The Atlanta Braves: third place team

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That’s not me talking. Remember, I’m a big fat fanboy. That’s Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, throwing cold water on the optimism that has pervaded Braves Nation Universe Republic Township this spring:

Me, I’m still skeptical. I eagerly await the coming of Jason Heyward,
but I also wonder if the age on this team — and there’s a ton of it —
will show over 162 games. I wonder about the offense. I wonder about the
defense. I wonder about the zen of Wren. I’d be more than happy to be
proved wrong in my doubting, but as of now I’m still saying what I said
back in February.

Third place.

He doesn’t go into details, but I still take the point. While I think the upside of this team is pretty high up, it wouldn’t take a ton to send the Braves’ season skidding out of control. Chipper Jones could continue on like he played in the second half last year. Derek Lowe too. One of the old arms in the bullpen gets hurt. Glaus either gets hurt or just doesn’t have anything anymore.  Unlike a lot of team’s worst-case-scenarios — Utley and Howard forget how to hit! — no single component of the Braves’ list of imaginary horribles is much of a reach.

I’m still sticking with my predictions, of course, but Bradley’s pessimism is a good reminder that for all of the virtual ink we’ve spilled these past few months, the games matter and anything can happen.  Thank God they begin in earnest in a couple of hours.

Dodgers to retire Fernando Valenzuela’s No. 34 this summer

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Dodgers will retire the No. 34 jersey of pitcher Fernando Valenzuela during a three-day celebration this summer.

Valenzuela was part of two World Series champion teams, winning the 1981 Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards. He was a six-time All-Star during his 11 seasons in Los Angeles from 1980-90.

He will be honored from Aug. 11-13 when the Dodgers host Colorado.

Valenzuela will join Pee Wee Reese, Tommy Lasorda, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Jim Gilliam, Don Sutton, Walter Alston, Sandy Koufax, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson and Don Drysdale with retired numbers.

“To be a part of the group that includes so many legends is a great honor,” Valenzuela said. “But also for the fans, the support they’ve given me as a player and working for the Dodgers, this is also for them.”