Mark Bradley blog 

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In this season of no hitting, the Braves are no-hit

  • 6:02 pm Monday, September 1st, 2014 by Mark Bradley
The Braves managed the same number of hits against each of these four. (John Bazemore/AP)

Labor Day brought a logical culmination to the five months that had come before. The Atlanta Braves were no-hit by four Phillies pitchers, the first of whom — Cole Hamels, who can be great — wasn’t terribly great by his standards. He walked five and hit a batter in six innings, after which he retired, having thrown 108 pitches.

The Braves did nothing — not against Hamels, not against the three relievers who followed him. A season spent doing little on offense reached a nadir in its 138th game. No runs, no hits, no chance.

Ready for the really weird part? Until [More]

Labor Day dawns, and the Braves are buoyant

  • 11:28 am Monday, September 1st, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"I think we're better than Milwaukee. What about you?" (David Goldman/AP)

Four weeks ago, these flying fingers suggested that the arrival of baseball’s third holiday checkpoint would reveal the Atlanta Braves’ playoff chances as a forlorn hope. This grim forecast was based on two observations: First, the Braves’ schedule was about to toughen; second, that the Braves had been, not to sugarcoat things, stinking out Ye Olde Joint.

Which only goes to show: Baseball seasons are rarely quite what they seem. After an 0-8 West Coast swing, the Braves have gone 14-9. (That still puts them three games under .500 over the past 31, but never mind.) Our friends at Baseball [More]

About Tech: The good, the bad and the Wofford

  • 5:29 pm Saturday, August 30th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Justin Thomas had a nice starting debut -- as a passer. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

These short takes are presented as an adjunct to the Georgia Tech-Wofford game column, which can be found on myajc.com. (Tech won 38-19 but had to score the final two touchdowns to do it.)

1. Tech threw the ball better than Tech usually throws the ball, but that’s not entirely a positive. Making his first start at quarterback, Justin Thomas completed 11 of 15 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns. That’s a good thing. The bad thing is the Jackets needed to throw the ball to win. They couldn’t make Paul Johnson’s option work the way he wants it [More]

Live from Tech: Will Jackets waffle versus Wofford?

  • 11:42 am Saturday, August 30th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Historic Bobby Dodd Stadium. Did I mention it's hot? (M. Bradley)

To answer the question posed above: No.

With the exception of Middle Tennessee, Georgia Tech tends to beat teams from lesser divisions/conferences like a rug. Remember last year’s opener, the 70-0 demolition of Elon? Remember 59-3 over Presbyterian in 2012? Remember 63-21 over Western Carolina in 2011?

(You might also remember the 10-7 victory over Gardner-Webb in 2008, but that was on a day when Joshua Nesbitt didn’t play.)

It would be a major shock if Tech doesn’t look good today. These games are made for the bigger program to look good. Indeed, the season’s first three weeks — the Jackets play Tulane [More]

South Carolina’s collapse opens the East for UGA

  • 7:54 am Friday, August 29th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
I'm guessing this pass was completed. (Rainier Erhardt/AP)

Two thoughts occurred Thursday night. (And only two; I’m not exactly a deep thinker.) First, that South Carolina, having been routed by Texas A&M, will be in desperation mode when Georgia plays in Williams-Brice Stadium on Sept. 13. Second, that the Gamecocks mightn’t be good enough for it to matter.

I’ve been around the SEC long enough — I covered my first conference game in 1976 — that not much surprises me. South Carolina being picked over Georgia in the East did. The Gamecocks had lost the best quarterback in school history (Connor Shaw of Flowery Branch) and the best defender [More]

Falcons’ Smith is NFL’s 18th-best coach, per ESPN

  • 8:42 am Thursday, August 28th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"I might be No. 18, Pete, but I'm 1-0 against you in the playoffs." (Curtis Compton/AJC)

I’m not a major fan of everything ESPN does — I’m not sure the Worldwide Leader itself is a major fan of everything it does — but I do enjoy those features where anonymous coaches/executives share their thoughts. Regarding college football, Travis Haney does these on a regular basis for ESPN Insider; regarding the NFL, they’re the province of Mike Sando.

In July, Sando polled his nameless electorate and found that Matt Ryan was considered the NFL’s eighth-best quarterback. (That sounded a tad low to me, especially considering there was a four-way tie for eighth, but what do I [More]

Some ESPNers see Georgia as a playoff team

  • 8:43 am Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Everyone pictured thinks Georgia will do well, too. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

The Worldwide Leader leads the world, duh, in analysts on its payroll. This week ESPN prepares for the onset of the college season by asking its many voices to predict the end. Given that Georgia wasn’t even picked by the SEC media to win its division, it comes as a bit of surprise that the Bulldogs are ESPN’s second choice to win the SEC.

Five of ESPN’s 23 assessors picked Georgia. South Carolina and Auburn each drew two votes. The other 14 went to Alabama.

Moving forward, we note that six of the 23 put Georgia in the inaugural four-team playoff, [More]

Why B.J. Upton still would seem untradeable

  • 8:59 am Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Say this for B.J.: He does have nice glasses. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Bob Nightengale of USA Today has provided details regarding the Atlanta Braves’ attempt to trade B.J. Upton in July, an attempt first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports. Nightengale reports that the Braves were willing to take pitcher Edwin Jackson off the Cubs’ hands in “a straight swap of dead weight contracts.”

In other words: Not exactly a bonanza.

Jackson is owed $22 million over the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Upton is owed $46 million over the next three seasons. So: Big savings to the Braves, right? Per Nightengale, the Braves “would have had to throw in a ton of cash.” [More]

Good news: The toughest part is behind the Braves

  • 7:57 am Monday, August 25th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
B.J. Upton can't believe he struck out. Because he never strikes out. (Al Behrman/AP)

The worst of the schedule is behind them, and the Atlanta Braves are a game behind San Francisco for the second wild card. That’s the good news. Less cheery is the realization that, having fallen eight games behind Washington with 31 remaining, they could sweep the final six games against the Nats and still not nose ahead.

Bottom line: The sequence of 25 games that began July 29 and saw the Braves play 18 times against plus-.500 opposition — and Cincinnati, against which the run ended, only recently fell below .500 — didn’t break them. They lost the first eight of [More]

Have the once-meek Falcons gotten too mean?

  • 11:38 pm Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"Play with composure!" Smitty whispers. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

I preface this by saying that exhibitions are no predictor of what happens when teams start playing games for real. I write knowing that, two games into September, this could fall under the heading of “never mind.” That said …

Twenty-nine penalties have been assessed against the Atlanta Falcons in three preseason games for a total of 268 yards, and that’s not counting infractions that offset or were declined. (On their final snap of the 24-17 loss to Tennessee on Saturday, they were flagged for two violations, neither of which was accepted.) But here again we offer a caveat.

As sloppy as [More]