And can I bring it to a game to cheer for the Braves' centerfielder? Will a Johan Cruyff t-shirt suffice for a native of the Dutch Antilles? Or would I have to go all out with the Dutch decoration and dress a blow-up doll in the opposing team's jersey and then bat it around. (I kid you not, the Dutch love to do that. Imagine the faces of the ushers at the Ted if I showed up with a treat from Cheshire Bridge Road.)
Not a bad weekend, all things considered, for the Braves. They swept the Orioles, knocking Charm City's team from a half-game lead into a 2.5 game deficit behind the streaking Red Sox, a deficit that promises to only grow larger as the disparities between the starting rotations of the two teams play themselves out. Andruw is unconscionably hot right now, which is fun for all of us who defended him against the "unclutch" label he was stuck with in recent years. (I suppose that the "underachiever" label might have some merit after all, since he's so good now when the team really needs him, but I don't think it's fair to say that any time a player starts playing better, that means that he was underachieving before.) Smoltz is torrid as well, although I still can't figure out the rationale for leaving him in the game in the 9th inning yesterday when he was over 100 pitches and the team had a seven-run lead.
The crowds were also great this weekend, slightly better than the crowds that the team draws for its weekday afternoon playoff games. (Imagine that. If the games are played at a reasonable hour for people who actually have to work, fans in the "worst sports town in America" will turn out en masse to see the team.) Friday night was an excited, large crowd that reaffirmed for me how much I enjoy going to Braves games.
Other thoughts from Friday night:
1. Chris Reitsma was terrific, closing out the game with a strikeout and three weak grounders. As such, I was able to forgive his meltdown on Saturday, although the meltdown was a further reminder that he's brittle and can't be used too much. Ideally, the Braves will get their starting pitchers back from the DL and they can try Jorge Sosa as a spot-closer instead of a spot-starter. Back to Reitsma on Friday night, he induced two grounders to short in the 9th inning. Up to that point, Baltimore had not hit a single ball to the shortstop. Someone ask the Elias researchers how often a team goes eight innings without a groundball to short.
2. And back to getting pitchers healthy, good news from the invaluable Baseball Prospectus:
"Three Braves pitchers all threw on the side Sunday and all had positive results. Tim Hudson was able to throw without pain. The current plan is for another side session, a sim game, and a return just before the All-Star break. Mike Hampton also had a good side session. There's no timetable yet for his return. All signs now point to a rehab stint being needed before his return, putting him right back around the break, though he has more of a chance of recurrence than Hudson. The Braves are going to put Horacio Ramirez on the mound on Monday; his session must have been short. His groin is "100 percent," according to Ramirez, but watch the start closely."
Maybe a week and a half of very good play has caused me to go all loco, but the idea of Hudson, Thomson, and Hampton returning to a team with productive corner outfielders and a deeper bullpen (deeper largely as a result of their absence forcing pitchers like Sosa and Colon to grow up in a hurry) is downright tittilating to me.
3. The difference between Kyle Davies having a very good start and him having a bad start that the Braves survived because of their offensive outburst off of Hayden Penn was simply his inability to get Chris Gomez or Larry Bigbie for the final out in the 4th inning. If he does that, then his line would have been 6 IP, 2 ER instead of 6 IP, 5 ER.