September 1st, versus the Marlins.
You may be forgiven for overlooking the importance of September 1st when you study the history of the 2015 Atlanta Braves. The seventh in a streak of 12 consecutive losses, the fifteenth game of a stupefying 1-19 run, another short start by a young pitcher, one of altogether too many futile showings from our Murmurer’s Row–it doesn’t stand out at first glance. But look a little closer and you’ll find out why it was a big day in Atlanta: the future of the organization made his debut.
“There’s no accounting for taste,” my mother will say to me whenever she sees somebody wearing an atrocious outfit. (Case in point: the woman in the gaudy fur hat at Kauffman Stadium throughout the playoffs. Mom never could account for her.) True as it rings on almost any occasion, that venerable, versatile expression falters the face of the deal to bring Hector Olivera to Atlanta. Is there any accounting for waste? Here, Mom, see what you can do with the scenario as of July 29th, 2015.
- The Braves are rebuilding.
- The Braves are making moves to acquire cost-controlled starting pitching good enough to pitch on a starting staff in 2017 and beyond.
- Alex Wood has proven he can pitch in a major-league starting rotation.
- Alex Wood is, at the Braves’ exclusive discretion, under contract at cheap-to-reasonable rates through 2019.
- The Braves know they need to make long-term upgrades at several positions, preferably through player development.
- Jose Peraza can play second base, has good speed, and in a down year at triple-A is still hitting close to .300.
- Jose Peraza is under team control until 2022.
- Jace Peterson, with a .242/.322/.335 line after play on July 29th doesn’t appear to be blocking anybody who could come up and help out at the keystone.
- Jose Peraza is 21 years old.
- With some notable exceptions, players tend to decline in their 30s both at the plate and in the field.
- Hector Olivera is 30.
- It is not clear whether Hector Olivera can play an infield position.
- It is not clear whether Hector Olivera can play an outfield position.
- It is not clear whether Hector Olivera can hit major league pitching.
- It is not abundantly clear that Hector Olivera can hit minor league pitching.
- It is not known whether Hector Olivera can still hit at all, anywhere.
- The Braves literally already have a Hector Olivera. His name is Adonis Garcia.
- Adonis Garcia has a more team-friendly contract than Hector Olivera.
As was only natural, the Braves traded Alex Wood and Jose Peraza for Hector Olivera and some breed of Bird on July 30th. “Okay,” we all said while we scratched our heads, “they must see something really special in him.” He was the slugger we’d been waiting for, the Cuban defector to beat all Cuban defectors, the heir to the great #10, the balm for horrible wound that was latter day Braves fandom.
August passed like a good night’s sleep after a bad day. We closed our eyes to the demi-god’s unlikely success with the Big Club; we closed our eyes to another uninspiring month from Jace; we closed our eyes to Olivera’s 16 minor league games–in which he managed only 10 hits. Well, with the Braves playing like they had their eyes closed, it isn’t any wonder that ours were.
When we awoke, the future was upon us. It looked…funny…and uncomfortable…and a little hapless. Olivera went 0-fer that first night with a tapper to the mound, an easy grounder to 3rd, a flyout, and a swinging strikeout, and just like that our dreams of a Big Bopper were no more. I can’t remember if I cried.