1995 Braves – Short By One Hall of Fame Player?

Atlanta Falcons defensive back Deion Sanders covers Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mark Duper during a game at the Orange Bowl, Oct. 11, 1992. (AP Photo)

BY CHUCK OLIVER
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – One thing the 1995 Atlanta Braves weren’t short on was Hall of Famers. By my count there were four future HOFers on the field, one in the dugout and another upstairs wearing suspenders.

Now, consider the phrase I really did need to preface that last statement with: “By my count . . .”

It’s not normal for a fan to need to include that disclaimer when recalling a team from the franchise’s past. Hall of Fame players or managers and even execs, you don’t lose track of those. For the 1995 edition of My Team, yeah, you might.

But even with John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Chipper Jones on the active roster, Bobby Cox managing and John Schuerholz moving pieces around the board, there really could have been one more Hall of Famer wearing a tomahawk that season.

I won’t romanticize why Deion Sanders wasn’t still with the Braves when the team started the 1995 season. He had been traded the previous May, to Cincinnati for Roberto Kelly, and there was some baked-in justification.

Ron Gant had broken his leg in the offseason and the team needed a right-handed bat. That much was true. It also was completely unrelated to Deion’s exit. He had simply become too much of a distraction in about 10 different ways and the team made the decision to move on. About those “distractions” . . .

The biggest hurdle to any major league team getting more than a tease of Sanders’ talent was the part-time outfielder was also a full-time cornerback in the NFL. It was already generally agreed by the early 90’s, certainly by 1994, that Deion could be the best corner in league history and was destined for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Deion, himself, was certainly of that opinion and he pursued . . . successfully, mind you . . . an almost impossible outcome: to make more money playing pro football than pro baseball, and for a longer time. He was THAT good, and knew it.

If you go back to the beginning of this, the “ . . . really could have been one more Hall of Famer” on the Braves roster that season, that part, that wasn’t word play and, “OH, he meant the Pro Football HOF.”

Folks, Deion Sanders could have been in Cooperstown, he could have been a Hall of Fame player in baseball, if he had committed full time.

Check the back of his baseball card and there are some impressive numbers, stand-alone, no context needed. Throw in the combination of almost no off-season attention to getting better at the sport and most seasons playing about half the games and then moving on to football, and you have a recipe for failure, not the partial seasons Sanders strung together.

The science of swinging a curved surface to hit a round object traveling 90+mph is absurd. It takes an impossible amount of talent combined with consistent prep, both personal technique and studying pitchers, to give you a chance to be successful about 3 out of every 10 times.

Deion did things like play fewer than 100 games in 1992, yet lead the league in triples with an insane 14 and also hit .304 for the year. Then he left to play in the NFL. He stopped playing baseball altogether for almost two calendar years, returned to the bigs in 1997 and finished second in the NL in steals with 56, despite playing only 115 games.

The bottom line is Deion made the Hall of Fame in his chosen sport and had the talent to make it another sport’s Hall, as well. An additional bottom line is that if he wasn’t traded for Kelly, then Kelly wouldn’t have been traded for Marquis Grissom and the Braves don’t win the 1995 World Series. Turns out, six Hall of Famers was enough!

A Risky Strategy For Recruiting Quarterbacks

FILE Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. (FILE AP Photo/Butch Dill)

CHUCK OLIVER
680 THE FAN, ATLANTAI’ve got a strategy for recruiting quarterbacks that is fairly risky. And every bit as good an approach as almost anybody else’s right now.

Be a reeeeally good loser.

When a kid commits somewhere else make sure he and everybody who loves him knows just how much you enjoyed BLAH BLAH the entire relationship BLAH BLAH great kid etc and, legitimately, mean every word of it. You *will be* reading from your script each time, but the words still ring true.

Even the fringe quarterback, the 2* you weren’t really that hot for on the recruiting trail, same thing. You ought to do that with any borderline reasonable choice in recruiting, even if you’re Missouri and the kid signed with Tulsa or UNLV. Even if all you did is send him an email and agree he could come on an unofficial visit.

A skyrocketing percentage of all players, all positions, are transferring and no spot on the 2-deep more so than quarterback. What you’re doing is setting the stage for a potential second bite at the apple in a year or two or three.

The current approach is try to keep all the QBs on your roster happy, somehow. And I don’t know any coach who is doing that, many actually are doing such a poor job of it that it’s costing them their jobs.

Gus Malzahn’s approach last season may actually be the winner: “That other guy? He’s our starter. You’re the backup, and we absolutely want you to stay. But, he’s our starter.” Then hit the portal for the experienced, older backup after you lose your own backup QB, and possibly 3rd-string, 4th-string and every other kid on the depth chart, to another program.

It’s an unconventional approach, but it fits the current unconventional times in college football, player movement-wise.

Chuck Oliver can be heard weekdays from 3PM to &PM on 680n The Fan’s “Chuck and Chernoff.”

If there’s a season, it’s Clemson’s

Vegas wants you to stay the heck away from Clemson this season.(Photo: Richard Shiro / AP FILE)

BY CHUCK OLIVER
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – More betting numbers for the 2020 college football season have been released and at the top of the list all I see is absurd.

As in, “Because Clemson has been so absurdly great, we’ve got to come up with equally absurd numbers to post.” And believe me, Vegas is telling you, “We really don’t want you to bet Clemson.”

Clemson to Win ACC Championship Game: -600

Even the one way the math sort of works for you because of the OTHER absurd math, even that doesn’t really work. Specifically:

The Tigers -600 to win the ACC Championship (i.e.; win the game in Charlotte beginning of December).  That’s likely a bit less than the money line in a typical Clemson ACC championship game matchup. Let’s say the line is 22. Money line then might be -900? So, better deal to get it now, right?

Yes, if you want to also include the at least remote chance weird stuff happens and Clemson doesn’t even make it to Charlotte. Or maybe just ONE weird thing happens, but it is the Wrong one weird thing and Louisville beats Clemson, loses to Syracuse, drops two non-conference games and heads to Charlotte with a 9-3 record as the underdog to UNC, for instance. Yes, that qualifies as weird. While not likely, you do still have to figure it in. And the guaranteed tough part? You have to let Vegas hold your money for 3+ months.

Clemson Win Total: o/u 11.5 over -140

You really gonna play over 11.5? At -140?? My goodness, I can’t recall seeing stuff like this, not all lined up.

They’re making it clear, all of us who know how great Clemson is, especially against the backdrop of the other 13 teams in that conference right now. Vegas is saying, “Don’t want your bets. Not on Clemson. Have you looked at Oregon?? That under 9.5, THEEEERE’S the value . . .”

Listen to Chuck Oliver weekdays on 680 The Fan’s  “Chuck & Chernoff” 3PM – 7PM.

A “Different Math” for the NBA

CHUCK OLIVER
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – The NBA is now considering a different sort of math. I commend the league.

That Title Island or Playoff Boat, taking over Mandalay Bay or MGM in Vegas and having the playoffs self-contained in a single resort, whatever they were talking about, it’s not the priority anymore. Good for the league troubleshooting this and realizing the very obvious way it plays out is 10 ways of Really Bad.

Imagine the spot that format puts Anthony Davis in. Or LeBron. Or Jared Dudley. The virus does not discriminate, money and power and fame and talent and every other powerful positive thing in anyone’s lives, yeah, Corona don’t care. SO…

I’m either the best player of the past 20 years or I’m Jared, the last guy in sweats who appeared in 2 games. I don’t feel comfortable playing.

In fact, kids, spouse, parents, friends, all of them and more, “I love them more than the NBA paycheck so I’ll honor my contract, I’ll play. Just after this is ALL gone from everywhere, then I’ll be back. I just want to be with my family and stay safe till then.”

If it’s Dudley it’s not news, not really. If it’s LeBron and he says he’s not playing? You either can’t have the tournament or you have it without him and whoever else from whatever other rosters and then you’re looking around thinking, “ . . . this isn’t legit.”

You also have the very real dynamic of, “Well, hell, everybody is looking at me as a bad teammate now, guess I have to go. I don’t want to. This sucks. I have to or I’m a cut-and-run guy.”

THAT, all of it, that’s what’s going through the owners’ and league officials’ minds right now. As well as, what happens when three players test positive after the very first game. You cancel it then, anyway, and correctly so look like you WERE HAVING PLAYOFFS!!!! no matter what.

Braves pitcher Mike Soroka joins Chuck and Chernoff

FILE – Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Mike Soroka delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets, Monday, June 17, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore – FILE)

Chuck and Chernoff are joined by Atlanta Braves Pitcher Mike Soroka and we all catch up on what the Braves Pitcher is doing during the  “COVID-19 Baseball Offseason.”

Two Words Give Insight Into Clemson’s Success: “Except Dabo.”

FILE – In this Jan. 13, 2020, file photo, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney celebrates after his team scored during the second half of a NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game against LSU in New Orleans. The Tigers have locked up the best recruiting class of the Dabo Swinney era, which already includes two national titles and five playoff appearances. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

BY CHUCK OLIVER
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Two words give insight into why Clemson has achieved a place few have, and none by THIS path.

“Except Dabo.”

Doesn’t matter if it’s “Everybody takes transfers” or “Everybody loses coaches each off-season” or “Everybody has decommittments” the answer seems to always be the same: “Except Dabo.”

I was talking with a recruiting guy from SDS, talking about South Carolina’s projected receiving corp and he said the following when I asked about the group Will and Bobo want on the field:

“You gotta have diverse talent across your receiver corp, different sizes and lengths and skills, almost like a basketball team. Except Dabo.”

Interesting comment and sums up a bunch of exceptions to all kinna “rules.” Such as . . .

Last season Clemson’s first four were:

6’4” 215Tee Higgins

6’4” 210Diondre Overton

6’4” 205Justyn Ross

5’10” 210 Amari Rodgers

This season, with two of those gone, they’ll be just as big. Projected:

6’3” 215Joseph Ngata

6’3” 195Frank Ladson

6’4” 205Ross

5’10” 210Rodgers

Added to this is a pair of FR, and with the Tigers it’s a little different than talking about most programs and freshman WRs. These dudes play, every year, for Dabo. This season it’s

E.J. Williams 6’3” 190

Ajou Ajou 6’3” 220

And the worst part for the opposition is, they’re not just big, they’re good. Routes, hands, speed, timing, all of it. My heavens!

Good for Dabo getting the program here by whatever means. But by taking an approach in so many areas where the only observation is, “Except Dabo” it’s just a great commentary on the culture, the team, the environment, every facet of where Clemson is currently.

Listen to Chuck on “Chuck & Chernoff,” weekdays from 3PM to7PM on 680 The Fan!

A New Draft Strategy, For Certain NFL Teams

Quarterback Justin Herbert works out during Oregon football pro day in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Collin Andrew)

CHUCK OLIVER
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – We ARE emerging from this, there WILL be games again. And I believe some NFL teams are getting ready to show their draft strategy cards based around this once-in-our-lifetime challenge.

Keep your eyes peeled, we’re about to see a small number of franchises tip their hands and start trading draft picks for this year, at sliiiiiiightly below normal market value, for either an established veteran player or draft assets in 2021 and beyond.

Right now there are some GMs who think the normal Dart Throw Factor is about 5% – 8% for most prospects. Do your best, scour his dossier, sometimes Charles Rodgers just likes getting his ass high more than he likes getting game checks. It happens. Those same GMs and personnel guys are also saying that the dynamic of almost no in-person workouts, except for the few Pro Days that happened to occur before, they are saying the DTF this draft is 35% or such. Just rough numbers, just to illustrate.

And that’s the reason some front office dudes and ladies around the league (*some*) have decided to take Ross’ advice and pivot. Instead of being forced to make picks in this draft, all with a highly inflated DTF, it’s “I’ll take more picks, numbers-wise, that I can make with far more knowledge in 13 months.”

If that’s really what some GMs believe than we’re going to see draft picks on sale . . . slightly . . . over the next four weeks. I’ll jump, if I’m TD and Bro, I’ll take the value here v the panic or mistrust of my scouts or in the case of Tua a very real attitude of just cant take him that high etc, I’ll accept I have to pass on a very few prospects, otherwise I’m 100% in on taking the blue sky here.

Chuck Oliver can be heard on 680 The Fan weekdays from 3PM to 7PM on “Chuck and Chernoff.”

For players with real professional hopes, college football IS the NFL to them.

Trey Sermon rushed for 2,076 yards and 22 touchdowns in three seasons at Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

BY CHUCK OLIVER
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Oklahoma’s Trey Sermon is transferring to Ohio State. He’s played three seasons for OU and to this point his two biggest failings are:

  • Getting injured
  • Possibly not being as great as Kennedy Brooks

That’s about it, but it’s enough for him to look for a new place to play. And speaking of his new home . . .

When the Sooners won in C-Bus in 2017 and Baker Mayfield planted the flag, that game where Buckeyes fans wanted to burn down Norman? Sermon was the Sooners’ leading rusher that night, caught three passes and scored a touchdown. He’s a Buckeye now and aint one person in Scarlett and Grey care at all.

You make the best deal for YOU. And fans are exactly like pro fans, in many respects. “You used to play for our rival? Don’t care. You’re OUR’S now!”

We’ve had Justin Boren go from Michigan to Ohio State, Corey Grant go Bama to Auburn. A 3rd-string running back transferring anywhere from Oklahoma? Even if it were Texas or Oklahoma State it would be just a curiosity at this point.

Think about how absurd that statement is. An OU player transferring to Texas? Folks, I’m not talking fan bases. I’m talking STATES. There’s dislike twixt those people and even Sermon going to UT wouldn’t cause more than a, “DAAAAANG, he trasnferr . . . hey, Jeopardy’s on.” And then you move about your day.

This is the same as, “I played for the Redskins, I’m signing with the Cowboys.” Just isn’t a thing, not to the actual players.

Chuck can be heard on “Chuck & Chernoff,” weekdays on 680 The Fan from 3pm to 7pm.

Two Teams, Two Coaches We Know…and “All Kinds of Getting Better To Do!”

CHUCK OLIVER
ATLANTA, GA – Two teams, two coaches we know. And “all kinds of getting better to do.”

Georgia Tech and Arkansas were so horrid last season they each could improve as much as any team in their conferences and I can’t guarantee you’ll notice.


Georgia Tech Head Coach Geoff Collins (PHOTO – Ga Tech Athletics)

Georgia Tech went 3-9 last season. The three wins were by a combined 13 points.

USF 14-10

Miami 28-21 OT

NC State 28-26

“Well, what about their close losses?”

There weren’t many.

Clemson by 38

Temple by 22

UNC by 16

Duke by 18

Pitt by 10

Virginia Tech by 45

Georgia by 45

Could be a legit transformation on the Flats this season and still finish 4-8. There’s exactly one guaranteed win on this coming season’s schedule, Gardner-Webb. I gave the same total last season and told you Citadel.


Arkansas Head Coach SamPittman (AP Photo – Charlie Kaijo)

Arkansas might have been better . . . nah, they weren’t. Very different details, but no better.

Ole Miss by 15

San Jose by a touchdown

Auburn by 41

Bama by 41

Mississippi State by 30

Western Kentucky by 26, and if you’re a Hogs fan you put a swear word between Western and Kentucky

LSU by 36

Missouri beat Arkansas by 10 and fired its coach the next day.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State beat you by a combined 45 points and BOTH schools fired their coach.


Programs in power 5 conferences should never fall this far and in the case of Tech they haven’t on defense, just sorta close. But the magnitude of each of these rebuilds has both Geoff Collins and Sam Pittman staring at different, but equal, mountains to climb.

Listen to Chuck Oliver weekdays on 680 The Fan’s “Chuck & Chernoff,” weekdays 4pm – 7pm.

Expect a Drastically Different Schedule from Your College Head Coach Next Spring

Kirby Smart – (AP Photo:John Bazemore, File)

BY CHUCK OLIVER
ATLANTA, GA – The current landscape in sports is unprecedented. I promise you, though, there are college football coaches kicking themselves for a missed opportunity.

The CDC has recommended limiting gatherings “for the next 8 weeks.”That’s the end of the semester. In that the NCAA prohibits practice if school isn’t in session, outside of the season of that particular sport (think bowl practice in December), that means all spring practice that hasn’t been practiced already just isn’t going to occur.

I can guarantee you the most uber-OCD in the coaching fraternity have already started making notes about next February’s calendar to ensure that if a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence actually occurs a second time, or any event like it, that, “it won’t be MY program getting jacked over because we’re having spring practice EARLY!”

Not that simple, though, certainly not for the programs at the top of the game’s food chain.

If head coaches DO pencil-in spring practice to start the Monday after signing day, for instance, there may be a peril awaiting them. We had a national championship game on January 13 this year. Imagine being Travis Etienne, you went hard, non-stop from August 1 until January 13. As a running back playing a power 5 schedule, followed by a conference title game, then Ohio State, then LSU. Then three weeks later, yo, “Captains on the goal line facing out!” That’s not good, even for young legs, that’s just not a schedule that puts the kid in the best spot to succeed.

But all the coaches who really do have to concern themselves with every last scintilla of a 1% improvement in any phase of the game because, “we ARE a national championship program,” yes, THOSE coaches will schedule a way early spring practice. They’re upset that this year their program got screwed out of 15 chances to get better and the only way to at least tilt the equation in their favor going forward is a much earlier spring start date.

Next year February starts to spring practice will seem almost normal. In case the once-in-anybody’s-lifetime situation happens again.

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