When Braves’ minor league manager Luis Salazar was hit by a line drive in the dugout two days ago, the players and media who could see what happened all thought the same thing – that the former big league outfielder was dead. Today, Atlanta General Manager Frank Wren says Salazar could be back to work, managing, this season. “The doctors have told us ‘no reason why not.'” Wren says Salazar underwent surgery the day of the nightmare, then had an operation on his eye and faces a second one, probably today. But while the ex-Padre has multiple facial fractures, as his facial swelling has receded, the extent of his good fortune has been revealed.
Within hours, Salazar was speaking and visiting with his family, including his son-in-law Franklin Gutierrez, the center fielder of the Seattle Mariners who traveled from their Arizona training camp to be at his bedside. “It’s obviously very encouraging that he’s looking to get back on the field,” Wren noted as he reflected on how the situation has improved from the initial sense of fatality. It is not all good news, however; Braves sources say – and the second operation today seems to confirm – that Salazar’s vision in his left eye is still in jeopardy.
Brian McCann played today for the first time since he hit the line drive that hit Salazar. Friends say he has been cheered by the improving news, after being so shaken initially that he doubted he could ever play again. McCann went 0-for-3 against the Yankees, left early, and will not play Saturday, but happily not for reasons related to the injury. He had already been given half of Friday and all of Saturday off by manager Fredi Gonzalez, so he could participate in a wedding (and even the rehearsal) elsewhere in Florida.
ON AN EVEN HAPPIER HEALTH NOTE:
Yogi Berra is fine after he tripped on a carpet edge while reaching for some broth at Clearwater on Thursday and landing on his derriere (and being hospitalized for a few hours to make sure that nothing was damaged besides his dignity).
The Hall-of-Famer was asked how he enjoyed the trip to the Phillies’ camp. Reply? “I didn’t like the soup.”
This thing in Atlanta. This is really happening? The Braves, 8-1/2 behind the Rockies 18 days ago, have won 15 of 17, are two behind the Rockies in the Wild Card, and four behind the Phillies for first in the division, with five to play? It is of course impossible, even for a team on as much of a roll as Bobby Coxs, to pull this off – except we so easily forget: this is almost exactly what the possible victims here, the Rockies, did to San Diego in 2007. Plus there are two very relevant facts here: since Jim Tracy took over, Colorado has been so hot that they necessarily had to cool down (as will the Braves), and if Atlanta pulls this off they can thank Jair Jurrjens. After he beat the Marlins tonight he rose to merely 9-1 against the NL East (yes, its 4-0 versus the Mets; that still leaves 5-1 versus everybody else). This is one of the more remarkable stats of the last few years. And lets not even start talking about how the Phlounderin Phillies have enabled all this.
If you ever needed a freeze frame on the volatility of closers, you’re seeing it in Washington right now. Joel Hanrahan lost the job quickly, but not as fast as Manny Acta’s closer-in-waiting Garrett Mock. Instead we are told to expect a committee consisting of Julian Tavarez and Kip Wells. Until next week when Joe Beimel will come off the disabled list and either “join the mix,” or supplant those co-closers. And don’t forget that a year ago today, Chad Cordero was still active and supposed to eventually swap jobs with his impermanent replacement Jon Rauch.
It is not just franchises in chaos that remind us of how, if all managers are interim, then all closers (except, perhaps, Mariano Rivera) are temporary. Since Bobby Cox returned to the helm in Atlanta in 1990, this has been the succession (and I’m deliberately ignoring a couple of “closers for a week” like Joe Hesketh).
1. Joe Boever, 1990
2. Mark Grant and Kent Mercker, 1990
3. Mercker and Juan Berenguer, 1991
4. Alejandro Pena, 1991-92
5. Jeff Reardon, 1992
6. Mike Stanton, 1993
7. Greg McMichael, 1994-95
8. Brad Clontz, 1995
9. Mark Wohlers, 1995-98
10. Kerry Ligtenberg, 1998
11. John Rocker, 1999
12. Ligtenberg and Mike Remlinger, 2000
13. Rocker, 2000-01
14. Steve Karsay, 2001
15. John Smoltz, 2001-04
16. Danny Kolb, 2005
17. Chris Reitsma, 2005
18. Kyle Farnsworth, 2005
19. Reitsma, 2006
20. Ken Ray, 2006
21. Bob Wickman, 2006-07
22. Rafael Soriano, 2008
23. Manny Acosta, 2008
24. John Smoltz, 2008
25. Soriano, 2008
26. Mike Gonzalez, 2008-09
And they won stuff during that merry-go-round. Moreover, Gonzalez is formally Cox’s closer at the moment. Yet only last night did he pull out of a tie with Soriano for the team lead.
Well here’s the oldest time-waster by a blogger: ballplayers who look like actors. But I think three of these are new; certainly two of them are bizarre.
Khalil Greene and Sean Penn as Spicoli from “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” – observed first, I think, long before Greene made the majors.
But what about Rocco Baldelli of the Red Sox and the actor Aidan Quinn?
This one jumped off the scoreboard at the Mets-Nats game Saturday. The new official publicity photo of Adam Dunn, and Will Ferrell?
And my favorite, applying only when he has that lip-curl snarl while at bat, somewhat enhanced by the Yankee colors: Mark Teixeira and Little Steven Van Zandt in his “Sopranos” role of Silvio Dante?
MEANWHILE, WHAT I LOOK LIKE:
I have been pleading for a week for somebody to identify the “classical music” used by the Yankees during their otherwise tedious scoreboard “Great Subway Race.”
Did you know Danny Elfman was a famous 17th century classical composer?
I knew I’d heard it in the Pee Wee Herman movie. That’s because it’s part of the soundtrack of the Pee Wee Herman movie.
It’s “Breakfast Machine.”
Well thank goodness that’s over.
Little doubt now that the Braves are ready to go with the aforementioned Jordan Schafer in center. For real. This year.
The last impediment was finding somebody who would take Josh Anderson off their hands – he’s out of minor league options. The Tigers accepted, payment in the form of a 25-year old AA-pitcher named Rudy Darrow who has fought back from Tommy John surgery and might be a middle relief candidate sooner rather than later.
But it might as well have been Clarence Darrow. As I understand the way the Bravos’ thinking evolved this spring, it went from 1) Gregor Blanco in front with Anderson as an acceptable alternative and Schafer as a long shot, to 2) Blanco sliding to the back of the pack, to Schafer looking so sharp that they began to try to deal Anderson to clear a path for him before opening day, to 3) a fallback of keeping Anderson for a little while after Opening Day and sending Schafer to keep in shape in Richmond while they continued to try to trade Anderson, to 4) committing to Schafer and resigning themselves to losing Anderson on waivers if necessary.
Anderson has proved himself a superior baserunner, decent centerfielder, and adequate hitter in each of the last two Septembers. But given the Astros’ inexplicable desire to trade for Michael Bourn when they already had a Bourn-like figure in Anderson, and the Braves’ willingness to sacrifice Anderson to give Schafer a clear path, one assumes his own teams have seen weaknesses in his bat that would be soon exposed over a full major league season.
In any event this underscores the Schafer point below. Pure fans, step back and admire what is to come from the kid. Fantasy players, grab him and tell no one of what you have seen this day.