Give the Braves a chance, OK?

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Like I said yesterday, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that the Braves did a good job in the Vazquez trade. There are many potential sliver linings to what some are unfairly calling the blackest of clouds, but Atlanta clearly didn’t get anything approaching equal value for a pitcher of Vazquez’s caliber. Melky Cabrera is clearly not going to make the difference in Atlanta. The Yankees won this trade, no doubt.

But while it’s one thing to call the Braves the loser of yesterday’s trade, it’s another thing altogether to use that trade as a blanket indictment of the Braves, their ownership and their desire to win baseball games.  That’s what Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus did in his column yesterday (sorry; most of it is registration-only), and he said so in no uncertain terms:

The Braves made themselves worse entirely so that Liberty Media
wouldn’t possibly have to use the red font in its spreadsheets. Vazquez makes
$11.5 million in 2010, Cabrera will make about $4 million, maybe a little less
(I’m guessing here, because of Cabrera’s arbitration eligibility). That’s $7.5
million in Liberty’s pockets, on top of the $7.5 million they saved on Soriano,
for $15 million saved in two trades that make the team worse by maybe four
games, maybe more, in 2010. Not that four wins is pretty much the difference in
making the playoffs and not in the NL just about every season, and not that
Liberty Media cares. They care that the Braves have positive cashflow, and
everything else is irrelevant.

I’ve been reading Joe Sheehan for years, and I gotta tell ya, I was pretty sure before yesterday that he knew that the rosters didn’t freeze and the season didn’t start on December 23rd. I was pretty sure he knew that when a team frees up salary in a trade, they have more than eight hours to spend it on other players before they can be accused of pocketing the money and pissing on the hopes of the fans. I was pretty sure that he knew that it was prudent for a team that has a surplus in one area to trade some of it away in order to get players (or money to acquire players) that addressed a deficit in another area.

Which, by the way, is what the Braves have shown every intention of doing. As Braves GM Frank Wren said yesterday, the team is going to use the $8 million or so that they have freed up as a result of dealing Vazquez to pursue a bat. I don’t know whose bat. And heck, maybe Wren will make a bad choice in the bat he gets. But the fact is that they had six starters and no first baseman or left fielder when we all woke up yesterday. If they
break camp with five starters and a first basemen and/or a left
fielder, they will have made the team better, even if the team they have is sub-optimal.

Look, I am just as frustrated at Liberty Media’s ownership of the Braves as the next guy. And I think Sheehan makes many excellent, general points about the drawbacks of corporate ownership in baseball in the course of his article.  But to say, mere hours after the Vazquez trade that the deal stands as a shining example of corporate neglect of a baseball team is outrageously premature.

Let’s see where the team
is in April. If the Braves have done nothing to improve their offense by then, great, I’ll buy what Sheehan is selling. Until then, give them a chance, OK?

Clayton Kershaw might return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week

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Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.

Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.

Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.