Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

Thanks to Mac's family, bravesjournal.com is back.

28 Sep

Braves 2, Phillies 1

(Pinch hitting for smitty again today; smitty, I’m still praying for you and your wife. I hope she is improving. Update us when you get the chance.)

Final 2014 Box Score

The Braves decided that limiting their winning to Wednesdays only for a whole month was probably a bad idea, so they finished the season with their first winning streak of September (yes, two games is officially a streak). One positive of having a losing season is that you have a 50% chance to win your last game while playoff teams only have a 10% chance. The Braves took advantage of those chances and squeaked out a last-game win for the first time since 2006 (and before that 1995) to finish the season 79-83, tied with the Mets for second place in the NL East. What a weak division.

The Nationals finished the season with a no-hitter, 30 games over .500. No one else could crack 80 wins, and three teams (ATL, MIA, and PHI) finished the out the season going 3-7 over their last ten games. In comparison, the NL West had two teams with 80+ wins, and every other division had three teams. NL Least, indeed.

Alex Wood was scheduled to start this game, but he was scratched with a sore shoulder (please, please, please, please let that be nothing serious), and the bullpen combined to throw a gem that highlighted just how good the Braves pitching has been all season. Too bad their offense did not contribute at all, or else this team could have been special.

The Braves posted two on the board in the first inning off of Cole Hamels, before being no-hit for the rest of the day because this is, after all, still the 2014 season. Emilio Bonifacio led off the game with a home run, and Freddie Freeman picked up an RBI single to plate the Braves last run before Hamels ever recorded an out. That first out had such a demoralizing effect on the offense that they rolled over and played dead for the remaining 26, and left it up to the pitchers to decide whether or not the team headed into the offseason on a victorious note.

James Russell pitched four innings of two-hit ball and Luis Avilan relieved him, throwing two innings and picking up the win. David Carpenter encountered some trouble in the 8th inning, but a run-scoring double play was the inning’s only damage and Craig Kimbrel did Craig Kimbrel things in the 9th to get the offense off the hook. The relievers combined to strike 10 Phillies out, which is impressive until you think about how many of their own teammates they could have struck out had they been facing the Braves offense.

The Braves posted their 2014 recap video with a “thank you to our fans theme”, but it only served to pour salt into the wound this season created. All the highlights the video contained were from April-June, which serves as a grim reminder that Braves baseball has not been enjoyable to watch since the All-Star Break. It was strange to see this team jumping around with joy in some of those highlights; it had been so long since that had happened that I had forgotten celebrations were once a reality. I did notice that no Dan Uggla highlights made the cut. He played four games for San Francisco; does this mean he will be the only member of the 2014 Atlanta Braves to get a playoff share?

The offseason has now officially officially started, and I cannot wait until spring. Braves baseball has been over for a little over four hours and I already miss it, putrid as it was. May the 2015 season come quickly, and may it contain more victories, fewer Chip Caray-isms, and an epic Nationals collapse.

Natspo(s) delenda est in the Division Series. Go Pirates.

28 Sep

Braves beat the Phillies 4 – 2

B.J. Upton and Justin Upton both made great defensive plays and both homered to gave Aaron Harang his 12th win of the season after winning just 2 times in his last 7 starts.

Once again, Aaron did what he usually does, … 8 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks in 6+ innings. Who knew that Aaron Harang would pitch over 200 innings and have 25 quality starts, which is more than Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw, Jordan Zimmermann, or Stephen Strasburg? All that for a million bucks.

B.J.’s 12th homer came with the game tied in the top of the third and Justin’s 29th came after Freddie Freeman walked in the 7th, giving the Braves a 4 – 2 lead. Both Uptons also threw runners out at home. Extra nice!!

Aaron departed with 2 outs and a 4 – 2 lead. Chasen Shreve finished the 7th by getting Ben Revere to ground out to 3rd. David Carpenter looked good to lock down the 8th.

Craig Kimbrel made it interesting in the 9th. A hit, an error, a walk and the bases were loaded. However, Craig got Revere to line out to Andrelton who made a diving play to his right to end the game.

It was number 46 for Kimbrel.

After a 17 – 9 start, we ended 5 and 19, depending on how tomorrow turns out. With John Hart at the realm, there will almost certainly be changes. He’s got nothing left to prove so let’s hope he is willing to take a few risks to get another championship in Atlanta.

27 Sep

Phillies 5, Braves 4

Box Score

Well, if that game didn’t serve as a metaphor for the 2014 Braves’ season, I don’t know of one that would.

The Braves jumped out early, just like in April, behind Ervin Santana, just like in April. Freddie Freeman drove in the first run in the top of the first with an RBI grounder, and Upton Majoris singled home the second run right after. Chris Johnson hit a two run homer in the fourth to mark the high point of the game season, just like June.

Santana struggled a bit in the 5th, allowing a run scoring grounder to Ben Revere to cut the lead to 4-1. The wheels came off in the 6th for Santana, as he quickly got two outs in the 6th, but couldn’t get the crucial out (just like the Braves couldn’t get the crucial hit all through August), and was pulled with the score tied at 4.

Jordan Walden came on in the seventh, as the embodiment of the bullpen struggles, and allowed a lead off walk to Carlos Ruiz who came around to score on a Marlon Byrd ground-out. After that, the only question would be whether Jonathan Papelbon would stand up to the boos when he came on in the top of the 9th. (Spoiler Alert – he did).

So ends my run recapping the Friday games. I’ve enjoyed contributing in my own small way, and hope that next year the recaps recap more wins and less losses.

25 Sep

Pirates 10, Braves 1 (By Kyle B.)

The Braves lost.

Stay gold, Braves Journal.

25 Sep

Things that happened when no one was watching (Braves 6, Bucs 2)

Bottom 2

    1.Chris Johnson doubles (26) on a line drive to left fielder Starling Marte.
    2.Christian Bethancourt grounds out, second baseman Clint Barmes to first baseman Ike Davis. Chris Johnson to 3rd.
    3.B. J. Upton walks.
    With Julio Teheran batting, B. Upton steals (20) 2nd base.
    4.Julio Teheran singles on a soft ground ball to first baseman Ike Davis.
    5.Emilio Bonifacio singles on a ground ball to right fielder Travis Snider. Chris Johnson scores. B. Upton scores. Julio Teheran to 2nd.

Bottom 3

    1.Justin Upton singles on a soft fly ball to right fielder Travis Snider.
    2.Jason Heyward lines out to left fielder Starling Marte.
    With Chris Johnson batting, Justin Upton steals (8) 2nd base.
    3.Chris Johnson reaches on a fielder’s choice out, pitcher Jeff Locke to third baseman Josh Harrison. Justin Upton out at 3rd.
    4.Christian Bethancourt hits a ground-rule double (2) on a ground ball to left field. Chris Johnson to 3rd.
    5.Jeff Locke intentionally walks B. Upton.
    6.Julio Teheran singles on a line drive to center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Chris Johnson scores. Christian Bethancourt scores. B. Upton to 2nd.

Bottom 4

    1.Andrelton Simmons lines out to left fielder Starling Marte.
    2.Freddie Freeman walks.
    3.Justin Upton homers (28) on a fly ball to left field. Freddie Freeman scores.

On the one hand, three straight innings of scoring runs. Yay?

On the other hand, two of those scoring innings involved key offensive contributions from Julio Teheran.

23 Sep

Pirates 3, Braves 2

ESPN Box Score

Baseball is cruel.

Baseball is cruel to players, who pitch their hearts out and suffer through outing after outing of no run support, or who watch their efforts become negated through shoddy defense or unlucky bloops.

Baseball is cruel to teams, who spend most of the summer on the top of the standings looking down, and then have to watch two teams celebrate postseason berths on their home field while they are left behind.

Baseball is cruel to front office personnel, who spend the one year anniversary of their team clinching the division crown cleaning out their office, having been relieved of their duties after a failed season.

Baseball is cruel to fans, who sit surrounded by the September ashes of their spring hopes, when outlooks once so bright have tarnished into a bleak future. Yet…

Baseball is beautiful.

Baseball is beautiful when the home team takes the field to start the game, crisp white uniforms standing out in the fading twilight.

Baseball is beautiful when a right fielder lays out to snag a fly ball, stealing an extra base hit from the disappointed runner.

Baseball is beautiful when a shortstop makes an impossible play, outdoing the last impossible throw or impossible turn on a double play, each one more astounding than before.

Baseball is beautiful when the ball sails high over the fence, breaking a tense moment and sending the good guys home victorious; when joy is evident on every face gathered at home plate to celebrate, and all the ills of the hard-fought battle fade into bliss of triumph.

This month has not held that beauty for the Atlanta nine, as the cruel aspect of the sport has obliterated those moments that once cemented our fandom. Tonight they took a different route to the same result that all but four games this month has held. Single runs in the first two innings were just to tease us before the bats went cold. The Pirates chipped away and eventually took the lead after plating single runs in the 4th, 5th, and 6th innings. They celebrated their persistence with a postseason berth, and for the Braves another strong pitching performance and beautiful superman play were once again overshadowed by a loss, and this historically cruel month continues.

The Pirates are the least detestable NL team to make the playoffs this year. Here’s hoping they hoist the pennant in a few weeks.

As brutal as this season—and especially the last two months—have been, having the opportunity to recap games on this site has been nothing but a pleasure for me. Thank you to all who read, or were at least willing to scroll through, the massive novels that my recaps always managed to become, and tolerated my tongue-in-cheek sarcasm over the team’s poor play. Also, a big thank you to Alex for entrusting Braves Journal to me once a week; this place has been my Internet home for over half my life, and it was nothing short of an honor to have the opportunity to contribute in some small way to this community.

Here’s to the Braves finding beauty in the game again in 2015, and, as always, Natspo(s) delenda est.

23 Sep

Another team from somewhere 1, Barves 0 (again)

Some may find this a sacrilege of a powerful moment in human history. Some may find it a violation of our “no politics” rule. Nevertheless, I am reminded of the words from the old spiritual as delivered by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Washington Monument 51 or so years ago. “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last.” Not again will I have to attempt to recap this putrid stench.

I am about Aaron Harang like Marvin Webster (a made up John Boy and Billy “Big Show” character) is about Wyle Coyote. “I respect you man, because you’re out there busting your hump.” 7 innings, 1 run. No matter what, he will always be in my group of favorite Braves.

Why don’t the Barves just forfeit their half innings at what some call at bat? In post game interviews, they mentioned the integrity of the game. Barv. The integrity of the game would be better served by letting any and everybody else on the 40 man roster hit. This primary group couldn’t hit their forehead with a palm.

If you really want to know details, you can look them up, but it’s not pretty.

Oh, and I guess “We hated Frank Wren so now we will play better since he’s gone,” didn’t work either.

I tried to Barv, but could only do the dry heaves. There is no ability to call “Ralph.”

22 Sep

Braves Fire Frank Wren

Braves fire GM Frank Wren

Frank Wren bore the brunt of the blame for the disappointing performance of the 2014 Braves, and the Braves canned him today. I’m not surprised, and I’m not mad, but I will miss him. Here’s why:

• Signed Aaron Harang for $1 million
• Traded Omar Infante and Mike Dunn for Dan Uggla, who set a career high in homers in his first year as a Brave
• Signed undrafted free agent Brandon Beachy
• Selected Eric O’Flaherty off waivers
• Paid David Ross approximately $6.5 million for four years in which he was the best backup catcher in baseball
• Drafted Mike Minor, Andrelton Simmons, Evan Gattis, and Alex Wood
• Traded Tommy Hanson for Jordan Walden
• Traded Paul Clemens, Brett Oberholtzer, Juan Abreu, and Jordan Schafer for Michael Bourn
• Traded Edgar Renteria for Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez
• Traded Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson
• Traded Jose Ascanio for Omar Infante and Will Ohman
• Traded Tyler Flowers, Brent Lillibridge, Jon Gilmore, and Santos Rodriguez for Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan

And on and on. He did a lot of really, really good things.

He got fired because the teams lost, but he basically made only a few big mistakes: signing B.J. Upton and Derek Lowe, and extending Dan Uggla and Chris Johnson.

In the weeks to come, we’ll find out who the new person is. My preference would be for them to conduct a serious search and pick someone from outside the organization — i.e., not Coppolella — which is something that the team declined to do in their most recent searches for manager and GM. I’d love Kim Ng, who’s really smart, but who doesn’t have any of the baggage of “the Braves way” or “how we do things around here” that appear to have hamstrung the decision process in the waning days of Wren’s tenure.

Thus far, reporters have suggested that the Braves organization is interested in keeping on Fredi Gonzalez for another year or two. But I think this should be a decision made by the new GM. In the end, no one will be well served by letting Fredi be a lame duck — he won’t have any real authority within the organization and he won’t have any real influence with the new management. If the new GM wants Fredi to stay, then Fredi should stay. Otherwise, Fredi should be shown the door.

The 2014 Braves have already won more games than the dire 2008 squad that went 72-90. I remember that year quite well: I basically checked out and stopped watching the games some time over the summer. This year was harder because the race was so close: every team in the league was flawed, and the playoffs were within easy reach almost the whole year, but the team was unable to capitalize on opportunity because it was so manifestly unable to hit. In the end, it was Frank Wren’s roster, and it was Frank Wren’s failure. But Wren was a very successful general manager overall, and accomplished more than many of his 29 competitors. The Braves will have to look very hard to find someone who can exceed his record, and there are a lot more ways to get it wrong than to get it right.

The 2015 season begins now.

21 Sep

Braves Eliminated

Same Box Score, Different Day

Remember the miserable Braves loss index we had, where the Braves would find creative ways to lose all the time and you could never guess which type of game it would be until toward the end of the game? I kind of miss those days. We’ve seen essentially the same game of baseball every day for the past three weeks, with very little variance to keep things interesting. We don’t have to wonder how this team will lose—we can correctly guess before the first pitch is thrown. Considering this team was above .500 until last week, it’s rather amazing that they could—and truly might—end up 10+ games under. Talk about a free fall.

Today, the Mets completed their first sweep of the Braves at Turner Field since 2007, proving that these are dark days indeed. Couple that feat with a Pirates victory, and your 2014 Atlanta Braves have officially been eliminated from postseason contention.

Elimination has been a foregone conclusion for awhile now, but what is incredible is that this Braves team, which spent a good portion of the season in the top spot of the NL East, may very well spend the last series of the year against the Phillies fighting for (or against) last place in the division. Wouldn’t that be something if the Braves ended up behind the Mets, Marlins, AND Phillies in the standings?

Really not much to report about the game itself. You’ve heard it all before. Ervin Santana got the start, and gave up single runs in the 1st and 2nd and three in the 4th. Juan Jaime relieved him in the 6th and had to be bailed out by Luis Avilan, who got out of the inning with only one run allowed. Pickles Schlosser finished the game, giving up runs in the 8th and 9th. The Mets made up for the lack of variety that has characterized Braves baseball in September, scoring their runs on base hits, a sac fly, a passed ball, a home run, a sac bunt and catcher error combo, an errant pickoff throw…you just could not tell what would happen next.

The Braves offense, meanwhile, scored 2 runs or less for the 60th time this season, which is just brutal. The first four Braves struck out swinging today, and Jacob deGrom had seven strikeouts his first time through the Braves lineup. Justin Upton broke up deGrom’s perfect game with a leadoff double in the 5th, and the Braves actually plated two runs that inning on two runs, two walks, and an error.

The most interesting thing to happen today occurred in the second inning, when Mark Bowman released an article speculating Fredi will be given one more year to right the ship, but that Frank Wren may be fired as early as the next day or two. I think the writing on the wall for Wren has grown quite visible indeed. Further speculation in that article was the possibility of Dayton Moore replacing Wren, which would mean the last several years I’ve spent being thankful that the Braves let Moore walk and kept Wren will all ultimately come to naught. Maybe the Royals will win the World Series this year and Kansas City will throw all sorts of money at Moore and spare us all that worry.

This season will mercifully end a week from today. What remains to be seen is what the team will look like when they next play the Mets on Opening Day 2015. We shall see.

21 Sep

i’m sorry to admit that i cannot wait for this season to be over….(Mets 4, Braves 2)

Braves quit, Braves quit, Braves quit!
While i try not to lose interest or be disgusted, it is a struggle to find any positives. There were some so let’s start in the 8th inning when Joey Terdoslavich singled, Emilio Bonifacio singled, Phil Gosselin singled, and Freddie Freeman came up to the plate. He took the first strike swinging, then a ball, then took the second strike looking. Clearly it was low and away and the disgusted look on Freddie’s face told me this was all over. Too many expectations, too much emotional strain, too much
disappointment, too much to make this into a real rally,… the kind that championship teams know how to ignite. To my surprise, Freddie took the next pitch right up over the middle and there we were with 2 runs on the board. Wow. That really happened, one small moment of sheer joy. What’s more we had only ONE out, runners on first and second and we found ourselves in the middle of an actual rally.

However, it was just a faint glimmer as Justin and Chris Johnson grounded out end the inning.

Mike Minor came out in the first with a shoulder strain. I’m not sure what to think of Mike Minor…. Does he need to move on? Is he done? Will he recover the promise he had when we drafted him 7th overall in 2009 out of Vandy. Hmmm..

David Hale came in in relief and promptly gave up 2 runs on 4 hits. He settled down in the 3rd and the 4th and the only other Mets run came on a Curtis Granderson home run off David Carpenter.

It was painful, but not as painful as getting blanked. At least we showed some level of professionalism.

We’ve talked about this a lot, but i have not seen a Braves team play like this since the Dale Murphy era…well…that is excepting the September collapse of 2011. We have a core of talent but with only one division title since 2005, we need to seriously rethink our strategy. Mark Bowman writes that changes could include Freddi, or perhaps Frank Wren.

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