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Archive for April, 2013|Monthly archive page

Braves New World

In Baseball on April 22, 2013 at 6:08 pm

The Atlanta Braves have dominated the National League in April. Can they keep it going through October? CDH’s Ian Brickey doesn’t think so.

The Atlanta Braves are living up to their hometown’s “Hotlanta” nickname. Baseball is back in Atlanta, and it’s National League opponents who are getting burned. Three weeks into the 2013 season, the Atlanta Braves have a 13-5 record — tied for best in Major League Baseball — and a three game lead in the NL East. Atlanta fans should enjoy it while they can, because it probably won’t last.

But before we get to the bad, let’s look at the good. Three things have contributed to the Braves’ success thus far: pitching, pitching and pitching. Through the season’s first month, Atlanta’s pitching staff has compiled the lowest team ERA in the majors at 2.36. They’ve surrendered the fewest earned runs in all of baseball with 42 and allowed the fewest runs per game at 2.44. Braves pitchers have given up only 11 home runs — fourth best in baseball — and have issued only 45 walks — also fourth best in baseball. The staff’s combined performances have produced an eye-popping and MLB-leading team ERA+ of 171. And that’s with an unimpressive Tim Hudson and an awful Julio Teheran.

The Braves’ pitching is the main reason for their fast start in 2013, but their gaudy Win-Loss record overshadows some troubling figures. Read the rest of this entry »

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Abraham, Jackie and Branch

In Baseball, Culture on April 11, 2013 at 7:56 pm

CDH’s Becky Koenig reviews the Jackie Robinson biopic 42, in theaters this Friday, and examines its connections with another recent film about breaking racial barriers.

Who broke baseball’s color barrier?

As any casual fan can tell you, the simple answer is Jackie Robinson. In 1947, the speedy infielder joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first African American to play in the major leagues. But the Robinson biopic 42, debuting tomorrow, calls into question just who truly was responsible for integrating America’s pastime.

Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) shares the screen with Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), the cigar-smoking Dodgers executive determined to get him on the field. Rickey got his start playing professional football and baseball, and then managed the St. Louis Browns before serving in World War I. He returned to St. Louis as a manager and executive for the Cardinals and developed the modern minor league system. The Dodgers hired Rickey away in the early 1940s. His star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame refers to him as “the greatest front-office strategist in baseball history,” who, by signing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, “simultaneously broke baseball’s color line and built the great Dodger teams of the 1940s and 1950s.”

This contrasts with the Robinson estate’s official website. The site asserts that “Jackie Robinson engineered the integration of professional sports in America by breaking the color barrier in baseball.” That’s the version most people have heard. In paying equal attention to the black ballplayer and the white team executive, 42 tries to resolve this tension, challenging audiences to reevaluate their assumptions about how the color barrier was broken. Read the rest of this entry »

Adam Wainwright

In Baseball on April 6, 2013 at 3:39 pm

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright signed a $97.5 million contract extension last week. Cardinals fans should be cautiously optimistic — with an emphasis on the “cautiously.”

Adam Wainwright’s good week ended with a bad night. On March 27, Wainwright agreed to a five-year $97.5 million contract extension with the St. Louis Cardinals. The deal affirmed Wainwright’s value to the team as an ace, and his contributions as a player. Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt, Jr. issued a press release heralding the extension, with words like “elite,” “leader,” “tradition” and “excellence.” Wainwright was the staff ace and would be for years to come. On April 1, Wainwright gave up 11 hits, surrendered three earned runs and took the loss in the season opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Not a great way to celebrate.

Wainwright certainly deserves his extension. As a pitcher, he’s been invaluable to the Cardinals, from closing out the 2006 World Series to assuming the role as staff ace when Chris Carpenter went down with injuries. Since becoming a starter in 2007, he’s been worth 16.7 Wins Above Replacement, recorded 7.42 strikeouts per nine innings, and finished as high as second in Cy Young Award balloting. He clearly deserves the largest contract given to a pitcher by the Cardinals. But the question should be, is he worth it? Read the rest of this entry »

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