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Blogger Smackdown: Atlanta Braves

In eager anticipation of this week's Mets/Braves showdown at Shea, I asked a few questions of Martin Gandy of Talking Chop. He was kind enough to oblige.

1. Let's start with current events: How do you feel about the acquisition of Mark Teixeira, and how hard was it to let Salty go? Assess the trade from both a short- and long-term perspective.

Martin Gandy: I, like many Braves fans, didn't initially like the prospect of letting Salty go, but as we thought about it more and saw who we were getting back I think the fan base as a whole warmed up to the trade and then came to embrace it. Salty might be a really good catcher or first baseman in a year or two, but we needed an impact bat now. I like this from a long term (if two years is long term) perspective since I think we'll lose Andruw Jones to free agency at the end of the year - Teixeira is a better replacement in the cleanup spot. If you or your readers would like the long version of all this, I speak to it in this post.

2. Andruw Jones: What's the deal? Not much of a contract year performance spike to say the least. What affect does this have on his likelihood of remaining a Brave after this season?

Martin Gandy: As I say in the answer above, I don't think Andruw will be a Brave next season. He is far too erratic of an offensive player to give a long-term multimillion dollar deal to, and his defense is not something you should pay extra for like it once was. For the first two months of the season his swing was completely out of whack, and while he's recovered some, he is still prone to bouts of wild swinging without regard to the situation.

3. Nice bounceback year for Tim Hudson. Walks and homeruns are way down from last year's dismal campaign. Is he doing anything differently?

Martin Gandy: His control is infinitely better. Last year he was getting beat because he couldn't locate consistently. This year he seems to be able to put it just about anywhere he wants it.

4. Is there a superstar hitter who flies as far under the radar as Chipper Jones does? Everyone talks about the starting pitchers, but Jones has been a tremendous hitter in the middle of the Braves' lineup for more than a dozen years now. What has he meant to the franchise?

Martin Gandy: What he means to the lineup is very clear when he's not in it. It seems like everyone else in the lineup tries to do too much when he's not there. I think he flies under the radar due to his injuries the last few years. That and the move he made to the outfield really hurt his standing since he was near the top of the list of great offensive third baseman, but lost in the mix amongst great offensive outfielders. Of course, I'm sure he doesn't fly under the radar of Mets fans!

5. If there is one weakness that may ultimately cause the Braves to fall short of the playoffs this season, what is it, and what could they do (or have done) to address it before it's too late?

Martin Gandy: Starting pitching! It was supposed to be the thing we were targeting before the trade deadline, but there just weren't any quality starters available, and what was available came at such a high price that the team decided to improve other areas. If we suffer one or two injuries to starters, we may be out of the race. I do think they made the right decision in not selling the farm, especially one prospect, for mediocre starting pitching, but I just can't believe that nothing was available. That may really come back to haunt us.

You can check out my responses to Martin's questions at Talking Chop.