Assignment: Compare and contrast* today’s teams to the disasters of the past. (by Bledsoe)

*(Hey, every high school teacher and/or college professor in the world —€“ lose this phrase. Compare means hold two things up and talk about how they are alike and how they are not alike. It includes “€œcontrast.” A pet peeve.)

How does it compare to today?

What’€™s the same?

Well, the pitching and the defense, obviously. Erick Aybar is Andres Thomas 2.0. And, well, the offense too, to mention it.

The callup of mediocre AAA players to replace mediocre big league players is resonant too. Reid Brignac, Chase d’Arnaud€™, and Matt Tuiasosopo would fit right in in the late 1980s teams.

What’€™s different?

The most obvious difference to me, and one that a commenter pointed out earlier, is that we were utterly in the dark about the future. In those days, kids, there wasn’€™t this world wide interwebs thingy. Your sources were scouring daily boxscores and maybe the weekly Sporting News if you were a real diehard. Information about drafts and minor league systems was 1) virtually impossible to come by and 2) mostly meaningless rah-rah PR garbage from the team itself. Baseball cards (!) and their minor league stats were actually a valuable source of data nearly unobtainable for the average fan. Hell, when USA Today came out it was a jawdropping increase in the amount of information in the world — we were like the monkeys with the bone in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

So, in those bitter ’70s years, we didn’€™t know that Murph, Hubbard, Brett Butler, Steve Bedrosian were in the pipeline and would prove to be stalwarts of the Brief Shining Moment in 1982. And I for one certainly didn’€™t have any idea of how in the late 80s, Bobby Cox was assembling the best scouting organization in MLB and acquiring great players along the way like Glavine, Smoltz, Avery, Wohlers, or Justice, and invaluable role players like Klesko, Stanton, or Mercker.

What we did know was that we were terrible, and with Ted running the show, either actively meddling or passively ignoring, it seemed a good bet we were always going to be terrible. As a result, being a Braves fan was like being a coal miner in one of those British movies from the 1940s. You went grimly to work every day, maybe there was a cave-in killing several of your friends, maybe not. Then you got up and did it again, until you died from black lung.

So I would say that today’€™s situation is a little better than that. We have much better intel on what is in our pipeline. So we know there are good pieces on the way.

In terms of the management-fan relationship, the current situation feels a lot closer to the late ’80s than the late ’70s. The late ’70s was incompetently trying to get better. The late ’80s was just benign neglect. This is perhaps non-benign neglect. Management clearly does not give a fig for fielding a team that is competitive or even watchable. I do not believe that there are only two options for a baseball team, the first being trying to make the playoffs and the second being playing as the Washington Generals.

(Aside: I will never be convinced about the Holy Grail of the No. 1 pick in baseball. Sure, we got Chipper at No. 1. But we wanted Todd Van Poppel. After Bryce Harper went No. 1 in 2010, the Mets got Matt Harvey at No. 7, Chris Sale went 13th, and Noah Syndergaard went 38th. Mike Trout went 25th in 2009. Wholesale tanking isn’€™t necessary, and it isn’€™t worth the costs in damage to the franchise, both in esprit de corps and reputation, and karmic damage to your loyal fans. Superior scouting and outdrafting the opposition is where the game is. Tom Glavine was a second rounder; so was Greg Maddux.)

So, in that regard, today is easily worse. The utter disregard for the fanbase is more insulting today than ever, I think. And the internet provides not only more hard data for us to digest, but ample opportunity for us to read these front office jokers’€™ repeated overt lies about their intentions and the “€œgame plan.”

Watchword: Intentional.

There are some real advantages to having a human for an owner. Even if that owner was batpoop crazy Ted Turner.

If you had asked me at the beginning of the season if this was the worst Braves team of my lifetime, I would have said no. Without hesitation. The Opening Day roster featured a legitimate star at 1B, an above average right fielder, a budding WAR star in CF, a sophomore 3B who seemed to be a real major league hitter, and a seemingly rejuvenated catcher who had put together a .300 season and good gamecalling. (Add Erick Aybar, who in 2015 was a league average SS.) Even given how suspect the rotation and bench were, that seemed to me to be the bare skeleton of a major league team. I predicted 70 wins. We may not reach 50.

Will this team top the 106 losses of 1988? We shall see. But this team is obviously in contention to be the worst Atlanta team ever, and unless something dramatically shifts, that’€™s likely to be so. And it’s not necessary that it be so in order to engage in active rebuilding. We seem to be not merely throwing the baby out with the bathwater, we’€™re throwing the tub away too.

24 thoughts on “Assignment: Compare and contrast* today’s teams to the disasters of the past. (by Bledsoe)”

  1. @64 from the last thread… Rob, Chicago was patient with Epstein because he had a plan but it also took what, four years? Yes, they were mostly crap before that as well but anyway. I think they will and I think they should give Coppy enough time. I like what he’s doing. It is unconventional and I have to say I really dig it. It might take until 2019 until we are ready to make a serious run, but I really enjoy to watch what is being built right now. I think they should be very patient with Coppy. I like him.

    GREAT article, thank you. Love the coal mining reference. Pure gold.

  2. We need to go ahead and decide what the guidelines are for measuring the success for “the plan”. If we compete in 2022 with picks we make this year and next, is that success in everyone’s mind?

  3. This is great! But, sadly true!

    “As a result, being a Braves fan was like being a coal miner in one of those British movies from the 1940s. You went grimly to work every day, maybe there was a cave-in killing several of your friends, maybe not. Then you got up and did it again, until you died from black lung.”

  4. Krussell, I thought you were on record as saying the rebuild would take 10 years … shouldn’t anything before 2024 be beating expectations for you?

  5. Bledsoe,

    You correctly relate that we have vastly more info on the minor league scene than in the late 70’s and 80’s. I WAS aware of the late 70’s talent before it got good in ML, but I didn’t believe it because we ALWAYS had great players coming. Same for the mid and late 80’s. That line was so used that when I saw Tom Glavine I remember thinking this was Craig McMurty again from the left side. So where then I accepted none of the company line, when Callis and KLaw and people like that say “hey, this is a talented system”, I have reason to think it is o.k.

  6. @6, I’m asking what everyone else’s expectations are. I think I’ve pretty much established mine.

  7. It’s a very talented system right now. The issue is now player development: is this organization going to be capable of helping the players in the system to achieve their potential at the major league level?

    I think that is very much an open question, and it’s one that Coppolella will need to demonstrate that he can answer to satisfaction.

  8. Well, the one thing I left out was that if you were lucky enough to live in Richmond or Greenville, or maybe a city that had an International League or Southern League franchise, you could go see the soon to be big leaguers for yourself.

  9. Joe’s “Mallex has to earn the chance to play center” doesn’t make a lot of sense, except when compared to Snitker’s “Inciarte should play center because he has more experience.”

  10. Another similarity between this team and past disasters is the lack of value for defense.

  11. Mallex needs to work on his base stealing and base running. He gets thrown out way too much.

  12. yeah, mallex should be sent down a week or two to work on his baserunning and routes, while atl gains another year of control. win/win

  13. I’m still leaning optimistic for the Braves rebuild, but comparing the current situation to the Cubs rebuild under Theo is a bit much. Theo E is/was widely respected as probably the best GM in the game. He and his team also took note of the impending offensive nosedive in MLB and stocked their system with big time hitting prospects, a group that traditionally pans out better then pitching ‘prospects’.

    I continue to hear/ read good things about Coppy, but the guys at the very top are still the same gentlemen (and faceless conglomerate) that got us into this mess. I’m nervous to find out how much has really changed. I’m nervous that so much of the rebuild thus far is built on pitching ‘prospects’. I’m skeptical of the organization’s ability to identify and coach up hitting talent.

    Overall I have been pleased that drastic measures were taken. I’m pleased that they let Freddie go (4 years too late IMO). I still don’t get the Markakis signing.

  14. The idea of the Markakis signing is that he was basically supposed to provide league-average production for a few years until the youth movement bore fruit. Same idea with demanding to get Aybar back in the Simmons trade. They were looking for someone who could keep the seat warm and be precisely okay.

    Unfortunately, Markakis’s power has disappeared since wrist surgery in 2012 — the signing was partially predicated on the hopes that it would return — and Aybar has done his best Andres Thomas imitation, which means that two lineup spots that were supposed to be taken care of have turned into black holes.

    Plus, Jace Peterson, who was supposed to build on his first half last year, and put his injury behind him, appears to have taken a step backwards in all aspects of his game, which opened up a black hole at second. In the meantime, Gordon Beckham and Tyler Flowers have gone from White Sox castoffs who were expected to be bench depth to two of the only reliable starters in our lineup. If either of them gets injured again, the Braves could go on a losing streak so long that it could threaten Brian Snitker’s job.

  15. Speaking of associated jokers and their overt lies, I hope it’s not too much of a violation of the Prime Directive to note that a certain Cobb County commission chairman who has a bridge to sell you is currently in danger of losing his seat outright, and best case will be in a runoff.

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