Hometown Brave – Brian McCann

August 10, 2011 by Tom Ferda · Leave a Comment 

Published in Men’s Book July/August 2011 edition.

Originally from Detroit, Tom is a Los Angeles based MLB writer. His material has been published in several newspapers including The New York Daily News, Detroit Free Press and Washington Times; and magazines including Men’s Book, The Hockey News (Canada), USA Hockey Mag, 360 Hawks and 360 Thrashers. For clippings or inquiries contact him at tom@tomferda.com

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Fat Lady Warming Up Her Mic For The Braves

July 29, 2008 by Tom Ferda · Leave a Comment 

Published in Baseball Digest Daily July 29, 2008

Originally from Detroit, Tom is a Los Angeles based sportswriter. His material has been published in several newspapers including The New York Daily News, Detroit Free Press and Washington Times. Magazines that have published his features include Men’s Book, The Hockey News (Canada), USA Hockey Mag, 360 Hawks and 360 Thrashers. For clippings or inquiries contact him at tom@tomferda.com

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Fat Lady Warming Up Her Mic For the Braves

Written by TOM FERDA

ATLANTA – At All-Star break the Atlanta Braves were poised to make a run. Their schedule allowed them a realistic opportunity to create a tight, four-way race in the NL East.

Being in the hunt for a playoff spot would put the Braves in the position most analysts expected them to be in throughout this season. Being in the hunt could also convince Braves GM Frank Wren to stop accepting calls inquiring about a Mark Teixeira trade.

On July 16 with the Braves sitting 6.5 games behind first and the last-place Nationals coming to town, it wasn’t time for the Fat Lady to sing just yet.

A lot has occurred since the Braves laced up their spikes and took the field after All-Star break and most of the news is bleak.

The underachieving Braves lost the first series after break to the overachieving Nats, allowing one of the worst offensive teams in MLB to score 29 runs at Turner Field.

Scurrying out of Atlanta with their tail between their legs, the Braves went on the road where they regrouped and won a three-game series against the division rival Florida Marlins.

Although the Braves lost just one of those games, their biggest loss occurred during their Game 3 win when All-Star third baseman Chipper Jones strained a hamstring hustling to beat out a throw to first base.

Taking the momentum from their road series victory in Florida, the Braves continued on to the City Of Brotherly Love for their much anticipated series against another NL East division rival, the Philadelphia Phillies; a series they would have to play without Jones who was still nursing his hammy.

Citizens Bank Park is known as a hitter’s ballpark and is an intimidating place to take the mound, even for seasoned veterans. That didn’t seem to faze Braves rookie phenomenon Jair Jurrjens who started Game 1 and hurled eight innings of shutout ball, leading his Braves to an 8-2 win for his 10th victory of the season.

In Game 2, capitalizing on the hitter’s park theory, the Braves scored nine runs in the top of the fourth inning to take a 9-3 lead and were primed to win back-to-back road series for the first time all season.

The Phillies had other plans. They answered with seven in the bottom of the fifth to take a 10-9 lead and steal that game from the Braves.

The Braves bats stayed alive for most of that Phillies series. Offensively, they averaged nine runs per game, scoring a total of 27 runs in the three games . . .  but that wasn’t enough; not when your bullpen squandered every lead they are handed.

The Braves blew dominating leads of five and six runs during Game 2 and 3, their bullpen collapsing both times and causing the Braves to surrender the most important series of the year. They were clearly in position to return home in the thick of the NL East playoff race.

Instead, the Braves returned home for seven games against tough opponents, the Cardinals and red-hot Brewers, and will be playing without their All-Star cast.

Brian McCann suffered a concussion during Game 3 from a collision at the plate and is listed game-to-game while Jones and No. 1 starter Tim Hudson were placed on the 15 day DL beginning July 28th.

This is deflating news. Even the most optimistic should consider throwing in the towel.

There is a window of opportunity in sports and the Braves window is slamming shut. After this past week of blown opportunities, GM Wren is expected to not only answer the phone when it rings, but also place a few calls of his own.

With the deadline looming just hours away, Teixeira should be packing his bags. And as for The Fat Lady . . . it’s time for her to warm up her mic.

Braves Need Early Win Streak To Save Teixeira

July 16, 2008 by Tom Ferda · Leave a Comment 

Published in Baseball Digest July 16, 2008

Originally from Detroit, Tom is a Los Angeles based sportswriter. His material has been published in several newspapers including The New York Daily News, Detroit Free Press and Washington Times. Magazines that have published his features include Men’s Book, The Hockey News (Canada), USA Hockey Mag, 360 Hawks and 360 Thrashers. For clippings or inquiries contact him at tom@tomferda.com

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Atlanta Need Early Win Streak to Save Teixeira

Written by TOM FERDA

ATLANTA- Now that we’ve taken a few days to come down from the adrenaline rush furnished by the longest game in All-Star history that included appearances from Atlanta Braves Chipper Jones and Brian McCann, it’s time to take a look at the importance of a strong Braves start to begin the second half.

As the Braves come out rested after the break, two issues seem to be of interest. One, closing the gap on the NL East leaders and two, GM Frank Wren seems to need a reason to keep clean-up hitter Mark Teixeira past the July 31 trade deadline. These issues seem to go hand-in-hand. In a recent interview, when asked about the possibility of trading the Georgia Tech grad, Wren responded, “A lot depends on how our club is performing.”

Teixeira said in an earlier interview that he is taking it one game at a time and knows it’s just part of the business. Maybe so, but this part of the business may be taking a toll on the player. After hitting .287 with nine HR’s and a slugging percentage of .617 for a productive month of June, his numbers have dropped considerably in July. Through 13 games this month, his average was .250 and he had one HR and a slugging percentage of .438.

After many picked the Braves to be the front runners in the NL East, they experienced an underachieving first half going 45-50 which included a dismal 5-22 record in one-run games. The Braves began the second half 6.5 games behind the division leading Philadelphia Phillies and NY Mets who shared the top spot. But with the upcoming schedule for all these teams, things could change drastically.

The first three series after the All-Star break offers an incredible opportunity for the Braves to get right back into the race. They opened against the last place Washington Nationals at Turner Field on July 18. The Braves pitchers own the second best ERA in the NL going up against the Nationals who have one of the softest line-ups in MLB. The Nats are last in the majors with a team batting average of .239 and their lackluster roster does not have a single player with double digits in HRs.

This appears to be a dream second-half opening series for Atlanta who is expected to win the series on their home field.

Tim Hudson (10-7) did come out and get the win in the first game of that series, a one-run 7-6 victory, but Jair Jurrjens (9-5) struggled in game two, giving up five earned runs and taking the loss, 8-2.

With the game two loss, the Braves squandered an opportunity to move closer to the Phillies who lost to the Marlins that same night. But Atlanta can still salvage the Washington series with a win in game three on Sunday before they go on the road.

While the Braves host the Nats, the Phillies are in hot, humid Florida against the Marlins before going to New York for a three game series against the Mets. Those two match-ups are sure to restructure the top three spots in the NL East.

After this weekend’s Nats series, the Braves visit the Marlins for three games and then head north to play the Phillies in what could be the most important series of their season. In this cluster of division rival games, something has got to give.

With the top three teams in the NL East going head-to-head all week, every Braves victory would gain a full game on one of those rivals, moving them closer to a playoff position and right back in the race. If they are able to close the gap prior to next weekend’s Philly series, their performance in the City of Brotherly Love could define their season. After being swept at home by the Phillies earlier in the year, returning the favor would put the Braves in contention and probably keep Teixeira in Atlanta.

It’s no secret that Teixeira has become a hot topic of trade rumors throughout the league. It’s pretty obvious the Braves need to step it up a notch and find a way to win to get back in it by the end of next weekend’s Phillies series or they will likely be playing the rest of the season without Teixeira.

It’s crunch time for the Braves.

If they respond and come out of the gate with a flurry, the NL East may suddenly find itself in a tight four way race for first, The Fat Lady may not be singing for quite some time and the Jimi Hendrix hit, “All Along The Watchtower” will continue to fill the air at Turner Field after July 31 when Teixeira steps to the plate.

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