Braves Win! Braves Win! Braves Win!

ESPN Box Score

The Braves offense has proven that they hate all of their starting pitchers, but they especially hate Alex Wood and outright refuse to score when he is in the game. In the wake of their division-clinching victory last night, the Nationals started the Syracuse Chiefs lineup and threw a rookie in place of Gio Gonzalez. Wood starting against a rookie, the Nationals countering with a AAA lineup…against the Braves, that script would seemingly write itself.

Wood looked like his normal awesome self. Then in the 5th, someone named Steven Souza hit his first career home run. Ballgame? For the first five innings, it seemed as though Clayton Kershaw had sneaked his way on the Nationals roster, celebrated Halloween early, and disguised himself as a Blake Treinen, holding the Braves offense in check. It would have been an impressive performance, but IWOTB.

To be fair to the Braves, the Chiefs did win their division, so it’s not like the Gnats were throwing any old AAA team out there.

Then the 6th inning happened. I saw it, or else I might not believe it actually happened. The Braves threw the script out of the window, scored multiple runs for Wood, and took the lead. Phil Gosselin led off the inning with his second of three hits of the night, and Ramiro Pena followed that with a single of his own. Freddie Freeman tried to Barve it up and hit into a double play, but he beat the throw and so the Nationals settled for a fielder’s choice. Justin Upton struck out looking on a breaking ball (an improvement over the first inning, when he grounded into a double play in a similar situation), and then Jason Heyward was hit on the thumb to load the bases. Christian Bethancourt guided a ball off the first baseman’s glove into right field (basically, the moral of the inning was hit the ball on the ground to the right side of the National’s AAA infield, and good things will happen), clearing the bases when the Nationals lobbed the ball back into the infield and Jason Heyward took advantage of that to score from first on a ball that didn’t make it more than 30 feet away from the infield. Heart and Hustle Award recipient right there.

Suddenly the Braves had scored Wood a month’s worth of runs in one inning and he had to quickly relearn how to pitch with a lead. The excitement was too much for him, and he gave up back-to-back hits to open the 7th and end his night. David Carpenter came and and got out of the inning unscathed. Jordan Walden pitched a perfect 8th and Craig Kimbrel a perfect 9th. That is how you win ballgames.

Other Braves items of note:

  • Evan Gattis’s mystery illness is a kidney stone. He apparently had strep throat and then developed the kidney stone. Weird. That man gets the strangest illnesses.
  • Tonight was Tom Glavine bobblehead night. Most of the time, bobbleheads look somewhat like the person they are representing. Glavine’s…not so much.
  • Craig Kimbrel was presented with the Braves Roberto Clemente Award before the game. It was nice to see him alive and breathing, since it had been awhile. It was even nicer to see him in the game in a save situation.
  • Andrelton Simmons took a big swing in the 3rd inning, fell down, and ended up leaving the game. It’s painful to watch him play right now, since it is so obvious he is in pain. Once the Braves are officially mathematically eliminated, maybe Fredi will sit him more.

So, is there hope? A small ray of light piercing the gloom? For this season, no. Mathematically, the Braves are still “in”, but even the world’s biggest optimist would have to come to grips with reality at this point. However, in the midst of speculating on who loses his job this winter and how many changes will be made, consider this: the Gnats looked good on paper last year but had a rotten season. This year they’re one of the better teams in the league. The AL Wild Card game last year was played between the Rangers and Rays—neither of which will get close to the playoffs this year, and one has the league’s worst record. The Red Sox, of course, were World Champs last year and were so far out of it by July this year they became sellers at the trading deadline. The Angels finished six games under .500 last year, but this year have clinched a playoff spot and are currently 37 games over. The Giants were 10 games under last year and 16 over this year with a large lead in the Wild Card race… I think you get the point. So, just because this year didn’t work out, and we are all left scratching our heads wonder what in the heck went wrong with this offense, remember that 2015 is a new season and anything can happen. This is baseball, after all.

Natspo(s) delenda est in October. Take it away, the NL contenders.

(I’d also like to apologize to my fellow recappers for hogging all of the wins this month. I’d love to share…maybe the Braves can help me out with that this week?)

46 thoughts on “Braves Win! Braves Win! Braves Win!”

  1. @58 Game, Blauser in the last post

    The article you referenced was a great read and brought up many questions. One major one being which do you choose to build around between Heyward and J. Upton.

    Personally, I feel like Heyward is the better bet in the long run due to many reasons including both offense and defense, but there is an argument to be made for J. Upton, too. I think we all know the prospect of signing both of these players longterm is not going to happen.

    For those that read that article, how do y’all feel about the question posed on either going longterm with Heyward or J. Upton?

  2. Since someone yesterday wished our rotation was good enough to justify putting Alex Wood back into the ‘pen, I went to see who the five worst pitchers a full standard deviation of fWAR above Alex Wood would be (since WAR, we’re all seeing, isn’t so good for measuring incremental differences between player performances). I’m sure I messed up the math, but some guys named Sale, Scherzer, Quintana, Zimmermann, Richards, it looks like. That seems like a solid rotation.

  3. Thanks Rissa for your work this year and reminding us of something.

    There are MANY teams that “oscillate.” Yes, the less good your players are, the more you oscillate. But here is how I see some of “the big issues.”

    1. Will Liberty commit to higher payroll? There are lots of reasons to believe that they will not. But, just going to “the Ervin Santana adjustment level” would help a lot. The Liberty Management is probably pretty upset at the crashed attendance and crashed ratings. But the Braves are a team that is much more costly to own when they aren’t good, than ponying up money to make them decent. Also, the profit in the real estate part of the new park depends on people actually wanting to come to games. A crash next year will impact the team for years in the revenue side.

    2. IF Liberty ponies up money, NO WAY they retain Wren, possibly not McGuirk. Overall, I think Wren has been pretty good. But somebody has to pay for this mess. The trades have been either good, great, or mediocre. The FA signings have been bad. But, every time I go back, I can’t come up with the foresight to see the BJ deal as bad (not that it couldn’t have been a stretch, but not this disaster). In hindsight, it is. I knew the Uggla deal would overall suck, but not that bad. I thought the extension was one year too long to me (after adjusting for the “you have to guarantee longer than your comfort level” factor). It was actually two years too long.

    3. This crash has been about bad offense. So, the hitting coaches have to go.

    4. This crash is one more time Fredi’s teams have collapsed late. They seem “whooped.” I don’t see Fredi surviving this. Nor, should he.

    5. You can’t release BJ now. You can’t give talent to get somebody to take the contract. You do what was done with Uggla last year. You tell him to work in the offseason, bring him back, and if the 90% likely thing happens (he doesn’t get back to a possibly workable 700 / 750 ops), you release him, then. If you trade him, somebody might take a million a year for his remaining 3 years to use him as a workable 4th outfielder. That’s the best that can happen, now.

    6. 5 means that you have to keep Heyward for 2015, or punt the season in a major way. Since I think Liberty understands the financial hit to punting the season, Heyward is going nowhere. You try to sign him to a long term deal, but you don’t offer what he is going to want. If he doesn’t “blink” you let him go and take the pick. You put him high in the order against right handed starters and low in the order against left handed starters. You new hitting coach works with him on hitting lefties (maybe Chipper takes that as a “special” job for January after deer season and maybe you get Chipper with Andrellton also). You play him in center (unless in the 10 % case that BJ is functional).

    7. You also try to extend Justin. It probably won’t work, but you try. See 1 above.

    8. The combination of Kubitza, Gosselin, Peraza, LaStella and some etc. pieces in the org. is likely to produce a utility infielder and a second baseman and a 3rd baseman. The 3B would probably be a 1.5 WAR 3b (which is above the middle of Chris Johnson’s oscillating value and almost as high as his peak.) So, you move CJ. You can clear the contract and maybe get a lottery ticket for him. No Ramiro Pena’s, no Paul Janish’s.

    9. You go find a slugging outfielder. See 1 above.

    10. The pitching in the org is actually good. Teheran, Wood, Minor, Hale is not a bad start. You have to add one more starter on the upper side. You can’t count on anything ever again from Beachy or Medlen. So, you can’t spend 6 or 8 mill tying them up for another year when that money could go to a real pitcher. Unless Shae Simmons is shredded, the only bullpen piece you need is a high end prospect or proven lefty reliever.

    11. You try to make sure your new manager doesn’t lose or run off McDowell. The rest are replaceable.

  4. For people interested in the lack of leadership discussion, DOB doesn’t do a bad job spreading the blame around in a reasonable way.

    This is one place where Wren didn’t give Fredi what he might’ve needed, but damn, Fredi, you’ve got to do something to compensate.

  5. Most all here agree that Fredi has reached the “gots to go” status. The fan base – at least as represented on the WWW and reflected by declining attendance and TV ratings – has gone night-night. The poor man – a baseball lifer – will go scouting or coaching 3B for a buddy somewhere. He may have deserved a better fate but he simply wasn’t “the man.”

    Wren, I earnestly want gone, but as the embodiment of Braves’ smugness, he will likely remain. He will talk about he likes “our club” and how they will bounce back next year. I am depressed already.

  6. I assume anybody who thinks Wren’s staying just hasn’t read what the beat writers are now saying. It’s not even Kremlinology at this point. The only way to make it clearer would be to have “Taps” play automatically when you load the page.

  7. Yeah they are all gone. And they should be.

    You’d fire all the players that sucked this year, if you could, but that’s just never how it works. Instead you fire the guys that spent hundreds of millions of dollars for 4 or 5 players that produced virtually nothing.

    The good small moves made by this front office, the diamonds in the rough, the decent trades, they just don’t freaking matter when you’ve set hundreds of millions of dollars on fire and created a state of terminal apathy, and even open hostility, with the casual fanbase.

  8. http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/william-blake-color-analyst-for-the-atlanta-braves

    “B.J. Upton’s bat lies hid, dark, and obscure! The slugger’s real and immortal self has been annihilated, Joe! Only the shadow remains! See how he writhes at the plate like one who has embraced death, and twists his mournful form away from the hurler, getting out in front of the sphere when Heaven demands that he keep his left shoulder back!”

    It’s not quite Blazon, but it will do.

  9. Wren won’t get fired. Hell, even Gonzalez may survive, but I doubt it. Since Wren has been GM the Braves have had only one sub .500 season. This season may be his second. He has a good track record. The BJ signing and the Uggla extension have turned out bad but I don’t think anyone could have predicted that they’d turn out this bad. You can blame Wren for the awful bench, but I’m more inclined to think that Beachy and Medlen causing the signing of Santana, which was a positive move had more to do with it.

    Personally I’d rather go forward with Frank Wren at the controls than start over with a new GM.

    The Braves should keep both JUpton and Heyward for 2015 and build the club as if it is the last year they can win. Build for 2015 and let the chips fall where they may going forward. Sure they should try to sign one or both long term but if it doesn’t work out they shouldn’t trade them.

    @8 – I totally disagree with you about how the team should handle BJ Upton. They should divest themselves of him over the off season, no matter if a trade partner is found or not. The Braves cannot be tempted to play him. Whomever the new manager is should not have to feel pressured to play BJ because of his contract.

  10. The Uggla extension is more damnable, mostly because he was under contract for another year when acquired. The trade was great, but the five-year extension was premature and reflected the Braves desperate need for 30HR power in the lineup. If it’s any commentary on Wren, it’s that he folds too easy. See also: Derek Lowe.

  11. So, B.J. Upton’s final contract year is the first year the Braves should be playing in their new Cobb stadium. Who here thinks he’ll be in that 2017 opening day lineup?

  12. @ 8

    Strongly agree with #2 about Wren. I just don’t see how Liberty Media can trust him to handle the Braves resources any longer. Most would agree that Wren’s overall body of work as GM is, at worst, above average, but I don’t think appealing to LM with Wren’s success in trades and small moves will work; having to repeatedly absorb sunk FA costs will be his undoing.

  13. If Wren could’ve just found a way to bring in a couple veteran platoon-player types, he might have managed to survive even the sunk cost FA debacles with a play-in game appearance.

  14. Okay, deep down I know this is both a bad and an impossible idea…but I want to give the Rangers Gattis and Kimbrel for a season of Adrian Beltre. How bad/impossible is it?

    I just really want to have Adrian Beltre on the team.

  15. @13, 17

    Super-fun. A few years ago they did several authors writing up the Super Bowl, and it was a hoot.

    Love the nod to Ed Mangan, but it was a little awkward to read “Joe” as the person addressed when I know it ought to have been Chip.

  16. Kimbrel and Gattis for Beltre and Profar or Odor. The Rangers can even call up Gallo and still compete. Dump BJ’s salary and gitrdun, Coppolella.

  17. “He may have deserved a better fate but he simply wasn’t “the man.””

    I don’t quite understand this. Look at two of the managers in the NL playoffs-Matt Williams and Don Mattingly. Most here would agree that they spent the whole year falling out of trees and landing on their feet (a Bill Lee comment about the Red Sox manager in 1975 when they went to the World Series). Yet they are both in the playoffs, but it’s Fredi Gonzalez’ fault the Braves aren’t? Ok, you want to fire him, fire him-that’s the life of managers-but don’t be living under some sort of illusion that Joe Maddon or Buck Showalter would have gotten this team to the playoffs.

  18. I agree that Williams and Mattingly aren’t very good tactical managers, and I have strong reservations about their skills as leaders of men. But even if Fredi were Joe McCarthy, I would argue that after two massive September collapses, it’s time for him and the team to part company. That’s not to say that we should never consider hiring him back — after all, the Braves hired Bobby Cox to be their manager on two separate occasions — just that he needs to be fired for his failures.

  19. Batting the worst hitters on the team 2nd for a good part of the year is a firable offense for me. I don’t blame him for the bad players – that’s why Wren is going to get fired too – but Fredi drives me nuts and I don’t care who replaces him.

  20. Gammons (via MLBTradeRumors via Facebook:)

    “While Braves GM Frank Wren did well to patch their rotation with Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang this season, the team’s offense has been woeful, and Wren has the Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton contracts weighing on him. Former Indians GM John Hart, who was brought on as a senior advisor last offseason, could be moved into a more significant role, such as a president of baseball operations (like Theo Epstein in Chicago) or a chief baseball officer like Tony La Russa in Arizona. Hart served as an overseer to Jon Daniels in Texas, and the Braves do have a prime young GM candidate in the form of John Coppolella.”

  21. Yeah, people don’t realized how similar all managers are. Nobody really pays attention to the opposing manager, they’re so busy trashing Fredi, but if you do, you’ll be scratching your head half the time at them, as well. Managers are pretty much all the same. With slight variations on the the theme, they all make the same mistakes and they all do it repeatedly.

    That having been said, since they’re all the same, it doesn’t make that much difference if you fire Fredi. Also, I haven’t been that impressed with the Braves clubhouse this year, either, which is the only really worthwhile thing a manager can do over the long run. I mean, I don’t think it’s a toxic clubhouse or anything, but everything just seems too laid back. Since there aren’t any leaders, it’s up to Fredi to provide as much of that leadership as he can, and I don’t think he’s that type of manager.

    Overall, I’m not a big fan of firing people who won the division just last year unless there’s good reason, but it’s possible that the Gonzalez and Wren eras have run their course and it’s just time to bring somebody new in. That sometimes happens, too.

    The big issue is that you can’t get next year wrong, if you’re upper management. Not with the new stadium opening soon after. I would be fine if they kept Fredi and Wren, but they’ve got to be sure that this year was just an injury-fueled abberation and that coming back next year, it’ll be different. That was probably the right move in 2011, as that pretty much came out of nowhere without any sign that it was going to happen. It was so random that staying the course seemed the proper decision. And it was, as it turned out. Over the next two years, the team went to the playoffs twice, winning the division once. But this time, I’m not so sure. We’ve seen the team at least severely wobble in September under this regime every year but one, and make bad free agent signings to the point where there are two gigantic sunk contracts. It very well might be time to cut bait.

  22. Trying to come up with a lineup with 3 sometimes 4 way below average players is hard. The BJ experiment worked for 3 weeks, didn’t it? You can’t bat em all 8th. I also think that bunching them all at the bottom 3rd of the order would have been bad. I hate the fact that Simmons and BUpton got so many PAs but the idea of hitting them between Heyward and JUpton is somewhat defensible.

    I think that there is a good chance Fredi will take the high hard one for this season but I also don’t think it matters all that much.

    Wren and Co are taking a lot of heat for this season. But I challenge any of you to say with a straight face that you predicted that we’d have 3 guys SO far below league average as to be net negatives on the teams ability to win. Simmon’s defense not withstanding.

  23. Baseball Prospectus: Top GM Candidates

    “Candidate: John Coppolella
    Current role: Assistant General Manager (Braves)
    Skill set: A rising star in the industry for some time, the former student manager for the Notre Dame football team has injected the characteristics of winning into his DNA through nearly 15 years experience with the two most successful franchises in the modern era (Yankees/Braves). Coppolella is fluent in both the esoteric language of scouting (he still directs pro scouting for the Braves) and the importance of advanced statistical analysis, a marriage of information management that would allow him to thrive at the helm of a team as a younger upside play. It’s an eventuality that both the writers at Baseball Prospectus (he received the most votes) and his peers in the industry think happens sooner rather than later.”

  24. The only argument I can make for keeping Wren is that the situation (that he’s created) is going to make it very difficult for the next guy to have success. No matter what we do we’re going to face an uphill climb to finish above 3rd in our division for the first few years of the new stadium. Next year is the last best-shot for possibly many years.

    People might have more of an appetite for rebuilding if we let Wren stew in his own mess for one more year. So that’s my version of looking-on-the-bright-side for this regime.

  25. How many good years does Adrian Beltre have left? It can’t be many, at this point. Besides, having one of your man-crushes on the team is quite enough, thank you.

  26. That’s the beauty of it! He’s got one good year left (says the 8-ball)! And one year left on his contract! And I bet he and Heyward become the best of friends!

  27. Well, we’d certainly get a third baseman in Beltre who has better range than Regression. In fact, I bet that for the first three years of his Afterlife, Beltre would STILL have more range than CJ.

  28. @19

    Back when the Hairston brothers were changing teams every year I thought how nice it would be to have one or both of them.

  29. Had a really good time at the game last night with my wife who, to @34’s point, was yelling at Fredi to sign up any fan who happened to hang on to a foul ball to play 3rd base next year. She also started putting big exaggerated air quotes around “scoring position” the one or two times a Brave made it to 2nd including when BJ got there and she worried that he might think that it was time to go back out on defense since he usually only makes it that far away from the dugout when he’s going out to CF. I got a good one.

  30. “Also, I haven’t been that impressed with the Braves clubhouse this year, either, which is the only really worthwhile thing a manager can do over the long run. I mean, I don’t think it’s a toxic clubhouse or anything, but everything just seems too laid back. Since there aren’t any leaders, it’s up to Fredi to provide as much of that leadership as he can, and I don’t think he’s that type of manager”

    I don’t think anyone out here actually knows what the clubhouse is like. But, assuming that your analysis is correct, I would bet that it’s no different from the clubhouses that Bobby Cox ran. People always talked about how “professional” the Braves’ teams of the 90s were. Of course, that’s because they won. If they had lost, it would been that they were “too laid back.” Why was Bobby Cox a great manager? Maybe because he had Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, David Justice, Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez, et.al.

    And, I’m surprised that people are talking so much about “leadership.” What is the manager-or anyone-supposed to do if players making millions of dollars aren’t motivated.

    Fredi’s problem is that he didn’t win enough. Simple as that. But it’s delusional to think that the manager can make players play better. No one outside the team has any idea what type of leader Fredi is. It’s just fanboy nonsense projecting failings on Fredi because of frustration with how the team played. Is Fredi a great manager? Probably not. But these analyses of his leadership style from people that don’t know anything about is akin to the TV psychologist diagnosing mental illnesses of people he has never met.

  31. has injected the characteristics of winning into his DNA through nearly 15 years experience with the two most successful franchises in the modern era (Yankees/Braves)

    Sign him up, he knows how to win!

  32. @37, It’s DOB who’s now saying it, not merely fans with no access. I posted a link @9.

    My personal perspective on leadership/motivation is coming from the exact opposite place — with what I do, I and my team/colleagues will never be rich, and the expectation is that you’re not doing it for the money — but in some ways, it’s the same in a sense because the financial incentive is supposedly largely out of the equation. It’s clear to me that leadership still matters. People are still people. They respond to authority, being challenged by their peers, being in competition with their teammates and other rivals, hitting personal goals, etc. It’s for sure not the team’s biggest problem, but for fuck’s sake, this is the stuff that Fredi is paid to do.

    If the so-called organizational mouthpiece beat writer who isn’t Peanut is saying that he sees no evidence of that kind of leadership in the clubhouse when it was apparent before, that’s a clear sign that Fredi needs to go.

  33. My take on the DOB piece is that pretty much all of the past Braves teams have been self-policed by “strong veteran presents!!1!1”, and this team doesn’t have that. So if it doesn’t come from Fredi then it’s just not going to happen.

    I also think the total sucktitude of Uggla and BJ have probably made the clubhouse an awkward place over the past couple years. Not sure what the hell anyone could do about that. Best just to part ways probably…

  34. Goodbye, Frank. Goodbye, Fredi. Enjoy the next phase of your life.

    They probably won’t have to file for unemployment benefits or food stamps.

  35. Players play – you are correct. Fredi didn’t get in a single game all year. But, managers do have a role in public perception. No, they don’t have to chew their cap and throw bases, but Fredi’s stolidity conveys nothing.

    Bobby Cox was maddening but the fans liked him. His relentless chirping, his rituals “remove cap, wipe forehead, replace cap,” getting thrown out now and then, he was a guy the fans knew at least cared.

    Fredi’s cap-tipping dullness – and I’m sorry that matters – will end up costing him. “You know what?” as Fredi said every night, he knows it too.

  36. @45, I would agree except to take off the second reason. He was beloved because the team won. Period. If they had lost, people would have said his antics were stupid and distracting.

    I’ll accept that O’Brien might have a better take on the clubhouse so I’ll concede there is a problem there. But Bobby Cox might have had the same problem-who knows?-with a similar group of players. And, regardless of how good or bad a manager Fredi is, no one is going to win with this team as presently constructed. (Although Fredi did win with essentially the same team last year.)

    I’m not saying keep the guy. Fredi is annoying in the same way Bobby Cox was annoying; to steal a saying from Ball Four, he wouldn’t say shit if he had a mouthful. It’s aggravating when the manager pretends that everything is hunky dory when it obviously isn’t. And I certainly believe that leadership and phychology play a role. But, ultimately, the team with the best players normally wins even if the manager is a village idiot. And, many people have noted that “clubhouse chemistry” or whatever you call it is more a result of winning than a cause. Bobby Cox had a great clubhouse because the team won and the players were happy. Who knows what the clubhouse would have been like if they weren’t winning.

    With respect to “public perception” what does that have to do with the clubhouse or winning? The public perceives a lot of things that may or may not be accurate-usually they are not. Do you really want a manager who worries about what the public will think?

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