I was a 14-year-old high school freshman in the fall of 1996 when I decided I was a Braves fan. It was the World Series and I bet my cousin Gene, a Yankees fan, that the Braves would win. We went up 2-0. I called him up, full of 14-year-old sports hubris. Gene doubled down on the bet.
You know the rest.
Since then, Braves fandom has mostly been a series of pleasant, sometimes even inspiring, regular seasons spoiled by some giant turd of a playoff series. As the data set is fairly rich at this point, I have attempted to organize the turds into five different subcategories, which I have named and ranked. The series will begin with the least aggravating type of Miserable Braves Playoff Loss and work its way up to the most aggravating. I’ve also set odds for the likelihood of the 2013 Braves to join each category.
#5: The Dead Man Walking
You can’t even be upset about a Dead Man Walking Braves team when it gives up the ghost. The 1999 Braves started the year down Andres Galarraga, and they lost Javy Lopez for the year in July. Bret Boone, who was supposed to solve the Braves’ second base offensive black hole, had a 0.2 WAR season. John Smoltz pitched on the last threads of a UCL that would keep him out for the entire next season. Offensively, the team was the Chipper (6.9 WAR) and Andruw (7 WAR) show; only Brian Jordan (3.4) also posted a WAR above 2. The ‘99 Braves played above their heads to beat the Astros and Mets in the NL playoffs; by the time they got to the Yankees, they were spent.
The ‘10 Braves were a poor man’s version of this concept. An already thin team lost Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, and Jair Jurrjens to injury by October. They went with a three-man rotation of Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson, and Tim Hudson in the NLDS. They sported self-inflicted wounds in left field (Melky Cabrera) and shortstop (Alex Gonzalez). Brooks Conrad, who was good at pinch-hitting but not at fielding, started every game in the infield until he was pulled in Game 4 in favor of Troy Glaus at third. Troy Glaus was in his final season in the majors and could hardly walk. There were very few runs to be had with this lineup and fewer to be saved in the field. You can only fault the Giants for making every game just excruciatingly close enough to make us think we had a chance.
Chance of the 2013 Braves doing this: 40%. They’re already down Heyward, Venters, O’Flaherty, Hudson, Beachy, Pena, Pastornicky, most of Reed Johnson, and the Lisp. Heyward’s supposed to be back, but the offense has been terrible without him and he’s not guaranteed to regain his pre-injury form. There’s an outside shot Freddy Garcia, who the Orioles sold on eBay “for parts or not working” to the Braves in August, is your Game 4 starter in the NLDS. I love this year’s team, but we’re in duck-tape-and-bubble-gum mode right now. Just one more key injury – whether to the lineup, the rotation, or the bullpen – would be catastrophic. I have to consider this the most likely scenario.