LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell walked past me Saturday morning and wished me, “Happy New Year.” I thought maybe he was just seven weeks late until manager Fredi Gonzalez said later, “Non-baseball people say Jan. 1 is the first day of the year. But baseball people say It’s today — the day pitchers and catchers report.”
It could be more uplifting than next Thursday, when position players are scheduled to report. The offseason strip-down means the Braves are going to have to win games this season with pitching and “small ball” and projections have been less than optimistic. Las Vegas sportsbooks have set their over/under for wins this season at 73.5 — 12th out of 15 teams in the National League and 26th out of 30 in the majors.
“My expectation is, no matter what, to get to the postseason,” Gonzalez said. “Las Vegas makes those projections, but you never know what’s going to happen. A lot of good things can happen for us, and a lot of bad things can happen for other teams.”
Maybe. But a win total in the low 70s seems about right to me. I won’t vote in the poll to the left but you can.
With expectations so low for the Braves, it’s worth wondering how much latitude the club will give Gonzalez this season. Will be judged solely on wins and losses, or has the bar been lowered? I have a full column on that subject on MyAJC.com. Click here.
Gonzalez won’t give his annual start-of-camp speech until the balance of the squad arrives, although some veterans already are in camp, including Andrelton Simmons and Chris Johnson. B.J. Upton hasn’t arrived yet but his new name has. Upton’s uniform and name plate above his locker reads, “Upton Jr.” Last year, it just said, “Upton” on his and younger brother Justin Upton’s uniforms.
There’s a possibility the Upton formally known as B.J. will now asked to be known as, “Melvin Upton Jr.,” his birth name, partly to honor his father.
Something tells me Upton’s problems go deeper than his name, but we’ll let him explain when he gets here.
•Some recent ramblings from the digital jukebox
— MyAJC: Will Gonzalez be given some latitude during Braves’ rebuilding? — MyAJC: Falcons’ roster gutting could have big names — AJC: Data show Falcons got least (10-22) from most ($279.3 million) — MyAJC: Georgia shows why we still can’t assume success — AJC: Are Hawks getting Ray Allen? Odds site makes them favorite — MyAJC: Private agendas still at play in Hawks’ offices — AJC: Tiger Woods seems in danger of missing Masters (again) — AJC: Trade likely means Hawks are planning for something — MyAJC: Kyle Shanahan, the coach’s son, has absorbed a lot of jabs — AJC: Greg Hardy skates (and is he worth the risk for Falcons)? — MyAJC: Hawks’ deadline move wouldn’t hurt chemistry — AJC: Tech doing just fine, recruiting rankings notwithstanding — MyAJC: Dan Quinn’s ascent to top job was years in making — AJC: Forget trade talk — Dan Quinn wants Julio Jones on his team — AJC: Falcons need players but Dan Quinn is a good start — MyAJC: Tom Brady takes the air out of critics in Super Bowl — AJC: Short takes: Brady rallies Pats but Seahawks bungle ending — AJC: Another possible embarrassment for Falcons: Fake crowd noise — MyAJC: There’s no confusion about pecking order on Super Bowl teams — AJC: Dan Quinn could have final day on 53-man roster — MyAJC: Blank speaks but remains vague on Falcons’ restructuring — MyAJC: Tiger Woods’ problems aren’t just physical anymore