Thursday, March 24, 2005

up, up, and away

Well, after getting finally established Out Here, I guess that it's high time that I actually start writing something down that no one will read. How's that for sound logic?

I wrote to Mr. Godric Finchale a few weeks ago about the Atlanta Braves pitching lineup for this year, and the changes that have come down through the pipes over the last few months. Since I spend a lot of time in the car each day (thankfully, not commuting), I listen to a lot of sports radio, more specifically ESPN radio. I keep hearing people talk about the Yankees pitching staff this year. They signed Carl Pavano from the Marlins for 40 million and 4 years, ignoring the fact that he's basically a .500 pitcher for his career. (Actually 57-58 with a 4.21 ERA) They finagled Randy Johnson from the DBacks in what was the most annoying long and protracted trade discussion since Gay-Rod the year before.

And, to cap it off, they signed Leo Mazzone/Atlanta Braves reclamation project Jaret Wright to entirely too much money. (3 years for 21 million) Keep in mind, this is a kid who came to the Braves last year after being waived by the Padres. For the Braves to sign him, he had to clear waivers, which means that not a single major league team wanted to touch Jaret Wright with a ten-foot pole. He'd had severe arm problems and had been successful early in his career throwing total gas with Cleveland, overpowering and overmatching hitters.

Long story short, he comes to Atlanta for a bargain price, ($850,000) and Leo Mazzone gets him to back off the gas, bring back his sinker, rely on locating his fastball, and use the great defense behind him (A. Jones, Furcal, Giles, Chipper, C. Thomas etc.) to get outs. Wright goes on to have a great year for the Bravos, because he bought into what Leo was preaching and became more of a finesse pitcher.

The Braves were leery of paying Wright any significant amount of money, certainly for more than 1 or 2 years, and so the Yanks paid way too much, for way too long. I heard some Atlanta people complaining once again, comparing it to other pitchers who have left Atlanta when we wouldn't give them money or years.

This brings me to my point. Think about it. There's not a pitcher that Leo Mazzone, Bobby Cox, and John Schuerholz have let get away, that has had better years than they did in Atlanta. Somehow, the big three above always know when to let guys go, and when to keep them around. Think about the pitchers that they let walk, some of which left us Braves fans scratching our collective heads at the time. Where are any of these guys now?

Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Kevin Millwood, Steve Avery, John Burkett, Damian Moss, Mike Remlinger, Kent Mercker, Mark Wohlers, Jason Marquis....the list goes on and on.

Not a single one of those guys has ever had near the success anywhere else that they did in Atlanta. Some completely self-destructed after leaving. Most are a shadow of who they were in Atlanta. The Braves leadership (Schuerholz, Cox, and Mazzone) have never made a downright awful decision with letting good pitching leave. Some guys haven't succeeded in Atlanta, but no one who has succeeded, has ever left and done any better. (I'm not forgetting about the Braves letting Jason Schmidt go to San Francisco. There are rare exceptions, and he wasn't in ATL very long)

The cycle has a good chance of continuing with Jaret Wright. He'll be pitching in the most pressure-packed environment in MLB with a new pitching coach. Not to mention the fact that Yankees pitching coach for the last few years, Mel Stottlemyre, retired after last year.

What will happen when good location and ground balls in play aren't working for Wright at some point next year and he doesn't have the smart tutelage of Leo Mazzone to calm him down? He'll start throwing as hard as he can again, and, SNAP, there goes the arm once again.

Once more, the Braves will look smarter than everyone else. Braves starters will probably win as many games this year as the 40-50 million dollar staff of the Yankees. Just like Tolkien said, "Not all that glitters is gold, and not all who wander are lost."

Bring on Opening Day.