Thursday, March 29, 2012




By Doc Lawrence

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL—Baseball’s spring training is a Florida ritual that dates back to the earliest days of America’s national pastime. The older parks like the Detroit Tigers facilities in Lakeland may host some of the ghosts of baseball’s greats. A few cocktails and it’s possible for even the casual fan to feel the presence of Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantel, Roger Maris or Casey Stengel.

The 2012 Atlanta Braves train and play in comfort at Disneyworld, close enough to the attractions to keep the games sold out. Spring training isn’t designed to produce a winning season, and good managers never concern themselves with losses. The objective is to get into shape, look at players in a competitive environment and decide the official roster for this year.

Bad memories of last year’s monumental collapse still linger and still defy explanation. Deep inside, there is a longing for something good to happen again. Like 1991 and 1995. All things are possible in baseball where surprises and miracles still happen.

This is Chipper Jones’ last year in uniform and chances are he will take on a high profile position with the Braves next year wearing a business suit. Baseball might be a great team sport, but by September, it is more about pitching than anything. What about the resiliency of Messrs. Hanson, Hudson and Jurrjens? Will the bullpen be able to meet the extra demands of the Braves’ system which has them pitching in every game?

Fredi Gonzalez, nice guy and likeable, has a season for redemption. Baseball fans can be very forgiving, but the specter of collapse has to be met with renewed enthusiasm and a positive record. Realistically, this team could have a great season. McCann and Ross are the best 1-2 catchers in baseball, Freeman at first base is a winner, Haywood is still a kid getting better, and Martin Prado should return to form.

Keep you fingers crossed about the pitching. Like all other teams, it’s the critical ingredient.


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