Smart people know that all news is biased. Period. However, I need to sound off about the growing lack of perspective in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a newspaper/Web site that I think still has held up better than many in the beleaguered industry. (Disclosure: I live in Atlanta and I’m a paid subscriber to the AJC.)
First, the paper is going entirely too light on the struggling Atlanta Braves, the dominant team in the National League in the 1990s. Also, the AJC is laying things on too thick about the Georgia Bulldogs and the team’s chances of winning college football’s national championship in 2008.
The Braves blew a 6-run lead July 26 in losing to division rival Philadelphia, 10-9. This has been typical of the team this season, in which it has lost ALL of its one-run road games. At the recent All Star break, an AJC columnist was lauding pitching coach Roger McDowell and pointing a finger at Atlanta hitters. However, right after the break, Braves pitchers allowed 29 runs in three games to Washington, the majors’ worst team of record.
In the debacle vs. Philadelphia, Braves Manager Bobby Cox allowed starter Mike Hampton, pitching in his first game in three seasons, to stay in the game too long.
Hampton had a 90-pitch limit. Still, he allowed the first three hitters he faced in the fifth inning to reach base, a clear sign that he was tiring. Hey, one does not HAVE to let him reach the limit. That also gives Phillies hitters the momentum. He should’ve been removed after the first one or two batters. Reliever Blaine Boyer allowed a three-run homer on which he later acknowledged that he threw the ball down the middle of the plate. Reliever Manny Acosta is another Braves pitcher who has repeatedly performed poorly.
(The Braves followed that game by squandering a 5-run lead in a 12-10 loss to the Phillies on July 27.)
Under accomplished pitching coach Leo Mazzone, Braves pitchers were famous for “location.” In other words, hitting the corners and keeping hitters off balance. Now, opposing hitters know Braves pitchers eventually will groove one. Sheesh. Why haven’t I read this in the AJC lately? I HAVE been reading about staff reductions and advertising shortfalls. Happy news sells, right?
Re the Bulldogs, they return 17 of 22 starters from a team that finished No. 2 nationally last year. So yeah, rank ’em high to open the season. But at least one AJC columnist has predicted Georgia to go as high as 11-1 and play for the BCS title.
Win it all? Look at the Bulldogs’ non-Athens games next year: Arizona State, South Carolina, LSU, Florida and Auburn. After Oct. 18, the Bulldogs must wait until Nov. 29 for another game in Athens. Home games? Try Alabama, which took Georgia into overtime last season, and Tennessee, defending SEC East champs.
College football, of course, is very psychological. And the Gamecocks, Gators and Tigers have special reasons for payback. Carolina coach Steve Spurrier always seems to have Georgia’s number, dating to his coaching days at Florida. The Gators really are steaming about Georgia’s deliberate end-zone celebration penalty in last year’s game. Auburn? They remember Georgia breaking out the black jerseys last year in Athens.
And no one seems to want to talk about injuries, always a factor in any team’s success. What if QB Matthew Stafford or RB Knowshon Moreno are not healthy?
Only the AJC’s top college football writer, Tony Barnhart, seems to acknowledge reality. He notes that Georgia is indeed capable of winning it all, but so are several other teams. (Disclosure: Barnhart is a former UGA classmate of mine.) Remember the luck it took for LSU to even reach the BCS title game last season? I think the AJC again is pandering to readers where it sells papers. Period.