This season hasn’t exactly gone the way most Atlanta Braves fans have wanted but it is long from over. Atlanta has greatly underachieved and yet are just 5.0 games back of the Wild Card leading Colorado Rockies and 7.0 back of the National League East Philadelphia Phillies.
Despite the early struggles Atlanta is far from done. Something I have noticed is that General Manager Frank Wren has been receiving a lot of criticism from fans for his “idiotic” moves. Let’s take a look and see how “idiotic” they really are.
The first move I would like to point out is the trade for Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan. Atlanta acquired the pair from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Tyler Flowers and Brent Lillibridge. So far this year Javier Vazquez is 8-7 with a 3.01 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 140.1 innings pitched. Vazquez is tied for 3rd in the Major Leagues in WHIP (1.05) and has the 3rd best K/9 (10.13). In other words Vazquez has been spectacular this season. Logan on the other hand has been mediocre with a 4.50 ERA in 10.0 innings pitched.
Let’s look at what Chicago got. Tyler Flowers, was the starting catcher for the U.S. Futures team. Great, right? Oh wait that Brian McCann guy is blocking his way to the majors. Brent Lillibridge is currently sporting a fantastic .162 BA in 26 games for the White Sox this year. The bottom line is Frank Wren robbed the White Sox. That trade was not in anyway fair.
Wren has received some flack for the signing of Derek Lowe. Lowe is signed for four years and is making $15MM this year. Not a great contract but Lowe brings the post season experience Atlanta could use. Lowe just happens to be the only pitcher in Major League history to be the winning pitcher in the deciding game of the Divisional Series, Championship Series and World Series in one post season. That’s experience for you. Lowe is also very durable so the 4th year on the contract does not seem so bad. Lowe has pitched in no fewer than 180 innings in the last 7 years. Had Wren not offered the 4th year on the contract there is no way Lowe would have chosen Atlanta.
That is just terrible because Smoltz’s 2-4 record and 7.12 ERA looks so great. As for Tom Glavine, his fastball was topping out in the low 80’s. Really? Atlanta wants to win, not give out pity contracts.
A controversial signing was that of Japanese veteran Kenshin Kawakami. So far he is just 5-8 with a 4.37 ERA. One should also know that the ball is smaller in Japan so it can take some time for Kawakami to adjust. For comparison Daisuke Matsuzaka was 15-12 with a 4.40 ERA in his first season with the Red Sox. The next season he was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. I’m not saying this will be the same with Kawakami but don’t condemn him yet.
Next we have the Nate McLouth trade that in the thoughts of has decimated Atlanta’s farm system. Atlanta gave up Charlie Morton, who has pitched well (2-3, 3.60 ERA), Gorkys Hernandez and Jeff Locke. In Hernandez’s 53 games for AA Altoona he is hitting a sparkling .239 BA with 5 stolen bases in 10 attempts. Stealing bases is what he does so that’s not looking so great. Not to mention Hernandez and McLouth play the same position so he could have potentially been blocked. In Locke’s 10 games with Advanced A Lynchburg he has a 1-4 record with a 5.31 ERA. Again, Frank Wren robbed a team.
Recently Wren traded Casey Kotchman for Adam LaRoche and cash. This deal was obviously made in an attempt to give the power starved Braves lineup an added boost. Kotchman has hit just 6 home runs this season while LaRoche has 13. Kotchman’s batting average is 30 points higher but he has no where near the power of LaRoche. LaRoche also traditionally gets hot in the second half.
Another complaint is Kotchman’s amazing defense as he has yet to make an error. LaRoche has made just 1 this season while having 61 more total chances. LaRoche also sports a better range factor (9.94) over Kotchman (9.41). Is Kotchman’s defense really that much better? I don’t think so.
The bottom line is Wren has robbed 2 teams on the trade market and really made one signing that hasn’t helped Atlanta (Kawakami). That signing also hasn’t really hurt them either.
Frank Wren has done an above average job whether Braves fans want to admit it or not. He is just so easy to blame for Atlanta’s problems.
Over the past 20 years there have been dozens of pitchers that have challenged the best hitters in the game. They pushed the best teams to their limits and challenged some of the greatest records the game has to offer.
Pitchers like Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan, and John Smoltz have lead the way. Through all the controversy there has been one pitcher who has truly weathered the storm. He has played the game with all the class in the world while bolstering one of the greatest resumes one could ever hope for. That player is #31, Greg Maddux.
On Friday Maddux will have his number retired by the Atlanta Braves. This is after he has had his number retired by the Chicago Cubs earlier this season. Here’s a look back on arguably the greatest pitcher in the last 50 years.
Greg Maddux began his career as a lanky pitcher for the Chicago Cubs in 1986 at the age of 20. Maddux would spend the next 7 season in Chicago, winning at least 15 games 5 times and at least 18 games 3 times. Despite having an excellent resume Maddux’s career was just about to take off. Maddux would then sign with the Atlanta Braves and begin a streak of dominance that has yet to be contested.
Maddux would spend the next 11 seasons with the Braves and would collect 3 of his 4 Cy Young Awards while accumulating 194 wins. Maddux’s best season came in 1995, where he went 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA. He would throw 10 complete games to go with 3 shutouts on his way to his 4th and final Cy Young Award and only World Series victory.
Maddux is an 8-time All-Star and an 18-time Gold Glove winner. Maddux was able to redefine the position from a defensive standpoint on his way to cementing himself as the great defensive pitcher of all time.
Maddux lead the league in wins 3 times (1992, 1994, 1995) and in ERA 4 times (1993, 1994, 1995, 1998). He lead the league in WHIP 4 times (1993, 1994, 1995, 1998) as well as walks per 9 innings pitched 9 times (1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008). Maddux’s durability further proves why he is one of the greatest. In a stretch from 1990-1996 Maddux finished no worse than 2nd in the National League in innings pitched. That streak included 4 years (1991-1995) in which he lead the NL in innings pitched with no fewer than 202.0 (1994).
When it comes to all-time statistics Maddux ranks 13th in innings pitched (5008.1), 8th in wins (355), 4th in games started (740), and 10th in strikeouts (3371). This goes without mentioning he has only walked 999 batters in his entire career.
Not only is Maddux one of the greatest on the field, he has been an amazing human being off the field. In 1993 Maddux formed The Maddux Foundation which has raised over $850,000 for other various charities.
There is no doubt that he is a first ballot Hall of Famer and is one of the greatest pitchers to ever grace the field. A tip of the cap to a Hall of Fame player and a Hall of Fame person.
“Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.”– Warren Spahn