As Derek Lowe and the Braves try to polish off a sweep of King Felix and the Mariners (up 5-3 in the top of the 9th), one thing has become crystal clear to me during this interleague series: Brian McCann will not only start his first All-Star Game this season, but he’s also a bonafide NL MVP candidate. He was the only offense for the Braves in Game 1 for the first 6 innings, keeping Brandon Beachy and the Braves in the game until Freddie Freeman came through with a big 2-run blast to center in the 7th that proved to be the game winner. In Game 2, all he did was go 4-for-5 at the plate with 2 RBI and delivered a bullet to second base to gun down the trailing baserunner and thwart a double steal attempt by the Mariners late in the game, preserving the Braves’ 1 run lead and eventual 1 run win. And with the series being played in an AL park, he got the chance to rest the knees but keep his scorching hot bat in the lineup as the DH today, and as I’m writing this he just delivered an insurance RBI single to try to salt this series away. Tommy Hanson said it best after a gutsy up-and-down effort fresh off the DL in Game 2 when asked about his return to the rotation. “You want me to talk about how great Brian McCann is?” Hanson responded. “He’s unbelievable.” So let’s take a look at the tale of the tape on B-Mac so far, shall we?
His offense? .316 average, 14 homers, 47 RBI, .389 OBP, .529 SLG
His defense? Better than ever, moving and sacrificing his body like a hockey goalie as he is constantly blocking balls in the dirt from all the wicked sinker ballers on the Braves pitching staff (such as Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, and Jonny Venters). He’s also improved his throwing to nail more baserunners this season.
His leadership? Well he’s played in more games than any other catcher in the NL, he’s guiding a starting rotation who have been in the top 2 all season in E.R.A. (including the current #1 and #2 ranked E.R.A.’s in the league right now, Jair Jurrjens and Hanson), and the young bullpen might get two spots in the All-Star game (8th inning man Venters had a sub 1.00 E.R.A. until that disaster in San Diego on Sunday, and is still only at 1.20 with 4 wins and more strikeouts than innings pitched, and rookie closer Craig Kimbrel is amongst the league leaders with 22 saves).
His consistency? Next month will mark his 6th consecutive All-Star Game and he’s the reigning All-Star Game MVP (you’re welcome Giants fans).
Matt Kemp has been phenomenal, already a 20-20 man for the 2011 season and in the Top 3 in every triple crown category, but the Dodgers stink and their management is in total disarray. Jose Reyes has been a nightmare on the basepaths for opposing teams and his energy alone has kept the Mets afloat with serious injuries to David Wright, Ike Davis, and Johan Santana, but he might not even finish the season in New York. Troy Tulowitzki started the season on a tear but has cooled off considerably in the last month as the Rockies plummeted in the standings. Albert Pujols was surging before his wrist injury, but he’ll be on the shelf for a couple more weeks. Ryan Braun from the 1st place Milwaukee Brewers is probably McCann’s biggest competition right now. I know it’s early, but the McVP buzz needs to start now!!
If the Braves can hold on today they’ll be at a stellar 47-35. That’s 1 more win than the Yankees and 2 more than the Red Sox folks. Considering the offense has barely scratched the surface of it’s full potential, that’s pretty darn good. A lot of credit must be given to not only McCann and the pitching staff, but Fredi Gonzalez as well. He’s guided the team through a plethora of injuries and slumps. He’s also given GM Frank Wren a good look at the entire roster, including some of the prized minor league arms, helping him decide whether or not he needs to make a move for more offense before the trade deadline at the end of next month. Right now, I’m leaning towards standing pat. Heyward has been more of a force since his shoulder healed and Martin Prado will provide a huge boost when he returns. The Phillies have the best record in baseball and are the first team to 50 wins (50-30). But the Braves are only 4 GB and are keeping them in their sights. Bravo to the Bravos for hanging tough. Atlanta will get a well deserved off day tomorrow before returning home to open up a set with the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night. I circled this crucial stretch in June a little while ago that featured 2 long road trips, and the Braves came out of it still standing. Now with 17 of 27 July games at the Ted, hopefully they can deliver some haymakers to the Phillies and the other wild card contenders going into and coming out of the All-Star Break.
The Good: McVP! McVP! McVP!
The Bad: Met Martin Prado at a local restaurant last weekend, huge thrill for me, and nice guy. But he was still limping noticeably. Staph infections are tricky. Team has said they hope to get him back around the All-Star Break.
The Ugly: Dan Uggla is still struggling to hit his weight (.178), but he does have 12 homers now, so um, there’s that.
About the Author
Written by Marcus Young
"A lotta room in right-center, if he hits one there we can dance in the streets. The 2-1. Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream! Here's the throw to the plate! He is...SAFE! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!...Braves win!" The late great Skip Caray with my favorite sports call of all time as a lumbering Sid Bream was able to beat Barry Bonds' three-hopper to the plate by an eyelash in the old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium to secure the Atlanta Braves' miraculous back-to-back World Series trips in 1991 and 1992. I grew up in Atlanta, I am still a die hard Braves, Falcons, and Hawks fan and am hungry for another championship to put alongside that lonely 1995 World Series trophy! I graduated from Wake Forest University in 2002 and am back living in Hot-lanta now. Go Deacs and Go Dawgs! My favorite athletes are John Smoltz, Magic Johnson, and Brett Favre. Braves are on a mission in 2011 in the 20th anniversary of that magical 1991 season!