In a short season of two weeks, perhaps the most meaningful *student* improvement comes from the valedictorian, the star of the class, the General of the Army, the pitcher we need most, the FINALLY arrived.....
Greg Maddux Starting out with the ugliest of grades, an F, Sunday's performance was an A, definitely an A. He was the *go to guy* lifting us up from the depths of a rough week, lifting us out of the cellar, while looking amazingly like.....Greg Maddux.
Was he perfect? Hell, perfect enough. One monster homer, a couple of hits kept him from pitching a no-hitter and on a day when the Brave bats were alive, he did more than enough. There is hope in Mudville again.
Russ Ortiz slipped from a B to a C. We forgive him after two fine performances and at a 2 to 1 clip, he would come in at 22-11, so Maddux made us forget that Russ is not a miracle man, merely a fine Major League pitcher.
Horacio Ramirez also slipped from an A- to a C this week, but for the same reasons stated above, we forgive him. His situation is a little more tenuous as he is not yet a proven starter, but we still like his stuff and look forward to his next performance.
Jason Marquis, however has broken a few hearts and surprisingly enough, this young rightie is stirring up controversy on chat boards across the country. "He's being treated unfairly," yell his supporters. "He deserves it because he doesn't listen," scream his detractors. Jason didn't help his cause when he *came out of the pen* to pitch one of his worst performances, dropping him from a B+ this week to an F. That is not an overall mark, just the mark for one performance, so we take it with a grain of salt, wondering if Jason *is* being sacrificed in the name of *here we go again* as we acquire yet another *veteran* named....
Shane Reynolds... Tuesday will bring him his first mark, as he has yet to throw a pitch for the Atlanta Braves, but has already started a major battle between the two camps of fans that argue the signing of veterans as opposed to the *giving the kids a chance.* I discussed my feelings on this as I did my best Lizzie Borden imitation on John Schuerholz in my Whacks and Kudos columns. I'll reserve any more *violence* until after Tuesday's game.
Paul Byrd still hasn't thrown a pitch and won't for a long time. See, how I got his name in quick to prove a point and here's another....
Mike Hampton hasn't thrown a pitch either, but the hopes are high that he will return soon. Let's certainly hope so, although that will probably mean the end of Jason Marquis as we know him and may even see him in another uniform which may be best for Jason after all.
Smoltzie as we affectionately call him soars from an inconclusive with no chances last week to an A, having handled both his saves with aplomb, making the *closer* from NY even more pitiful (a little laugh here for the sadistic, he he he)
Bullpen Let's group them and bump them up to a B. They've looked okay this week in a pretty good week, except for
Joe Dawley who paid the price for Shane Reynolds. Not much argument there for anyone who watched his performance this week and....
Trey Hodges who unfairly has become a part of that pen again after pitching the one highlight of the week (besides Maddux) in a starting performance that deserved a win (he didn't get it when Cox pulled him after 4-2/3 of very good pitching) and he will not get another start for awhile. We give him an A on that performance and feel he got screwed not on his grade but on what will be his subsequent spot on the team. Hopefully, time will pass quickly for this young pitcher who deserves a better fate than he's getting right now.
Furcal slips slightly to a B-. He has his moments. More consistency would be nice, the statmen scream, MORE WALKS. OTOH, his steal percentage has gone up. Is Otis working with him? IIRC, he was supposed to.
Fick holds his B-, a pleasant surprise at the plate for a million dollar, one year signing, a little weak in the field, but still a good addition to a team at the price.
Julio, gets a separate grade this week as he has had some good at bats in a limited role (let's hope it stays limited, mostly against lefties as he still can hit *them.* I have my doubts about him hitting righties, but I'll give him a B- also.
Gary a good road trip brings him from a B- to a B+. I know most people love him. I just wish I'd see that very good average hitting in more important situations. Maybe, I'm expecting too much????
Chipper-I'll keep him at C-. Except for that solo homer, sandwiched between Shef's and 'Druw's, I haven't yet seen the *real* Chipper. I have no doubt we will very soon.
Andruw I have to drop him just a bit from a B- to a C+ for one reason only. I just can't mark him higher than Chipper right now.
Giles a slight upgrade from a B- to a B. No complaints here. He's doing fine and I did vascillate between an A- and a B, decided upon the B
Vinnie falls off a cliff as expected from an A- to a B-, expect this to continue
Javy OTOH, stays at his C+, even though I expect him to better his status, slowly, but surely. I toyed with a B-but not quite yet.
Blanco holds his D. I see no reason to move up this guy, except if Maddux insists and he might. :>)
Rest of bench, fairly inconclusive, no real opportunities, no real heroes, no real bums in any key situations.
Cox, still an inconclusive. Hasn't impressed, hasn't scared with any moves. Except for the pulling of Hodges (a slight slap on the wrist, after all we won the game) Cox remains in the background and maybe that's where a manager should stay. IMO, when they're too visible, they do more harm than good, so let's keep him there.
Leo , however moves from an inconclusive to a B+. How much did he have to do with Maddux's improvement? Who knows, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt and *assume* he had some input, although Maddux usually knows himself better than anyone.
Again, if I've forgotten anyone, it might be because they were unforgettable or I need your help.
Any of that help is appreciated. Also any thoughts on why my grades are not acceptable will be read, heard and addressed. State your reasons and campaign for your man to email@example.com
Bravejo (I'm listening)