Friday, September 15, 2006

The Braves reach the end of the line

The Philadelphia Phillies double-header sweep of the Atlanta Braves last night; coupled with the Mets defeat of the Florida Marlins on the same day, mathematically eliminated the Braves from the NL East Division title, bringing their remarkable – and probably never duplicated – 14-year string of division crowns dating back to 1991 to an end. 272 players wore a Braves uniform during their reign. And although the Braves one only one World Series (1995), and didn’t make it to the NLCS after 2000, my guess is that the Hall of Fame candidates who played for them during their run will wear a Braves hat on their plaque.

Here is my short list of Hall of Fame worthy players from the 1991-2005 era: John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Chipper Jones. If he can generate serious offensive numbers over the next five years, Andruw Jones will probably appear on someone’s ballot. He and Torii Hunter are the best two defensive centerfielders of their generation, and probably the best at their position since Curt Flood and Paul Blair. Maddux is a first-ballot entry; Smoltz, if not the first ballot, the second – how many other pitchers will have 200 career wins AND 154 career saves, and acknowledged by the sport in separate years as the best at his position? (with a MVP, Rolaids Relief and Cy Young in the bag); Glavine, if he makes it to 300 wins, is a sure thing. If not, he has longevity, consistency and two Cy Youngs on his side.

Chipper Jones rarely gets mentioned among today’s great players, or even those of the last 10 years. Go find another everyday player since Chipper broke into the majors in 1995 who has had a more consistent and productive career. And don’t forget – he’s a switch-hitter. To me, he is the most underappreciated great player of the last ten years.

Outfielder Jeff Francouer, the Braves 22 year-old star-in-the-making, was 7 years old when John Smoltz won his first World Series game for the Braves. So was catcher Brian McCann. Adam LaRouche was 11 and even Andruw Jones was just 14. Of course, Jones, in 1996, when he was 19, became the youngest player in history to homer in a World Series game. There will be a few more rough years ahead, but the future is bright.

Sports, priorities, sports, priorities, priorities, sports

Remember how 9/11 was going to refocus our priorities on the important things in life and give us the perspective we so desperately needed to put our misplaced societal priorities and rampant materialism in their proper place?

We have learned some important lessons from that day: that we don’t need clear and workable emergency plans to evacuate our major population centers; that duct tape and plastic sheeting will protect us against any sort of science fiction-level blast from the terrorist throngs that sleep quietly around us; that we should re-elect presidents, senators and representative who have no clue of what to do about anything; we should spend less money on transportation and port security; and, of course, we should invade countries that pose no threat to the United States and then claim, after they descend into chaos, that they pose a threat to our civilization.

But here in my little well-educated, hyper-attentive and affluent corner of the world, Bethesda, Maryland, . . . the kind of place that “supports the troops” but doesn’t provide any . . . we are in the midst of what educators now refer to as a “teachable moment” (this is what university administrators call plagiarism cases they don’t want us to prosecute for fear of offending a student or his/her family). In March, four students from Walt Whitman High, which considers itself a private-level public school, were arrested for robbing a Smoothie King in downtown Bethesda. Their payday was about $463. The kids were all caught and are facing a November 29 trial date for armed robbery.

Yes, you read that correctly. They robbed a Smoothie King. And it was, apparently, an inside job.

Okay, I did some stupid shit in high school. I TPed houses, tried to smoke some leaves from a tree in my backyard to see if I could get some kind of buzz, smoked other things that I knew would lift my spirits, visited bars with a fake ID, snuck into movie theatres where my friends worked, skipped school, forged by Dad’s signature for the sudden spate of doctor’s appointments my senior year – pretty standard stuff. But never did I call a friend and say, “Snag one of your dad’s guns out of the basement (I went to high school in a Republican neighborhood, and, boy, there were some families prepared to take on the Soviet Army!), round up the crew, and let’s go knock off the Pizza Inn after baseball practice.”

One of the Walt Whitman 4, Pat Lazear was a star player on the Whitman football team, so much so that he was already being recruited by major colleges, including powerhouses like Ohio State. Whitman’s principal attempted to expel him, but a county mediator allowed him to finish the school year at home and then assigned him to Wheaton High School in Silver Spring. Although he is sporting an electric bracelet around his ankle and subject to a 7 p.m. curfew, Lazear is still eligible to play football. Better yet, he is the captain, plays both ways and punts on special teams. And the recruiters keep coming. And coming. And coming.

Read more about it here.


Corrine said...

I can't believe that the kid wasn't expelled and is still playing football. Why does society feel such a great need to protect its start athletes?

And by the way...The link isn't there :(

Gregg Ivers said...

I fixed the glitch.

Anonymous said...

While it gives me great joy to know the Phillies were 2/3 the reason the Braves run ended, I do agree the Braves big 3 deserve to get in. Unfortunately for Chipper, his power numbers fall into the category of the same guys from the 80's who aren't in. It will be interesting to see if a career .300 hitter who played third and left and switch hit and was the most consistent offensive player during his team's record run gets in. Does that open the door for somebody like Bernie Williams?

Also, how can you not include Edmonds in the same category as Hunter and Jones?

Gregg Ivers said...

Jim Edmonds is great -- one of my favorite contemporary players. I think that Torii and Andruw simply play the position on a different level.

Chipper will be a real close call, just like Bernie Williams. The answer is: I don't know.