The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

APRIL  2005

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







2005 Atlanta Braves

By Jerry Keys

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…Wilson Phillips… Cassettes… Kuwait Invaded… those were commonly heard the last time the Atlanta Braves were not said in connection with play-offs.  The magic number now climbs to 14.

Atlanta took heavy losses in the free agent market, losing J.D. Drew, Russ Ortiz, Jaret Wright, Paul Byrd, and Antonio Alfonseca.  They lost Charles Thomas and Juan Cruz in trade, although it did bring in superstar hurler Tim

Hudson from Oakland. 

New faces in Atlanta this spring will be reliever Dan Kolb (trade from Milwaukee), set-up specialist Gabe White (free agent), and outfielder Raul Mondesi (free agent).  A familiar face returning was outfielder Brian Jordan (free agency).

Atlanta will face extreme opposition for the NL East pennant in 2005 from the Florida Marlins and New York Mets.  The Philadelphia Phillies could pose a threat if their pitching holds up.

Jerry Keys

Tim Hudson 
"Biggest new Brave hurler since Maddux in 1993"

Atlanta's offense is not like the fence-busting line-ups of years past.  They try to get by on speed, precise hitting, and the occasional long ball from the Jones' (Chipper and Andruw).  Speed is evident up the middle with Marcus Giles (8 HR, 48 RBI, .311 AVG, 17 SB) at 2B and Rafael Furcal (14, 59, .279, 29) at shortstop.  Chipper returns to the hot corner after a stint in the outfield (30, 96, .248) and 1B is shared by Adam LaRoche (13, 45, .278) and the ageless Julio Franco (6, 57, .309, at age 46).

The outfield is veteran based with Andruw in center (29, 91, .261), Mondesi (3, 15, .241, 133 AB with Pittsburgh and Anahiem) in right, and Jordan (5, 23, .222, 212 AB with Texas) in left.  Plate duties will be manned by Johnny Estrada (9, 76, .314), once an afterthought throw-in in a salary dumping maneuver by Atlanta in the Kevin Millwood trade who was an All-Star in 2004, and Eddie Perez (3, 13, .229). 

The heat will fall squarely on the Jones' to pick up the slack if the new acquisitions, Mondesi and Jordan, don't live up to expectations.  Atlanta should be one of the teams that benefit greatly from the "Return of the Pitcher".  Small-ball and base stealing is back in vogue as the four-bag taters are now under scrutiny.

Even though the big name pitchers Atlanta once boasted of have departed, Atlanta still boasted the best team ERA in baseball last year.  The staff will be anchored by newly-acquired Hudson (12-6, 103 SO, 3.53 ERA in 27 starts), followed by once starter turned reliever turned starter again John Smoltz (11-9, 156, 3.19 in 29 starts, based on 1999 stats - his last year as a starter), Mike Hampton (13-9, 87, 4.28 in 29 starts), John Thomson (14-8, 133, 3.72 in 33 starts) and Horacio Ramirez (2-4, 31, 2.39 in 9 starts).

Brian Jordan 
"Can he match the numbers he put up in Atlanta the 1st time around?"

Kolb (39 SV, 2.98) takes over as the closer and his supporting cast will include  Chris Reitsma (6-4, 60, 4.07, 2), Kevin Gryboski (3-2, 24, 2.84, 2), Roman Colon (2-1, 15, 3.32), Tom Martin (0-2, 30, 3.97, 1 with Los Angeles and Atlanta), White (1-3, 41, 6.94, 1 with NY Yankees and Cincinnati, Adam Bernero (1-1, 21, 5.57, albeit in Colorado).

Hudson is the later version of Greg Maddux and over the next six years he will add new hardware (Cy Young trophies) while under Coach Leo's (Mazzone) tutelage.  He will provide 225 IP, 18-20 wins, and a 2. something ERA for years to come.  Hudson's numbers will mirror Roger Clemens' numbers last year, when he as well reaped great benefit from switching from the American League (DH) to the National League (pitchers hit).

Along with Hudson's 18-20 wins, I am still waiting for Hampton to repeat his 1999 season of 22-4 and 2.90.  I feel that Hampton should have a breakthrough year with Atlanta and record 17-19 wins this year.  Thomson posted career numbers in '04 and a repeat of those numbers are expected.  The keys to Atlanta's pennant hopes will be how Smoltz performs as a starter and if Ramirez can return to his 12-4 2003 form.

If Smoltz and Ramirez live up to expectations and the other three starters post expectant numbers, the starting staff should come away with 80 wins between them, more than enough to capture their 14th division.  If not, the Marlins and Mets will be waiting.

Mike Hampton     

"Breakthrough season in 2005?"