Sunday, June 22, 2008

52 52 52 Week #18: Georgia

In which I examine crappy local sports journalism on a state-by-state basis, progressing through the states in terms of an alphabetical ordering of the heights of their tallest points. Because I can.

Not the best of weeks here at Fire Everybody! A fun NBA finals has given way to the inevitable doldrums of mid-summer sports, and my recent self-indulgence has probably reflected the fact that, well, there isn't all that much to say. So, I'm tinkering with the notion of going to the following format for the foreseeable future (hey - alliteration!)...

Sunday: 52 52 52
Wednesday: A staggeringly brilliant new feature combining two of my greatest loves...more info to follow
Friday: A rambling piece on some general point of interest to me in the world of sports

We'll see whether this works, and if there's anything of interest that pops up otherwise, I'll certainly post, and of course Passive and Djmmm can do what they like. But still, if you're trying to figure out when to check the site, do know that new content should be appearing on those days.

OK, with that out of the way, let's talk about everybody's favorite 4,784 foot highpoint, Georgia's awesomely named Brasstown Bald. This may be the first highpoint that sounds like the name of a '30s pulp hero, which is something I'm definitely in favor of. Some other, more factual facts coming up...

1. The mountain is apparently most made up of soapstone and dunite. Don't know what dunite is? Well, it "is an igneous, plutonic rock, of ultramafic composition, with coarse-grained or phaneritic texture." Huh. That cleared that up. Let's just all agree soapstone is a stone made out of soap, yes?

2. Although this may not be terribly surprising, there isn't actually any brass in Brasstown Bald. Instead, it gets its name "was derived by a simple Cherokee translation error by white settlers. Sounding very similar, settlers confused the word "Itse'yĭ" (New Green Place or Place of Fresh Green) with "Ûňtsaiyĭ" (Brass). Itse'yĭ, New Green Place, was used to describe the top of the mountain, as it was grassy and devoid of trees." Doesn't Wikipedia just know everything?

3. Wikipedia tells us, "The U.S. Forest Service has webcams atop the Observation tower." Of course, gold members of the U.S. Forest Service can watch live shows with Brasstown Bald, and platinum members can even chat with it and make requests. Want to see some soil erosion? You bet your perverted ass you do. But you best pay up. All major credit cards accepted.

After the disaster that was last week's entry, I'm playing things safe and going with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Admittedly, this stretches the definition of "local" journalism to almost ridiculous proportions, as I'm pretty sure I'd have to consider the South "local" for this to count, but whatever. Terence Moore is your writer, and the Atlanta Braves are your topic. Well, that and the phantom panic. Why do I say phantom? All will be explained. All I say!

(Was that melodramatic enough? I'm going for huge here, you know.)

Young Braves must not panic

I have to admit, this is a premise that I pretty much immediately dislike. "Panic" is one of those things, like "team chemistry" or "grittiness" that gets invented to explain a team's failure or success, when really it's probably at most like .5% of the reason. But hell, I'm here now, so I might as well follow through.

Even though the baseball season will reach its midway point by the end of the week, the struggling and aching Braves aren’t panicking, and they shouldn’t.

I think this sentence might hold the whole key to the Atlanta Braves. After all, they might be struggling because they're aching, and any notion of panicking is just faulty causation. Maybe. But again, I'm jumping the gun here; I should at least wait for some evidence.

It’s still early. Not only that, the National League East isn’t a scary place. The division-leading Philadelphia Phillies and the surprising Florida Marlins are a collapse waiting to happen. You also have the New York Mets, the NL’s most dysfunctional team, and the Washington Nationals, as ghastly as advertised.

I dunno, PECOTA seems to agree with you on the Marlins, seeing as how they're currently pegged for an 81-81 final record (sorry Djmmm), but the Phillies? PECOTA has them at 89-73, and that's taking into consideration all the problems they've already had. At this point, the Phillies really figure to either stay about the same or get better, and either will likely be good enough to win the division. Of course, PECOTA is imperfect (and, by that, I really should say a Monte Carlo simulation run a million times every day is imperfect), but I can't get on board with the Phillies being "a collapse waiting to happen." The Braves are going to need to go on a bit of a tear at some point relatively soon to give themselves a good chance. You can't really count on the biggest collapse in baseball history happening yearly in the same division.

Oh, and "The...Phillies and the...Marlins are a collapse waiting to happen"? Tsk tsk on the number agreement there, Mr. Moore.

Plus, despite the Braves’ woes, which were interrupted Saturday night at Turner Field with a 5-4 thriller over the Seattle Mariners after scoring twice in the bottom of the ninth, they have as much talent as anybody. That’s why they’ve stayed among the league’s top two in hitting and pitching for weeks. They’ve also yet to hit their stride. Even so, they began Saturday night just six games out of first, and they have the pleasure of knowing that one or more of their wounded will return at various points to help them spurt.

That sounds like reasonable stuff. I'll readily admit I haven't been closely following the Braves (I'm saving most of my baseball energy for a certain team in the NL Central that PECOTA thinks is bound for a 99-63 record), but I can't really object too much. Indeed, it seems like a perfectly serviceable column could be built around the fact that, for a bunch of reasons, the Braves are due to bounce back (perhaps also acknowledging the same is true of the Mets, as evidenced by their near-identical PECOTA records). Unfortunately, the title really seems to promise some tripe on "panicking." Still, titles usually aren't made up by the writer, so maybe it's just an honest mistake and this article really is that perfectly serviceable (if mediocre) column I was envisioning. Could it be that, for once, I was wrong?

No, the Braves aren’t panicking, but will they, especially if that spurt doesn’t happen sooner rather than later?

Nope. Why must I be so cursed with always being right!?

Oh well. Let's consider the evidence.

“It’s hard not to expect them to [panic], because they’re young and they haven’t had the experience of winning as much as we have and did,” said Tom Glavine, the Braves’ future Hall of Fame pitcher, in his 21st season in the majors.

Exhibit A: A future Hall of Fame pitcher finds it hard not to expect [panic].

“You’re young, and you’re looking around at a team that doesn’t resemble the one that we thought we’d have coming out of spring training. You have all the injuries, especially to the pitching staff. It would be really easy to look at it and feel sorry for yourselves and say, ‘Well, geez. Look at all the stuff we have to deal with and how we’re going to win?’ But you can’t think that way.”

Exhibit B: Said future Hall of Fame pitcher notes injuries and changed expectations, expects fifties-style swearing (i.e. "geez") to break out any minute.

The Braves aren’t thinking that way.

Exhibit C: They're not panicking.

Then again, they are getting close.

Exhibit D: But they could!

After they dropped the opener of this series to a Mariners bunch so wretched that it fired its general manager and manager during the past few days, the Braves had lost 18 of the previous 28 games. They’ve had trouble winning on the road and grabbing one-run games. They’ve also had too many innings that resembled the first inning Saturday night that had the Mariners scoring thrice courtesy of two booted balls at shortstop and a wild pitch.

Exhibit E: They have, of late, been struggling.

(And if you read the word "struggling" like Tony Reali does on Around the Horn, well...want to join my support group? We meet regularly, and there are cookies!)

Come to think of it, maybe the Braves are panicking — you know, a little.

Exhibit F: Struggling leads to panicking. Or maybe panicking leads to struggling. Either way, Q motherfucking E motherfucking D.

“There are guys like Glav [Tom Glavine], and [John] Smoltz and Chipper [Jones] who have that not-panic attitude,” said Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur of the trio that survived the peaks and valleys associated with most or all of the Braves’ record trip to 14 consecutive division titles through 2005.

Exhibit G: At least 12% of the 25-man roster has that not-panic attitude, conferring on them immunity to panic. If I can turn around a trusty old scientific aphorism, evidence of absence is evidence of panic. So there! Panic it is!

It’s just that the rest of the 25-man roster is a novice at such things.

Exhibit H: The rest of them, having not won most or all of 14 consecutive division titles, are still susceptible to panic. This is why part of astronaut training is to sign a ten-day contract with the 1997 Braves. You know, just to soak up that division-winning goodness and ward off panic attacks.

What? How else do you explain Greg Myers and Tim Spehr?

Which is why Francoeur said, “You have guys like myself, where, it’s not so much panic, but we want to get it done now and get back in it. So, we don’t want to say, ‘Hey, if we keep playing our butts off now, come August, we’ll be back in it.’ I don’t like to say that, because I like to say we need to win now.”

Exhibit I: Francoeur and the rest of the young Braves aren't really panicking, but they want to win. If that isn't conclusive evidence of panic, I don't know what is.

(I don't know what is.)

The Braves aren’t winning now, at least not consistently. “Still, even with our injuries, we’ve had guys come in here to show that they can carry the load, and that’s what your mind-set has to be,” said Glavine, who won’t pitch for a month or so after damaging his 42-year-old left elbow. In addition, Smoltz is out for the season after shoulder surgery. Then there is Jones, who reinjured a quadriceps that will keep him out of the Braves’ starting lineup for the next few days and that manager Bobby Cox said may never improve.

Exhibit J: They have injuries, but "guys [have] come in here to show that they can carry the load." Oh yeah, that'd be panic right there.

I'm sure, based on all that evidence, you can only agree with one inescapable conclusion:

That leaves those Braves not named Glavine, Smoltz or Jones to play and not panic through this mess. That’s the problem, and that’s a big one.

I can find no fault with that. Logic at its finest, yes sir!

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