Sports Outside the Beltway

Atlanta Braves New Road Uniforms

The Atlanta Braves debuted a new road uniform in their 2008 season opener against the Washington Nationals.

Atlanta Braves New Road Uniforms Photo 1 Braves manager Bobby Cox runs out for player introductions. The Braves broke out new blue alternate road jerseys and caps for the opener. The navy design represents the first change in the Braves' road uniform since 1987. Pouya Dianat / AJC

The Braves’ rumored blue jerseys became a reality Sunday when they broke out the new alternate road jerseys and caps without prior notice. The navy design represents the first change in the Braves’ road uniform since 1987. The Braves said they would wear them in periodic road games during the season. The alternate red jersey remains the gear for Sunday home games.

The new jersey is solid navy with “Atlanta” in script above the familiar tomahawk. The player’s name is in solid white on back, above his white-trimmed navy number. The cap is solid blue with only a white “A”, similar to caps worn by the Braves in the 1960s.

“We feel that we have one of the classic uniforms in all of baseball,” Braves president John Schuerholz said in a prepared statement. “Our new road jersey and navy cap are perfect representations of Braves baseball. They are emblematic of the traditional style of Braves uniforms over the years.”

The jerseys and caps will be available starting Monday through the Braves’ catalog, Braves Clubhouse Store at CNN Center and at Turner Field.

These uniforms, like the red Sunday jerseys, are atrocious. But that last line — the ability to sell them — explains their existence. Sure, the braves have “one of the classic uniforms in all of baseball” but it’s been around for years and people already own them. So you have to introduce some “alternate” unies — even if they’re ugly — to make more money.


Royals 2008 Season Preview – Who are These Guys?

As the 2008 season begins, much has already been written about the Kansas City Royals. As such, I’m going to do an abbreviated “Who are these guys?” preview, focusing on the players who are most-likely to contribute to the team on a daily basis, with a little love given to those who made the opening-day roster (sans catcher Matt Tupman, who we know is getting replaced by Miguel Olivo four games into the season when his suspension is done).

Each player will be followed by three sets of numbers – Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging Average for their career, the 2007 season and the Marcel projection for the 2008 season.

More info about the Marcel projections can be found here. Stats are from and projections are from

Here we go.

John Buck
Car: 237/297/408 OPS+ 82
’07: 222/308/429 OPS+ 90
’08: 244/311/411

John’s career OPS by month:

Apr  732
May  715
Jun  794
Jul  579
Aug  635
Sep  803

If Buck can keep from stepping in that hole he seems to find every July and August, the Royals may have a legitimate big-league backstop this season.

Miguel Olivo
Car: 239/275/405 OPS+ 76
’07: 237/262/405 OPS+ 72
’08: 247/280/408

Miggy may get some time in the outfield this year, most likely against lefties, whom he hits to the tune of 291/319/524.

Billy Butler – 1B
Car: 292/347/447 OPS+ 105
’07: 292/347/447 OPS+ 105
’08: 298/361/465

Calling Butler an infielder is a bit of a stretch, but Buddy Bell (a six-time Gold Glover who should know) did say Billy had soft hands. The slugger from Florida will play a little first, but will most-likely end up as a full-time DH by the end of the season.

Mark Grudzielanek – 2B
Car: 289/331/395 OPS+ 90
’07: 302/346/426 OPS+ 100
’08: 285/327/403

Grudz returns for another season league-average performance. A solid second baseman, Grudzielanek won a gold glove in ’06 with the Royals. He should anchor a solid infield defense once again (at least on the days that Butler isn’t playing first) and will keep the position warm for prospect Alberto Callaspo.

Tony Pena Jr. – SS
Car: 264/282/354 OPS+ 65
’07: 267/284/356 OPS+ 66
’08: 270/303/379

The former manager’s son was a revelation at short after what I like to call “the Berroa years.” While hardly adequate at the plate in the age of A-Rods and Jeters, TPJ manages to put the ball in play often enough to make his spectacular play in the field enough to keep him right at replacement level value.

Alex Gordon – 3B
Car: 247/314/411 OPS+ 87
’07: 247/314/411 OPS+ 87
’08: 262/331/427

Considered the future at third base since he was drafted, Gordon overcame a difficult start to his big league career to post solid numbers in the second half last year.

A lot has been written about his current skills and potential, so I’ll just add this from my experiences seeing Gordon come to the plate in Anaheim and at spring training in Surprise: the dude looks severely stoned in his press photo. I mean it. The red eyes, shaggy hair and “are you taking my pictures for real” smile. Baked to the bone, I’m telling you.

Look, I’ve been to Nebraska. There’s not a lot to do there. I don’t blame him if he’s growing a little something in his apartment on the Plaza. Man, does he have a pretty swing, though.

Alberto Callaspo
Esteban German
Ross Gload

German has been the uber-utility man for a few years now and has a career on-base percentage of 373. Callaspo had some personal issues in Arizona, but hit like mad in the minors and is looking for a fresh start in KC. Gload is steady with the bat like Grudz, and will probably spend some time at first, outfield and designated hitter. Let’s just hope he stays out of the four hole this year.

David DeJesus
Car: 282/358/415 OPS+ 102
’07: 260/351/372 OPS+ 89
’08: 276/353/414

A lot of people (myself included) pegged DeJesus for a breakout season in ’07. Didn’t happen. He lost a little something, but did manage to play in 157 games, a career high. Let’s see if the center fielder can bring his production up and stay on the field this year.

Jose Guillen
Car: 274/325/447 OPS+ 101
’07: 290/353/460 OPS+ 116
’08: 272/333/448

The Mets go Carlos Santana. The Tigers got Miguel Cabrera. The Yankees re-signed Alex Rodriguez. Kansas City picked up Jose Guillen and quickly made Mike Sweeney only the third highest paid Royal ever.

Guillen is not a bad player, but he alone is not likely to be a savior for the team’s offensive woes any more than Emil Brown was. However, if Butler and Gordon continue to impress, Guillen should be a solid bat along with them in the line up.

Mark Teahen
Car: 274/340/429 OPS+ 100
’07: 285/353/410 OPS+ 98
’08: 282/350/439

Teahen’s numbers took a step back last season as he learned how to play a few outfield positions and a little first base. Considered one of the better base runners in baseball, Marky Mark also showed off a canon arm in right.

The canon has been moved to left, but Teahen will likely be jerked around from left to right to first to DH in order to keep his head spinning whilst he also attempts to pull the ball more at the plate.

Joey Gathright
Car: 266/333/314 OPS+ 71
’07: 307/371/342 OPS+ 88
’08: 273/342/352

Joey Gathright is fast and he can jump over cars and the occasional Japanese pitcher. His skills at getting on-base have been quite good for a while, and his goal this season is to steal 60 bases. A quick look at his minor league numbers shows that he was a much better thief there than in the majors.

Let’s see if new manager Trey Hillman gives him the green light more often that Buddy Bell did.

Starting Pitchers
Gil Meche
Zack Greinke
Brian Bannister
John Bale
Brett Tomko

Pitchers always seem to have more questions than answers going into the season.

Can Meche keep up his solid stuff? Can Grienke stay sane? Will Bannister stave off regression to the mean? Who is John Bale? Why is Brett Tomko being given $3 million to make my stomach churn every fifth day?

Relief Pitchers
Joakim Soria – Closer
Jimmy Gobble
Ron Mahay
Leo Nunez
Ramon Ramirez
Yasuhiko Yabuta

A few new faces in the bullpen this season. A few familiar culprits.

Soria looks like another Mariano Rivera in the making. Gobble should be a solid LOOGY again. Ron Mahay will be… let’s just say interesting. Nunez and Ramirez both bring the heat, and Yabuta is a Japanese import likely to fall somewhere between Dice-K and the crappy version of Hideo Nomo (who we happen to have on “the DL” right now… wink, wink-nudge, nudge).


I’ve seen 76 wins thrown about most often as the realistic best-case scenario for this year’s Royals squad. A definite improvement over last year. Still not quite ready to compete with the big boys in the division.

As I am an eternal optimist, I think I’ll push my predicted finish to 86 wins. In contention for a large part of the year, but falling just short of the postseason in a very competitive American League Central.

It’s easy to forget that the Royals played very competitive baseball for a long stretch last season. Using Poznanski-like math skills, I showed at the halfway point of the season how the team had a chance to win as many as 79 games.

Of course, the team faltered late in the year and finished five games off of their Pythagorean record of 74 wins. I say that if the team’s true talent level last year was that of a 74 win team, and the core players are back and almost all are expected to show improvement, then a .500 record is no great stretch of the imagination.

Let’s play ball!


The return of Grace Park?

I’m not talking about the actress on Battlestar Gallactica. From the Arizona Republic-

Back injuries have ruined Grace Park’s past three seasons on the LPGA Tour, but you can always count on her to go low at least once during the Safeway International, displaying the game that once made her one of the tour’s top talents.

It happened again Saturday when Park shot a bogey-free round of 65, jumping from a tie for 68th to a tie for 20th at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club at 7-under 209.

It was Park’s best round since she shot 65 in the third round of the same event last year.

“For some reason, I think I’ve shot 65 or 66 here every year,” Park said. “Maybe it’s a good thing. This is definitely a great confidence booster.”

Park fired a 67 in the 2005 Safeway event and carded a 65 in 2004 when she tied for third, one week before winning her only major in the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Park appeared to be on her way to stardom that year as she also won the Vare Trophy for low-scoring average, but a back injury hit her early in the ’05 season and has nagged her since.

I sincerely hope Grace is back. One round doesn’t prove anything. Why aren’t Ron Sirak and Beth Ann Badry right now singing the praises about Grace? They did so after one-time LPGA winner and career journeywoman Kelli Keunhe shot a opening round 65 in Hawaii. Grace’s resume is far superior, A Vare trophy and a major championship.(Kelli and Grace both won the US amateur) Ron is out there in Arizona right now, where is the article on Grace? I’m guessing it has something to do with Park’s skin color but I’ll give Sirak a few days to catch up in order to prove me wrong plus let Grace put up another strong round to show she could be on the comeback trail. See there is a double standard for the Golf MSM when it comes to Asian versus White players.

Back to the lovely Ms. Park, she is a top 10 player or arguably top 5 when healthy. I truly hope Grace is back. We’ll need more proof before passing judgment.


Woody Williams released by Houston, plans to retire

The 41-year-old had an ERA of over 11 in spring training this year. From AP-

HOUSTON – Woody Williams was put on unconditional release waivers Saturday by the Houston Astros, who owe the pitcher $6.5 million.

The 41-year-old right-hander was 8-15 with a 5.27 ERA last season and had an 11.32 ERA in spring training this year. He gave up five runs and five hits in three innings Friday during a 10-0 exhibition loss to Detroit.

First baseman Lance Berkman questioned the timing.

“Possibly a bit premature,” he said. “The game is completely different in the regular season than it is in spring training, especially from a guy like Woody who has been around the block a few times.”

Williams signed a $12.5 million, two-year contract with the Astros before last season and is owed a $6.25 million salary for this year and a $250,000 buyout of a 2009 club option worth $6.75 million. He had a $6 million base salary last year and earned $250,000 in performance bonuses.

Williams is 132-116 with a 4.19 ERA in a 15-year career that includes stints with Toronto, St. Louis and San Diego. He had a career-high 18 wins with the Cardinals in 2003.

KRIV reported Williams plans to retire.

Woody appears washed up career wise to me. I wish him well in retirement.


Arizona pitcher Doug Davis has cancer

He got biopsy results this week that resulted ina cancer diagnosis. From AP-

PHOENIX – Diagnosed with thyroid cancer, Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Doug Davis decided he wanted to keep pitching until his April 10 operation.

And he said he expects to pitch again soon after that.

“It’s going to take me down for a while but not out for good,” said Davis, who spoke at a news conference after facing the Colorado Rockies in a Chase Field exhibition Friday night.


Doctors discovered a lump in Davis’ throat during a routine physical on Feb. 6, Davis said. On Wednesday, biopsy results revealed it to be cancerous.

Davis will have his thyroid gland removed and is expected to be out of the hospital the day after the operation, Diamondbacks head physician Dr. Michael Lee said.

Lee said the team doesn’t have a projected return date for Davis but said it could be within four to six weeks.


Davis went 13-12 with a 4.25 ERA and pitched 192 2-3 innings last season, his first with Arizona. Davis is 75-75 with a 4.34 ERA in nine seasons.

I’m a cancer survivor. My mother-in-law is a thyroid cancer survivor. First diagnosed in 2004, she is alive and kicking today. I wish Doug Davis the best.


Stick a fork in them- The Florida Panthers are through for 2007-08

The cats lost to Atlanta last night 3-2. This defeat was the nail in the coffin for the Panthers post season playoff hopes.

Florida hasn’t made the playoffs in eight years. The longest non-playoff streak in the NHL at present. Half the teams in the league make the playoffs every year, and some how Florida keeps missing the boat.

This year should have been the perfect opportunity. The Southeast Division is weak, and the conference not a whole lot stronger. Florida has the personnel to win- Tomas Vokoun in Goal and Craig Anderson is more than a solid backup, Olli Jokinen is one of the top scorers, behind him we had Nathan Horton, Jozef Stumpel, Stephen Weiss, Richard Zednik, David Booth(who I think can be a bigger scoring threat than Jokinen once he gets more experience), Rostislav Olesz and solid defensemen in Jay Bouwmeester, Bryan Allen and more.

What went wrong? The team quit far too often, or played scared. Four defeats in February after gaining 2-goal leads in a game(3 of them in the final period) marked this team as a non-playoff material. The talent is present on this team, but they have little heart. I think Florida is the biggest underacheivers in the NHL.

Where does Florida go from here? Coach Jacques Martin is likely to fired this post season. I’d have a hard time defending the coach. However Florida has had little continuity in management and coaching in its short existence. 9 men have coached this team, only two brought them to the playoffs. Is coach #10 going to change anything or just be more of the same? Note- Martin is the winningest coach in team history.

I’m going to wait till the 07-08 Panther season is history before I do more in-depth postmortem. This should have been the year for Florida.

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Yankee thoughts – March 27 edition

- I know it’s a year from now, but the 2009 bullpen has a chance to be dominant (and cheap). Humberto Sanchez, Mark Melancon, Chris Garcia and JB Cox are all returning from serious injuries this year. All have outside chances of a Joba-like rise this year, but more likely they’ll have a realistic shot a making the Bigs in 2009. With Farnsworth and Hawkins coming off the books next year, the pen competition will be wide open; the only lock is Mo Rivera. Joba will hopefully be starting full time next year, leaving six open spots. It’s quite possible we could see a 100% non-free agent bullpen, featuring the likes of Alan Horne, Jeff Marquez, JB Cox, Mark Melancon, Dan McCutchen, Chris Garcia, Humberto Sanchez and Kevin Whelan, as well as current bullpen candidates such as Ross Ohlendorf, Scott Patterson, Edwar Ramirez and Brian Bruney. Unfortunately, there’s not a single lefty in the group (Billy Traber is not a long term option).

- Three questions

1. Were the Yankee hitters even trying today?

2. How can Patterson and Ohlendorf not make this team?

3. Why does Girardi insist on a long-man?

I’m giving one of the three undecided bullpen spots to Traber. And we know Girardi wants a long-man – now with Karstens tweaked groin, it’s down to Rasner vs. Igawa. The last spot is down to three candidates: Bruney, Patterson and Ohlendorf.

Ohlendorf was a starter throughout college and the minors: he started 74 minor league games and 28 at Princeton. It’s only since mid-way through last season that he was converted into a reliever (because of the glut of solid Yankee minor league starting pitching and a bullpen need at the major league level). He can be both a long-man and one-inning reliever.

So with the two open spots, who makes the most sense out of Igawa, Rasner, Bruney, Patterson and Ohlendorf? It’s pretty clear: the last two, who’ve done nothing this spring but throw strikes and get outs, which is a lot more than the others can say.

-What about Brett Gardner?

His biggest criticism is his lack of power – his career minor league slugging percentage is a measly .374, lower than his on-base percentage (.381). He’s hit six homers in over 1100 at-bats.

But his best attribute is his plus-plus speed, and proponents point to this as a reason he can be a ML regular, perhaps the Yanks everyday centerfielder. But again, his lack of power might hold him back.

How can we take speed into account when calculating a hitter’s value? Perhaps adding in one total base for every steal, and subtracting one for every caught stealing. This increases Gardner’s (and other weak speedster’s) slugging percentage into very respectable territory.

Instead of a .374 SLG, Gardner’s slugging percentage would look like such:

161 xbh (4 x HR + 3 x 3b + 2 x 2b) + 256 1b = 417 TB
116 SB – 22 CS = 94 SB
511 TB/1115 AB = .458 SLG

That’s roughly the same as Derek Jeter last year, who, using the same SLG equation, had a .463 SLG. It’s also the same as Adam Laroche, and better than Kevin Youkilis, Nick Swisher and Travis Hafner (in 2007). (Bear in mind, of course, that I’m using Gardner minor league numbers.)

Admittedly, a steal of 2nd is not as valuable as a double, because a double (like all extra-base hits) has a chance to score a baserunner. But speed doesn’t show up in a player’s ability to tag up, it causes throwing errors, and beats out GIDPs. So perhaps they are somewhat akin, and there is something to be said for adding steals into SLG.


Shaquille O’Neal wants to be Orlando Magic GM

Once his playing career is over. From the Orlando Sentinel-

BOSTON – Center Shaquille O’Neal was traded from the Miami Heat to the Phoenix Suns last month, but the Orlando Magic — the team with whom he started his high-profile career — never seem far from his thoughts.

Wednesday was no exception.

O’Neal, who was in Boston preparing to play the Celtics Wednesday night, said after a morning practice that he hopes to take over management of the Orlando Magic when he retires as a player following the 2009-10 season.

He also expects to bring Grant Hill — former Magic player and current teammate with the Suns — along to help him.

“Grant will be the team president — he’s a bright guy — and I’ll be the general manager,” O’Neal said. “I’m serious. They need me down there with the new arena coming. Grant and I are coming to do the job.”

O’Neal has talked a few times over the years of returning to Orlando to play — although he said now he will finish his career in Phoenix — and also of returning eventually to become the Orange County Sheriff.

I seem to recall Magic Johnson once saying he wanted to be a US senator. As my wife says, it is nice to dream.


OTB Sports to report on The Inaugural Stanford International Pro-Am

For the second time, OTB media will be covering a South Florida LPGA golf tournament. Next month’s Stanford International Pro-Am to be played at The Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort and Club in Aventura, Fla. Last November I covered the year ending ADT Championship in West Palm Beach. The Stanford will mark the first regular season LPGA event in South Florida other than the ADT since 2001.

The Stanford International will have a $2 million purse with $300,000 going to winner.

Much like the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on the PGA tour, 112 LPGA professionals will play up to the first 54 holes with amateur partners. Some of whom will include Eight-time tennis Grand Slam winner Ivan Lendl, actresses Catherine Bell and Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Miami Dolphin kicker and Co-captain Jay Feely, Baseball Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt,Television news anchor Stone Phillips, TV personality Carson Daly, supermodel Beverly Johnson and celebrity chef Ming Tsai.

The Stanford International will be played April 24-27 and I will be in attendance all those days plus April 23rd. OTB Media hopes you will check back next month to read about this exciting new tournament.

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NFL considering early start for season opener

They don’t want to go head to head with the Republican convention.

The NFL’s Thursday night season opener will match the Super Bowl-champion New York Giants and the Washington Redskins, with the game possibly starting an hour-and-a-half earlier to avoid clashing with the Republican National Convention.

The game is now scheduled for 8:30 p.m. EDT on Sept. 4 — the concluding night of the Republican convention — and will be televised by NBC. League spokesman Greg Aiello said Wednesday that the NFL is talking with the network about changing the game’s starting time to 7 p.m.

McCain is guaranteed the nomination. How many people outside the media and very hardcore party members are going to be paying attention to the convention? Just leave the game where it is.


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