FROM THE CHEAP SEATS: Braves lack of hitting is a major concern; memories of a trip to Philly

I’m not one to drift with the tide. I tend to look at a team and its talent and formulate a season-long opinion.
The Braves concern me. For a club I have followed so closely since 1991 when I began eight years as their beat writer for the AJC, they appear to be gasping for air, or better yet, gasping for a plan. Things have just not been the same since general manager John Schuerholz stepped into the role of team president and current GM Frank Wren has had his struggles with finding the right mix.
The issue for me is that this team was able to win 14 straight division championships because it had always had one position player to center around and a gritty starting pitcher who could turn a losing streak into a winning one. At this point, they have neither.
What the Braves need to find is a Fred McGriff. It was 1993 when the Braves, coming off two straight World Series appearances, looked like a rudderless ship, falling further and further behind the Giants in the then-NL West. But Schuerholz pulled off the trade of his career, pulling in McGriff from San Diego for prospects and the Braves were on their way again. The Braves need a McGriff and don’t tell me it’s the young Jason Heyward, who some day will be a star but is way too young to carry this team.
There actually are some talented pieces on this team but no one player to bring it all together. The Cardinals have their Albert Pujols, the Phillies their Ryan Howard but the Braves have their …?
Chipper is banged up, Brian McCann is a heck of a catcher but doesn’t produce huge power numbers, and like I said, Heyward is a year or two away. What Wren has to do is somehow find today’s McGriff, who will make everyone in a very average lineup a lot better.
This is why I would trade first base prospect Freddie Freeman and whatever else the package takes to get San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez, who is a McGriff look-a-like. He’s the power hitter the Braves need and while Freeman is highly thought of, Gonzalez is a proven commodity. I can’t imagine another season of missing the playoffs and if this team stays status quo, they will lucky to finish third.

It’s time for a big move. Go, on Frank ─ make the call.

When Bernie Mullin was president of Atlanta Spirit, we forged a strong relationship, though I wasn’t surprised when the ownership group let him go. But I am happy to see that he is doing well with his new company, The Aspire Group. Mullin and his new company went to Georgia Tech and said they could help sell tickets for the school, which was not taken well by Yellow Jacket fans. But recently, Aspire surpassed $1 million in new sales, 75 percent of that number being profit for Tech. It’s good to see Tech selling more tickets and Bernie back on his feet.
If it wasn’t Philly, I may have had a problem with the tasering of the Phillies baseball fan, but when it comes to sports fans, the City of Brotherly Love is a City of Blithering Bums. I have been there plenty for sporting events, but none worse than the National League Championship Series in 1993. The Braves had just made that incredible run to catch the Giants, but ran out of gas in six games against the Phillies.

Unfortunately, we had to make two trips to Philly including Game 6 where every fan in Veterans Stadium turned into a zombie. In fact, I remember the Braves players’ wives being treated horribly and one started crying. I also remember leaving the stadium and getting on the team bus where hundreds of Philly fans threw anything they could find at us. As the AJC beat writer at the time, we went back to the Ritz where we were staying and took more abuse. I was never more glad to get out of a city, but did leave them something behind as we were all delivered greasy cheese steak sandwiches that night and I opened it up, placed it facedown under the pillow in the morning. I haven’t been back since.
Now, it is very clear why this country is so bad when it comes to educating its young. In Washington earlier this week at the national capital, Braves manager Cox was honored for his 50 years in baseball. The ceremony was hosted by U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson and Jay Rockefeller. Cox brought along a few players and officials and was presented with a cake. The cake was supposed to read: “Thanks for 50 great years Bobby Cox.” It didn’t quite out that way as his last name misspelled in a profane and inappropriate way. Was it intentional or just another Washington fool being stupid? My bet is the latter as the part of the cake with the profane word was cut away and reportedly trashed.

Of course, in a town where they don’t throw anything away, I’m sure one of those overweight senators washed it down with a Yoo-hoo and a good laugh. But we love you, Bobby.

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