After all of that, the Braves actually won one more game than they did in 2015, back when Andrelton Simmons was our starting shortstop, and our five-man rotation included Shelby Miller and Alex Wood. When Fredi Gonzalez got canned on May 16, the team was 9-28, a .243 winning percentage and a 39-win pace. From then on, they went 59-65.
It was a terrible year, and this year and the last made for the first consecutive 90-loss seasons since 1989-1990. But it was so much less bad than it could have been. That ambivalence — broad disgust tinged with mild hope — marked the year better than any individual moment ever could.
But there were still a few memorable moments. There was this:
And there was this:
Freddie Freeman had a magnificent year, one of the best anyone’s had in an Atlanta uniform since Zombie Chipper won the batting title in 2008 for a 72-90 team. Many of us vividly remembered Mac saying “this team doesn’t deserve him” about Chipper, and realizing it applies equally well to Freddie.
And then there were the fruits of the Shelby Miller trade. The jury’s still out on Aaron Blair, but he’s an afterthought. Despite missing a month due to injury, Ender Inciarte was the center fielder we’ve been looking for since Michael Bourn left, an outstanding defender who also served as an effective tablesetter at the top of the lineup. He’s also under club control until 2020. And Dansby, in a little over a month of work, demonstrated that he’s capable of being a league-average shortstop at 22. He’s pretty good at everything and isn’t bad at anything. One of these years, he could be an All-Star.
Barring the extraordinary, the Braves know who they can pencil in at shortstop, center field, and first base through the end of the decade. But there are question marks everywhere else. If Ozzie Albies comes back from his injury as the player he was before, he could be our second baseman. Mike Foltynewicz and Julio Teheran could very well be fixtures in the rotation for the same period of time.
But there are so many other questions. In all charity, it’s difficult to see Adonis Garcia, Jace Peterson, and Mallex Smith as anything other than bench depth, and the jury’s out as to whether Rio Ruiz can be anything better than a second-division starter. But corner infield and corner outfield are a lot easier to fill than the two most gaping holes on the field: the battery, pitcher and catcher. Matt Wisler, Tyrell Jenkins, Williams Perez, John Gant, and Ryan Weber each got a shot, and each finished with an ERA above 4.80.
Here’s a depressing stat: of all of the pitchers who took at least one start with the Braves, only three had an ERA under 4.00 with the team: Julio Teheran; Josh Collmenter, whom the Braves signed as a free agent on August 10; and Lucas Harrell, whom the Braves traded away on July 27.
Roger McDowell is out of a job because the starting rotation was a flaming disaster, and the Braves are going to need to find someone who can take the best collection of pitching prospects in the minor leagues and turn them into a real staff.
Oh, and I didn’t mention catchers because there really aren’t any to speak of. Tyler Flowers had better have as good a 2017 as you did in 2016, because there is no plan B.
This is a strange offseason, but not quite as bad as last year’s. Last year, we were looking over a cliff and wondering just how deep it was. As terrible a year as the Braves had, there is an enduring sense that it could have been worse, and with Dansby, there’s a glimpse of a brighter future, no matter how bad of a traffic jam we’ll have to sit through before we get there.
As I mentioned in the thread a couple of days ago, we’ll count down the days till April in the usual fashion: a series of “Where Do We Go From Here?” articles, player previews, probably a Keltner List, and whatever else may come to mind.
Anyone who’d like to write, whether you’d like to do one of those or to propose your own idea, PLEASE email me!