Elliott on baseball column

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

The Atlanta Braves staff is pitching like the Braves of old. The Braves hitters are swinging like the single-A Rome (Ga.) Braves.

Take a look at the Braves recent trip -- their final two games in Philadelphia, their two games in Houston and two in Washington, D.C.

The Braves lost 2-1 and 2-1 in 10 inning in Philadelphia; won 1-0 in 12 innings and lost 5-3 in Houston, and lost 2-0 and won 2-1 on a throwing error at RFK Stadium.

In all, the mighty Braves rotation of John Smoltz (two starts), Mike Hampton, Tim Hudson, John Thompson and Horacio Ramirez combined for a 1.85 earned run average, allowing nine runs in 432/3 innings, while walking 10 and fanning 28.

Braves hitters, meanwhile, stranded 45 runners and hit a collective .209 during the six-game stretch, which included a 20-inning scoreless stretch.

Some of the hitting with men in scoring position through the D.C. series was sub-standard for a contender:

n Andruw Jones was hitting .056 (1-for-18).

n Johnny Estrada and Chipper Jones were .214 (3-for-14 apiece).

n Rafael Furcal was hitting .167 (2-for-12).

n Raul Mondesi .143 (2-for-14).

n Eddie Perez hitless in five at bats.

Which begs the question: How good would the Braves starters be if they faced Braves hitters?

OLD YANKeeS

We've heard and read a lot about the New York Yankees being done.

They've been branded as old, tired and yesterday's news. In fact, we wrote that back in 2000 when the Yanks limped home losing their final seven of the season and 15 of their final 18.

First baseman Tino Martinez looks as if he's at the end and ditto for centre fielder Bernie Williams. The over- used bullpen of the past few seasons -- Tom Gordon, Paul Quantrill and Mariano Rivera -- has struggled.

But know that what you see now is not what you will see with the Yanks.

They have the resources to field a team payroll of $200 million US and they have the resources to add on at the deadline. The Yanks have the most candy in the candy store, as was the case when the Blue Jays dealt David Cone to them in 1995 and Roger Clemens in '99.

Just for fun's sake, how would the Yanks lineup look in July with, say, Cincinnati's Ken Griffey in centre and Colorado's Todd Helton at first?

A Martinez ZINGer

Former Boston Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy asked ex-Jays manager Buck Martinez on XMRadio what his biggest challenge was as a manager?

Kennedy: "Was it handling players, strategy, handling the game, disciplining players or handling the media?"

Martinez: "Handling a new GM."

ZUK STOPS HERE

Tim Wilken, former Jays scouting director tells a story about the late Bob Zuk, who died earlier this week. The pair were scouting a major-league game along with John Young of the Texas Rangers.

Young: "Hey Zuk, there's another guy you missed."

Young (three batters later): "Zuk you missed this guy, too."


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