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