I’m getting tired of this

History tells us the Phils will fold

For the second straight year, the media line will not be how the Braves ran away with the division — again — but the way that the Phillies lost it. (This is column is by Ben Cook, from Birmingham, who should know better — I don’t want to pick on Cook, whom I like, it’s just that he’s the first one I came across today. I could find others — I’m just saying it’s not “Northern media bias” at work.) This comes after several years of telling us how the Mets didn’t win the division.

Look at the facts. The Braves aren’t just dominating a weak division. I mean, they are dominating a weak division, it’s just that there’s more to it. Their record is just about as good as anyone but the Cards and Yankees; they’re a half-game behind the Dodgers and A’s, tied with the Angels and Red Sox. They aren’t “lucky”, either; their Pythagorean record is a game better than their actual record. They haven’t been lucky injury-wise either. Two guys who never leave the lineup, the two Joneses, have been hobbled by injuries all year, and Chipper missed a lot of time and was a shadow of himself the entire first half. Their best starter in the early months has been out the entire middle part of the season. Furcal and Giles had their usual injury problems, but this time worse than usual. The Braves have a .575 winning percentage, but when relatively healthy are more of a .600-.625 team. They have the best ERA in the league and the fifth-best offense. (The Phillies’ vaunted offense is all of seven one-hundredths of a run per game better than the Braves’ and should fall below them soon.)

And yet, it’s all about the Phillies not living up to expectations. Hey, it’s been nice to have the pressure off these last few weeks, but even if the Phillies had played like they were supposed to, the Braves would still probably be in first or close to first and about to overhaul them. Larry Bowa is an awful manager, I agree, but how is he so awful as to turn another team into a .575 team? Coming into the season, I was given to understand that the Phillies were a 90-win team that would run away with a weak division. Well, the Braves are on pace to win 93, even if you don’t give extra credit for playing better since the break.

(The Cardinals are in a similar boat to the Braves; people are sniping at the Cubs and Astros for not living up to expectations, even though the Cubs are about as good as they should have been, the Astros aren’t really a whole lot worse, especially considering their pitching injuries, and the Cards are on pace to win 107 games. Even if both teams had played their best baseball they’d still be well back and chasing the wildcard. But the Cards haven’t been totally ignored because they’re a good story.)

I guess that with the Braves on pace to win the division for the thirteenth time in fourteen years (with the other season cancelled) that there isn’t much to say. Once again, Bobby Cox has led a team to perform above expectations. And once again he’ll be beaten out for the Manager of the Year award, this time by LaRussa. (Bobby could win 90 games with a team made up of rookies and forty-year-olds — at times that’s basically what he put out there this year — and someone else will win the award.) Leo worked wonders on retreads and injury cases to build the league’s best pitching staff. Ho-hum. The Braves are winning the division again. Bor-ring.

But how about a little credit here, huh guys? You don’t have to say anything interesting, just note that the Braves are winning the division again and doing a good job of it before writing the story of the team that “lost” the division.

9 thoughts on “I’m getting tired of this”

  1. I’ve been waiting patiently for the Braves to overtake the Phillies in the Runs Scored department. Having played two fewer games on the year than the Phils, the Braves have scored 613 runs to the Phils 632. That’s a deficit of 19 runs, some of which will (a shutout notwithstanding) be made up tonight.

    Great rant, BTW, Mac. Spot on.

  2. There’s a story by John Donovan that focuses on the Braves triumph rather than the Phillies’ failure. . . if only begrudgingly. It’s titled,
    “Mmmmm . . . crow.”

  3. That’s great insight Mac. Also, the Marlins played about as well as they should have. They were a better team last year mainly because of a manager who’s style worked well with the players, and because of Pudge. If they still had Pudge, I have no doubt they would be closer to the Braves than they are.

    I give Bobby and JS a lot of credit, along with their superior scouting staff. They have pulled some more diamonds out of the rough, and a lot of bit players did their part while the vets were out (with the exception of Derosion; he cost the Braves several games with his bat and glove). Chipper is performing like he did when he last played 3rd, which is spectacular. I knocked Chipper for not improving on his numbers the last 3 years, but I believe it was because of where he was playing that affected him the most.

    The Phillies proved that, just like the Orioles of the late 90’s, you can’t win by loading up with players. It’s going to haunt them for several years how they depleated their farm system.

    The example of the Cubs and Astros is a good one, because the downfall for both teams was the lack of a true closer. You have to have both good middle relief and a strong closer to truly be successful. See LA, ATL and the Yankees for your examples. Also see LA for what happens when you don’t have a good setup guy. Gagne has been overworked since the Mota trade, but hopefully Carrera (sp?) will get comfortable in that role so Gagne can be a one inning guy again.

  4. I’m glad someone finally said it. This year saw EVERYONE writing the Braves off and yet they are at the top again. But as you said, Mac, it seems as though the boys are getting ignored. Best post I’ve read since I’ve been reading BravesBeat.

  5. Excellent Mac! Schuerholz deserves a lot of credit for the gambles he took over the winter. Bobby deserves Manager of the Year for staying positive and patient and LEADING this team so well. Mazzone, Geez what else can you say about the guy. Through an amazing confluence of events the Braves will win the Eastern division for the 13th straight year.
    Every sportswriter in America and some on this blog should be tasting a little crow (I include myself in that group) as the Braves were written off way before the season started. But as Berman says thats why they play the games.

  6. What will the Brave Vents types do that complain because the Braves don’t go 162-0? Is it possible that Bobby Cox isn’t the worst manager in the history of baseball? It’s amazing to me that this team draws no better than the Orioles, who have two playoff appearances in twenty years and haven’t had a winning season since 1997. Granted, the O’s are helped by the presence of lots of Yankee and Red Sox fans in this area, but what does this say about Atlanta as a sports town? I realize people are tired of losing in the playoffs and have gotten jaded, but this is an AMAZING organization. I guess if the Falcons go .500, the fans in Atlants will start swooning over them.

  7. Kudos Mac. With you all the way.

    Maybe it’s Bowa. Maybe it’s Kerrigan. Maybe it’s the ballpark. But whatever it is, the Phils’ pitching staff that appeared so vaunting on paper before the season has not performed well at all.

    If the Braves Clubhouse Collection carried Bobby Cox lawn gnomes, I’d have a couple guarding the hosta right now. I’ll admit I’m a Bobby-Bobo of the highest magnitude. But Cox and Leo would have figured out what to do with that pitching staff. It’s not alchemy, but I have to believe Bobby and Leo would have had those guys performing better.

    Team chemistry is a bit overrated. I don’t think chemistry wins titles, but I think a lack of chemistry really does hurt a team. And Ed Wade and the Phillies’ fans have to realize that Bowa is simply an inert gas. He ain’t mixing and he ain’t helping.

    But the bottom line is that this Braves team played the game. I’m not a stat-monkey (although I greatly respect the trade), so I don’t know how you slice this up with numbers. But clearly, over the past two months, the Braves have outplayed the rest of the division by about six light years.

    Injuries? Everyone has had them. Chipper’s missed 20 games. Furcal missed a couple of weeks. Giles out for over a month. Even Julio’s lumbago set in and he couldn’t fly for a week.

    It’s both the numbers and I think (though I will be flayed for the near-unforgiveable sin of being a baseball romantic) something beyond the numbers. While baseball is the long run–162 games, a lot of ABs for most guys, etc.–it is also a collection of short runs. And I think this edition of the Braves hasn’t given too much away.

    I go way back with the Braves to just after Bob “Hurricane” Hazle and the 1957 World Series championship team. “Hurricane” was a key part of the Braves’ success that year, coming up after Wes Covington was injured and hitting over .400 in about 150 ABs. He then proceeded to fall off the face of the Earth, but the legend lives on. I hope Thomas and Green don’t fall off the face of the Earth, but when Thomas first came up, I was thinking “Hurricane Jr.” Guys coming up at opportune times and contributing in a big way.

    There is luck and talent rising to the top, but there is also the manipulation and application of skill at key junctures. Looking back at the season, I would say the Cox manipulated the talent well and the Braves applied themselves, while the Phillies’ braintrust and players did not. And that’s baseball. Regardless of how one cuts it, teams have to show up. And the 2004 Braves have. This should all be about them and not the Phils.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.