Thursday, June 22, 2006

Suddenly, Everything Has Changed

"And it's root, root, root, for the home team..."

I have just watched the Atlanta Braves lose their tenth straight game. The announcers tell me this is a feat not accomplished since the mid 1980s. The Braves are not playing "bad baseball." They are not in a "slump." They stink, plain and simple. This is America's Team, right? The Team of the 1990s... but not of the 2000s. To fans like today's children, Skip Caray correctly points out, this is not supposed to happen. It is a nightmare, a terrible perversion of the Way Things Are. To me, it's a window into the years of my birth and infancy. I knew this sort of disaster used to happen. Potential for it existed, but never made it into this catastrophic kinesis.

The inevitable question: how does a team go from 14 straight division championships to last place in the division? From winning nearly every series at home to a winless homestand? (As my dad adroitly pointed out, we do not need to see "First to Worst" on the front page of AJC Sports.)

The bullpen is really bad, unquestionably. 15 blown saves to 15 converted saves is not an acceptable ratio. The Braves are, what, 15 games out of first place? And 15 blown saves? How interesting. (Of course, a team cannot convert every save opportunity. But being, say, 3 or 4 games out of first is a lot better than 15 back.) It's almost like the team cannot possibly hope to win unless it has an insurmountable lead coming into the 7th inning. And with the Braves' hitting being lackluster at best lately, that insurmountability isn't showing up too well. Abysmal batting averages with runners in scoring position. No average from the first two hitters, and no home runs from numbers 3-6 in the lineup.

And so the trade rumors start.

Trade Andruw Jones and Chipper Jones, some rumors say. Or John Smoltz, maybe. Jeff Francoeur? Brian McCann? I don't know enough about that to say. I'm not a manager. And then some say that Bobby Cox has outlasted his ability, some say the same about John Schuerholtz. Regarding that, though, I certainly have something to say. Bobby Cox, in particular, has shown time and time again that he can make a team great. Consider 1990, the last time the Braves were not champions. Then consider 1991: the Braves go to the World Series. Both of these managers have deftly handled the team year after year. Let's give them the chance to do so again in the future.

Finally, a massive trade for a single big-name player is probably not the way to go either. The Jim Thomes, Ichiros, and Albert Pujolses of the world? Of course they're talented baseball players. Of course they can guide their teams to victory. But can even they singlehandedly turn a miserable team's fortunes around? I doubt it. A solid hitter, even an All-Star caliber one, cannot erase 15 of 30 blown saves.

Two weeks ago, I would have said that something needs to be done soon, but I think it's already too late for this season. Braves fans, bow your heads, and acknowledge that all things must pass. It's been a good run. But something does need to be done. And we need to trust Cox and Schuerholtz to do their jobs.

Oh, World Cup Fever. The United States lost to Ghana. Oh well.

Currently listening: Ganging up on the Sun, Guster


Gina said...

Why is everyone giving up? I know we're not doing well right now, but goodness! We haven't even gotten to the All-Star Break yet! If we're still doing badly after that, then I'll concede to a season lost, but not until then.

I think one of the things that makes Bobby so great is that he realizes that getting a superstar won't help things. He's smarter than that, so I don't see a trade of any of those players any time soon. If we're going to trade anyone, it needs to be within the bullpen. Bobby isn't stupid. He will get us through.

Matt Pavlovich said...

People are giving up because the Braves are a legitimately bad team. At this point, it would take a record of 18-2 over the next 20 games to erase the hideousness that has been June to date. Should this happen, it would not merely show a "team that was good all along coming out of a slump." The Braves becoming a good team again would denote a remarkable turnaround in their abilities and fortunes.

A bullpen trade would of course be ideal, but the difficulty with that is nobody would want the Braves' bullpen. "I'll give you Reitsma and Remlinger, you give me..." what? A laugh? To get a good bullpen, they'd need to give up something else good.

But I agree that the only thing we as fans can do is trust Bobby Cox to make the right decision about what to give up.

-- Zach said...

I love how you give one line to the World Cup. Soccer is so much better than baseball. Oh, and go Orioles.

Matt Pavlovich said...

The apathy directed toward the World Cup was intentional :D

Seriously, though, who's the favorite to win now? Brazil? Italy?

-- Zach said...

hmmm yeah Brazil is, as always, the favorite to win. They play Ghana tomorrw, and I hope that Ghana beats them. Ghana already upsetted the Czech Republic, so I wouldn't be surprised if they did, but I doubt they will.