Where is Mark Cuban when you need him?
This would have been a good weekend to have Mark Cuban calling the shots here in Braves land. I think it’s safe to say that he would have attempted to create some fireworks or simply have some fun by using today to announce Fredi Gonzalez as the newest member of the Braves organization.
In fact, Cuban would have likely done something like stage a press conference to be shown on the big screen in center field while the Marlins are taking batting practice tonight.
But with Cuban worrying about Dirk Nowitzki’s future in Dallas, the Braves will likely wait at least another week or two before revealing that Gonzalez will serve as some kind of advisor for the remainder of this year.
Admittedly, I rolled my eyes when some of you said adding Gonzalez to the organization would hurt the feelings of guys like Eddie Perez or Terry Pendleton, who at one time may have been in line to serve as Atlanta’s next manager. I mean this is the big leagues and they are big boys, who entered this season knowing that Gonzalez would become a favorite for the managerial job if he became available.
But I do get the sense that there are members of Braves management who share this concern. Thus if they do eventually give Gonzalez a role where he can spend the next few months evaluating the organization’s talent and personalities at both the Major and Minor League levels, they’ll do so much more quietly than Cuban would have.
While resting yesterday, the Braves gained a half-game on both the Mets (2 games back) and Phillies (4 games back) Before going to Philadelphia on Monday to compete against what’s left of the injury-ravaged defending National League champs, the Braves will receive a stiff challenge this weekend from three of Gonzalez’s former pitchers.
During tonight’s series opener, Kris Medlen will be opposed by Josh Johnson, who has recently been the game’s top pitcher and quite honestly it wouldn’t be hard to argue that he has been every bit as impressive as Ubaldo Jimenez throughout this entire season.
In his past nine starts, Johnson has gone 5-2 with an 0.83 ERA and limited opponents to a .183 batting average and .226 on-base percentage. Within the 65 innings that have encompassed this span, he has recorded 60 strikeouts and issued 11 walks.
Jimenez is still considered widely considered the midseason choice to win the NL Cy Young Award. But his league-leading marks in ERA (1.83) and quality starts (14) have been matched by Johnson, who leads the NL in WHIP (0.96) and opponents OPS (.544). The .199 batting average he has surrendered has been bettered only by Mat Latos (.197).
In attempt to regain an optimistic tone, I’ll let you know that Medlen ranks fifth in the NL with a 4.15 strikeouts-to-walk-ratio, one spot ahead of Johnson’s 3.96 mark.
Anibal Sanchez, who has gone 6-2 with a 2.64 ERA in his past nine starts, will take the mound for the Fish on Saturday afternoon to oppose what should be a rather determined Tommy Hanson. Based on his mood, there hasn’t been any indication that Hanson has been mentally scarred by his past two outings.
When Ricky Nolasco opposes Tim Hudson in Sunday’s series finale, it will be the first time he has stood on the Turner Field mound since Sept. 30, the night that he recorded 16 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.
By the time Hudson toes the rubber Sunday night, he will have likely learned that he has gained his third career All-Star selection and first since 2004. Considering there are a number of deserving candidates, that previous sentence might have been a bit presumptuous.
But it’s hard to imagine Hudson won’t find a place on this year’s NL pitching staff. He ranks fifth in ERA (2.37) and his 13 quality starts are just one off the league-leading mark posted by Jimenez, Johnson and Adam Wainwright. In addition, he’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in 13 of his 16 starts.
While converting 16 of 18 save opportunities and posting a 1.15 ERA, Billy Wagner has also made himself a solid candidate for this year’s All-Star roster. His ERA is better than the marks posted by any other NL closer.
But when attempting to fill a 13-man pitching staff will there be room for Wagner, Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton and Brian Wilson? Heck I didn’t even mention Francisco Cordero or Matt Capps, who have posted the NL’s top two save totals while compiling higher ERA than any of the aforementioned deserving candidates.
There are also a number of deserving starting pitchers that could bump Hudson out of the equation. If Michael Bourn isn’t selected to serve as an outfielder, Roy Oswalt might end up being Houston’s representative. The only other clear possibility would be Astros closer Matt Lindstrom, who could further diminish the odds of Wager gaining a selection.
Martin Prado, who will likely start at second base in Chase Utley’s absence, and Jason Heyward seem to be the only Braves who should expect to hear their names announced during Sunday afternoon’s selection show (noon on TBS). I will be surprised if Hudson and Wagner don’t gain selections and there’s still a good chance the players will once again give Brian McCann a selection.
But some time Sunday afternoon, I think we’ll be looking at Troy Glaus as one of the deserving players who were not selected. Albert Pujols will start at first base and Reds first baseman Joey Votto will most definitely gain a reserve spot.
I heard Peter Gammons jokingly say Phillies manager Charlie Manuel won’t go to Anaheim to manage the NL team if it doesn’t include Roy Halladay. Well the same can be said about Ryan Howard, who along with Adrian Gonzalez will almost definitely gain a selection before Glaus.
Trade front: As you know the Braves are looking to add a bat before the July 31 trade deadline. But right now, I don’t gain the sense that they are actually targeting specific players or even have a preference whether they gain a right-handed or left-handed bat.
The most popular names linked to them have been David DeJesus, Corey Hart and Jose Bautista. Right now, the sense is that the Royals want too much in return for DeJesus. But who could blame them. Last time I checked, I think he was rumored to be on the wish list of 29 Major League clubs and part of the entourage that will be playing with LeBron James next year.
Bautista was simply ridiculous while compiling 12 of his 20 homers in May. But how much are you going to give up for a career .237 hitter, who has batted .229 this year and just .204 in the 42 games he has played outside of Toronto.
Just a few months ago, Hart was drawing negative comparisons to Jeff Francoeur. Like Francoeur, Hart has turned things around this year and in a much more impressive manner. In the 44 games he has played dating back to May 15, the Brewers outfielder has hit .299 with 15 homers and a .999 OPS.
In other words, Hart spent the past six weeks living up to the lofty expectations that have surrounded him since he established himself as a 20-20 player in 2007 and ’08. If he’s available and the price is right, he’s the guy the Braves should target.
It was interesting to see Atlanta-Journal Constitution columnist Mark Bradley throw B.J. Upton’s name into the mix the other day. During the 2008 postseason, there wasn’t a player that I enjoyed watching more than Upton.
Though he has struggled in the two years that have followed, the potential is certainly still there for Upton. My guess is that he won’t be available at this time of the year. But if the Rays grow impatient with his development and attemp
t to cut costs by moving him in the offseason, he should be at the top of Frank Wren’s wish list.