Posted: 12:11 am Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Ruminating on Airstreams and B-Mac’s sweet swing 

By David O'Brien

DARK STAR, Fla. – Since we’re expecting to see Brian McCann for the second time in four days on Wednesday, when he makes the trip down busy, dinosaur- and RV-lined Interstate 4 to face the Braves at the ballpark on the perimeter of Fun Sector (aka Disney), now would be a good time to make note of the fact that the seven-time NL All-Star and longtime former Brave leads all major league catchers with 171 home runs and 638 RBIs since the beginning of 2006, his first full season in the majors.CORRECTION_Astros_Braves_Ba

What’s that? Oh, the dinosaurs. A reference to Dinosaur World, between Plant City and Tampa on I-4. Not far from the “Airstream Ranch,” an oddity that never ceases to make me turn my head and risk causing a pile-up on I-4 as I drive past and try to figure out why there are seven or eight now-dilapidated Airstream RVs lined up in a row, stuck in the ground front-end first, their back ends sticking straight up in the air. On the way to Clearwater for Braves vs. Phillies or Tampa for Braves vs. Yankees, or to Bradenton or Dunedin any other spring-training site on the Gulf Coast of Florida, I go past those Airstreams and the spectacularly kitschy entrance to Dinosaur World, smile inside, and think, what the …?

Not to mention the countless dealerships selling RVs, and the RV parks, and the mobile-home parks with all their not-mobile doublewide homes.

Oh, and the Water Ski Experience Hall of Fame and Museum, also just off I-4 and also clearly visible as you drive by.

I figure I’ve driven by all of these places and things at least 150-200 times in the past 20 years. I’ve never stopped, not even once, to actually enter one of them, or even stand still for a few minutes to take in the splendor. No, it’s strictly 5-10 seconds, a drive-by, each time passing by each of them, and these places and things fade from my consciousness as quickly as they came in. Spring-training oddities, never to be thought about during the other 10-1/2 months of my life that come closest to normalcy. (And I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone who’s actually gone inside the Water Ski Experience, though I have had a few people on Twitter or my blog tell me they’ve done Dinosaur World and that it was quite enjoyable.)

McCann and Craig Kimbrel.

McCann and Craig Kimbrel.

Anyway, B-Mac will be making his way down I-4 in the Yankee team bus with its gold-plated sinks and other bathroom fixtures and the high-def individual video monitors at every seat, and ribeye steaks and lobster for lunch on every trip. (OK, truth: The Yankees bus, as far as I know, has none of that stuff, and is probably no different than any other team bus at spring training.)

McCann already got his hugs and greetings and well-wishing out of the way with his former Braves mates when they played the Yankees over at Steinbrenner Field on Sunday. But he’ll be making his first appearance at Champion Stadium since signing with the Yankees as a free agent over the winter, and will also be seeing some of the Braves clubhouse staff for the first time since he left, and probably a few players who didn’t make the trip to Tampa. So it’s still a thing, at least for this one more game.

And then obviously when he plays in Atlanta it’ll be a big deal, although unfortunately the Braves don’t face the Yankees in interleague play this season, so it’ll be a while and the impact will surely have worn off a little by the time he finally does play a game in the ATL. So for now, this will have to do as far as a Braves “home game” with B-Mac in the visiting dugout.

Oh, and those 171 home runs aren’t just the most among major league catchers since the beginning of 2006, they are the most by a long way. Among those who’ve played at least 75 percent of their games at catcher during that period, the next-highest total is 117 homers by A.J. Pierzynski. And after McCann’s 638 RBIs, the next highest by anyone who played 75 percent or more of his games at catcher in that period is 562 by Joe Mauer.

He hit 20 or more homers seven times in eight seasons, including the past six in a row. He racked up 366 RBIs during his first four full seasons in the majors, in his ages 22-25 seasons. He has a .277 career average and .350 OBP, including three seasons with OBPs of .373 or higher, most recently in 2010 (.375). He’s only struck out as many as 90 times once in eight seasons.

All this from a catcher. A thick-bodied catcher, playing his first eight-plus seasons in the NL, without the regular opportunity to DH or play another position to ease the wear and tear of squatting behind the plate and taking the blows and wearing the gear on so many hot, humid Atlanta days and nights.

I’ve said it before, and will again: If McCann have another five to seven years that are even close to as productive as he’s been so far, he’s got a good chance of being a Hall of Famer someday. And now, as a left-handed hitter with good power playing his home games in Yankee Stadium, which favors left-handed pull hitters, he could have a few 30-homer seasons in him.

In fact, I fully expect him to hit 30-35 homers playing in that ballpark, especially now that he’s had a full year to re-strengthen the shoulder.

McCann probably wasn’t as good a defensive catcher as he was rated by some people, but he wasn’t nearly as bad a defensive catcher as he was rated by some others. He was a strong pitch-framer and had a good way with pitchers, especially as he got older. He had their trust.

He was a terrific teammate, a guy who cared first and foremost about winning, never made excuses or moaned and groaned, and always stood up for his guys — even if that meant standing in the middle of the basepath and making a bit of a scene obstructing the path of a chirping opponent. Or even if it mean not being very tactful about explaining to a slightly overzealous opposing rookie pitcher – a sensational rookie pitcher — that, hey there is a way to do things, and it ain’t the way you just did it.slideshow_1002222200_mccann-allstar-2006

But here’s what McCann was and is, most of all: A hitter. A born hitter. One. Hell. Of. A. Hitter. The proverbial Guy Who Could Fall Out of Bed And Hit After Sleeping All Winter. Not Chipper, no. But for a catcher? Yeah, he was – and I believe still will be – some kind of special hitter.

That beautiful swing will be missed, and perhaps not fully appreciated by some until now that it’s gone and we see it on TV, in pinstripes.

Revised Braves lineup Wed. vs. Yankees

  1. Heyward RF
  2. BUpton CF
  3. Freeman 1B
  4. JUpton LF
  5. Johnson 3B
  6. Uggla 2B
  7. Simmons SS
  8. Lerud C (Gattis in original lineup, batting 4th; scratched due to sore quad)
  9. Hale RHP

Etc. Random stat from the Bill Chuck Files: 

2013: Lowest BAA after 0-2 Counts

PA

P

H

XBH

HR

K

POUT

AVG

1. Jose Fernandez (MIA)

153

343

10

3

1

91

144

.066

2. Jerome Williams (LAA)

133

341

12

5

1

51

117

.094

3. Justin Masterson (CLE)

148

347

14

1

1

83

133

.095

4. Ryan Dempster (BOS)

137

333

13

3

0

65

121

.098

5. Max Scherzer (DET)

197

475

19

7

1

97

175

.099

6. Jeff Locke (PIT)

115

262

12

7

1

46

102

.107

7. Madison Bumgarner (SF)

176

446

18

8

0

91

153

.107

8. Clayton Kershaw (LAD)

235

527

25

3

0

132

208

.108

9. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY)

134

339

15

2

0

59

118

.114

10. Anibal Sanchez (DET)

169

403

19

4

0

91

147

.117

11. Matt Harvey (NYM)

156

392

18

4

1

86

137

.118

12. Yu Darvish (TEX)

180

422

20

3

0

105

153

.118

13. Julio Teheran (ATL)

165

421

19

4

1

81

140

.120

14. Wade Miley (ARI)

153

355

18

4

2

60

132

.122

15. Stephen Strasburg (WSH)

153

390

18

3

2

77

129

.123

16. James Shields (KC)

167

441

20

6

2

75

146

.125

17. Lance Lynn (STL)

220

528

27

9

0

112

187

.127

18. A. J. Burnett (PIT)

191

397

23

6

0

103

161

.128

19. Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE)

172

438

21

6

3

85

146

.129

20. Gio Gonzalez (WSH)

178

474

22

5

1

84

149

.130

And the five highest….

PA

P

H

XBH

HR

K

POUT

AVG

1. Joe Saunders (SEA)

111

319

29

11

3

36

83

.276

2. Kyle Kendrick (PHI)

127

310

29

10

4

45

95

.234

3. Edinson Volquez (LAD)

127

298

28

9

4

55

93

.226

4. Doug Fister (DET)

173

394

37

12

2

66

132

.224

5. Kris Medlen (ATL)

170

400

35

9

3

73

127

.216

• Been a rough and eventful week around Braves camp, what with the rash of (recurring) elbow injuries and forced shuffling of the starting rotation. Losing Kris Medlen is a major blow to the Braves (not to mention to us writers — he’s probably the best quote on the team, and about as cooperative and enjoyable to be around as anyone I’ve had the pleasure of covering).

It’ll be interesting to see how the Braves get through the first weeks of the season with a makeshift rotation, before they start to get newcomer Ervin Santana and a couple of their projected regulars — Mike Minor, Gavin Floyd — into the rotation.

Let’s close with a classic solo gem from ex-Husker Du frontman extraordinaire Bob Mould, which you can hear by clicking here. This is off his Workbook album, the 25th anniversary 2-disc edition of which has played quite a bit in the rental Ford Fusion CD player this spring.

Bob Mould

Bob Mould

“SEE A LITTLE LIGHT” by Bob Mould  

Listen, there’s music in the air
I heard your voice, coming from somewhere
But look how much we’ve grown
I guess I should have known

As the years go by, they take their toll on you
Think of all the things we wanted to do
And all the words we said yesterday
That’s a long time ago
You didn’t think I’d really go, now
Are you waiting? (I know why)
You’re already saying goodbye
Are you ready? (I know why)

I see a little light, I know you will
I can see it in your eyes, I know you still care
But if you want me to go
You should just say so

2960 comments
raleighbravefan
raleighbravefan

"There are a handful of idiots here who believe they're geniuses" (YWN)


That describes everyone here, including me.  (LOL)

Lew06
Lew06

No, the Nats are going to have to prove that they're front runners. They didn't advance in the playoffs in 2012 and bombed out last season despite unlimited hype. They aren't frontrunners until they prove they are and they have not done so yet.

_DAP_
_DAP_

in 2012, the braves were 8-10 vs. the nats. had they been 10-8 instead, they would have tied for the division lead. in 2013, the braves were 13-6 against teh nats. had they been 6-13 instead, they would have finished 10 games behind the nats instead of 10 games up. the head to head games within the division are a two game swing. they are huge games.

HugoZHackenbush
HugoZHackenbush

Still a week from opening day, and this blog is circling the drain faster than Dorothy's house in the tornado. Pointless song lyrics, inane recitation of personal habits, fact-challenged political arguments, and YWN, who's in a class by himself. What can I add to all that?. Hey, here's a woman who's auctioning off her virginity...

http://www.elizabeth-raine.com/index.html

ncscoots
ncscoots

 I think the Nats pretty much slumped as a team last season.  I don't anticipate them sucking wind like that again, though. 

People forget they started out like a house afire last year at 7-2, went into the first Braves' series confident with Detwiler, Strasburg, and Gio going, and promptly gave up 18 runs while scoring only 5. Then got swept by St. Louis a week or so later. I don't know that they got "shook", exactly, but I think they certainly got the idea that they weren't the class of the league.

Then, it was always something coming that would turn them around: Rendon's ascension, Ramos' return, Harper getting back, blah blah blah. And when each of those things occurred, they looked up and found that they were still the same team.

As for their fortunes this season, I have no idea. They now know that they can't just throw their gloves on the field, sure, but they still have to prove that they can be something other than front-runners.

noleee
noleee

Malaysian PM sounds pretty certain

noleee
noleee

a-feudin,  a-fightin' and a-fussin'

thats always goin' on with ussen

we are such neighborly people, peaceful and sweet

'cept when we happen to meet.....


noleee
noleee

hard to tell what their good finish will mean to them, was it an indication that they were all gritty, or that they got so far back that the pressure went away

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Wish we could TRADE for Fister, so I could hear his name less. lol

noleee
noleee

Lew with a potent Fist(er) jab.....

Lemke_Knuckler
Lemke_Knuckler

@Rick_C  Famous last words, spoken by all pitchers right before the scalpel meets the flesh. 

Jeff_R
Jeff_R

@Lew06 Today, on paper, mind you, I'd rate the Nats as the favorites to win the NL East - and not because of the hype.  I don't think they're a studly 100-win team.  More like low nineties. 


Of course, that's just on paper.  Variables, good and bad, to be played out for the Nats and Braves.  I still think that the Braves rotation is key.  It's a race if the rotation - as comprised - steps up.   

Lemke_Knuckler
Lemke_Knuckler

@_DAP_  Your math's a little off.  Braves would have finished 4 games back at 89-73.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@ncscoots  I don't accept the premise that the Nats "sucked wind" last season.  They won 86 games.  Not all that much has to go right for them to bounce back.  


At the same time, I think people might be overstating the Braves' issues.  Beachy didn't contribute last season.  Hudson's performance last season wasn't anything special.  McCann was very good, as usual, but it wasn't one of his best seasons.  They'll feel the Medlen loss and the McCann loss to some degree, but I still think it's a close race.  It's not like the Braves are a bunch of mediocre players without Medlen and McCann or that Medlen and McCann, as good as they are, were MVP types that pushed the Braves over the top last year.   

_DAP_
_DAP_

@ncscoots not only that, but the division race was still pretty close all year, until after the all star break. they had a shot throughout he first half. its not like they were hopeless all season.

Jeff_R
Jeff_R

@ncscoots Yes, the Nats start last season was good and, yes, the Braves' series laid them flat (I'm still relishing that).  And, yes, the Nats kept thinking a turnaround was coming.  They finally got it long about early to mid August, as I recall.  The Nats did finish well. 


My thinking is that the Nats aren't going to lose it for themselves this season; they're going to have to be beaten.  My hope is that Julio continues to pitch like he wants to be an ace; Minor's shoulder holds up and he gives the team solid numbers again; Santana pitches like he wants a long-term deal in the worst way; Wood takes big steps forward; and whoever brings up the rear (Hale, Floyd, Schlosser) does well enough.


If the starting rotation comes around for the Braves, they'll have a shot at the division and, certainly, at Wild Card, IMO.       

Lemke_Knuckler
Lemke_Knuckler

@ncscoots  Yep, that series sweep in April last year set the tone for the whole year.  Fredi should be able to line up Teheran & Wood to pitch in both series against the Nats the first 2 weeks, as long as Santana is ready to pitch the 4/10 finale against the Muts.

_Murph_
_Murph_

@noleee  Interesting how they've got all the "new data" that they've been analyzing that shows more of the plane's trajectory than previously known.

I had read a week or so ago that certain countries might not be sharing radar info because they don't want others to know what their capabilities are... seems like this "new data" came from some mysterious source.

ncscoots
ncscoots

@noleee  The indication to me was that they played mostly against sub-.500 teams well out of it in August and September, winning a high percentage of those games. Against playoff contenders, they STILL got crucified. 

Lew06
Lew06

@noleee  I just think he's due for a major regression - can't keep putting all of those runners on base and not get burned eventually.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@Jeff_R @Lew06  Doesn't matter if they didn't advance in the playoffs in 2012 or that they "bombed out" last season.  If you want to do predictions, the question is if you had to put your money where your mouth is, where do you see them finishing in 2014.  

Jeff_R
Jeff_R

@Lew06 I'll add that right now, I think the Braves are an 85-90 win team.  That's as of today. 

_DAP_
_DAP_

@Lemke_Knuckler @_DAP_my math WOULD be off if i had actually done some math. i didnt, probably should have. i was aiming more for the big picture, so dont miss that. my point stands...interdivision games are two game swings. gotta win 'em.

Lew06
Lew06

@Lemke_Knuckler @_DAP_  Actually, he;'s right - the Braves finished four games out of the divsion lead in 2012 and had they beaten the Nats two more times, they would have tied for the lead  - just looked it up.

Jeff_R
Jeff_R

@ShaunATL @ncscoots I think if you ask the Nats, they "sucked wind.  86 wins and no playoff berth AFTER being projected as a championship contender. 


The did overcome some significant issues last season. 


But we have to look at how management projected the starting rotation - the nub of the Braves' concerns this season, more so than BJ or Uggla, IMO.


Medlen was expected to produce Medlen numbers again.  Beachy was projected into the rotation with a hoped for return to form (or close to it).  Progress from Teheran is anticipated, and his spring is promising, but he's now considered Number 1 in the rotation.  Will he be?


Minor's having some shoulder concerns... might be transient, but has to be a concern. 


Wood is showing well in the spring, but he's young and young pitchers are given to rough patches or inconsistencies. 


Santana...  I'll take what he did for KC last year with a better win-loss.  But he has a history of inconsistency. 


Floyd's coming off a  significant injury.  Hale is green.  Garcia?  Schlosser - a dark horse? 


But more question marks than management probably feels comfortable with.         

ncscoots
ncscoots

@Jeff_R @ncscoots  Well, I don't know about "lose it for themselves"; their record against last year's playoff teams was just brutal. Not just against the Braves.

And DAP makes a good point...middle of May, Nats were a half-game back. Braves went on a tear (15 outa 20, something like that), lead was about 8 by the first week of June, and the race was effectively over.


Lemke_Knuckler
Lemke_Knuckler

@_Murph_ No, the data mostly came from Immarsat, a British sat phone company.  They've been working with authorities from the beginning.  

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@Lew06 @ShaunATL @Jeff_R  My point was that I wouldn't put too much stock into the Nationals failing to advance in the playoffs two seasons ago or not making the playoffs last season or the Braves losing in the playoffs last season, when it comes to making predictions or placing bets on the 2014 standings.  


I wasn't looking for a fight.  I'm just responding to the very first comment of the thread where you said the Nationals aren't front-runners until they're front-runners. 

Lew06
Lew06

@ShaunATL @Jeff_R @Lew06  If you actually read Shaun instead of looking for fights so you can act persecuted, you'd see I said the Braves would win 94 and the Nats finish second.

Lemke_Knuckler
Lemke_Knuckler

2013 sir.  I was talking about 2013.  I'll repeat it one more time.  I was talking about 2013.  Did I mention my comment was about 2013.  Oh wait, just a second...yep, 2013, just confirmed that my comment was about 2013.  

What just happened?  Where am I?

Lew06
Lew06

@Lemke_Knuckler @Lew06  Just stating a fact - not trying to prove anyone wrong. But thanks for taking it personally.

Lemke_Knuckler
Lemke_Knuckler

@Lew06   Was talking about 2013.  But I appreciate you taking the time to try to prove me wrong.  It shows gusto.

Jeff_R
Jeff_R

@ncscoots @Jeff_R Right, but as I recall, the Nats went pretty flat from May throughout the summer, and then pulled it together for the stretch run, which mattered not because the Braves didn't falter. 


I'm not anticipating a bottoming out for an extended stretch this season like last season. 


Do I think the Nats underperformed?  I think so.   

Lew06
Lew06

@noleee @Lew06  No problem - it will be interesting to see if peripherals or WAR win out on his season.