Greeson: Braves' new start shows old problem

Greeson: Braves' new start shows old problem

April 2nd, 2014 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran throws to the Milwaukee Brewers in the first inning of an opening day baseball game Monday, March 31, 2014, in Milwaukee.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Wow, and with that the first full pitch of the baseball season has started.

We are going to track the ups and downs of the Atlanta Braves on a regular basis -- hey, we were born in the South in the 1970s, so that means three things: 1) We say "sir" and "ma'am"; 2) We are never late for church, work or golf (in that order); and 3) We have to be able to speak intelligently about the Braves.

(The college football craze could be added in there, but that all-consuming passion happened a little later in the time frame.)

So by now you know the Braves lost 2-0 in their season opener Monday. It was a performance that resonates with their long-standing struggles against good pitching. Offensively this team has consistently been about drawing walks and hitting homers. That's fine over the long haul when more than half your games are against mediocre arms.

But against good pitchers, like Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo on Monday, the Braves struggle to generate offense. It's one of the reasons they have fallen short in the postseason for so many years. If we're looking for a positive, however, it's that Danny Struggla's 0-for-4 showing Monday did not include a strikeout.

We've set the over/Uggla at .210 this year. Do you think he gets over that average or not? (We'll take under and feel pretty good about it.)

As for the rest of baseball's opening day, well, there was a lot to see. Let's recap:

• Retired Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero threw out the ceremonial first pitch Monday before the Angels-Mariners game. More on him in a moment. Catching the pitch was universally renowned tough guy Don Baylor, who was hit by more pitches during his day than anyone. So what happened? In a freak accident, Baylor broke his right leg squatting to catch the off-target throw. Sad stuff.

As for Guerrero, dude's numbers say he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer, right? After playing nine games in 1996, Guerrero played 15 big-league seasons and never hit worse than .290. His career average finished at .318 with 449 homers and 181 steals, and he was a homer away from going 40-40 in 2002. Add in the fact that he routinely was regarded as one of the best defensive outfielders of his generation, and his Hall of Fame debate is a surprisingly one-sided discussion.

• Impressive start for the Washington Nationals. After the run of elbow injuries suffered in Atlanta, Washington appears to be the team to beat in the National League East. Even after a rocky start Monday by ace Stephen Strasburg, the Nats rallied. Multiple times. Down 3-0 early and 5-4 late, they scored four in the top of the 10th for a 9-7 win. Sure, it was against the Mets, but the Mets have the look of being that stinky team that causes trouble for someone almost daily.

• If you had to guess the one team to lose 1-0 in extra innings on opening day, it would be the Cubs, right? If you had to guess the first team to use the newfangled instant-replay system and still not get the benefit of the review, it would be the Cubs, right? If you had to ... Forget it. You get the idea. Go Cubs, get hot. And keep the Old Style cold.

• Ryan Braun got a standing ovation from the Brewers fans in his first at-bat after being suspended for the final 65 games last year for PED use. He also lied through his teeth multiple times about the PEDs yet still was embraced with the glowing fire reserved for conquering heroes. Whatever. But it's now past time for the baseball powers that be to admit that almost everyone -- players, coaches, executives, owners, fans, media, et al -- turned a blind eye to steroids and seems to continue to do so. It's time to move on.

• Shame on the Texas Rangers fans. The pregame drunkards who turned the statue of Shannon Stone into a trash can should be embarrassed. Period. Smith, if you recall, was the fan who fell over the rail and died trying to catch a home-run ball for his son at a Rangers game, and his statue was littered with beer cans and trash.

Contact Jay Greeson at