What Miserable Braves Playoff Loss are YOU? #3: The Clincher, Open Thread (by W.C.G.)

Ed. note: This is the third in a series of posts by W.C.G. that is predicated on something Mac used to say: “I’ve mentioned before that I have a low opinion of hope, which normally plays you false.” Or, as W.C.G. noted in his introductory post: “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.”

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#3: The Clincher

This was a very specific malady of Braves teams from 2002-2004; they would win the NL East, play some Western or Central schlump in the Division Series, split the first four, and then honk the do-or-die Game 5.

The 2002 Braves were finished off by the Giants’ Russ Ortiz, who would go on to redeem himself with a couple of pretty good years with the Braves. But the series had only come to that because effing Livan Hernandez, who probably deserves his own classification in this taxonomy, had of course held the Braves down for eight-plus innings in Game 4, another missed Clincher opportunity. Livan continued to kill the Braves for years by being unnaturally good against them until the Braves gave up and signed him in 2012, at which point he worked to kill them by being unnaturally bad for them. But anyway, Game 5 was Ortiz’s, and he and a bunch of crappy relievers held the Braves to one run and that was that.

In 2003, Ortiz had been traded to Atlanta and made up for his prior misdeeds by keeping the Cubs from clinching the NLDS in Game 4. But the Cubs scratched a run here and a run there off of Mike Hampton in Game 5, the offense shut down, and the season ended.

By 2004, the Braves’ organization had convinced itself that it could still win by shedding payroll and trusting Leo Mazzone to fix some questionable arms. And it almost worked, until Game 5, in which Jaret Wright, Kevin Gryboski, Chris Reitsma, Tom Martin, Juan Cruz, and Paul Byrd all pitched in to give up 12 runs. Carlos Beltran hit two of his like 49 postseason home runs that year in that game alone.

I actually won a $5 bet with my friend Craig on Game 5 of the 2004 NLDS. He thought the Braves would pull it off. “We’re going to lose Game 5 because it’s what we do,” I said. I had graduated from college by then. I was getting wiser to the world.

Chance of the 2013 Braves doing this: 10%. I see it as possible, but less likely than an Ambush because of how hot and cold the offense runs.

77 thoughts on “What Miserable Braves Playoff Loss are YOU? #3: The Clincher, Open Thread (by W.C.G.)”

  1. Still pissed off about 2002. That team could’ve won the World Series, and absolutely would have at least made it there, had it only been able to get a freaking clutch hit against Russ Ortiz. Not a series of clutch hits. One clutch hit… . Excuse me, DeRosa had one to get us our run. Two clutch hits.

    Other than 1996, this is still the postseason loss that pisses me off the most, though I was in third grade when Jeff Reardon blew Game 2 of the ’92 Series (and obviously in second grade for ’91), so YMMV.

  2. Having Russ Ortiz, Mike Hampton and Jaret Wright as starters in the playoffs. There’s your problem right there.

  3. I actually see this scenario as most likely. Back and forth series and getting shut down in the clincher.

  4. It always seems (to me at least), no matter how good (or bad) a pitcher is, there is always one team that just seems to own him (or team he owns in the case of bad pitchers). Since Kershaw has been so lights out this year and no team has stepped forward to be the team that owns him even though he is good, and since the Braves have not faced him this year, I nominate the Braves to be that team that unnaturally owns Kershaw. It has been that way all season but no one knew it because we never faced him.

  5. Here is some umpiring news:

    ATL/LAD series crew

    John Hirschbeck -cc
    Laz Diaz
    Marvin Hudson
    Bill Miller
    Hunter Wendelstedt

    (not sure why only 5 are listed there will be a 6th and Wendlestedt will be the Game 1 HP ump)

    Also of note Holbrook’s crew (with Nauert who sucks) gets the STL NLDS and somehow CB Bucknor is going to be allowed in the postseason in the Det/Oak series.

    Notably absent is Angel Hernandez (though I don’t think that means he’ll miss the entire postseason).

    Also I didn’t realize that Bill Hahn (fist bumper) last managed in 2010. He sat out 2011 with back/neck issues and then “retired.” I just completely missed that somehow.

  6. I don’t understand how the PIT/CIN result would change the broadcast schedule. Neither is a major TV market. STL/ATL seems like a wash, in terms of television market size. In my mind, LA trump any other NL market that’s still in the mix.

  7. That 2003 game against the Cubs hurt. We went early in the day to tailgate, then watch the Falcons lose to the Vikings. We MARTA’d on over to the Ted and got in early to watch BP. I think of this as the “Mr. Hodges game” because some young kid hounded Trey Hodges incessantly for a souvenir ball while the Braves pitchers were shagging fly balls in the outfield. The kid just yelled
    “Mr. Hodges…Mr.Hodges…Mr.Hodges” without taking a break or missing a beat for around 30-45min. Maddux gave his traditional pretend to throw a ball into the stands performance which just encouraged the little bastard. Other highlights were being called down by some Cubs fans for being “too rowdy”. I’m sure it seemed like a reasonable request for them, but to two liquored up dudes who had already watched the Falcons lose and were currently watching the Braves crash out yet again, it was anything but reasonable. We whooped it up in spite of the Braves doing very little. I had read something in the lead up to the game about Atlanta having lead baseball in innings of 5 or more runs for the season, so we were conviced that the Braves were coming back all the way to the bitter end. Braves fans were throwing stuff on the field towards the end of the game. I’ll never forget watching a paper plane fashioned out of a game flyer/program sail down from the upper deck to land near Kenny Lofton in the bottom of the 9th.

  8. The Cardinals are looking scary, but if anybody is going to knock them off, it’s a division foe. Hopefully between the Atlanta offense being hot, the Dodgers being flat footed, home field advantage, and the nobody believes in us thing, the Braves can knock off the Dodgers and face Pittsburgh or Cinci in the NLCS!

  9. Gah, the 2003 Cubs. I was a grad student in Illinois at the time, and that year really taught me to loathe Cubs fans. Up until then, I had fond feelings for the Cubs, due to the usual suspects (Harry Caray, lovable losers, on WGN every afternoon after school). But man, give a Cubs fan a little taste of success, and he becomes an utter douchebag. My students gave me such grief about that NLDS series–I have never seen a cockier bunch of fans. Which, of course, made the events of their next series all the sweeter.

  10. I actually prefer Mets fans. They’re not all mooks. And they’re the real lovable losers. Absolutely tormented by how awful their teams are — because almost all Mets fans are also Jets fans, just as Yankees fans are Giants fans. (I don’t understand why; maybe Ububba can explain.)

  11. That Cubs series was a civic embarrassment the way we let the Cubs fans take over our stadium. And it’s the only time I’ve seen Turner Field run out of beer (in the upper deck, anyhow).

  12. The Mets/Jets and Yankees/Giants connection is geographical and cultural. Geographically, the Mets and Jets were Long Island’s teams and played at Shea Stadium (almost in Long Island), while the Giants and Yankees were Manhattan’s teams and played at Yankee Stadium (almost in Manhattan). Culturally, the Giants and Yankees represented old money, old-line success and the Mets and Jets represented upstart moxie.

  13. Hey guys, I’m going to be in Boston all week (till Sunday) Do you guys know of a place near the waterfront where a guy can catch a game? I’m assuming that the sox will be everything during and after their games, but surely there must be a place with a screen for an NL game, no?

  14. When are they going to release game times? I assume that, since the Braves are playing the Dodgers, they’d like to put it in prime time on Thursday. But, the Red Sox are playing on Friday, so that might change the preferences of TBS for that game. I’m coming in from Chicago for the games and still don’t know what time to reserve the flights (or even which day for the return).

  15. The Yankees represent arrogance.
    The Mets represent postcrash malaise.
    The Giants represent old fashioned values.
    The Jets represent incompetence.

    All four represent interminable meandering conversations in bars…

    At least nobody talks about the Knicks.

  16. @mlbbowman: #Braves-#Dodgers NLDS start times: Game 1 Thursday at 8:37 p.m. ET. Game 2 Friday at 6:07 p.m. ET.

  17. Yankees – Billy Cristal.
    Mets – Jerry Seinfeld
    Giants – Bruce Springsteen
    Jets – ???

    Does anybody claim the title of most visible Jets fan?

  18. #26
    Jets — John Gotti, Jr.

    Modern Jets fans are Long Island sheet-rock guys, Knights of Columbus Poobahs or basically any guy who grew up loving Joe Namath.

    (BTW, Springsteen is a Yankee fan, as is Steve Earle.)

    #18
    That about sums it up. The modern version of Yanks/Giants vs. Mets/Jets fandom has a lot to do with recent success, as in one side has a lot & the other doesn’t have much. If you’re a Gen Y kid who grew up in the NYC area, that seems to be the overriding theme. Mets/Jets fans have an extreme case of Little Brother Syndrome.

    And if you’ve ever attended a Jet or Giant game, especially in the pre-PSL-era Meadowlands, you’d notice that the Giant fanbase was much older, much less tanked than the Jets crew.

    #26
    Many thanks. Now I can book my flight.

    Spike, Fox Bros lunch Friday?

  19. @20 – I’ve lived up here for a dozen years and can’t think of a good sports bar anywhere downtown. Games 1 and 3 shouldn’t be a problem, at least, since there’s no competing Sox game.

    Are there enough Boston-based Braves journalers to get together somewhere for the NLDS?

  20. @33 I’m on a plane at 6pm so not sure that will work.

    @37 I’m game if i can find the place.

  21. David Price is one hell of a pitcher. He would look so good in the braves uniform.

    Yunel is still a pretty good shortstop.

  22. @45: But that’s because few NFL/NBA teams that win less than 60 percent of their games make the playoffs. 9-7 teams often miss the wild card. If every 9-7 team had gotten in, they’d have a lot more Super Bowls.

    The Harvard study has the obvious problem that the top half of baseball teams, however much better they are than the bottom half, aren’t that much better than each other. The correct metric for what these guys wanted to do is to compare the difference between the top and bottom teams in the playoffs, not the difference between the teams in the playoffs compared to the average team in the league, which is what they did.

  23. Seems odd to consider, but I’m just so glad that we’ll be playing a real series this time. Last “post-season” felt like a bad short story, like we were standing on a hair-trigger trap door.

  24. @48 Personally, I’m rooting for a PIT/ATL NLCS, mostly because I think the Braves match up best vs. the Pirates, but also some nostalgia for the 1991/1992 postseasons.

  25. @46, I haven’t gone over the data, but my assumption was always that the biggest reason for the randomness is the ever-increasing number of rounds of the playoffs. There are now four playoff rounds. With each additional round, the best team in the playoffs becomes exponentially less likely to win it all.

  26. Don’t know if this has been discussed but MLB finally got its shit together and posted a lot of “classic games” on YouTube. 1992 NLCS Game 7 and 1995 World Series Game 6 for example. Fun watch, especially for those who weren’t old enough to experience them at the time.

  27. From the Braves-fan perspective, the ’92 NLCS Game 7 was 8+ super-bummer innings that, in the space of 2 quick ABs—TP’s corner double & Lind’s inexplicable error—morphed into blinding hope.

    The rest of that bottom of the 9th was as tense & dramatic as any game you’ll ever see.

  28. @51: Quite right… there are two effects: playoff expansion both lets in less qualified teams who now have a chance to succeed and raises the number of series you have to win. In the old World Series-only days, either the best or second-best team always won. (That’s not really true, of course, but given no interleague play it’s hard to prove otherwise.) As the number of teams (and rounds) expands, the gap between the nth best team and the best team grows somewhat, but not nearly fast enough to counter the effect of needing to win extra rounds.

  29. Bowman says Uggla was told he won’t be on the NLDS roster, pending some health concerns of others (Walden, etc.)

    Not sure how I feel about that.

    Actually I don’t like it.

  30. Bowman is speculating that Uggla has been informed that he will be left off the NLDS roster. Someone ends to remind them that EJ isn’t very good.

    @mlbbowman: Uggla could be left off the Braves NLDS roster http://t.co/JvHZ9BAeMD

  31. EJ had a credible September, though: .277/.342/.369. Given that he’s rangier on defense and better as a baserunner too, he’s earned the gig. And it makes no sense to carry Uggla as a PR/defensive specialist, so…

    I’ve tried all season to be an Uggla-optimist, but this makes an unfortunate amount of sense.

  32. Elliot Johnson isn’t good, but he is hitting better than Uggla. He is hitting like .099 since his eye surgery.

  33. W.C.G. — even if you want to start EJ, didn’t you leave off the role PH in your list of Uggla possibilities?

  34. Uggla’s best-case scenario might be better, but the Braves obviously have no confidence in him at this point. Let’s just hope Elliot can help scratch out a run to win a game or two.

    Since returning from LASIK, Uggla is 8/60 with 15 BB, 2 HBPs & exactly one XBH: 133/325/183.

    At this point, I’m not going to get bent out of shape over the NLDS fate of Dan Uggla.

  35. I agree Smitty, this makes it sound like they’re going to try eating some salary and basically give him to someone else this offseason.

    Leaving Uggla off will mean there will only be one backup infielder though. Who takes Uggla’s spot? Terdoslavich? Constanza?

  36. This decision really makes me wonder why LaStella wasn’t given a look in September. It really sounds like Dan is done in Atl.

  37. I think BMAc will have a lot more teams than just Atlanta and Texas after him. He may get 6/$100+ from someone.

    If the Braves truly make him an offer is expect it to be around 5/$75 at the max.

  38. I have to remind myself that, if you strike out, you never put the ball in play, much less reach base, so, yeah, I’m okay with Uggla being left off the NLDS roster.

    I know Uggla walks, but even his walk rate is down from last year.

  39. His walk rate is about the same as last year, but his K rate went from about 26% to 31%. His BABIP was only .225, making one think he could be unlucky, but then you see his LD % is at a career low 13%. All of these are huge red flags that say Uggla’s old player skills are toast.

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