A Few Videos

So, I was planning on posting this lengthy video interview with Smoltz and Francoeur before I heard about Smoltz’s divorce last night, but it’s kind of interesting to look at it now in light of that. The interview was done at a Baptist church in Augusta back in November. It’s about forty-five minutes long and pretty good, about 50% Christian testimony and 50% baseball.

Smoltz comes off as quite intense but not too preachy, and actually pretty funny – I liked the joke about his family being atheists, which no one in the church laughed at! Frenchy of course is all sincere and adorable. I’ve never seen him look so nervous and fidgety before an interview, though.

A few of the more interesting bits:

-Frenchy quit baseball when he was 12 to play golf for a year! But I thought that was the year he met Heap?

-There’s a pretty good anecdote about the day of the draft, when Frenchy was watching it live with his family and waiting to see who would pick him, and right when the Royals’ turn came his phone rang and they all freaked, but it was his brother.

-Frenchy talks about how his first major league hit, a three run homer, came on a 3-2 count and he almost pulled a hat trick, then says he’s “had a few of those since then” and gets this totally depressed look on his face for a moment, which makes me hope that maybe he’ll listen to people about looking at pitches? Maybe?

-The best part: Frenchy makes a comment about Smoltz taking him under his wing when he came up, and telling him “about everybody and certain guys and where [he] need[ed] to watch [his] back.” Whoa! Who’d he warn him about, I wonder? Hampton, definitely, but who else?!

I liked both of them better after seeing this video. Smoltz had always seemed a bit snobby to me, but he doesn’t really come off that way here (except for bragging about playing golf with Tiger Woods). He mentions that he and his wife were trying to open a Christian school in Atlanta (and had been since 2001, I think), so I imagine that must have been pretty stressful. I hope he won’t be too bummed out this season.

Anyway, on a much more cheerful note, please enjoy a video of Heap at Fan Fest, where he gets confused by someone who wants to shake his hand.

Not as awesome as the time he got confused by rally caps and had to have Hudson fix his for him, but as far as Heap getting confused by things on camera goes, it’s pretty good.

Braves Spring Training Equipment: Lost?

So, thanks to MLB.com, I’ve seen the article about the Mets equipment truck that is headed down to Florida. I learned that “even the happiest of thoughts and the presence of Mr. Met couldn’t ease the pain of carrying equipment with numb hands and trying to talk with frozen faces.”

Then I read that the Tigers spring training equipment’s relocation to Lakeland is “actually a two-day, two-truck event.” And that “more than once, winter weather on the way down has delayed the truck by a day or two.”

Thank God MLB has been keeping us up to date on this process, but where, might I ask, is our article about the Braves spring training truck? Surely it’s being loaded somewhere, and probably it’s a little chilly? Certainly crew members are grumbling about the six hour drive, and just where the hell is Mark Bowman?! Not getting their quotes, that’s for damn sure. Could it be that there is something going on with our spring training equipment that the organization doesn’t want us to know about?

Just like Arod’s shocking decision not to comment on his contract’s opt-out clause at his recent children’s book signing, this silence on the matter of our spring training truck is disturbing, and hey, a little insulting. We’re tired of all the speculation and endless rumors, Braves, we want the facts. Take a lesson from the Mets, who understand that their fans NEED TO KNOW where the team’s batting practice balls and Gatorade coolers are AT ALL TIMES. And get the hell on it, Bowman.

In the meantime, we get articles about Hampton and Thor from the AJC. The Hampton one is about two sentences long (revealingly?) and is relatively information free, but the Thor one is interesting, as I’ve never before heard that he’s had problems with freaking out on umps in the past. He seemed calm last season, but almost eerily calm, now that I think about it. So, hmm. But I’m a Thor fan, and willing to give him a little bit of time to grow into first base (and happy to have Wilson just in case), and I also quite enjoyed this glamor shot of Thor that accompanied the article:

He kind of reminds me of Rainier “McBain” Wolfcastle from the Simpsons:

Which is, you know, probably a good sign.

Weird Enough For You, Folks?

The Braves hosted their 2007 Fan Fest yesterday, and while the pictures from AJC were pretty lame and the official site hasn’t put any up yet, one interesting thing did come from a day of autographs and kids running the bases: Mark Bowman’s Frenchy Lovefest Article – the first one of the year!

Coincidence??

Let’s take a closer look:

ATLANTA — Francoeur-mania was alive and well at the start of Winter FanFest 2007, which drew more than 15,000 fans to Turner Field on Saturday.

So, the marketing department is going with Frenchy again this year, huh? I’m not surprised, the franchise was pretty hell bent on ignoring anything he did wrong last year, and in fact seemed to encourage any wrongdoing he needed them to get behind, particularly never taking a day off. I like how they have Bowman immediately point out that “Francoeur-mania” is “alive and well,” at least acknowledging that it was slightly endangered at some point.

Less than 15 minutes after the gates opened, the autograph lines for both Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann had reached their maximum limit. Those who were fortunate enough to position themselves early enough gained the guarantee that they’d obtain the signature of one of these hometown heroes.

A-ha, the first mention of Heap, who actually had a great season last year! But I kind of like this strategy, actually. Let Frenchy be the face of the team and get all the attention he wants, Heap can do the real work. He’s parliament, out there passing laws while Frenchy has his face printed on the money. It’s really kind of an excellent partnership, until Heap gets on base with two outs and Frenchy comes up after him, but Heap even found a way around that toward the end of 2006 when his power numbers went up, clearing the bases himself just in case.

Those who were not so fortunate were forced to show a sense of determination that proved beneficial for Jennifer Golden, Tiffany Humble and Kelli Hall, a trio of women who formed a new friendship while in pursuit of Francoeur’s signature.

Somehow I think I can picture Jennifer, Tiffany and Kelli pretty clearly. Frenchy is ushering in a whole new era of Fans Who Don’t Care About the Game at Turner. Last year, two of their promotions were Knitting Night and Wine Tasting Night. That’s not a joke, those things actually happened.

When three fans decided that the line was too long, they gave their cards, which guaranteed a signature, to these three women, who had continued to wait at the end of Francoeur’s line, which began in the middle of the 755 Club (in left-center field) and extended within the Lexus Level all the way to third base.

Jesus, pay for a seat behind home plate any time during the season and Frenchy will sign whatever you want. Fifty dollars is a small price to pay to avoid waiting in a four hour line. Just sayin’.

For Golden and Hall, who both reside in Atlanta, the generous gesture provided an opportunity to obtain signed items that would bring surprising joy to their chosen men. For Humble, it meant that her first trip to Turner Field allowed her to realize her goal of meeting Francoeur, the 23-year-old outfielder who hasn’t allowed stardom to erase his always-affable personality.

I’m still stuck on what “that would bring surprising joy to their chosen men” even means. Their chosen men?

“It’s days like today that humble you and make you realize how much people really look forward to the season,” said Francoeur, who became McCann’s best friend nearly 10 years ago when the two were growing up about 20 minutes north of Turner Field.

Smooth mention of the Sacred Bond there, Bowman. If there’s anything the Braves sell almost as much as Frenchy’s face, it’s his friendship with Heap. God forbid they ever have a feud of some kind. But wait!:

While a case of laryngitis prevented McCann from conversing with many of 500 people who filled his line, Francoeur’s mouth was moving as fast and often as his bat. As one young boy walked away after obtaining a signature, the Braves right fielder looked at the youngster, smiled and said, “Hey, come up and play with me someday.”

“Francoeur’s mouth was moving as fast and often as his bat” aside, oh God. Heap was refusing to talk. Laryngitis? Really, Heap? I don’t blame him at all, but what’s actually going on here . . .?

It’s Francoeur’s effervescent personality combined with his endless amount of athleticism that makes him such a favorite among men and women, both young and old. One grown man got his autograph and then said, “I love you Francoeur. You’re the best.”

This almost makes me feel sorry for Bowman. It’s like they gave him a minimum number of superlatives that he had to fit into the article. They may have even given him a specific list. And yeah, last time I sat in right field there were plenty of hoochied-up moms screaming “FRENCHY” throughout the entire game, but I also had some of the dudes he’s writing about here sitting around me. Their love for Frenchy is quieter and more dignified, creepier.

“In this sport, it’s really easy to get away from the real world,” Francoeur said. “But I think you have to always come back to your roots and where you’re from. To stay humble, I think you just have to remind yourself that you’re just a regular person like everybody else.”

I should take a moment here to say I actually like Frenchy and am rooting for him to smarten up at the plate and do well this year. I don’t blame the organization for making him the face of the franchise, either, cause he is great looking and very well spoken for an athlete, and he’s had his moments (moments that Bowman will remind us about every couple of days or so during the season, more often when Frenchy has struck out in his last nine appearances). I just get a little worn out on this:

But while Francoeur may still act like a regular person, his accomplishments and experiences are anything but regular. At the age of 21, he found himself of the cover of Sports Illustrated. About seven months later, he found himself as a member of the United States team that competed in last year’s World Baseball Classic.

Really, we’re going all the way back to the SI cover (they have since called him a bust, prematurely I think, but not entirely unfairly)? Does anyone really remember the World Baseball Classic that fondly? C’mon, Bowman, throw out the old ‘played in 162 games last season’ or ‘100 RBI’ chestnuts, at least.

All of this has led individuals like Golden to literally jump with joy after seeing Francoeur take time to write, “Let’s play golf” on the bat that he autographed for her boyfriend, John Feldman.

Awww, Frenchy. You’re so gosh darn likable, I even feel guilty picking on the goofy ass articles that get written about you.

“I’m shaking,” Goldman professed as Francoeur ended his autograph session that lasted two hours.

I can’t really make fun of her. Last time I saw Frenchy up close I was standing right by the dugout with a couple of other girls and we were all sort of in a trance. Not “shaking,” but he is quite good looking.

All of this excitement has been created before Francoeur has ever had the opportunity to stay in big-league camp throughout all of Spring Training. Playing for Team USA last year caused him to miss nearly two full weeks of preparation in Braves camp. That certainly could have played a part in that he managed just two hits in his first 36 at-bats of the regular season.

Can’t make fun of Bowman for clinging to this, because I’m tempted to do the same. Orlando, work your magic.

After those first 36 at-bats, he managed to hit .272 over the remainder of a season in which he also contributed 29 homers. His 103 RBIs allowed him to join Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews as the only players in franchise history to record a 100-RBI season before their 23rd birthday.

Let’s, ah. Leave Hank and Eddie out of this for now, Mark.

“I’ve really become more of a man and matured a little more,” Francoeur said. “So I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens.”

OK, Frenchy, whatever works. As long as you’ve learned from your mistakes at the plate last year, I’m behind you and your maturity all the way.

“I haven’t even paid attention to anybody who has talked about patience or anything like that,” Francoeur said. “I’m going to play like I play. That’s how I have fun and enjoy the game. I’ll learn as I go.”

Oh. Well, shit.

Still, hey. I love baseball and I want the Braves to do well, but as a student of marketing, it would be interesting to see how they handle – aw forget it, Frenchy, COME THE FUCK ON!

In other official site news, we have the always delightful Braves notes, this edition including:

-Thor described as a “cool Canadian”

-An anecdote from Chuckie about people who tell him he looks a lot smaller in real life

-Notification that Pete has shaved his head, and this marvelous quote from him:

“A baseball season is like a soap opera,” Van Wieren said. “It’s a continuing story. If you miss one episode of the soap opera, sometimes it takes you three or four days to catch up to figure out exactly what’s going on.”

No kidding, Pete! This kind of understanding is the reason I love him. I’ve gotten my Fan Fest sneak peek, now bring on the real drama, Braves.

Announcers, East Cobb and the Wisdom of Heap

Much has been made about Skip and Pete not announcing the televised games for Sports South this season, and while I agree that it’s disturbing that the network that will show most of our games from now on doesn’t want anything to do with our best announcers, I personally don’t see this as a huge problem. Introduce yourself to such concepts as the “mute button” and the “radio” and the problem is solved. It’s how I got through the entire 2006 season under the Torborg-Rathbun reign of terror. I don’t see how people can be anything but thankful after Braves fans stood up and collectively said “No” to those two, and since the management refused to sit back and listen to Don Sutton call the Nationals the Marlins and just chug ahead with whatever point he’s making about whichever team he actually thinks we’re playing, probably the Expos. I will not miss Don’s slurring and calling players by the wrong name (“Mark Diaz” comes to mind), and let’s just never mention the names of those other two jokers again.

Skip and Pete on the radio is all I need, and I’m especially grateful for it as they get older and closer to retirement. They’ll also do a few TBS games, and some combination of Joe, Chip and Jon Sciambi, who worked for the Marlins last year, will handle the rest. I’m fond of Joe and Chip, and the new guy is young and not a former ballplayer, so this all sounds pretty ideal to me.

A few quick things from AJC this morning:

An article about my kickass hometown and how we turn out the best ballplayers in the country. Hell yeah! I first came to really love baseball when my brother played for the East Cobb All-Stars, most of my favorite current Braves played in or around Cobb when they were kids, and I really love that blowhard trainer’s attitude toward pitchers in this article.

Finally, an article about the pitchers working out at Turner this week. Something about McDowell’s posture as he watches Huddy work makes me a little nervous, but never mind. We’ll be in Atlanta on Tuesday and it will be really hard to stay away from the field when I know they’re working out there, but it’s not like the gates will be open. I could of course stand outside the parking lot in the freezing cold for a few hours on the off chance that one of them will be milling around his car, but I’m not quite that desperate to see signs of baseball life.

The best part about this pitching article is of course the quote from Heap:

“We’ve got one of the best bullpens in the league now,” catcher Brian McCann said. “You get the starters to go six innings and bring those three big horsemen in and they can shut ’em down.”

Those three big horsemen?! Heap, how did I survive the winter without your quotes?

Offseason Antics

There’s always plenty of coverage about whatever douchebag things the Yankees get up to in the offseason, such as running their perfume empires and, well . . . whatever is going on here. But what about our Braves, who are more “openly reviled” by the mainstream sports media than actually “covered?” What have they been up to since October?

I’ll start with Frenchy, who was either the busiest or the most willing to talk to the press and do PR photo ops during the offseason (surprise!). Around November he and High School Girlfriend/Wife #1 helped the franchise look good by delivering turkeys to needy families around Turner Field. Apparently Frenchy also bought a house of his own during the offseason, so he’s probably moved out of the McCann McMansion by now. No doubt he has also been enjoying some wedding planning with his fiancee, who is a middle school English teacher and cheerleading coach. She also looks kinda familiar, but maybe it’s just me.

Speaking of Heap, he’s also been busy this offseason, and not just looking for a new roommate. According to an AJC interview with Frenchy, Heap got engaged three days after the season ended, most likely to this young lady, who works in her mother’s clothing boutique in Gwinnett. He also showed his support at Bobby’s homeless pets charity function with Frenchy, played golf with Reitsma at yet another charity event, and attended Blaine Boyer’s wedding, which might also be considered charity, really, considering how thrilled with life Heap looks in that picture.

Andruw and his wife also volunteered for some charity events sponsored by the organization over the break, as well as hosting a fundraising ball for Jaden’s Ladder. Andruw also donated his services as a badass to a pal’s modeling campaign. He’s got the Derek Zoolander face down pretty good.

We’ve all heard plenty about Chuck James and his noble window-installation endeavors in the offseason. In fact I think I’ve heard more about that than anything he did during the season. In addition to being an admirable working class gentleman despite the league minimum, Chuckie also got married this offseason. His ceremony looked nice and down to earth like the man himself, and his bride even let him have a Braves “A” on the wedding cake. She’s a keeper, I’d say.

Matt Diaz also had a big offseason, which included both the birth of his first child and some radical new Brady Bunch hair.

Chipper spent some time playing golf and bravely wearing one of the goofiest Grandpa-on-Christmas-morning sweaters of all time, probably for a charity of some kind.

Smoltz represented pretty well in the doofy old guy sweater department as well, sporting one that features Tetris blocks while giving Christian testimonies with Frenchy at a local high school. I’m sure all of the teenage girls in the audience came purely to celebrate Jesus, and their attendance had nothing to do with the fact that Frenchy was standing behind Smoltz looking like sex on legs (and knowing it, too, check out the smug look he’s giving that bat). At my high school all they had to hook us into FCA meetings were free donuts. Incidentally, my little brother once went to one of Smoltz’s Christian testimony presentations in the early nineties, back when he was doing them with Greg Olson and Sid Bream. I think my brother was expecting it to be a baseball camp. I think it was . . . advertised as a baseball camp?

So there you have it: while the Yankees are running around lighting cigars with embarrassing flourish and naming fragrances after themselves, our guys are representing Atlanta well with their handyman jobs and relatively normal lives, getting dragged around to look at wedding invitations with their fiancees and such. Keep up the good work, boys.

The Braves Fan Fest is happening tomorrow at Tuner Field, so if you’re into waiting in line for autographs, head on over there. I think I’m going to pass, but I’ll be eagerly awaiting any pictures from the event, which will allow me to keep tabs on the changing hairstyles and ridiculous sweaters of my Atlanta Braves.

How 2007 Looks From Here

The 2007 Braves have a lot of questions that won’t be resolved until spring training, but as long as more than one essential component doesn’t completely fall apart or fail to pan out, they’re looking pretty good on paper. We finally have a bullpen, we’re getting Hampton back and the roster is free from the clutches of the ingenious Pratt-Jordan platoon system that worked so well for us last year. In fact, improvements in 2007 may come from cutting dead weight just as much as filling in gaps. And yes, I’m talking about Reitsma, pretty much entirely.

Starting Lineup:

1. Kelly Johnson 2B

Nickname: I guess I’ll have to go with the prevailing “KJ” until I come up with something better. I used to call him The Cockblock, but that is no longer applicable.

Outlook: He didn’t play last year after having Tommy John surgery, so there’s really no telling. I guess there is no reason not to at least be optimistic. He’s patient at the plate, and as much as I loved Giles as in-game entertainment, I’m ready to try anything new (and cheap is good, too) in the leadoff spot.

Concerns: New to second base and leading off, and still relatively rookified in general, he’s been handed a huge load of responsibility after a year of not playing at all. It’ll be interesting. I’m not THAT optimistic.

2. Edgar Renteria SS

Nickname: Rent

Outlook: I’m a big fan and was very impressed with him last year. I’m expecting another great season from Rent.

Concerns: Some people have complained about his range at shortstop. I’ve never had any huge issues with his play in the field, but he had a few moments last year, so here’s hoping that’s not something that continues to subtly decline.

3. Chipper Jones 3B

Nickname: Larry, which is also his real name, and an insult.

Outlook: He’ll do fine if he’s healthy. Before the end of the season he mentioned that he’s giving up being overly cautious about his health and wants to go back to eating cheeseburgers and training more organically like he did when he was younger. Interesting plan, probably better than the magical magnet necklaces he tried last season.

Concerns: Foot problems, general malaise, mostly as a result of not aging very gracefully. Chipper was having a midlife crisis of some kind last season, and it was painful to watch. His play on third was bullshit at the beginning of the season; there were a couple of games where he looked like he was half asleep on painkillers over there. After the All-Star break he improved and seemed to wake up a bit, and of course he was great at the plate when his foot was halfway functional.

4. Andruw Jones CF

Nickname: Andruw “I Don’t Know, Smiling is My Favorite!” Jones.

Outlook: Our last year with Andruw! No reason to believe it won’t be like every other season we’ve had with him, nearly flawless defense and hitting that appears frustratingly inconsistent to the naked eye but actually ends the season with respectable numbers.

Concerns: He’s almost definitely leaving us, so everything good will be bittersweet.

5. Brian McCann C

Nickname: Heap

Outlook: He’s a gift from God.

Concerns: Unfortunately, he’s also a catcher, which means injuries are always a concern. I wish they would move him to first, but he does work really well with our pitchers, especially Chuckie, who will really need him this year. I’m not holding my breath on that one, anyway, but if I have to go through another McCann-on-the-DL nervous breakdown, I may start ranting about moving him more sincerely. Another concern is a lot of pressure after his performance last year, but he seems like a pretty laid back guy, so hopefully he can take that in stride. I just hope the franchise doesn’t pile on too much bullshit the way they did with his BFF and former roommate.

6. Jeff Francoeur

Nickname: Frenchy

Outlook: I’m very cautiously expecting him to improve at the plate this year. Very, very cautiously.

Concerns: This is the year when he has to either turn things around (at least to some extent) or end up the Darin Erstad of the Braves, beloved for his one great season (or great two months, however you want to look at it), everything he does afterward just tolerated based on that. I have no problem with his fielding, last year briefly thought he was dead when I was sitting in right field and saw him disappear into the seats along the first base line after catching a foul, something I would actually rather prefer he didn’t do. This will be his first season living with wifey instead of his friends, so maybe that will calm him down at the plate?

7. Scott Thorman 1B

Nickname: Thor

Outlook: I have a feeling Thor will bust loose this year. I was surprised to hear that he has the job of starting at first to lose prior to spring training, but I’m glad to see him have the chance. His power will be especially valuable when we lose Andruw next season.

Concerns: Spotty at the plate last year, but historically he’s been slow to adjust when he moves up a tier in the system, so it’s not that much of a concern. Who knows how he’ll play on first, but he didn’t look too terrified over there last year.

8. Matt Diaz LF

Nickname: Matty

Outlook: Yeah, I know this is a platoon, but I’m in fucking denial. Langerhans is a thousand times better in the field, but I can’t watch him at the plate without frightening my neighbors. Not for another entire season, please, dear God. And Matty isn’t ALWAYS horrible in the field . . .

Concerns: For Diaz, fielding, for Langerhans, hitting. If only they had a secret lovechild.

Bonus picture of Langerhans “congratulating”/scaring the hell out of Betemit last year:

In addition to not hitting, I also think Langerhans is not entirely human, but that’s a subject for another time.

Bench:

Craig Wilson 1B, LF

Nickname: I have no clue what Bobby will shout from the dugout. What do you do with “Craig”? Maybe he’ll call him Willy, but that’ll confuse Aybar.

Outlook: He’s supposed to be good. Let’s hope so. I like what I’ve heard. I’m hoping to mostly see him taking turns at first base with Thor, but I’d also be happy to see him replace the Langerhans half of left field, though that’s unlikely given Bobby’s love of lefty-righty platoons. Spring training will be interesting, with the three of them fighting it out, though knowing Bobby’s noncommittal approach to the bench I’m sure they’ll all end up hanging around with very vague ideas about their roles.

Concerns: Eric Byrnes hair is never a good sign. Fuck!

Willy Aybar CBF (Chipper’s Backup Foot)

Nickname: Willy?

Outlook: I kind of wish he was starting on second, as I really love him at the plate, especially leading off. But I guess we’re giving KJ a chance over there so we can save Willy for Chipper’s trips to the DL.

Concerns: Wasted on the bench like Betemit was?

Brayan Pena C

Nickname: None that I know of.

Outlook: Finally liberated now that Pratt is gone, I have confidence in him as Heap’s backup at the plate, and his defense can’t be that much worse than Pratt’s was.

Concerns: He’s not Pratt: I can’t see any downside at this point. I actually really liked Pratt, he was a cool guy, probably taught Heap a thing or two, but had about as much right to be on a major league roster as Brian Jordan did. Pena may become Hampton’s personal catcher. STAY TUNED!

Chris Woodward 2B

Nickname: Woody, I imagine

Outlook: I’ve heard he’s pretty mediocre. Also, he was a Met. I suppose we picked him up in utter desperation, in case Johnson curls into the fetal position on second.

Concerns: Spy for the Mets?

Martin Prado 2B

Nickname: Bobby will probably go with “Marty”

Outlook: May or may not make the roster after spring training.

Concerns: Looked okay last year. In the best case scenario KJ will be fine on second this year, Prado will develop in the minors and will be KJ’s backup when we get rid of Woodward.

Pete Orr 2B

Nickname: No

Outlook: No

Concerns: No. Will not make the roster, I would think. Sorry Pete, good luck elsewhere.

Starting Pitching:

John Smoltz

Nickname: Smoltzy

Outlook: Will be bitchy and excellent as ever.

Concerns: He was a regular prima donna last year, with his constant demands for new baseballs and calling the general manager “homeboy upstairs.” I loved it; I mean, it’s his right. Keep up the good work in both areas, Smoltzy.

Mike Hampton

Nickname: Hamp? Hammy?

Outlook: God only freakin knows.

Concerns: Spent last year on the DL, most of his time devoted to hanging out with Nascar drivers and wearing shirts like the one pictured. He’s got a skeevy look about him, like he grooms himself the way a cat would? Like, he looks licked, am I right? I’ve heard things about him that suggest he may have alienated a number of his teammates, including his catcher. Should be interesting.

Tim Hudson

Nickname: Huddy

Outlook: I’m not expecting a lot after last year. He painstakingly nibbles at hitters in a way that makes me want to physically attack him. I’m not a fan. But of course I’m rooting for him to turn things around, cause we’re saddled with him either way.

Concerns: Was one of the major reasons we had a losing record last year. Raised by those bastard Oakland A’s.

Chuck James

Nickname: Chuckie

Outlook: Another gift from God, he was excellent last year and hopefully he’ll continue to improve.

Concerns: Fly ball pitcher, gives up his share of home runs.

Kyle Davies

Nickname: Who cares

Outlook: Not great

Concerns: Sucked last year. Here’s hoping for a miraculous turnaround in spring training.

Relief Pitching:

Bob Wickman

Nickname: Wicky

Outlook: I don’t expect him to have an ERA under two like he did for us last year, but I think he’s fooling NL hitters for the time being, and I hope he can keep it up and for God’s sake stay healthy.

Concerns: High expectations, the curse of Mark Wohlers.

Rafael Soriano

Nickname: Gotta be Raffy.

Outlook: Supposed to be good, we stole him from the Mariners in exchange for HoRam, which was a great trade on our end.

Concerns: Like HoRam, was hit in the head with a line drive last season, and was shaky on the mound afterward. Hopefully he’s recovered from his post-traumatic whatever.

Mike Gonzalez

Nickname: Gonzo?

Outlook: Good left handed pitching out of the bullpen? Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, LaRoche.

Concerns: He’s . . . from Texas?

Macay McBride

Nickname: Fatty, I’ve heard

Outlook: Last year he seemed to lose his confidence after he’d gotten two outs, then would completely fall apart. Other than that, I like him.

Concerns: Hopefully he’ll feel a little more comfortable out there under pressure this year; he won’t be our only lefty anymore, so maybe that’ll help.

Oscar Villarreal

Nickname: The Vulture, I call him Vulch.

Outlook: Was great for long relief last year, I’m hoping he’ll be a little more consistent this year.

Concerns: He wasn’t often really bad, but when he was, he was REALLY really bad.

Tyler Yates

Nickname: Yates-y

Outlook: Fastballer, the franchise loves him for some reason. He’s all over the place performance-wise, so I don’t feel incredibly confident.

Concerns: Gets a little wild if the pressure’s on, seems like a bit of a hothead. Farnsworthesque, without the winning personality.

Joey Devine

Nickname: He’s far too fragile for a nickname.

Outlook: The traditional Braves bullpen position of hot guy with emotional issues will likely be filled by Devine at some point this season. After what happened in 2005, when I looked up from my beer in September 2006 and saw him on the mound I laughed for about twenty minutes. But then he did well, and now the ERA is down just under ten! I’m rooting for him. I mean, look at him.

Concerns: Comes from the long tradition of tragic bullpen antiheroes that turned out Chris Reitsma last year. But I think we’ve learned not to make our doomed pretty boys the principal closers, eh?