Atlanta Braves' Adam Duvall, right, celebrates with Dansby Swanson (7) after Duval hit a home run, scoring Swanson during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Sports? Yes please

Maybe they knew that August was going to really stink, but your Atlanta Braves have saved their best for the dog days as we speed into the "er" months.

In fact, I had a wise reader ponder the difference in this current construction of the club and the previous, and why a team minus its best player can now be at its best.

I was saving the question for Friday, but we need it today. And who knows, with that bullpen, the Braves may be riding a three-game losing streak by the time Friday morning comes calling.

Question: "Hey Jay, What's the biggest reason you think the Braves have turned it around? Big Picture. They won't win it all and will save Snit job which I don't think that's a good thing."

Answer: "That's a great question."

Big picture, mostly, the bats of Swanson and Albies and the additions of Soler (who has been struggling but still has power) and Duvall to the lineup really help.

That's now an order that has 20+ homers at lead-off (Albies 22), the 3 spot (Freeman 26), the 4 spot (Riley 25), the 5 spot (Swanson (24) and the 6 spot (Duvall 27 — though only 4 with the Braves).

That's a lot of lumber and balance. And I agree with your overall assessment that this is a path to the playoffs but a ticket to titles.

Being built this way is the offensive version of last year's layered and deep bullpen. You win a lot of regular-season games by beating bad bullpens and going deep vs. mediocre starting pitchers. (Did you see the guy that started for the Nats on Sunday? He had good stuff for a No. 2 on a very good high school team like Baylor.)

But when the postseason rolls around and every pitch is 95 and up or nasty breaking stuff, well, the Dansbys and the Duvalls are not going to hit 5 homers in a week."

It was made even more pertinent by this quote via Dave O'Brien of The Athletic from Freddie Freeman when asked about the team's red-hot ways.

Said Freeman: "When I came out of the game I told Snit, 'It's pretty amazing we've got a Silver Slugger (catcher Travis d'Arnaud) hitting seventh in our lineup right now.' Every guy's clicking at the same time. Right when we needed it, getting hot at the right time. It's been fun."

The Braves have won 11 of their last 13 and are 33-21 since June 16. So there's that.

Gov. Lee plays politics rather than proper policy

Can anyone without political motivations connect these two sentences logically?

State leader demands that no local school system can mandate masks to help fight COVID-19.

State sends out National Guard to communities in need of help as hospitals are overrun with new COVID patients.

I'll wait.

And if you're thinking, well, "The government can't tell me how to raise my child" mantra, OK. And of course, the moral obligation and the vast majority of decisions fall to the parents.

But when it comes to big-picture matters of safety and health, the government has for decades been mandating and regulating what is allowed for kids.

Is Gov. Lee going to wave his foolish political pen and allow parents with small kids to opt out of car seats? Or maybe the parents can feel the other school-required immunizations are no longer mandated? Are we going to do away with the age requirements for smoking and drinking, as long as parents sign off? Hey, they're your kids, you call the shots — Jägermeister, Junior? — after all, right?

This is shameful.

And yes, there have been several — myself included — who have wondered aloud about state leaders like Lee or House Speaker Cameron Sexton using the same political prism rather than allowing local districts to decide for themselves.

That said, we can't really expect solid decisions from Hamilton County Schools right now either. On Monday, the system sent a social media message that stated the importance of students attending class: "DID YOU KNOW: Even with an 85% attendance rate your child is missing 142 lessons each year! #EverydayCounts" Uh, HCS, you know that 850 students are currently home quarantining after all of three days of school, right?


Speaking of shameful

President Biden's speech on the situation in Afghanistan was ghastly.

Yes, this is a multi-layered issue that will affect countless lives, here and there. And if we're being truthful, every leader since Bush One has had a hand in this growing debacle. (Yes, Bush II started this 20-year war, but the fight with the Middle East warmongers that gave birth to the Taliban started under George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s, if not before.)

But the buck stops with the dude in the Oval Office, and on Monday Biden dodged and dipped like Neo when he finally understands the Matrix.

Both sides wanted to be out of this "never-ending war," as it has been called, so Biden saying he stands behind his decisions is relatively meaningless, because we all concurred on the why, we debated the details about the when, but no one expected the how to be this badly botched.

The execution — not the best word here, maybe — was dreadful and the finger pointing Monday was akin to an elementary school kid trying to rationalize his behavior.

This is a mess. Both there and in the eyes of the world, especially our less-than-cordial comrades in Russia and China, both of whom have outmaneuvered us in Afghanistan and in multiple regions in the Middle East.

Bigger picture, I wonder what this does to our militaristic approach moving forward. Sure, a better foundation may have led to a better transition in Afghanistan, but eventually, those folks were going to fight. It's at the core of their belief system.

So unless we were going to forever occupy places like Afghanistan or Vietnam or wherever folks want the U.S. to be peacekeepers, well, what is the solution?

Not sure anyone knows, but the one thing we can all concur on is this is not it.      


This and that

— Hooray for the Falcons, who are 100% vaccinated. Hey, they may finish 3-14 with a record-setting bad defense, but it won't be for any COVID-related forfeits, so there's that.

— So Dabo Swinney, unlike Saban or Kiffin or a slew of other high-profile football coaches who are either right at or have accomplished 100% vaccinated rates within their programs, will not require his players to get vaccinated. OK, but let's ask big picture about this: Let's say Clemson is 10-1 with a close loss to Georgia in the season opener and ranked No. 3 in the country. A COVID outbreak among the unvaccinated leaves the team either sacked in terms of depth or forced to forfeit because of the risk. If a coach knowingly makes decisions that could cost you the chance to win and even the chance to win it all, isn't he not doing his job, especially if/when the entire athletic department is counting on Clemson football to keep the lights turned on?

— AP college football poll came out. Yes, Alabama is No. 1 and yes, Alabama should be No. 1. (Side note: That defense is going to be salty.) My biggest takeaway? LSU is wicked underrated at 16. That's a top 5 defense with arguably the best player in college football in Derek Stingley Jr.

— Speaking of college football, you know the rules. Here's Paschall on Kirby Smart and Georgia progressing through preseason drills.

— Speaking of Georgia, I saw an interesting tweet from Darren Rovell that said Bulldogs QB JT Daniels has signed a six-month NIL trading card deal that pays him $100 per signature. Estimates for the signings and the royalties of the deal put it right at seven figures. Daniels reportedly announced he will share half the earnings with his teammates. That builds some locker room chemistry and trust in QB1. (If you're wondering if he gives every scholarship player an equal share of $500K, that's $5,882.35 per teammate.)


Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday. (Copyright, Ernie.)

True or false, LSU is underrated at 16. True or false, Cincinnati is overrated at 8 in the AP poll.

True or false, there will be required masks in Hamilton County Schools before the end of the month.

True or false, it's good business sense for football coaches to have their players get vaccinated.

True or false, this 5-at-10 needed more sports. (Yeah, it probably did. But so it goes some times.)

As for today, Aug. 17, let's review.  

Robert De Niro and Sean Penn celebrate birthdays today.

So does Davy Crockett.

Who makes the Rushmore of famous people known for their hats, because Crockett's coonskin cap is a front-runner, no?