5-at-10: Braves crushing lineup, NL MVP chat, who’s next for the Jets

Atlanta Braves' Matt Olson runs after hitting a single against Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Seranthony Dominguez during the seventh inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Braves bully bats

So I watched almost all of the Braves-Phillies slugfest last night. I was invested.

Ronald Acuña homered. Matt Olson homered. Marcel Ozuña homered for the Braves, who won 7-6 in extra innings.

Trae Turner, Bryce Harper and others homered for the Phillies, who look like they are right there with the Dodgers as the Braves biggest threat in the NL race to the Series.

Last night felt like a playoff game. It was fun.

It was made more fun by our Plays of the Day, which included going over 8 runs and a Dingers Tuesday promo of Acuña going deep at plus-420. Yay us.

But it also revealed something overwhelming about these Braves. This is the best lineup I can recall since the Yankees had a hit squad at the turn of the century and maybe the best in the NL since the Big Red Machine featured Hall of Famers Morgan, Bench, Perez and (eventually) Rose.

How good is this Braves lineup? I'm not sure there is an adjective strong enough for this bunch, which wore Zach Wheeler out last night, even though Zach Wheeler has been the hottest pitcher in baseball for the last two months.

Know this: Michael Harris is hitting .295 with 16 homers — and missed a chunk of the spring with injury — and that dude hits ninth in the Braves order.

Forget comparables around the league, look at comps through the Braves franchise over the last 40-plus years.

For the 1983 division-winning Braves, who had Brett Butler batting one and Claudell Washington hitting third, Harris was more effective than either of those.

For the 1991 worst-to-first Braves, Harris would have been a star in an already crowded outfield. (See you later Lonnie Smith, and say hi to Kent Hrbek.)

For the 1995 champs, remember great we thought lead-off hitter Marquis Grissom and right-fielder David Justice were?

Yeah, check these numbers:

— Grissom in '95 — .258/.317/.376 with 12 homers, 42 RBIs, 80 runs and 29 steals.

— Justice in '95 — .253/.365/.479 with 24 homers, 78 RBIs, 73 runs and four steals.

— Harris in '23 — .294/.335/.474 with 16 homers, 50 RBIs, 69 runs and 20 steals.

Those were two of the top four hitters for the Braves' World Series winner in '95.

And now remember that Harris has three weeks left — and has missed 20-plus games — in the season.

And now know that Harris bats ninth in this lineup. Oh my.

MVP chatter

So the Braves took a bunch of my attention last night. In addition to the in-game wagers, we went over our preseason prop of 94.5 wins. Good times.

We spent some time watching the game and chatting on Twitter. (Side question: Does anyone not required to by protocols — i.e. media folks, advertisers, et al., — call it X? I know I don't. Discuss.)

Where were we?

Ah yes, the MVP discussion. Of course I am on Acuña as the front-runner, both in my opinion and in my desire. Acuña to win the MVP before the season at plus-850 may be the longest long-shot of the Jay's Plays tenure.

But I also think he deserves it. He's three homers away from going 40-60 in HR-SBs. He's top five in average, top two in OBP and has an OPS north of 1.000.

That said, and I think Acuña has been the best player in baseball all season, is he the most valuable in the NL?

We just spent several paragraphs talking about the amazingness of Michael Harris being the No. 9 hitter in this line-up and his above numbers are not that much different from what Kirk Gibson posted in winning the 1988 NL MVP.

Because if the hinge term is value, would this stacked Braves lineup miss Acuña more than the Dodgers would miss Betts or Freeman?

This also spins from the conversation of is Acuña more valuable in an order that could be record-setting than even teammate Matt OLson.

Again, I am on Team Acuña, but when the debate hinges on value and perception of said value, the debate gets more cloudy.

Who's next

So amid all the hubbub and Greeny tears, the real conversation now has to be who's next in NYC with a Jets team that has an elite defense, two bona fide RB1s and a WR1 in Garrett Wilson that any team would love to have.

Who's next, because in the wake of this comes the real thoughts that the Jets are already penciled in for prime time slots five more times this season.

I don't need that much Zach Wilson folks. Heck, the Jets are now a week 3 home underdog against the Patriots and Mac Jones for Pete Rozelle's sake.

And get all you can on the Cowboys for Sunday. All you can. ASAP because that line will only grow.

So who should be next?

Stop with the Brady whispers. Oh I'd love it. And he would succeed, but it's really hard to see him in uni against the Pats on Sunday in an AFC game. Like Favre in Vikings purple wrong. Times three.

Stop with the Matt Ryan whispers. Ryan was worse than "Caddyshack 2" last year behind a Colts O-line that is marginally better than this Jets bunch.

Stop with the big-money thoughts of a Matt Stafford or Kirk Cousins. The numbers do not crunch when you have to expect that Aaron Rodgers is going to come back and the Jets will owe him $38 million next year.

And for the love of everything holy, please stop with the Colin Kaepernick whispers. What a disaster that would be. On every level for everyone involved, especially the Jets.

Seriously, I'm not sure there is a worse answer than bringing Kaepernick back.

But what is the best answer?

Well, Zach Wilson did have enough skills to be the No. 2 pick in the draft? Which is a heck of a lot more promising than the Rams rallying around Kurt Warner in 1999 after Trent Green got hurt.

Is Wilson as good as Matt Cassel, who led the Patriots to an 11-5 mark in 2008 when Brady tore his ACL in the season opener? I could be talked into that.

But here's the thing: The Jets have got to get a QB signed no later than tomorrow. They have two QBs in the building and the one not named Zach Wilson is a practice squad guy who I would not trust to pass the gravy at Thanksgiving.

So here's my list of Jets' solutions/calls:

Cam Newton. Dude wins. Dude makes plays. Dude is great in the locker room, and for a team that would be happy to get to 11-6 with a slew of 16-12 games, Newton can do that.

Davis Mills. He has shown better NFL aptitude than Wilson, and Mills is the odd man out in Houston. Mills completed better than 61% of his throws for more than 3,100 yards with a Texans offense in 2022 that was nowhere as good as this Jets crew.

And coming out of left-field ...

Ask the Lions — and his agent — about Hendon Hooker's knee. Dude would light it up in NYC, and he could be had for a relative song all things considered.


This and that

— You know the rules. And as much as we hold Paschall in high esteem in terms of college football content, there is no one better in terms of stats and history and the like. Here's a view on the Vols struggles in The Swamp.

— Sorry, been buried in a slew of sports and back-to-school duties. But Dear Lord, we are to a place that the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the corporate language "Feedback" is too aggressive? Is 10:30 too early for a cocktail?

— We mentioned the recruiting appeal of Coach Prime with Colorado and then reports came Tuesday that Boo Carter — the soon-to-be-five-star nomad who will finish his career at Bradley Central — was on an unofficial visit to Boulder. Hmmmmm.

Today's questions

Which way Wednesday starts this way:

Which college football stadium nickname is the best, because The Swamp has to be right there in contention? Discuss.

Which player will finish higher in the MVP voting, Freddie Freeman or Matt Olson?

Which would be your first choice to replace Aaron Rodgers as QB1 of the New York Jets?

As for today, Sept. 13, let's review.

Scooby Doo debuted on this day in 1969.

Rushmore of cartoon dogs? Go.