Go ahead and your calendar for a few dates. The first is May 24. Georgia Coach Mark Richt will be speaking at Doublegate Country Club. In an effort to bring the university to the fan base, Athletic Director Greg McGarity and Vic Sullivan, president of the UGA Alumni Association, have launched UGA Day.
Richt, basketball coach Mark Fox, McGarity, University President Michael Adams, and head of UGA’s Honors Program Dr. David Williams will spend the summer crisscrossing the South and alternating speaking assignments. If you want more information you can visit www.alumni.uga.edu/alumni/home.
A 1995 encore?
The other date to remember is October. Write this down. I am predicting the Braves will be knee-deep in the World Series when Halloween is closing in on us. Consider that Atlanta just won a series against the team with the best record in baseball, while Jason Heyward was on the bench.
Not only was the team without J-Hey, but Chipper pulled himself out of the lineup on Sunday because of a torn something in his right knee. Torn and knee are not good combinations for Chipper or the Braves, but this problem is apparently fixable and may only cost us a few weeks without the switch hitter. This is not good news, but it ain’t all bad, either. At 39, Jones was only going to give us between 90 and 110 games anyway. This is manageable, and better now than September.
So Prado will move to third and Hinske to left when J-Hay comes back. No problem. We keep on ticking.
Then there is the deepest pitching staff in baseball. Tim Hudson. Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, and Brandon Beachy as starters on the main club, and Mike Minor and Julio Teheran seasoning in Gwinett. Plus Kris Medlen will be coming off the DL in August. We are stacked with starters, but only have one baseball. It is a nice problem to have. The Braves currently lead the National League with a 2.99 ERA. The Phillies are second at 3.13.
The bullpen is solid, too. Closer Craig Kimbrel has a 95 mph fastball, but can be shaky at times. Setup man Jonny Venters is unhittable. His slider may be the best in baseball.
So where is the weakness? So far it has been at the plate. Nate McClouth got off to a slow start, but has managed to bring his average up to .259, mostly from the eighth spot in the order. Dan Uggla has been flirting with the Mendoza line all season, but you know he will eventually get hot. He is currently hitting .205, but has busted seven home runs, including the game winner on Sunday.
The bench has been a little weak, too. Now that Hinske is likely to be starting for a while, our only pop from a pinch hitter is Joe Mather, who has 0 long balls and a .250 average and reserve catcher David Ross (.333 with 3 HR). Last season’s clutch hitter Brooks Conrad has been a disaster with a .105 average and only two hits all season.
The Braves may be forced to do something about Conrad. One noticeable difference between Freddi Gonzalez and Bobby Cox is Gonzalez will make a move to address this problem. Cox had so many years in and such a comfort level in his job, he would hold on to players through terrible slumps just because he liked them. Remember the summer of Norton? Cox was bulletproof. Who was gonna do or say anything to him that would force a move.
Gonzalez is more pliable on these issues, because bulletproof he ain’t. Now if he directs us through the season to a win over the best team in the American League in October, that will change.
By the way, have you noticed which team has the best record in the AL? The Cleveland Indians. Who did we play in 1995? Just sayin’.