “clubhouse favorite.” Diaz approves.

No, Thor, do not interact with Orr, he’s poison! I don’t care if you’re name-rhyming Canadians, let him go, man!

Heap signs an autograph for a rumpled guy in sweats. Heap, you’re such a hero. I love how he’s in street clothes and just carrying a bat around with him.

Hooray for Thor randomly showing up with the pitchers and catchers. Boo for Orr doing the same, but hooray for Thor.

Yates does some duck calls to pass the time. You kooky Braves! If you’re not golfing you’re hunting, or pretending to. At least we’ve been emancipated from LaRoche and the endless talk of deer stands as inspiration/distraction/offseason conditioning.

Hopefully they’ll post more on the official site tomorrow. Wire Image hasn’t even posted anything from the Yankee or Red Sox camps, so I’m not holding my breath for Braves pictures showing up there anytime soon.

Around the League:

Kerry Wood is already injured. A hot tub was involved. Naturally.
Zito is already freaking the Giants out.

That Other League:

The Yankees are already publically bitch slapping and having clique drama. Girls, please! Only
in an article about the Yankees could the phrase “desire questioned” be used in the headline.

Dude, yay all around. Bring this season the hell on.

Hampton: “Mistakes Will Be Made”

I don’t normally turn to the Braves’ official site when I want brutal honesty, so I was surprised to find this article about Hampton there. It’s pretty discouraging, but I appreciate Hampton being candid and realistic . . . I guess. It also kind of sounds like he’s embracing mediocrity, but maybe he knows something we don’t.


What the hell is this thing?

Some examples of Hampton’s general outlook:

– “There will be some bumps in the road.”
– “It’s not going to be smooth sailing from here on out.”
– “I think [the team is] reasonable in their expectations.”
– “On those days that I’m feeling great, I’m going to have to pull back and not overdo it.”
– “It’s just nice to have the opportunity.”
– “I’ve never really thought about the bullpen being good or bad.”

Okay, so his honesty kind of faded there toward the end. But I suppose it’s good to be cautious after a bad injury, and none of his warnings about things to come seem unreasonable or defeatist. It’s just kind of depressing to hear him preparing us for the worst.

On the other hand, this image from an article about the start of spring training made me feel strangely optimistic:

Tim Hudson, who is looking to bounce back from a mediocre 2006 season, took advantage of Wednesday’s sunny skies by playing catch with some of his younger teammates.

Huddy playing catch with the youngsters! Surely a sign of good things to come.

Getaway Day

First off, I have to share this thing my friend found in her doctor’s waiting room a few days ago. She said she had a valentine for me, and laid this sucker on me:

This is not a graphic I made, this is an actual thing that I have! Apparently the Braves sent out these valentines to their mailing list. Which raises the question: why didn’t I find one of these glorious things in my mailbox?! Do I not subscribe to the Braves version of Tiger Beat magazine? My name should not only be on their mailing list, it should be like, starred three times. Anyway, good thing my friend passed this along; I will cherish it forever. Here’s hoping Frenchy and Heap have a nice Valentine’s day spent packing their cars for spring training.

Other news:

-What more is there to say about Liberty Media’s acquisition of the Braves this week? Not much, until they release some kind of statement. The budget freeze is over, but I highly doubt that there are days of carefree spending to come, as we were bought to save them millions in taxes.

-I’m extremely amused and also terrified by the points system we invented to save money on the Vulch. Apparently it offers incentives for making starts, which is the terrifying part. Less or more terrifying than Davies as our fifth starter? I’m not sure – pitchers and catchers this weekend could perhaps shed some light there. But anyway, points system: it was not fully explained, but are there points for like, good behavior? Getting the other guys sodas, keeping his locker clean? I hope so.

-Talking Chop mentioned this little tidbit a few days ago:

Manager Bobby Cox will assign one of his five starters to be caught by backup C Brayan Pena, but he hasn’t decided which one yet.

My money is still on Hampton.

Two days out from camp! Here’s the first Deadspin post about spring training, how exciting! One commenter says he worked for the Braves during spring training one year, and that they mostly laze around and play golf. Sounds about right, knowing our golf-obsessed team, but even so! Excitement!

Slow News Day

Not much going on with the Braves following the Smoltz divorce bombshell. From the AJC we get this extremely obvious list of things the Braves are hoping will go well in spring training. Go ahead and have a good laugh at the phrase “Ryan Langerhans hits with authority,” I know I did.

Anyway, since I’ve got nothing else, here’s a picture of LaRoche in a (red?!) Pirates jersey:

Good to see he’s rocking that same “where the hell am I?” look on his face up in Pittsburgh.

Non-braves related, I’m also gonna go ahead and laugh out loud at Barry Zito out on a date with Hilary Duff. Everyone’s making fun of Zito for robbing the cradle, but I say good game, Hilary! Huge upgrade over your last boyfriend, girl.

So, pitchers and catchers in five days. Thank God.