And not because I'm ignoring our beloved Braves and their dreadful week, but rather because I was in Charlottesville this weekend for my wife's hooding (that's receiving a doctorate, not something you do to the gimp, you dirty bastards) and my sports consumption consisted of 15 minutes of SportsCenter at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning and a couple innings of Braves baseball on the way back home. No Suns/Mavs, no FA Cup Final, and no Preakness. That said, I have a few random thoughts from the weekend:
1. Andruw gets so much grief from Braves fans in comparison to Chipper, who rarely gets criticized for anything. A lot of that disparity is racially driven, not in the sense that fans don't like Andruw because he's black, but rather because he's black and considered to be naturally gifted, but lazy, whereas Chipper is seen as a hard-working white guy. That said, why does Chipper not get any grief for being brittle, especially in comparison to Andruw, who gets all sorts of stick for being an "underachiever," but who also plays every day. Chipper's injured oblique was supposed to be a minor issue, but it's cost him three games, all of which the Braves lost. Meanwhile, Andruw just keeps playing every day (knock on wood) and gets no credit for being durable.
2. One of the disturbing developments from this road trip, other than Dan Doodie's demotion, two injured starting pitchers, and a sputtering offense, is the fact that Chris Reitsma, who had been the star of the pen, completely imploded. To a slightly lesser extent, Jorge Sosa, who had been the other star, also petered out, as he gave up two earned runs in 3 2/3rds innings. At this stage, Adam Bernero and John Foster are the only two reliable relievers and who knows how long that will last.
3. This quote from Jason Varitek is a classic "this is why you fail" summary for why the Braves' offense struggles so much: The Braves "gave us some early-in-the-count outs that kept [Matt Clement's] pitch total down." The Sox worked counts all weekend and were able to touch up Smoltz and Hudson as a result. (This makes me reconsider my belief that the Braves would be great in the playoffs because of Smoltz and Hudson. If this is how they get treated by a quality offense, then they aren't as great an asset as I thought.) The Braves swung at everything that moved and therefore allowed Clement and Wade Miller, two former NL pitchers with whom they are familiar, to dominate them.
4. After exams during my second year of law school, I made a one-night play for a girl I knew in school, but she said that she couldn't because she was going to the Preakness the next morning. Now, I associate that race with "I have to wash my hair and can't go out with you, Michael."
5. One of the advantages of having a wife who has a sophisticated understanding of statistics (as a result of having written a dissertation that required such analysis) is that I can bounce college football column ideas off of her and she can explain how she could analyze my data. We spent about 40 miles in South Carolina yesterday discussing how we would analyze 1) the importance of returning starters on the offensive line, as compared to other positions, and 2) whether success in close games replicates itself within seasons or from season to season. If I ever get off my ass and write these columns, I'll be sure to share them.
5a. I had a slight re-examination of my views on a college football playoff while talking with this wife on the drive. If the rankings are basically arbitrary because they are forced to compare teams that never played one another based on a limited sample size, then what's wrong with a similarly arbitrary playoff?
6. I've been driving for over 14 years. During that time, I've been in three cars pulled over for speeding. All three times were in North Carolina. I avoided such a fate yesterday, but we drove through four states and North Carolina featured, by far, the most pulled-over motorists. I received my only speeding ticket in 2000 in Salisbury, North Carolina. Not coincidentally, that same shithole had a 55-mph speed limit yesterday for "road work," even though there was barely any evidence of work being done. Moral of the story: be careful in Salisbury, but not so careful that you stop yourself from throwing your trash out the window as a show of defiance.