Dan's Dugout: Are Braves Too Young Or Too Old? • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Are Braves Too Young Or Too Old?


FLUSHING, NY — Before the ovations for Bartolo Colon faded into the foggy night Wednesday, his new ballclub went out and raided the Old Age Home again.

Ryan Howard spent his whole career with the Phils until joining Atlanta Image Credit: Frank Hyatt

Ryan Howard spent his whole career with the Phils until joining Atlanta
Credit: Frank Hyatt

The Atlanta Braves announced Thursday that they have signed Ryan Howard, an overweight, overage first baseman whose best days disappeared during Obama’s first term.

When a team has Freddie Freeman, arguably the best first baseman in the National League, why would they want another one?

The theory, according to general manager John Coppolella, is that Howard will go down to Disney World for extended spring training, play a few games at Triple-A Gwinnett to get his timing back, and then bring his once-formidable lefthanded bat to the Atlanta bench.

A St. Louis native who turns 38 in November, Howard spent his entire career with Philadelphia, where he won two National League home run titles and led the loop in runs batted in three times.

His peak year was 2006, when he had 58 home runs and 149 runs batted in.

Even last season, he wasn’t exactly a wimp at the plate. He finished under the Mendoza Line in batting average but still produced 25 homers.

Bartolo Colon is the oldest man in the majors

Bartolo Colon is the oldest man in the majors

His veteran presence will help in the youthful clubhouse too — just as the offseason signings of Colon and R.A. Dickey already have.

Colon, who turns 44 on May 24, is the oldest man in the majors, with Dickey not far behind. The knuckleballer, who once won a Cy Young Award for the Mets, hits 43 in October.

Along with second baseman Brandon Phillips, the slick-fielding second baseman acquired from Cincinnati during the winter, they can create their own nursing home in the corner of the Atlanta clubhouse. The 35-year-old Phillips, like the veteran pitchers, is on a one-year contract that could make him trade bait in July.

Bringing in familiar faces is a new tactic in Atlanta, which wants to be respectable in the new Sun Trust Park after finishing last a year ago.

The Braves have the top-rated farm system in baseball, according to Baseball America, and will begin reaping the fruits their harvest as this season goes on.

For now, however, experience will be the best teacher. The heroes of the 12-inning, 3-1 victory over the

Matt Kemp came to the Braves from San Diego

Matt Kemp came to the Braves from San Diego

Mets at CitiField Wednesday were 32-year-old cleanup man Matt Kemp, whose two-run double turned the tide, and 33-year-old closer Jim Johnson, a sinkerballer who once posted consecutive 50-save seasons.

Adding Kemp and standout rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson late last year turned around a franchise that floundered before the All-Star break (last in runs) but turned the corner over the second half, ranking sixth in runs scored. The Braves, who started 9-28 last year, finished two games over .500 after the All-Star Game and won 20 of their last 30.

Ryan Howard may not prove much of a factor — no other team tried to sign him during the winter — but the other graybeards could play big roles.

Colon, for example, needs a dozen wins to reach the Dennis Martinez mark of wins by a Latino pitcher. He’s just 10 wins away from Juan Marichal for the most wins by a Dominican.

The soft-spoken Dickey, a Nashville resident pleased to be pitching so close to home, says he’s healthy again after a couple of injury-riddled years in Toronto. He won’t duplicate his 2012 Cy Young Award season with the Mets but his knuckler will still do plenty of knuckling for a team that sent Phil Niekro, the ultimate practitioner, to Cooperstown.

It’s ironic, in a way, that the Braves stripped their team of high-priced talent to rebuild a moribund farm system but now seem headed in the other direction. No, Melvin Upton Jr. won’t be back but Kelly Johnson and Jeff Francoeur, both Atlanta natives, could be.

Braves boss Brian Snitker Credit: Dan Schlossberg

Braves boss Brian Snitker
Credit: Dan Schlossberg

Manager Brian Snitker even says, only half in jest, that this club could duplicate the feat of the ’91 Braves, the first team in baseball history to go from worst in the majors one year to World Series participants the next.

Getting past Washington and the Mets won’t be easy but both powerhouses have problems of their own.

As Joaquin Andujar said in his one-word description of baseball, “Youneverknow.”

Elsewhere in baseball:

Ex-Met Mike Pelfrey, released by Detroit, has landed a minor-league job with the White Sox . . .

Are the Orioles so desperate for pitching that they needed Edwin Jackson? His ERA over the past four seasons is a bloated 5.33 . . .

Ben Revere, signed by the Angels, had a better spring than Cameron Maybin but couldn’t knock his fellow vet out of left field . . .

Seattle has similar problems now that Drew Smyly might be lost for two months . . .

Houston’s first base situation remains fluid, with blue-chip prospect A.J. Reed and demoted big-leaguer Jon Singleton hoping to press George Springer . . .





About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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