Found February 21, 2013 on Fox Sports South:
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. As a practical matter, Gerald Laird was indirectly responsible for Moneyball, the best-selling book (and Oscar-nominated movie of the same name) chronicling the underdog story of the 2002 Oakland Athletics. Here's the scoop: Fifteen years ago and fresh out of high school (southern California), Laird subjectively had more physical upside than future luminaries like Adam Dunn, Barry Zito, Matt Holliday, Mark Teixeira, Mark Buehrle, J.J. Putz and Cliff Lee all members of Major League Baseball's 1998 draft class. That spring, the Athletics snagged the sweet-swinging, smooth-fielding Laird with the second pick of Round 2 (45th overall), ahead of the seven names listed above. By all accounts, Laird was the future backstop for an A's club that would claim four division titles and make five playoff appearances from 2000-06. By all accounts, he would be the battery anchor for a dynamic, and potentially dynastic, pitching rotation that featured Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder (Oakland's top draftee in '98). But just four weeks before the A's opened spring training in that Moneyball season, the club dealt Laird, Ryan Ludwick, Jason Hart and Mario Ramos to the Rangers for Carlos Pena (and Mike Venafro) the same Pena who blocked Scott Hatteberg from starting at first base in Oakland. The same Pena who apparently detracted from A's GM Billy Beane's vision of cultivating a resourceful lineup of hitters specializing in getting on base. In other words, without the Laird trade to Texas ... the Pena storyline never becomes the central focus of perhaps the best baseball-trade-by-phone scene in cinema history. Fast forward to the present, as Laird sits comfortably in the Braves' spring-training clubhouse at the Walt Disney Resort, amiably chatting with teammates and media, while always keeping an eye on the equipment inside his locker stall fielding gloves, batting gloves, shoes, eye-black paint, anything to get him ready for that day's workout. At 33, this is the sporting life that Laird leads in his third decade of professional sports. His survival quest doesn't hinge on a single component, like hitting for power, running aggressively on the bases, possessing uncanny fielding instincts or assimilating to the Braves Way. It's the totality of everything. It's the peace of mind Laird offers to Braves execs and on-field personnel, if starting catcher Brian McCann (off-season shoulder surgery) isn't ready for steady action until late Aprilearly May. "I like the way (Laird) has handled his business here, making a point to catch every pitcher (in camp)," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez on Tuesday. "I know he had an opportunity to go to the World Baseball Classic (for Team USA), but he turned it down to stay here and get accustomed to our pitchers. "I'm really excited about his professionalism." Of course, Laird sees the intrigue in serving as Atlanta's primary catcher for 15 or 20 games in April (via McCann's absence). But his preparation goes deeper than a starring role for the season's opening month. "I prepare every year to play (every day), that's just my job to be ready to play all the time," said Laird, who logged 51 starts for the American League champion Detroit Tigers last year, spelling for injured catcher Alex Avila. "(Subbing for Avila) was good. I've played every day before. You just have to take care of your body a little better; but, it was a good experience to contribute like I did." With Detroit last year, Laird batted .282 and posted a Billy Beane-friendly on-base percentage of .337 his highest tally since 2003 (rookie campaign). "Everywhere he's been, he knows his role," Gonzalez says of Laird, who has played in the last two World Series Cardinals (2011) and Tigers (2012). "I know his role might be a little different here (with McCann out). That's why guys like him hang around (in the majors) for so long ... Number 1, he knows how to handle a pitching staff." Laird has experience handling pitchers, even when he's not working behind the plate. Last September, Tigers pitcher Doug Fister marveled the masses at Comerica Park during a matinee outing against Kansas City, fanning nine consecutive hitters an American League record. "I don't think (Fister) knew what was going on, but we all did, and we had fun keeping him" (out of the loop), recalls Laird. "All of a sudden, you see the ('K' signs) racking up. It was a remarkable thing. That guy's just a joy to catch. He puts the ball wherever he wants ... any pitch, any time, he can throw it for a strike." In Detroit, Laird had the good fortune of catchingcounseling Fister, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and the current kingpin of AL pitchers, Justin Verlander (the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young). Perhaps Laird will see similar greatness in the Braves' rotation later this summer, after Brandon Beachy (recovering from elbow surgery) and Julio Teheran (Atlanta's top pitching prospect) join forces with the terrific trio of Kris Medlen, Tim Hudson and Mike Minor. Maybe the quintet's expected success will spawn another Michael Lewis best-selling novel (a la Moneyball) or Brad Pitt's next Oscar-worthy vehicle.

Braves vs Nats: Whose lineup is stronger? (updated)

Recently, we posted a head-to-head comparison of the Braves’ and Nats’ probable lineups, featuring statistical projections from Bill James. Missing from that post, we later felt, was comparison of the 2012 performances of each member of the respective lineups. With that in mind, here is that comparison. 2012 performance of current Braves lineup:   AB AVG OBP HR RBI 2B/3B...

2013 Braves Photo Day: Position Players

Finally, the Braves photo day pictures were posted! Here are some of the position players, pitchers in another post. :) How is this the opening mug of the album? Well, at least he got the eyebrows fixed...marginally. ;) Cuter in person. Always looks great. I like this guy much more after meeting him.   We've heard he's a goofball. I think you can tell in this picture. ...

2013 Braves Photo Day: Pitchers

Finally, the Braves photo day pictures were posted! Here are the pitchers, position players in another post. :) Going to dominate this year. ...Wait, what's that tattoo? Beachy, those curls. No. You are a grown man, and your name is not Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Sean Gilmartin looks a little goofier than usual here. He really is handsome, y'all. I like Huddy without facial hair...

10 things to glean from Braves' spring opener

Here are 10 things we blindly gleaned from listening to Braves-Tigers on the radio, as the clubs launched the official start of exhibition play on Friday. But first, a mini-rant: In this age of lightning-speed Internet and absurdly advanced technologies, you'd think Major League Baseball would allow Web consumers to purchase the closed-circuit feed of every Grapefruit and Cactus...

Atlanta Braves Top 30 Prospects: 15-11

It’s that time of the year when we take stock of the Atlanta Braves organization and analyze the top prospects. For the next few weeks, we will profile our top-30 prospect list in groups of five. Here are those who are ranked in the 11-15 range.

Dugout Digest - happy Braves day!

NL East week rolls along with Atlanta Braves day. The Braves won the top NL Wild Card spot last season before getting eliminated in the wild card playoff game by the Cardinals, in part due to a sketchy infield fly call. Atlanta dramatically retooled their outfield this winter, and will be going into 2013 as one of the game's most changed teams. Yesterday was Phillies day...

Braves vs Tigers: Braves Drop Spring Opener 2-1

Tim Hudson started and pitched two scoreless innings The Atlanta Braves pitchers were in mid-season form Friday afternoon, as the Braves opened their spring training season against the Detroit Tigers at Champion Stadium with seven no-hit innings.  Unfortunately, the bats were still in deep winter slumber, as the Tigers nipped the Braves, 2-1. The Braves lone run came on a solo homer...

Tim Hudson throws hitless innings in spring debut

Getty Images Spring Training statistics are hardly a good way to judge upcoming success but none-the-less everyone likes to start with a strong outing. That was just the case for Tim Hudson on Friday. As spring games opened Hudson took the mound for the Braves. A similar  situation could occur on opening day. Hudson pitched two hitless innings against Detroit. He walked a batter...

Justin Upton Almost Traded to American League Team

Justin Upton was almost traded twice before coming to the Braves The Arizona Diamondbacks apparently tried to trade Justin Upton for two and a half years, including a deal with the Mariners that Upton vetoed.  Another deal involving Upton to an American League team was close, but fell through. The deal with the Mariners reportedly included minor league shortstop Nick Franklin, pitching...

Ernie Harwell’s “voice of the turtle” (AUDIO)

Happy first game of spring training day, everyone! The Tigers take on the Atlanta Braves in Kissimmee, Fla.  The first pitch is at 1:05 PM and the game can be heard on WXYT-FM (97.1). in Metro Detroit. The late great Ernie Harwell used to open every spring training with the following from Song of Solomon… Goosebumps.

Braves fall to Tigers as Kimbrel, Cabrera duel

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) -- The first game of spring training can provide some unusual scenarios. Such as Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera facing Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel -- in the third inning. Coming off baseball's first Triple Crown season since 1967, Cabrera grounded out against Kimbrel before finishing his day with a drive to the warning track in center field, not a factor...
Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.