So last night, the Atlanta Braves were shut out by this:
It’s going to be a long season.
So last night, the Atlanta Braves were shut out by this:
It’s going to be a long season.
The Braves have lost free agent Brian McCann to the New York Yankees today. This comes only a short time after Tim Hudson also left to go to the San Francisco Giants. There was a time when it was just assumed that all great free agents would inevitably be swallowed by the gaping money-lined pit of the Bronx, but I cannot fault the Yankees on this one. Now there are plenty of stupidly-rich teams driving up the bidding, so they weren’t the only ones in the mix. And besides, it’s hard to argue that McCann was not a perfect fit for a Yankees team that 1) needed a catcher, 2) has an available DH spot, and 3) has a tiny right-field. It’s just difficult to see one of the more reliable faces of the franchise depart, particularly to the despicable AL East.
But that’s not to say I didn’t predict it. This summer on my Vita version of MLB 13 The Show, I traded McCann to the Yankees and acquired C.C. Sabathia, with Mariano Rivera included as filler. Video games can be so much sweeter than cold, bitter reality.
I sure won’t miss seeing McCann bounce another throw down to second though. No way does he have an 89 on arm strength.
Well, the Braves did manage to win the National League East for the first time since 2005, and they did it with 96 wins, their best total since 2004. But they also did it with Dan “Stinkin'” Uggla batting a whopping .179, and, as a result, Fredi Gonzalez has decided to exclude the once-formidable second baseman from their NLDS roster.
Uggla’s suckitude has been well-documented, but it still comes as a bit of a surprise that someone who is making so much money would be shown the door prior to the postseason. The Braves haven’t balked at dropping high-payed under-performers before, including fairly recently with Kenshin Kawakami taking a well-earned banishment to the minors. Sometimes it just seems that the obvious moves are the hardest ones to make.
So maybe B.J. Upton will be the next expensive Braves to be put out to pasture, even if he does still have some favorable attributes to make up for his utter lack of offensive presence. It would apparently take such a dramatic move for anyone to even remember that Atlanta has a chance in the playoffs; most are too busy clinging to the sides of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ bandwagon.
I’ll call it now: Braves over Dodgers 3-2, Braves over Cardinals 4-2, Braves over random AL team 4-0. The Atlanta Braves, your 2013 World Champions (hey, they’re at least as qualified as the 2012 San Francisco Giants).
The Atlanta Braves have the best record in baseball, and it’s September. I had to go ahead and get that out before they fall back to earth a bit; they’re currently losing a game 7-0. But it doesn’t matter, because the loathsome Nationals are an insurmountable 15 games out of first place. The Braves are 83-52.
The Braves have managed this feat with two lineup regulars hitting below .200, and with numerous injuries to such important figures as Hudson, O’Flaherty, and Heyward. Chris Johnson, who was originally regarded as a throw-in platoon player in the trade for Justin Upton, is leading the league in batting average. Julio Teheran and Alex Wood (until today) have had outstanding rookie seasons on the mound, and Evan Gattis (until last month) has provided a much-needed infusion of raw bear power.
They’ve had two win streaks of ten or more games, but they’ve had some losing streaks in there too. Despite their brilliant 49-18 home record, they’re kept in check on the road, going only 34-34. And they still struggle against terrible pitchers, while often performing well against the more talented ones. Finally, they aren’t always fun to watch, which might be part of the reason that no one knows that a mid-market team is the best in the sport.
But here’s to you, 2013 Atlanta Braves Baseball Club: making it happen when no one expected you to do so, while spending a lot less money and letting a dunce run the show. To the World Series!
I’ll just get right to it: why make me skim past posts about football on the official site of Major League Baseball? Of the many things that annoy me about the decisions MLB makes, this is pretty far down on the list, but I still find it irksome.
In the same vein, the grammar on MLB.com does not always comply with my lofty standards. Take, for instance, the headline, “Roy Halladay won his first game of 2013 and the 200th of his storied career.” To the baseball layman (why would he be on MLB.com?), this could mean that Halladay just pitched in his first game of 2013 and won it. Further, it could mean that this was the 200th game in which Halladay pitched, and he just happened to win it. Actually, Halladay has pitched in three games this season and has now pitched in 406 games in his career. He didn’t win his first game of this year, because the Braves beat him up…
And how ’bout those Braves? An 11-1 start, winning 9 straight with a Major League-best 1.82 ERA and 20 homers (good for 2nd in the majors). If they can keep up this pace, I’ll be able to withstand all the football posts and poor grammar MLB.com can possibly throw at me.
All right, so maybe by committing three errors, allowing four unearned runs, going one-for-eight with runners in scoring position and stranding twelve men, the Braves deserved to lose tonight – but that doesn’t make their 6-3 defeat to the Cardinals in the inaugural “Wild Card Game” any less bitter of a pill to swallow. They scored more earned runs than the opposition (3 to 2), had twice as many hits as them (12 to 6), had twice as many extra base hits (4 to 2), and turned two double plays. Chipper Jones had a hit in his final Major League at bat, coming with two outs in the 9th inning – an infield hit that he questionably beat out. But it’s easy to overlook all of the Braves’ ineptitude and the Cardinals’ seemingly endless streak of leprechaun-inspired luck due to yet another missed call by an umpire.
Andrelton Simmons hit a fly ball to left with runners on first and second, one out in the bottom of the eighth inning. The generic Cardinals shortstop drifted back and peeled off at the last second to avoid a collision with purported left fielder Matt Holliday. The ball dropped in and the bases were loaded with one out – and the crowd was wild with excitement.
But it was short lived. Left field umpire Sam Holbrook inexplicably decided, just before the ball hit the ground, to invoke the infield fly rule, a rule put in place to prevent the infielders from dekeing the baserunners by intentionally letting the ball drop and turning an easy double play. Of course, to accept that ruling it would need to be a routine play, the fielder would need to be under the ball, and the call would need to be made much earlier – and it’s customary to only call an infield fly on balls in, or near, the infield. The batter was automatically out despite the ball not being caught, and instead of bases loaded and one out there were now two outs with runners on second and third. So manager Fredi Gonzalez objected and played the rest of the game under protest. Fans threw bottles, an arguably justifiable reaction by an aggrieved populace that desired justice, or at least adherence to the game’s laws. No further damage, at least to the box score, was done.
It took an hour or so for MLB to nonchalantly reject the protest, officially backing up their horrendous officiating and continuing a trend of obliviousness toward making correct rulings. The umpires continue to refuse to huddle and overturn incorrect calls and MLB could not care less, as long as games are selling out and fans keep watching. As it stands, fans are forced to temper their excitement – because if MLB doesn’t care enough to get the calls correct in their own games, why should fans care who wins a game played under such arbitrary “guidelines”? Even my wife, who has only general knowledge of the game, acknowledges the lunacy here:
Baseball has problems. It’s because they’re sittin’ on their high horse, sayin’, ‘No, we won’t use technology to improve the game.’
This type of disappointment is familiar to the Braves. There was the Buster Posey out in 2010, where he was (incorrectly) called safe on a steal of second, ultimately leading to the only run of the game and contributing to Atlanta’s postseason demise. Then, of course, the Braves undid themselves last September to avoid having to face the umpires in the 2011 postseason. So this year the Braves, with 94 wins, had to face the Cardinals (winners of 88 games), in a one-game playoff to determine the right to play in the division series. Leave it up to MLB to take a season comprised of series and distill it into one game where the magnitude of a single mistake – by a player or an umpire – is so unjustly amplified.
Alas, there’s always next year, but it will be without Larry Wayne Jones. Perhaps after 162 games and a few more blown calls, we can once again have this discussion. We can also spend a bit of time wondering just what would’ve happened if the big hit could have come, or if those throws hadn’t been so outrageously errant. Maybe the game was devised with the idea that those truly heroic moments by the players are enough to outshine the ugly umpiring. Unfortunately for the 2012 Braves, those heroics were far dimmer than they should have been.
Schadenfreude: (n) enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.
As they say, what goes around…
The Braves’ epic 2011 collapse, completed a couple of weeks ago, was brought about by many factors. When one takes a reasonable, impartial view of the season, it is plainly evident that Major League Baseball devised an elaborate conspiracy to exponentially increase the entropy of the game. Their motive was obvious: to spite the legions of fantasy players and SABR apologists who thought they finally had the game reduced to a predictable state. Some points to consider:
So how did MLB pull off this seemingly impossible feat? First, they ensured no one was watching by pricing their MLB.tv service unreasonably high, overloading it with advertisements, and still blacking out every other game. The rest was easy with a bit of simple bribery: Fredi Gonzalez and Larry Parrish feigning complete ignorance, Carl Crawford forgetting how to play baseball, and the Phillies incising Ryan Howard’s Achilles tendon. The hardest part was transitioning Melky – who had established a strict daily regimen of vanilla milkshakes – to Ensures.
After the Rangers win the World Series, MLB will reveal their greatest surprise yet: they’ll introduce a “Redemption Island” to the playoffs for 2012, where the first team eliminated waits for subsequently eliminated teams and challenges them, until only one is left. Then that last surviving team plays a one-game playoff against the “winner” of the World Series, the winner of which is declared World Champion.
You can’t make games like this up. 19 innings. Over six hours. Blown calls. Ejections. Scott Proctor, and lots of him. Yes, the worst pitcher on the Braves staff (and arguably the Major Leagues) had to pitch three innings, and with the help of Lady Luck and Freddie Freeman, they were somehow scoreless. But when it came time for him to bat with the winning run on third and no one out, he had to figure his luck had run out. Especially when he hit it right to the third baseman, and Lugo got thrown out at the plate, and Proctor face-planted on his way to first and was going to get doubled-up…Until the ump decided Lugo was safe at home. Yes, five feet from home, Lugo “avoided” the tag and the Braves won 4-3, despite Proctor trying his best not to be the hero. Life’s funny sometimes.
So the Braves avoided their fourth straight loss, and they maintained their wild card lead over Arizona, but they lost Brian McCann to the DL. They also lost the potential acquisitions of Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays, and Carlos Beltran to the Giants, and Jonny Gomes to the Nationals…which, in hindsight, is probably a good thing. But now, their hopes rest on either Hunter Pence…or Barry Bonds coming out of retirement. Make it happen, Wren.
The Braves just finished losing a game against the Phillies in spectacular fashion, having their side struck out in the top of the tenth on nine pitches to a generic AAA reliever (how rare is that?), then bringing in the Proctologist to pipe one down the middle for a walk-off homer to the catatonic Raul Ibanez. Good.
Watching the Braves play gets me despondent and calls to mind several things I’m not proud of (or, as the vernacular-shunning, grammar Nazi Chip Caray would say, “things about which I’m not proud”). First of all, I should have stood up for myself against the bipolar housewife who was discourteously bold enough to ask me to move my car over a spot so she could park at the end of the row, thereby insinuating that her generic creme Lexus was understandably more valuable than anything I could fathom.
Baffled, I moved my car for her.
Then there was the incident at the thrift store, with the ideal-but-just-slightly-overpriced end table. I should have bartered for it, or at least haggled, or at least feigned disinterest.
I bought it at full price.
We can’t always make the right call, as Fredi Gonzalez knows. But we can learn from our mistakes, man up, and designate Scott Proctor for assignment so these kinds of things never happen again. Or, wait. Well, something like that – there’s an expansive life lesson in there somewhere.
There comes a time when a baseball team must admit that it stings not having anyone who can hit 30 homeruns. The Atlanta Braves haven’t had such a hitter since the 2006 season, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, they’ve only made the playoffs once in that stretch. The team will be hoping that the trade of super utility infielder (and All-Star) Omar Infante and rookie lefty reliever Mike Dunn for the Marlins’ Silver Slugger second baseman Dan Uggla can even things up a bit with the 2011 Phillies.
I must admit, when I heard the Braves’ name thrown around in rumors for Uggla, I didn’t get my hopes up. Trades in recent years for impact players have been few and far between, and the last real gutsy one (for Mark Teixeira) didn’t work out too well in the long run. Also, this trade violates Wren’s policy of getting All-Stars who are clearly past their prime, like Anderson, Lee, and Glaus. I’ve witnessed the loss of Javier Vazquez for the comical Melky Cabrera and the disposal of Rafael Soriano for the prodigiously untalented Jesse Chavez. It’s fitting I should finally see a trade where the other team got hosed.
Now, if Uggla can learn to use his glove (and I don’t see why he shouldn’t, since the Braves had the fifth worst fielding percentage in the league last season) this could all work out. The team will miss the versatility of Infante, but I’m not sure there’s a sane person on this planet who wouldn’t trade him for Uggla’s right-handed power.