09/26/2003 7:42 PM ET
Notes: Playing the waiting game
PHILADELPHIA -- Obviously the Cubs and Astros are providing the excitement only great pennant races can.
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
But as the Cubs and Astros continue to battle for the National League Central Division crown, the Braves can only sit back and wait to see who their opponent will be when they open up Division Series play on Tuesday at Turner Field.
Entering Friday's action, the Cubs and Astros were deadlocked. The Marlins need one of those two teams to lose at least one more time, or to win just one of their three games this weekend against the Mets to clinch the Wild Card and set up a first round matchup against the Giants.
Braves officials were told that there was a strong possibility that game times at least for Games 1 and 2 of the Division Series, would be announced sometime Saturday.
Tickets are available for purchase at www.atlantabraves.com, where fans can print their own tickets via the TicketFast delivery option. Also to assist fans, the Braves will open the Turner Field will call windows on Monday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET and on Tuesday from 9 a.m. until game-time.
"Luckily, we know we're opening at home," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "But this is still tough on the guys making the arrangements."
While Bill Acree, the Braves director of travel, will be scrambling to last-minute adjustments once the Cubs and Astros settle their race, Cox plans on meeting with the team's scouts regarding both NL Central teams on Sunday morning.
Cox will not alter his starting rotation based on the eventual opponent. The veteran skipper will go with Russ Ortiz in Game 1, Mike Hampton in Game 2 and Greg Maddux in Game 3.
"We wouldn't have gone wrong with those guys in any order," Cox said.
Hampton, who has gone 9-3 with a 2.88 ERA since the All-Star break, will make his final postseason preparation by throwing an inning or two in his Saturday start against the Phillies. His Game 2 start will come on Wednesday.
Cox plans to let Maddux throw at least five innings in Sunday's game. The veteran right-hander's right ankle that was struck with a comebacker last Sunday in Atlanta, has healed to the point it is no longer a concern.
"Everyone is healthy," Cox said. "They're all fine."
Presidential honor: Julio Franco was bestowed quite an honor when in this week's edition of Sports Illustrated , President George W. Bush indicated that the Braves' 45-year-old first baseman was one of his favorite players.
After pointing out Rafael Palmeiro and Ivan Rodriguez as two of his favorites in the question and answer article, the President added, "You know one of my favorite players of all is Julio Franco."
When Franco joined the Rangers in 1989, Bush was the team's owner and the two soon built a strong enough friendship that Franco invited the future First Family to his 1991 wedding.
"He's a great guy," Franco said of Bush. "He doesn't see me as a ballplayer. He sees me as a person and I see him as George W. Bush, a friend."
It's not like Franco remains in weekly or even monthly contact with Bush. When asked when the last time he had spoken to the President, he said "That's classified."
End of an era: While the Phillies are ready to say goodbye to Veterans Stadium, Gary Sheffield has come to the conclusion that it's time to part ways with his raggedy, old Pete Rose T-shirt that he has worn before games for the past six years.
"This is through," Sheffield said of the T-shirt that is full of holes and hanging on its last threads (literally).
When Rick Suttcliffe, who was in Philadelphia to broadcast Friday's game for ESPN, walked by Sheffield, the former pitcher said, "Hey if you need any money for a shirt, I'm here for you."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or