LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- At least once after a game this season, somebody needs to walk up to Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell and say, "Nice game, pretty boy." (More on that shortly.)
I wrote a column on McDowell, who is the only member of the Braves' coaching staff or management team that nobody seems to have a problem with. It's no wonder. Despite significant turnover in the pitching staff and an inordinate number of injuries -- highlight/lowlight: losing starters Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to elbow surgery in consecutive days last spring -- the Braves have ranked among the top five in the majors in earned run average for six straight seasons.
McDowell is profoundly respected by players and he sees and thinks the game as well or better than anybody in the dugout. He probably has manager potential, but I'm not sure he ever would want to deal with all that goes with that job, particularly the media commitments.
Among the things McDowell and I discussed were low expectations for the Braves offensively, and the pressure that seemingly creates for the team's pitchers. His response:
"Hopefully from a pitching staff standpoint, our focus isn’t where we are offensively, whether we’re a great offensive club or we’re below average. We can only control one thing — the baseball. We can’t control how many runs we score. We can’t control what happens after the ball hits the bat. We can’t control good plays, bad plays."
Back to the, "Nice game, pretty boy," reference. It's from a "Seinfeld" episode in which two former New York Mets players, McDowell and Keith Hernandez, guest starred. You've probably seen this before but I can't see it enough times.