Brad Penny on the Block: According to the Rocky Mountain News, “The Dodgers figure to make a major move during spring training, using right-hander Brad Penny as the trade bait.” Penny won 16 games last season and it’s hard to imagine that the Dodgers would consider parting with a pitcher of his talent. Then again, he is a huge jerk.
Penny is one of those pitchers who has never quite seemed to live up to his potential. Last year he started the all-star game, but then fell apart in the second half of the season.
Still, here’s a stat that caught my eye: According to the LA Times, “Penny threw more fastballs 95 mph or faster in 2006 than all other National League starters combined.” Wow. I mean, that’s impressive, right?
Smoltz Overwhelmed by Support: There’s good news if you’re John Smoltz. The bullpen that blew six of your leads last season has been overhauled. But there’s bad news, too. You’re getting a divorce, after 16 years of marriage.
Smoltz won’t give any reasons for his divorce, and the Atlanta media is treating the story with kid gloves. But we at Umpbump have been around long enough (almost one year!) to know that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. This is the Braves. There’s got to be a Hooters waitress involved somehow.
Liberty, Sweet Liberty: Oh, and while we’re on the subject of the Braves, the team was sold earlier this week, from Time Warner to Liberty Media, pending league approval, of course. The deal amounts to a stock swap and Liberty figures to hang on to the team only long enough to take advantage of a special tax break. Then the company will turn around and sell the team again.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Mark Bradley, who as far as we know still has a job, writes this week that the braves’ next owner needs to be a savior, a la Ted Turner. Somebody who will grab the team by the balls and shake things up. From the AJC:
I figure the Braves are no worse, and also no better, today than they were the last few seasons. Time Warner didn’t concern itself about baseball, and Liberty Media won’t, either. Liberty Media cares about its tax break. Liberty Media is a caretaker that won’t care much one way or another what happens at Turner Field.
Bottom line: After waiting forever to see this sale consummated, we’ll all get to twiddle our thumbs while another transaction is brokered a year or two from now. And yes, you’re absolutely right: It gets harder and harder to care about professional sports with every passing day.
I think Bradley ought to be careful what he wishes for. After all, the best owners are the ones who just write the checks and get out of the way, right? Arthur Blank, who owns the Atlanta Falcons, tried to buy the Braves recently. Blank is notoriously hands-on and so far has had zero success with the Atlanta football team. So why let him ruin the baseball team, too?
It’s true that the Braves’ payroll has flatlined under Time Warner and that has hindered the team in its attempts to keep pace with the free-spending Mets and Phillies. But, on the other hand, Time Warner understood the need to let GM John Scheurholz and manager Bobby Cox do their jobs free of interference. And Liberty will, too. Blank? Don’t count on it.