Posted: Monday May 9, 2005 3:39PM; Updated: Monday May 9, 2005 3:39PM
Instead of hoarding guys with an eye for the strike zone and a high OBP, pitching is the key to the whole thing, making it impossible to discount the Leo Mazzone factor.
Submit a comment or question for Lang.
The Braves pitching coach sits there game after game, rocking away as if in need of a Tucks medicated pad, preaching control over power, location over speed, mechanics over style. For some reason, the rest of the league can't unravel this, and the Braves continue to dominate from the mound. The Braves are just 17th in team batting average this season but second in team ERA.
And they're quietly distancing themselves from the rest of baseball. Sunday's 16-0 demolition of the Astros set them at 20-11, the NL's best record. Mike Hampton is 15-2 in his last 21 starts. Chipper Jones is tied for third in the majors in OPS (1.11). Andruw Jones is 16 for his last 33. And thanks to the TBS dugout mic, we know that Bobby Cox still yells "Come on kid!" to his batters after every single pitch.
The only flaw with Southern Fried Baseball is that while it has made the Braves a winning franchise, it's only produced one World Series title, despite 13 consecutive division titles. But postseason travails are not because of the system or the management as much as they are about getting hot at the right time. The Braves have traditionally been a grind-'em-out team that relies more on fundamentals than explosiveness and luck. (And as the Red Sox showed last year, luck absolutely matters.) One of these years, they'll get hot at the right time and get another ring.
Until then, there are more games to win.
Game Of The Week
I like to think of myself as a worldly guy, someone open to watching and attempting to understand sports that for whatever reason aren't as popular in the U.S. as they are overseas. But I still can't figure out cricket. Fun Web site, though.
Superstition Of The Week
After losing six straight games, the Cubs starting pitchers (except for Greg Maddux)shaved their heads on Saturday morning. They then lost again on Saturday. Reminds me of when the Knicks made the playoffs in the late '90s and the players (except for Buck Williams and Pat Ewing) shaved their heads as a sign of solidarity. Asked why Williams refused, Chris Childs explained, "Because his head is shaped like a toaster."
Papal Link Of The Week
Call me crazy, but if I was running the Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club Web site, I'd probably update it a bit more often, especially when the Cardinal, you know, makes news and stuff.
Worker Of The Week
He couldn't get the Rockets past the Mavericks, but Yao Ming was honored in his homeland last week when the Communist Party named him a "model worker." Apparently Jeff Van Gundy had no vote in the matter, though he got a call beforehand from an unnamed source.
Lang Whitaker is the online editor at SLAM magazine and writes daily at SLAMonline.com.