Odds and ends: McCann’s struggles, Greinke Watch and Final Vote
It does not seem that long ago that a wide-eyed Brian McCann strolled down the hallway of a Pittsburgh hotel wondering where he needed to be for an All-Star Game media gathering. When this same sort of annual gathering takes place in Kansas City next week, it will mark the first time in seven years that McCann will not be present.
Sure it would have been great to see McCann extend his annual tradition of playing in the All-Star Game. It was always a pleasure to see and hear the genuine excitement his parents got when preparing to watch their son play in the Midsummer Classic. The veteran catcher stands as the only player in Braves history to earn All-Star selections in each of his first six full seasons.
But the fact that he did not earn a seventh straight All-Star selection should prove beneficial to him and the Braves.
Chipper Jones earned five All-Star selections from 1996-2001. The only year he did not receive an invitation during this span was 1999, which just happened to be the same year in which he won his only National League MVP Award.
Given McCann is hitting .226 with a .295 on-base percentage and a .385 slugging percentage, I’m certainly not going to predict he will be named MVP at the end of this season. But when he was preparing to make his first start in All-Star Game at this time last year, he was at least in the MVP discussion. Through his first 91 games last year, he batted 306 with 18 home runs and a .889 slugging percentage.
Then McCann suffered the oblique strain that completely altered the direction of his career. He returned from the disabled list too early and struggled mightily while proving tentative with his swing. After recording three consecutive two-hit games in the middle of June, he felt he had finally cured some of the bad habits that developed while he was hesitant to stretch his oblique too far last year.
But he has hit .143 (7-for-49) with two extra-base hits in the 12 games that have followed.
In the 99 games played since suffering the injury, he has batted .210 with 15 home runs, a .294 on-base percentage and .371 slugging percentage. His .294 on-base percentage and .664 OPS rank last among all Braves players who have compiled at least 400 plate appearances since he made his early return from the disabled list.
Braves hitting coach Greg Walker has raved about some of the pregame batting practice sessions McCann has recently completed. But the results have not yet matched the excitement.
Jones thinks McCann was victimized by a number of defensive shifts early in the season and is now pressing too hard to escape this maddening stretch. If this is the case and it certainly seems logical, McCann might benefit from the chance to get away from the game for a few days next week.
Greinke Watch: The Braves will have a scout in Milwaukee tonight to watch Zack Greinke pitch against the Marlins. The signing of Ben Sheets to a Minor League contract was a (very) low-risk high reward transaction that could prove quite beneficial. But the Braves will continue searching for starting pitching and Greinke will remain the target.
As mentioned last week, the Braves are not going to make this deal (see this year’s American League All-Star team) without the confidence they will be able to lock the pitcher up beyond this season. Expectations are that they would need to provide the former Cy Young Award winner an annual salary of approximately $20 million. That might be a little steep. But knowing this is a possibility, the Braves have not seemingly lessened their interest in Greinke.
Greinke is represented by Casey Close, who also represents Sheets, and Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward. The fact that Sheets threw for at least four teams – Phillies, Cardinal and Royals included – last week at Georgia Tech might have benefited the Braves. Close has had a good relationship with Georgia Tech head baseball coach Danny Hall dating back to the days when he played for Michigan while Hall was coaching the Wolverines.
Final Vote: During Spring Training, Adam LaRoche and Mark DeRosa indicated Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was a class act. Everything we’ve seen or heard since then has seemingly supported this fact.
When the Final Vote candidates were announced yesterday, it was easy to assume the battle would between Jones and Harper. Then after the Braves and Nationals concluded their series finale yesterday, Harper showed the respect he has for the game by saying Jones deserved the chance to be at one more All-Star Game.
“You’ve got Chipper up there and I think a Hall of Famer should be able to go to the All-Star Game in his last year, so if I was gonna make a vote, I’d vote for Chip,” said Harper, who was three years-old when Jones played in his first All-Star Game.
While it would be nice to see Jones gain one more All-Star selection, Michael Bourn, who is also on the Final Vote, ballot is also very deserving. There is a chance Bourn could added to the roster to replace the injured Matt Kemp.
To receive the 2012 All-Star GameMLB.com Final Vote presented by Firestone mobile ballot, text the word “VOTE” to 89269. To vote, simply text message N1 (Bourn) or N5 (Jones) to 89269. Mobile voting in Canada also is available and fans should text their choices to 101010. Std rates may apply.