Too often we are eager to criticize performance, but today I have a good news tale. Since televised sports have become an even bigger part of the American experience, our program providers have become our partners.
They deliver the experience in affordable fashion. In more robust economic times a family might attend seven or even 10 Braves games in a season or load up on a fall Saturday to visit Auburn, Athens or Tallahassee. Now that dollars are tighter and stretched a bit more, our programming provider has taken on new importance.
When it became clear Mediacom (888-847-6228) was not going to carry a significant number of the Braves home games, I went on the path to scalp the company. After trying for weeks to get their attention, it became obvious that they are just running out the clock on a tired business model. If the world is going to wireless and satellite, so, too, am I.
Since making the switch to Dish Network (888-830-7144) two weeks ago, there are no complaints. There has been a small glitch in getting our Internet connected, but the sports viewing experience has been greatly enhanced, and from the reaction of the Mediacom reps, they appear happy to have me out of their hair.
After all, this column reaches nearly a dozen people a week. We are a force!
Braves on track for NL East title.
If there is one nervous team in baseball right now, it would be the Phillies. It’s early June and they lead the National League East by 2.5 games. Two and a half measly games is all they can muster?
Think about that. In the last series with the Astros, the Braves’ entire opening day outfield was on the disabled list. Jason Heyward has a tender shoulder, Martin Prado has a staph infection and centerfielder Nate McClouth forgot how to play baseball. So Atlanta has a left fielder, Eric Hinske, that is built like a keg of beer; a center fielder, Jordan Schafer, that looks like a stick figure; and Matt Young and Joe Mather rotating in right. Nothing wrong with Young and Mather; they will both be fine sales associates at Sears, but MLB slugging outfielders they ain’t.
So how does Atlanta play with this depleted roster? They swept Florida and took three of four from the Astros.
That doesn’t bode well for the Phillies. Heyward is starting to hit off a tee and should begin a minor league rehab stint soon, and may be in Atlanta by the weekend. Prado will be back and mad at the baseball since he missed 15 days of action. McClouth is most likely gonna be a bench player, very high paid minor leaguer, or dumped in a trade for whatever Atlanta can get. Schafer has been too good to take out of the lineup in center. He is stealing bases and creating opportunities, and even Dan Uggla is showing signs of recovering his swing since Freddi Gonzales moved him to the two hole in the order.
So we will be getting our bats back, and pitcher Brandon Beachy will be coming off the DL as will Chris Medlen. The Braves already have the best pitching staff in baseball and lead the league with a 2.96 ERA.
The Phillies are second with a 3.18, but their bullpen is not as deep as the one on Hank Aaron Drive. Johnny Venters is sliding into a dual closer role with Craig Kimbrel, and why shouldn’t he? Venters has the best stuff in baseball right now and a 0.44 ERA, lowest in the Bigs. Kimbrel is a great closer with 18 saves already, but I like to call him Mr. Excitement. He never mows down the side, issues too many walks, and should rely more on his 97 mph fastball.
Of course, these aren’t bad problems to have.
Look out Philly. The second half of the season will belong to Atlanta.