Archive for the ‘ Baseball ’ Category

Nate McLouth “Highlights”

Like most Braves fans I was extremely excited to see the 2011 baseball season get underway.  Although by the end of 2010 we had lost in the playoffs to the eventual World Series Champions, had lost the greatest manager in franchise (and baseball) history, and had many questions surrounding the third base, outfield, and closer positions, there were still plenty of reasons to be optimistic.  We brought in a prolific power bat in Dan Uggla, had four or five of the top prospects in baseball looking to make an impact, the organization seemed to transition flawlessly from the Bobby Cox era to the one now led by Fredi Gonzalez, and Nate McLouth had regained his confidence and his trademark hair-highlights.  So far, however, the highlights on McLouth’s head are the only ones he’s been able to produce.

Just like last year, the Braves are off to a slower-than-expected start, and I can’t help but notice one particular similarity to last years starting line-up:  Nate McLouth is hitting at the top of the order.  Don’t get me wrong, no starter is having any great success at the plate, but I feel like McLouth is the constant in this experiment.  Bobby Cox went all-in on Nate Dogg early last season.  By mid-May Atlanta was two games under .500 and McLouth was hitting. 167.  On May 14th Jason Heyward moved up to the two spot while McLouth was dropped to eighth.  The Braves finished the final weeks of May by winning 13 of the 17 games they played.  I hope you can see the correlation.

As a hitter at the top of the order your job is to get on base so the 3, 4, 5, and (in our case) 6 hitters can drive in the runs.  As of today (April 11th), McLouth has an on-base-percentage of .289 and the Braves have scored 3 or fewer runs in 70% of their games.  Personally, I would like to see a change before we repeat last April’s performance and find ourselves far too many games behind the heavily-favored Phillies.  Moving McLouth to the eight spot in the line up not only allows a player like Heyward the opportunity to get more at bats hitting second, it gets Freddie Freeman out of the eighth spot and into one with a little more protection, as he won’t be hitting immediately in front of the pitcher.

Despite the slow start I’m still very optimistic about the season and Fredi’s ability to manage the Atlanta Braves.  Those feelings could definitely change, however, if by mid-May McLouth is still hitting in front of Chipper, McCann, Uggla, Heyward, Gonzalez, Freeman, and…….. ok, I won’t say the starting pitcher…….. for now.  Oh, but if Nasty Nate does, somehow, hit above .280, scores more than 90 runs, and steals 20+ bases, I will be the first person to copy his style and put highlights in my hair.  Because if McLouth puts together that type of season, then there must be something magical about those highlights.

The “Bruin Approach” to Baseball’s Race Issue

The Bruin Approach:  Keep your mouth shut and let your actions do the talking.

Origin of the “Bruin Approach”: An old fraternity brother of mine (nicknamed Bruin) wasn’t particularly gifted in the art of  flirtation.  Instead of trying to flatter the opposite sex with words, Bruin kept his mouth shut and attracted women with his good looks and actions.  It is rumored that this approach was very successful…. Now onto a much more important matter.

The lack of African Americans in Major League Baseball is a popular topic in the media today.  If you haven’t heard, only 9.2 percent of Major League Baseball players are African American in 2010, as opposed to 27 percent in 1975.  Over the past few years,  some of the most popular African American players in the game have shown their disapproval for this statistic by issuing opinionated statements to the media.  My problem with this isn’t the fact that they are bringing attention to the issue, it’s the type of attention they are bringing to it.  Here are some examples:

Now, I can’t imagine that players like Hudson and Hunter would intentionally want to hurt the issue even more and give young African Americans another reason to choose football or basketball over baseball.  In my opinion,  however, they are doing just that.  What else could these statements be taken as?  When Sheffield, an eight time All Star, calls one of the greatest managers for baseball’s most storied franchise biased; or when Hudson infers that older African American free agents have a harder time getting jobs; are they expecting to inspire their peers to pick up a bat and glove over a pig skin?  The negative implications surrounding these statements are exponentially increased by the fact that they are coming from the very people that young, aspiring African American baseball players look up to.   If the current African American players in the game want to increase the percentage of black players in baseball, they need to quit drawing harmful press to the issue and concentrate on activities that will have a positive influence on young black athletes…. or in other words…. use the Bruin Approach.  Initiatives such as Hudson’s “Around the Mound” program give young African Americans a reason to stay involved in baseball and instill a positive outlook on the game.  Hopefully, with a little less talk and a little more action, we will be seeing more players like Jason Heyward, Ryan Howard, Hudson, Hunter, and Sheffield in the years to come.