Well, That’s That

You know, the band Failure is back. That’s really cool, because I only just started getting into them, and they hadn’t been an active band in more than a decade. I’m hoping I’ll get to see them live. Also, their last album, Forgotten Planet, is full of incredibly depressing songs like the above, which begins with the fairly apropos lyric, “Right now we’re sick of everything.”

So let’s start there. The 2014 Braves had a great first half, and they did exactly one merciful thing in the second half: they did not toy with our emotions. They took a nosedive and stayed down. Despite a catastrophic series of injuries to the pitching staff — a disturbing specialty this franchise has developed — the pitching was really quite good. Well, the rotation was good. The bullpen was pretty erratic, outside of Kimbrel, Walden, and two months of Shae Simmons. The defense was pretty good, so long as they didn’t hit the ball at Justin Upton, Chris Johnson, or Freddie Freeman.

The offense, however…

The offense was a Scared Straight video. It was a portrait of Dorian Grey. It was a suffocating Quato. It was a malformed, misshapen wreck. That was what it looked like in April. It didn’t get any better than that.

Tonight, the Braves got shut out again. This time, it happened to be the Nationals, which meant that they got to celebrate their division championship in Atlanta, which was apt. The Braves all but knitted the pennant flag for them. There will probably be some amount of cleaning house on the team, but not too much, because firing someone is a tacit admission of poor judgment, and whoever is doing the firing — whether it’s Wren considering whether to fire Fredi, or McGuirk considering whether to fire Wren, or heaven forbid, Liberty considering whether to fire McGuirk — will want to save face.

For now, the Braves have to play out the remaining 11 games, and about the only thing left to play for is a .500 record. This team is long past showing pride or backbone, but it would be nice to avoid a losing season. Even though it would be a polite fiction: this has been a losing team since April turned to May.

87 thoughts on “Well, That’s That”

  1. Well, that wasn’t much fun.

    And here’s a lousy idea: After getting clinched on at home for the division title, there’s a possibility that Pittsburgh will do the same thing next week for the last WC spot. C’est la vie cette année.

    So as a matter of distraction, this Roosevelt PBS documentary has been really good these last few days…

  2. Just ride the wave when it comes, Smitty. Breath it in and out. Blow funny, low sounds And when it’s time to push, push!

  3. Also,

    When is firing season for MLB coaches and front office staff? Is it the day after the regular season ends or do they wait until the World Series ends?

  4. Liberty Media has to understand box office … and on the field and on TV, this cast of characters has flopped. Bring in a new management team – starting with McGuirk and Wren, they gots-t’go. Fredi obviously belongs back coaching third somewhere. It will be exciting, finally, to watch the Braves try to rebuild. What’s been happening most of the last decade has been boring. Let’s end it and start something new.

  5. Keep ripping them, guys. Too much complacency, too much drifting on the fumes of the past. Not enough urgency from anyone. Rip ’em until they wake or get off the bus. An absolute disgrace. Where’s the fight in them?

  6. I don’t know that “fight” is the problem or that verbal abuse is the answer — satisfying though it may be — but for sure, I’d like to see some attempt at a smarter approach from a bunch of these guys at the plate.

    Fredi should pick a metric that will drive improvement in this area. I don’t know which would be best, but let’s say pitches seen per plate appearance. Fredi should set a goal between now and the end of the season of improving our season-to-date performance in that metric by X amount and motivate the team around that. And the most improved hitter gets to destroy Fredi’s favorite bike in whatever creative fashion they choose. Done and done.

  7. By my count, last night makes the 11th time since 1991 that a visiting team has celebrated clinching something on the Braves home field.

    1992-Toronto-World Series
    1997-Florida-NLCS
    1998-San Diego-NLCS
    2000-St. Louis-NLDS
    2001-Arizona-NLCS
    2002-San Francisco-NLDS
    2003-Chicago-NLDS
    2004-Houston-NLDS
    2010-San Francisco-NLDS
    2012-St. Louis-NL wild card game
    2014-Washington-East Division

    There are famous pictures from WW II of French people in distress as the Germans march though Paris. It appears that the Braves have pretty much been the France of major league baseball.

  8. Smitty, I’m boiling water for you!

    Do you suppose when we win the NL east next year, espn will refer to the Braves as winners of 2 of the last 3 pennants? or is that just a symptom of being “sick of everything”?

    As much as I desperately hope Aaron Harang is not on the opening day roster next year, the guy deserves a pretty huge pat on the back and one more paycheck (ideally elsewhere). Well done sir.

  9. Remember all those times we talked about our “window” over the last few years? That sound you hear is the window slamming shut.

  10. kruger at 18,

    Harang needs to be added to the “gets his drink picked up at any bar in town at any time, forever” list. Like Francisco Cabrera, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, etc.

  11. I understand the frustration, calling for heads and stuff but this same team won 96 games in 2013.
    @13 – Be careful what you ask for. Re building can be a never ending process. Ask the Cubs.

  12. I dunno, the team is still rather young, is it not?

    Living in the land of “what if”, those 2 days in March when Beachy/Medlen went down were killers. and it was pretty much consensus that we needed good to great years out of the combination of CJ, BJ and Uggla and got the same dismal mess combined with Gattis inability to stay healthy. That we were still in it on Sept 1 is surprising in retrospect.

  13. In hindsight, I don’t see how losing Beachy/Medlen was a killer, especially since Beachy only pitched 30 innings in 2013. We won’t be thinking about starting pitching much when reflecting on this team’s failure in 2014.

    And being upset at Wren over Fister is a reach.

  14. I keep wanting to think that losing Beachy/Medlen resulted in Santana/Harang and that it ended up being largely a wash, but I’m not so sure. I think we would have still signed Harang as depth, so that if Beachy/Medlen stayed healthy, they would have been able to use Harang in the rotation when Minor was struggling, or they could have used Harang in the rotation and kept Wood in the pen. We only had 7 pitchers start a game this year, with Hale and Floyd being the two outside of our normal five.

    If we were able to keep Wood in the pen, that might have steered a couple games in our favor, and who knows where we’d be at.

    Orrrr… we could have just had a freaking offense that could have been top 3rd instead of bottom 3rd.

  15. @24

    Yeah, but a lot of the time, if you’re not asking, you’re not getting the right answer. Maybe the Tigers went straight to the Nationals and said they wanted Robbie Ray, Scherzer’s off-limits, but who do you like, Rizzo? But maybe Rizzo was the only guy who went up to Dombrowski and said, “What’ll it take to pry Doug Fister away from y’all?” To get the right answer you’ve got to have the bones to ask the right question.

    The Span/Revere thing was bad for the Braves, too. We knew we needed a center fielder because we didn’t trust/couldn’t afford Bourn. We knew what free agent contracts look like. And instead of going with the guy with the better track record for far less money and two fewer years, we went with the guy who put up a sub-.300 OBP with sketchy defense asking for ~$80 mil over five.

  16. My wish list for 2015, in no particular order:

    1. Get Simba’s swing fixed so that he’s at least only mildly below average offensively.

    2. Get rid of BJ.

    3. Trade Gattis for something useful.

    4. Find a LH option out of the pen that can actually, you know, get major league righties out occasionally.

    5. Get rid of BJ again. Just to make sure.

    6. Extend Jason. Hope he rediscovers his power stroke.

    That will do to start.

  17. If we were able to keep Wood in the pen, that might have steered a couple games in our favor

    *apoplexy*

    That we signed BJ for so much was what spooked the Nats into quickly trading for Span. They correctly evaluated BJ as a potential bust and decided to stay away from the FA market for CF when we set the bar so ridiculously high. Wren forced the Span/Revere trades to happen (and stymied Michael Bourn in the process).

  18. We’ll probably have the same team next year except for maybe Gattis and a 4th starter. At least give me the satisfaction of not having to listen to Wren and Fredi anymore.

  19. @29

    Wasn’t it known pretty well in advance that Span–and Revere, too, I think–were available? (Serious question, not rhetorical.)

    @31/krussell

    Yeah, I just read his post-game hat-tipping quotes about the Nationals last night and good thing there’s a trash can beside my desk cause I’m gonna barve.

  20. Revere is not very good. He has to hit .300 to be valuable, since he has literally no power at all, and he actually isn’t a good fielder — fast runner, but he takes bad routes to the ball, and this year his UZR and Total Zone fielding are both pretty sharply negative.

    Span is better than Revere, in that he takes walks and plays good defense. He would have been the guy to get, and I imagine that Wren was in on him before he decided to go for Upton. I liked the thought of Span, but I liked Upton more, because this team has had a catastrophic need for right-handed power for quite a few years running. As it turned out, Upton instantly turned into a pumpkin, and I was badly wrong.

    But Revere is not the answer. He’s been worth 0.8 rWAR this year despite leading the league in hitting.

  21. You’re right about everything about Revere except that he is not leading the league in hitting. He’s 5th in the league behind Harrison, Morneau*, Posey, and McCutchen.

  22. @32, It was known that Span was available, but the assumption was that whichever of Span/Revere wasn’t traded would stay put. That the Phillies got Revere right after the Nats got Span was a surprise.

    Span was indeed the right answer. Worth noting that Bourn would’ve been yet another wrong answer. BJ…maybe it’s fair to say Wren’s luck was just complete dogshit, but the Nationals seemed to know something that we didn’t know.

  23. I wouldn’t cut or trade BJ until I actually had a competent hitting coach try and fix his horrible swing; unless I’ve missed something, his issues aren’t physical. Why compound a mistake by trading him in exchange for an equally bad contract or packaging him with someone like Gattis and limiting your prospect return?

  24. @27 – What Alex said at #33. BUpton was a decent signing at the time because he was coming off of a 28 HR season and solved 2 problems. CF and RH power hitter. No one could have predicted that the guy would drop off the face of the earth at age 28.

    @37 – Gosh, Uggla redux? No thank you. 2 full seasons of awfulness should be an ample enough sample size.

    @23 – seconded. This is why I am not as anxious as some to see a total FO house cleaning. The pitching was way above expectations post Beachy/Medlen surgery. And I don’t think that anyone expected a total offensive collapse of this magnitude.

  25. Yeah I put BJ in the same category as Uggla. He’s not tradeable. You compound the original mistake if you give up pieces just to get rid of him. Try one more time to fix him, and if he’s beyond repair after the fist couple of months next year then release him.

  26. @38
    No, he’s certainly worse than in anyone’s wildest dreams. So bad that his good health has been a curse.

    But look at it this way. If Heyward only played so-so defense and paired it with the offensive season he’s having now, would you be willing to commit $15mil/year over 5 years to him? Probably not, right? Well, Heyward’s 2014 offense has been better than BJ’s 2012 offense, despite the 17-homer deficit.

    BJ Upton wasn’t the wrong guy in a vacuum, but he was certainly the wrong guy for the money and the years, especially for an organization without much wiggle-room and a host of younger, better players who they knew they would want to sign long-term without hamstringing the team’s ability to fill out the roster around them.

  27. Luck always factors into putting teams together; there’s not getting around it. It’s easy to crush Wren in retrospect but, at the time, people were generally happy about the deal with BJ. Span struggled for much of last year and the early part of this year-although he was never as bad as BJ. But he turned it around about mid-way through the season, despite Bryce Harper suggesting he be benched for Ryan Zimmerman. Same with Adam LaRoche; he has had a much better season than anyone had any right to expect at this stage of his career. Who would have thought Tanner Roark would be as good as he has been? I think Rizzo is a talented GM, but a bit of luck really helps and, let’s face it, while he has certainly made his share of bad decisions, Wren has also been unlucky. For example, even if you thought the Uggla extension was too much, it could easily have worked out reasonably well, sort of like Jason Werth(i.e., an overpaid but still productive player). There was no reason to expect Uggla to just become a horrible player. Perhaps he should have known more about BJ considering his reputation in Tampa but, again, who would have possibly thought he could be this bad?

  28. BUpton was a decent signing at the time because he was coming off of a 28 HR season and solved 2 problems. CF and RH power hitter. No one could have predicted that the guy would drop off the face of the earth at age 28.

    This is why you overvalue power at your (team’s) own peril.

    We know that power fluctuates from season to season. We know BJ’s ISO from 2012 was a career high. And I’m sure the Nats noticed that .298 OBP, which sure looks like the reddest of red flags now.

    Before 2012, even if he struck out a bunch, he at least walked a bunch too. It now looks like he had a season-ending homer streak by selling out for power in 2012, and pitchers figured that out pretty quickly once BJ became a Brave.

  29. Thank you, Alex, and you. all who recapped, and you my posting teammates for sharing the misery that was my 2014 Atlanta Braves. We will win again someday.

  30. @40 but none of the young talent we had was a right handed hitter with power or a center fielder. And the context was what Bourne was asking for.

    @39 – I say part ways over the off season. Don’t even repeat the mistake we made with Uggla that somehow someway that BJ can be fixed. The only question for the Braves is how much contract to eat and if the answer is not all of it then the second question is who to include in the trade as an enticement to get someone to take a portion of it.

  31. I just want to sit and watch the organization make their decisions on front office personnel and the players. I know it’s more fun to speculate, but I honestly don’t know what the heck happened this year. Our pitching, statistically, was really rock solid with the durability of our opening day pitching staff, and the top end of our bullpen. On paper, the top end of our offense (JUpton, Freeman, Heyward, and Gattis) was as good as any top-4 hitters for any team in the league. It was our 3 lineup blackholes and the bench, simply as that. When two of those black holes are tremendous defensively, that’s hard to fix.

    If our bench had come up with some timely hits, we might have been still in the mix. I’ve said this before, but I’m just stunned that there wasn’t an Evan Gattis (in 2013), Brooks Conrad, Charles Thomas, Eric Hinske, Matt Diaz, Jose Constanza, or Reed Johnson that could have given us a decent option off the bench. We’ve been able to add a Derek Lee, a Rick Ankiel, a Greg Norton, a Ryan Church here and there too. What the heck happened this year? Just one or two of those journeyman could have pushed us, but we stuck with the garbage production of Doumit/Laird/Bethancourt/Pena/Pastornicky and even when we did add a piece (Bonifacio), that didn’t work either. It’s like the odds were against us with every route we took.

    I seriously don’t get how we assembled such a strong team on paper and couldn’t get it done.

  32. Our pitchers also can’t hit for shit. I know it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the big problems (CJ, BJ, Simmons), but the pitchers get as many or more AB’s than the bench, and ours were as bad as I’ve ever seen. And they were probably below 50% when trying to sac bunt.

    A minor nit to be sure, but when you lose as many close games as we did, I guess it all kinda matters in the end.

  33. That’s actually a worthwhile point. Our pitchers were 12th out of 15 NL teams in OPS — everyone’s pitchers suck at hitting, but ours really sucked.

    What made it especially galling is that we couldn’t get pitchers out: we allowed the 11th-worst OPS to opposing pitchers.

    Our pitchers had a .244 OPS; opposing pitchers had a .353 OPS. More than 100 points better than ours! That’s bizarre, especially considering that the overall offensive gap was roughly non-existent: our non-pitchers had a .697 OPS, and opponents’ non-pitchers hit for a .695 OPS against us.

  34. @48

    What happened to prevent us from adding someone to our bench? Ervin Santana and his 14 million dollar deal happened, due to Medlen and Beachy blowing out their elbows.

    It’s all inter-connected, ya see…pitching needs shoring up, bench suffers for lack of resources used to shore up pitching.

  35. Doumit was supposed to shore up our bench. We traded a first round draft pick for him. Talk about setting money on fire…

  36. Let’s be fair. Gilmartin’s not turning into Mike Minor any time soon.

    Actually, on second though, he might be able to be as good as this year’s version of Mike Minor.

  37. @49 and 50,
    Our pitchers probably didn’t get anything to hit, as the opposition was pitching around them to get to BJ for much of the year.

  38. Wren’s bad drafts are topical in the “we couldn’t build a solid bench” discussion. No money and no trading chips is not a good place to be. Who else do you blame for us being there?

    Add up the salaries paid to Lowe, KK, Uggla, and BJ … divide by total WAR accrued while they were Braves. If we’re cool with paying like $100 million per win then by all means let’s keep the current regime rolling along for 5 more years.

  39. Frank Wren was named the GM in late 2008, so he has now conducted six drafts for the team: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. In those six drafts, he has drafted four solid starters — Alex Wood, Mike Minor, Andrelton Simmons, and Evan Gattis — and a bunch of other guys who have demonstrated that they can probably be role players.

    2009: Mike Minor (erratic, but solid starter); David Hale (decent swingman/long reliever)
    2010: Andrelton Simmons (very good starter); Evan Gattis (average-to-above-average starter); Phil Gosselin (bench player); Chasen Shreve (reliver)
    2011: Tommy La Stella (bench player); Pickles Schlosser (great nickname)
    2012: Alex Wood (very good starter); Shae Simmons (reliever)

    In addition, in 2013 he drafted Victor Caratini, whom he traded for Bonifacio and James Russell. In 2011, of course, he drafted Gilmartin, whom he traded for Doumit, which hasn’t really worked out for either team thus far. He also drafted Nick Ahmed in 2011, and he was a piece in the Justin Upton trade, which we decidedly won.

    All in all, I think that’s a decent record — not extraordinary, but it isn’t bad.

  40. Yeah, it’s not that we only got Doumit for our first round pick from a couple of years ago, it’s that our first round pick from a couple of years ago was probably the second most valuable one left on the farm and he was worth someone as bad at baseball as Ryan Doumit. It’s not just the free agency record that should get Wren canned, it’s the FA and draft records. Fire Wren, Fredi, BJ, Doumit, Laird, and anyone who’s ever offered hitting advice to the team and promote John Coppolella to GM. John Hart needs to go far, far away as well.

  41. Meanwhile, from Tallahassee: College Student Faces Discipline for Publicly Endorsing Hetero-Normative Sexuality.

  42. Are the April and August Justin Uptons worth the frustration and agony of the rest-of-the-year Justin Upton? I’m not so sure.

    Gattis had a kidney stone? That’s nothing like strep throat.

  43. After the Cubs 1-hit the Reds last night, Bryan Price benched every regular for tonight’s game.

    After the Braves were no-hit by the Phillies a couple of weeks ago, Fredi started BJ.

    Edit: To be fair, BJ has the highest Upton batting average for this month…

  44. @68 I was just getting ready to type that to go with your previous comment. I am definitely Upton-weary at the moment.

  45. C-Beth!!! Jason Heyward scored on that?!?! Now I have to (gladly) change the portion of the recap I had written.

  46. @74 I agree. The Braves have about 30 seconds of excitement this entire month. I am so glad I witnessed it.

    Alex Wood doesn’t know what to do with three runs of support. Poor guy.

  47. Carpenter! The 7th was problematic all year for our bullpen, but not tonight. @77 Never doubt the streak (and…with that, I’m sure I just jinxed Walden or Kimbrel…)

  48. Before tonight, Gattis had missed the past 8 games and Bethancourt has been our primary catcher. The Braves won one out of those eight games games and scored 19 total runs. Of course, Bethancourt picked up 3 RBIs tonight, but it is an interesting thing to think about with the whole trade Gattis, play Bethancourt/don’t trade Gattis debate.

  49. Long drive home tonight so I caught most of the game on the radio. Someone has forgotten to tell Powell and Lemke that we have a tenth of a percent chance of making the playoffs. Poor guys have to toe the company line – would leave to hear what they really think. The one thing I found interesting was that they spent like 30 minutes talking about how awesome Pendleton is. Maybe buttering us up for the next Braves manager?

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