Archive for October, 2013

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (with apologies to Joan Baez)

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

A couple weeks ago (I should have written this post earlier, but I don’t have an editor breathing down my neck) the cities of Los Angeles and New York brought Atlanta professional sports teams to their knees. Divided by only a couple of hours the LA Dodgers defeated the Braves 4 games to 1 in the post season playoffs, and the New York Jets flew into town to defeat the Falcons 30-28.

Ironically the Atlanta teams led in their contests only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the last few minutes of the game. The Braves came from behind to lead the Dodgers 3-2, but gave up a two run homer in the 8th innings. Craig Kimbrel, the best closer in baseball, twiddled his thumbs while he watched journey man David Carpenter be put to the sword. Meanwhile The Falcons scored a touchdown to lead 28-27 with two minutes to go. Incredulously, they couldn’t prevent rookie quarter back Geno Smith from engineering a 60 yard march down the field to place his kicker in range for a field goal and win the game.

The Falcons began the season with high expectations. They finished the previous season with an impressive record 13-3 and were within one play of the Super Bowl only to come up short against a buoyant San Francisco team. Tony Gonzalez was persuaded to delay his retirement for one more season, and he did so gladly believing this was the team that would finally give him a well-deserved Super Bowl ring. To be honest,  the Falcons over achieved last season. They won several games by a field goal margin or less, and by the same token this season’s defeats (4 out of 6) have been by similar margins.

The team has been decimated by injuries. Ten starters are lost for the season or sidelined for several weeks. Bierman, Jackson, Jones, Ewing, Johnson, Weatherspoon, Roddy White need I go on? Well I’m going to anyway. There were weaknesses for all to see last season, but they were not adequately addressed. They have one of the worst pass rush records in the league, the offensive line doesn’t protect a $100 million quarter back, the corner backs can’t tackle, and they don’t have a dominant line- backer.

Meanwhile the Braves won 96 games in the regular season but have not won a post season series since 2001. Unfortunately it’s not surprising. Yes, six of the line-up hit 20 plus homers in the season, but most of the time it was against moderate pitching. Brian McCann went 0-13 in the series they lost to the Dodgers. Elliot Johnson who replaced the hapless Dan Uggla went 1-14, Justin Upton
2-14 and Heyward 3-18. B J Upton sitting on a $75 million contract hit for a .184 average in the regular season and was 25th on the roster for the post season.

There are several questions that need to be addressed by the two Atlanta teams:

  1. Should Frank Wren, the Braves general manager be fired? He gave Dan Uggla a 4 year contract at $13 million a year on the basis of being a Braves killer. B J Upton was awarded a $75 million contract which was an exorbitant amount of money for an average player. Who can forget $60 million wasted on pitcher Derek Lowe? Based on the fact that the Braves Organization is a middle income earner, money cannot be wasted on big contracts and therefore Wren should be shown the door.
  2. Should Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons general manager be fired? Quite simply, yes! His draft picks have proved to be mediocre at best and free agents have not set the house on fire. Matt Ryan was awarded a $100 million contract prior to this season, but little attempt was made to protect him by improving a porous offensive line.
  3. Should Dan Uggla be traded? Uggla has two years remaining on his contract and is owed $26 million. The man had the worst hitting average in baseball last season, .179. He was fitted with contact lenses in the summer and had Lasik surgery in August to improve his vision, but to no avail. The Braves would have to eat $20 million of his contract if they were to trade him, but it makes sense and he has to go.
  4. Should Tony Gonzalez be traded? He is arguably the Falcons’ best player right now, but deserves to fulfill his dream of winning a Super Bowl. If the Falcons lose another game before the trade deadline (October 26, 2013) which is likely, then Gonzalez should be offered the opportunity to move to a contending team.
  5. Should free agents Hudson and McCann be offered new contracts? Hudson is recovering from a broken ankle and is 38 years old. He is too old to be the ace on the staff and needs to be put out to pasture. McCann will command a $100 million contract and is simply not worth it. He is only 30 years old but plays like a middle aged man, and his performance in the post season was truly pathetic. So it’s farewell to Tim and Brian.

I am often accused of viewing my glass as half empty rather than half full, but I prefer to call myself a realist. I get irritated when Fredi Gonalez, manager of the Braves, claims his players were over excited when they lost the opening game to the Dodgers. I would have more respect for the man if he admitted they sucked!!! Say good night Joan…….good night Joan.



Hell on Wheels

Monday, October 14th, 2013

A couple of weeks ago I visited England to see my two new grandchildren, Alice and Alex. They live 170 miles apart and I was forced to rent a car to simplify my mode of travel. Little did I realize I would be at the mercy of BMWs, Mercs and Audis. What is it with the drivers that own these models? They do believe they own the road and woe betide the discerning driver that gets in their way.

I know there are 3 lanes on a motorway and the middle lane is earmarked for overtaking, but I see little point in staying within the inside lane where you have to continually negotiate slower traffic merging onto or exiting the motorway. The speed limit is 70mph which I hovered around on every trip, but the aforementioned models regularly zoomed past me in the outside lane breaking the sound barrier in the process, and totally oblivious of a succession of speed cameras which buzzed my GPS System every five minutes.

I don’t usually suffer from road rage when I drive on Atlanta roads although there is sufficient reason to do so. I guess the possibility of another driver packing a gun is a sobering deterrent and rage is restricted to the gnashing of teeth and turning the air blue which are safer option.  But having drivers up one backside and then swerving violently around you as frequently occurred on the motorway is not my idea of fun.

I was accompanying my wife on a business trip and we stayed at the Radisson Blue which is a charming hotel (if you can find it within the spaghetti road network) in the heart of Guildford on the outskirts of London. I should advise you Guildford’s heart is slowly having the blood squeezed from it like pips from lemon by the myriad of roads that attempt to slither their way through the town center.

Woe betide the motorist new to the area (me for example) that does not place himself in the correct lane for egress and regress. Be warned however. If you are lucky enough to negotiate your way through the Guildford triangle a plethora of roundabouts lie in wait on the way to your destination. Little wonder there are so many pubs in England. Surviving a road trip from A and B calls for a drink or three to calm the shattered nerves.

My son navigated us to Farnham which is a delightful historic town full of nooks and crannies where mercifully one can escape the highways and boy racers. Cobbled streets, narrow lanes and archways allow the pedestrian safe haven from the automobile providing you don’t sprain your ankle on the uneven terrain.

A 170 mile road trip from Guildford to Paignton, Devon comprised 6 hours on a Friday afternoon. Most of the time was taken up by sheer volume of traffic leaving the urban sprawl for a weekend at the English Riviera (Torquay and Paignton for the uninitiated.) Every cloud has a silver lining, and we had the opportunity of visiting Agatha Christie’s former summer house “Greenway” which is now owned by the National Trust. All the rooms are decorated in the 1950s style and have enough artifacts to sink the Titanic again.

Notwithstanding the antics of the obnoxious British motorist the trip was a great success. My wife met her new boss for the first time, my children and grandchildren are healthy and happy, and were not too displeased to see me. I also hooked up with an old friend in Castlecombe which is a picturesque village in the splendid Cotswolds. We enjoyed a scrumptious lunch of haddock and thrice-baked chips at the quaint Salutation Inn which is highly recommended on Trip Advisor. Go and check it out.