Schultz: Did the Braves really want Dansby Swanson; why is Ohio State dangerous?

It’s College Football Playoff week, and I understand most of the sports conversation this week will focus on whether Georgia can be the first program in a decade to repeat as the champion and whether there’s still a way for Alabama to slip into the postseason through the back door via the Christmas Upside Down Portal (no).

But last week’s interview with Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos following Dansby Swanson’s departure from the Braves stirred a lot of debates so this latest edition of Between The Lines seemed like a good format to follow up on a few of Anthopoulos’ talking points. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, here you go:

Rather than asking questions to Anthopoulos, I’m going to do some version of a FAQ with my thoughts here, after feedback from comments, social media and email. Here we go:

Did the Braves really want Swanson back? (Yes. And no. Mostly no)

Anthopoulos said he wanted Swanson back. He said the same with Freddie Freeman. But Anthopoulos’ actions illustrated otherwise. He tendered a relative bottom-level offer of six years totaling $100 million ($16.8 million AAV, and he reportedly never raised it). Swanson countered at some point for $140 million ($23.3 AAV), knowing he was leaving money on the table from at least one other team, but Anthopoulos didn’t even counter the counter. The lack of a willingness to negotiate, as well as the storyline of Vaughn Grissom working with coach Ron Washington this offseason on his fielding, suggests Anthopoulos had moved on from Swanson the moment the 2021 season ended. The Braves would love for you to obsess about the $177 million deal the Cubs gave Swanson because it deflects from the reality: Swanson would’ve stayed for far less, and Atlanta never intended to negotiate.

Did Swanson leave a leadership void? (Yes.)

Many downplaying the significance of Swanson’s exit are pointing to the fact he was coming off a career offensive season, as well as his first All-Star Game and a Gold Glove. But a player’s value often goes beyond numbers. Swanson exerted a lot of influence in the clubhouse, especially with younger players like Grissom and Michael Harris II, and that filled a void left by Freeman.

Anthopoulos acknowledged this: “It’s real, it’s authentic, it’s sincere. It just comes so naturally for him. Guys follow him, he leads; it’s not contrived. He lives his life that way each day. Look at the different places he hit in the lineup — eighth, seventh, second. Some guys are very particular about where they hit in the order, and sometimes it becomes a political thing. Not once in my five years with Dansby Swanson did I ever hear one gripe, one complaint, about where he hit in the lineup or what he was doing. He always had really thoughtful ideas, whether it was about our defensive positioning or the roster. It was never about himself.”

That’s not easily replaced. This isn’t to say the Braves can’t find someone else to fill that element, which is important through the ups and downs of a 162-game season, but there aren’t many obvious candidates. And two potential players who could step up might have other things on their minds (next).

Is all well with Travis D’Arnaud and Max Fried? (Not likely)

D’Arnaud and Fried, along with Ozzie Albies, seem the best suited for leadership roles, but there are lingering questions with D’Arnaud and Fried. D’Arnaud has been Atlanta’s starting catcher for most of the past three seasons and started all 32 postseason games since 2020. But Anthopoulos effectively traded six players, including All-Star DH William Contreras and pitching prospect Kyle Muller, for catcher Sean Murphy, and a team doesn’t make that kind of a deal unless it’s for an every-day player. D’Arnaud isn’t the type to complain publicly, but it seems likely he won’t be thrilled with playing backup and the possibility of a trade remains on the table. He has an attractive contract (one year for $8 million plus a club option) so dealing him for another asset wouldn’t be difficult.

The issue with Fried is far different: It’s about money. He has two arbitration seasons left, with his salary expected to balloon from $6.85 million last season to a total of approximately $32 million in 2023 and 2024. But he can’t be thrilled that the Braves have handed out long extensions to six players — notably rookie pitcher Spencer Strider — and he is still working off one-year deals. The Braves would be foolish to trade Fried but Anthopoulos’ history suggests he’s going to be wary of giving a long-term deal to a pitcher who turns 29 years old in three weeks. How Fried processes all this in 2023 will be key for the team and his own future. But barring the sides coming to an agreement, a trade certainly could be on the table next winter.

Yes, there are too many bowl games

The original concept of college bowl games was great: A bowl was a final game meant as a reward for players at the end of their season and possibly the end of their football careers. The New Year’s Day games also were a blurry way to decide a national champion. But when every city with a Moose Lodge decided to host a bowl game and the Playoff took the place of polls to determine champions and draft-eligible players began opting out, most of these games became irrelevant and borderline unwatchable. There were 18 — 18! — teams with 6-6 records that were picked for bowl games. Rice finished 5-7 but went to the LendingTree Bowl against Southern Miss, and of course, lost, and it finished the season with four straight losses by a composite score of 145-58. Go LendingTree!

I’m assuming ESPN’s ratings are high enough, or it wouldn’t be partially funding these games, but the mostly empty stands are a depressing sight, and the predominant lack of star players — given opt-outs — makes them less compelling to watch. If college football wants to cling to some of these games for tradition that’s fine. A dozen seems plenty — 43 is absurd. I did one of those highly scientific Twitter polls. Two-thirds have either partially or completely checked out of the bowls. One-third of respondents still love them.

Why Ohio State is dangerous

Georgia remains a 6 1/2-point favorite over Ohio State and comprises 85 percent of the total bets and total handle, via BetMGM. The Bulldogs also remain the overall betting favorites to win the national title at -145 (2-3), followed by Michigan +300 (3-1), Ohio State +350 (7-2) and TCU +1,600 (16-1). But Ohio State might be the one team Georgia did not want to face, not just because the Buckeyes are talented and have a great quarterback in C.J. Stroud, but because they’re coming off a humiliating home loss to Michigan to end the regular season. Humiliation can be a wonderful motivator, as the Bulldogs know.

Georgia’s last game before the Playoff last season was a loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Head coach Kirby Smart acknowledged Monday that the defeat “re-centered things” in the program.

“You recalibrate, and you look back, and sometimes the reality of your weaknesses pop up a lot more in a loss,” Smart said. “We like to say, ‘Why you gotta lose to learn?’ You shouldn’t have to do that. But it certainly is a wake-up call on teams I’ve been with. It re-centered everybody and refocused everybody. But obviously, we’ve tried to do that without (losing this year).”

Two QBs with a better rating than Watson: Mariota and Ridder

Deshaun Watson had a 47.1 quarterback rating in the Browns’ home loss to the Saints on Sunday, and this seems like a good time to check in to see how he’s doing, given the Falcons lost their minds and tried to land him in the offseason. I pulled Watson’s four-game statistics and compared them to Marcus Mariota’s and Desmond Ridder’s, and well, would you look at that? Here they are, ranked by efficiency rating.

QB comparisons

Player Games Comp.-Att. Percentage Yards per attempt TDs INTs Rating






















Draft debate: quarterback or edge rusher?

Now that the Falcons officially have been eliminated from the playoff race, we officially can turn our attention to draft positioning (and, yes, I realize many did this in Week 1). The Falcons (5-10) currently rank sixth in the order and could move up to fifth if the Colts (4-9-1) defeat the Chargers on Monday night. Atlanta probably will win next week’s game against the Cardinals (4-11) because it…

Read More: Schultz: Did the Braves really want Dansby Swanson; why is Ohio State dangerous?

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy

Get more stuff like this
in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.