No one wants to root for assholes.* Sports fans, in this day and age, are often put into a weird corner. We dedicate time, money and pieces of our souls to teams which honestly, see us as not much more than the cash cow, ever advancing their bottom line. Every time I hear “Red Sox Nation” or “This is Braves Country” I die a little inside, as no amount of corporate wizardry is going to make me like my team any more or less.
*Sorry Red Sox fans, I don’t know how you do it.
So then, in the age of free agency, what is it that keeps us in love with our teams? Really it boils down to three things; winning, history and likeability. Everyone loves a winner. This is proven time and time again. Win games and the seats will be filled. History plays a large part too, because of the “this was my dad’s team” angle, combined with your own childhood memories associated at the ballpark of your favorite team. I know a large part of my youth and early adulthood involves Turner Field, division titles and the agony of defeat.
But, aside from those other two, which honestly are probably most important, is the likeability of your team. If my team fields a likeable team, I don’t care if you’re awful, I’ll watch every game(2005 Hawks). While, even if one of my teams are playing great, but they aren’t likeable, then I won’t become nearly as invested in them(2010-2011 Falcons). But what makes a team likeable? Well, it’s a number of factors, ranging from the way they play(think up-tempo vs. iso in basketball), to the players themselves, to the general feel you get from the team.
Today, I’m going to look at the 2012 Braves, analyze the 25 man roster and see just how likeable this team is. Note, I am only looking at how I feel about the player THIS year. Sure, 1997 Livan Hernandez would rank far differently than 2012 Livan Hernandez. I will rate every player on a scale of 1 to 5 with a 1 being a Roger Clemens/Barry Bonds love child(aka Bryce Harper) and a 5 being Brian McCann*.
*That is what we in the writing business call dramatic irony!
The Starting Lineup
Brian McCann – C – 5/5 – Brian McCann is easily the most likeable player on the Braves and one of the most likeable players in baseball. He’s the local kid made good, with just enough of that “aw shucks” about him to win over even your most ardent cynic(aka, me). He puts up monster numbers in baseball’s most demanding position, he’s a perennial all-star and unlike most ball players, he actually seems like he’d be a good dude to grab a beer with. Did I mention he’s fat? Which alone isn’t that special, but the man steals bases! That’s right, 21 stolen bases for his career so far. I bet if you did the body fat to stolen bases ratio, McCann would be your champion. And lets not forget about those two career triples…I remember when he hit his first one in 2008 and how much his teammates laughed at him, as he couldn’t catch his breath for at least two weeks afterwards.
Freddie Freeman – 1B – 3.5/5 – Freeman could easily score higher than a 3.5 if not for two factors. First of all, he’s incredibly ugly/goofy looking. I would mostly compare his looks to Eddie Munster meets Bat Boy, the National Enquirer sensation from the 90s. Every time I see a highlight or a picture of Freeman I laugh at him…I know its cruel, but he’s a 22 year old millionaire with endless potential, so the joke is really on me. Second, he needs a longer track record. He certainly lit the world up in his rookie campaign, but lets see if he can sustain it. Jeff Francoeur* effectively ruined all young hitting prospects on the Braves for years to come. Braves fans will remain skeptical until you’re good for at least four years now. But seriously, Freeman seems like the future at first base and I’m pumped to watch him grow into a dominant force.
*Yeah, I spelled that without looking it up, BAM!
Dan Uggla – 2B – 3/5 – You’ve got to love the fact that Dan Uggla is roughly 5’2, plays his heart out and can crush some impressive home runs with his short, powerful swing. You also have to respect that he wears a youth medium sized jersey, despite the fact that he’s built like a brick shithouse. You don’t have to like the fact that a gargoyle could play better defense at second base, his contract is an albatross or that he looks like the kind of guy who will be involved in a domestic dispute sometime in his career.
Chipper Jones – 3B – 4.5/5 – If I had ranked Chipper a couple of years ago, he’d have gotten a much lower score, as I’d grown tired of the Braves playing a guy 13 million to play 100 games a year. But, this is Larry Wayne’s final year and when he leaves, so will go a player who was such a large part of my childhood. I mean sure, he’s going to miss a couple of games a week and have at least two stretches on the DL, but lets give the old battleaxe his due. He’s a hall of famer, he’s still productive when he plays, he’s a great clubhouse presence and in the age of the awful sports interview, Chipper is candid and always entertaining. He’ll certainly be missed.
Tyler Pastornicky – SS – 2/5 – I give him a 2, because I’d just feel too guilty giving a rookie a 1. This is a guy who had a decent year at AAA, but isn’t known as a great hitter, his defense is average, and perhaps worst of all, I don’t like his name. I don’t like his nickname either…Rev…get it? Because Pastor is in his name. That’s the worst nickname reasoning I’ve ever heard. I refuse to believe that we couldn’t have found a better option or at least a better nickname at shortstop.
Martin Prado – LF – 4/5 – If you look up “scrappy team player” in the dictionary, there is a picture of Martin Prado there. Here’s a guy who can play four positions, pretty well, and provides a lot of flexibility for when Chipper takes his aforementioned 60 games off a year. Prado isn’t going to be a hall of famer, but he hits well enough and has that can-do attitude which makes him a fan favorite. Also, Martin is the kind of guy that fans of other teams like as well. There are certain guys(Chipper Jones) who are hated across the league, but since he’s our guy, we love him. But, a guy like Prado is the kind of player anyone would love to have on their team. Plus, lets not forget that hilarious commercial he put out last year… very well done, Martin.
Michael Bourne – CF – 3/5 – Speed on a Braves team? Is that even allowed? We haven’t had a legit leadoff hitter since Rafael Furcal left via free agency after the 2005 season. I mean really…we had Marcus Giles, Kelly Johnson, Martin Prado, Yunel Escobar and Nate McClouth hit leadoff. Its been horrible. With that, you can imagine the relief in a Braves fan’s mind at seeing the speed of Bourne on a daily basis. That being said, Bourne hasn’t exactly impressed since he’s been in Atlanta. There’s also the fact that he is a free agent at the end of the year and may just be a temporary player on our team. Put together a good year Michael, and stick around and we’ll see if you rate higher next year.
Jason Heyward – RF – 3/5 – After a tantalizing rookie season, Heyward put together a steamy pile of a season last year, leaving us wondering what we can expect out of him going forward. All of the tools seem to be there and its easy to forget just how young Heyward is, but when you are expecting the future of your franchise to take the next step and you get an all-time bad, injury plagued season, you start to get that Frenchy feeling all over again. I do think Heyward will be just fine and get everything back on track this year, but between my slight mistrust and the fact that he’s an awful interview and incredibly boring guy, he’s gonna have to do some work to get rated higher here.
Eric Hinske – 1B/OF – 4.5/5 – I have an incredible man-crush on Eric Hinske. Here we have an overweight bench player, who doesn’t hit for a high average and is atrocious defensively, but still, he’s probably my second favorite player on the team. First of all, he just looks old school. Second of all, he’s a huge metal fan, whose entrance music is Pantera. And third of all, he’s guaranteed to get a huge hit, winning a crucial game, at least once a year. Here’s to hoping that Hinske continues to produce and sticks around the Braves organization for a couple more years.
Jack Wilson – SS/3B – 1.5/5 – I guess he plays good defense and was a good player for the Pirates back in the day, but I don’t see much to like about Jack Wilson. He can’t hit and he looks dangerously like a more retarded version of Adam Carolla. He’s right up there with Chris Woodward and Ruben Gotay as useless backup infielders we’ve had in recent years.
David Ross – C – 4/5 – Its always said that David Ross could be a starter for a lot of teams, so I figured I’d do the research and figure out who he’d start for. The only teams with a catcher who would clearly start over Ross are San Francisco, Atlanta, Baltimore, Arizona, Minnesota, St. Louis, Texas, Cleveland and Chicago(White Sox). That is 9 out of 30 teams. So, David Ross could have a great chance at starting on 21 out of 30 teams. That’s impressive. But even more impressive is that he is completely comfortable with his role on the team, is well liked in the clubhouse and always produces when he gets a chance. And if Fredi Gonzalez wasn’t an utter moron, he’d get into a lot more games as a pinch hitter. Playing a position where you’re going to get a lot of playing time, due to the demands on the starter, its great having a guy like David Ross
Juan Francisco – 3B – 2/5 – Francisco has the worst picture of all players in baseball. That crooked hat and shit eating grin just makes you want to scream. He seems like a guy who is a classic “3 Results” guy, and he’ll homer, walk or strikeout in every at bat…though it doesn’t seem like he’s going to walk much. Maybe he’ll come along to impress me. It certainly seems he’s going to get his at bats, but thus far, I’m not impressed.
Matt Diaz – LF/RF – 1.5/5 – I hate Matt Diaz, always have. He looks like a goober. He does that stupid lean before every pitch and after every pitch he walks damn near back to the dugout, slowing the pace of the game to a snail’s pace. Did I mention he’s terrible on defense…and now on offense too. He hasn’t been effective as a hitter in three years, yet Fredi still gives him plenty of at bats. The days that Diaz is off this team will be a good day for me.
Tommy Hanson – 3/5 – When he came up, Tommy was billed as a return to the pitching greatness that the great runs of the 90s were built on. He threw 96 mph fastballs, had a crazy red beard and won 11 games in little more than a half season. Now, the red beard is still there, but the 96 mph fastball is gone, replaced by a 89 mph fastball, a new delivery and a nasty curveball. He seems to get injured a lot and in interviews, kind of comes off as a jerk. That all being said, I like the guy, I just want a little bit more out of him.
Jair Jurrjens – 2/5 – You ever buy a crappy car? I’ve pretty much made my way doing that for the last ten years. Sometimes you get a turd and the thing breaks down right away. But sometimes, you get a gem, get a great car that gets you outstanding production for years, before finally falling apart. This is the best metaphor I can come up with for Jair Jurrjens. He’s nothing special just to watch him pitch. His stuff isn’t great, his peripheral stats aren’t that impressive and he’s injured more than he should be. But, we got him for nothing and he’s given us great production. That being said, I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop with Jurrjens and I hope it happens before we lock him up to an expensive, long-term deal.
Mike Minor – 3/5 – I haven’t seen Minor work a ton, but other than looking like a guy who would try and bang high schools girls in a northern Florida town, its nice having a solid left handed option in our rotation. He’s young, seems to pitch well and doesn’t cause me any consternation, so me and Mike Minor have no problems.
Brandon Beachy – 4/5 – He looks dangerously like Andy Pettitte, but what a great story. He’s an undrafted free agent, he comes to an organization deep in starting pitching, makes the rotation and beasts in his rookie year. He throws some heat and has some nasty off speed stuff. He’s a classic case of every guy thinking he should be able to be a baseball scout. I mean, several hundred guys get selected in the MLB draft every year. I was a 13th round pick by the Mariners last year for christ’s sake. How did everyone whiff on this guy. He could never throw another pitch for the Braves and I’d still like this guy.
Tim Hudson – 4/5 – Hudson may be the most striking example of a guy looking and talking a different way. You look at Tim Hudson and you’d figure him to be a douche, hanging in Buckhead, buying overpriced drinks and listening to Eminem too loudly. Then you hear him talk and you remember he was born in Columbus, GA. Hudson is a good guy, who does a lot of charity work around Atlanta and truly fits with this team and this fanbase. Oh yeah, he won 33 games over the last two years.
Craig Kimbrel – 3/5 – I’d like to rank Kimbrel higher. I mean, here’s a guy who just won rookie of the year and solidified our closer spot, which had been iffy at best in the last few years(need I remind you of Dan Kolb). But I don’t like his mound “attitude.” That stupid face he makes while hanging his arm down and waiting to be told to throw a fastball, reminds me far too much of one of the biggest assholes in the game, Jonathan Paplebon. Though if Kimbrel continues to rack up the saves, then I will have no other option but to give him a higher rating next year.
Johnny Venters – 4/5 – Beast. “Everyday Johnny” has a sinker, which is one of the nastiest pitches I’ve ever seen. He’s completely fine being in the setup role, even though he could easily close and you never feel nervous when he comes into a game, which is all you could really ask of a reliever.
Eric O’Flaherty – 4/5 – He quietly had one of the best seasons ever by a reliever in 2011, I mean, look at his numbers…they’re sick. Originally thought of as a left handed specialist, he’s proven he can get right handed hitters out and he’s the first part of a three headed beast at the end of the bullpen, where you can pretty much go to bed once the Braves take a lead into the 7th inning. Oh yeah, we got this dude off waivers! There’s a reason the Braves are competitive every year and the Mariners are in the basement.
Kris Medlen – 4/5 – He seems to have the respect of every pitcher on the club, and serves as a de facto pitching coach often times, teaching players his impressive pickoff move amongst other things. You also have to love a guy with his flexibility, as he can come in and give you outs in a crucial spot, can eat up innings in a blowout or could even fill in as a starter. The only thing preventing him from being rated even higher is the fact that he needs to curve the bill of that hat a little bit…not the best looks there Kris. I guess Kris is the way girls spell their name too.
Christhian Martinez – 3/5 – I don’t really have anything for or against Martinez. He seems to come in when we’re winning or losing by a large margin and is fairly effective. I could take him or leave him , I guess.
Chad Durbin – N/A – Who the fuck is Chad Durbin and how did he make our club????
Livan Hernandez – Listed Weight 245lbs – I’d love to write about how this “Brave Killer” is finally on our team and can’t hurt us anymore or about how he is relatively effective, even though he can’t throw over 37 mph. But I can’t get over that listed weight. Who is he trying to fool? That may be how much food he consumes in a day, but its not his weight. He will not get a fair ranking until he comes clean with us.
Fredi Gonzalez – 1/5 – Being an idiot, I actually supported the hiring of Fredi Gonzalez. He had been an assistant coach for years and seemed to get a raw deal with the Marlins. He had Bobby’s endorsement…it all seemed to make sense to me. Then I saw him manage. This guy does more stupid things than I could count here. He calls for bunts when its absolutely detrimental to do so, he calls for hit and runs with his slowest player on base and a guy batter below .200 at the plate, his bullpen use is atrocious and he doesn’t stick up for his players. He’s the classic “manage with your gut/manage by the book” guy, who is an idiot and doesn’t inspire any kind of confidence. Sadly, we’ve got a pretty good team, which is going to win a lot of games, but that is despite him, not because of him. However, due to this fact, I’m going to be stuck with Frediot for a long time…damn it.
Overall, we have an average score of 3.19, which is pretty good, considering we have a couple of bad apples which really bring the score down. This is a fun team, with a good mixture of speed, power and great pitching. I’m looking forward to the season. Go Braves!