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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ben's Sports Take: 21 days until Opening Day

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Here's the top 21 things that have to go right for the Atlanta Braves in 2011 if they want to win the World Series.

Why 21, you ask? Well, besides the fact that the number graced the back of Warren Spahn—perhaps the greatest left-handed pitcher in Braves history—and is now hanging out behind the left field foul pole at Turner Field, 21 is the exact number of days we have to wait until baseball returns to Atlanta.

Let's take a gander at necessary outcomes 21-15:

21. Find a proper hiding place for Kawakami
—Ever since Kenshin Kawakami arrived from Japan back in 2009, he's done little to prove his worth—besides driving a sick whip. But all souped-up Maseratis aside, Kawakami has done next to nothing to merit his 3-year, $23 million contract. Two years, eight wins and 22 losses later, GM Frank Wren has made it clear that Kawakami isn't wanted on the big boy club anymore. So, he'll likely be sent to either Gwinnett County or Pearl, Mississippi—you know, the types of destinations that all international travelers dream of visiting.

20. Get that old-man smell out of the manager's office
—For the past 13 seasons, the manager's office inside the Braves clubhouse inside Turner Field has been occupied by one man. While we can all agree that Bobby Cox is the greatest manager in team history, we can't discount the fact that, well, he was old. And just like every visit to your grandparents' house when you were a kid, there was a certain aroma that permeated through the now vacant managerial office. In order for Fredi Gonzalez to properly focus on his new role as Braves manager, drastic measures must be taken to eradicate all of Cox's scents, smells and odors. Don't be afraid to break out the hazmat suits.

19. Make sure Uggla knows he's in Atlanta
—All-Star second baseman Dan Uggla has been the talk of Atlanta since being traded from the Marlins back in November. After spending the last five seasons rotting away in South Florida in front of the league's worst fanbase, it's important that Uggla's teammates serve as constant reminders that his talents don't have to go to waste anymore.

18. Ensure that the young guys always carry ID
—Jason Heyward, 21 years old, Freddie Freeman, 21, and Craig Kimbrel, 22, may not be your average college-aged, red-blooded, American males, but that doesn't mean they're immune to the trouble that seems to find men of their age. If these guys ever get the itch to hit the town together, it might not be a bad idea for the grizzled-looking Heyward to assume the role of baby-sitter, at least until Freeman and Kimbrel start growing facial hair.

17. Keep Chipper's handicap parking spot clear
—Nothing enrages a decrepit, old veteran more than deleting his saved recordings of Matlock off the clubhouse DVR or hiding his medication. Unless, of course, someone parks in his extra-wide parking spot, forcing him to navigate his Grand Marquis into one of the spots reserved for hybrids.

16. No more Red Bull in the clubhouse
—Brian McCann's vision struggles have become common knowledge over the past few seasons and after the recent discovery that the cause might be his excessive intake of caffeine, the All-Star catcher's Red Bull shotgunning days are over.

15. Handle Schafer with care
—After a psychologically damaging 2009 season and an injury-plagued 2010, former stud prospect Jordan Schafer hasn't quite lived up to the expectations that accompanied his first visit to Braves Spring Training two years ago. In order to get Schafer's career back on track, the Braves training staff must take every precaution necessary to prevent any further injuries—both mental and physical. The answer? Bubble wrap and Prozac.

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