Friday, March 11, 2011

I Want to Say This, Go Braves!

Last Fall in September, the Atlanta Braves were in first place in the National League Eastern Division. Hopes ran high that the Braves were going to once again bring a title home to the “Big A.”
All the time the ever dangerous Philadelphia Phillies were beginning to cut the Braves lead and it began to look like it would be a run to the last day of the season when the two teams would meet and they it happened. Greed! Mighty Fox Network began to fuss at Dish Network and demanded an increase from the satellite company. Dish bucked and the Braves fans were the real losers.
With three games left in Atlanta between the two teams, supposedly to be televised by Fox Sports Network or Sports South and brought into my home on Dish Network, the screen told it all when it said the broadcast would not be made until there was a settlement. October first through October third my television sat idle as I bemoaned the greed of the millionaires. To express my anger is an understatement!
I have been a baseball fan for over sixty years, and I’ve been an Atlanta Braves fan since they moved south from Milwaukee in the mid 1960s. I’ve seen good, bad and ugly teams in the city where the Atlanta Crackers minor league team formerly played. I’ve even seen great teams which went on to win fourteen straight Division titles and one World Series in 1995. There is no question of my fandom nor my loyalty. Hope springs eternal every March when the teams of the majors move to Florida for spring training.
When I was a young boy around ten, I invented my own baseball game, using a cardboard box, ice cream sticks and buttons borrowed from my mothers sewing materials. If I had known it could have been done, I would have been able to patent the game and today people might be comparing my wealth with that of Bill Gates, however suffice I to say the game gave me endless joy as I played for hours at a time entertaining myself and keeping statistics of how the games came out.

To say that I was irritated at the greed of the billionaires who owned those two companies would not be sufficient. I was livid! I began searching other ways to watch the games, all to no avail. I could only strike back at them by cutting them off at the knees—reducing their service in my home to the barest level of channels—and hoping many others would do the same. My Dish bill went down to nearly half what it had previously been, and I hoped other Braves fans were doing likewise. Amazingly enough, we suffered only a small amount as we returned to watching programs like the Andy Griffith Show and All in the Family. Shoot! Remember some of my previous Cotton Patch columns where we used to get only one fuzzy station out of Macon when we first purchased this old house forty years ago, and if I wanted to try for one out of Albany, I had to take a pipe wrench outside the house and try to turn my antenna enough to get a very fuzzy program. Mess with me!
Well, without my support, the Braves lost all three games in October to the Phillies, but made the playoffs as a Wild Card team losing to eventual World Series winner San Francisco Giants. However, as I said previously Spring Training has begun and I am thinking again about baseball. First on my agenda was to contact Dish Network to find out if the argument had been settled with Fox. Yes, I was told and if I wanted to increase my coverage to include the stations which broadcast the Braves games, it would only cost me five dollars. “I’ll think about it,” I said as I secretly planned on calling a rival satellite company to see what their cost and coverage would amount to. Ain’t free enterprise wonderful?
So what will happen to the Braves this year? I think their chances of competing for the Division title against the Phillies are very good. It should be said that the Phillies made a couple of moves which give them four pitchers who may be unequaled in the majors this season, however our Braves have a pretty good staff as well. We’ll throw out Comeback player of the year, Tim Hudson, veteran Derek Lowe who has steadily improved each year of his contract, third year pitcher Tommy Hanson, and Jair Jurgenns who went down last year with some unexpected injuries. A couple of Rookies, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy will compete for the fifth spot on the pitching roster.
Our home team acquired a home run hitting Dan Uggla from Florida over the winter and Chipper Jones is trying for a comeback after being injured at the end of last season. Last year’s all-round player, Martin Prado will move to the outfield and the minor league player Freddie Freeman will move into the lineup as first baseman to add hitting and fielding support to a team which was led last year by runner-up Rookie of the Year, Jason Heyward and perennial All-Star catcher Brian McCann in the power department.
The Atlanta Braves already are looking to be improved over last year’s team which won 91 games while finishing second to the Phillies in the Eastern Division.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that future Hall of Fame Manager, Bobby Cox hung up his uniform and retired with over 2000 wins in his career. He has managed the Braves for a long time, including every major league game future Hall of Fame player, Chipper Jones has been in the lineup. Not to worry, his longtime coach, Fredi Gonzalez was hired over the winter and I think he will step right in and continue the winning ways for the Braves organization.
We’ll have to put our murder shows—Dateline and 48 Hours—Andy and Barney and All in the Family on the back burner by the time the end of March when the call will once again go out to “Play Ball!”
Go Braves!