The 2016 Atlanta Braves

The Chop
Standard

I know that this is a running and fitness blog catered to a niche audience, but I have been reading article after article forever condemning the Atlanta Braves and vilifying anyone associated with their front office. This is infuriating to me not only as a Braves fan, but also as a person capable of rational thought. Today was the worst occurrence of such garbage pieces, and I decided to write a rather lengthy retort to this garbage article. Rather than constantly rewriting the ideas contained in the post over and over in comment sections, I thought I would just create a post in which I could use as a reference point. So if you hate baseball or the Atlanta Braves, and you do not want to read about such things, this is your disclaimer to scroll to the next entry or blog, no questions asked. You have been warned, and I will talk to you upon the return to the normal blog category.

If you are still reading, then you must be curious what I have to say about the 2016 Atlanta Braves, or you are just here to tell me how stupid I am. Both reasons are fair enough.

What was the alternative with the roster? This team is terrible this year, but they always were going to be terrible, just with a different cast of characters. Jason Heyward and Justin Upton were always leaving in free agency. Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, and Mike Minor’s pitching arms failed them. Andrleton Simmons while being the premier defensive shortstop in the game, cannot hit. The team has a limited payroll and until last year, they had arguably the worst farm system in all of baseball. No funds and no prospects does not equate into building a winning baseball team. Yes, the Braves could have gone all in for the 2015 season, but what would that have realistically netted? A division title? Maybe. A playoff win? Unlikely. The bullpen would still have been mediocre with Craig Kimbrel, the offense would have been feast or famine, and the starting rotation would not have been good enough to win. Remember, the 2014 and 2015 Braves scored the same amount of runs despite drastically different lineups. The pitching was the difference, and this was even with all star Shelby Miller. The Braves have not won a playoff series since 2001! 2001! Fredi Gonzalez only won 1 playoff game in his entire tenure as the manager and had two awful collapses with “loaded” teams in 2011 and 2014, and the another collapse with the depleted team last season, which is a little more understandable. And let us not forget Kimbrel standing in the bullpen, ready to enter the game as David Carpenter coughed up to lead on a Juan Uribe homerun. Let’s go back to 2014 when John Hart and John Coppolella started wheeling and dealing, and negate all of their trades, whether they have been deemed a success or failure. What does the current roster and farm system look like in this scenario? World Series favorite? A 100+ win team? Not in the slightest. Your 2016 Atlanta Braves would be the following: C – Gattis/Bethancourt, 1B – Freeman, 2B – Peraza/LaStella, SS – Simmons, 3B – C. Johnson, LF – Terdoslavich/K. Johnson, CF – Melvin Upton, Jr., RF – Francouer/Cunningham. SP – Teheran, Wood, Norris, Perez, Weber. RP – Kimbrel, Avillan, 5 warm bodies. Top Nine Prospects according to MLB Pipeline (current, actual team rank in parentheses) 1. Albies (3), 2. Sims (12), 3. Davidson (15), 4. Acuna (23), 5. Hursh (24), 6. Carmargo (25), 7. Povse (26), 8. Cabrera (28), 9. Parsons (29). I would have gone to ten or fifteen, but MLB Pipeline does not rate out far enough for me to include that many prospects due to all of the trades for prospects over the past two seasons creating an influx of minor league talent. Anyone drafted last year cannot be counted due to the draft picks acquired via trade and the different approach to building this team would likely skew the draft philosophy. Maybe the team still drafts Kolby Allard or maybe the team drafts the best available college guy with a hope to plug him in this season or next for the departing free agents. We do not know, and therefore must continue this exercise as such. This team would have be awful for years to come, not just the two to three years of awfulness the Braves are currently projected for. Do not forget, you cannot count the failures of 2014 because that was a different general manager and this super team that everyone is so pissed about breaking up was still intact. And all for, at best, what, twenty more wins in 2015? Five more wins in 2016? This team was destined to be terrible this year, but at least now there is some hope for the future, and next a decade of deplorable baseball like the 1980’s Atlanta Braves.

Waiting.jpg

This gif was found on TheBigLead.com.

Now onto Turner Field. It is not like the Braves are moving to Chattanooga, TN. They are moving to a suburb of Atlanta. Yes, they are moving because they could not fleece the city of Atlanta taxpayers so they decided to stick it to the taxpayers in Cobb County, but all this nostalgia about Turner Field is baffling. The stadium is wildly generic, the Braves have a losing post season record there, it was built for the Olympics, not the team, is the epitome of mediocre Braves baseball, the Braves have very little say or profits from the operation of he stadium, and it is literally a death trap with three fan deaths since 2008. Traffic to SunTrust Park will be awful, granted, but so is the traffic to Turner Field, it is Atlanta after all. There have been years of comedic material written about the traffic in Atlanta. On opening day, it took my family over one hour to travel less than three miles from our hotel to the ballpark. Three miles! I ran a 5K with a broken foot faster than that! The new ballpark might not solve any of these issues, and if that pisses you off great, because it should, especially since the need for a new park was not eminent. But being mad because the park is in a suburb and there will be traffic issues is woefully idiotic and a bit disingenuous. If you are going to be mad, be mad for the right reasons!

The biggest contributing factor to losing and infuriating fans are all of the hot take pieces being written like this one on The Hard Ball Times and what routinely runs in the AJC. The current Braves are an easy target for ridicule because they are not good at baseball and fanning the flames of hatred from the lowest common denominator is easier than being objective and honest about the rebuild. The Simmons and Alex Wood trades are abysmal thus far, and deserve some vitriol spewed their way, especially the Wood trade. But remember, if Sean Newcomb lives up to his potential, he is the ace that Braves have needed since the early 2000’s. If he does not, then the Braves traded the next Ozzie Smith for the worst shortstop in the game, even if this gross decline (and it has been certifiably disgusting) in Erick Aybar’s production could not have been fully predicted. The mid-2000’s in Atlanta deserve their fair amount of the blame for the team’s current plight. The pursuit of fourteen consecutive division titles and then one last hurrah for the old guard in 2007 was short-sighted, and robbed the team of some very good prospects for rental players on teams that were not good enough to win the World Series, with or without the additions. Was one excellent season of J.D. Drew worth the entire career of Adam Wainwright? One year of Mark Teixeira, with 6+ WAR accumulated for the Braves, worth five prospects that ultimately put Texas where Atlanta wanted to be twice, the World Series? These Braves teams were not merely a piece away, but the trades were done as if they were. A little more prudence then would be beneficial now. I, for one, am happy that the Braves are no longer putting bandaids on bullet wounds, and hopefully the team can maintain a prolonged success once again. due to this reinvigorated focus on the draft, scouting, analytics, and building a team from within.

In the end, none of these prospects may work out (highly unlikely), and the entire endeavor was a waste of time, but the chances of enough of these prospects to blossom in MLB are high, and the wins will certainly follow as well. So continue to fight through this abysmal season and think about the brighter days that are to come. And remember, as a Braves fan you have been spoiled since 1991 with winning baseball. The Pittsburgh Pirates had twenty consecutive losing seasons during this time period and the Kansas City Royals suffered greatly while building their World Series roster.

I am sure that my stance will not be well received here, but these denunciations have already grown beyond tiresome, and it is still only May, so it is at least cathartic for me to say my part. And honestly, I could have written another 5,000 words about this subject.

New St. Jude Marathon Weekend Race

IMG_3860
Standard

2016 marks the 15th year of the St. Jude Marathon Weekend, and with it, St. Jude is introducing a new race distance! In years past, have you felt that the 5K was not challenging enough, yet the idea of the half marathon or marathon was still too daunting? Well, this year, you are in luck! St. Jude has decided to provide potential race participants with the option of running a 10K for the kids! I will still be either running the half or the full marathon, but I am excited that even more people can participate in this wonderful race weekend. More info can be found here.

2016 FedEx St. Jude Classic Fairway 5K Recap

IMG_4462
Standard

Originally I was going to run in the inaugural Race 13.1 being held here in Memphis, but with my lack of training and busy schedule, I thought it was wiser to run in this 5K and continue to build my running base back up.

IMG_4461

I ran in the first Fairway 5K back in 2013, but could not participate in it last year due to my schedule. I remembered that race had a great afterparty and was for a great cause. This year was no different. I was slower this year, which really sucks when you consider that the Fairway 5K in 2013 was my first race after my foot injury, but I am presently a work in progress, and I am slowly returning to form.

IMG_4468

Swag: A+: Any 5K that gives out a medal will get a high grade from me, especially the awesomeness that was this year’s medal. This seriously might be my favorite medal of any race thus far! Throw in a nice looking long sleeve Zorrel Dri-Balance shirt, a one day pass to the FedEx St. Jude Classic golf tournament, colorful socks, a cooling towel and you have some very solid swag. The post race mimosas, beers, and Bloody Marys were a huge hit. If you lingered too long out there, you certainly would have needed a DD to get home! The pre and post race band was also very good.

IMG_4469

Course: A-: You run through residential streets as well as the cart paths around the 17th and 18th holes. Everyone thought that the course was fast, and really flat. I can only think of two hills. One was a short, steep one on the golf course and the other came at the very beginning of the course. You finish at the 18th green with a fantastic post race party, which was a great time.

Overall: A: This may be the best 5K experience I have had. This is in part due to the great weather, lots of swag, scenic course, and great event management. Wrangling 800+ people through cart paths on a golf course is not an easy task.  Also, the post race Bloody Mary stand may have helped as well!

2016 Germantown Half Marathon Recap

IMG_4324
Standard

I have written a recap for this race multiple times, and it most details rarely change from year to year. This year is no exception, so I am going to spare everyone the explicit details, and just share the swag, and give some props.

IMG_4324

A personal positive note, I was faster during this race than the Rebel Well Mighty Half, so that is always welcomed news! Susan also brought our son out to cheer me along the course, which is certainly a welcomed sight!

IMG_4332

But I said I was going to give props for this race, and so I would love to give a big shout out and congratulations to my friend, and friend of this blog to Andrew D. for crushing his first ever half marathon! He left me in the dust from the start and finished well ahead of his goal and certainly earned his successful finish!

IMG_4387

Swag: A-: For the third year in a row, there was a redesign of the race medal, shirt, and logo. It was another great design, and certainly trumped what was done for the race for the years prior to 2014. I still preferred the designs from 2014, but this year was still very good, even if the use of a Pegasus is a bit perplexing. They kept the long-sleeved shirt for this year’s race, and even had an option to purchase a hoodie.

Rebel Well Mighty Half Recap

Mighty Half 2016 Finisher's Medal
Standard

For years there had been a half marathon in Oxford, MS that Susan wanted me to participate in, but for whatever reason, my schedule never seemed to align properly with it. And when I finally decided to make it a priority to appease my Ole Miss alum wife, the race was discontinued. That is how things go I suppose. But this year Run Oxford decided to organize a half marathon to showcase their beautiful town (even non Ole Miss fans like myself can concede to this fact) and encourage healthier living. In fact, Run Oxford has organized an entire series of races for 2016, dubbed as the Inn at Ole Miss Oxford Grand Prix Race Series. You can sign up for the short or long distances, or just for individual races. I opted for the long distance, and that is how I found myself in Oxford, MS on a brisk February morning preparing to run a race in which I was not properly trained (my fault) and had no clue what to expect.

I have been to Ole Miss several times with Susan and her family for tailgating and football, as well as a few times in my younger days for some debauchery, but I have never visited to campus so early or when there seemingly was so little happening. I arrived plenty early because I was not entirely sure of where I needed to be or how easy navigation was going to be on campus. It turns out that I was overly paranoid about this fact because there was plenty of parking adjacent to the expo and finish line, and this area was also quite close to the start line as well. I did not browse the expo being that I was picking up my packet the morning of the race, but by the looks of the setup inside the indoor practice facility which housed the expo and finish line, there were a decent amount of vendors for this newly minted race.

Since I was not fully trained (a recurring theme which I am not proud about, and I have started to address) for this race, I opted to use a run walk ratio of 2.5:1. This ratio served me quite well for the first 8-9 miles, but my lack of training and mental weakness from this lack of training took over and I went into full on “how much longer is this race” mode. Nothing on my body really hurt that badly besides my ego and my confidence, but this is the bed I made for myself, so I forged through it to finish the race is a personal worst time. This performance will likely be repeated another time or two this spring as I work to reset my running, healthy living, and dedication into my daily routine.

Rebel Well Half

The positive to being slow is that it is easier to get a clean race photo!

Course: A-: There were hills because running a race of any distance in Oxford will have hills. It cannot be avoided. The race organizers did do a great job of trying to minimize the impact of the hills, and tried valiantly to incorporate the biggest hills early in the race. This was appreciated by all of us runners. The course went throughout Ole Miss’ campus, Downtown Oxford, and several residential neighborhoods, ending in the Manning Center (name of the indoor practice facility). Finishing inside was a great idea for a February race, even though on this particular race day, it was not needed due to the unseasonably warm weather. The Ole Miss cheerleaders cheering you to the finish was a nice touch as well.

My only complaint about the course is that the Oxford Police Department were moving us off the road and onto the sidewalks by 8:30 am, even though not all of the roads had sidewalks to utilize. The race started at 7:00 am and the roads were supposed to be closed/reserved until 10:30 am. I guess the small number of runners expedited the urgency to fully reopen the roads.

Mighty Half

Mighty Half 2016 Finisher’s Medal

Swag: A-: The race shirt was a full zipped hoodie which is awesome, even if they gave me the wrong size, and the race medal was nice looking, even if it was not revolutionary. There was no beer after the race, but there was plenty of chocolate milk, water, and refreshments to recover with. Also, they provided free race photos, which is always great.

IMG_4232

Mighty Half 2016 Swag

Overall: A-: This was a fun and well-organized event. I am curious to see if this race does become an annual event, and how many more runners chose this race in the future. If it is offered and I am available to run it, I will return to this race. If for no other reason than having a very attainable personal best finishing time for the course!

 

2015 St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon Recap

IMG_3862
Standard

Man was I sloooooowwwww during this race, and I did not care one bit. I had other priorities this fall and hence, I did a poor job of training. The name of the game on this particular race morning was finish, and I did just that, so it was deemed a success. Especially because of my awesome cheering section, including the newest and youngest member of the family.

 

IMG_3860

2015 St. Jude Half Marathon Finisher’s Medal

I love this race, raising money for the kids of St. Jude, and remembering what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it. This race always is rewarding for me, even when it is not a success in terms of my finishing time. With Susan’s pregnancy and the the birth of our son, my training was virtually nonexistent. I would go for a run here and there, or do a quick workout at the house, but I by no means followed a set schedule and my mileage was not ramped up near where it should have been. Therefore, this event became one in which crossing the finish line was all a cared about and even though my running watch was still going (I mean, I need to track those stats!), it was not something I was using to gauge my success.

 

IMG_3862

Greatest cheering section ever!

It several ways, this was the perfect year for me to have my slowest race of all-time. There was a new course to enjoy (I love the changes), I saw more friends along the course than all of my previous years combined, and my newest family member made his public debut to cheer me along the way.

IMG_3887

Heroes swag

Another positive about the 2015 race for me was that it was my highest fundraising total for the kids of St. Jude ever! Thanks to several generous donors, including multiple readers of this blog, I was able to raise $1,000 for the kids of St. Jude, which was twice the total of my goal! Thank you to everyone that donated!

IMG_3888

2015 St. Jude Half Marathon swag

No need to go through all of my usual grading for this event, but I will just mention a couple of things. The Heroes singlets are still tiny, so if you run as a Hero, order accordingly. I remembered to go up a size in the shirt this year, so I can actually wear it, especially since the shirts ran bigger anyway this year. The medal had an extra bling factor and incorporated the Memphis skyline and St. Jude’s campus again this year. And the course being reworked to avoid Overton Park and instead use Madison Ave. was an outstanding change. It allowed for more spectators, better crowd management along the route (both spectators and runners), and had less debris to avoid along the way. I am not sure why the change was made (Overton Park had been having some challenges with park usage and conservation recently), but I fully support it being a permanent change.

In 2016, this will again be my race to cap off the year, and hopefully I will be fully trained for it and I will be closer to chasing down a PR than a PW.