Editor's Note: Martin Gandy from SBN's Braves blog TalkingChop.com and I traded five questions for each other for the upcoming Sox/Braves series. Martin's answers are listed below. For my answers over at TalkingChop.com, click here.
1. The Sox are reportedly interested in Jeff Francoeur. We at OTM have looked at the stats, the numbers, the whatever, but you tell us: what are the UPSIDES of Francoeur?
Upside and Francoeur are two words that have rarely been used in the same sentence for the past couple of years. Atlanta fans are tired of waiting for Francoeur to fulfill whatever potential scouts thought he had. At this point in his career I think we can safely say that his current approach to the plate is not one that will ever yield much of an upside -- he has no patience and little to no power. Could all that miraculously return to his game one day? Maybe, but he's been trying to get it back for two or three years now with no luck. At this point we'd trade him for a pair of single game tickets on the monster. I predict he will not be wearing an Atlanta Braves uniform by the end of the season.
2. The Braves and the Red Sox are deemed "natural rivals" for interleague play. After the Mets, are the Red Sox considered your biggest rival or are they considered a rival at all?
The NL East has been pretty competitive over the last several years, and I think over that time the Phillies and even the Marlins may have jumped ahead of the Red Sox in terms of rivalry. With our World Series history, there was a time when the Yankees were probably ahead of you guys as well. That being said, I like the rivalry we have, and I think it's good for both teams, though I don't look forward to our current struggling Braves team playing the best team in the AL six times in the next two weeks.
3. What player has been the biggest surprise on your team this year and why? Who has been the biggest disappointment?
There have been a lot of disappointments, though not too many surprises. If I had to pick a surprise it would probably be Jair Jurrjens. He's done a good job this season, when a lot of people thought he would regress.
The biggest disappointment has probably been Kelly Johnson, with Francoeur in the back seat. Whereas many people didn't really expect Francoeur to suddenly turn it around, a lot of folks were thinking that Johnson would take his game to the next level. Instead he has struggled almost worse than Francoeur, and a guy we were relying on for some power has not produced much at all.
4. What are the general thoughts surrounding Derek Lowe on and off the field?
I looked at him as the consolation prize to last off-season's free agent pitching attractions. He's done really well for us, though. I didn't know that much about him before we signed him, but he seems like a confident and crafty veteran pitcher who still has good stuff, and will for several more years. Off the field the Atlanta press isn't as enamored with his private life as the LA or Boston press, so his private life has slipped back into obscurity (another advantage he may have considered when signing with Atlanta).
5. When the season is all said and done, where's Atlanta going to stand in the NL East? Can they charge past the youthful Marlins and even make a push with the East's top dogs, Philly and NYM?
The Braves are a really good team when you look at them on paper, but for some reason they have sunken into a collective hitting funk this year. Chipper Jones and Brian McCann seem to be mostly immune, and Yunel Escobar is immune to the hitting, but not the baserunning or fielding funks. We spent all off-season trying to acquire more hitting and all we ended up with was Garret Anderson, and he's been below mediocre.
If the guys who are under performing -- Francoeur, Johnson, Anderson, and even Casey Kotchman -- can suddenly find some power and provide consistent hitting, then we have the starting pitching and the bullpen to be just as good a team as the Phillies or the Mets. Unfortunately, I've been waiting all season for that scenario to happen and it hasn't yet, and so, we're a fourth place team because we've been playing like a fourth place team.