The Braves Show's Bill Shanks starts our annual series on the top 35 questions facing the Atlanta…
Comments following Sunday's win over Houston
"Great ending. It was a good series. We might not be in the playoffs, but those three games felt like it. I'm disappointed we're not going, but we finished pretty darn good. Our bullpen looks, we've got some guys out there right now that we can't wait to start the season with. Roger's brought them along really, really nicely. We've already strengthened that area, and we're looking forward to the spring. It's hard to say goodbye to these guys actually. They gave it everything they had all season long. We're all proud of them."
"Smoltzie wasn't scheduled to pitch today until Houston got back in it. If he felt just fine we were going to pitch, if not no. If they were not in it, he certainly would not have pitched today - that's for sure. We owe it to the other teams to try to win the games as much as we can, and we did that."
"We need to get Chipper completely healthy where he can play more ballgames, and we've already taken care of some of the other stuff. There is optimism (for 2007) and we're going to field a terrific team next year."
"Macay's (McBride) one of bright spots, boy I'm telling you. Roger changed his delivery, and it's made all the difference in the world. He's popping the ball again. His control has really improved. His breaking ball is really nasty. Got something to look forward to with that lefty. He's going to be around a long time."
"Well everybody has injuries. We've had injuries the last two years, probably moreso than this year. But we did lose three starters, but that gave Chuckie a chance to fit in and look what we found - another good job. We just didn't win enough ballgames. It's as simple as that."
"He (Smoltz) probably could have had 20, 22 wins the way he pitches. He pitched great. The way our pitching has been the last two months, there's no reason we can't come back and put a good season together."
"They've been our nemesis the last couple of years. If it had been St. Louis or whoever else was in the running we would have continued to play as hard as we did this series."
"I think it would have been a lot different. You give us a healthy Mike Hampton, you give us Bob Wickman the full year, me missing 50-55 games - all those things - I'd like to think would have propelled us, at the very least, into the wildcard. But it happens sometimes. You have guys that have been around and play hard, sometimes they are going to get hurt. It's just unfortunate that we kind of had it snowball early in the season and we just could never recover from it."
"You look at June - 15 games under .500 - that'll sink most teams. Tried as we may, we battled, and it was just too big a hole."
"We just went out there to try to knock them (the Astros) out. Our plan was to knock them out. We were not going to take it lightly against them. The last two years they've kicked our butts, so we just wanted to make sure they didn't make the playoffs this year."
"We had a decent season. It didn't go the way we wanted it to go, but if you look at one thing, there was one month (June) where we didn't play good baseball. That hurt us really, really bad. After that injuries happened. Next year we're going to have the same team again. You look at the lineup and you look at everyone who had a tremendous year this year like Jeff (Francoeur), and (Brian) McCann, myself, (Adam) LaRoche, and Chipper (Jones). We had a tremendous season, but we just couldn't put that month away."
"Obviously there was something at stake today, so everybody had to play it like Major League Baseball would have wanted it played and the way Bobby Cox plays it. This was our only brief playoff game. I'm proud of the guys the way they finished up the season, and we would've expected anybody else to do the same thing."
"I have the utmost respect for that team (the Astros). They have a heartbeat and a pulse that you want every team to have. They have professionals over there, some gamers, and they fought very hard. Obviously they tried to do everything they could in which would have been one of the most incredible stories ever to force a playoff (with St. Louis). So I have the utmost respect for them, but I just went out to try and do the best I could. I don't think I've ever ended the season on a scoreless streak (18 innings) like this. Now my eyes are trying to start my next season off a little bit better and a little bit quicker than the previous two."
"I was into it as much as any game this year. It was a mini-playoff game for us. I really have respect for them. There are a lot of great guys over there - no one you can really love to hate. The history of last year, and the last two times they've beat us, it has something to do with it. But it had more to do with us being professional on our end at playing the game right and Bobby did it very well. We didn't get many hits. They made a lot of miscues. For them, I'm sure it was a tough way to end, but they fought the entire time. I just hope that we learned a little bit from what they did at the end."
"I didn't have my best stuff, and certainly had trouble again with some of the baseballs. (Jeff) Francoeur came up huge. The big play of the game was Francoeur throwing that guy out. They gambled and they lost. They know he's got a great arm. I didn't think they would go, but I think when he went down to the ground they thought they had a chance. Anytime you can get them to hit the ball to him, you know you've got a great chance. Defensively, we made the plays we had to make. Obviously I was trying to grind and finish out. I didn't let my mind totally shut down after my last start. It would have been nice to have just known the offseason was right there after my last start. But to back it up with a game like today was gratifying. Now I know I'm officially starting my offseason, and I'm determined as ever to be better next year."
"I honestly think, and this is the first time I've said this, that I hope my hat's in the ring for consideration for an award (the Cy Young) that nobody ran away with. It's a tribute to the second half with (Bob) Wickman and what he was able to do for our ballclub."
"I would have like to have thrown less pitches. I would have liked to gone a little longer if I could have thrown less pitches. But I think my hat should be in the ring. I really do. Whatever happens, happens. I know I'm a longshot. But you know what? Nobody ran away with anything. I feel like my year was a year of some great adjustments. I had some stretches where I didn't pitch very well, certainly in the beginning of the season. Everybody knows what happened in the first half with our tough times trying to win. But I'm proud of it. I'm usually real critical. I know I can improve, but I can't tell you how proud and satisfied I am to finish up with 18 scoreless innings and pitching out of jams. This is going to help me next year."
"We definitely need some more innings out of guys next year. There's no doubt about that. We've got to have (better) health and a secure starting five."
"In the last ten days, I think we have a better feeling about the future than we did going into the last ten days."
"I think there are some things we saw as an organization that the players showed that there are some big decisions this offseason. Again, my hat goes off to Andruw Jones, who plays all year. Brian McCann, who played through injuries and played all year. And, of course, I think Jeff Francoeur does not get enough credit. He's played almost every inning. He's only going to get better. They talk about his on base percentage and what he didn't do. I'm proud of him. I'm proud of the way these guys battled from last year's expectations. We can get caught up in a lot of negative stuff, but I really am proud that these young guys are making progress."
"I enjoy watching the playoffs. I really do. I think it's the greatest time of the year - right there with March Madness. I will be rooting for the Tigers. I don't have a lot of people that I know over there, but for the city of Detroit they are deserving of this incredible turnaround. There are so many great stories that I hate to hear what was happening this morning as the last games of the season with the timing of the news of - I'm not even going to refer to his name (Jason Grimsley), so for that it's too bad because it's been an exciting last day of the season. It's been a great run for some teams, and I hope that the storylines don't get covered up."
"I think they've (the Tigers) got a tremendous hill to climb. Jim Leyland has done a remarkable job and he's going to win Manager of the Year. He has the criteria and the credentials to let them feel like what it's like. He can give that insight to the players. They've got enough veteran leadership. I think they've got a great chance. A lot is going to be determined by the Yankees and Randy Johnson. They are by far the best team on paper to head into the playoffs."
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can also be heard regularly on the Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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