Baseball players are packing up this weekend and heading for camps in Arizona and Florida. Yes, the number of days until pitchers and catchers report is dwindling to the single digits.
It’s an annual rite of passage to count down that number, as a surefire sign that the sound of the bat hitting the ball and the ball hitting the glove is right around the corner.
On Friday, Atlanta’s pitchers and catchers report to Orlando, or Kissimmee or Lake Buena Vista or wherever it is near Disney. And like we’re not actually certain of the name where the camp is located, we might find trouble recognizing familiar faces in this camp.
There’s a new sheriff in town, as John Hart is now in charge of this roster with a fancy title that no one seems to remember. Hart replaced Frank Wren, who almost single-handedly ruined a once-proud franchise with a series of bad moves.
To clean up the mess, Hart has been busy. Most new general managers are active in their first offseason on the job. But Hart and his trusted assistant John Coppolella have been like fantasy league owners who have a quota of making at least one move a week.
And it was needed. The makeover, even though the Braves are calling this a reboot instead of a rebuild, was necessary to fix what was broken.
There are 17 players on Atlanta’s 40-man roster who were brought into the organization this offseason. Of the 27 non-roster invitees to big league camp, 16 are new to the organization. So that means 33 of the 67 players who will be in big league camp will be brand new players -- and that does not count rookie players invited to camp for the first time.
The minor league camp will have a number of new players, as well, between players who were drafted last year, free agents and players acquired in the 10 trades made by the Braves this offseason.
From last year’s opening day 25-man roster, 15 players are already out of the organization, and it’s possible that at least three more players will not make this year’s opening day roster. So the Braves are looking at a 60- to 70-percent turnover from last year’s team.
When Wren took over as general manager between the 2007 and 2008 seasons, there was significant turnover. There were 17 new players on the 2008 opening day roster who were not on the 2007 opening day roster, although eight were brought in that winter by Wren.
The year John Schuerholz became the Braves’ general manager in October 1990, he made seven free agent signings (including Terry Pendleton and Sid Bream) and one trade (for Otis Nixon right before the season). But then Schuerholz made four in-season trades that helped shaped a championship roster.
Go back to the 1985-1986 offseason, when Bobby Cox took over as Atlanta’s general manager. Cox made three trades (for Ozzie Virgil, Billy Sample and Ted Simmons) and signed two free agents (David Palmer and Omar Moreno). There were also three rookies on the 1986 roster.
But this roster shuffle has been historic. It might take two weeks for everyone to introduce themselves to each other in this camp, and the fans might need longer to learn all the new faces. The Braves need to run down to the office supply store and get some of those “Hi my name is” stickers.
The expectations are going to be low, as fans assume these changes mean the Braves will be worse than last season. But last season, as awful as it was, is why this is happening.
The new-look Braves start Saturday. Maybe new will mean better, as it can’t get much worse than what we saw in 2014.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at www.twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.