Welcome

Hello and welcome to this piece of my mind. I’ve been following the Braves officially for 19 years. I grew up in a Cubs household back when there were 8 teams in a league and none west of St Louis. I guess I’m an old guy now but I still love my baseball and my Braves.
I started this because it seems we have a lot of folks who want to be good fans but don’t know the ins and outs in spite of MLB Network and XM radio’s MLB home plate channel. I’ll try to answer questions that come up as well as give my opinions – worth exactly what you pay for them BTW- on the Braves and the game in general. I’m going to start with the Braves second half and why we are struggling now.

The fact that the Braves are where they are in the race (tied for the wild card as I write) says that for most of the season this team *played well above it’s head. * The roster they entered the spring with was not built to win, it had big holes in the outfield,at 1st base and no real power hitter except Chipper. When Chipper struggled early in the season the magnificent Martin Prado, surprising Omar Infante and a seemingly resurgent Troy stepped forward. The pitching was so good that even a small lead was enough. About the beginning of July Troy’s legs started to go and the other team’s scouts figured out the holes in his swing ending his power run that carried the team through the all star break. Troy was impotent the second half, Nate McLouth continued to fail, Kenshin Kawakami became a batting practice pitcher and yet Bobby Cox kept them in first. I am not a fan of Bobby’s bullpen handling or his stubbornness with regard to the lineup, but he deserves credit for keeping the their nose out front with smoke, mirrors and last inning heroics.
The Braves are 35-33 since the break. All the talk on fan forums I frequent and various other blogs I’ve seen about how well we were playing a few weeks ago is short term memory loss. We stayed in front until the Phillies got healthy and our player’s health failed. We lost a #3 starter when Kris Medlen went down. KK continued to be a disaster and ended up going to Gwinette to work on his slider. McLouth went from bad to worse.
At the trade deadline we needed a power bat and a pitcher. Instead we got a light hitting 4th outfielder (Rick Ankiel) and a reliever with a history of failing under pressure (Kyle Farnsworth). For pitching they brought up Mike Minor. Mike has pitched well but is young, inexperienced and by his own definition tired having pitched far more innings than ever before. .Yet we stayed in front.
Then Chipper went down removing the only guy in the lineup no one wanted to face in a clutch situation; opposing pitchers breathed easier. Yes I know Chipper had a low BA but he was heating up before being injured and was once again the threat. Now Prado is injured and I suspect McCann is feeling the weight of being the one expected to carry the team. He can’t of course because for all his talent, no catcher since Piazza and before him Bench has. The season’s just too long and catchers take a beating; all of that wears them down. Mac has done well but recently he’s been swinging for that 8 run homer when a hit would do. GM Wren did go get Derrek Lee when he was absolutely positively sure Glaus couldn’t do it anymore. That was a good move but very very very late andI suspect under pressure. Recently we’ve lost Jair Jurrjens to a torn meniscus and Derek Lowe has been pitching with a bone chip in his elbow yet fans are upset because they aren’t throwing no hitters. Brandon Beachy came up to fill in for JJ and pitched well against a powerhouse Philly team. He did well but the team failed to give him – and every pitcher recently – any run support. baseball may be pitching and defense but when you don’t score you can’t win.
Liberty media may have restricted the available funds GM Wren made horrible player decisions last winter – heck even the winter of 2008 – and throughout the year. We entered the year with an inured 3rd baseman playing first for the first time, 1 starting caliber outfield (Jason Heyward) and a bunch of 4th outfielders. That’s unacceptable.
Some of the players Mr. Wrenn didn’t sign (Aubrey Huff an MVP candidate) or trade for (Pat Burrell, Jose Guillen, Cody Ross all virtually free) put the Giants in front and kept them there. Others (Scott Podsednik, Ted Lilly) helped the Dodgers stay in the race even when they shouldn’t have been in the discussion. Fans have a right to be upset when bad failures cost the team wins. There is no doubt in my mind that the single biggest failure for the Braves this year has been Frank Wren. If he has any self respect he will resign. Failing that he should be reassigned to other duties- I don’t know what, scouting, club house manager, anything but GM – or fired.
I ache for us to play well and win. I am livid when we screw up or when Bobby does something I don’t agree with. However, I hold no illusions about how far the talent we have been provided with will take us. This team can and I believe will make the post season this year. To do that we need a fire in the belly, good pitching, players exceeding what their baseball cards say and the some help from the infamous baseball gods. Lately the fire’s been smoldering and the gods been on hiatus in Colorado, San Diego and Cincinnati. I invite them back for tomorrow’s game. I’ll buy the hot dogs and beer

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5 comments

  1. subeeds

    Well said, Fred. with any luck, Liberty can get the Braves sold to somebody who knows what baseball is all about. (BTW, it’s me, Susan from the FSS page.)

  2. bvinalabama@gmail.com

    Got a few points as we have discussed privately.I respect your view alot and for the most part we agree on alot. I do have a few points of contention.
    All those waiver wire trades could not have been made.the Braves were in 1st and would have gotten blocked regardless, not quite sure how that is the GMs fault. Trades are hit and miss.I still think the “other guys” we got in the Vazquez trade with the Yanks are the key( Dunn & Vizcaino)will make that trade a great one in time, think Smoltz trade with Detroit,time will tell. I am sure every GM can have a good and bad trade list.
    The GM cannot make the players play.Chipper really hasnt been Chipper since he called out his teammates back in 2008. Chipper hasnt been a legit power hitter since 2007.22 in 2008, 18 in 09 and a ******** 10 this year.
    Please let me know how the lack of fire is the GM’s fault? I feel(and I know you really disagree with this)that Bobby Cox is at fault.He killed the bullpen(i.e. Venters)when Heyward was hurt it took him a month to figure it out.I think in his swan song season Bobby mellowed a bit too much.I asked folks when was the last time the Braves did a hit and run and Fred I believe you stated “way too long”, Bobby is in charge of that isnt he? or does that fall under the GM’s job too?

  3. fireboss

    Hi Bill – Those guys were available as trades before the waiver deadline. When he got Ankiel and Farnsworth, Guillen and Podsednick were still Royals. The Cubs would have traded Lilly too. The other guys in the Vasquez deal have had marginal impact this year. Dunn is still finding out what pitching is – he was a catcher- and Vicaino may be good sometime but this year he’s a minor league prospect. Many vaunted prospects never make it. Think Jordan Schaeffer.

    If you’re going to win a division or better you need 3 starting outfielders and a 4th outfield on the roster not the other way around. You need more than one power bat. Wren failed to provide those. That’s his fault, not the players he signed. They do their best.

    Chipper was hitting 400 in August with 3 home runs in 9 games (34 at bats) with an on base of 471, slugging 833 and an OPS of 1.304. That’s power hitting enough to worry opposing pitchers and it’s also being hot.

    I agree Bobby should have done some things with the lineup and starting runners to make things happen after Chipper’s injury. But, the manager plays with the tools he’s given and he hasn’t had many tools.

    Starting runners requires that you have men who can handle the bats and make contact. Except for Omar and Martin (both of whom have been striking out more) we were not doing that very well in the second half. Jason heated up recently as well but I don’t think Bobby likes taking the power bat away from him. If let’s say we had a fast leadoff man like Scott Podsednick and Omar or Martin second it would have happened more and so would stolen bases, another thing clubs with less power do to create runs. But we didn’t have a Podsednick because the GM would got Rick instead; same team, same time, same relative price, almost the same contract. I would have started runners at times anyway with Gonzo or even Rick early on, just to wake the players up. But he didn’t ask me.

    Fire in the belly doesn’t come from the manager. If it did Lou Piniella and Larry Bowa would never have lost a game. You don’t see Charlie Manual, Bruce Bochy, Bud Black or Dusty Baker ranting and raving and getting tossed to fire their teams up. The only ranter left is Ozzie (I’m no timpressed with his post 2005 work myself) and he’s not going to the post season this year. Fire in the belly comes from the team leaders. Scott Rolen, Shane Victarino, Jimmy Rollins, Troy Tulowitski and the like who get in other player’s faces when they screw up. This team is built around a rookie, two guys who are just now becoming starting players, two mid season trades, Brian and a bunch of bits and pieces. None of those guys are – for all their talent – team leaders yet. The The heart of the team was/is Chipper. When the natural leader missing and no one else stepped forward – Huddy tried but it isn’t easy for a pitcher to do that because they play every 5th day. So the team is leaderless and play like it.

    Without a balanced roster our success must come from Martin, Omar, Jason, Matt, Derrek and Alex playing above themselves and pulling that extra out of the others. Bobby, TP and Roger can’t do that for them.

  4. bvinalabama@gmail.com

    As stated before we agree on alot. When I say fire in the belly I mean something more than catatonic.The other day there was bang bang play at 1st, the guy was out.If you watch the replay, Hudson looks to the dugout like”He was out, I dont need to get thrown from this game” Cox barely moved.That is not the Bobby Cox I remember.He could have came out and if nothing else question the umpire.Didn’t do it, this is where my frustration arises,in fact the only time Bobby seemed fired up is when he had issues with Yunel earlier in the year.
    Those were great numbers for Chipper for 9 games, my question what were those number for the previous 86 games he played? Chipper really didnt catch fire until the whispers got louder about him retiring.That talk seemed to put a fire under him and he finally started coming around.I am not dogging Chipper, we all tap out to time at some point or another. His reputation proceeds him , but being a bona fide home run hitter,I respectfully disagree.A great hall of Fame talent no doubt but even Willie Mays stumbled in left field for the Mets at the end of his great career.

  5. fireboss

    @Bill
    I saw the look from Huddy too and was surprised that Bobby didn’t go out. I’m not sure him getting tossed would work like Piniella throwing third base around did a couple of years ago but it might have. This team has an unusual number of stoic players, Omar, Martin, Jason, Lee, Alex (though he does get visibly mad at himself often) and Nate are all quiet guys. Brian too though a lot of that is imposed because a catcher can’t afford to be tossed a lot. Eric and Matt are vocal but usually towards themselves.
    Almost all of Bobby’s ejections came from trying to get between the player and the ump. The current crop doesn’t get in that position often at all compared to the streak team. If Huddy had been in danger of being tossed I suspect Bobby would have gone out. As I’ve said before I don’t think it’s lack of fire as much as it’s a lack of cumulative roster talent.
    Was Chipper going to stay hot. Chipper has always been hot late in the season. For his career he’s 313 in the second half, 310 in August and 308 in Sep/Oct. In 20 games the second half Chipper was hitting 324 with 5 doubles 3 homers and 12 RBI. He had 9 walks as well so his OBP was 397. His slugging percentage was only 647 but he had extra base hits 36% of his at bats and his OPS was 1.044. I think it is safe to assume he was heating up like he has every pennant run. You may disagree but Chipper walked 14% the time so pitchers were treating him like CHIPPER expecting him to be dangerous.
    I think this horse is dead but if you want to beat it some more feel free to pick up the whip.

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