The Jadeite Jewel Final Rankings—Happy Home Opening Day! Game Thread.

Enjoy the home opener!

The Braves’ massive roster overhaul has left only four of the players who started on Opening Day a year ago, and only two of the players who were watching from the bench. That’s pretty astonishing. Fortunately for Braves fans, one of the few who remain is #19, whose defense at “shortstop” (defined as any position in the field he can reach before the ball can) may end up being one of the biggest reasons to keep watching this team this year as the dog days of summer roll around. I mean, the guy is on the cover of the Fielding Bible. We are watching history here.

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Before this season moves beyond Opening Week, we must wrap up our winter project. I present you the unveiling of the official Braves Journal Andrelton Simmons’ Highlight Rankings; may you enjoy these extraordinary highlights one last time.

Honorable Mention: The Pop-Up Throw:

Editor’s Pitch: Double plays are one of the prettiest things in baseball, but when Andrelton Simmons is involved their beauty is worthy of masterpiece status. This play is just so smooth, yet it involved running, sliding, getting up, and throwing. He did all of those things so well he killed two Cardinals with one stone. That alone is worthy of accolades and adulation.

Honorable Mention: 180˚ Genius:

Editor’s Pitch: Simmons’s instincts on this play are crazy. After he was forced to change his route, he still wanted to try to get two. The problem was, he had to run back to the bag to get the first out, which put his back squarely toward first. How does he choose to compensate for that? By jumping and spinning 180˚ and throwing mid-air. Seriously, who does that? The throw wasn’t great, but it was certainly catchable. Had Freddie been able to catch it, this would have been one of the coolest double plays I have ever seen.

10: Superman

Editor’s Pitch: Take a screen shot at 0:28 of this clip, throw a cape on the man, and you’ll discover the true identity of Superman. Clark Kent has nothing on Andrelton.

9: Run At Your Own Risk

Editor’s Pitch: When a ball splits the gap and bounces away from even the most accomplished of outfielders, you pretty much concede the runner on first will score and focus on keeping the hitter held to a double. Not Simmons. Michael Cuddyer was over halfway home, but Simmons, well onto the outfield grass, threw a perfect strike to the plate to nail him. The ball could not have landed in a better place for Brian McCann had Simmons walked it in and handed it to him. Just wow.

8: Glove: Optional

Editor’s Pitch: In Minnesota this year, that will be a hit against Ervin Santana. Last year in Atlanta it was top of the 5th, one down. The catch itself is insane enough, with Simmons making the call to barehand it to give himself a chance to throw the runner out. Then, when the ball bounced slightly differently than he seemed to be anticipating, he stayed with it and nailed the runner with a perfect throw. Perfection on a diamond.

7: The Video Game

Editor’s pitch: The video is worth a thousand words of commentary, so just watch it again. Okay, now watch it one more time. Can a mere mortal even bend like that? He’s covering the bag, bends against his momentum to catch the ball, and then flips back to tag the base. The baserunner was already running and was nearly on top of him…and he got the out. This play defies the laws of physics and it made his pitcher laugh in disbelief. The cherry on top is he tried to turn the double play and was disgusted with himself that he couldn’t. Unbelievable.

6: The Jeter
http://youtu.be/45YDhOfbA-Q?list=PLK2xliesUwLpZ90rRE_gpyDOVFHu9qHyf

Editor’s Pitch: With the Braves clinging to a 3-2 lead with 2 outs and a runner on 3rd in the bottom of the 8th, Jordan Walden got Travis d’Arnaud to hit a ground ball. Unfortunately for the Braves, it was headed toward the hole and looked destined to tie the game for the Mets. Fortunately for the Braves, they have Andrelton Simmons playing shortstop, and he ranged to his right, snagged the ball, leaped, and threw the runner out with nanoseconds to spare. ESPN will tell you this type of play was patented by Derek Jeter, but there are some notable differences between Jeter making the play and Simmons making the play. Jeter would leap because, unlike Simmons, he did not have a strong enough arm to take the time to plant himself and get the throw off in time. Simmons leaped because he had ranged so far to his right that he was able to get to a ball Jeter never would have even thought to try to get to, and, with as far as he had to run, had he tried to stop his momentum to plant himself and fire across the diamond, he probably would have fallen over. Although he made this look easy, it was anything but.

5: You Shall Not Pass
http://youtu.be/Bbbo7RlUVPk

Editor’s Pitch: I’m really not sure how Simmons got to this ball. He had to dive, obviously, but then he had to reach up to actually catch it. I wouldn’t have guessed his arms were long enough to make this play, but the one lesson I have learned from watching Andrelton for three years is to always expect the impossible. And this certainly looks impossible.

4: Slip ‘n Slide

Editor’s Pitch: Simmons not only kept up with the path of the ball when his feet slipped out from under him, he caught it and threw it from his knee without any hesitation, as if he had planned to do it that way all along. His arm is strong enough that he got the out. From his knees. On the outfield grass. With a throw that was chest high when Freddie Freeman reached out to catch it. Chip Caray’s “Are you kidding me?” was spot on.

3: Taggin’ Fool
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMS1N1vxOZw

Editor’s Pitch: This astounding tag has gotten a lot of well-deserved publicity. Freeman’s throw was awful on what should have been an easy pick-off play, but through an instinct unique only to him, Simmons was able to apply the tag where he caught the ball–between his legs. I can’t find a clip of it, but I remember later on in that broadcast they showed an angle from centerfield that clearly showed Simmons got the tag down. How he was able to do that will remain one of life’s great unsolved mysteries.

2: Shortstop…or Left Fielder?

Editor’s Pitch: No one saw this coming. All eyes were on Justin Upton, wondering if he would get to the ball in time, since the left fielder is really the only person who has a chance at that ball. The only problem is, Simmons does not think like the rest of the world, and he seems to be out to prove he could man the entire left side of a baseball field without any assistance if he needed to. He not only ran at full speed with his back to the infield toward a fence, he dove toward that same fence to make the catch without thought to personal safety. As if the effort itself wasn’t incredible enough, he actually made the catch and hung on for the out. That just doesn’t happen.

The Jadeite Jewel: A League of His Own

Editor’s Pitch: Simmons was moving toward third base with the pitch, so he had to reverse his direction to get to the ball. He somehow caught the ball anyway, managed to beat the runner to second, then threw to first while his entire body was still heading toward right field, and somehow got enough on the throw to turn a double play. In a tie game. In the bottom of the 14th inning. He’s not fair. He’s really just not fair.

167 thoughts on “The Jadeite Jewel Final Rankings—Happy Home Opening Day! Game Thread.”

  1. An amazing list. One thing to look forward to this year is not only Simmons, but seeing him paired regularly with a competent tag team partner at second. We already got one demonstration of what he and Peterson are capable of with that nice double play the other day.

  2. I saw in the last thread Alex noting that (he thought) Frank Wren presided over the winningest team in baseball between 2007 and 2014. He wasn’t using that as a framework to defend the departed leadership and criticize the rebuild, but it looked like someone else was.
    Anyway, in case anyone was wondering like I was, that’s not quite true. It’s closer than I thought, but at least a few teams, including the Phillies, had more wins over the time frame in question.

  3. Getting my Recap Hat on for Opening Night (Home Version.) I’m thinking of doing a running diary a la Bill Simmons, but don’t know if I can summon up the snarkiness needed for such an effort….

  4. When my first child was 4, I built him a playstructure in the backyard. Took 2 weeks, in the heat of summer, must have banged my thumb with a hammer a dozen times. When it is complete, he climbs up, looks over the fence into the neighbors yard and sighs whistfully…”I wish we had a trampoline”

    @4 reminded me of that story after watching those Simmons hilites. lol

  5. Go to your room!

    not sure if it’s been covered, but why stults and not cahill tonight? This rotation really has 3 distinct tiers, doesn’t it?

  6. I’m actually bizarrely encouraged by the fact that they are skipping Cahill the first time through. I choose to believe that means McDowell wants two bullpens with him to fix something he already recognizes.

  7. 1966 Home Opening Lineup
    Felipe Alou CF
    Eddie Mathews 3B
    Hank Aaron RF
    Rico Carty LF
    Joe Torre C
    Denis Menke SS
    Lee Thomas 1B
    Frank Bolling 2B
    Tony Cloninger P

    3 HOFers, 2 more (Carty and Alou) Hall of Pretty Good (when you include Alou’s managing career)

    Name the 3 HOFers in tonight’s lineup

  8. ‘Rissa for Atlanta Braves Historian and Keeper of the Simba Flame! Thank you, ma’am, for this excellent series.

    Go Braves!

  9. I’ll add Simmons and…hmmm…Harvey’s not in the line-up today. Well, Simmons makes 2.

  10. That ’66 team managed to finish 5th in a 10 team league. I guess HOFers ain’t everything.

  11. Good point, Alex, except also on the field that day were Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Manny Mota (not starting, he was a pinch runner), Matty Alou and Bill Mazeroski

  12. I think David Wright is a HOFer. He is the best third baseman in the league. Plays in New York. Good glove and great stick.

  13. @17: That 1966 team pretty easily led the league in runs, scoring almost 800. Their opponent that day, the Pittsburgh of Stargell Clemente & Co., was just behind them then there’s a pretty big gap. Their team ERA was only slight above the league. They should have done better than 5th. I blame Frank Wren… or maybe Larry Munson and Milo Hamilton.

  14. Ha! You could also blame the Johns, depending on which side you’re on. I guess leading the league in runs ain’t everything either, but I can’t really remember what that feels like.

  15. @19, If he ages somewhat gracefully, I’d put him in the Hall–but I think he’s got an uphill battle from the actual voters without another big season or two, even with New York behind him.

    He may be the best 3rd baseman in the NL over the last decade, but his contemporaries Beltre and Longoria over in the other league have either been much better (Beltre) or are threatening to be (Longoria). Add in the fact that a few big seasons from other, less directly HOF-spotlight-threatening 3Bs (Chipper 07-08, Cabrera 12-13, Donaldson 13-14) could overshadow his really good, less gaudy work.

    If he picks up some top-10 MVP votes again, or if the Mets make a deep post-season run before he’s done, I think he’s locked. If neither of those things happen? 3rd-basemen have been known to wait for a long time for the call.

  16. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Freeman or Simmons put together a HOF career before it’s over. Ditto for Teheran. Maybe Wood with an outstanding run of health and improvement over the next 12 years. But probably nobody :(

  17. @22, we led the league in runs in 2003 with 907 and had the best run differential in baseball. Of course, once the playoffs started we appearted to be totally overmatched, as was the case every year after 1999.

  18. @11–That is exactly what I thought too, but I feared it was just my homerism working overtime! The scenario: McDowell watched some footage of Cahill, realized the guy was just a few adjustments away from being that sub-3.00 ERA, devastating sinkerballer he was only a couple years ago, convinced management to trade for him, and now needs just a couple of weeks to straighten him out.

  19. Beltre is a Hall of Famer today, this very moment. If he retired this afternoon, he’d deserve to be elected.

    Generally speaking, it doesn’t pay to talk about the Hall of Fame chances of players under 25 (with the exception of Mike Trout). If the Braves’ first baseman, shortstop, and ace are still among the best players in the league in seven years, then it will be easier to evaluate their candidacy.

  20. @27 I was waiting for this pedantic comment from someone who didn’t realize nobody is arguing any of our players is currently a candidate or even on such a trajectory

    I think the point of anyone bringing up the star-laden ’66 squad was to point out how threadbare the lineup is in 2015, and indeed it is. I don’t think 2014 Royals had any HOF’ers, though, so there’s that.

  21. The Braves of ’66 and most of the other early years in Atlanta could pound the pill, but the pitching was pedestrian at best. This in an era when pitching dominated, think Koufax until he retired, Drysdale, Marichal, Gibson, Jenkins among others.
    Neikro didn’t get firmly established until 67-68. He had 9 saves in ’67.

    The ’66 rotation is a list of non-memorable names. (Cloninger who may have hurt his arm in the home opener, Johnson (Ken), Lemaster) and a mixture of others.

  22. while we wait…

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/04/13/dream-teams

    the tail wagging the dog…

    an interesting admission by the man who pretty much invented, and named, Rotisserie baseball at the end of the seventies…as success built up over the years the passion and even the interest in the game disappears…what becomes important is not the game but its representation as a number.

  23. Simmons won’t be a hall of famer, even on the strength of his glove. As Ozzie faded, we didn’t have advanced numbers to tell us about it. As Simmons declines defensively, like every shortstop does (especially the thick bodied ones) we’ll know about it in real time. The narrative will be that he didn’t age as well as Ozzie, but the case will probably be that Ozzie’s reputation survived his decline, because we had no numbers to measure it.

  24. The major league Braves are 3-0, while all the minor league Braves are 0-4. Just like we all predicted.

  25. Interesting article on fantasy sports that Blazon linked to, but I have been tired for years that Okrent thinks he should have money coming for something he supposedly invented. My first go around in ‘fantasy’ sports was a home run only league in 1974, which moved into a very rudimentary but fun football league, that we just called the NSFL (Nebraska Stats Football Leaguie). I joined a stats baseball league thru the Sporting News classifieds in 1981, which I played for 11 years. Okrent wrote a book,and luckily came up with a nice name for fantasy with ROTO, nothing else, I’ve since read many stories about guys playing similar stats games in the 50s and 60s. He’s not ‘owed’ anything.

  26. @37, Let’s not forget that Ozzie became a more than serviceable hitter in midcareer as well. From ages 29 to 37 he managed to average 3.7 OWar to 2.8 dWar per year.

  27. Cameron May’ve Been just leaving

    @27, Alex R, I know you weren’t addressing me specifically, or at all, but it’s still pedantic. Nobody was making the claim you were admonishing them not to make. Whatever. Can we be friends?

    P.S. Johnny Gomes!!!!

  28. It may not last but this is better than K K K K groundout K K K K flyout K K K HR! K K K K flyout flyout K K K K K K groundout HR! K K K K ……

  29. Did anyone hear how loud the crowd was after that sacrifice bunt? It sounded as if someone on the Braves had hit a home run.

  30. @55, and I apologize for being a jerk. *bring it in for a hug—PAT, PAT, PAT*

    I would rather not Simmons sacrifice his body for a 10% chance at a single run that may or may not matter

  31. @54 Oh I still enjoy the long ball but its nice to not see all the K’s before and after them.

  32. @58 Yes and no. It’s still going to happen, particularly in infield players like that, because the runner is allowed to run into him if he’s in the way, and the catcher is allowed to be in the way if the throw takes him there. Both of which are more likely to happen on an infield play like that where the runner is coming in on a straight line and the catcher has limited time to get into position.

  33. Eric Stults is basically unhittable. I don’t see why we even need to play this season out. Straight to the world series.

  34. I voted consistently for The Jeter in ‘Rissa’s poll. But if I knew he could do it routinely, I guess it loses something….NOT.

  35. The timing with the way the broadcast had *just finished* showing a clip of the play from last year…absolutely sublime.

  36. Travis d’Arnaud needs to pick on someone else.

    I think the top ten now has a 6a and 6b—The Jeter and The Jeter 2.0. What a beautiful play.

  37. LOL. The SNY broadcast flashed end of third inning and started to break for commercial as the first baseman was 10 feet off the bag…

  38. And the ATLANTA HAWKS are gonna win their 60th game. I never woulda thought the Hawks would ever win 60 games. How crazy

  39. Stultz suckz. 0-2 and he walks him. 0-2 and he gives up a homer. At least he didn’t waste pitches on the second homer.

  40. Stults was just a tad more effective the first time through the lineup. Thank goodness for double plays.

  41. @90 Wow. The only thing better than watching Simmons play defense is watching him play defense on repeat.

  42. Hey here’s a perk: our bench is just as good as our starting lineup. No discernable dropoff.

  43. OH I GOT A BETTER IDEA! Let’s finally bring in Cody Martin and let him go ONE because mannajin!

    Now it totally makes sense why we let Stults hit for himself and then not double switch when we brought in Martin bc Martin dunno how to pitch more than one inning and mouth breathe in mouth breathe out

  44. @103, remember when you were a kid and you really wanted something? The first priority was that you got that thing. The second was that that if you didn’t get it, your siblings didn’t get it either.

    Some people never grow out of that.

  45. I have no feelings about Walden, but he’s a Cardinal, and Cards fans deserve pain and misery.

  46. You don’t hate the cards? The more games walden lost for the cards, the more I will love him

  47. Likewise, if Jason Heyward were to play 158 healthy games and post a line of .205/.299/.336, I would dance with joy.

    This is, of course, because I like him. Molina et al, can contract measles and miss the whole season, for all I care.

  48. I thought Johnson was going to be a reclamation project, but he looks like a finished product right now

  49. If you’re going to ask these guys to bunt, you should teach them how to flipping bunt.

    Waving and jabbing. You basically took the bat out of his hands, Fredi.

  50. I was skeptical of the “put pressure on the defense” movement until I saw the Marlins and Mets defenses.

  51. Not that Gosselin didn’t do great, but what were the Mets doing leaving Fastball McGee in there for that long? Do they have anyone?

  52. I think he’s their long man. He was going to pitch 3 innings, or get them to a save opp.

  53. Came in late to this game–WHAT DID ANDRELTON DO EARLIER WHAT THE HELL HOW DOES HE DO THAT I don’t need a trampoline anymore

  54. Y’all think Blevins is an impetuous loudmouth who gets scaredern’hell when there’s lightning out? I hope so.

  55. When I saw the comment at 101 that said “Phil Gosselin is not a major leaguer, I knew Gosselin would get a key hit. This is fun.

  56. I knew Simmons was going to make this one outdated as soon as it went up. I hope he makes it obsolete by next week.

  57. Duda scares me here.

    I feel like it’s not right to type out “d’Arnaud” without an upside-down ‘p’ character.

  58. Guys, all 4 of these games were just part of the 50 every team is going to win. Come get me when we’re 51-0, and I’ll let you know if you can get excited.

  59. Pen has been awesome. Bethancourt has looked every bit as good behind the plate.

  60. Dillion Gee tomorrow. I would take the current lineup over 2014’s against him every time. Watch us light him up with this rag-tag bunch

  61. Yeah. “The Jeter” was deeper in the hole than anything Jeter ever pulled off… The play tonight wasn’t even in the hole, it was deep 3rd base. His follow-through probably put him in foul territory, that’s how 3rd base it was.

  62. This team is really fun to root for, whatever that means.

    Gattis with a .000/.000/.000 in 15 at-bats with 9 Ks.

    Justin doing Justin things with a .353 ISO

    Melvin doing BJ things by collecting checks and being absolutely useless

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