Criag Kimbrel

Braves’ bullpen in good hands with Kimbrel, Venters

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Veteran southpaw Billy Wagner posted a superb 1.43 ERA and 0.87 WHIP over 71 appearances for the Braves last season, saving 37 games and striking out 104 batters in 69.1 innings.  He was ridiculously good, but he wanted to go out on top and called it quits as soon as the year was over.

Most teams would struggle with that kind of loss, but the Braves are rolling right along.

David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke this week with 22-year-old Craig Kimbrel, who is expected to battle 25-year-old Jonny Venters for the Braves’ ninth inning gig this spring.  (For what it’s worth, O’Brien thinks Kimbrel is going to win it.)

“I’m ready to get things rolling,” Kimbrel said during Braves pitching camp at Turner Field on Tuesday. “It’s going to be a fun year. I’m just going to come in, get ready to pitch on the mound. Whatever role it’s in, I’ll be ready for it.”

Kimbrel, a righty, struck out 40 batters in just 20.2 innings last season during a short but impressive debut for the Braves.  Venters, a lefty, also finished with great numbers — like a 1.95 ERA and 93/39 K/BB ratio.

Relievers are generally overrated, or at least over-discussed.  After all, it’s hard to have much of an impact on a 162-game schedule when your contribution spans something like 50-60 innings.  But the Braves are undoubtedly loving the fact that they have two cost-effective fireballers around to handle tight situations.

Breitbart gives Curt Schilling a radio show to fight the Clinton criminal conspiracy

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27:  Former ESPN Analyst Curt Schilling talks about his ESPN dismissal and politics during SiriusXM's Breitbart News Patriot Forum hosted by Stephen K. Bannon and co-host Alex Marlow at the SiriusXM Studio on April 27, 2016 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
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Former major league pitcher and recently unemployed baseball commentator Curt Schilling has a new gig. He will be joining Breitbart News as the host of a daily online radio show during which he will offer political commentary and take calls from listeners. The radio show will be called “Whatever it Takes.”

The press release describes the show as, “Schilling’s unfiltered and insightful commentary on a mix of topics ranging from politics and culture to current affairs and perhaps some sports.”

Here’s Schilling’s take on it all, again, from the press release:

“God places things in our lives for specific reasons. After being fired by ESPN for my conservative opinions, I arrive here at Breitbart News, which I consider the last bastion of actual journalism. Yes, it’s openly conservative, but as much as liberals despise us they can’t deny the facts behind the arguments. This is the most important election of our lifetimes and under no circumstances can we allow a career criminal to be put in the Oval Office . . . I am proud to be a part of a team that will continue to point out the very thing that’s ruining this country: liberal, progressive, socialist agenda driven by the elite globalist connected to American politics and the Clinton family.”

That’s special. And I suspect the sorts of people who tell Bill and me to “stick to sports” won’t be doing the same to Schilling. Which is fine. I’m all for letting a thousand freak flags fly.  And Schilling’s is one of the freakiest.

In other news, Schilling tried to organize a Donald Trump rally over the weekend at Boston’s city hall. About 15 people showed up for it. Good luck with those radio ratings, Curt.

World Series umpiring crew announced. Hi, Joe West!

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 12: Manager Joe Maddon #70 of the Chicago Cubs is ejected from the game in the ninth inning by umpire Joe West #22 at against the St. Louis Cardinals Busch Stadium on September 12, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Major League Baseball has announced the umpiring crew for the World Series. John Hirschbeck is the crew chief. It’s his fifth World Series assignment, third as a crew chief.

A surprising name on the crew is Joe West. It’ll be his sixth World Series overall, but first since 2012. There had been chatter for several years that Major League Baseball was making a more concerted effort to get its best umpires into the World Series more often while minimizing the appearances of its weakest umpires. Most assumed West’s absence from the Fall Classic in recent years, despite his seniority, was a function of that. Maybe they’re still making merit a priority and maybe West has just improved? I’ll leave that for you to judge.

Anyway, here is the lineup of umps for Game 1. They will rotate after that, of course. If the series goes six games, Cowboy Joe will be calling the balls and strikes:

Home plate: Larry Vanover
1B: Chris Guccione
2B: John Hirschbeck
3B: Marvin Hudson
LF: Tony Randazzo
RF: Joe West
Replay Official for Games 1-2: Sam Holbrook (with assistance from Todd Tichenor)
Replay Official for Games 3-7: Larry Vanover (with assistance from Todd Tichenor)