The Atlanta Braves are 0-4 to start the season. In a vacuum, this wouldn't be a total disaster since a) there are 162 games, and b) the "don't check the standings until May" rule still applies. That said, the Braves finished the 2011 season on a 10-20 bender that cost them to blow the biggest lead in history in September to the eventual World Series champion Cardinals, which has placed the fanbase on high alert. What do 4 straight losses really mean? Frustration, certainly, but in the grand scheme, it's a wildly small sample and not cause for over-the-top alarm.
However, there have certainly been some Fredi Gonzalez issues already, including the maddening use of Chad Durbin (the team's worst pitcher) in high-leverage spots, playing Juan Francisco (aka the butcher) against a lefty last night and Matt Diaz in right field, and over-using Constanza as a hitter instead of the poor-hitting, pinch-runner that he is. These are cause for legitimate concern because we've seen this type of behavior before, and it's not getting better. I wouldn't suggest panic over the 0-4 record (by any stretch), but rather objectively take a look at the performance of the manager and take a deep breath about the performance of the bats and guys like Jurrjens and Minor. Take a breath, people.
Let's go elsewhere...
- Ian Kinsler is staying in Texas for a while. The Ranger 2nd basemen inked a 5-year, $75 million deal that is one of those rare contracts that I've seen praised from both sides. He's a tremendous hitter and base-runner at a position that rewards those things greatly, and while he's still pretty young, this is a pretty reasonable contract number. Would you rather be paying Kinsler 5 for 75 or Uggla 5 for 62? I choose Kinsler.
- MLB Check - Barry Zito threw a complete-game, 4-hit shutout IN COLORADO last night against the Rockies. This blew me away as I came across it, and shout-out to Zito for throwing a gem in a tough spot. Matt Wieters threw up a 4-4 with a homer and a double, but the Orioles fell to the Yankees 6-2 in giving them their first win of the season. Wieters was a fantasy darling preseason, and maybe this will key his breakout. The Red Sox are on the board with a win as well after a 3-run 9th inning keyed a 4-2 win, and Alfredo Aceves hung on for dear life in the 9th. And finally, CJ Wilson beat up on the Twins, sending Minnesota to join Atlanta at 0-4 in his debut. I think LAA will take 7 innings of 1-run ball from Wilson and run with it.
- The Saints bounty appeals have been denied by Roger Goodell. There's nothing funnier to me than the concept of 1-man justice that the NFL has in place where the commish can make every decision by himself, but the appeal process of that same decision goes back to... the commissioner again? What's going to change? I'm so confused, but in this case, I love it. Down with the Saints!
- The bizarre tales of Lamar Odom in Dallas have come to an end after the 6'10 forward was effectively sent home for the rest of the season yesterday rather than be outright released. He's been a disaster in Dallas (35% shooting for the year, worst in the league) and seems personally troubled, and while I won't joke about that part of it, he's been as bad as he could be on the court for them, and I can see them not wanting the off-court distraction. Weird stuff.
- NBA Check - Orlando beat Detroit like a drum 119-89. Oh, did I mention that Dwight Howard didn't play in this game? That's kind of unbelievable. Memphis outlasted LAC 94-85 to come within a half-game of them in the standings. Chris Paul led the way for the Clips with 21 points but shot just 7 of 17 and that wasn't enough to handle 6 guys in double-digits from the Grizz. Kenneth Faried had one of the crazier stat lines of the NBA season so far. He put up 27 points and 17 rebounds last night against Golden State, which in itself is really impressive, but he did so... IN 24 MINUTES! Are you kidding me? That's a 54/34 in 48 minutes or a 40/25 in 36 minutes. Big-ups to my man on that one. And finally, the Spurs lost a basketball game last night in Utah, breaking their 11 game win streak. Somehow they competed (losing by only 7) without Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker in the lineup with DNP-Rest, and Stephen Jackson shooting 2 of 13 in the lineup. I don't know how they do it.
What to watch for...
- NBA - Celtics @ Heat - 7:00 ESPN - The C's are playing defense at an out-of-this-world rate right now, but they'll be severely tested by Miami.
- MLB - Cards @ Reds - 7:00 MLB - Lohse vs. Leake - We'll see what Kyle Lohse has after that near no-no in the opener.
- MLB - Braves @ Astros - 8:00 SportSouth - Hanson vs. Weiland - I don't even know what to say. Come on Tommy.
- NBA - Knicks @ Bulls - 9:30 ESPN - Chicago gets a shot at revenge from this weekend, and I think they'll convert it.
- MLB - Royals @ A's - 10:00 MLB - Duffy vs. Godfrey - Danny Duffy is a big-time prospect still after getting banged around in 2011 and the chance to see Eric Hosmer is good enough.