Guerry Clegg commentary: Atlanta Braves provide some expensive thrills

April 9, 2013 

The view from the press box is nice. But the view from the stands is a lot more fun, and can but just as insightful. Thus, observations from Aisle 218, Row 16, Seat 1 at Turner Field on a perfect Saturday night for baseball …

• You'd think by now I'd be numb to the concession prices. But seriously? Fourteen bucks for a slice of pizza and a large drink in a souvenir cup? Yes, I get it. That's five bucks for the combo, another two bucks for the cup, and seven bucks to afford the Upton brothers.

One way to rationalize it: That's just three-fifty per Upton, or just $2.33 per Upton home run.

At least buying concessions is optional now that they no longer employ off-duty TSA agents to search carry-ons for bottled water and homemade ham sandwiches. By paying for outrageous concessions, we're doing our part to help the Braves field a team that's not just competitive but compelling.

The flip-side: If they're going to charge $5.50 for a bag of peanuts, we better not ever see the Braves field a team like the Astros or Marlins.

Speaking of lousy teams …

• Chicago Cubs fans have to be the most loyal breed in all of sports. They approach every season as if they actually have a chance to win. They come to the games wearing their jerseys of their favorite players of yesterday -- Sandberg, Wood. They talk smack when one of their beloved Cubbies goes yard, as if they were Alabama fans marching toward another national championship.

And when their pitching collapses like a cheap umbrella on a blustery day by Lake Michigan, they cover their heads with their hands in disbelief, wondering if the Curse of 1908 will ever expire.

And the expensive hot dogs and peanuts at Wrigley field are going to subsidize Alphonso Soriano (just $38 million over the next two years left on his contract). They're spending $14.3 million on Kyuji Fujikawa and Carlos Marmol, whom the Braves touched for three runs in the eighth and two in the ninth. The Cubs' payroll is $17 million more than the Braves'. That's a lot of Ron Santo shirts to sell.

• The Upton brothers have added more than just power to the lineup and speed to the outfield. They have created a buzz in the ballpark not felt in a long time. As hard as it was to give up Martin Prado, acquiring Justin Upton appears well worth the price. There's value -- tangible and otherwise -- in the consistency Prado provided. But the potential to change a game with one swing makes the Braves compelling to watch.

We may look back later and view Saturday night's game as the night that B.J. Upton turned his season around. His move to the top of the lineup and his sudden production might not be coincidental. No, he's not a classic leadoff hitter. But batting leadoff might make him more patient. It was a 3-1 pitch that B.J. blasted over the center field wall off Marmol.

Both brothers were doused with ice water by the dugout. Their exuber

ant parents celebrated in the family section behind home plate, and more than a few Braves fans wanted to ask them one question: Got any more sons?

• Catcher Gerald Laird may look like Fredi Gonzalez, but his play is reminiscent of Greg Olson. He's a gritty player who just finds ways to get the job done.

• Juan Francisco will never remind anyone of Chipper Jones. But he might be the most improved player the Braves have had in a long time. He no longer spins himself into the ground trying to hit every pitch over the Chop House. But he did reportedly hit one in batting practice Saturday night into upper deck.

Whether the Braves can dethrone the Nationals as division champs remains to be seen. But this team is fun to watch. Not cheap, but fun.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com

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