The season ended on a high note, but that doesn’t change facts: this may have been the worst Braves season that any of us have ever seen. As Sansho wrote on August 30:
We all like to glamorize past suffering, but I feel like this exact moment — Yankee after Yankee crossing the plate against an assembly line of no-hopers, to wild cheering from the crowd, a day after a fan died at the stadium — is the lowest point in franchise history.
The offseason was a bitter pill to swallow.
Just look at the 2014 Braves roster. By my count, there were 39 players who made an appearance with the Braves one calendar year ago. Only nine of those players are still in the organization. The rest were either traded, released, or granted free agency.
Over the offseason, we said goodbye to many of the most beloved Braves of recent memory. Brandon Beachy. Kris Medlen. Jason Heyward. Craig Kimbrel. Evan Gattis. Then again, we also said goodbye to some of the least beloved Braves of recent memory: Chris Johnson and Melvin Upton. (Dan Uggla was released in July 2014, so he doesn’t quite make the butcher’s tally, though he falls in quite the same category.) We also traded away countless players who made positive contributions though they may not have captured the fans’ delirious imagination, highlighted by Justin Upton and including guys like Tommy La Stella, Aaron Harang, Ervin Santana, Jordan Walden, David Carpenter, and blog favorite Gus “Pickles” Schlosser.
It was a bloodbath. But at least we could dream on what we got back, as a farm system that some rated as the second-worst in baseball was considered by some to be the second-best. Some of the new acquisitions appeared to pay immediate dividends, as the team loped out to a better-than-expected 42-42 record through July 7. And it all just went to hell after that.
The second-half Braves resembled nothing so much as Larry Johnson, Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues, Shawn Bradley, and Charles Barkley after the Monstars stole their talent in Space Jam. The Braves wore baseball uniforms and they took their positions between the foul lines, but they played listlessly, almost despondently. It was hard to believe that they believed they had a chance to win.
It was so bad that one of the chief architects of the teardown, John Schuerholz, recently admitted that the team believed that it needed to take major steps to reassure the fanbase of their ultimate intention of winning:
Wait until we do our winter’s work to construct the roster for this team… We decided to shorten this and be aggressive… We need to pivot dramatically.
As krussell noted at the time:
“Pivot dramatically” isn’t what you want to year in year one (!!!) of the “rebuild”.
So we’re left with the smoking ruins of a baseball season — a club that, as ububba said, appeared to be “doing its best to achieve a generational nadir” — and a front office that admits that their strategy has been working so well that they need to pivot dramatically. Where do we go from here? We ask this question every year, but it has rarely felt more urgent, or less obvious.
This is where you guys come in. Please email me if you’re interested in writing about the Braves’ outlook for 2016, and what the team needs to do in order to be successful. There are a few obvious areas that I believe will need to be addressed. But please feel free to pitch me any idea you have! Here’s what we’ll definitely need to cover, though:
• Fixing the Bullpen: Can’t anybody here play this game?
• The Seitzer Offense: Fewer strikeouts, but still no power.
• The Uncertain Starting Rotation: Maybe we shouldn’t have traded Alex Wood after all.
• The Hot Corner: Hector Olivera? Adonis Garcia? Or door number three?
• Free Agency: We’re supposed to have some money to spend. So how should we spend it?
It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to feel emotionally invested in the 2015 Braves. But I’m ready to start counting the hours until April 2016, and we’ve got an awful lot to talk about. Please email me and let me know what you’d like to write!