On Collapses

They say nothing is as boring as listening to someone else’s fantasy sports story, and usually they’re right, but sometimes that fantasy sports story is instructive of a larger point, and that’s what I’m going for here. You’re just going to have to buckle up and hear me out on this one, buddy.

So it’s the playoff semifinals, and I’m in a tight-as-hell matchup with a guy who has the tiebreaker on me. Mid-afternoon yesterday, the last day of the match, I’ve already lost my leads in ERA and WHIP (not a good day to start Mike Minor). But I’m still up 5-4-1 (the tied category is saves), so, you know, hanging on by the shortest hair on my ass.

I settle in with some MLB.tv to check out my players, specifically my closers. Hey, Jake McGee‘s out there with a one-run lead in the ninth! Let’s see how this goes! One out… two outs… two strikes… boomhomerunblownsaveturnthisoff

OK, deep breath. Click over to the Philly game. Papelbon‘s got a three run lead against the Marlins. Let’s watch this one. No outs… still no outs… guys on base… more guys on base… Jordany Valdespin takes like a 45 pitch at bat… boomtiegameblownsaveturnthisoff.

At this point, I realize what’s coming. My opponent has Kenley Jansen and I have Sean Doolittle in the late-afternoon West Coast games, and I text a league-mate who got knocked out last week and inform him that Jansen’s going to get a save, Doolittle’s not, my opponent will flip saves to his column and win the week 5-5 on tiebreakers, and I’m going outside to wash and vacuum my car and enjoy the outdoors now because I don’t really much want to watch it.

When I get back from washing my car, Jansen has saved the Dodger game, Doolittle was taken out of save position by the A’s tacking on too many insurance runs in the 8th, and I did indeed lose 5-5. But at least I saw it coming and reacted accordingly.

***

Collapses are mostly similar in nature, and one of the worst feelings as a sports fan is knowing you’re in one and knowing you’re powerless to do anything about it. If I have a bad run shooting pool with my friends or a streak of unfavorable verdicts in my courtroom, I can summon my inner arrogant bastard and say I got this on the next try. But as a fan, you’re getting thrashed around by forces of nature without any recourse.

And one of the most powerful of those forces is the collapse vortex. It starts with something annoying but harmless-seeming, and spirals out of control to the point where you know what’s coming and it’s just a matter of waiting for the other shoe to drop. This year’s finish doesn’t entirely qualify because it’s just the toothpick and pickle spear on an already-established poop sandwich; I’m thinking more of 2011, where the Braves woke up on September 5 with an 8.5 game lead in the wild card race, yet spent October golfing.

Every day that month was “don’t panic, we still have a X game lead and 90+% playoff odds.” And every day was a new loss or neutral day in the standings. The odds said don’t panic, but the here-comes-the-collapse vibe said otherwise. I’m basically a rationalist about most things in life, but damned if the collapse vortex doesn’t bring out my inner witch doctor. Forget your math. This is happening.

***

I’m trying to make sense of the fact that fantasy baseball – a simulacrum of baseball competition, numbers on a board, roulette by way of baseball statistics – can trigger my flashbacks to the 2011 Braves, or the 2010 Iron Bowl, or the 2006 NBA Finals, or the 1996 World Series, or any of the myriad collapse vortexes I’ve been subject to as a fan of collapse-prone teams over the years. But the same logic – bad thing begets another bad thing begets all the bad things – seems like it applies. (Not the first time this has happened to me in the decade-long history of this fantasy baseball league, by the way. I’m basically its Braves.)

Maybe we’re just hard-wired to look for patterns and a bunch of independent events (like the Rays’ and Phillies’ closers blowing saves on the same day) looks like momentum because our brains make sense of the world by interpreting it this way. Or maybe actual voodoo witchiness. As a committed rationalist in most areas of life, I want to believe the former. As a Braves fan who picked up with the 1996 team, I can’t rule out the latter.

***

So is the collapse vortex a real thing? My fantasy baseball experience would seem to indicate that it’s just one of those mathematical oddities sometimes, a bunch of independent events that create a psychological illusion of free-fall. But real-life teams facing real-life collapses have to decide whether it’s statistical noise or a condition preventable by better management.

Back in 2011, the Braves and Red Sox both blew safe playoff bids in the last month, but the organizations’ reactions were very different. The Sox fired Terry Francona, hired Bobby Valentine, fired Valentine after he proved even worse and finished last, rebuilt the roster, hired John Farrell, and won a World Series before dropping back down to last place this year. It’s a peripatetic approach, but doubling down on bold experimentation got ’em a chip.

The Braves value – maybe to a fault – their self-image as a stable organization, one that tinkers but doesn’t overreact, so they chalked 2011 up to chance and margins-tinkered on. But the objective fact is that this management team has been in place for four Septembers, and one-and-we’re-working-on-two of them have been horrific death spirals. That’s uncommonly bad. However you fix that, it probably doesn’t involve just getting a new hitting coach and finding a cheaper Ervin Santana replacement.

Stability in maintenance of a winning model is good. Stability for its own sake is the ol’ definition of insanity, though, and even if we don’t know what exactly causes epic collapses, we can see that continuing to run it back with the same cast of characters… that strategy at least fails to prevent them, let’s say. I get that sometimes you’re just beholden to pure rotten luck – I lived that math yesterday. But on the off chance it’s something preventable, it’s probably time for the real-life decision makers to start trying bolder strategies than “run it back and do like we always do.” Because if there is an ability to I got this your way out of an impending collapse, it’s not in Atlanta these days.

110 thoughts on “On Collapses”

  1. From previous thread, re: the A’s losing Cespedes:

    In Oakland: .256/.303/.464
    In Boston: .264/.298/.428

    He’s Chris Johnson with 75-100 points of slugging. Which is a big chunk of SLG, sure. But he also plays the OF and not fake-3B. Cespedes is basically Cody Ross.

  2. Everyone at the top of the Braves org has been there far too long. Time for a youth movement and some new voices. We may suck worse, it might not work, oh my gosh there’s risk involved…but what we’ve been doing isn’t working.

    Let’s clarify that last part a bit. It’s not working for *me*. It’s not working for a lot of fans. It’s definitely working in that we’re usually over .500 and usually at least somewhat competitive.

    I think the real attendance figures are pretty bad this year. If nothing is done then next year will be worse. That might be enough to warrant a change. But let’s be honest…the guys in charge aren’t going to clean house because that invalidates everything they’ve built. If you want to clean house then it has to start at the very very top and be 100% comprehensive. That means you thank JS for his service and move on. Thanks Bobby. Thanks everyone.

  3. @2, their fans don’t care. It’s all about how it destroyed clubhouse chemistry and caused them to be unable to score runs once Cespedes left. Which I think is funny coming from the spreadsheet-drivenest fanbase there is.

  4. What exactly will a “youth movement” accomplish? Oakland has a young-ish management team. They STILL FAIL.

    EDIT: the attendance figures will not rise or fall due to hiring more Mellienials or X’ers in the front office. They will rise or fall with wins vs losses.

  5. (Giant post from the other thread)

    Or let’s look at it this way. The Washington Nationals have a pretty good offense. The Atlanta Braves have a bad offense. Right? Right.

    (All stats below are min. 50 PA’s so as to filter out unnecessary Terdoslaviches.)

    Washington’s best two hitters, Rendon and Werth, have Off. ratings of 29.7 and 26.3. Atlanta’s best, Freeman and Upton, have ratings of 29.8 and 26.0. Very, very, very slim advantage to Washington.

    Washington’s next two, Span and Laroche, have tallied 15.9 and 14.3. Atlanta’s next two, Gattis and Heyward, are at 11.5 and 10.8. Okay, so we’re down by a much more significant amount there. Heyward needs to hit for more extra bases and Gattis needs to step up to the plate more if those numbers are going to pull even.

    But–and this is why we are a terrible offense and why the Nationals are a pretty good one–the Nationals’ next four best hitters (Desmond, Zimmerman, Harper, Cabrera) total 18.2 Off (whatever that is). They all have positive numbers. The Braves next four best hitters total -11.6 Off. That’s terrible! Want to guess who those players are? Gosselin, Bonifacio, Bethancourt and Schafer. The only reason they’re even THAT close to the Nationals 5th through 8th best hitters is because none of them have 100 PA’s for the braves this year, which means none of them can have too big an impact.

    The Nationals worst offensive player has been Danny Espinosa. He has 326 plate appearances and totals -8.4 Off (whatever Off means). The Braves have 5 players (LaStella, Uggla, Johnson, BJ, and Simmons) with lower offensive totals than Danny Espinosa, and four of them have seen more plate appearances!

    So would more offense from Heyward be welcome? Yeah, it would. But if you think Heyward has been the problem with this offense, you’re not seeing the issue clearly.

  6. @5, Maybe the new guys won’t think Chris Johnson is a fantastic baseball player. Maybe the new guys won’t give 500 ABs to BJ Upton. Maybe the new guys will move Heyward to CF and try to bookend him with all-bat questionable-glove corners. I don’t know. I want change damnit. I’m willing to accept that it might be change for the worse.

  7. I respect that you know and acknowledge that you want change for change’s sake, strategy or rational scenario planning be damned. Honestly, I respect that. But that’s the reaction of a toddler throwing a tantrum, not the reaction of professionals building a franchise.

  8. @6, he’s definitely on the “good” side of the fence, I’m not saying otherwise. My take is that, with this team, he needs to hit more like JUpton and Freddie for us to have a chance.

    I feel like the odds of that happening are actually a bit better than the odds of 3B/2B/SS/CF suddenly becoming useful. It didn’t happen this year and that’s played a big role our overall offense being bad.

    You can’t have it both ways with Heyward. The expectations aren’t totally unjustified. He’s *the* cornerstone piece of this team, if we’re to have a chance with this group. He can’t just be another guy.

  9. I am against a total house cleaning. I think most of the front office should stay (if not all.)

    I would look at Wren and even more so at Fredi. I would can Walker and the Puppet. McDowell, Perez, TP and maybe our 3B coach are safe. If we did can Fredi, I would let that call be up to the new manager.

  10. @8, I would respectfully add that I have no earthly idea what our current strategy is. Having a coherent strategy would be a nice change.

  11. I don’t think I have enough information, personally, to decide who, if anyone, should be fired this winter. I can’t say it’s definitively Fredi. I think things look worse for Wren’s area of assumed responsibility than Fredi’s. You go to war with the roster you have, not the roster you want.

    If I’m firing people this winter, I’m asking three very pointed questions.

    1. Who is responsible for the Dan Uggla extension?
    2. Who is responsible for the BJ Upton evaluation and contract?
    3. Who is responsible for the Chris Johnson extension?

    You can look at the hitting coaches – part of the job description there is “be the scapegoat if shit goes wrong” – if you like, but that is addressing the paper cuts rather than the gaping chest wound. The primary failure of this organization over the last 3-5 years has been identifying and signing talent. Derek Lowe. Kenshin Kawakami. Dan Uggla. BJ Upton. Chris Johnson. The process of extending their “young core players” this winter was from all accounts driven by special assistant John Hart, not by the standard managerial team (i.e. Frank Wren’s team.)

    If anyone goes, I think you have to start with the guy that signed those five contracts.

  12. Add to that our penchant for low-ceiling college draft picks and the worrisome outward appearances of valuing sign-ability over talent.

    The front office looks a lot worse than Fredi in my book. You can’t just scapegoat Fredi. The whole thing has to go.

  13. @12, I agree with that but with a caveat: it is clear that Frank Wren’s greatest weakness, by far, is *signing* talent. It is not, however, *identifying* talent. By and large, his trades have been very positive, and he has drafted a reasonable number of productive players. However, almost every time he has spent money on a player outside the organization, it has gone badly. (The few exceptions, like Aaron Harang and David Ross, have been players who he got on the cheap.)

    Generally speaking, I have been very impressed with Wren’s performance. His teams have won a lot of regular-season games with a lot of homegrown players. But he bears full responsibility for the 25-man roster. I don’t want him to be fired, but I can understand the argument.

    However, I feel more strongly that Fredi should be fired, and that is simply because I think that if a manager presides over two major collapses in four years, he ought to be fired. I think he is one of the top 15 managers in baseball, but I think that in this case, the captain needs to go down with the ship. It is important to be able to fire people who have failed, without malice. I also think that it should be possible to find another manager of comparable quality — Fredi or TP if you want to stay within the organization, or if you understandably want to look outside the organization, maybe try hiring a smart former catcher like Bengie Molina.

  14. Why should Fredi go while the guy that made him the shit-sandwich gets to stay? Show me proof that Fredi was playing BJ (or whatever other popular Fredi-complaint you want to use) against the will of upper management, and I’ll agree that maybe it’s just him that should go. But there’s no way in hell that’s what happened. If he goes they should all go.

  15. I agree the focus has to be on Wren – he personifies the smugness of the organization. And he can take McGuirk with him. Let them buy tickets to the new Cobb park.

    Fredi – obviously – will be gone regardless. He’s out of his depth as a strategist and commander.

  16. One of the reasons I caveat with phrases like “assumed area of responsibility” is because the Braves are an organization, not a sequence of feudal duchies mindlessly carrying out Josef Wren’s directives. I strongly suspect that Fredi was part of the group of people arguing “of course you extend Uggs, guy hits a gazillion homers from 2B.” I suspect he was part of the evaluation team watching BJ Upton’s swing last winter.

    I think some of the problems with “signing” vs “acquiring” is that the Braves seem to have a bias toward high risk middle tier FA contracts that regularly blow up on them. That may be a function of how ownership lets them structure their payroll.

    I understand the Captain going down with the ship. I understand 2 “collapses” in 4 years. And even more so, I understand that if you’re going to bring in new upper management, you have to let them bring in their own field managers and coaches.

  17. 16: When you say “will be,” what does that mean? I thought everyone participating in this discussion was aware that this is all wishcasting or whatever you want to call it. Fredi’s job is in no danger. The two hitting coaches will be fired, and everyone else will be back next year.

  18. I am also quite reticent to jump on the “FIRE THE WORLD” bandwagon without some basic plan of who is going to replace them.

  19. I guess I’d put it this way: I’d love for us to bring in someone incredibly smart like Kim Ng or Logan White. And if so, then I’d let that person bring in a whole new managerial and coaching staff (though I’d push hard to retain McDowell).

    But I don’t want to fire Wren just to fire him. I *do* want to fire Fredi Gonzalez just to fire him. There are a whole lot of GMs who have done a much worse job than Wren has. Including, very obviously, Dayton Moore, the one who got away. Including Kevin Towers, who’s about to get kicked out of Arizona, and Ruben Amaro, who’s probably about to get fired in Philly. There are a lot of mediocre-to-bad GMs in baseball, and, frankly, I don’t think it would be nearly as hard to replace Fredi.

  20. Wait, we have to keep Wren because there’s other spectacularly bad GMs? I mean I kinda-sorta understand why people are afraid to change things, but I really don’t see why we’re suddenly at this extreme level of risk aversion. Literally anyone we hire as the new GM could do no worse than win ZERO playoff series. The floor is achievable by the entire universe of candidates.

  21. 23: Yeah, because the regular season doesn’t count? Or something? Every record between 50-112 and 112-50 is the same if you don’t win a playoff series?

    I’m trying to play along here, but it’s hard. Kind of an inexplicable attitude to take towards a sport with such a long regular season. Look at the Astros, Padres, or Cubs if you want to see GMs falling under the unfathomably high floor of 3 playoff appearances in 5 seasons.

  22. @25 the article references Buck Showalter. I listened to a Kelly johnson interview on my way home from work today. He likened Showalter to “a little bit of Booby Cox and a little bit of Maddon”.

  23. Wren should stay. Kawakami, Uggla, BUpton, Johnson and Lowe are offset by JUpton, 2013 Chris Johnson, Bourne, Santana, Harang, Walden etc. Moves that improved the team’s chances to win.

    I don’t think Fredi should be fired. The hand that was dealt him turned out to be pretty awful. If he is, so what? It sure doesn’t help our 3b, SS, 2B, CF situation.

    Edward, Once again no one is saying that Heyward is the problem. What I and krussel are saying is that rightly or wrongly we, and I think the Braves, had higher expectations of him. I am sure the team is thrilled that he is the best defensive OFer in baseball but they sure would have liked a few more extra base hits in that mix. Looking at his career numbers, you could argue that our expectations were unwarranted as he has only once hit more than 20 hr and slugged close to .500. But there it is. To you, top 5 player in baseball. To me a good player that I wanted to be great, so yup, I’m disappointed.

  24. A lot of Mets fans are disappointed by David Wright, too. It’s Andruw Jones Syndrome: some guys will never be good enough for the fans.

    Jason Heyward is one of the brightest spots on a brutally depressing season. It would be great if he were Mike Trout, but he’s awfully good as it is. I just can’t bring myself to complain about him.

  25. @23, that’s basically my point of view. Now the assumption is that you sprinkle in a few good seasons every now and then. Losing 100 every year from now until the end of time isn’t what I’m advocating – but I get the feeling that everyone is just so afraid that’s going to happen if we make a change. I don’t understand that way of thinking.

    This season has given me the same amount of enjoyment as a 60 win season would. I’m going to watch the games regardless. I want to win it all again, and I’d trade several losing seasons for it. Consistently above-average (but never being the best) does nothing for me. It’s great in most aspects of life, but not in sports. The juxtaposition of going from bad to good is what defines sports and makes being a fan exciting.

  26. Kawakami, Uggla, BUpton, Johnson and Lowe are offset by JUpton, 2013 Chris Johnson, Bourne, Santana, Harang, Walden etc. Moves that improved the team’s chances to win.

    This is one really good reason why it’s foolhardy to abandon WAR without coming up with a better alternative. You get comparisons like this.

  27. 31: Well, if your GM is bad enough, you don’t sprinkle in good seasons, you just suck for a decade or more. Look at the Astros from 2007 to present. Look at the Royals from 1986 to 2012. Look at the Pirates from 1993 to 2012. Look at the Padres from 2007 to present (granted, with one good but non-playoff year mixed in.) That’s the risk that I’m averse to. I actually agree that this season hasn’t really been worth it, but every other season from 2010 to present has been, even 2011–at least they were in it until the end. So from that perspective, Wren is doing well.

    As to the playoffs, I challenge you to find a GM who seems to have found the secret of winning in the playoffs that isn’t “buy all the best players” (which is not an option a Braves GM will ever have). They aren’t out there. You get your team in, then hope they get hot. Wren has done a good job with the former, and I am not convinced he has any control over the latter.

  28. @31, I get that, but a 60-win team has a much, much tougher road to contention than an 85-win team, which is basically what we are.

    Here’s an example: the Arizona Diamondbacks. They won 90 games in 2007, then got swept in the NLCS. Then they won 82, 70, and 65, and in the 65-win season, they fired their GM (Josh Byrnes, currently stinking up the joint in San Diego). The next year, they won 94 games. Then they proceeded to tear down their team, getting rid of all of the non-gritty players, and won 81 games the following year, 81 the year after that, and are working on a 61-win season this year.

    Firing the GM kept them mired in the muck. I would prefer to avoid that outcome. You can call that risk aversion — I’d just call it a preference for rooting for a team that’s within spitting distance of the playoffs every year, over a team that’s in the cellar more often than it’s in first place.

  29. Actually, Johnny, this time Krussell said Heyward was a problem on offense. Which is true if you only look at April.

  30. “The Braves and Mets have identical 58-67 records since April 29. This is a half game better than the Astros & 1 game better than the Cubs” – Bowman

  31. The impression I get is that Wren is pretty good at the Major League technical part of his job, which everyone has pointed out. Although as a caveat, I would say that his inability to make a decent high-profile free agent signing does punch a significant hole in that theory. That’s fine, though…I’ll grant most of his trades have worked out and he’s pretty good at dumpster diving.

    The problem is he’s truly horrible at every other aspect of his job, including managing people (as we’ve seen crop up numerous times) and overseeing the minor league system (the deflation of which he doesn’t get nearly enough blame for, given that it seems to be mostly his fault).

    If what’s reported @25 is true and he’s had to be saved from himself several times by upper management, that calls his overall tenure into further question. If he would’ve let McDowell go and wouldn’t have signed all those extensions without upper management stepping in and telling him to do it, wouldn’t that change everybody’s opinion?

    It’s entirly possible that he has actually been a net negative and that it’s being covered up by the fact that he’s mostly a positive in the most visible part of his job, which happens to be the only part that fans care about. If he’s fired, his replacement can’t possibly be worse at managing people and at signing big-name free agents, though. If we trade some dumpster diving acumen for somebody who puts out the tire fire which is our minor league system and treats players like human beings occasionally, that’s probably a net gain.

  32. Our minor league system is at a low ebb right now because over the last few years, it has graduated a fair number of successful major leaguers: 2014 stars like Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Evan Gattis, Mike Minor, Alex Wood, Julio Teheran; injured stars like Brandon Beachy, Kris Medlen, and Jonny Venters; and Phil Gosselin and Tommy La Stella, at least one of whom looks something like a useful role player. That’s a pretty good record.

  33. Right. The failure is not at the minor league levels. This organization still develops the hell out of some talent. The problem is at the ML level where they’re spending the limited FA dollars to fill in the holes where the minor league machine doesn’t cover. And that’s Wren. The drip-drip of articles from Bowman, DOB and the generally plugged in/stenographer set does suggest that Wren is a dead man walking.

  34. Like, you all realize that if Bowman is writing this…

    Highly-regarded scout Dom Chiti and notable pitching guru Dave Wallace both left the Braves to join Buck Showalter’s coaching staff in Baltimore. While both benefited financially by going to a Major League coaching staff, Wallace had indicated in the past that he was not interested in going back to the big leagues. But his mindset changed as he butted heads with members of the front office.

    Then of course, the Braves nearly made the mistake of allowing pitching coach Roger McDowell go to the Phillies. President John Schuerholz stepped in at the last minute to keep McDowell, whose value extends far beyond what he does for the pitching staff.

    A few weeks later, when Schuerholz hired his good friend John Hart to serve as a senior advisor in the baseball operations department,there was obvious reason to wonder about Wren’s job security. There is still reason to wonder a year later. But it does seem like Hart like his other ventures, especially as an MLB Network analyst, to assume the position on a full-time basis.

    …that Wren is done. When the Braves air dirty laundry like this, everybody should know what’s next. It’s over.

  35. @39

    Yeah, people keep saying that. I don’t buy it. Maybe for a year or two at the high minors, that would be understandable, but there should be another wave coming up soon after. We don’t have another wave. Everybody on the supposed “next wave” has pretty much been crashing and burning. This team is in desperate need of help from the minor league system right now, and there just isn’t any on the horizon. There’s no one to call up and no one that would particularly fetch anything useful back in a trade. There’s pretty much just no one. That’s Wren’s fault.

  36. “A year or two at the high minors” is a completely impossible standard. I named 7 2014 starting players in that comment, and I forgot to even mention Craig Kimbrel. They’ve all graduated within the last four years. If you want 8 stars to graduate every two years, you’re going to be disappointed the rest of your life. Very few teams can come close to our record of developing major league talent.

  37. The “next wave” is starting games in the friggin’ majors. Alex Wood was drafted IN 2012. Let me repeat that for you, for emphasis. Alex Wood was drafted in TWO THOUSAND AND FUCKING TWELVE! In any other organization save maybe the Cardinals, he’s a highly touted September call up this season. Lucas Sims has had a bad year. I’ll grant that. But pitching prospects, they’re difficult children.

  38. I’m not particularly inclined to assign blame for the barren state of the minors, basically for the reasons AAR identifies. That said, it’s really barren right now. Bethancourt looks like a complete bust–neither the much-vaunted glove nor the bat marks him as more than organizational filler. La Stella graduated and looks like org filler or a bench guy. Graham’s injuries have called his future as a pitcher into doubt. Terdoslavich is an AAAA guy–has shown no ability whatsoever to hit major league pitching. Sims and Mauricio Cabrera are flaming out at High A (although that’s a tough step to make, so I’m not giving up on them). The lone bright spot is Jose Peraza plus a few guys who are so far away that they have more opportunities to fail than to succeed. It’s really not a good situation for a team that doesn’t have enough talent at the major league level to win now.

  39. President John Schuerholz stepped in at the last minute to keep McDowell, whose value extends far beyond what he does for the pitching staff.

    It does? In what way? Bowman never elaborates. LGBTQ community liaison seems unlikely….

  40. Next time we have a guy in the low minors putting up stupid OBP and the scouting set are all like “he doesn’t have the tools to translate to the bigs very well” we should all keep Tommy LaStella’s 2014 in mind.

  41. @50 – actually, I sort of got that same read from that sentence. I got a “Roger McDowell may be the next manager” vibe. Not sure who in the org (or out of it) takes over for Wren. Cox doesn’t want it. JS probably doesn’t want to step back down to day to day ops.

  42. @30 I’ve fully admitted to having Andruw syndrome when it comes to Heyward.

    @39 Seconded. We have been in the hunt because of our core of home grown talent.

    Put me in the camp for wanting consistent goodness over tear down rebuild do it over again. Some of y’all weren’t Braves fans in the 80’s.

  43. I’ll come down off the ledge enough to agree that if we can replace CF and 3B with something resembling league average then we have a shot at the playoffs next year. I think we are going to likely have pitching problems, and very little money to work through them, but we have a track record here of success so maybe it’ll be ok.

    But…the other teams in our division are getting better. We’re getting worse. That’s a problem. Blowing it up might be too drastic, but I feel pretty strongly that we aren’t nearly as close to the top teams as some think. We need better players at 4 every day positions and will likely need 2 new decent starting pitchers. How likely is it that we can do all that in one offseason? We have no money and very few farm system trading chips.

    By far the easiest thing to do is to overhaul the coaching staff and front office. Fixing this roster is an uphill climb. If you can’t fix the players then I think the only way you keep the fanbase engaged is to try something new in management.

  44. The Phillies are not getting better.

    And I wouldn’t be too sure about the Mets, either. A healthy Matt Harvey is one of the best players in baseball, but their offense is a wreck and their ownership is a disaster.

    Same for the Marlins. Jeffrey Loria has never shown the desire to actually spend enough money to make the Marlins a contender. They always have good players. They have never finished in first place. I strongly doubt that they do so during his tenure, unless he experiences a drastic change of heart.

  45. Barring guessing at the front office level, here’s the short version of how I would approach 2015. The long version, which I was trying to put together to answer Coop’s question from the previous thread, will need to wait until we officially start the “Where Do We Go From Here?” threads this winter. It was getting long.

    1. Trade BJ Upton for whatever you can get. I don’t expect that to be a lot.

    2. If you can package Gattis with Upton to get a real return, bite that bullet and do it. I’d like to get a real 3B or OF prospect back for that.

    3. Sign Yasmani Tomas. Sneak the posting fee past Liberty as a signing bonus. Whatever. Move Heyward to CF and play JUpton/Tomas on the corners however it sorts defensively.

    4. If you lose on Tomas, kick the tires on Hanley Ramirez.

    5. Sign Ervin Santana or James Shields. Max Scherzer is out of your price range.

    6. Make Phil Gosselin your starting 3B against RHP.

    Teheran/Minor/Wood/Santana/5th starter

    Heyward/Ramirez/Freeman/JUPton/Tomas/Johnson-Gosselin/Andrelton/Bethancourt. If you don’t trade Gattis then obviously he moves into the middle of the order instead of Bethancourt at the bottom.

  46. Regardless of whether the Mets and Marlins are getting better, it’s hard to see the Braves getting better next year. The most optimistic case I can conjure up is that they somehow hold serve on pitching by picking up a couple of bargains in free agency or small trades, and that Peraza is ready immediately and can produce at a league average or better rate next season. That still leaves two gaping holes at CF and 3B and a problem at short, where Andrelton’s terrible bat is in danger of pushing him down into the 1.5-1 WAR area.

    I can squint and see how the 2015 team could be competitive, but they are decidedly underdogs in the wild card and division. I say: give up. Trade Gattis, trade Heyward (unless you can extend him), trade Justin. Try to pull together a decent squad for 2017.

  47. And as much as you might hate it, I’d give a look at a certain Cabrerra de lay Melkiness as well.

  48. I remember when there was a Braves way. Today I see players — not just one — pout after called strikes and not run out ground balls. I want to see change in attitude, in management and or in player personnel. I want to see that my team realizes how lucky they are to play ball for a living. Play hard or play somewhere else.

    Note to self: refresh and read posts before posting yourself, farm boy.

  49. @55, the Mets offense is better than ours right now (as are pretty much all the others). Add Matt Harvey and they are 10 games ahead of us in this year’s standings. I know you can’t 100% count on him next year, but their staff isn’t all that bad without him. If they spend some money they’ll probably finish ahead of us (barring injury plagues).

    The Marlins also would be finishing ahead of us this year barring injuries. Even now they are just as good as us.

    We’ve regressed mightily, and those two teams are getting better. The Nationals are also solid if not spectacular, and they have tremendous pitching depth to deal from.

    Yes we’re better than the Phillies. Yes Frank Wren is better than Ruben Amaro. I think that will be our battle cry for 2015.

  50. I can see the argument for not freaking out and writing this year off as an aberration. Don’t necessarily feel that way, but I can at least see it.

    I’m firmly in the camp that 2011-collapse plus 2014-collapse plus the state of our sunk contract situations plus the state of our minor leagues all adds up to a giant mess, and the authors of the mess shouldn’t be the ones you count on to fix it.

    Edit: @59, I second that motion. This year has been hard to watch because the players are hard to root for.

  51. Where is Gattis? This has to be one of the weirdest things I’ve seen. The real story here might be epic…one can only imagine, since pretty much all the Braves mouthpieces have gone damn near silent on the topic.

  52. Instead of placing catcher Evan Gattis back in their lineup for Monday night’s series opener against the Nationals, the Braves instead sent him for further evaluation to determine why he has not recovered from the strep throat symptoms he began battling a little more than a week ago.

    “He’s trying to figure out why this thing is lingering,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I don’t have any more updates other than that until the doctors get back with our trainers.”

    http://m.braves.mlb.com/news/article/94806174/braves-send-evan-gattis-for-further-tests-on-throat

  53. If Gattis had only been dealing with Strep Throat, he would have been back to his normal self within 24 to 48 hours after starting the proper antibiotic therapy. This is definitely something much more extensive, and I am sure we will all hear what it is eventually.

  54. We need a poll on Gattis. Did he get pissed about all the trade talk surrounding him and refuse to suit up? Is he in Syria fighting ISIL as we speak? It seems mean to speculate as to the likeliest/most unfortunate scenario, so we should come up with fun ones.

  55. I’d like to think he stormed Wren’s office after hearing all the trade-rumors and Bethancourt-is-the-future nonsense. Fredi was there too, as they were trying to figure out whether to bat Simmons first or second. El Oso grabbed them by the scruff of their necks and bashed their heads together three-stooges style, then took a dump on the oriental rug, turned in his gear, and left early for his offseason in Tibet.

  56. I wonder what the Boston Red Sox would want over the winter for Brock Holt and Allen Craig.

    Holt is a bonus because of the true versatility he offers. He would be an everyday starter in the mold of Prado only faster with less pop. He has been a positive WAR defender in 7 different positions in 2014. He is a lefty that hits to contact and would be a treat at the top of the lineup batting 1st or 2nd. He would play everyday. I figure he would start at 3rd against righties and OF or 2nd base against lefties.

    Allen Craig has had an absolute horrible season compared to his previous 3 seasons. We could probably get him cheap in the deal, and he can cover either corner OF spot and 1B. In his career, he has limited time at 3B and 2B, too. The fact that we could get him cheap warrants the risk here.

    I’m sure we ave something that could net us those two guys.

  57. Why can’t we just forfeit this game and the next 12 and just get it over with? That’s what everyone on this team seems to want.

  58. Finally, Freeman showed the first bit of emotion I have seen in weeks out of a Braves player. At least, we know they still have a pulse now. I do have to say that that was a really quick hook by the ump though. Especially considering that pitch was outside the whole time.

  59. @73, that has to be the front runner for comment of the year.

    Haven’t been active much this season because of a divorce and a brokedown life in general, but thanks to everyone here for keeping things alive and lively on the best site on the web. Still the first place I go to every day.

    /go barves

  60. Sorry to have missed you, and sorrier about the reasons why, urlhix.

    I’d almost forgotten that Pickles Schlosser existed, and I’d like to forget again.

  61. Thanks y’all. It is getting better, slowly but surely. At least I can watch the games now, however futile they may be. I said it to Mac while he was alive and I’ll say it again, this place helped me get through some of the worst times in my life and I will forever be grateful for the community he created. Love each other. That’s all that matters.

  62. So, when exactly do we start taking bets on whether or not the Braves will win another game this season?

  63. Yeah this place is truly special. The Braves are just a common bond and a backdrop. All of you guys make it worth visiting. The performance of the team is almost irrelevant. Actually I think things get funnier here when we’re Barving it all up.

    Looking at the boxscore again tonight (why would I do that? why would anyone do that?) … Nats entire starting 8 is slugging over .400 , while we have 2 guys. It does take a whole team to have a great year. We’ve got 3 or 4 guys to build around, but we need *lots* of building.

  64. If Washington sweeps the series, does anything happen? Does the team wait until the season’s over to announce a move or change?

  65. Here comes the “come back to the point where you put the tying run in scoring position, then lose” bit.

    EDIT: And those no point in firing anyone until after the season, at this point. It’s too late. No point in upper management embarrassing itself needlessly.

  66. So ok…I guess when we walk-off on the Nats to jump-start our 13-0 miracle finish, we can look back on today and just laugh at how stupid we were for wanting everyone fired.

  67. And the winning run comes to the plate… oh, dammit, it’s BJ. I wanna see El Oso throwing people out of his way as he comes out of the tunnel!

  68. 95- Are you headed to Vegas? If not, you should be.

    And Friday is Star Wars Night, apparently. May the farce be with us.

  69. You tend to think that anyone should be able to score from 3rd on a ball to the backstop. Especially a fast guy that was put in to pinch run. I might think that. You might think that. But we’d be wrong.

  70. Not that it matters. Plus I guess you never want to take the bat out of BJ’s hands. Definitely not our year. He knocked the ever living shit out of that ball. Then, due the second law of Upton conservation, he negated the positive by lollygagging out of the box.

    I don’t think they’ll fire anyone until after the season, but if the plan is to just fire Fredi and the hitting coaches….I dunno….now is as good a time as any.

  71. Did BJ lollygag, or was the ball just hit hard enough and bounce close enough back to Desmond that he was able to beat BJ by so much? I never saw a replay of BJ running out of the box, but I was shocked that the ball beat him as much as it did.

    You know, it is often better to be lucky than to be good, but unfortunately this year the Braves have not been either.

  72. Brian Jordan just kinda sorta called him out for not busting it out of the box. But the ball was crushed so it’s not totally shocking to me that he was throw out. I doubt we’ll see a replay on the post game show.

  73. I want to hit the Powerball jackpot when it goes north of $400 million so I can buy out CJ and BJ’s contracts and never have to watch them again.

  74. This is a team with zero player leadership. Lot’s of young players, no leaders. They appear to be going through the motions. Terrible team to watch.

  75. Every Fredi’s Braves team has been flat in September. This team is supposed to be young and full of fire. Fredi has to go honestly.

  76. 46-56 (including playoffs) in September and October under Fredi. 9-18, 20-11, 14-17 and 3-10.

  77. It is almost impossible for a team to be worse. The Braves could replace the team with the team from Rome and be more competitive (at least they might score). Disgusting.

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