Even Without Freddie, Braves Remain Beasts of The East
ALSO: READERS REACT TO LAST WEEKEND'S COLUMNS
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Did you know…
In 18 seasons of the competitive balance (luxury) tax, there have been three seasons in which one team paid tax, ten seasons when two teams paid, two seasons when three teams paid, and one each with four, five, and six teams paying . . .
Work stoppages wiped out the first 86 games of the 1973 season (pension negotiations), 50 days of the 1981 season (free agency compensation rules), and 232 days of the 1994 and 1995 seasons, including the ‘94 postseason . . .
According to The Athletic, The Boston Red Sox have multiple players who are unvaccinated and therefore ineligible to play in Toronto . . .
Baseball industry revenue hit a record $9.7 billion in 2019, the last season unaffected by Covid . . .
So now the owners will reap revenue windfalls from streaming games on Peacock (Sunday Night Baseball) and Apple+ (Friday Night Baseball) . . .
Phil Mushnick of The New York Post writes, “More playoff tiers will benefit only team owners, as per ticket and TV revenues” and adds that adding additional streaming outlets will make baseball “less accessible to its devoted but thoroughly abused and ignored fans/customers/suckers.”
Braves On Their Way To Fifth Straight Title
Mets fans who breathed a sigh of relief when Freddie Freeman left Atlanta for his Southern California roots should think again.
Even after a madcap signing spree that swelled the New York payroll to a bloated $290 million — more than double that of the Braves — Atlanta remains the class of the National League East.
Matt Olson, obtained from Oakland after the Braves got tired of waiting for Freddie to make up his mind, will be better, last longer, and cost less than the former MVP.
Last year, playing half his schedule in a pitchers’ park, he not only hit 39 homers (eight more than Freeman) but slapped 22 of his home runs against left-handed pitchers — tying Stan Musial’s 1949 major-league mark for left-handed hitters.
Like Freeman, who lives in Southern California, Olson went home; he’s a Georgia boy, along with newly-signed Braves reliever Collin McHugh.
The Braves kept another left-handed slugger, Championship Series MVP Eddie Rosario, and could even become the first team in baseball history with 30-homer hitters at every spot in the lineup.
Say what? Marcell Ozuna, free of injuries and legal problems, led the league in homers and RBI in 2020, while Dansby Swanson fell just three short of the 30-homer club last year. If Travis d’Arnaud plays enough, he could make it too.
The rest are locks: Ronald Acuna, Jr., Adam Duvall, and Rosario plus infielders Austin Riley, Ozzie Albies, and Olson.
Veteran starter Charlie Morton, healed from his broken leg, joins Ian Anderson and lefty Max Fried at the top of the rotation that could get an enormous boost from the mid-season return of Mike Soroka, a former All-Star out most of the last two years with a torn Achilles. The bullpen is fine — especially the trio of lefties who throttled the Astros in the World Series, Tyler Matzek, A.J. Minter, and Will Smith.
The Braves are also a far better defensive team than the Mets, even though New York added much-needed speed and defense in free agent signee Starling Marte. He’ll play center, flanked by Brando Nimmo and Mark Canha, with power-hitters Eduardo Escobar and Pete Alonso at the infield corners. The Mets desperately need comebacks from middle infielders Francisco Lindor, Jeff McNeil, and Robinson Cano, as well as catcher James McCann.
New York has plenty of pitching, led by Cy Young contenders Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, helped by ex-Oakland ace Chris Bassitt. But the Mets can’t match the depth of Atlanta’s bullpen after losing Aaron Loup and Jeurys Familia.
While the Mets are licking their chops over their new additions, they might have lost more than they gained. Headed out of town are Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Loup, Javy Baez, Jonathan Villar, and Michael Conforto, among others.
Last year, New York held the divisional lead for the first half, then folded like a stack of cards. The Mets wound up third wit ha 77-85 mark that left them 11 1/2 games behind Atlanta, the eventual world champions.
For them to mount any sort of challenge, deGrom and Scherzer will have to stay healthy — something they failed to do in 2021. The former had a barking elbow that kept him sidelined after July 7, while the latter reported a “dead arm” that prevented him from pitching in NLCS Game 6, which the Dodgers lost as a result.
They do have a combined five Cy Youngs but age could also be a factor. Although Morton is a year older than Scherzer, the rest of the Atlanta starters are considerably younger than their counterparts in Flushing.
Buck Showalter, the latest man to manage both New York teams, was a wise choice but he’ll have to go a long way to top Brian Snitker, at 66 the oldest manager in the National League.
If the Mets manage to reach the playoffs, where their top-heavy starting staff could excel, they’ll have to follow the wild-card route. The road to the division title still runs through Atlanta.
Former AP newsman Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and more. E.mail him at email@example.com.
Writer’s Columns Generate Responses From Readers
By Dan Schlossberg
My Here’s The Pitch columns last weekend stirred up a hornet’s nest of opinion from readers. So why not share some of them with today’s column?
Let’s lead off with an e.mail from my long-time friend and fellow author Mike Schuman of Keene, NH:
Agree with your point. "Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of “official” seven-inning games and extra-inning ghost runners automatically stationed on second base."
The concept of starting the 10th inning with a runner on second base always reminded me of cheap Monopoly -- where all players age given the deeds before the dice have even been rolled.
Anyway, extra-inning games are hardly the main culprit in 4-hour-long games. Most extra-inning games are decided by the 11th or 12th inning.
There are already too many teams in the post-season. Can't stand the idea of a sub- .500 team getting into the playoffs.
I'm for fewer division games. I'm glad the new balanced schedule will have 76% common opponents with teams in the league, up from 52%. I'm sick of teams in weak divisions padding their record against perennial garbage clubs.
I thought that is what the World Series is for? American League vs National League.
If [Freddie] leaves the Braves, I hope he signs with the Angels. Anyone but the stinking Dodgers.
Sorry to hear that Freddie’s going to LA, but glad he’s not a Yankee!!
Finally, this from Howie Siegel:
Emmett Ashford from my first games at Gilmore Field. Nice. No Manfred Man on 2nd base. Thank God.
Dan Schlossberg has co-authored books with Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. The former AP newsman, a 1969 Syracuse University journalism graduate, now covers the game for Here’s The Pitch, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Latino Sports, and forbes.com from his base in Northern New Jersey. E.mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TickPick, a secondary marketplace for baseball tickets, said it had a buyer pay $34,629 for seven seats in the 200 level, on the third-base side, of Atlanta’s Truist Park . . .
Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox, a fan of The Weather Channel, had a habit of hiding in the “radar room” before games at Turner Field . . .
After the last work stoppage (the 1994-95 player strike), a Gallup poll showed 69 per cent of fans had lost interest in the game and accurately predicted that it would take years before MLB crowds returned to their pre-strike levels . . .
Spring training, an economic lifeline to many small towns, took a big hit with the lockout, especially after the city of Dunedin, FL pumped $102 million into the makeover of Toronto’s TD Ballpark . . .
Grapefruit League baseball produces an annual economic impact of $687.1 million, according to the Florida Sports Foundation . . .
Do Rob Manfred and Tony Clark have job security? Manfred has been commissioner since January 2015 and Clark has been union chief since Michael Weiner died in November 2013.
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