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June 2, 2009 at 5:55 pm ET
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Dancing with the (Dirty Bird) Devil

The Braves are mired in another ho-hum season. Sitting at .500 after 50 games. Four out in the division, four out in the wildcard. Some of the potential ‘feel-good’ stories of the summer — Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Chipper Jones, newly-bespectacled Brian McCann — are working out pretty well.

Others — Peter Moylan, Jordan Schafer, Kenshin Kawakami, Jo-Jo Reyes, Blaine Boyer — not so much, to date. But maybe all they need is a spark. Something to rally around, to get behind and play for. The Braves of the ’90s had that quiet winning confidence; these Braves have… well, the blahs, as far as anyone can tell, dating back to late 2005. Somebody needs to put a charge into these guys, and bring some electricity back into the Atlanta clubhouse.

So how about Mike Vick?

That’d get people talking about the Braves, for sure. And it’s not like the guy’s doing anything these days. Like playing football, or taking endorsements, or hard time. Any more. Why not take a flier on a world-class athlete, and see what he’s got in the tank? The advantages are several:

Vick’s got the speed to play center field, the cannon to throw from deep right, and… well, whatever the hell it is you need to play left field. Two legs and a heartbeat, from what I can figure. Give Vick a uni and a glove and shag some flies at him; he’ll get the hang of things pretty quickly.

It’s not like the Braves couldn’t use another body in the outfield. The current starters — Francoeur, Schafer and (Mister) Anderson — have six home runs between them. Or one less than Jerry Hairston, Jr., all by his lonesome. Forget ‘knocking the cover off the ball'; these guys are barely dislodging the dust off the pill. Schafer’s struck out 63 times, more than any other two Braves combined — and he’s the only one with an on-base percentage above .300. And every one of the three has an OPS lower than Raul Ibanez’ slugging percentage alone. You might as well pencil Charlie’s Angels into the lineup sheet each night. At least the girls would make those stirrup socks look good.

Need a roster spot for Vick? Fine. Consider Greg Norton. He plays first base and some corner outfield — just like fourteen other Braves on the squad. He’s 36 years old. He’s currently batting .129 and slugging .194, and has more strikeouts (8) than total bases (6). He’s hit .251 lifetime, with minimal power and zero speed. I know Bobby Cox is keeping him around because he can swing from both sides of the plate, but at this point Norton is a ‘switch-misser’. Or ‘switch-dribbler-to-second-base’, at best. Pack his stuff, restitch his jersey, and give his locker to Vick. Sometime before the leaves turn, if it wouldn’t be too much effing trouble.

When you get right down to it, Vick doesn’t really need to ‘hit’, anyway. Give him a couple of hours with Terry Pendleton learning how to bunt, and send him to the plate. Dude used to run over linebackers; with his size, a full head of steam and a dash of ‘prison crazy’ added in, what sane pitcher would cover first to take a throw? You think beanpole Tim Lincecum’s up for that? Johan Santana? Jake Peavy? Honey, please. There’s no hurler this side of C.C. Sabathia in a padded suit of armor that’s going to stand in there with Vick chugging up the first base line. He’d either strike out fouling or get a single every time. Or he’d get six months to a year on violating probation for aggravated battery, if I happen to be wrong. Either way: spark plug. Think Otis Nixon with a mean streak. And ninety pounds of muscle.

And hell, once he’s on base, a single is a double or triple, at least. I wouldn’t even bother to have Vick steal. We’ve all seen his moves — just let him walk off first base during the windup and get into a pickle. By the time he’s done juking Chase Utley out of his cleats or stiff-arming Jose Reyes to avoid a tag, he’s probably standing on third base. Or barreling towards it, with his shoulder lowered. And after a long rundown, it might just be the pitcher covering the base over there. See above for how that’s likely to work out for him.

From Vick’s side, what’s there to lose? The Falcons don’t want him back. No one else in the NFL seems to want him. And from what I hear, the guy’s got some cashflow problems these days. Offer him the minimum and suit him up. He doesn’t even have to move cities — what’s not to like in this deal? It’s not exactly a ‘match made in heaven’, but it could be the kick in the tail the Braves need to make something of this sorry season.

One word of advice to Frank Wren, though. If you do happen to pick up on this outstanding idea, I think I’d wait until after June 10th to ink the deal. Trust me on this one. That’s one tree you do not want to bark up.

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