— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
September 16, 2003
Sam predicts Atlanta’s playoff roster.
So, in case you haven?t noticed, the end game quickly cometh. In select cities, playoff tickets went on sale today. In a little over 10 days the 2003 major league baseball regular season will be history. Gone. Kaput. I?ll give you a moment?
Okay, now put the hankies away, it?s time to start truly hacking into the second season?s internal organs. The question to start with is the most basic of them all. Who do you take? If you?re the management, what players make it onto your roster for the Divisional Series? This is the sort of thing I live for.
I?m going to start with the Braves, (1) because they?re one of three or so teams that are absolutely guaranteed of playing into October and (2) because that?s what I know best. Of the 25 available spots, some are obvious. Position players will include the following starters:
C ? Javy Lopez
The bench will include:
1B ? Julio Franco
Only an act from God will keep Henry Blanco off the post-season squad, regardless of logic or reason. And being that this is Bobby Cox we?re predicting, you can almost certainly pen in Johnny Estrada. Cox isn?t going into a post-season series without three catchers. So, knock 14 spots off the list, leaving 11 empties to fill with arms.
Pitching, you can ink in:
SP ? Greg Maddux
And here?s where it gets interesting. The Braves? pitching staff really is this Indiana-to-Nebraska-skyline open after those four. And to make it even better, John Smoltz is still on the DL. Let?s assume that Smoltz will be activated and put on the list. That leaves us with seven slots to fill. Your contenders:
I?ve taken the liberty of removing Joe Dawley from considerations.
Now, I?m guessing Cox will only take one more starting pitcher into the five game DLS. (He?ll add the fifth starter back onto the roster for the LCS should the Braves advance.) Taking only performance into consideration, that fourth slot really has to go to Horatio Ramirez. He?s been battling Maddux and Hampton down the stretch for the title of "Braves best starter". Shane Reynolds is exactly what his numbers suggest. His last few starts have been as atrocious as any of his previous. But Ramirez has options, and there was rumor of him being the shuffle victim because he could be removed from the 40-man roster without any chance of being claimed on waivers. (This begs the question, of course, that if someone were to actually claim Shane Reynolds on waivers, why on Earth would you not give him to them?) Still, I?m going to pencil Ramirez into the fourth starter slot and just be prepared to scream and yell should Reynolds take it instead.
The bullpen is a completely open ended equation. I think we can reasonably remove Jason Marquis and Jung Keun Bong from the hunt for those last six spots. Neither has pitched well this year, a few early season relief appearances for Bong notwithstanding. Marquis has the added weight of having squabbled publicly about his usage, alienating Cox and Mazzone earlier this year. Last year his versatility and athleticism (he was often used as a pinch runner down the stretch in 2002) earned him a spot in the DLS. With Mike "A Great All Around Athlete" Hampton around this year, he won?t get those special bonus points, and that 6.06 ERA isn?t making much of a case either.
Ray King, on the other hand, will be there. He?s horrible when he inherits runners, but his work as a setup guy starting his own innings is superb. ($1 to Colin William and asb.ab.) King will be the primary LH setup guy out of the pen. Similarly, Kevin Gryboski will be on the roster so long as he?s healthy. He?s just off of the DL and hasn?t been used since being activated, so he is still a question mark, but if he?s not hurting Cox will take him as the designated "need a ground ball double play" go to guy. His tendency to give up gopher balls could make him either hero or goat, depending on how his sinker works in pivotal playoff situations, but he?s on the team regardless. So we?re down to four slots.
Roberto Hernandez is a frontrunner for one of them, simply because he?s old. If he makes it onto the roster it will be his veteran moxie that got him there, because he has pitched abysmally in the second half. Jimmy Haynes bad. There?s no way I?d let him anywhere near the post-season, personally, but I fear Cox and Mazzone?s fascination with relievers who can relate to Julio Franco, generationally.
Speaking of pitchers who have just sucked wazzoo after the break, there?s no way in hell Trey Hodges makes my team. I have faith that the real management will come to a similar conclusion. Hodges has either been hurt (one theory) or the league has simply caught up to him the second and third time around (my theory), but regardless, since the All-Star break he has been beaten around worse than Ann Coulter at a logician?s convention. No way he?s going to make a single pitch in elimination tourney play. Nuh-uh. Not a chance.
Darren Holmes presents Cox with another opportunity to veteranize his pen. But like Gryboski, Holmes hasn?t pitched in a long time, has been on the DL for a while, and would have to be activated and prove his worth again. He doesn?t make my pen in a perfect world, though he might make the Braves?. In his stead I take Will Cunnane, but I think, as long as Holmes can pitch, the Braves have to take both. It?s either that or Hernandez, and I?d personally take my chances on Holmes. That leaves us with two spots. Kent Mercker gets one. He throws hard, is left-handed, and is the anti-Ray King. Mercker?s numbers when coming in with men on base are stupendous this year. His numbers while starting an inning are pretty bad. (Another $1 to Colin and asb.ab. I?ll owe him beer soon.)
The last spot, you ask? The answer to that question depends on your preference of devils. Do you prefer the devil you know or the devil you don?t? The devil you know is the aforementioned Roberto Hernandez. I would not pitch him in a boat; I would not pitch him with a goat. But that leaves me to slot in Jaret Wright as the last guy in the pen. If we assume San Diego doesn?t really count, Wright is the devil I don?t know. Of course, San Diego does count and I?m just trying to make myself feel better about taking him. Still, if I?m making the call I go with Wright. Wright pitched horribly early, only managing to put something together after the Braves waiver-wired him away from the Padres. But at least his short burst of goodness is recent. Hernandez used up all of his pixie dust in May, as far as I can tell, and I?d rather have the questionable flame throwing righty recently on a roll than the questionable flame throwing righty recently on the DL.
So, there you go. My DLS roster for Atlanta reads thusly:
C ? Javy Lopez
SP-R ? Greg Maddux
The asterisks denote players recently or currently on the DL, and thus questionable, but still I?d argue the best available talent. Horatio Ramirez provides and extra lefty to somewhat balance out an otherwise RH dominated pen. (And yet another reason to drop Shane Reynolds!) And really, considering the talent available for the 25th spot, I?m not sure Johnny Estrada isn?t as good a guy to have as anyone. Actually, given my druthers I?d take Estrada, drop Henry Blanco (who is useless) and add Jesse Garcia as a pinch runner and backup middle infielder. Garcia wouldn?t be less of a threat offensively than Blanco, and he can at least steal a base. He would also provide here-comes-Mark-Prior insurance should something terrible happen to an infielder. He can even shag flies in the OF if absolutely necessary, and Robert Fick is as good an emergency third catcher as anyone will ever need.